Pixel Scroll 7/16/19 Abe Said, Where Do You Want This Filing Done? God Said, Out On Scrollway Pixel-One

(1) ABOUT “FANDOM”. Impressive piece on the meanings of “fandom” by Elise Matthesen: “A bit of musing on where fandom/fandoms communication has oft gone awry”. I’m only going to excerpt the preamble, and save the best parts for you to discover at the link:

The following excerpt is taken from an email conversation with friends about some online reactions to a screed someone had posted about how kids these days should get off of their lawn with their “fandoms” with an s and their fanwriters who are not oldphart fans, among other things. I was trying to explain to my friends how one particular misunderstanding involving the usage of “fandom” versus the usage of “fandoms” was making things so much worse, and how I had had very little luck explaining the particular connotations involved to either group of the fans involved.

Please note that the following has been edited for clarity, but I’m not guaranteeing I actually reached that destination….

(2) DIVE INTO WORLDBUILDING. Juliette Wade’s new Diving Into Worldbuilding introduces readers to Cadwell Turnbull and interviews him about how he devised the background for his novel: “Cadwell Turnbull and The Lesson. Read the synopsis at the link, and/or watch the video:

We were all really excited to meet Cadwell Turnbull and talk to him about his new novel, The Lesson. This is a first contact novel featuring aliens in the Virgin Islands. It takes place five years after the alien Ynaa integrated with humans, and examines the tensions and conflicts between humans and Ynaa. Cadwell told us it deals with the murky relationship between the two groups, and the social, personal, and cultural effects of having highly advanced aliens living here.

Cadwell explained that the Ynaa have one basic technology. “Reefs” are intelligent cells that manage body health and also change the Ynaa’s physiology so they can fit in. They can also be used for technology, ships, cities, and other things. The reefs can build themselves. This technology can also be used to kill people.

(3) MUSIC ABOUT THE FUTURE. Red Bull Music Academy presents 17 selections that make up “An Alternate Canon of Afrofuturist Classics”.

This list sprung from a short question: What is a song you feel best represents Afrofuturism? From that starting point, a number of artists, academics, authors, curators and creative minds contributed selections that reflect both canon and alternate cuts. This list is necessarily limited: The expansive applications of Afrofuturist thought means anything definitive remains out of reach. But wherever and however Afrofuturism travels, it remains a space of utmost creative freedom and expressive possibility.

The titles on the home page are linked to short articles about each selection.

(4) WE’LL SEA ABOUT THAT. The Hollywood Reporter finds support for a POC mermaid split along party lines: “Disney’s Choice to Cast Halle Bailey in ‘Little Mermaid’ Is Mostly Well-Received, Poll Finds”.

About 75 percent of self-described Democrats said they support the casting of the actress in the role, as opposed to 44 percent of Republicans, a Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult poll finds.

(5) FANS COMMISSION HOGARTH NOVEL. M.C.A. Hogarth says —

I gave my fans a chance to “buy” a novel via Kickstarter I would ordinarily have backburnered and they decided they wanted it. The Kickstarter is still running but they’ve already hit my 10K goal (and in less than five days).

I continue to think it’s cool that we live in an age where fans can fund the books they want that authors would otherwise not have been able to afford. 🙂

The fundraising is not just about the book as a whole — Hogarth has set up an interesting menu of almost 20 different scenarios or character interactions that people can contribute toward having included in the story.

The “Major Pieces: A Peltedverse Collection” Kickstarter has raised $10,127 so far.

(6) SPACEWAR. MIT Technology Review news editor Nial Firth penned an article warning that war in space isn’t just a concern for science fiction writers, suggesting that the first skirmishes may already be occurring — “How to fight a war in space (and get away with it)” – behind a paywall at Technology Review. As Firth writes: “The major spacefaring nations ratified the treaty [against militarization of space] long ago, but the ambitions of the treaty to codify peaceful uses of space seem increasingly distant, as hawkish rhetoric and actions grow more common.”

In March, India became only the fourth country in the world—after Russia, the US, and China—to successfully destroy a satellite in orbit. Mission Shakti, as it was called, was a demonstration of a direct-ascent anti-satellite weapon (ASAT)—or in plain English, a missile launched from the ground. Typically this type of ASAT has a “kill vehicle,” essentially a chunk of metal with its own guidance system, mounted on top of a ballistic missile. Shortly after the missile leaves the atmosphere, the kill vehicle detaches from it and makes small course corrections as it approaches the target. No explosives are needed; at orbital speeds, kinetic energy does the damage.

(7) NOT THE NOMINATION HE’S AFTER. Talking about presidential candidate Andrew Yang, fivethirtyeight.com today said “But while the Yang platform can occasionally appear to drift toward a bid for a Hugo Award . . . .” — “How Weird Is Andrew Yang’s Tech Policy? Only About As Weird As America’s.”.

…In a Yang presidency, election results would be verified through blockchain (an encryption system best known for shoring up cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin), quantum computing research would be better funded, and a Legion of Builders and Destroyers would have the power to overrule local zoning and land-use decisions for the greater infrastructure good. He is definitely the only presidential candidate talking seriously about fighting climate change with giant space mirrors….

Greg Hullender opines, “In point of fact, his platform is pretty long. I’m not so sure it’s a good candidate for Best Related Work, although it does have its moments.” – “Yang 2020 – Our Policies” – “And how can you not like a guy whose response to pink MAGA caps is blue MATH hats?”

(8) A NICK LARTER UPDATE: Nick Larter, quoted in yesterday’s Scroll as opposed to a U.S Worldcon (immigration policies, difficulties), has been getting a crash course in site selection rules and today added this statement to his post:

Yesterday I sent an email to the address provided for the Dublin Worldcon Business Meeting, enquiring how I should proceed.  I have so far heard nothing back.  But others have kindly informed me online that the Business Meeting has no control over the voting process.  I have now looked at the relevant ballot paper.  It seems that if a majority of voters select the None of the Above option for the 2021 Worldcon location, then the Business Meeting is supposed to decide where it should be located.  On this basis, I’ll be voting None of the Above in Dublin.

(9) JACOB OBIT. Charlee Jacob (1952-2019) died July 14. The native Texan specializing in horror fiction, dark fantasy, and poetry won the Bram Stoker Award twice. Her novel Dread in the Beast tied for the Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel of 2005, and her poetry collection Sineater won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Poetry Collection in 2005 as well. Her first novel This Symbiotic Fascination (Necro Publications, 1997) was nominated for the International Horror Guild Award.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 16, 1952  — Zombies of the Stratosphere premiered.
  • July 16, 1969 — Apollo 11 launched.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 16, 1882 Felix Locher. He is considered the oldest Star Trek actor of all time by birth year, appearing in  “The Deadly Years” episode. 0ther genre appearances included Curse of the Faceless Man,  The Twilight ZoneFrankenstein’s Daughter, The MunstersHouse of the DamnedThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Mission Impossible. His entire acting career was from 1957 to 1969. (Died 1969.)
  • Born July 16, 1928 Robert Sheckley. I knew that his  short story “Seventh Victim” was the basis of The 10th Victim film but I hadn’t known ‘til now that Freejack was sort of based of his Immortality, Inc. novel.  I’ve read a lot by him with Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming (written with Zelazny) and Babylon 5: A Call to Arms being my favorite works by him. Sheckley is very well stocked on the Kindle store but not in the iBook store. H’h. (Died 2005.)
  • Born July 16, 1929 Sheri Tepper. I think I’m going to single out her Marianne Trilogy (Marianne, the Magus and the Manticore; Marianne, the Madam and the Momentary Gods; Marianne, the Matchbox and the Malachite Mouse) as her best work. Both the setting and the characters are unique, the story fascinating. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 16, 1951 Esther Friesner, 68. She’s won the Nebula Awards for Best Short Story, both “Death and the Librarian” and “A Birthday”.  I’m particularly fond of The Sherwood Game and E.Godz which she did with Robert Asprin. She’s better better stocked in the Kindle store than in the iBooks Store. 
  • Born July 16, 1956 Jerry Doyle. Now this one was depressing. Dead of acute alcoholism at sixty, his character Michael Garibaldi was portrayed as an alcoholic, sometimes recovering and sometimes not on Babylon 5. Damn. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 16, 1963 Phoebe Cates, 56. Ok, her entire genre appearance credit is as Kate Beringer in Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. It’s two films that I have an inordinate fondness for that the Suck Fairy cannot have any effect upon. 
  • Born July 16, 1967 Will Ferrell, 52. His last film was Holmes & Watson in which he played Holmes. It won Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screen Combo and, my absolute favorite Award, Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel. Wow. He was also in Land of the Lost which, errrr, also got negative reviews. Elf however got a great response from viewers and critics alike. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) MAKING BOOK. The correspondence of Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone comprise today’s The Big Idea at Whatever.

In today’s Big Idea, Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone are feeling epistolary, which, considering the letter-writing format of their collaborative novella This is How You Lose the Time War, is entirely appropriate.

AMAL EL-MOHTAR and MAX GLADSTONE:

Dearest Max,

I write to you from the past—knowing you’re presently asleep while I’m awake, three hours’ worth of time zone between us—to talk about ideas. It’s tricky to know where to begin; when the most succinct description we can manage of our book clocks in at “epistolary spy vs. spy novella across time and space,” the ideas crowd and clutter.

But I think it all ultimately begins and ends with us. The two of us, becoming friends, and writing each other letters.

Do you remember when we first decided to write something together? I know the fact of it, but I don’t remember the hour, the words—only that we loved each other’s work, wanted to work together, wanted to set a sensible boundary of how and when and for how long to work together….

(14) CAN YOU DIG IT? James Davis Nicoll will be your guide through “Great Lost Civilizations of Science Fiction and Fantasy” at Tor.com.

Thanks to the exploits of 19th-century archaeologists (many of them no better than Indiana Jones, digging for statues and jewelry while ignoring evidence of daily life), lost civilizations were common features of 19th-century adventure stories. The trope was imported wholesale into early SFF. Do you remember your first SFF lost civilization? I remember mine, which was thanks to Scholastic Books: the enthusiastically pulp-ish Stranger from the Depths, by Gerry Turner.

A mysterious relic reveals to humanity that there was an ancient civilization that arose before modern humans evolved in Africa. “Was”…or “is”? Ancient does not always mean vanished. These ancient aliens have, in fact, survived(!!!) in well-concealed refugia. Humans have now stumbled across them. Will humans survive the discovery?

(15) HELD OVER. There’s a new SF play being performed at Hollywood Fringe Festival one more time on July 20 at 8 p.m. called “Life Plan: How to Live Your Life in a Collapsing World”. Here’s the description:

It’s that rare time of year when the Life Plan presentation comes through the Los Angeles Habitable Zone! Tired of struggling in underground shelters and fleeing from mutated dumpster dogs? Life Plan is the answer! You can live out your dream life and you can experience true fulfillment, but only if you come to one of our five Life Plan Presentations this June. This is your last chance of 2068, so don’t miss out!

Life Plan is immersive satirical sci-fi — you’re live at a timeshare sales pitch from our dystopian future. Fulfillment is the offer. Salvation is the opportunity. Will you cash out? Will you buy in?

The play is written by Matthew Latkiewicz of You Can Do Better on truTV and former The Onion managing editor Brian Janosch. There are more details here.

The Parks and Recreation actor Alison Becker raves about the play on her Instagram wall, “I’ve seen A LOT of theater. And this was one of the best shows I’ve seen in my entire life. Wow. It’s like a weird mind fuck that stays in your head for weeks afterwards. It’s been extended for one night only (July 20th) so don’t say I didn’t tell you. I am NOT involved in this play. I am just telling you as a public service announcement — GO SEE THE BEST PIECE OF THEATER OF THE YEAR.”

(16) MAKING OF A WRITER. The Odyssey Workshop gets a plug from a graduate: “Interview: Graduate Farah Naz Rishi”.

You’ve worked as a video game journalist. How has gaming influenced your prose? What do you think writers could learn from successful video games?

I think analyzing video games actually helped me understand world-building a bit better. I try to treat every character, no matter how small their role, as an NPC (non-playable character). Every NPC in a video game should have a clear purpose, not just to propel the main characters on their quest, but to better flesh out the world around them. NPCs in games offer advice and opinions, sometimes drop hints that, if missed, can really screw over the player, or at least make their quest more difficult. In that way, they can make the story interactive. NPCs basically can reward a player for exploration. If you remove them, maybe the overall story won’t be affected, per se, but it will feel less rich.

(17) THE WELSHMEN WHO WALKED UP A HILL. BBC finds a road that’s ideal for geckoes, however, that’s not who’s using it: “Harlech street takes record as steepest in the world”.

A street in north Wales has been declared the steepest in the world.

Residents in Harlech, Gwynedd, are celebrating after Guinness World Records verified the gradient of Ffordd Pen Llech at 37.45%.

The title had been held by Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand, with a gradient of 35% at its steepest.

Campaigner Gwyn Headley said: “I feel utter relief – and jubilation. I feel sorry for the New Zealanders – but steeper is steeper.”

…Mr Headley and Sarah Badhan know just what an uphill struggle life can be for those living on Ffordd Pen Llech.

While most live at the bottom of the hill, the chemist and post office are at the top.

Mr Headley’s research found the street was the steepest in Great Britain, though a different methodology was used to calculate Baldwin Street in New Zealand.

So they engaged surveyors and measurements taken in January showed Fordd Pen Llech had a one in 2.67 gradient at its steepest part, compared with the current record holder’s one in 2.86.

(18) CREAM OF SDCC. Gizmodo previews what they consider to be “The 10 Most Exciting Panels Happening at San Diego Comic-Con 2019”. Marvel is number one.

2. Enter the Star Trek Universe

CBS has so many Star Trek projects going on, it chose to dump them all into one panel! “Enter the Star Trek Universe” will share news about several Star Trek projects—including the animated show Lower Decks, from the guys behind Rick and Morty, and Sir Patrick Stewart’s highly anticipated return as Jean-Luc Picard. We can’t wait, especially for the dog.

When and where: Hall H on Saturday, July 20 at 11:30 a.m.

Who will be there:

Star Trek: Discovery—Sonequa Martin-Green, Tig Notaro, and executive producers Alex Kurtzman, Michelle Paradise, and Heather Kadin.

Star Trek: Lower Decks—co-creator Mike McMahan

Star Trek: Picard—Sir Patrick Stewart, Alison Pill, Michelle Hurd, Evan Evagora, Isa Biones, Santiago Cabrera, Harry Treadaway, showrunner Michael Chabon, and executive producers Alex Kurtzman, Akiva Goldsman, and Heather Kadin.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, rcade, Carl Slaughter, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Alan Baumler, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Greg Hullender, Olav Rokne, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 4/11/19 Oh The Snark Has Pixel’d Teeth, Dear

(1) NEBULA CONFERENCE. SFWA President Cat Rambo says, “I know the Nebula programming isn’t complete yet but looking it over moved me to think about how far it’s come and who’s responsible for that” — “What I’m Looking Forward to about This Year’s Nebula Conference Programming: An Appreciation of Kate Baker”.

… It’s five years later, and in my opinion, Kate’s done what she set out to do. She didn’t do it alone, of course. She had the help of a whole lot of amazing SFWA staff and volunteers, including the amazing Terra LeMay and Steven H Silver. Mary Robinette Kowal got turned loose on programming the last couple of years and has been doing a stellar job. And others have made their mark with additions, such as the Nebula Award Alternate Universe Acceptance speeches or the mentoring program led by Sarah Pinsker or (I’d like to think) two I’ve contributed: the volunteer appreciation breakfast as well as the spouses and partners reception that have been regular features (and I hope will continue to do so!) Or the Book Depot, because I don’t know of ANY other con that takes as much care to make sure that its authors — including the indies — can sign and sell their books there. And there’s a fancy Nebula website, which remains a work in progress as more and more gets added to it, preserving the history of the Awards.

We’ve only got a small fraction of the schedule so far, with plenty of new stuff getting added every day, but here’s some highlights…

(2) BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD. Beresheet didn’t make it: “A private spacecraft from Israel crashed into the Moon Thursday”. Ars Technica not only has the story, they begin it with a Heinlein reference.

The Moon remains a harsh mistress.

On Thursday, SpaceIL’s lunar lander attempted to make a soft landing on the surface of the Moon, but it apparently crashed instead into the gray world. Although a postmortem analysis has not yet been completed, telemetry from the spacecraft indicated a failure of the spacecraft’s main engine about 10km above the Moon. Thereafter, it appears to have struck the Moon at a velocity of around 130 meters per second.

“We have had a failure in the spacecraft,” Opher Doron, general manager of the space division at Israel Aerospace Industries, which built the lander, said during the landing webcast. “We have unfortunately not managed to land successfully.” Israeli engineers vowed to try again.

The failure to land is perhaps understandable—it is extremely hard to land on the Moon, Mars, or any other object in the Solar System. In this case, the private effort to build the lunar lander worked on a shoestring budget of around $100 million to build their spacecraft, which had performed admirably right up until the last few minutes before its planned touchdown.

(3) TWINS IN SCIENCE. “NASA’s Twins Study Results Published in Science” in a paper titled “What to expect after a year in space.” The NASA press release begins —

NASA’s trailblazing Twins Study moved into the final stages of integrated research with the release of a combined summary paper published in Science.

The landmark Twins Study brought ten research teams from around the country together to observe what physiological, molecular and cognitive changes could happen to a human from exposure to spaceflight hazards. This was accomplished by comparing retired astronaut Scott Kelly while he was in space, to his identical twin brother, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, who remained on Earth.

The PR’s summaries of the 10 research topics includes –

Gene Expression:  Samples taken before, during and after Scott’s mission in space revealed some changes in gene expression. Mark also experienced normal-range changes in gene expression on Earth, but not the same changes as Scott. Changes Scott experienced may have been associated with his lengthy stay in space. Most of these changes (about 91.3%) reverted to baseline after he returned to Earth; however, a small subset persisted after six months. Some observed DNA damage is believed to be a result of radiation exposure. Gene expression data corroborated and supported other findings in the Twins Study, including the body’s response to DNA damage, telomere regulation, bone formation and immune system stress. These findings help demonstrate how a human body was able to adapt to the extreme environment of space and help researchers better understand how environmental stressors influence the activity of different genes, leading to a better understanding of physiological processes in space.

(4) BRACKETT BOOKS FALL THROUGH. The two Leigh Brackett titles announced by the Haffner Press in late 2015, The Book of Stark and Leigh Brackett Centennial have been cancelled. Stephen Haffner e-mailed an explanation to fans who preordered the books:

The fault for the cancellation of these two titles lies completely with Haffner Press and with me personally.

Rights to these titles were not evergreen and I failed to complete and publish these books within the contracted period. Believe me, I made every attempt to recover/resurrect these titles. At this point, the agent for the estate of Leigh Brackett is making other arrangements for the Stark books and Leigh Brackett. If this status changes, you’ll be one of the first to know.

Haffner is offering a complete refund, or application of the credit to another purchase.

(5) GUGGENHEIM FELLOWSHIPS. Authors Edward Carey, Michael Helm, Carmen Maria Machado, and Luis Alberto Urrea are among the winners of the 2019 Guggenheim Fellowships reports Locus Online.

(6) NEWITZ TALK. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination has posted video of Annalee Newitz speaking at UCSD on April 4 as part of the San Diego 2049 series .

Realistic worldbuilding requires that we get out of the dystopia/utopia binary and imagine futures that are a diverse mix of worlds. To imagine a plausible future world, we need to look critically at our own history, where progress is uneven and resistance is not futile. Annalee Newitz, journalist, co-founder of the website io9, and author of the acclaimed science fiction novel Autonomous, joined the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and the School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego to share her insights into worldbuilding as part of the San Diego 2049 series of programs.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 11, 1883 Leonard Mudie. His very last screen role was as one of the survivors of the SS Columbia in Trek’s original pilot episode, “The Cage.”  He also appeared as Professor Pearson opposite Boris Karloff in The Mummy released in 1932. He appeared in the 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood as the town crier and the mysterious man who gives Robin directions. (Died 1965.)
  • Born April 11, 1892 William M. Timlin. Author of The Ship that Sailed to Mars, a remarkable work that has 48 pages of text and 48 color plates. It has become a classic of fantasy literature. You can view the book here. (Died 1943.)
  • Born April 11, 1920 Peter O’Donnell. A British writer of mysteries and of comic strips, best known as the creator of Modesty Blaise. He also did an adaptation for the Daily Express of the Dr. No novel. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 11, 1953 Byron Preiss. Writer, editor and publisher. He founded and served as president of Byron Preiss Visual Publications, and later of ibooks Inc. If I remember correctly, ibooks was the last publisher for Zelazny for most of his books. Any idea what happened to those rights after ibooks went into receivership?  The only book I can find him writing is the children’s novel Dragonworld which is co-authored with Michael Reaves who was involved in including Gargoyles and Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 11, 1957 Marina Fitch, 62. She has published two novels, The Seventh Heart and The Border. Her short fiction has appeared in Pulphouse, MZB, F&SF, and Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and the anthologies, Desire Burn and Peter S. Beagle’s Immortal Unicorn. She is currently at work on a novel and several new stories.
  • Born April 11, 1963 Gregory Keyes, 56. Best known for The Age of Unreason tetralogy, a steampunk and magical affair featuring Benjamin Franklin and Isaac Newton. He also wrote The Psi Corps Trilogy and has done a lot of other media time-in fiction including Pacific Rim, Star Wars, Planet of The ApesIndependence Day and Pacific Rim
  • Born April 11, 1974 Tricia Helfer, 45. She is best known for playing the humanoid Cylon model Number Six in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. In addition, she plays Charlotte Richards / Mom on Lucifer. And she voiced Boodikka in Green Lantern: First Flight.
  • Born April 11, 1981 Matt Ryan, 38. John Constantine in NBC’s Constantine and The CW’s Arrowverse, as well as voicing the character in the Justice League Dark and the animated Constantine: City of Demons films as well. And he played Horatio in Hamlet in the Donmar production at the Wyndham’s Theatre. 

(8) PHOTO OP. BBC calls “Katie Bouman: The woman behind the first black hole image”.

A 29-year-old computer scientist has earned plaudits worldwide for helping develop the algorithm that created the first-ever image of a black hole.

Katie Bouman led development of a computer program that made the breakthrough image possible.

The remarkable photo, showing a halo of dust and gas 500 million trillion km from Earth, was released on Wednesday.

For Dr Bouman, its creation was the realisation of an endeavour previously thought impossible.

(9) LOL! Oh, Reference Director!

(10) RETRO HUGO FAN MATERIAL ONLINE. Joe Siclari of Fanac.org has assembled a resource for this year’s Retro Hugo voters —

Dublin 2019 has announced the Finalists for this year’s Retro Hugo Awards to be given for works published in 1943. We’ve pulled together what we have on Fanac.org, along with a few zines from eFanzines and the University of Iowa, to give you a single place where you can find all the Finalist publications available online. Read before you vote! http://fanac.org/fanzines/Retro_Hugos.html  

(11) GARY GIANNI’S SONG OF ICE & FIRE ART. Flesk Publications will start taking preorders next week: “Art of Gary Gianni for George R. R. Martin’s Seven Kingdoms. Signed by Martin and Gianni! Pre-Order on April 18th.” Arnie Fenner writes, “I don’t think Flesk is going to make the first edition available to the trade and is only going to sell it and the signed edition direct. Whether he’ll make a second edition available to bookstores…?”

A comprehensive visual overview of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series—plus A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms and Fire and Blood—through over 300 drawings and paintings by the award-winning illustrator Gary Gianni.

This new premium art book will be available for pre-order at www.fleskpublications.com on Thursday, April 18.

(12) THREE BOOKS TO CONQUER. Cat Rambo’s book deal with Tor leads in “Recent News and Changes from Chez Rambo”.

I’m very pleased to announce that Tor has acquired my recent space fantasy (maybe?), as part of a three book deal, and I’ll be working with Christopher Morgan there. While I’ve had a lot of short stories published traditionally, this is the first novel to go through that, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the process is like. What is the book about? Well, I’m actually not sure of the genre but have been describing it as a banter-driven space military fantasy in which a group of ex-military turned restauranteurs get an unexpected package, just as things start exploding. I’m 40k words into the sequel.

(13) AMAZON’S #1 AUTHOR. It took five days for Scalzi’s cats to turn him into a telethon host.

(14) PAGING VALENTINE MICHAEL SMITH. “‘Three-person’ baby boy born in Greece”

Fertility doctors in Greece and Spain say they have produced a baby from three people in order to overcome a woman’s infertility.

The baby boy was born weighing 2.9kg (6lbs) on Tuesday. The mother and child are said to be in good health.

…The experimental form of IVF uses an egg from the mother, sperm from the father, and another egg from a donor woman.

(15) YOU COULDN’T MAKE THIS UP. “Official Report: Nuclear Waste Accident Caused By Wrong Cat Litter” – just what were they feeding those cats anyway?

A yearlong investigation by government scientists has concluded that a major accident at a nuclear waste dump was caused by the wrong brand of cat litter.

The U.S. Department of Energy has released a 277-page report into an explosion that occurred on Feb. 14, 2014, at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. According to a summary of the report, the incident occurred when a single drum of nuclear waste, 68660, burst open.

(16) VIVA LA ROOMBALUCION II. Nope, it’s not Florida Man. NPR says — “Oregon Man Called Police About A Burglar. Armed Officers Found A Rogue Roomba”.

The Washington County sheriff in Oregon says there was nothing unusual about the call. Sure, it was broad daylight — 1:48 p.m. local time exactly — but “crime can happen anytime.”

So the frantic call from a house guest about a burglar making loud rustling noises inside the house, specifically from within the locked bathroom, deserved an urgent response, Sgt. Danny DiPietro, a sheriff’s spokesman, tells NPR.

“The man had just gone for a walk with his nephew’s dog and when he came back, he could see shadows moving back and forth under the bathroom door,” DiPietro says.

Resources were immediately deployed: three seasoned deputies — one with at least 20 years on the force — a detective who happened to be in the area, and two canine officers from Beaverton Police Department, about 7 miles outside Portland.

(17) NEW BRANCH. BBC reports on “Homo luzonensis: New human species found in Philippines”.

There’s a new addition to the family tree: an extinct species of human that’s been found in the Philippines.

It’s known as Homo luzonensis, after the site of its discovery on the country’s largest island Luzon.

Its physical features are a mixture of those found in very ancient human ancestors and in more recent people.

That could mean primitive human relatives left Africa and made it all the way to South-East Asia, something not previously thought possible.

The find shows that human evolution in the region may have been a highly complicated affair, with three or more human species in the region at around the time our ancestors arrive.

(18) THE AI SHORTFALL. IEEE Spectrum’s article “How IBM Watson Overpromised and Underdelivered on AI Health Care”illustrates the gap between reality and the popular imagination regarding AI. Greg Hullender sent the link with a comment, “I think the key point is in the last two paragraphs: Watson makes a great AI librarian, but it really isn’t a doctor at all, and likely never will be. Also worth noting is that the areas where they had the most success were the ones that needed the least AI, e.g. Watson for Genomics, which benefited from not needing natural language processing (NLP).”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs uses Watson for Genomics reports in more than 70 hospitals nationwide, says Michael Kelley, the VA’s national program director for oncology. The VA first tried the system on lung cancer and now uses it for all solid tumors. “I do think it improves patient care,” Kelley says. When VA oncologists are deciding on a treatment plan, “it is a source of information they can bring to the discussion,” he says. But Kelley says he doesn’t think of Watson as a robot doctor. “I tend to think of it as a robot who is a master medical librarian.”

Most doctors would probably be delighted to have an AI librarian at their beck and call—and if that’s what IBM had originally promised them, they might not be so disappointed today. The Watson Health story is a cautionary tale of hubris and hype. Everyone likes ambition, everyone likes moon shots, but nobody wants to climb into a rocket that doesn’t work.

(19) SEVENTIES FLASHBACK. Michael Gonzalez remembers when “I Was a Teenage (Wannabe) Horror Writer” at CrimeReads.

While sitting in the balcony of a movie theater waiting for Jordan Peele’s much-anticipated horror film Us, I began thinking about my personal relationship with the horror genre. “When I was pregnant with you I used to watch scary movies all the time,” my mom confessed years before as we left the Roosevelt Theatre in Harlem one afternoon after a screening of Night of the Living Dead. Although I was only seven and much too young to have seen that first zombie apocalypse, which gave me nightmares for a week, but afterwards I became a horror junkie. As much as I might’ve nervously jumped while watching The Blob, The Fly or Dracula, it was those stories that appealed to me.

…During the 1970s, with the exception of a few artists (Billy Graham, Keith Pollard, Ron Wilson and Trevor Von Eeden), there weren’t many African-American creators working in commercial comics, something I noticed when I attended my first comic convention that same year. However, while I didn’t see any scripters that “looked like me,” that wasn’t going to keep me from trying. Truthfully, I wasn’t trying to be the Rosa Parks of horror comic book writers, I just wanted to be down.

(20) HORROR DEFENDED. And Kim Newman argues in The Guardian that “Exposing children to horror films isn’t the nightmare you think it is”.

What terrifies children isn’t just the stuff designed to scare. In The Wizard of Oz, for example, you get the witch but also the comedy lion – and even though cackling evil is dispelled at the end, the incidentals offer nightmare fodder: the tree with a human face, the winged monkeys, even the horse of a different colour. As Tim Burton or Guillermo del Toro – both jumpy kids who have grown up to love monsters – have shown, the world of an imaginative child is full of wonders and terrors, and if you strip out the latter by insisting on a diet of just Peppa Pig you risk raising a generation unable to cope with the slightest trauma.

(21) ENDGAME PROMO. “You know your teams. You know your missions.” Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame is in theaters April 26.

[Thanks to Joe Siclari, Susan de Guardiola, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Olav Rokne, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Rambo, Chip Hitchcock, Stephenfrom Ottawa, Arnie Fenner, Greg Hullender, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 3/5/19 Surely You Know, Philately Will Get You Nowhere

(1) THE DEATH OF TRUTH. Brianna Wu is one of the featured victims in The Guardian’s article “Trapped in a hoax: survivors of conspiracy theories speak out “.

Conspiracy theories used to be seen as bizarre expressions of harmless eccentrics. Not any more. Gone are the days of outlandish theories about Roswell’s UFOs, the “hoax” moon landings or grassy knolls. Instead, today’s iterations have morphed into political weapons. Turbocharged by social media, they spread with astonishing speed, using death threats as currency.

…Their growing reach and scale is astonishing. A University of Chicago study estimated in 2014 that half of the American public consistently endorses at least one conspiracy theory. When they repeated the survey last November, the proportion had risen to 61%. The startling finding was echoed by a recent study from the University of Cambridge that found 60% of Britons are wedded to a false narrative.

The segment on Brianna Wu begins:

An accurate floor plan of her house was assembled and published online, along with her address and pictures of her car and license plate. And then there were the death threats – up to 300 by her estimate. One message on Twitter threatened to cut off her husband’s “tiny Asian penis”. The couple evacuated their house and took refuge with friends and in hotels.

Wu now devotes her time to running for Congress from her home in Dedham, Massachusetts. She sees her candidacy as a way of pressing federal authorities to take the problem of online conspiracy theories and harassment seriously. “The FBI employs about 30,000 agents in the US. As best as I can tell there’s no division that is specifically tasked with prosecuting extreme threats online – it’s simply not a priority for them,” she says.

(2) SPACE ADVOCACY. On March 4 representatives of The Planetary Society visited Congressional offices in Washington: “100 Planetary Society Members. 25 States. 1 Day of Action.”

Yesterday, 100 passionate Planetary Society members joined us on Capitol Hill for our Day of Action. They discussed the importance of space science and exploration with their congressional representatives and advocated for NASA’s continued growth. It was a huge success!

Through their efforts, we reached more than 127 congressional offices in 25 different states. We are grateful for the passion and dedication of these members.

(3) A LOT TO LIVE UP TO. Shana O’Neil declares “Captain Marvel meets some of the highest expectations yet for a Marvel movie” in a review for The Verge.

…After all of that, Captain Marvel is in the unenviable position of having to introduce a new character to the MCU, lay out her origin story, tie her in with the current MCU timeline, create backstories for several previously established characters, and set up even more significant elements for Avengers: Endgame. But Captain Marvel mostly bears the weight of those expectations. It rises to the occasion with strong performances and with its directors’ willingness to slow down and take their story seriously, balancing humor, action, and exposition in a carefully calibrated package.

Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) is initially introduced as Vers, a Starforce Agent for the alien Kree race. Vers isn’t a character from the original Captain Marvel comics, but Marvel readers may recognize her fellow Starforce members: Korath the Pursuer (Djimon Hounsou, Guardians of the Galaxy), Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan, Crazy Rich Asians), Bron-Char (Rune Temte, The Last Kingdom), Att-Lass (Algenis Pérez Soto, Sugar), and their leader Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). Vers has powerful Kree abilities: super strength, physical endurance, and the ability to shoot blasts of energy from her fingertips. But she can’t remember how she got those powers, or what her life was like before the Kree found her and brought her to their homeworld of Hala.

(4) BAKER’S DOZEN. Sarah Mangiola posted this last year at The Portalist — “13 Must-Read Hugo Award-Winning Books”. Some of these are short story collections where the title story was the Hugo winner.

Ill Met in Lankhmar and Ship of Shadows

By Fritz Leiber

The 1971 Hugo Award winner for Best Novella, “Ill Met in Lankhmar” recounts the meeting and teaming up of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser—serving as a prequel of sorts to Leiber’s The Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser book series. Featured alongside four other stories in Swords and Deviltry, “Ill Met in Lankhmar” starts when Gray Mouser and Fafhrd simultaneously ambush the Thieves’ Guild and steal valuable jewels that they themselves had just stolen. Realizing they make a good team, Gray Mouser and Fafhrd join forces and attempt to infiltrate the headquarters of the Thieves’ Guild. 

(5) CREATURE CREATOR. In “The Big Idea: Mallory O’Meara” at Whatever, O’Meara explains the origins of her book The Lady from the Black Lagoon:

…This book started out simply as a biography of Milicent Patrick, an influential artist whose legacy has been purposely obfuscated for decades. She was an illustrator, a concept artist, one of the first female animators at Disney and the designer of the iconic monster from the 1954 science fiction film CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON.

The press and attention that Milicent got as the designer of the Creature was the pinnacle of her career. It also caused her downfall. Her boss at the time was so jealous of her being in the limelight with the Creature that he fired her. Milicent never worked behind the scenes in Hollywood again and no one knew what became of her.

While I was researching and investigating her life, it became clear to me that I couldn’t write about what happened to Milicent Patrick without writing about why it happened to her. It’s easy to hear a sad story about a woman dealing with sexism in the 1950s and think, “Man, what a bummer. That’s just how things were back then!”

But it wasn’t just how things were back then. What happened to Milicent Patrick is still happening. It’s happening right now….

(6) LITIGIOUS LOUT. The Sydney Morning Herald invites you to “Meet Nick Rodwell, Tintin heir and least popular man in Belgium”.

It all started when a circle of Tintin fans in the Netherlands, de Herge Genooschap, ran a few strips in their internal newsletter. They were dragged to court, facing a penalty of up to €100,000 ($154,000).

They are only the latest party to have fallen foul of Nick Rodwell, self-proclaimed “the least popular man in Belgium”.

Mr Rodwell is the British-born manager of Moulinsart, the company that holds the rights to the Herge estate. Students, scholars, admirers and collectors alike have been harshly prosecuted at the faintest sign of a Tintin drawing, with Moulinsart demanding arrests, confiscations and colossal sums out of all proportion with the alleged offences.

(7) OGDEN OBIT. Fanzine fan Steve Ogden died March 1. Rick Bradford paid tribute at the Poopsheet Foundation:

My friend, longtime fan, author, fanzine publisher and comics researcher Steven Ogden died on March 1st, 2019 after a lengthy battle with leukemia and everything that goes along with its treatment.

Steve – along with his wife, Vicki – published fanzines and mini-comics through Spotted Zebra Press/New Spotted Zebra Press since the ’80s (or perhaps slightly earlier). Publications included Ouroborus, the mammoth Brad W. Foster Checklist of Published Works from the 20th Century (1972-2000), Edgar’s Journal, Metaphysical Pornographic Funnies and many others. He was also a longtime member of FAPA (The Fantasy Amateur Press Association).

His wife Vicki asks that instead of flowers donations be made to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society:

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

March 5, 1944Captain America premiered theatrically in theaters as a serial.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 5, 1874 Henry Travers. Only two genre roles to my knowledge, he appeared in The Invisible Man as Dr. Cranley and he was in Death Takes a Holiday as Baron Cesarea. (Died 1965.)
  • Born March 5, 1894 Henry Daniell. His most famous role is SF film was as a Morgana in From the Earth to the Moon. He has more obscure roles over the decades in films such as playing William Easter in Sherlock Holmes in Washington or Dr. Wolfe ‘Toddy’ MacFarlane in The Body Snatcher where he’d have been upstaged by it being the last film of both Karloff and Lugosi. (Died 1963.)
  • Born March 5, 1936 Dean Stockwell, 83. I remember him best as Admiral Al Calavicci, the hologram that advised Sam Beckett on Quantum Leap. Other genre roles included being in The Dunwich Horror as Wilbur Whateley, in The Time Guardian as simply Boss, Doctor Wellington Yueh In Dune, a role I had completely forgotten, and voiced Tim Drake in the excellent  Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. Series work beyond Quantum Leap includes Twilight ZoneAlfred Hitchcock PresentsMission: Impossible, Night GalleryQuinn Martin’s Tales of the Unexpected (pay attention class, this has showed up before), Star Trek: EnterpriseBattlestar Galactica and Stargate SG-1. 
  • Born March 5, 1942 Mike Resnick, 77. It’s worth noting that he’s has been nominated for 37 Hugo Awards which is a record for writers and won five times. Somewhat ironically nothing I’ve really enjoyed by him has won those Hugos. The novels making my list are Stalking the UnicornThe Red Tape War (with Jack L. Chalker & George Alec Effinger), Stalking the Dragon and, yes, it’s not genre, Cat on a Cold Tin Roof.
  • Born March 5, 1952 Robin Hobb, 67. Whose full legal name is the lovely Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden hence her two pen names. I reasonably sure the first thing I read and enjoyed by her was Wizard of the Pigeons, but The Gypsy with Steven Brust was equally enjoyable and had the added bonus of a Boiled in Lead soundtrack. 
  • Born March 5, 1955 Penn Jillette, 64. Performed on Babylon 5 in the episode scripted by Neil Gaiman titled “Day of The Dead” as part of Penn & Teller who portrayed comedians Rebo and Zooty. It’s one of my favorite episodes of the series. Also he had a recurring role on Sabrina the Teenage Witch as Drell, the head of the Witches’ Council. He’s been in Fantasia 2000Toy StoryFuturama: Into the Wild Green YonderSharknado 3: Oh Hell No!Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanVR.5Space Ghost Coast to Coast and most recently Black Mirror. 
  • Born March 5, 1975 Jolene Blalock, 44. Best known for playing  T’Pol on  Enterprise.  Genre wise, she’s also been in Jason and the Argonauts as Medea, Stargate SG-1 as Ishta, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder as Captain Lola Beck and as the Legend of the Seeker as Sister Nicci.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • It’s not only authors who want to GET PAID, so do devices — Bizarro.
  • Garfield is about a fellow who will never have a Mount TBR.

(10) IN CHARACTER. SYFY Wire shares the fun when “J.K. Simmons revives J. Jonah Jameson in Spidey-hating Avengers: Endgame spoof”.

… How would Simmons’ Jameson react to the dusty ending of Avengers: Infinity War? How would he potentially act, if he was to survive, during Avengers: Endgame? Would he finally cut Spider-Man some slack? Would the web-slinger finally earn his respect? 

Thanks to a new spoof made by Lights, Camera, Pod, we don’t have to just sit and wonder. J.K. Simmons himself returned to voice Jameson for this animated video, and, well, see for yourself: 

(11) A CONSTRUCTIVE RESPONSE. Greg Hullender tells how Rocket Stack Rank weathered a storm of public criticism two years ago in this comment at Mad Genius Club. (For background, see “Rocket Stack Rank Issues Apology, Hullender Off Locus Panel”.)

…The way they managed to get us was that we had promised that RSR would be politics-free: focused on the stories alone. But I had been using my reviews to express my annoyance with the use of “non-binary ‘they’” in stories and making it fairly clear I didn’t take the whole non-binary thing seriously. As a long-standing member of the LGBT community, I certainly have the right to voice my opinion of the non-binary movement (although it quickly became clear that I was very out-of-date and should have at least talked to a few non-binary people), but RSR was not the place to have that discussion. Worse, the first my husband (and co-editor) learned of this was when our enemies produced a horrendous “open letter” that was a mix of half-truths and outrageous lies but supported with links to my own reviews. He was, understandably, rather upset with me.

Most embarrassing was that Locus asked me to withdraw from the panel that selects their annual recommended reading list, and issued a press release about it.

We recognized that our enemies wouldn’t be satisfied by anything we did. “If we committed suicide, they’d just say we did it wrong.” So we apologized to our readers for what we genuinely believed I had done wrong, and I went through the old reviews and comments and carefully removed everything that we agreed shouldn’t be there, based on our own principles. They made fun of our apology, of course, but we didn’t care; we didn’t do it for them.

Then we waited to see what happened. We agreed that if volume to the site fell in half, we’d shut it down and find something else to do. It had been a miserable, humiliating experience, and it’s not like we make any money from Rocket Stack Rank. (We brag that we change no fees, run no ads, use no affiliate codes, and never beg for donations.) We think of it as our gift to fandom, and if fans didn’t want it, we wouldn’t keep doing it.

But, volume increased.

During the hullabaloo, volume more than doubled (by all measures) for about a month, based on year-on-year comparisons. But the next few months showed that we kept 20% of that. If we lost any readers, they were more than made up for by the ones who learned about us through this thing. (Maybe it really is true that all publicity is good publicity.) Year-on-year growth has continued, and we’re now actually bigger than some of the semiprozines that Locus reports on (although nowhere near the size of the ones we actually review).

(12) HAGER WINS AGAIN. Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal and Lecture Award for 2019 goes to Mandy Hager for life-time achievement and a distinguished contribution to New Zealand’s literature for young people. Her Singing Home the Whale, about a teenaged boy who befriends a baby orca, won the 2015 New Zealand Book Awards’  Margaret Mahy Book of the Year (see a review here.) Her near-future dystopia The Nature of Ash won the 2013 LIANZA YA Fiction Award (Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa).

(13) CONTENT WARNING FOR THIS ITEM. Polygon says a “Steam game about raping women will test Valve’s hands-off approach”.

Valve did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but on the game’s website, the developer seems aware that its creation is controversial.

“You can’t reasonable [sic] consider banning rape in fiction without banning murder and torture,” the developer says.

“Most people can separate fiction from reality pretty well, and those that can’t shouldn’t be playing video games,” the developer continues.

Technically, Rape Day does not appear to violate Steam’s current content rules, but the developer appears unsure if the game will make it to the final release without getting banned off the platform. Already, the game has been modified to avoid potential content issues — in one news update, the creator says they got rid of a “baby killing scene” in case it gets marked as child exploitation. Rape Day’s website also lists out a couple of plans of action for what may happen to the game, and the developer, should anything get taken down.

“I have not broken any rules, so I don’t see how my game could get banned unless Steam changes their policies,” the developer wrote. “My game was properly marked as adult and with a thorough description of all of the potentially offensive content before the coming soon page went live on Steam.”

(14) DISPLACED. At The Verge, Andrew Liptak says “Famous Men Who Never Lived is a powerful novel about alternate worlds and the plights of refugees”.

In K. Chess’ debut novel, Famous Men Who Never Lived, at some point in the past, reality diverged, and an alternate timeline played out alongside our own. Then, that world was devastated by a nuclear attack, and extradimensional refugees started showing up in our own reality. As Chess follows the lives of refugees from that alternate world, she delivers a story about immigration and how those who lose everything they’ve ever known are able to cope with their new reality.

(15) SERIAL BOX. Adri Joy finds you can’t improve on four aces: “Microreview [Book]: The Vela, by Yoon Ha Lee, Becky Chambers, Rivers Solomon and S.L. Huang” at Nerds of a Feather.

Serial Box’s new space opera is an action-packed, politically-driven adventure written by an impressive author lineup.

…Together, they take on a space opera that touches on the strengths of all four of these works, while being something very different. Welcome to the system home to Khayyam, Gan-de and Hypatia, where the careless extraction of hydrogen by wealthy inner planets is causing the slow collapse of the sun and the death, over centuries, of all inhabitable worlds – beginning, of course, with the blameless, impoverished outer worlds. Mix in a hardened soldier-for-hire who is herself an escapee from the dying worlds, and her naive non-binary sidekick, and you’ve got an indisputable recipe for success, right?

(16) JUDGMENT RENDERED. Brian Hubbard, in “Microreview [book]: JUDGES Volume 1 by Michael Carroll, Charles J. Eskew, and George Mann” at Nerds of a Feather, wishes the authors didn’t assume the readers already have a lot of knowledge about this series.

How does the world get from the police we know today to Judge Dredd? JUDGES Volume 1 brings us closer to the answer with a trio of short stories set in the Judge Dredd universe. It doesn’t quite reach the bombast of that source material though.

…But if you’re not familiar with the Judges program or the Judge Dredd world, these stories aren’t going to do you a lot of favors in the way of building this world.

(17) IN ONE VOLUME. Rob Bedford assesses “BINTI: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor” at SFFWorld.

To say that the saga of Binti is a modern masterwork is obvious.  Despite the tragedy throughout the series, the physical tragedies, the emotional baggage Binti brought with her when we first met her to the profound affect those physical tragedies had on Binti, one thing was even more clear. Hope. This is very much a forward-thinking series with a charmingly brilliant and empathetic protagonist. Okorafor impressively packs these short novels/novellas with an incredible amount of emotion, fantastical ideas, and philosophical ideals in and of themselves. That the trilogy (plus short story) is under 400 pages and is so powerful is a marvel of storytelling.

(18) THE VERDICT. Camestros Felapton wrote individual reviews of the six 2018 Nebula Awards short story nominees, and now deals with how they work collectively on the literary award’s ballot: “Nebula Shorts: Summing Up”.

I’d contend that there are three clearly exceptional short stories in the Nebula short story finalists. There is a fourth I can see an argument for, there is another that I don’t get but others clearly did and there’s a sixth which, while having many positive qualities, probably shouldn’t be a finalist.

(19) MANY MONSTERS. Ultraman is coming to Netflix (like everything else!)

Years ago, the famous giant of light Ultraman worked to protect peace on Earth. Now, a new champion arises: Shinjiro Hayata, a high-school student who must don the Ultra Suit and the worries that come with it. The son of the former Ultraman, he will become this generation’s new hero! Netflix Original Anime Ultraman starts streaming worldwide April 1st, only on Netflix.

(20) GENRE PLAT. Matthew Johnson left another masterwork in comments today:

All books can be SFnal books, though recent books are bolder
You never know when Dick and Jane might meet with a Beholder
The correct double entrendre
Can make anything genre
You can give a ray gun to Atticus Finch
Let Lennie and George cast a spell in a pinch.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/27/19 A Pixel Traveling At 0.72C Is Approving a Rotating Scroll Travelling At 0.4C. Where’s The Best Place To Get Souvenir Turtles?

(1) HOLLYWOOD ACCOUNTING. Bones isn’t a sff show (most of the time) but the litigation will send ripples throughout all the media empires: “Fox hit with $179-million judgment in dispute over profits from ‘Bones’ TV show” (LA Times).

In a stunning decision that could have widespread repercussions in the TV industry, Fox has been hit with a $178.7-million judgment in its profit participation dispute with the team behind the hit series “Bones.”

The ruling, which was decided in arbitration, excoriated senior Fox executives and criticized the studio and network for its conduct. The decision has also rattled other studios, including the highest echelons of the Walt Disney Co., which is bringing aboard some of the same executives in its $71 billion acquisition of Fox.

Hulu is also at the center of the storm, with accusations that Fox withheld revenues from “Bones” when the series became available for streaming on the digital platform. Fox owns a 30% stake in Hulu, along with other major studios.

… “The Arbitrator is convinced that perjury was committed by the Fox witnesses,” the ruling stated. “Accordingly, if perjury is not reprehensible then reprehensibility has taken on a new meaning.”

(2) STAND AND DELIVER. It’s Facebook’s ambition to supplant Patreon, but how greedy can you get? Very. See ComicsBeat’s roundup on the topic: “Shocker: Details of Facebook’s version of Patreon reveal very creator unfriendly terms”.

Despite some bumps, it’s obvious that Patreon’s subcription model for crowdfunding is a success, to the tune of $500 million in creat or payouts in 2019. With that kind of money floating around, it’s no wonder that some other giant entities – including YouTube and Facebook –  want to tap into the cash stream and launch their own subcription models to support creators.

Facebook’s version, “Fan Subscriptions,” rolled out last year in a very private test, offering to charge fans $4.99 a month for access to exclusive content by their favorite creators.

The program just expanded to offer its services to more content creators. And as Tech Crunch reports, reading the terms reveals, to the surprise of no one, that they are vastly less favorable to content creators than Patreon.

The Tech Crunch article says:

Facebook  will drive a hard bargain with influencers and artists judging by the terms of service for the social network’s Patreon-like Fan Subscriptions feature that lets people pay a monthly fee for access to a creator’s exclusive content. The policy document attained by TechCrunch shows Facebook plans to take up to a 30 percent cut of subscription revenue minus fees, compared to 5 percent by Patreon,  30 percent by YouTube, which covers fees and 50 percent by Twitch.

Facebook also reserves the right to offer free trials to subscriptions that won’t compensate creators. And Facebook demands a “non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use” creators’ content and “This license survives even if you stop using Fan Subscriptions.”

(3) NUMBER NINE. [Item by Greg Hullender.] Mike Brown just presented a paper with new results that significantly narrow down the parameters for a hypothetical Planet Nine beyond Neptune. He wrote a few blog posts about it, the most useful of which is probably this one: “version 2.X”.

The upshot is that this should make it easier to find, but it also seems more likely than ever that it’s really out there. Looking at that projected orbit, it’s way, way beyond Neptune. And, yes, it’s massive enough to have “cleared its orbit,” so it’s still a planet, even by the new definition.

In principle, there is so much more that I would like to say, but at this point I think it’s becoming progressively clearer that my coffee supply ran out a couple paragraphs ago, and in an effort to prevent further degradation of the text, I will get straight to the final point: if Planet Nine is smaller, does that mean it’s harder to find with a telescope? Counterintuitively, it’s the opposite. The smaller distance from the sun more than makes up for the diminished surface area. Indeed, if we make naive baseline assumptions about P9’s albedo and adopt the interpolated exoplanet mass-radius relation to estimate P9’s size, Planet Nine turns out to be about one magnitude brighter than we previously thought. Annoyingly, though, the aphelion is very close to (in?) the galactic plane, where confusion due to background stars can readily impede detection. Still, unless we are unlucky and P9 is unexpectedly small and/or dark, it should be within the reach of LSST and comparable telescopes like Subaru. The good news is that in the case of Planet Nine hypothesis, time truly will tell.

(4) OR HE COULD PHONE IT IN. A.V. Club reports “George R.R. Martin turned down a Game Of Thrones cameo for a very good reason”.

Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Martin revealed that series showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss asked him to travel all the way from his house in New Mexico to Ireland to film a cameo in one of the final season eight episodes, which, he says, he was “tempted to do.” Unfortunately, he’s a little too busy working on The Winds Of Winter, the next novel in the A Song Of Ice And Fire series–or so he says.

Anyway, if everyone wants this badly enough they can find a studio with a green screen in New Mexico, have Martin perform his bit, and fill in the rest with CGI.

(5) STORYBUNDLE. Cat Rambo has put together another Women’s History Month bundle, The 2019 Feminist Futures Bundle. She says –

This one has a great range of stuff in it, with some terrific indie and small press reads. One book I am particularly pleased to have there is K.C. Ball’s collection, which I edited. K.C. was a dear friend whose passing I wrote about here.

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

  • Snapshots from a Black Hole and Other Oddities by K.C. Ball
  • Sunspot Jungle by Bill Campbell
  • Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett
  • Queen of Roses by Elizabeth McCoy

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

  • Albatross by R.A. MacAvoy and Nancy L. Palmer
  • Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories by Naomi Kritzer
  • The Child Goddess by Louise Marley
  • Exile by Lisa M. Bradley
  • The Goodall Mutiny by Gretchen Rix
  • Mindscape by Andrea Hairston

(6) MEET THE CAST. SciFiNow has packaged them in one post — The Twilight Zone teaser videos: meet the cast of the West End stage show”.

Reprising their highly praised performances from the Almeida run are Oliver Alvin-Wilson, Adrianna Bertola and Neil Haigh, who will be joined for the West End premiere by Alisha Bailey, Natasha J Barnes, Nicholas Karimi, Dan Crossley, Dyfan Dwyfor, Lauren O’Neill and Matthew Steer.

Here they are, talking about it…

(7) GET YOUR KICKS. Take a break and enjoy Genevieve Valentine’s lively and humorous “Red Carpet Rundown: The 2019 Oscars”.

Glenn Close. This is why some people who can reasonably expect a win still dress simply rather than go for something Fashiony; there’s no shame in seeming surprised you won, but the biggest shared glance-and-nod on this entire red carpet was Glenn Close dressing like the Oscar she was here to collect, and of course she was, because she had it in the bag, because she’d spent the entire red-carpet season in toned-down suits and gowns that looked extremely Career Oscar and reserved and dignified while she collected awards, and she threw it all out the window at the very last turn for this cape with four million beads (four MILLION beads!) to show up and get her statue, and then she didn’t get it.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 27, 1934 Van Williams. He teamed for one season with the late Bruce Lee as his partner Kato on The Green Hornet and three Batman cross-over episodes. He would voice President Lyndon B. Johnson on the Batman series, show up in an episode of Mission Impossible, do a one-off Quinn Martin’s Tales of the Unexpected and that’s it. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 27, 1938 T.A. Waters. A professional magician and magic author. He appears not terribly well disguised as Sir Thomas Leseaux, an expert on theoretical magic as a character in Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy fantasy series and in Michael Kurland’s The Unicorn Girl in which he also appears as Tom Waters. He himself wrote The Probability Pad which is a sequel to The Unicorn Girl. Together with Chester Anderson’s earlier The Butterfly Kid , they make up Greenwich Village trilogy. (Died 1998.)
  • Born February 27, 1944 Ken Grimwood. Another writer who died way too young, damn it.  Writer of several impressive genre novels including Breakthrough and Replay which I’ve encountered and Into the Deep and Elise which are listed in ISFDB but which I’m not familiar with. (Died 2003.)
  • Born February 27, 1957 Timothy Spall, 62. Before his more famous roles, he started off in late Sixties horror film Demon Dream as Peck Much later he’ll appear as Rosencrantz In Hamlet. And then we came to him as Mr. Poe in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events which I’ve yet to see. And of course he’s Peter Pettigrew, nicknamed Wormtail, in the Harry Potter franchise.  And yes, he’s done much, much more than that for genre roles, so do feel free to chastize me for not listing what you think is his best role. 
  • Born February 27, 1960 Jeff Smith, 59. Creator and illustrator of Bone, the now complete series that he readily admits has “a notable influence being Walt Kelly’s Pogo”. Smith also worked for DC on a Captain Marvel series titled Mister Mind and the Monster Society of Evil.
  • Born February 27, 1962 Adam Baldwin, 57. Genre roles include Firefly and its continuation in Serenity as Jayne Cobb. Colonel John Casey in Chuck, Independence Day as Major Mitchell and Mike Slattery in The Last Ship. He’s also done voice work such as Hal Jordan and Jonah Hex on Justice League Unlimited, and Metamorpho on Beware the Batman
  • Born February 27, 1964 John Pyper-Ferguson, 55. I certainly remember him best as the villain Peter Hutter on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. but I see that he got he got his start in Canadian horror films such as Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and Pin: A Plastic Nightmare. His first major SF role was in Space Marines as Col. Fraser. And though he has an extensive one-off career in genre series, his occurrence as a repeated cast member is not uncommon, ie. he’s Agent Bernard Fainon the new Night Stalker for some episodes, shows up as Tomas Vergis on Caprica for six episodes and I see he’s had a recurring role on The Last Ship asTex Nolan. 
  • Born February 27, 1966 Peter Swirski, 53. He’s a academic specialist on the late SF writer and philosopher Stanis?aw Lem. As such, he’s written the usual treatises on him with such titles as Stanislaw Lem: Philosopher of the FutureLemography: Stanislaw Lem in the Eyes of the World and From Literature to Biterature: Lem, Turing, Darwin, and Explorations in Computer Literature, Philosophy of Mind, and Cultural Evolution

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Monty & Doc visit the past to find out how the Egyptian pyramids were constructed only to be surprised…
  • …but Monty still needs to be careful with his eggplant emoji; the Pharaoh might get the wrong idea.

(10) MAINTAIN AN EVEN STRAIN. Another dead author gets his name on a book above the title, though at least they acknowledge he didn’t write it (AP News: “Sequel to Michael Crichton’s ‘Andromeda Strain’ due in fall”). An authorized sequel to The Andromeda StrainThe Andromeda Evolution by Daniel H. Wilson—is due for a November 12 release by HarperCollins.

Its publication marks the 50th anniversary of “The Andromeda Strain,” Crichton’s techno-thriller about scientists fighting a lethal extraterrestrial microorganism. Released when Crichton was just 27, it was later adapted into a feature film and television miniseries, with Ridley Scott among the producers.

“It’s exciting to be shining a spotlight on the world that Michael so brilliantly created and to collaborate with Daniel Wilson,” [his widow,] Sherri Crichton[,] said in a statement. “This novel is for Crichton fans; it’s a celebration of Michael’s universe and a way to introduce him to new generations, and to those discovering his worlds for the first time.”

[…] “As a lifelong fan of Michael Crichton, it’s been an unbelievable honor to revisit the iconic world that he created and to continue this adventure,” Wilson said in a statement.

(11) MARS NEEDS LEGS. Wired UK says that, “Astronauts arriving on Mars won’t be able to walk. VR may save them.” It sounds a bit odd, but (re)training the brain to pay attention to signals from your inner ear is important after a long period of weightlessness.

It lasts around 23 minutes and feels “like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, on fire, then crashing really hard.”

That’s how retired Nasa astronaut Ron Garan describes the return from space, strapped into the tight confines of a Soyuz capsule plummeting through the atmosphere back to Earth. The touchdown, slowed by a parachute and – at the very end – six small rockets, is called “soft,” but in reality it’s extremely rough.

We’ve all seen the scenes once the capsule has landed – astronauts and cosmonauts being carried away from Soyuz and carefully lowered into chairs. This is not a precaution; people returning from space literally cannot walk. The reason, however, is not the rough re-entry, but the fact that while in space, they have kind of lost their legs – albeit temporarily.

(12) DON’T YOU WANT SHORT FICTION TO LOVE: Continuing to read with cupidity,  Jason once again points to some February fiction he enjoyed including a possibly odd combination of horror and a Valentine’s Day tale in “Month in Review: February 2019”.

Counting a few stories from the late-breaking Tor.com Short Fiction and the last BCS and Terraform stories from January, February produced 48 stories of 210K words. It also produced the odd results of two recommended dark fantasy/horror stories with no SF or general fantasy and five otherwise noted SF stories with no fantasy (though one could easily be considered yet another sort of dark fantasy/horror). Three of the five come from my two February Tangent reviews of Constellary Tales and InterGalactic Medicine Show, which have some oddness of their own. The former was born recently and I reviewed the second issue. The latter contained the surprising announcement of its death in the editorial. So the gods of short fiction giveth and taketh away.

(13) MORE ON NEBULAS. J.A. Sutherland shines light on sff’s major awards and their different goals. Thread starts here.

Efforts to cast the kerfuffle over the 20BooksTo50K Nebula list as tradpub vs. indie civil war are tripped up by some of the facts.

It has come to our attention that one of our books, THE CONTINUUM by Wendy Nikel, was included in the 20booksto50K “slate” Nebula recommendation list. Neither the author nor anyone involved with World Weaver Press was aware of this list until yesterday, nor do we endorse it. While we would be thrilled to see this novella nominated for any of the major SFF awards, it needs to be nominated on its own merits, not as some sort of statement regarding “indie” vs. “trad pub.” Besides, we are actually a traditional publisher. Just a small one.

And JDA didn’t pay attention to Yudhanjaya Wijeratne saying he has a five book contract with HarperCollins.

Meanwhile, Wijeratne and his co-author are keeping the nomination but considering turning down the award if they win.

Cora Buhlert has an extensive review of what all parties have been saying in “Some Reactions to the 2018 Nebula Award Finalists”. She concludes:

As for the whole “indie versus traditional” rhetoric, honestly, that debate is so 2012. The stigma against self-publishing has long since evaporated. Can’t we move on and accept that indies, traditionally published authors and hybrids are all part of the same genre? The Nebulas aren’t hostile to indie works – the 2014 Best Novel finalist The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata was self-published, at a time when SFWA wasn’t even open to indie writers yet. The Hugos aren’t hostile to indie works  – the novelette “In Sea-Salt Tears” by Seanan McGuire in 2013 was the first self-published finalist and there have been several since.

Besides, most people were initially willing to give 20Booksto50K the benefit of a doubt. The reaction was mostly along the lines of, “Well, they’re new and don’t know the culture and etiquette. They’ll learn and maybe some of the stories are good.” But the huffy responses from some 20Booksto50K Nebula finalists and other members of the group (Lawsuits? Really?) have destroyed a lot of good will, not just towards this group, but also towards indie writers in general. And I really doubt that was the intent.

(14) IF THIS GOES ON. Bernard Lee’s cover art for Parvus Press’ forthcoming collection of original science fiction, IF THIS GOES ON: A Science Fiction Look at the Politics of Our Future, has been accepted into the exhibitions for both the Society of Illustrators East and West annual exhibitions.

Bernard is a California artist and illustrator and painted this cover as oil on canvas. It pictures the Lincoln Memorial lost to the waters of the Chesapeake following rampant, unchecked global warming. Underwater flora rise ominously behind the statue of the Great Emancipator and sandbar sharks, native to the Chesapeake, have taken residence inside the Memorial’s remains.

Said Colin Coyle, Publisher at Parvus Press, “It was nearly impossible to provide clear direction for the cover of a collection this diverse. But Bernard Lee rose to the challenge and produced a beautiful work of art that’s really a stand-alone contribution to the collection in its own right.”

The Society of Illustrators Exhibition in New York runs through March 9, 2019 as part of “Illustration 61” at the Society of Illustrations Museum in New York, located on 128 East 63rd Street. “Illustration West 57”, the annual exhibition of the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles will be exhibiting the artwork in March. IF THIS GOES ON releases on March 5.

(15) NETFLIX. The OA Part II airs March 22.

No one survives alone.

(16) OPEN THE BOOK BOMB BAY DOORS. Following last week’s avalnche of posts by romance writers calling foul on people’s unscrupulous exploitation of Amazon’s business model comes one from Larry Correia defending himself for doing something no one has complained about: “A Note About Book Bombs” [Internet Archive link.] Isn’t there’s a Bible verse “The wicked flee where no man pursueth”?

A Book Bomb is when you get as many people as possible to buy a specific book on a specific day, with the goal of pushing it as high up in the sales rankings as possible on Amazon, with the goal of getting it onto some bestseller lists, so that more new eyeballs see it. This is a great way to expose an author to new readers.

Lots of people do this, but the ones we do here on Monster Hunter Nation tend to work better than average….

I’ve had bitter cranks whine about how this is “gaming the system” because apparently authors are supposed to sit quietly while tastemakers and critics decide what should be popular. No thanks. I’ll game that system then, and appointed myself a tastemaking critic. But a BB ain’t cheating because these are all legit sales using actual money, being purchased by actual human beings, who will hopefully enjoy the book enough to leave a review and purchase the author’s other books…. 

An altruistic effort to share his platform – what’s to complain about that?

(17) DREAM BIG. “OneWeb satellite internet mega-constellation set to fly” – BBC has the story.

London-based start-up OneWeb is set to launch the first six satellites in its multi-billion-pound project to take the internet to every corner of the globe.

The plans could eventually see some 2,000 spacecraft orbiting overhead.

Other companies are also promising so-called mega-constellations, but OneWeb believes it has first-mover advantage with an operational system.

…Assuming these pathfinders perform as expected, OneWeb will then begin the mass rollout of the rest of the constellation towards the end of the year.

This will see Soyuz rockets launching every month, lofting up to 36 satellites at a time.

To provide global internet coverage, there will need to be 648 units in orbit.

(18) SNEAK PREVIEW. “Sir Philip Pullman’s second Book of Dust out in October”. Here a clip from the top of the story; also has author commentary.

Sir Philip Pullman’s second instalment in his Book of Dust series, where he returns to the world of His Dark Materials, will be released in October.

Heroine Lyra Silvertongue is back as an adult in The Secret Commonwealth.

Lyra was a baby in the first book in the Book of Dust trilogy, La Belle Sauvage, which was critically acclaimed when it was released in 2017.

The new book is set 20 years after that, and seven years after the end of the His Dark Materials series.

Sir Philip’s publishers have released an extract from the start of the new book which sees Lyra at odds with her daemon Pantalaimon after they unwittingly witness a murder.

The book sees Lyra, now an independent young woman, “forced to navigate a complex and dangerous new world as she searches for an elusive town said to be haunted by daemons.”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/25/19 Eight Files High

(1) SINGING ABOUT PEASPROUT CHEN. Lightspeed Magazine’s interview with Henry Lien brought out a fascinating musical connection —

You’re the first author I’ve interviewed who’s had a Broadway singer perform at the book launch for their debut novel. I watched the promotional video of the one and only Idina Menzel performing the theme song from the first book of your Peasprout Chen series, Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword, with you. That’s so cool! What’s the backstory? How did that happen?

We’re represented by the same agency, ICM. She got a hold of the advance reader copy of the first Peasprout Chen book and flipped over it. She asked ICM if they could arrange for her to meet me. After I finished screaming into my pillow, I said, “Oh, well, let me see if I can find a slot in my calendar to squeeze in lunch with Idina Freeggin’ Menzel.” Then I screamed into my pillow some more. We met and really hit it off. She has become a dear friend. So I asked her to sing the theme song for the book at the launch. She said yes. Then I died of shock, and thus am conducting this interview with you from the Beyond.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites you to gobble goat cheese fritters with Scott H. Andrews while listening to Episode 87 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Scott H. Andrews, founder and editor and publisher of the online magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies, celebrated the 10th anniversary of that magazine by hosting a party at the recent World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore, Maryland — which made it seem like the right time for us to discuss that first decade. So we raised a pint at Red’s Table in Reston, Virginia.

Well, he raised a pint — of bourbon-barrel aged Gold Cup Russian Imperial Stout from Old Bust Head Brewery in Fauquier County, Virginia — while I downed my usual bottle of Pellagrino. And as we sipped, we chatted about that work on Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which has so far earned him six World Fantasy Award nominations and six Hugo Award nominations — and won him a British Fantasy Award. He’s a writer as well, with his own fiction appearing in Weird Tales, Space and Time, On Spec, and other magazines.

We discussed the treatment he received as a writer which taught him what he wanted to do (and didn’t want to do) as an editor, how his time as member of a band helped him come up with the name for his magazine, why science fiction’s public perception as a literary genre is decades ahead of fantasy, what it takes for a submission to rise to the level of receiving a rewrite request, the time he made an editor cry (and why he was able to do it), how he felt being a student at the Odyssey Writing Workshop and then returning as a teacher, the phrase he tends to overuse in his personalized rejection letters (and the reason why it appears so often), the way magazine editing makes him like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian, why writers shouldn’t worry about the ratio of submitted stories to purchased ones, the reason he’ll probably never edit novels, what anyone considering starting a magazine of their own needs to know, and much more.

(3) GET ILLUMINATED. “Sacred Texts: Codices Far, Far Away” – Two University of Pennsylvania scholars are doing a series of videos about the ancient Jedi texts until Star Wars Episode 9 is released on December 20.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Luke Skywalker gathered a small library of ancient Jedi texts and placed them in an uneti tree on Ahch-To.

On October 8, 2018, Dr. Brandon Hawk and curator Dot Porter met to talk about these ancient books, and to compare them with manuscripts from the collection of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania.

Here are the first two videos:

(4) NEW HORIZONS PHOTOS ARRIVING SLOWLY. “Nasa’s New Horizons: Best image yet of ‘space snowman’ Ultima Thule” – BBC had the story.

The New Horizons probe has sent back its best picture yet of the small, icy object Ultima Thule, which it flew past on New Year’s Day.

The image was acquired when the Nasa spacecraft was just 6,700km from its target, which scientists think is two bodies lightly fused together – giving the look of a snowman.

Surface details are now much clearer.

New Horizons’ data is coming back very slowly, over the next 20 months.

This is partly to do with the great distance involved (the separation is 6.5 billion km) but is also limited by the small power output of the probe’s transmitter and the size (and availability) of the receive antennas here on Earth. It all makes for glacial bit rates.

The new image was obtained with New Horizons’ wide-angle Multicolor Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) and gives a resolution of 135m per pixel. There is another version of this scene taken at even higher resolution by the probe’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), but this has not yet been downlinked from the probe.

(5) RSR PRO ARTIST RESOURCE. Rocket Stack Rank’s Greg Hullender says, “Based on the discussion on File770, we did the experiment of expanding our Pro Artist list using the ISFDB info. This actually expands it hugely. We ended up not trying to merge the lists for this year, but we posted the ISFDB data separately just so people could have it as a resource. It’s awfully nice data, if a bit overwhelming, and it’d be great to find a good way to use it. We’re hoping people will look at it and offer some ideas for how to make it a bit more manageable.” — “Pro Artists from ISFDB Novels 2018”.

Based on some conversations on File 770 about better ways to find candidates for the Best Professional Artist Hugo Award, we decided to try using the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB) as a source.  The result is spectacular, but maybe a bit overwhelming, so we decided not to try to integrate it with our regular Pro Artists page this year. Instead, we’re treating this as an experiment and inviting feedback on how we might best use this wealth of data in the future to help people who’re trying to find professional artists to nominate.

(6) FRANKENSTEIN AND ROBOTS. In the Winter 2019 Beloit College Magazine, Susan Kasten (“Why Frankenstein Will Never Die”)  discusses how an English professor, an anthropologist, a physicist, and a professor of cognitive science team-taught Frankenstein in a class called “Frankenstein 200:  Monster, Myth, and Meme.”

Robin Zebrowski, a professor of cognitive science, pointed out that the themes of Frankenstein — of creation, difference, empathy, monstrosity, and control–are the memes of artificial intelligence.  Zebrowski pointed out that early robot stories are about Frankenstein.  ‘They’re about building something no one can control once it’s unleashed,’ she said.  She noted that the first work of literature ever written about robots–a 1923 Czech play called R.U.R.–is a story about a robot uprising.

(Incidentally, Professor Zebrowski believes she is not related to sff author George Zebrowski.)

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

January 25, 1915 — First transcontinental telephone call was made, between New York and San Francisco; Alexander Graham Bell and Dr. Thomas A. Watson exchanged greetings.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 25, 1918 King Donovan. His first first SF film have him as Dr. Dan Forbes in the 1953 The Magnetic Monster and as Dr. Ingersoll In The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. The very next year, he plays James O’Herli in Riders to the Stars. And now we get to the film that you know him from — Invasion of the Body Snatchers in which he playsJack Belicec. After that, I show him only in Nothing Lasts Forever which has never been released here in the States. (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 25, 1943 Tobe Hooper. Director of such such genre films as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (the original of course), Poltergeist (damn scary film) Invaders from Mars and Djinn, his final film. He directed a smattering of television episodes including the “Miss Stardust” of Amazing Stories, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” of Freddy’s Nightmares, “Dead Wait” of Tales from the Crypt and the entire Salem’s Lot miniseries. He also wrote a horror novel with Alan Goldsher,  Midnight Movie: A Novel, that has himself in it at a speaking engagement. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 25, 1958Peter Watts, 61.Author of the most excellent Firefall series which I read and enjoyed immensely. I’ve not read the Rifters trilogy so would welcome opinions on it. And his Sunflower linked short stories sound intriguing. 
  • Born January 25, 1963 Catherine Butler, 56. Butler published a number of works of which the most important is Four British fantasists : place and culture in the children’s fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper. Another important work is Reading History in Children’s Books, with Hallie O’Donovan. Her website is here.
  • Born January 25, 1970 Stephen Chbosky, 49. Screenwriter and director best-known I’d say for the Emma Watson-fronted Beauty and the Beast. But he also was responsible for the Jericho series which was a rather decent bit of SF even if, like Serenity, it got killed far too quickly. (Yes, I’m editorializing.) 
  • Born January 25, 1973 Geoff Johns, 46. Where to begin? Though he’s done some work outside of DC, he is intrinsically linked to that company having working for them for twenty years. My favorite work by him in on Batman: Gotham Knights, Justice League of America #1–7 (2013) and 52 which I grant which was over ambitious but really fun. 
  • Born January 25, 1985 Michael Trevino, 34. Performer, Tyler Lockwood on The Vampire Diaries and now Kyle Valenti on the new Roswell, New Mexico series whose premises I’ll leave you to guess. His first genre appearance was in the Charm episode of “Malice in Wonderland” as Alastair. He also shows up on The OriginalsThe Vampire Diaries spin-off. 
  • Born January 25, 1985 Claudia Kim, 34. Only four film films but all genre: she played Dr. Helen Cho Avengers: Age of Ultron followed by voicing The Collective In Equals which Wiki manages to call a ‘dystopian utopia’ film to which I say ‘Eh?!?’, and then Arra Champignon in the 2017 version of The Dark Tower and finally as  Nagini, Voldemort’s snake which I presume is a voice role (though I’ve not seen the film so I could be wrong) in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Hulk’s last words? Bizarro has them.

(10) ASIMOV REFERENCE. Yesterday on Late Night With Stephen Colbert (at about the 1:50 mark) the host said during a sketch —

“My self-driving car has stopped taking me to Taco Bell…citing the first law of Robotics.”

(11) RE-DEEP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] press release from Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias in Spain addresses the latest “deep image” from the Hubble Space Telescope. The original Hubble Deep Field was assembled in 1995, only to be exceeded by the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field in 2004 and the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field in 2012. Each imaged galaxies further away and thus further back in time. Now there’s a new version of the Ultra-Deep Field that recovers “additional light” not included in earlier versions and showing thus additional information about the included galaxies.

To produce the deepest image of the Universe from space a group of researchers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) led by Alejandro S. Borlaff used original images from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST taken over a region in the sky called the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field (HUDF). After improving the process of combining several images the group was able to recover a large quantity of light from the outer zones of the largest galaxies in the HUDF. Recovering this light, emitted by the stars in these outer zones, was equivalent to recovering the light from a complete galaxy (“smeared out” over the whole field) and for some galaxies this missing light shows that they have diameters almost twice as big as previously measured.

A scientific paper on the image and analysis is on ArXiv at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1810.00002.pdf (technically a preprint, but it has been accepted for publication by Astronomy & Astrophysics). The data itself is at http://www.iac.es/proyecto/abyss.

(11) NOW BOARDING. James Davis Nicoll knows how we love the number 5 here — “5 SFF Stories About Surviving the Dangers of Boarding School” at Tor.com.

As a setting, boarding schools allow for the construction of thrilling narratives: concerned parents are replaced by teachers who may well prioritize student achievement over student welfare, e.g. maximizing points for Gryffindor over the survival of the students earning those points…

Are there any SFF novels featuring boarding schools? Why yes! I am glad you asked—there are more than I can list in a single article. Here are just a few….

(12) BETTER TECH, MARK 0. Scientists have now deduced that “Neanderthals ‘could kill at a distance'”.

Neanderthals may once have been considered to be our inferior, brutish cousins, but a new study is the latest to suggest they were smarter than we thought – especially when it came to hunting.

The research found that the now extinct species were creating weaponry advanced enough to kill at a distance.

Scientists believe they crafted spears that could strike from up to 20m away.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Lead researcher Dr Annemieke Milks, from UCL Institute of Archaeology, said: “The original idea was that Neanderthals would have been very limited using hand-delivered spears, where they could only come up at close contact and thrust them into prey.

“But if they could throw them from 15m to 20m, this really opens up a wider range of hunting strategies that Neanderthals would have been able to use.”

Extension of the above — “Why we still underestimate the Neanderthals”.

Prof Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum, explains why some old assumptions about the intellectual capabilities of our evolutionary relatives, the Neanderthals persist today. But a body of evidence is increasingly forcing us to re-visit these old ideas.

A paper out this week in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution reports the early arrival of modern humans to south-western Iberia around 44,000 years ago.

Why should this be significant? It all has to do with the spread of our ancestors and the extinction of the Neanderthals. South-western Iberia has been claimed to have been a refuge of the Neanderthals, a place where they survived longer than elsewhere, but the evidence is disputed by some researchers.

The latest paper, which is not about Neanderthals, has been taken by some as evidence of an arrival into this area which is much earlier than previously known.

By implication, if modern humans were in south-western Iberia so early then they must have caused the early disappearance of the Neanderthals. It is a restatement of the idea that modern human superiority was the cause of the Neanderthal demise. Are these ideas tenable in the light of mounting genetic evidence that our ancestors interbred with the Neanderthals?

(13) LOST ART? This certainly seems symbolic of the government shutdown: “Shutdown Leaves Uninflated Space Sculpture Circling in Orbit” in the New York Times.

…“Orbital Reflector,” a sculpture by Trevor Paglen that was recently launched into orbit.

The sculpture is not lost in space as much as stuck in a holding pattern before activation, pending clearance by the Federal Communications Commission. According to the artist, it might not survive the wait while F.C.C. workers are on furlough.

A 100-foot-long mylar balloon coated with titanium oxide, “Orbital Reflector” was designed to be visible to the naked eye at twilight or dawn while in orbit for a couple of months. It would then incinerate upon entering the Earth’s thicker atmosphere.

But although it was sent to space, the balloon was never inflated as planned.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/6/19 The Million-Year Teddy Bear Picnic

(1) PICK AN SFF MAGAZINE. Rocket Stack Rank’s Gregory Hullender has a new tool for sff readers: “We just posted a detailed article aimed at helping people find SF/F magazines to subscribe to. The focus is on the eleven magazines we regularly review, but we do invite people to contribute info about other ones.” — “Finding a Science-Fiction/Fantasy Magazine to Subscribe To”

‘If you’re the editor of a magazine outside our eleven (or just a fan of such a magazine), please feel free to add a comment to this article to plug your magazine. Include the name, a link to subscription instructions, and a few paragraphs explaining why it’s special. Don’t worry about “self-promotion”; this one time, we want you to self-promote!’

Hullender concludes, “It should give us a good answer going forward when people ask ‘what magazines should I subscribe to?’”

(2) BRUNNER. At Doctor Strangemind, Kim Huett features a John Brunner article in which “he goes into vast detail about the economics of being an author in the sixties. Fascinating reading for anybody who likes to dig into the nuts and bolts of publishing” — “John Brunner – The Writer In Black”.

Perfect freedom is reserved for the man who lives by his own work,
and in that work does what he wants to do.

I think it was in an installment of his Noise Level column that John Brunner made the claim that when science fiction authors got together they mostly talked about money. Now I’m not about to disagree with a statement like that given Brunner wrote science fiction for a living and was certainly in a position to know what his fellow authors said and did. Even so I do have to wonder if his views were biased by his own preoccupations. He certainly did write about the financial aspects of being a published author more than any other SF professional I’m familiar with….

(3) MINUS WORLD. Yahoo! Entertainment says there was more waiting to be discovered about this 80’s video game: “A hidden world in the NES ‘Legend of Zelda’ was just uncovered 30 years later”.

Now seeing as how the original Zelda game is more than 30 years old at this point, you’d be forgiven for thinking that every single part of the game has already been discovered and conquered. Alas, you’d be mistaken.

In something of a fascinating story, a developer recently managed to access the game’s “minus world,” essentially another part of the game where developers could try out different gameplay dynamics. Naturally, developers implemented code to prevent players from accessing the game’s “minus world”, but a YouTuber with the handle SKELUX managed to figure out a way around it.

(4) GET YOUR NOMINATIONS IN. Through January 31, the Australian Science Fiction Foundation (ASFF) is taking entries in the Norma K Hemming Award for works published in 2018.

Designed to recognise excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in a published speculative fiction work, the Norma K Hemming Award is now open for entries.

The award is open to short fiction, novellas, novels, anthologies, collections, graphic novels and stage plays, and makes allowances for serialised work. Entry is free for all works, and entries may be provided to the judges in print or digital format.

Two prizes will be given, one for short fiction (up to 17,500 words) and one award for long work (novellas, novels, collections, anthologies, graphic novels and play scripts), with a cash prize and citation awarded.

Nominations are open to all eligible work produced in 2018. Entries will close on January 31, 2019. We encourage immediate entry for all eligible and appropriate 2019 work.

For more information and to stay up to date, please see the new Award website at https://normakhemmingaward.org  or find us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/NKHAward/ and Twitter https://twitter.com/NKH_Award  

(5) NEW MEXICO CONNECTIONS. From the New York Times: “Winter TV Preview: ‘True Detective,’ ‘Carmen Sandiego’ and 19 More Shows to Watch”. Some of the genre shows include —  

‘Roswell, New Mexico’

Fans of the original “Roswell” sent network executives bottles of Tabasco sauce to save their beloved emo-teen-alien series, but it lasted only three seasons (1999-2002) on WB and then UPN. Their pleas have been answered, finally, with this new series, which is also based on the “Roswell High” young-adult book series but adds what now seems obvious: an immigration theme. Jeanine Mason plays a daughter of undocumented immigrants who returns home to Roswell and discovers that the guy she liked in high school is from even farther away. (Jan. 15, CW)

‘Carmen Sandiego’

The fourth TV show (and first in 20 years) spawned by the Carmen Sandiego educational-video-game franchise is an animated “Mission Impossible”-style adventure that’s more adult than its predecessors but still abundantly lighthearted. After a few episodes that provide a new origin story (and moral compass) for the master thief Carmen (voiced by Gina Rodriguez), the series gets back to using crime capers as a vehicle for geographical and cultural lessons. (Jan. 18, Netflix)…

‘Game of Thrones’

Spoiler alert: In the last six episodes of the epic climate-change allegory, the steady rise in dragon fire warms the atmosphere, winter is averted and the White Walkers settle down peacefully in the now-temperate north. Overcome by their good fortune, many characters stop wearing clothes altogether. (April, HBO)

(6) SOLARIS AUTHOR. Rich Horton recommends “The Beautiful Mind-Bending of Stanislaw Lem” at The New Yorker. Here’s a brief quote:

The idea of a private world spilling over unsettlingly into reality is also at the heart of his novel “Solaris,” from 1961, about a sentient ocean with the power of “seeing into the deepest recesses of human minds and then bringing their dreams to life,” as the Lem fan Salman Rushdie once described it. The massive popularity of “Solaris”—made into a film by Andrei Tarkovsky, in 1972, and then again in 2002, by Steven Soderbergh, as a moody near-future love story with George Clooney—helped Lem become one of the most widely read science fiction writers in the world. Yet his writing reached far beyond the borders of the genre. In addition to many novels and stories, he composed a huge philosophical treatise on the relation of human beings and machines, a good deal of pungently argued literary criticism, a volume of reviews of nonexistent books, a stochastic theory of narrative fiction, an experimental detective novel, speculative essays dealing with artificial intelligence, cybernetics, cosmology, genetic engineering, game theory, sociology, and evolution, radio plays and screenplays. Such staggering polymathic curiosity over such a vast range of material, all of it explored with lucidity and charm, gives his writing a unique place on a Venn diagram in which the natural sciences, philosophy, and literature shade into one another with mutually intensifying vividness and fascination.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 6, 1973Schoolhouse Rock! premiered.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 6, 1955 Rowan Atkinson, 64. An unlikely Birthday perhaps except for that he was the lead in Doctor Who and The Curse of Fatal Death which gave him I think the dubious distinction of the shortest lived Doctor.  Other genre appearances were scant though he did play Nigel Small-Fawcett in Never Say Never Again and Mr. Stringer in The Witches which I really like even if the author hates. 
  • Born January 6, 1984 Kate McKinnon, 35. Dr. Jillian “Holtz” Holtzmannon in the recent Ghostbusters film. Voice of Nikki and Margaret Fictel in The Venture Bros. and she played Mother Goose on Sesame Street. I kid you not. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • In this Monty, “Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.”
  • Some people just can’t be trusted with simple tasks. (Brewster Rockit).
  • Real Life Adventures gives a familiar TV househunting show a stfnal twist.

(10) WHAT’S THAT NOISE? Musicradar reports “The BBC is letting you download more than 16,000 free sound effect samples from its archive”.

There can be few organisations that have used more sound effects than the BBC, so there’s bound to be great interest in the news that the corporation has now made more than 16,000 of its FX available for free download.

These are being released under the RemArc licence, which means that they can be used for “personal, educational or research purposes”.  

(11) BABY, IT’S DARK OUTSIDE. AND INSIDE. We already knew that the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy were destined to collide; now it seems the Large Magellanic Cloud may beat Andromeda to the punch (Ars Technica: “Milky Way to face a one-two punch of galaxy collisions”).

If our knowledge of galaxy structures was limited to the Milky Way, we’d get a lot of things wrong. The Milky Way, it turns out, is unusual. It’s got a smaller central black hole than other galaxies its size; its halo is also smaller and contains less of the heavier elements. Fortunately, we’ve now looked at enough other galaxies to know that ours is a bit of an oddball. What’s been less clear is why.

Luckily, a recent study provides a likely answer: compared to most galaxies, the Milky Way’s had a very quiet 10 billion years or so. But the new study suggests we’re only a few billion years from that quiet period coming to an end. A collision with a nearby dwarf galaxy should turn the Milky Way into something more typical looking—just in time to have Andromeda smack into it.

The researchers behind the new work, from the UK’s Durham University, weren’t looking to solve the mysteries of why the Milky Way looks so unusual. Instead, they were intrigued by recent estimates that suggest one of its satellite galaxies might be significantly more massive than thought. A variety of analyses have suggested that the Large Magellanic Cloud has more dark matter than the number of stars it contains would suggest.

(12) ENGAGE! CBR.com: “20 Star Trek Relationships That Make No Sense” — Just In Case™ you might be interested.

19 — JADZIA DAX & WORF

I might get some push back on this one, as many found this unlikely pairing enjoyable. I would argue that it was forced and lacked any sort of real buildup. Rumor has it, Terry Farrell (Jadzia Dax) and Michael Dorn (Worf) pushed the writers to create a romance for their characters on Deep Space Nine.

I think what viewers might have liked was that these were two of the series’ favorite characters. Sure, the couple managed to convince many of their compatibility, but in actuality I would say it was a toxic relationship. The couple managed to bring out the worst in each other and it seemed they were endlessly arguing. I think the relationship detracted from what we like about them in the first place.

NOT ERGOT. BBC asks: “Can auto-immune illness explain the Salem witch trials?”

There are now compelling reasons to think that at least one of the girls may have suffered from a much-misunderstood neurological condition.

‘Their limbs wracked and, tormented so … their arms, necks, and backs turned this way and that way, and returned back again. Their mouths stopped, their throats choked. They had several sore fits.’ – A contemporary description of cousins Betty Parris and Abigail Williams, the first of the afflicted at Salem.

Their speech was garbled and their limbs contorted, they wailed and howled and convulsed. It was 1692. Betty was nine and Abigail was 11.

Reverend Samuel Parris was advised by a doctor that the girls, his daughter and niece, respectively, were bewitched. Soon, at least five other girls in Salem Village developed similar symptoms and began to accuse locals of witchcraft including Tituba, a slave, and Sarah Good, a homeless beggar. A flurry of accusations followed, with residents piling on to denounce over 200 people. “Persons of ill-repute” and dedicated churchgoers alike were imprisoned and Bridget Bishop, “known for her gossipy habits and promiscuity”, was the first to be hanged on 10 June. Twenty people were put to death in total with several others dying in prison.

(14) PLUME. Yahoo! Entertainment covers this astronomical event: “Volcanic Plume Rising From Jupiter’s Moon Io Spotted by Juno Probe”.

While performing its 17th flyby of Jupiter, NASA’s Juno spacecraft witnessed a volcanic plume erupting from the surface of Io, the most geologically active of the gas giant’s 79 known moons.

As detailed in a Southwest Research Institute press release, the flyby occurred on December 21, 2018. Mission controllers had no less than four instruments honed in on Io in an effort to study the moon’s surface, especially its polar regions. These instruments included the JunoCam, the Stellar Reference Unit (SRU), the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM), and the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVS). An hour was budgeted for the survey, and it just so happened that a volcanic eruption occurred during this time.

(15) HEAR IN MY CAR. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] I’ve been known to use Walmart’s grocery pickup service when I just can’t carve out the time (or energy) to shop at my preferred grocer, which happens to be much closer to my house. I haven’t been to Wally World for grocery pickup that often, so maybe I just missed all the times that Ecto-1 or the Mystery Machine were there. SYFY Wire has the story (“Walmart ad uses genre’s most famous cars to promote new grocery pick-up service”), though they do get it a bit wrong by calling it a new service. It is a new commercial.

Over the years, pop culture has given us some pretty iconic modes of transport, from Doc Brown’s time-traveling DeLorean to Michael Knight’s talking Pontiac Firebird.

In a stroke of marketing brilliance, Walmart took advantage of the [instant] recognizability of these cars to promote the company’s new grocery pick-up service.

Set to the ’80s-era jam of Gary Newman’s “Cars,” the one-minute ad shows some of genre’s most famous vehicles […]

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Rich Horton, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.] d Table 7 Col

Pixel Scroll 9/2/18 Elvish Has Left The Building

(1) DECOPUNK CITATION. Language Log quotes Cat Valente today in “Decopunk and other quasicompositional compounds”.

Complex lexical items generally have analogical historico-semantic accretions similar to those in the X-punk domain. This includes phrases like red tide, solar energy, or historical fiction,  as well as compounds like jumpsuitski lift, or break room. In the other direction, proper names are far from being semantically arbitrary in practice — to quote from a Decopunk work, Catherynne Valente’s Radiance

(2) THE MATTER OF ENGLAND. One people, divided by a common tongue…

https://medesha.tumblr.com/post/131750372841/altarandwitchinghour-kingfucko-gollyplot

(3) PETER CAPALDI, VENTRILOQUIST. This caught my eye –

(4) AND THEN, AT DRAGON CON. Remember what they said about “Inconceivable”?

(5) THE MEANING OF IT ALL. Bow Tie Writer asked an array of fans at Worldcon 76 to answer his question. I recognized Judy Bemis, Kevin Standlee, and Michelle Pincus among them.

Worldcon 2018 was held in San Jose August 15th – 20th. I went around and I asked people one simple question: What does Worldcon mean to you. This video is my homage to fandom, to internet friends, and to all the good people who come together to celebrate the things we love.

 

(6) RSR’S WORLDCON REPORT. At Rocket Stack Rank, Greg Hullender has an interesting set of “WorldCon 76 Takeaways” (including coverage of the Filer meetups).

…The audience for this panel had lots of people with many decades of experience with fanzines, so we had a lively but always cordial discussion. I was pleased to learn that even the folks who’d done fanzines back in the days of mimeograph machines all seemed to agree that online publications were definitely the future, particularly in terms of their ability to immediately involve fans via comments that don’t need to wait a month or more for publication. They worried that blogs in particular lack some of the feel of a fanzine, which has an arrangement of related stories. (At RSR, we’ll think about how a content-management system might capture that for an online publication.)

I was very pleased when someone in the audience told me that Rocket Stack Rank fit into a long tradition of “Review Fanzines,” of which Tangent is another surviving example. That made me feel a lot less like an impostor….

(7) TRUESDALE’S WORLDCON 76 PHOTO GALLERY. Dave Truesdale’s Worldcon 76 report for Tangent, “Photos from Worldcon 76, the 76th World Science Fiction Convention”, begins with coverage of Saturday’s alt-right demonstration, and ends by explaining what a raw deal he got when his 2016 Worldcon membership was revoked. In between there are a quite a few fine author photos. Here are the captions from one set —

Below Left: Lezli Robyn, helping out at the Galaxy’s Edge dealer’s table. Below Right: Galaxy’s Edge Publisher Shahid Mahmud. Both Lezli and Shahid are two of the most delightful people I’ve met in a long time. Shahid’s enthusiasm and love of SF is infectious. We talked for quite some time about this and that, and his intelligence and sense of humor shone through everything. I can’t imagine anyone not liking Shahid once they’ve met him.

(8) PROMETHEUS SPEECH. The Libertarian Futurist Society presented the Prometheus Awards at Worldcon 76. The author of the Prometheus Award-winning novel, Travis Corcoran, was unable to attend, so his acceptance speech for Powers of the Earth was read by Chris Hibbert. Its message is conveyed with classic libertarian subtlety.

…Since the first Worldcon in 1939 science fiction has been a libertarian territory under attack from authoritarians. Futurian Donald Wollheim was a communist, and argued that all of science fiction “should actively work for the realization of the . . . world-state as the only . . . justification for their activities”.

Wollheim failed with his takeover in 1939—he was physically removed from Worldcon—but he started a Gramscian long march through the institutions, and it worked. In the current year conventions, editors, and publishing houses are all cordy-cepted. The sociopaths have pushed the geeks out and have taken over the cultural territory.

“You made this? <pause> I made this.”

When the state tries to take your home, they come with guns, and you have to fight them with guns, if at all.

When a subculture tries to take your home, they come with snark and shame and entryism . . . and you fight them by making better art….

(9) DIRT FARMING. James Davis Nicoll has a long fannish exploration of “Science Fiction’s Trouble with Terraforming” at Tor.com.

Terraforming is, of course, the hypothesized art of converting an uninhabitable rock into a habitable world. Jack Williamson coined the term in his Seetee-related short story, “Collision Orbit”, published under the pen name Will Stewart in the July, 1942 issue of Astounding Magazine. While Williamson invokes non-existent super-science in order to make the task seem doable, he probably felt confident that terraforming would someday make sense. In the short run, we have seen humans shaping the Earth. In the long run—well, Earth was once an anoxic wasteland. Eons of life shaped it into a habitable planet. Williamson suspected that humans could imitate that process elsewhere…and make it happen in centuries rather than eons. Perhaps in even less time!

(10) AUGUSTULUS: With the help of a belated July issue, Jason has compiled a diminutive list of notable reading in Summation: August at Featured Futures:

This month has been doubly strange. Despite reading 42 stories of about 201K words from the August magazines, I’m in the unprecedented and unpleasant position of only being able to note one story (and that’s not even fully recommended). Counting a late July story and things for a couple of Tangent reviews, I read 59 stories of about 324K words this month and can at least add two recs and another honorable mention, all from the July/August Black Static, but only one of those is even speculative with the other two being straight horror.

(11) GIDDINGS OBIT. Sff writer and critic Joseph “Joe” Giddings passed away from ALS at the age of 45 on August 16. He was born April 6, 1973. His criticism appeared in Bull Spec and Tangent Online (among others). His fiction appeared in Mystic Signals and Dark Stars (more information in his entry at Internet Science Fiction Database.) Giddings blogged at “The Clockwork Pen”.

Joseph Giddings

(12) TODAY’S MEMORIAL DAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge. Who looked at the wrong ISFDB page today — but waste not, want not!]

  • Died September 2, 1973. J.R.R. Tolkien. It’d be extremely silly of me to list what he’s done given what the group knows, so instead I’ll ask instead what’s your favourite work by him. Mine’s still The Hobbit, a book I delight in re-reading in the Autumn as I think of him as being of that season.
  • Died September 2, 2000 – Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in the horror and science fiction film genres, with such films as The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain with the latter being adapted from his novel of the same name. Siodmak is credited with creating the legend that only silver can kill a werewolf. He also wrote the screenplays for include Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, I Walked With a Zombie and The Beast With Five Fingers.
  • Died September 2, 2013 – Frederik Pohl. Obviously needs no introduction here. His first published was a 1937 poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna”. Noted work include the Heechee series whose first novel, Gateway, was the winner of the Campbell Memorial, Hugo, Locus SF, and Nebula Awards, Man Plus , and The Space Merchants with Cyril M. Kornbluth. I won’t say that any of the short story collections thrill me but Platinum Pohl is a decent collection. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) HOGWARTS EXPRESS. More “Back to Hogwarts” hype: “Eddie Redmayne and Jude Law were at Kings Cross for the Hogwarts Express”.

As every good Harry Potter fan knows, the Hogwarts Express departs from Kings Cross station, London, platform nine and three-quarters at 11.30am on September 1. This year Professor Dumbledore and Newt Scamander themselves, aka Hollywood stars Jude Law and Eddie Redmayne, were there to kick off the new year.

(15) AND WHILE WE’RE HOGWARTING. Gwynne Watkins, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “A ‘Harry Potter’ neophyte watches all 8 movies for the first time: Here’s what happened”  says that “my cred as a film nerd and a nerd nerd has been threatened by a shameful omission”– she had never seen a Harry Potter movie (not literally – she’d seen the first one in its initial theatrical release.)  So she decided to watch them all over a 24-hour binge. Some notes are better than others. Is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix really about the problems of standardized testing? On the other hand, she had an interesting response to this 20-years-after rewatch of the very first movie —

What surprised me most on my second viewing of Sorcerer’s Stone was how much I loved Emma Watson’s Hermione. The first time around, I remember thinking that her show-offish, know-it-all nature was borderline unbearable. Now I love how unapologetic she is about her intelligence, how confidently she wields it in a room full of boys. (Seriously, where are the Hogwarts girls? Hermione needs some female friends!) Maybe as a girl who grew up downplaying her intelligence, Hermione made me uncomfortable in some primal, fourth-grade part of my subconscious. If that’s true, it only makes me more grateful that my daughter will grow up in a post-Hermione world.

(16) THE HORROR. From Agouti (@bitterkarella) comes news of the horror genre’s Midnight Society of writers. Dean Koontz, HP Lovecraft, Clive Barker, Edward Lee, Stephen King, and Edgar Allen Poe trade inspirations for their next novels. The thread starts here.

(17) NED KELLY AWARDS. My internet wanderings brought me the results of the Australian Crime Writers Association’s 2018 Ned Kelly Awards, and far be it from me to turn down literary award news…

2018 Ned Kelly Awards

Best Crime

  • Crossing the Lines by Sulari Gentill

Best First Crime

  • The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

Best True Crime

  • Unmaking A Murder: The Mysterious Death of Anna Jane Cheney by Graham Archer

(18) NGAIO MARSH. Likewise, I learned the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards for the “very best in Kiwi Crime” were recently presented in New Zealand.

Best Crime Novel

  • Marlborough Man by Alan Carter (Fremantle Press)

Best First Novel

  • All Our Secrets by Jennifer Lane (Rosa Mira Books)

(19) RENAME THAT TUNE. The IAU will probably decide that Hubble needs to share credit – The Conversation has the story: “Game-changing resolution: whose name on the laws of physics for an expanding universe?”

Astronomers are engaged in a lively debate over plans to rename one of the laws of physics.

It emerged overnight at the 30th Meeting of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), in Vienna, where members of the general assembly considered a resolution on amending the name of the Hubble Law to the Hubble-Lemaître Law.

The resolution aims to credit the work of the Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaître and his contribution – along with the American astronomer Edwin Hubble – to our understanding of the expansion of the universe.

While most (but not all) members at the meeting were in favour of the resolution, a decision allowed all members of the International Astronomical Union a chance to vote. Subsequently, voting was downgraded to a straw vote and the resolution will formally be voted on by an electronic vote at a later date.

(20) BEWARE BENNU. The NASA mission to visit and sample Bennu — a “potentially hazardous asteroid” — has entered a new phase (“NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Begins Asteroid Operations Campaign”). The spacecraft has begun approach operations:

After an almost two-year journey, NASA’s asteroid sampling spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx, caught its first glimpse of asteroid Bennu last week and began the final approach toward its target. Kicking off the mission’s asteroid operations campaign on Aug. 17, the spacecraft’s PolyCam camera obtained the image from a distance of 1.4 million miles (2.2 million km).

…The spacecraft has traveled approximately 1.1 billion miles (1.8 billion km) since its Sept. 8, 2016, launch and is scheduled to arrive at Bennu on Dec. 3.

…During the mission’s approach phase, OSIRIS-REx will:

  • regularly observe the area around the asteroid to search for dust plumes and natural satellites, and study Bennu’s light and spectral properties;
  • execute a series of four asteroid approach maneuvers, beginning on Oct. 1, slowing the spacecraft to match Bennu’s orbit around the Sun;
  • jettison the protective cover of the spacecraft’s sampling arm in mid-October and subsequently extend and image the arm for the first time in flight; and
  • use OCAMS to reveal the asteroid’s overall shape in late-October and begin detecting Bennu’s surface features in mid-November.

Ultimately, the craft will map the asteroid, then perform a sampling “touch-and-go” maneuver. The sample will be dropped off at Earth in a Sample Return Capsule in September 2023. OSIRIS-REx itself will end up in a solar orbit.

(21) LOX WARNING. It used to be a thing — and may still be in some fannish circles — to whip up fresh ice cream at room parties using liquid nitrogen. The US Food and Drug administration has issued a safety alert about the danger of drinks and food prepared with LN2 at the point of sale (CNN: “FDA issues warning about liquid nitrogen on food”):

“The FDA has become aware of severe — and in some cases, life-threatening — injuries, such as damage to skin and internal organs caused by liquid nitrogen still present in the food or drink,” the FDA said in issuing its safety alert. “Injuries have occurred from handling or eating products prepared by adding liquid nitrogen immediately before consumption, even after the liquid nitrogen has fully evaporated due to the extremely low temperature of the food.”

In its warning, the FDA said inhaling the vapor “released by a food or drink prepared by adding liquid nitrogen immediately before consumption may also cause breathing difficulty, especially among individuals with asthma.”

…The FDA did not say how many reports of injuries it has received or provide details on life-threatening cases.

(22) MOON WALKER. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber gives “Five Stars for First Man”

The life story of Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, is so full of astounding courage, tragedy and triumph that it is just begging for an old-school Hollywood biopic, with all the inspiring speeches, swelling orchestras and grand themes that the genre entails. First Man is not that biopic.

Directed by Damien Chazelle (La La Land) and scripted by Josh Singer (Spotlight), the film is an understated, economical drama which, like a rocket that has to escape from the Earth’s gravity, jettisons absolutely everything it doesn’t need. Dialogue is kept to a minimum. Exposition is edited out. Extraneous characters are stripped away to the point that you see almost nothing of Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll), who moonwalked with Armstrong, and even less of Mike Collins (Lukas Haas), who piloted the orbiting craft. You don’t hear about Armstrong’s Korean War heroics, for that matter, and the space-race politics that were behind Nasa’s Apollo programme remain in the background. And yet, as restrained as First Man is, this riveting, exhaustively researched and utterly believable film manages to shake you, take your breath away and even pull a few tears from your eyes.

(23) SCREEN PLAY. “Movie Madness: Why Chinese cinemas are empty but full”. Speculators think buying seats (to fake up hits, to push stock prices) is cheaper than making good movies.

For a country which will soon assume the mantle of the world’s largest cinema audience, China comes out with a surprising number of big budget B-grade flops.

Some blame this on censorship, others on a lack of creativity but there are also those who see a more sinister force at work, which has nothing to do with film-making.

It also has nothing to do with selling tickets: at least not real ones.

Some investors are apparently financially backing movies with the sole goal of boosting their stock price that can shift on the perception of a movie’s performance, irrespective of its true popularity.

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Bridge Tongues” on YouTube is a look back at our times from the 25th century, where no one argues with each other and everyone lives in their own digital bubble.

[Thanks to JJ, Mark Hepworth, John King Tarpinian, Samuel Montgomery-Blinn, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Gregory Benford, Martin Morse Wooster, Bill Burns, Dann, James Davis Nicoll, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/16/18 Ralph12FifthC41+

(1) MUNDANE COVERAGE. The San Jose Mercury-News tells how “WorldCon brings science fiction’s best to San Jose”.

Thousands of fans and creators will celebrate science fiction and fantasy at the “World’s Fair of fandom,” which includes presentation of the prestigious Hugo Awards.

(2) WORLDCON 76 FASHION NOTES. I like these hats.

(3) MEXICANX INITIATIVE. Photo from W76 Opening Ceremonies:

(4) BIG HEART AWARD. Here’s Mike Glyer finding out from Greg Hullender that he won the Big Heart Award – at the File 770 meetup at the Forager. Photo by Eric Wong.

Greg Hullender and Mike Glyer

(5) IT’S ALIVE! Electric Lit features “Jeff VanderMeer and Nick Mamatas on the Death and Rebirth of the Short Story”. The occasion is the release of Nick Mamatas’ latest book, the story collection The People’s Republic of Everything.

Jeff VanderMeer: Short fiction was dead. Then it wasn’t. Let’s assume it’s alive. Why is it alive, if so?

Nick Mamatas: It’s alive for a couple of reasons. One is that just over a decade or so ago, bookstores finally understood that they could sell anthologies of short fiction by treating them as though they were non-fiction. People really do wander into bookstores and say things such as “I love The Walking Dead. Got any books about zombies?” or “I’ve been hearing a lot about steampunk?—?got anything that’ll explain it to me?” and a big anthology with reprints by prominent authors and new or at least obscure material by less well-known authors is basically a textbook designed to answer those questions. Phonebook-sized anthologies by you and Ann VanderMeer, or by John Joseph Adams, really grew a generation of readers.

(6) MARVEL, ESPN TEAM UP. These are pretty good. From CBSSports.com, “Look: ESPN, Marvel create College Football Playoff comic covers”. The headline is misleading. Not playoffs… opening weekend.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

Some cat humor (or is it?) at Maximumble.

(8) POUL ANDERSON ESTATE SALE. Karen Anderson passed away earlier this year, and all of Poul’s and her household items, books, pictures, etc., are on sale this weekend. Public notice on Facebook. Tons of pictures of items on sale here.

ESTATE SALE OF POUL ANDERSON

HUGO & NEBULA AWARD WINNING SCI-FI/FANTASY AUTHOR

SAT. & SUN. AUG 18 & 19

8:00am – 2:00pm

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SATURDAY AUGUST 18TH

SUNDAY AUGUST 19TH

8:00AM – 2:00PM

(SUNDAY 1/2 OFF EVERYTHING)

SUNDAY AT 2:00PM I WILL BE TAKING OFFERS FOR THE REST OF THE UNSOLD ITEMS (BUT MUST BE REMOVED BY 3:00PM MONDAY 20TH)

7129 SAMOA PLACE
TUJUNGA CA 91042

(9) TODAY IN THEOLOGY. The Guardian — among other sources — has noted that the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is not recognized as, well, as a church in the Netherlands (“Spaghetti injunction: Pastafarianism is not a religion, Dutch court rules”).

The Dutch council of state has ruled that Pastafarianism is not a religion, denying a follower of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster the right to wear a colander on her head in her passport and driving licence photo.

Mienke de Wilde is now considering taking her case to the European court of human rights.

The Netherlands’ highest court said de Wilde, a law student from Nijmegen, could not be exempted on religious grounds from a ban on headwear in official identity photographs, because Pastfarianism was essentially a satire and not a serious faith.

…De Wilde said the church was humorous but that did not mean it was not “very serious in what it stands for”. She was disappointed by the decision, which backed Nijmegen authorities’ rejection of her ID photos.

“I can imagine that it all looks very odd if you don’t believe,” she told the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper. “But that’s the case with many faiths if you don’t believe in them – people who walk on water or divide themselves in two, for example. I find other religions unbelievable.”

(10) MYSTERY AUTHOR. Wait, we’re not talking to JDA here?

(11) NO, THIS IS WHERE WE’RE HEARING FROM JDA. If you want to see footage of JDA wandering around the San Jose Convention Center today until he found somebody to kick him out, he’s happy to oblige:

(12) GROENING’S NEW SHOW. NPR’s Glen Weldon says: “In Matt Groening’s Fantasy Series ‘Disenchantment,’ The Humor Is Elf-Referential”

Disenchantment, Matt Groening’s new animated series that hits Netflix on Friday, August 17th, does for our mythical past what Futurama did for our imagined future, but it does so in a manner so closely reminiscent of that other show’s wryly cynical sci-fi hi-jinks that it could have just as easily been called Pastarama, if that didn’t sound quite so much like a seasonal promotion at Olive Garden.

(13) ANCIENT MIXOLOGY. Take 2 tbsp. myrrh… “Ancient Egyptian mummification ‘recipe’ revealed”. Major finding: mummification in Egypt is much older than was thought.

Examination of a mummy has revealed the original ancient Egyptian embalming recipe – first used to preserve bodies.

A battery of forensic chemical tests carried out on a mummy that dated from 3,700-3,500 BC revealed the recipe and confirmed that it was developed far earlier and used more widely than previously thought.

The Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy, is now home to the mummy in question.

The findings are published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Dr Stephen Buckley, an archaeologist from the University of York, told BBC News that this mummy “literally embodies the embalming that was at the heart of Egyptian mummification for 4,000 years”.

(14) WINGS OVER PANEGEA. “Winged reptiles thrived before dinosaurs”.

Palaeontologists have found a new species of pterosaur – the family of prehistoric flying reptiles that includes pterodactyl.

It is about 210 millions years old, pre-dating its known relatives by 65 million years.

Named Caelestiventus hanseni, the species’ delicate bones were preserved in the remains of a desert oasis.

The discovery suggests that these animals thrived around the world before the dinosaurs evolved.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Kendall, and James Davis Nicoll for some of these stories. Lots more material, but I’m tired tonight! Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 7/16/18 Now With Bolded Typos

(1) GONE WITH THE YUAN. The most expensive film ever made in China bombed and is already out of theaters. The Hollywood Reporter has the story — “China’s First $100M Film Pulled From Cinemas After Disastrous Opening Weekend”.

In the long lead-up to its release, Chinese fantasy epic Asura was promoted as China’s most expensive film ever made, with a production budget of over $110 million (750 million yuan). So perhaps it’s unsurprising that the film’s producers, which include Jack Ma’s Alibaba Pictures, decided to take desperate action after the movie opened to just $7.1 million over the weekend.

Late Sunday evening in Beijing, Asura‘s official social media accounts posted a simple statement saying that the film would be pulled from cinemas as of 10 p.m. local time. After landing in theaters with limited fanfare, China’s priciest picture ever would vanish from the scene entirely.

Asura is co-produced by Zhenjian Film Studio and Ningxia Film Group — two of the investors behind the successful Painted Skin fantasy franchise — along with Alibaba Pictures Group and other minority investors.

The statement announcing Asura‘s retreat from cinemas supplied no explanation for the unprecedented move. But a representative from Zhenjian Film, which is credited as lead producer, later told Chinese news site Sina: “This decision was made not only because of the bad box office. We plan to make some changes to the film and release it again.”

Chinese site Sixth Tone tells it this way: “Epic Budget, Epic Fail: Chinese Blockbuster ‘Asura’ Tanks”.

China’s latest fantasy epic, “Asura,” claimed to be the most expensive domestic production to date — but it didn’t even last three days in cinemas.

Six years in the making, the film was planned as the first of a trilogy based on ancient Tibetan mythology. The Alibaba Pictures production promised lush CGI from an award-winning, international team in its depiction of war between two heavenly realms. Marketing campaigns for the film emphasized its budget of $100 million.

But after opening on Friday, the film made a mere $7.1 million over its first weekend. By contrast, “Hidden Man,” a highly anticipated action-thriller by actor and director Jiang Wen, brought in $46.5 million. Meanwhile “Dying to Survive,” a dark comedy about cancer drug smuggling operations, defended its box office lead, racking up $68.5 million on its second weekend and even prompting a spike in online insurance sales.

Aggregate user ratings of “Asura” varied wildly across China’s two biggest ticketing platforms, Tencent-funded Maoyan and Alibaba-owned Tao Piaopiao, earning 4.9 and 8.4 out of 10, respectively. Users of review platform Douban rated the film a miserable 3.1 out of 10.

(2) EFFECTS OF COMIC CON PROLIFERATION. Heidi MacDonald tells Publishers Weekly readers why “In a World of Too Many Cons, San Diego Is Still King”.

An ever-increasing number of comics and pop culture conventions are taxing publishers’ exhibition budgets and turning artists into nomads, on the road signing autographs in a different city or country every weekend….

Indeed, the expanding comics convention schedule is beginning to tax publisher budgets while turning comics creators into a hardened (and often exhausted) group of road warriors who must trek to a different city every weekend.

As more and more events flood the schedule, publishers and creators alike are developing new strategies for dealing with the demands for their time. And the conventions are beginning to evolve, some developing business models to stay above the pack of newly launched shows, while others, including many poorly planned and financed events, are becoming synonymous with disaster, poor attendance, canceled events, and disappointed fans.

“The number of cons has really exploded over the last five years,” says Martha Donato, president of MAD Events Management, which puts on the Long Beach Comic Con every September, along with other shows. “It’s [become] every city, every weekend, all year, globally.”

Even for a location such as Long Beach, Calif., close to many West Coast comics publishers, the competition for guest artists and publisher-exhibitors has become fierce, she says. “A much bigger percentage of our time, energy, and resources are now devoted to getting exhibitors to attend,” she adds. “Talent and their publishers have many more offers than they could ever accept, even if they wanted to.”

Donato’s show gets support from publishers in Los Angeles, including Top Cow and Aspen, but even loyal exhibitors have to pick and choose. “Publishers are facing a deluge of opportunities and they can afford to be choosy,” says Donato. “There’s a lot of saying no.”

(3) RECASTING MUPPETS MOVIES. The most selfless answer is….

(4) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 16, 1955 Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe premiered on the small screen
  • July 16, 1958The Fly creeped the heck out of everybody…”Help Me…Help Me.”
  • July 16, 2005 — The 6th book in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series sold 6.9 million copies in its first 24 hours.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 16, 1928 – Robert Sheckley
  • Born July 16 – Will Ferrell, 51. Holmes in the forthcoming comedy Holmes and Watson film,  HerculesHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every ChildCurious George and The Last Man on Earth series.
  • Born July 16 – Corey Feldman, 47. Genre roles in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film series, the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,Tales from the Crypt and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven series to name but a few of his files.
  • Born July 16 – Rose Salazar, 33. Genre work includes American Horror StoryMaze Runner: The Death Cure, and Batman: Arkham Origins video game.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • Updating a Kafka classic at Bizarro.

(7) THE TIDE IS IN. Camestros Felapton continues scoping out the Hugo nominees: “Review: The Black Tides of Heaven (Novella) J.Y.Yang”.

As I said above, I found the second half easier to engage with than the first. It focuses more on Akeha, the surpising “spare” half of the twins, who in post-adolesence decides to be confirmed as a male (gender is assigned post-childhood in this world). Fate, prophercy, control and inevitability (whether magical or political) play out as important themes but, again, I think their impact as ideas get lost amid the scale of the story.

(8) IN ORDER. Mark Kaedrin gives his rankings and his reasons — “Hugo Awards: Short Stories”.

In the past five years of reading Hugo nominated short stories, I think I’ve enjoyed about 2-3 of the stories quite a bit. That’s… not a very good batting average. For whatever reason, I always find that this category just fills up with stories that don’t work for me. True, several puppy trolling nominations made the cut, which didn’t help (for example: they nominated SF-themed erotica two years in a row, and then another that was a bad parody of a bad story, etc…), but even the stories I liked weren’t that great. I’ve always chalked that up to this category having the lowest barrier to entry. It doesn’t take a whole lot of time or effort to seek out a bunch of short stories (mostly available for free online too), so the nominations are spread far and wide. There used to be a requirement that a finalist had to have at least 5% of the nominations in order to be considered, which often resulted in a small category because most stories couldn’t clear that bar. So basically, the stories that do make it here rarely have wide appeal. That being said, this year’s nominees are actually a pretty congenial bunch. I don’t actually hate any of the stories, even if a few don’t quite tweak me the way I’d like (even those are pretty good though). I do still find it hard to believe that these are the actual best short fiction of the year, but I’ll take this over the past 4 years’ worth of nominations. However, I do think it’s telling that at least one story on the 1942 Retro Hugos ballot, Proof by Hal Clement, is far better than any of these nominees, which I think says something (I’d have to read/reread a couple of the other 1942 finalists to be sure, but I suspect that ballot is more my speed). Anyway, let’s get to it….

(9) CURRENT EVENTS. And don’t forget this year’s fiction. Rocket Stack Rank hasn’t — “July 2018 Ratings”. Greg Hullender summarizes:

We posted our monthly ratings last night. It was a typical month, with 11 stories recommended (with 4 or 5 stars) out of 72 (expected would be 11 to 13).

We recommended 4 stories from F&SF, 3 from Asimov’s,  2 from Analog had 2. The other two were in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed. Over time, the three print and seven online magazines we follow split the recommendations 50/50 (not counting stand-alone novellas or original anthologies), and the print magazines only come out 6 times a year, so this isn’t quite as lopsided as it looks, but it was definitely a good month for the traditional three magazines.

(10) START YOUR COCKY CAREER. This article on “Cocky-gate” also seems to be a great blueprint for how to use Kindle Unlimited to give you a 6-figure salary. Let The Verge tell you about it: “Bad Romance”.

…The fight over #Cockygate, as it was branded online, emerged from the strange universe of Amazon Kindle Unlimited, where authors collaborate and compete to game Amazon’s algorithm. Trademark trolling is just the beginning: There are private chat groups, ebook exploits, conspiracies to seed hyperspecific trends like “Navy SEALs” and “mountain men,” and even a controversial sweepstakes in which a popular self-published author offered his readers a chance to win diamonds from Tiffany’s if they reviewed his new book.

Much of what’s alleged is perfectly legal, and even technically within Amazon’s terms of service. But for authors and fans, the genre is also a community, and the idea that unethical marketing and algorithmic tricks are running rampant has embroiled their world in controversy. Some authors even believe that the financial incentives set up by Kindle Unlimited are reshaping the romance genre — possibly even making it more misogynistic.

A genre that mostly features shiny, shirtless men on its covers and sells ebooks for 99 cents a pop might seem unserious. But at stake are revenues sometimes amounting to a million dollars a year, with some authors easily netting six figures a month. The top authors can drop $50,000 on a single ad campaign that will keep them in the charts — and see a worthwhile return on that investment….

(11) THEY’VE GOT ‘RITHIM. Or you can try this route–sell your old pb’s for hundreds or thousands of dollars each on Amazon. The New York Times has the story: “Amazon’s Curious Case of the $2,630.52 Used Paperback”.

Even a casual browse through the virtual corridors of Amazon reveals an increasingly bizarre bazaar where the quaint policies of physical bookstores — the stuff no one wants is piled on a cart outside for a buck a volume — are upended. John Sladek, who wrote perceptive science fiction about robotics and artificial intelligence, predicted in a 1975 story that computers might start making compelling but false connections:

If you’re trying to reserve a seat on the plane to Seville, you’d get a seat at the opera instead. While the person who wants the opera seat is really just making an appointment with a barber, whose customer is just then talking to the box-office of “Hair,” or maybe making a hairline reservation …

Mr. Sladek, who died in 2000, is little read now, which naturally means his books are often marketed for inordinate sums on Amazon. One of his mystery novels, “Invisible Green,” has a Red Rhino “buy box” — Amazon’s preferred deal — offering it for $664.

That is a real bargain compared with what a bookseller with the improbable name Supersonic Truck is asking: $1,942. (Copies from other booksellers are as little as $30.) Supersonic Truck, which Amazon says has 100 percent positive ratings, did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Ms. Macgillivray, who has published eight novels, said she had been poking around Amazon’s bookstore and was more perplexed than ever by the pricing.

“There’s nothing illegal about someone listing an item for sale at whatever the market will bear, even if they don’t have the book but plan to buy it when someone orders it,” she said. “At the same time, I would think Amazon wouldn’t want their platform used for less than honorable practices.”

(12) READERCON PORTRAITS. Paul Di Filippo shares photos of “Some Members of Fictionmags Attending Readercon 2018 “ at The Inferior 4.

In order of appearance: Ellen Datlow, Fred Lerner, Gary Wolfe, George Morgan, Gordon van Gelder, Henry Wessells, Jess Nevins, Michael Dirda, Peter Halasz, Scott Andrews, Scott Edelman, Sheila Williams, Steve Dooner, Mark Walsh.

(13) ONCE MORE WITH FEELING. And Daniel Dern covered the non-human population at ReaderCon, photographing this “alternative SJW credential.”

An ‘edge-‘og (hedgehog). (Not mine.)

Yeah, the SF context isn’t visible, would you take my word for it?

(14) ICE DELIVERY. NPR tells what it’s like for locals: “Massive Iceberg Looms Over A Village In Greenland”.

The photographs are stunning: a giant mountain of ice towers over a tiny village, with colorful homes reminiscent of little doll houses against the stark, blue-gray landscape.

But for the people living in those houses – that beauty could be life-threatening.

“It’s kind of like, if you lived in the suburbs, and you woke up one morning and looked out, and there was a skyscraper next to your house,” says David Holland, an oceanographer at New York University who does research in Greenland during the summer months. “I’d be the first to get out of there.”

He says that’s why authorities have taken action to evacuate those living closest to the water from the village of Innaarsuit, where the iceberg has parked itself just off the coast. According to the BBC, the village has just 169 residents.

(15) THE IMPORTANCE OF POORFEADING. “Harry, it s***s” — just not quite so badly: “Aliens killed by spelling mistake in 2013 Colonial Marines game”.

An infamously dreadful 2013 Aliens video game is now believed to have fallen victim to the most chilling of threats in the universe: a typo.

Aliens: Colonial Marines was released on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 to terrible reviews.

Many of them mentioned how badly the artificial intelligence (AI) behaved.

But it has now emerged that a single stray “a” in the game’s code may have been to blame.

Videos on YouTube show the game’s AI characters – the aliens and human teammates the player doesn’t control – ignoring threats, shooting wildly at nothing or standing in the line of fire.

(16) EARLY BRADBURY. David Doering has been digging through ancient fanzines and found a curiosity: “Here’s a little gift for you: a verse by Ray Bradbury himself–likely never before reprinted in the history of, well, like poetry or something. And maybe for some reason…”

VERSE OF THE IMAGI-NATION

“TIs a Sinema”
by Ray Bradbury

I think that I shall never see
Flash Gordon as he ought to be.
Midst growls of pain & awful lafter
each Saturday I see a chapter.
I cannot bear to see him more
for he Is really such a bore.

& Tarzan! too, is all so poor:
A shrinking violet demure
who beats upon his frazzled chest
& turns his puss into the west
to roar defiance with…”Fresh fish!
–I think that he’s a lousy dish…

From: Imagination, v. 1, issue 11, whole no. 11, August 1938

[Thanks to David Doering, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, StephenfromOttawa, Brian Z., Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Greg Hullender, Bill Burns, John King Tarpinian, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mix Mat.]

Pixel Scroll 5/2/18 Hold The Scroll Firmly. Open With The Pixel End Pointing Away From You

(1) ILLUMINATION. The Geek Calligraphy team has produced an art print from a Penric story —

(2) A HELPING HAN. ScreenRant explains “Star Wars Narrated by Ron Howard in Arrested Development Mashup”:

With Solo: A Star Wars Story nearing its release date and news of a fifth season of Arrested Development premiering soon, fans of these properties can enjoy the best of both worlds with a comedic mashup featuring Ron Howard as the connective thread. The director of Solo and producer/narrator of Arrested Development, Howard narrates a 3-minute-long breakdown of George Lucas’ very first entry in the Star Wars franchise, recapping A New Hope with the music, trademarks, and running gags from the Arrested Development series.

 

(3) FUTURE TENSE. Mark Oshiro’s short story “No Me Dejas” is this month’s entry in the Future Tense series that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society. The series is offered through a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.

… A brief flash of eagerness crosses his face, a light I wish I could unsee. He wants to do it in my place. He has been nothing but supportive ever since Abuela Carmen chose me for the Transfer, but this moment skirts an uncomfortable truth. Why did she choose me over him? Why will I be the bridge in our familia, the one to receive abuela’s memories before she leaves us? The love between us isn’t enough to explain why Carmen chose me over her own son, but she has offered no other clue….

The story was published along with a response essay, “Should You Download Someone Else’s Memories?” by philosophers Jenelle Salisbury and Susan Schneider.

(4) HWA SCHOLARSHIPS. The Horror Writers Association has begun taking applications for these four scholarships. Applications will be accepted until August 1. See linked pages for eligibility and guidelines.

(5) COSPLAY IN GOTHAM. A beautiful set of photos has been posted by Scott Lynch at The Gothamist: “Cosplayers Outnumber Cherry Blossoms At Spectacular Sakura Matsuri”.

There was plenty of organized entertainment on three stages, everything from taiko drumming to a Parasol Society fashion show to Japanese go-go pop to video game themes blared out by the J-Music Ensemble. Workshops, kids’ activities, origami and bonsai demonstrations, and a bustling marketplace rounded out the celebration. The festivities culminated with the Ninth Annual Cosplay Fashion Show, a raucous affair featuring nearly 30 elaborately costumed participants showing off their passion for their craft.

(6) ARTI$T$ ALLEY REPORT. The 2017 Artist Alley Survey results are available for purchase.

For those unfamiliar, the annual Convention Artist Survey collects data anonymously from artists and artisans in North America about numbers related to conventions as a business — how much artists make, how much they spend, how far they travel, how staff communication and organisation was, whether buying interest and attendee engagement was high, etc.

This report takes all of those numbers and data points and presents various charts and graphs for easier consumption.

You can grab the 2017 report below for $5 or more!

(7) IS ATTEMPT TO TRADEMARK FANZINE A PROBLEM? James Bacon passed along Douglas Spencer’s concern that Brewdog’s application to the UK’s Intellectual Property Office to trademark the word fanzine will end badly for fans:

A while ago, they sought and subsequently obtained a trademark on the word “punk”, which spurious right they then defended vigorously to the vast detriment of the pre-existing punk community.

They’re now seeking to obtain a trademark on the word “fanzine”. If they obtain it, I anticipate they’ll defend it vigorously to the vast detriment of a few pre-existing fanzine communities.

Don’t let them do this. Don’t let their shitty business practices be seemingly endorsed by your silence. Tell them that they’ll be despised by a whole extra set of communities if they steal our word and sue us for using it in the same way we and others have been using it for generations.

See the complete application here.

Overview

Trade marks

Word (1 of 2)

FANZINE

Word (2 of 2)

BREWDOG FANZINE

Mark details

Number of marks in series

2

Dates

Filing date

19 April 2018

Goods and services

Classes and terms

Class 32

Beer and brewery products; craft beer; lager, stout, ale, pale ale, porter, pilsner, bock, saison, wheat beer, malt beer, sour beer, non-alcoholic beer, low-alcohol beer, flavoured beers; processed hops for use in making beer; beer wort; malt wort; non-alcoholic malt beverages; non-alcoholic beverages; syrups and other preparations for making beverages; malt syrup for beverages; extracts of hops for beer making, processed hops for beer making.

Class 35

Retail services connected with the sale of beer, alcoholic beverages, non-alcoholic beverages, printed matter, clothing, glassware, drinking bottles, keyrings, posters, bags, bottle openers and lanyards; retail services connected with the sale of subscription boxes containing beer; retail services connected with the sale of subscription boxes containing alcoholic beverages; retail services connected with the sale of subscription boxes containing food; information, advisory and consultancy services in connection with all of the aforesaid services.

Except for Spencer’s comment about their history with the word “punk” I’d have taken the application as for the rights to a beer named Brewdog Fanzine (or just Fanzine) and associated marketing paraphernalia. So I’d like to know more about what they did with “punk” in order to evaluate how big a problem this might be.

(8) LOCUS STACK. Greg Hullender says Rocket Stack Rank’s “Annotated Locus List” has been updated to incorporate the finalists for the Locus Awards — “Locus Finalists Observations”:

We looked at each category by score (that is, a weighted sum of recommendations from many other sources) to see how the Locus finalists looked overall. There aren’t a lot of surprises there, which (I think) simply reflects the fact that even though tastes differ from one reviewer to another, there really is such a thing as a set of “outstanding stories” which are broadly (but not universally) popular.

A few things that pop out:

  • “A Series of Steaks” and “The Secret Life of Bots” did not make the Locus finalists, even though they were the most praised novelettes in other quarters.
  • Out of the 18 Hugo Finalists, 15 were on the Locus Reading List.
  • Zero write-in candidates made the Locus finalists.

There has been a pattern of late that stories don’t get nominated for awards unless they’re either free online or else available for purchase as singles. That is, stories in print magazines and anthologies don’t get nominated unless they’re also available for free online, but novellas that have to be purchased do fine. It’s as though readers don’t mind paying for a good story, but they object to paying for a dozen stories just to get one in particular. Anyway, Locus bucks that trend with five such “bundled” stories in their finalists list.

(9) LAWS STUDENT. Yahoo! News reports “Stephen Hawking Finished Mind-Bending Parallel Universe Paper Days Before His Death”.

British physicist Stephen Hawking may have died in March, but his legacy is still unfolding.

The prominent theoretical physicist and cosmologist co-authored a research paper about the existence of parallel universes similar to our own, which the Journal of High-Energy Physics posthumously published on Friday.

According to the BBC, the study was submitted to the open-access journal shortly before Hawking’s death.

Thomas Hertog, a co-author of the study, told the BBC that he and Hawking were wrestling with the idea that the Big Bang actually resulted in the creation of multiple “pocket universes” that exist throughout space. It was unclear to them whether the laws of physics that apply in our universe would also apply in these alternate universes.

“In the old theory there were all sorts of universes: some were empty, others were full of matter, some expanded too fast, others were too short-lived. There was huge variation,” said Hertog, a physics professor at the Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium. “The mystery was why do we live in this special universe where everything is nicely balanced in order for complexity and life to emerge?”

Hertog and Hawking’s paper uses new mathematical techniques to restore order to previously chaotic views of the multiverse, suggesting that these different universes are subject to the same laws of physics as our own.

(10) BATTLE OF HOGWARTS ANNIVERSARY. J. K Rowling continues her annual tradition of apologizing for killing off a character – although this one did not fall in the battle.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 2,1933 — The modern legend of the Loch Ness Monster is born when a sighting makes local news on May 2, 1933. …Revelations in 1994 that the famous 1934 photo was a complete hoax has only slightly dampened the enthusiasm of tourists and investigators for the legendary beast of Loch Ness.
  • May 2, 2008 — The first Iron Man hit theaters.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) EATING THE FANTASTIC. You’re invited to share a pastrami sandwich with T. E. D. Klein in Episode 65 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast.

T.E.D. Klein

He’s been a seven-time nominee for the World Fantasy Award, starting in 1975 with his first published story, “The Events at Poroth Farm,” and his novella “Nadelman’s God” won the World Fantasy Award in 1986. Stephen King once called his 1984 novel The Ceremonies, “the most exciting novel in the field to come along since Straub’s Ghost Story.” All this and more resulted in Klein being given the World Horror Convention’s Grand Master Award in 2012.

Our dinner last Thursday night was at a spot he suggested—Fine & Schapiro, an old-school NYC Kosher deli which has been serving pastrami sandwiches on West 72nd Street since 1927. Ninety-one years later, we took our seats in a booth in the back—and saved a seat for you.

We discussed what he hated most about editing The Twilight Zone magazine, how he ended up scripting the screenplay for “the worst movie Dario Argento ever made,” what eldritch action he took after buying a letter written by H. P. Lovecraft, which movie monster gave him the most nightmares, what he’ll likely title his future autobiography, why he feels cheated by most horror movies, the secret origin of the T. E. D. Klein byline, his parents’ friendship with (and the nickname they gave to) Stan Lee and his wife, what he learned (and what he didn’t) when taught by Anthony Burgess, the bittersweet autograph he once obtained from John Updike, whether we’re likely to see his long-awaited novel Nighttown any time soon, and much more.

(14) BRITISH FAN HISTORY. Let Rob Hansen fill you in about “The London Circle (1959)”:

SF fans have been holding regular meetings in central London since the 1930s. In all that time there was only one year – 1959 – in which, thanks to the efforts of a couple of SF pros, they became a formally organised group with dues, membership cards, an elected committee, and a written constitution. Having recently unearthed a copy of that
constitution, I’ve just added a page to my website about that brief, failed experiment and the continuing legacy it left behind.

(15) IT’S A GAS. And if you have the help of the Hubble telescope, you can see it a long way off: “Hubble detects helium in the atmosphere of an exoplanet for the first time”.

The international team of astronomers, led by Jessica Spake, a PhD student at the University of Exeter in the UK, used Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 to discover helium in the atmosphere of the exoplanet WASP-107b This is the first detection of its kind.

Spake explains the importance of the discovery: “Helium is the second-most common element in the Universe after hydrogen. It is also one of the main constituents of the planets Jupiter and Saturn in our Solar System. However, up until now helium had not been detected on exoplanets – despite searches for it.”

The team made the detection by analysing the infrared spectrum of the atmosphere of WASP-107b [1]. Previous detections of extended exoplanet atmospheres have been made by studying the spectrum at ultraviolet and optical wavelengths; this detection therefore demonstrates that exoplanet atmospheres can also be studied at longer wavelengths.

(16) WINDOWS 2018. The BBC tells how: “Ford car window helps blind passengers ‘feel’ the view”

A prototype, called Feel the View, uses high-contrast photos to reproduce scenery using LED lights.

Passengers can touch the display to feel different shades of grey vibrate at different intensities.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People said the charity “wholeheartedly supports” the company’s effort.

“[It] could contribute to breaking down barriers and making travel more enjoyable and inclusive for people living with sight loss,” Robin Spinks, innovation manager at RNIB, told the BBC.

(17) DJ SPINRAD. Norman Spinrad has created a playlist (or “mixtape”) for the French radio show Voice of Cassandre. The playlist includes Kris Kristofferson, Accept, Lotte Lenya, Kraftwerk, the Sex Pistols, the Beatles, and Bruce Springsteen. The entire playlist can be heard on Mixcloud.

(18) DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING. Jon Del Arroz’ CLFA Book of the Year Award winner has a lovely cover, which he posts frequently on social media. Today somebody asked him the name of the artist. JDA’s answer was

The guy blacklisted me over politics I wouldn’t recommend him.

(19) INFESTATION. The Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man and The Wasp – Official Trailer is here.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, ULTRAGOTHA, Joey Eschrich, Danny Sichel, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Scott Edelman, Rob Thornton, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chris S.]