Pixel Scroll 10/3/18 I’ve Got Pixels To Scroll, And Pixels To LOL, And Pixels To Stir Up Yet More Strife

(1) CORDWAINER GENESIS. Ashley Stimpson and Jeffrey Irtenkauf trace the career of the man behind Cordwainer Smith in “Throngs of himself” for Johns Hopkins Magazine. “Paul Linebarger wrote science fiction as Cordwainer Smith. His multiple selves did not stop there.”

The notebook belonged to Paul Linebarger, who under his own name played many roles: U.S. Army colonel, CIA operative, psychological warfare expert, scholar of Asia, teacher, adviser to an American president. He was a husband twice and a father twice. His godfather was the first president of modern China, Sun Yat-sen. He may have been the central unhinged character in a famous psychiatric case study. But it was his science fiction—published as Cordwainer Smith—that gilds his legacy today.

Smith published about 30 short stories, all of which take place over a 14,000-year future history that Linebarger labored over in a lifetime of notebooks. Smith’s work is startling and violent, remembered for its originality and its weighty subject matter. In a letter to his agent, Linebarger explained that his stories “intended to lay bare the human mind, to throw torches over the underground lakes of the human soul, to show the chambers wherein the ageless dramas of self-respect, God, courage, sex, love, hope, envy, decency, and power go on forever.” Pulpy tales of little green men these were not.

(2) DISNEY’S STREAMING STAR WARS SERIES. When Disney’s new streaming service launches, here’s what one of its offerings will be: “Jon Favreau’s streaming ‘Star Wars’ series is ‘The Mandalorian'” at Engadget.

We still don’t know the name of Disney’s subscription streaming service, but we do have some details for a live-action Star Wars show that will appear on it. Jon Favreau announced on Instagram that The Mandalorian is set “after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order,” with a “lone gunfighter” emerging in the tradition of Jango and Boba Fett on the outer reaches of the galaxy.

 

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(3) SAVING GRACES. James Davis Nicoll admires “Women Who Save Themselves (and Everyone Else)” for reasons explained in his post for Tor.com.

… Having accepted the burden of her late father’s Letter of Marque, Bodacious Space Pirates’ Marika Kato balances the demands of school work with the challenges of commanding a privateer starship. Although years of peacetime has reduced privateering to a tourist attraction, from time to time Kato’s Bentenmaru finds itself in action, including the time Kato and friends set out to rescue Jenny Doolittle from an arranged marriage.

The single flaw in their plan was assuming that Jenny would wait to be rescued, rather than taking matters into her own hands….

(4) ARTIFICIAL CHICKEN INTELLIGENCE. In what the ad writers must think is a hilarious (non-) deception, Burger King’s latest commercials are written by Artificial Intelligence. Well, actually not (The Verge: “Burger King’s ‘AI-written’ ads show we’re still very confused about artificial intelligence”).

Each of Burger King’s new ads starts with an anachronistic burst of noise from a dial-up modem and a solemn warning: “This ad was created by artificial intelligence.” Then, over shots of glistening burgers and balletic fries, a robotic-sounding narrator deploys exactly the sort of clunky grammar and conceptual malapropisms we expect from a dumb AI.

…They’re good ads! And, of course, they’re lies. In a press release, Burger King claims the videos are the work of a “new deep learning algorithm,” but an article from AdAge makes it clear that humans — not machines — are responsible for the funnies. “Artificial intelligence is not a substitute for a great creative idea coming from a real person,” Burger King’s global head of brand marketing, Marcelo Pascoa, told the publication.

Here’s an example –

(5) PARTY CRASHERS. Olga Polomoshnova studies the consequences of “Feasts Interrupted” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

…Tolkien used socially important intrusions into realms, and thus their societies, in The Silmarillion, but his approach was different from Beowulf’s poet’s with an important detail: the most meaningful intrusions were one-time rather than continuous actions, and they took place during prominent feasts, thus increasing their social impact and significance manifold….

(6) CLARION 2019 FACULTY. The Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop faculty for 2019 will be — Carmen Maria Machado, Maurice Broaddus, Karen Lord, Andy Duncan, Ann VanderMeer, Jeff VanderMeer, and Shelley Streeby (Faculty Director).

Applications for the 2019 Workshop reopens December 1.

The Workshop runs June 23, 2019 – August 3, 2019.

(7) OVER THE MOON. Astronomers at Columbia University think they have evidence of the first moon orbiting an exoplanet (The Verge: “Astronomers may have discovered the first moon ever found outside our Solar System”).

A pair of astronomers believes they’ve found a moon orbiting a planet outside our Solar System — something that has never before been confirmed to exist. Though they aren’t totally certain of their discovery yet, the find opens up the possibility that more distant moons are out there. And that could change our understanding of how the Universe is structured.

The astronomy team from Columbia University found this distant satellite, known as an exomoon, using two of NASA’s space telescopes. They first spotted a signal from the object in data collected by the planet-hunting telescope Kepler, and then they followed up with the Hubble Space Telescope, which is in orbit around Earth. Thanks to the observations from these two spacecraft, the team suspect this moon orbits around a Jupiter-sized planet located about 4,000 light-years from Earth. And this planet, dubbed Kepler-1625b, orbits around a star similar to our Sun.

(8) SLOWING DOWN. Mary Robinette Kowal discusses her health and a reduction in her schedule: “On why I’m cancelling some events…”

…I’ve been on the road more than I’ve been home. I was in the middle of twenty days of travel and hand been home for a single day before that, with only three days at home at the end. I was leading a workshop of 150 students.

He stopped me and said, “You have to slow down.”

So, I am. We’re canceling some events and nothing else goes on my calendar for next year. Because the show doesn’t actually have to go on.

And to reassure you, we caught the shingles early so it stayed pretty mild. I got the anti-virals. Yes, I’ll do the vaccine when this is cleared up to stave off a recurrence. If you see me, please don’t hug me. I’m in the super-sensitive skin phase right now, which means contact with my back feels somewhere between a sunburn and a cheesegrater….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 3, 1889 – William Elliott Dold, Jr., Artist. In the early years of SF right through the 70s, he did cover art for such magazines as Miracle Science and Fantasy Stories and Cosmic Stories. Between 1923 and 1975, he also contributed hundreds of interior art pieces to magazines and books, ranging from Harold Hersey’s poetry collection Night to work for the weekly British comic magazine 2000 A.D. I don’t see that his art has been collected yet.
  • Born October 3, 1927 – Donald R. Bensen, Writer and Editor. He is credited with a genre novel, And Having Writ…, which received an Honorable Mention for the Campbell Award, and created a couple of The Unknown anthologies for Pyramid Books, but his work as a consulting editor for Dell Books and The Dial Press from 1976 until 1981, where works by Spider and Jeanne Robinson, Gregory Benford, Joan Vinge and John Varley were published, is I think his true contribution to the genre. He also contributed editorially to Dell’s paperback science fiction and fantasy publications during those years.
  • Born October 3, 1931 – Ray Nelson, 87, Writer, Cartoonist, and Member of First Fandom who did many cartoons and articles for fanzines but is perhaps most known for his 1963 short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” which was used by John Carpenter as the basis for the 1988 film They Live. He also co-authored The Ganymede Takeover with Philip K. Dick. Blake’s Progress, in which the poet William Blake is a time traveler, is claimed by Clute to be his best work. His novel The Prometheus Man received a Philip K. Dick Special Citation, and he was a finalist for the 1951 Retro Hugo for Best Fan Artist in 2001, and the winner of the Rotsler Award in 2003. He is credited with the invention of the infamous SF fan propeller beanie.
  • Born October 3, 1944 – Katharine Kerr, 74, Writer best known for the 15 novels in her Deverry Cycle, and recipient of World Fantasy and BSFA Award nominations. Author of many series including Westlands, Dragon Mage and the Silver Wyrm. I’d be remiss not to note her Urban Fantasy series entitled Nola O’Grady which is a great deal of fun and which leads off with, I kid you not, License to Ensorcell. She’s done a number of essays, including one with the intriguing title of “The Hedgehog’s Lair”.
  • Born October 3, 1950 – Pamela Hensley, 68, Actor who played Princess Ardala in the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century movie and TV series, starred in the original Rollerball movie, and had guest roles in several episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man.
  • Born October 3, 1964 – Clive Owen, Actor from England who starred in the Oscar- and Hugo-nominated Children of Men, the not-so-acclaimed Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Sin City, and the upcoming time travel movie Gemini Man.
  • Born October 3, 1967 – Denis Villeneuve, 51, French-Canadian Writer and Director who turned Ted Chiang’s short “The Story of Your Life” into the Oscar- and Hugo-winning film Arrival, garnered more Oscar wins and a Hugo nomination with the sequel Blade Runner 2049, and is currently working on a remake of Frank Herbert’s Dune.
  • Born October 3, 1973 – Lena Headey, 45, British Actor and Producer who is well-known to genre fans as Cersei Lannister in the Hugo-winning series Game of Thrones. She also played the titular character in the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series, and had roles in The Brothers Grimm, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the 300 movies, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box, and one of JJ’s favorite so-bad-it’s-good horror films about subterranean scuba diving, The Cave.
  • Born October 3, 1975 – Jason Erik Lundberg, 43, Writer and Editor. He’s published several collections of his own short stories, edited several anthologies, and has edited Lontar: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction for the last 5 years. Writer of such critical essays as “The Old Switcheroo: A Study in Neil Gaiman’s Use of Character Reversal” and “Embedded Narrative in the Fiction of Kelly Link”; he also wrote the nonfiction work Embracing the Strange: The Transformative Impact of Speculative Fiction.
  • Born October 3, 1978 – Shannyn Sossamon, 40, Actor in the TV series Sleepy Hollow, Wayward Pines, Moonlight, and genre films One Missed Call, Catacombs, and Ghost Light.
  • Born October 3, 1983 – Tessa Thompson, 35, Actor, Singer, and Producer. She had an early guest role in 3 episodes of Heroes, and has played main roles in Thor: Ragnarok, Annihilation, and the TV series Westworld. She co-starred in Janelle Monáe’s 49-minute genre musical film Dirty Computer.
  • Born October 3, 1986 – Joonas Suotamo, 32, Actor from Finland who has played Chewbacca in the newest Star Wars trilogy and associated videogames.
  • Born October 3, 1988 – Alicia Vikander, 30, Swedish Actor and Producer who starred in Ex Machina, Seventh Son, and the newly-rebooted The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Tomb Raider films, as well as providing a character voice for Moomins and the Winter Wonderland.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Yoda’s SJW credential makes a confession: Half Full.

(11) EXOMOON. Yahoo! News reports “In a surprise, first alien moon discovered is big and gaseous”. (Wait a minute, didn’t I already report this item?)

Astronomers have pinpointed what appears to be the first moon detected outside our solar system, a large gaseous world the size of Neptune that is unlike any other known moon and orbits a gas planet much more massive than Jupiter.

The discovery, detailed by researchers on Wednesday, was a surprise, and not because it showed that moons exist elsewhere – they felt it was only a matter of time for one to be found in another star system. They were amazed instead by how different this moon was from the roughly 180 known in our solar system.

“It’s big and weird by solar system standards,” Columbia University astronomy professor David Kipping said of the moon, known as an exomoon because it is outside our solar system.

(12) ARPANET. Slate dubs it “The Very First Social Network”. And I think it’s entirely likely someone reading this blog is acquainted with whoever started this….

That is, until 1979.
That fall, [Vint] Cerf logged on to his workstation to find an unopened message from the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. It had been sent over the network using the recently developed “electronic mail” system. Because more than one person was using each computer on the network, the scientists had conceived of “e-mail” (now commonly styled email) so they could share information directly from one person to another, rather than just between computers. As with regular mail, they realized they needed a system of addresses to send and receive the messages. Thus the @ symbol was born: It served to separate the mailbox identifier from the serving host, and the single character saved typing time and scarce computer memory, an early version of what one might think of as a “hack.”
But the message sent to Cerf’s email wasn’t a technical request. And it hadn’t been sent just to him. Instead, an email with the subject line “SF-LOVERS” had been sent to Cerf and his colleagues scattered across the United States. The message asked all of them to respond with a list of their favorite science fiction authors. Because the message had gone out to the entire network, everybody’s answers could then be seen and responded to by everybody else. Users could also choose to send their replies to just one person or a subgroup, generating scores of smaller discussions that eventually fed back into the whole.
About 40 years later, Cerf still recalls this as the moment he realized that the internet would be something more than every other communications technology before it. “It was clear we had a social medium on our hands,” he said.

(13) IN ACTION. “Nobel Prize In Chemistry Honors Work That Demonstrates ‘The Power Of Evolution'” – “If I read the tables in Wikipedia correctly,” says Chip Hitchcock, “this is the first year that women have gotten even a piece of two of the three tech Nobels.”

American Frances H. Arnold has won half of the 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry for her work in changing how chemists produce new enzymes, sharing the prize with another American, George Smith, and Sir Gregory Winter of the U.K. for research that has led to new pharmaceuticals and cancer treatments.

“This year’s prize is about harnessing the power of evolution,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in announcing the winners. This year’s laureates have “re-created the process in their test tubes … and make evolution many times faster.”

Arnold is only the fifth woman to win the prize in its 117-year history. She conducted the first directed evolution of enzymes, which are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. Enzymes produced through “directed evolution” in laboratory settings are used to manufacture everything from renewable fuels to pharmaceuticals.

(14) ACROBOTIC. “Hayabusa 2: German-led lander drops to asteroid’s surface” — this one flips instead of bouncing like the Japanese-built rovers.

Japan’s space agency (Jaxa) has put another lander on the surface of asteroid 162173, or Ryugu.

The Hayabusa-2 probe ejected the German-French Mascot “rover” on Wednesday for its 20-minute journey down to the space rock.

Contact was confirmed in the early hours, Central European Summer Time.

Mascot is designed to move across the surface of Ryugu and analyse its surface properties, including its mineral composition and magnetic field.

… Mascot has a swing arm inside to generate a torque that will throw the lander to a new location.

(15) TAGGERS REJOICE. Another thing sff failed to predict — “Disney ‘graffiti drone’ tags walls”.

Disney is known for its clean and tidy theme parks so it may come as a surprise to see it has developed a graffiti-spraying drone.

Its research and development division has been working on a drone equipped with a spray-paint gun that can tag walls and even paint 3D objects.

The researchers hope the idea will result in drones that can paint walls quickly and accurately.

(16) CHOOSE-YOUR-OWN BLACK MIRROR. “Netflix Is Planning a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure ‘Black Mirror’”. Bloomberg has the story.

Netflix Inc. is about to let you decide how your favorite show will end.

The streaming service is developing a slate of specials that will let viewers choose the next storyline in a TV episode or movie, according to people familiar with the matter. The company expects to release the first of these projects before the end of this year, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are still private.

Viewers will get to choose their own storylines in one episode of the upcoming season of “Black Mirror,” the Emmy-winning science-fiction anthology series. The show is famous for exploring the social implications of technology, including an episode where humans jockey to receive higher ratings from their peers. The fifth season of the show is expected to be released in December.

(17) PLANET NINE FROM OUTER SPACE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A newly discovered minor planet—nicknamed the Goblin—is one of only three known minor planets in certain extremely distant, highly elliptical orbits… and in some ways it’s the most extreme of the bunch (Smithsonian: “New Discovery Stirs Up Signs of the Elusive Planet 9”).

The new object, officially called 2015 TG387, orbits with a special class of celestial bodies known as Inner Oort Cloud objects, or extreme trans-Neptunian objects (ETNOs). The body of rock and ice, nicknamed “the Goblin” by the discovery team, is currently about 80 astronomical units (AU) from the sun, or about twice as far as Pluto’s average distance. However, the Goblin travels on a highly elongated orbit that takes it to the extreme outermost reaches of our solar system, looping out as far as 2,300 AU during its 40,000-year journey around the sun.

Like the other two objects in the class (Sedna and 2012 VP113), it does not come close enough to the outer planets to really be influenced by Jupiter and its lesser kin. But, if the mooted Planet 9 (aka Planet X) exists and is as massive as some astronomers believe, it could be an influence.

When considered together, these three objects start to produce a tantalizing picture of their distant realm. They are decoupled from the rest of the solar system, immune to its influence, and yet they all appear in the same part of the sky.

Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, who was on the team that discovered the Goblin, believes in Planet 9. Mostly. Others are more convinced.

How likely the existence of an undiscovered massive planet is, slowly circling the sun every tens of thousands of years at extreme distances, depends on who you ask. For his part, Sheppard, who has discovered dozens of minor planets, comets and moons, would place the odds of Planet 9 existing at about 80 or 85 percent—and he’s not even the most optimistic.

“My confidence is about 99.84 percent,” says Konstantin Batygin, a planetary astrophysicist and assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology. Batygin creates theoretical models of the outer solar system to search for hints of Planet 9, crunching the numbers on numerous minor planets that cluster into various groups and the influences of dozens of orbital factors. His 2016 paper with Caltech colleague Michael Brown laid out perhaps the strongest case for Planet 9 yet, concluding that there was only a fraction of one percent probability that the groupings of these objects occurred randomly.

Not everyone is convinced, of course, even those on the Goblin team/

“[…] There are conflicting lines of evidence,” says David Tholen, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii who was part of the team that discovered the Goblin. He points to the Cassini spacecraft, which orbited Saturn for more than 13 years, measuring the dynamics and forces of the outer solar system. “That serves as a very sensitive detector of other things out there, and the analysis of that data suggests that we don’t see any evidence for [Planet 9].”

Are there more objects like Goblin (and Sedna and 2012 VP113) out there? Well, if they aren’t near their closest approach to the Sun we probably couldn’t find them.

The only reason we have been able to find smaller distant objects like the Goblin is because they are near their closest approach, visible for just an instant of stellar time before they sling back out into the shadows.

“Ninety-nine percent of their orbit, we would not find them,” Sheppard says. “So, we just find the tip of the iceberg.”

And, if Planet 9 exists it may well be too far out and too dim for us to see.

If the minor planets are in a gravitational dance with Planet 9, however, it could mean that the big planet is far, far away—near the aphelion of its orbit roughly 1,000 AU from the sun. We have only a rough idea of Planet 9’s size—between two and four times that of Earth, if it exists—and no way to determine its how much light it reflects, which makes it incredibly difficult to search for.

(18) GIRL IN A LAKE DISTRIBUTING SWORDS. Courtesy of Hampus Eckerman, translated from the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan, October 2. Headline: “Eight-year-old took a bath – found iron age sword.”

An eight-year-old girl made an unexpected find when she bathed this summer. A bit out into the water, she trampled on what proved to be an unusually well-preserved iron age sword.

“I thought, ok, so a sword, it could be anything, but then I got the pictures and then I got goose bumps,” says Archeologist Annie Rosén to TT [Newspapers Telegram Service].

The girl’s family contacted Annie Rosén at Jönköping County Museum. She found that the sword was surprisingly well-preserved with, among other things, a sheath in wood and leather. That so much organic material is preserved is very rare.

– It’s 1,000 years, maybe up to 1,500 years old. At the same place we found a dress ornament dating back to the 300’s or 400’s, says Annie Rosén.

The girl, aptly named Saga, found the sword at a half-meter depth at the bathing area in Lake Vidöstern, south of Värnamo, which SVT News Jönköping was the first to report.

…The sword is still at the conservator and they have as yet not been able to make a proper age determination. How it got into the lake is unknown to the archaeologists. It could be graves that eroded into the lake, sacrifices in water or that someone simply lost it. There are no known settlements nearby, but archaeologists are now looking for more objects in the lake.

“It would be cool to find something more that’s from the 4th century,” says Annie Rosén.”

(19) USE THE DELOREAN LUKE. Movieweb spots an “Amazing Empire Strikes Back to the Future Mashup Shared by Mark Hamill”.

The worlds of Star Wars and Back to the Future collide in a new mashup photo that Mark Hamill posted on social media, which he calls The Empire Strikes Back to the Future. Hamill uses social media often to engage with fans, and he’s pretty good at it. The Luke Skywalker actor often takes time out of his day to share things that he deems important or humorous, and even answers the burning questions of hardcore Star Wars fans pretty often.

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

Real-world Dystopias: Ponte City

By Hampus Eckerman. Johannesburg. When I was going to Ponte City, my taxi driver repeatedly asked me if I knew what I was doing. “It is a dodgy area,” he said. And asked me again if I really wanted to go there. When he asked the fourth time, I managed to explain that there was a tour and I was going inside the building. Then he quieted down and seemed satisfied. Because Ponte City is a building. A building tall enough that it once was almost self-catering, a city with within a city with bars, shops, daycare, barber, bowling alley and more.

According to the owner of my bed-and-breakfast, Ponte City has a kind of legendary aura around it. It is a place everyone knows. It is even a place that was used to scare little children. “If you do not work hard in school, you will end up in Ponte City.” And listening to the telling of my tour guide, in their small bar at floor 51, it is easy to understand. The story of Ponte City and the area around is as if politicians had decided to turn Escape from New York into a reality.

It started as something totally different. In the 70s, the area around Ponte City was the crème de la créme of Johannesburg. The area where the beautiful people lived, the richest. This is where diplomats and Europeans made their home. It was the Beverly Hills of Johannesburg and its most prized jewel was Ponte City. A 55-floor-high building, 173 meters tall and placed on a hill, you could see everywhere from its viewing deck on top. It had a cylindrical shape with a hollow inside which made for a truly SFnal experience to watch inside. If I should describe the view of a Science Fiction-fan, I would say it looked close to the round building at the end of the movie Brazil, only with less diameter. Built in 1975, it was a place where everyone wanted to live.

20 years later it was a place in ruins, a place where no one wanted to go. It was known for its suicides, people travelled to Ponte City only to throw themselves from the top of the building. The inside of the cylinder was filled up with garbage, at the end it reached 14 levels high and there were rats the size of cats. The building with its close to 500 apartments roomed almost 10,000 people, many of them criminals. There was even a discussion of turning the whole building into a prison. Putting locks on the door in the middle of the night and putting guards there to keep its armed residents inside.

So what had happened? The answer is the racial logic of the apartheid system.

As the richest area in Johannesburg, lots of immigrants from the rural areas had moved there to try to find their luck. While the area was designed as white, its inhabitants were often people from European countries and they didn’t care much for the apartheid laws. So slowly, the area started to become more and more mixed. Apartment owners in Ponte City and other buildings took coloured partners and started befriending others.

This could not be tolerated by the apartheid government. At first they tried to stop this by making spot searches, knocking on apartment doors, demanding to see who was inside to make sure no illegal mixing was taking place. This did not work, it was too cumbersome, people were not cooperating and there were too many people living in the area to monitor them all.

So what they did is something that highlights the brutality of the apartheid era

They cut off all services.

They cut of electricity to the buildings, stopped collecting garbage, removed the police from the area. This of course made crime skyrocket. Foreign embassies ordered their diplomats to move to other areas, people took their businesses and moved. With no residents, the building owners put large locks on their buildings and left, hoping for better times.

You would think the better times would come for Ponte City and its neighboring buildings at the end of apartheid. You would think wrong.

Instead, full of immigrants, both from South Africa and from neighboring countries travelled to what they had known as the richest area in Johannesburg, a place where they could find work and wealth. They found empty buildings, seemingly without owners. So first came the squatters. Then the hijackers, gangsters who took control of buildings to by themselves renting out apartments, but without services or care. One of those buildings was Ponte City.

Think of a 55-floor-high building without water or working elevators. Which resident would go down 50 floors to throw their garbage? You guessed it, they threw all their leftovers in the hollow inside of the building. As there was no working water, this included fecal matters. And the garbage piled up. Putrified.

Ponte City turned into a nexus of criminality. Sex, drugs, stolen goods, weapons. Everything could be bought. With no repairs or care-taking, the building started to fall apart. This is when police started to discuss turning the whole building with its 10,000 citizens into a prison.

So how is Ponte City today? Like a miracle, it has turned around. A temporary owner managed to empty the building of all its criminal residents, exactly how this happened is unknown. Perhaps the gangsters were bribed. Perhaps the police. What we know is that the building was empty and renovations were started. In 2012, people could start to move in again.

When you go to Ponte City, you directly notice that it is not a building like others. There are signs warning you that it is your responsibility if you should be hit by anything thrown from a window. Others tell you that you visit on your own risk and that the owners are not responsible for damages caused by theft, fire or any other cause. You have to register to pass a security gate. No visitors are allowed after 22:00 and you will have to give three days advance warning if you want someone to stay the night.

But Ponte City is on its way up. There is even a queue for people who want to move on. Sometimes dystopias have happy endings.


Ponte City has been used for filming in several SF-movies, among them Resident Evil 6, Chappie, District 9 and Dredd.

A Filer in Heaven


By Hampus Eckerman: Johannesburg. A dodgy part of town, graffiti on the walls, people hanging around street corners, waiting for an opportunity. A sign proclaiming “Collectors Treasury”. But not in a place where you want to bring up your camera or phone to take picture. No open invitation to step inside, first you have to ring the bell for the security gate to open.

Inside is heaven.

This is not an exaggeration. Inside is heaven. Directly after you enter you see the first pile of books. And they never end. They never, ever end.

It is like walking into a giant cave with winding tunnels, shelf after shelf, stack after stack. There were books of the most strange and obscure variations. I noted one book on the building of Viking ships, another on the history of dentistry. Works on all subjects, old or new. It was quite staggering. I had absolutely no idea where or even how to start.

One of the owners, I was too shocked, happy and stupefied to remember to ask his name, met me in the entrance corridor, books surrounding us at both sides.

“You’re here for books, I guess”, he said while I was trying to catch my breath.

“This is a wonderful place”, I said. “It is beautiful, it is magical, I LOVE IT!”

“And you have only just entered”, he said with a satisfied smile.

I told him that I mostly read Science Fiction and Fantasy and he said that he had some vintage stuff on the top floor, but that I perhaps should start in the cellar. So I did.

This isn’t really true. I didn’t come even halfway down the stairs before I found a large volume called The Pictorial History of Science Fiction hidden in a stack of totally randomized fiction books. Scanning all shelves and books by the stair, I then found a small pocket book of Heinlein’s The Door Into Summer, a book I had only read from my Father’s library. Then I managed to get down the stairs.

And thought I would faint.

I can only describe it as a maze. A labyrinth of books, in stacks and on shelves, alcoves and small side rooms. Sometimes in order, sometimes on total chaos. I haphazardly walked into one side room and a few books down in a pile I found the first edition of Leslie Charteris The Saint Goes West. Happy with my find, I looked to the left. Where there were five filled bookshelves with first editions.

I can talk forever how I wandered around (wondered around might be a better wording) in this amazing bookstore, but it would take me forever. Let me just add that to get to the top floor you would have to take an elevator filled with… you guessed it. Pile after pile with books.

In the end I was saved only by the fact that I had a limit to how many books I could bring back on a plane and by having booked a tour of a brewery. Otherwise I would still have wandered around looking at books, perhaps starved to death in the process. Let it be known that beer saves lives.

For more information about Collectors Treasury, read Atlas Obscura: ”Collectors Treasury”.

These are the books Hampus bought.

Tolkien Leaves Small Footprint in Birthtown



By Hampus Eckerman: Bloemfontein, South Africa. I’m staying at the newly renovated Hobbit Hotel (http://www.hobbit.co.za) in the Bilbo-room.

It is a nice little hotel with a total of thirteen rooms, all named after characters from Lord of The Rings or The Hobbit (there’s even a Gollum room). The hotel has new owners since 10 months ago, and they have made extensive renovations, restoring the doors to their original wooden colours, added artwork to the walls, repainted the walls, and the result makes for a nice old-fashioned feel where paintings from The Hobbit and LOTR blend seamlessly in with the fireplace, bookshelves and sofas.

I was a bit surprised by how well the paintings blended in and asked about them. Turned out that the owner’s daughter had an arts education and that the illustrations from different versions of the Tolkien books had been printed on canvas which is how they got a more antique look.

On the wall by the reception there is a sign proclaiming that this is the birthplace of JRR Tolkien, in the third of January, 1892. That is not true. The real birth house of Tolkien, just a few streets away, was destroyed in floods in the 1920s. The plaque was originally placed at Bank of Africa, where Tolkien’s father worked (the building no longer exists), but were later stolen and then idled for a while in the municipal archives.

The original owner of the Hobbit Hotel was also president of the South African Tolkien Society. He bought first one house, created for sub-economical housing, and renovated it to create the hotel. Later he bought another house next door, merged them together to create the current hotel with a total of twelve rooms. The current owners have added five self-catering cottages.

While Tolkien himself only lived in Bloemfontein a total of three years, his father lived here until his death in 1896. He is buried in the President Brand Cemetery, a mere two kilometers away.

There are no statues of Tolkien in Bloemfontein. No busts, no monuments, no museums, no guided tours. The taxi drivers I spoke to had all seen the Lord of the Rings movies, but had no idea that the author was born in their own town. Bloemfontein is a place with no tourist industry.

So the only thing left to remember JRR Tolkien is a quaint little hotel with tasteful, but toned down decorations and an old-fashioned feel. Which I guess he himself would have been satisfied with.

Filers on Worldcon 76 Program

Compiled by Hampus Eckerman: I tried to write down a schedule of all filers that are part of programming on Worldcon.

If you’re a commenter or a lurker here, and you’d like to have your programming items added to this list, please comment below or send an e-mail to mikeglyer [at] cs [dot] com.

Thursday:

14:00 Kevin Standlee: WSFS Mark Protection Committee Meeting
15:00 Gideon Marcus: Beyond Yaoi: Trends in LGBTQ+ Representation in Anime & Manga
15:00 Chris M. Barkley: A Short History of the YA Award Category
16:00 John Hertz: My First Worldcon
16:00 Douglas Berry, Gideon Marcus: How Gaming is Important to Fandom

Friday:

08:00 Adam Rakunas: Wrun With Writers
08:00 Cat Rambo: SFWA Business Meeting
09:00 Steve Davidson, Greg Hullender: Stroll With The Stars
10:00 Gideon Marcus: The Art and Craft of Anthology Curation
11:00 Ann Leckie: Pronouns Matter — Gender Courtesy for Fans
11:00 John Hertz: Classics of SciFi: The Sword of Rhiannon
11:00 Cat Rambo: Successfully Negotiating Book Contracts
11:00 Bill Higgins: The Myth of the Astronaut – Who Are the Space Cadets of Yesterday,
Today, and Tomorrow?
13:00 Ann Leckie: Kaffeeklatsch
13:00 James Bacon: Future WSFS Conventions
13:00 Gideon Marcus: Come Time Travel With Me
14:00 Heather Rose Jones: Autographs
15:00 Cat Rambo: What Can SFWA Offer Me
15:00 Ann Leckie: Autographs
16:00 Gregory Benford: Commentary on “Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future”
16:00 Greg Hullender: Evolution of the Fanzine
17:00 Ctein: Kaffeeklatsch
17:00 Gregory Benford: Autographs
19:00 Adam Rakunas: Reading

God Stalk Bonus: 17:00 PC Hodgell: Autographs

Saturday:

10:00 John Hertz: Classics of SciFi: A Mirror For Observers
12:00 Gregory Benford: Kaffeeklatsch
12:00 Lee Whiteside: 25 Years of Babylon 5
13:00 Ann Leckie: Reading: Hugo Finalists – Best Novel
13:00 Cat Rambo: Autographs
13:00 James Bacon: Eurovision: A Science Fictional Spectacular Spectacle
14:00 Chris M. Barkley: In Memoriam: Harlan Ellison
15:00 Cat Rambo: Chasing Shadows: Living in Our Transparent Society
16:00 Heather Rose Jones: Reading: Escape Artists reading
16:00 Ctein: Geek Identity, Policing, and Gatekeeping
17:00 Gregory Benford: Chasing Shadows: Living in Our Transparent Society
17:00 Greg Hullender: Author vs Fan Ownership
17:00 Ursula Vernon: SFF Middle-Grade: Parameters and Opportunities
17:00 Douglas Berry: Veteran’s Roundtable
20:00 John Hertz: Masquerade

God Stalk Bonus 2: 16:00 PC Hodgell: In For the Long Haul: The Ups and Downs of Writing a Long Series

Sunday:

10:00 John Hertz: Classics of SciFi: Red Planet
10:00 Heather Rose Jones, Lisa Goldstein: Mythogenesis
11:00 Ctein: Autographs
11:00 Douglas Berry: Fandom as a Method of Cultural Adaptation
12:00 Heather Rose Jones: Podcasts? Can’t Be THAT Hard…
12:00 Steve Davidson: Overcoming Fannish Factions
13:00 Gideon Marcus: The Future You Imagine is the Future You Get
15:00 Greg Hullender: Getting Zoomed! Virtual Technology on the Rise
15:00 Bill Higgins: So You Want To Build A Science Fictional Device
16:00 John Hertz: Regency Dancing
17:00 Ursula Vernon: Recommended Reading in Webcomics
17:00 Lisa Goldstein: Autographs
17:00 Bill Higgins: The Impact of Evolutionary Theory on 19th Century Science Fiction

Monday:

12:30 Kevin Standlee: WSFS Mark Protection Committee Meeting
15:00 James Bacon: Closing Ceremonies

Pixel Scroll 6/24/18 To File Where We Scrolled And Know The Pixel For The Fifth Time

(1) THUNDER LIZARDS MAKE BOX OFFICE NOISE. They tipped plenty of gold onto the scales this weekend: “‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ Feasts on $150 Million Opening”.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdomtopped estimates to devour $150 million from 4,475 locations in North America this weekend. While it fell short of its predecessors’ record-shattering $208.8 million launch, the dinosaur sequel is off to a mighty start. The Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard-led tentpole has already amassed $711.5 million worldwide, including $561.5 million overseas.

“Fallen Kingdom” easily led the weekend as the lone wide release, though “Incredibles 2” enjoyed a heroic second weekend. The Disney Pixar sequel picked up another $80 million, bringing its domestic total to $350.3 million. The superhero blockbuster, directed by Brad Bird, launched with $182.7 million, making it the best opening for an animated feature and the eighth-biggest debut of all time.

(2) ROANHORSE INTERVIEW. AzCentral profiled Nebula-winning Rebecca Roanhorse: “Navajo legends come to life in Rebecca Roanhorse’s debut novel ‘Trail of Lightning'”

She also has a more personal inspiration. Born of Ohkay Owingeh (Pueblo) and African-American heritage, Roanhorse was adopted by an Anglo family and grew up in Texas. As an adult, she reunited with her indigenous birth mother in New Mexico and began to immerse herself in the culture. She picked up a law degree at the University of New Mexico and ended up marrying a Navajo man.

“I’ve been very lucky and very honored that so many Navajo folks have invited me into their families and shared with me, but I don’t presume to speak for the culture,” Roanhorse says. “I’m a fantasy writer, and this was the culture that I wanted to set my world in, because I love this culture. It’s something that I wanted to share and something that really spoke to me.” …

Q: There’s been some pushback against emerging voices in science fiction, especially women of color, particularly with the campaign a few years ago to vote against those authors for the Hugo Awards. How do you respond to that?

A: Science fiction, as Ursula LeGuin would probably tell you, is always about social issues. It’s never not been about social issues. Even if you’re writing rocket men going to space, you’re writing from a certain perspective. Whatever it is that defines your place in society, that’s where your voice comes from. So actually it makes a lot of sense that if science fiction is telling us what the future is supposed to look like, or fantasy is letting us play out our dream ideas of what society might be, that they would take up these issues of identity. I think it’s kind of exciting that you’re seeing the science-fiction and fantasy community push back against people like the Sad Puppies, the organizations that were trying to push out the voices, some of the underrepresented voices, from women of color, disabled voices, queer voices.

And the stories are great.

(3) BEWARE SPOILERS. Cinema Blend has a window into the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s future: “James Gunn Confirms When Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 Will Take Place”. BEWARE AVENGERS SPOILAGE.

And just like that, one of the biggest mysteries surrounding the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise has been put to bed. Guardians 3 will indeed be set after the events of Infinity War. This seems to hint that the fallen Guardians might return, although it’s currently unclear exactly how that might occur.

James Gunn’s tweet reveals that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will be affected by the tragic events of the Russo Brothers’ Avengers movies. This is likely a relief for the fans, who wanted the story to continue moving forward, rather than backwards. And considering the insane fates of the Guardians’ members, simply ignoring their near-annihilation at the hands of Thanos would have felt disingenuous.

(4) COMING EXHIBIT. “‘Black Panther’ Is Coming To The Smithsonian’s African American Museum”. Artifacts from the movie will be displayed during the Smithsonian’s inaugural African American Film Festival in October.

After “Black Panther” basically broke the box office back in February, fans of the Marvel superhero movie have been clamoring for a sequel. But if you can’t wait for Hollywood to get its act together, the Smithsonian African American Museum of History and Culture has your back.

The museum announced Wednesday that it has acquired several objects from the film, including the Black Panther superhero costume. That is, the actual outfit that star Chadwick Boseman wore. On his body. While fighting to save Wakanda from evil.

…Curators are still in the process of figuring out plans for a permanent exhibit.

(5) DESTINATION MOON. And also on the way, a bit farther into the future, is the National Air and Space Museum’s exhibit “Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission”. It’s on the road now, and will come home to a permenant exhibit in 2021.

Building on centuries of imagination and scientific discovery, and on the Smithsonian’s unequaled collection of space artifacts, Destination Moon will show those who remember the 1960s as well as generations born afterward how an extraordinary combination of motivations, resources, technologies, and teamwork made it possible to send people and robots to the Moon. The new gallery will help visitors discover the scope of lunar exploration from ancient dreams to contemporary spacecraft missions. The entrance will feature a gigantic 1957 Moon mural by Chesley Bonestell, under which it presents lunar flight mythology, Jules Verne, early Moon movies, and 1950s spaceflight advocacy. Two of the Museum’s most treasured Apollo 11 artifacts will be on display: the Command Module Columbia and Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit. The gallery’s last section exhibits the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and a Space Launch System/Orion model and information about what has gone on at the Moon since the 1990s and what is happening now. A more focused touring version of the exhibition, called Destination Moon; The Apollo 11 Mission, features the Columbia. It is currently at the St. Louis Science Center and will continue to Pittsburgh and Seattle before returning to the Museum.

 

(6) CHABON COMIC REALIZED. NPR tells how “A Cornucopia Of Comic Artists Pay Homage To Michael Chabon’s Escapist”.

It’s got to be a bit daunting for a comics creator to contribute to an anthology revolving around Michael Chabon’s Escapist. Chabon created the Escapist in his 2000 novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which won a Pulitzer Prize and set a new standard for highbrow treatment of comics. He’s an author who’s always expected great things from the form; in the keynote speech at the 2004 Eisner Awards (included in this volume), Chabon called for writers and artists “to … increase the sophistication of [comics’] language and visual grammar, to probe and explode the limits of the sequential panel, to give free reign to irony and tragedy and other grown-up-type modes of expression.”

It’s a hefty agenda, and the creators assembled here clearly feel its weight. For some, the pressure has proven to be a valuable impetus. Several of the most successful stories, inspired by the anti-Fascist politics of the Escapist in the novel, find contemporary relevance in his message of liberation. In “The Death of the Escapist” by Kevin McCarthy and Shawn Martinbrough, the Escapist’s skills inspire the citizens of a North Korea-like dictatorship to contemplate rebellion: “for the first time in their lives, they allow themselves to entertain the idea that escape … may be possible.”

(7) UNDER THE HAMMER. The original Star Wars’ Oscar-nominated art director finally cashed in this relic: “Han Solo ‘blaster’ fetches $550,000 in New York”.

A “blaster” used by Harrison Ford’s character Han Solo in the film Return of the Jedi has sold at auction in New York for $550,000 (£415,000).

The weapon, made mostly of wood, had previously spent more than 30 years in the possession of the film’s art director James Schoppe.

It sold for more than a lightsaber used by Mark Hamill in the first two Star Wars films, which fetched $450,000.

Despite being a much less sophisticated weapon, this Star Wars prop also brought in a heap of money:

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 24, 1983Twilight Zone – The Movie debuted.
  • June 24, 1987Spaceballs premiered theatrically.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Kathryn Sullivan learned from Breaking Cat News why books make the best cat beds.
  • Daniel Dern promises Get Fuzzy has “SFish refs.” And you know what that means. (Don’t you?)

(10) HOLY REPO, BATMAN! Hampus Eckerman wonders if Wayne Enterprises went broke. “The Batmobile has been taken into custody and is being auctioned off by the Swedish bailiffs,” according to this Swedish-language auction listing.

The following statistics have not been verified.

Length: 6 meters
Weight: 1750 kg
Max speed: 260 km/h
Chassis Lincoln Continental 1973
Motor 460 Ford big block V8. 550 hk
Chassis bulletproof carbonfiber

(11) DIVIDING THE BABY. Crazy Eddie’s Motie News looks ahead to the Saturn Awards and the Retro Hugos in “‘Get Out’ wins Bradbury Award plus my take on the Retro Hugo nominees”. The author makes a Solomonic decision about two Retro Hugo categories:

My picks would be between Forrest J Ackerman and his fanzine Voice of the Imagi-Nation and Donald A. Wollheim and The Phantagraph.  Ackerman was a bigger name in fandom while Wollheim eventually became a professional writer.  If I were a Hugo voter, which I’m not, I’d split the difference by voting Wollheim as the better writer and Ackerman’s fanzine as the better publication.

(12) BEGINNING OF THE ENDS. How It Ends is a new Netflix sff series.

As a mysterious apocalypse causes the spread of misinformation and violence, a man and his estranged father-in-law race across a chaotic and fractured country to save his pregnant wife. Starring Theo James, Forest Whitaker and Kat Graham, How It Ends premieres July 13 only on Netflix.

 

(13) SHOPPING FOR YOUR EDITOR. Amanda J. Spedding advises on “Finding the right editor, and when to run like hell” — what an editor is for, and how to assess prospective editors.

This post is brought to you by a Twitter thread I came across yesterday about the importance of editors. I recently wrote a post on just such a thing. If you’re disinclined to read that, I’ll break it down quickly: YOU NEED AN EDITOR.

Right then. Within this Twitter thread, I came across some information that needs to be addressed, so I’m chucking on my ranty-pants (they’re fabulous, by the way), and I’m going to give you some insights into what to look for in a good editor, and how to help find the right editor for you. Yes, not all editors will be the right fit. (I had a whole thing about editors being like pants, but it just got… weird.)

Aaaanywho, what had me don my ranty-pants was a writer explaining they’d been quoted $10,000 for an edit. I’ll just let that sink in. Ten grand. For an edit. Of one book. Oh, hell no. HELL NO. I don’t know who the so-called “editor” was who thought this was a reasonable quote. If I did, I would call them out on their bullshit. Because bullshit it is. I can’t even fathom an instance where quoting or even charging someone this amount is even within the realm of possibility. That, folks, is a scam. Run far. Run fast.

On the flipside, if you’re quoted say, $200 for a full edit of a novel – run far, run fast. No editor worth their salt would charge this little for a full edit. There’s a lot of skill that goes into editing, and most editors study to gain qualifications, to understand the nuances of English and its building blocks that go into great storytelling. Their qualifications and experience are worth more than two hundred bucks.

(14) THE PANIC OF 2942. Camestros Felapton worries about economic justice in Middle-Earth in “Dragons and wealth inequality”.

Dragons of the Smaug-Tolkien variety must have some interesting economic impacts. Smaug hoards gold and jewels in vast quantities. Notably, Smaug (and presumably other gold obsessed dragons) know specifically what they have hoarded. When Bilbo steals one of Smaug’s treasures, the dragon notices that it is gone. So Smaug’s lair isn’t like Scrooge McDuck’s vault full of coins – the dragon is hoarding possessions rather than coinage or more abstract tokens of wealth. That’s not to say some of a dragon’s gold isn’t in the form of coins but clearly, the dragon wants the coins for their own sake and not as a unit of currency. Each piece of the dragon’s hoard is uninterchangeable. Furthermore, a dragon has nothing to spend his wealth on – there aren’t dragon shops and the dragon’s interaction with other species is one of eating them or burning them to a crisp.

So when a dragon hoards gold, the gold is removed from the economy….

(15) DIGITAL GASLIGHTING. Cory Doctorow discusses “The Internet of Shit: a godsend for abusers and stalkers” at Boing Boing.

People who help domestic abuse survivors say that they are facing an epidemic of women whose abusers are torturing them by breaking into their home smart devices, gaslighting them by changing their thermostat settings, locking them out of their homes, spying on them through their cameras.

The abusers are often ex-partners who retain authentication passwords that allow them to access the IoT devices after a breakup.

Many of the women facing this abuse are wealthy and well-off (domestic abuse affects people of all incomes, but wealthier people are more likely to own these gadgets). In interviews with the NYT, survivors called it “jungle warfare” and “asymmetric warfare,” likening their ex-partners to guerrilla fighters attacking in secret….

The New York Times source article is here: “Thermostats, Locks and Lights: Digital Tools of Domestic Abuse”.

The people who called into the help hotlines and domestic violence shelters said they felt as if they were going crazy.

One woman had turned on her air-conditioner, but said it then switched off without her touching it. Another said the code numbers of the digital lock at her front door changed every day and she could not figure out why. Still another told an abuse help line that she kept hearing the doorbell ring, but no one was there.

Their stories are part of a new pattern of behavior in domestic abuse cases tied to the rise of smart home technology. Internet-connected locks, speakers, thermostats, lights and cameras that have been marketed as the newest conveniences are now also being used as a means for harassment, monitoring, revenge and control.

In more than 30 interviews with The New York Times, domestic abuse victims, their lawyers, shelter workers and emergency responders described how the technology was becoming an alarming new tool.

(16) THE LAST BITE. The Biology of Sharks and Rays investigates “The Extinction of Megalodon”.

To a greater or lesser extent, all living lamnids – including the White Shark – have a modified circulatory system that enables them to retain metabolic heat and extend their range into chilly waters. With the exception of the Shortfin Mako (Isurus oxyrinchus), which makes a good living even in tropical waters, all extant lamnids are primarily cold-water animals. Although some lamnids – like the White Shark – occasionally visit warmer waters, very few actually live there. Like the primates slathered in coconut oil on tropical beaches, warm water lamnids are generally tourists. And, like their human counterparts, they eventually go home. In contrast, megalodon does not seem to have extended its range into cool temperate waters. Despite its enormous body mass, megalodon may not have shared the lamnids’ ability to retain significant metabolic heat. This shortcoming may have effectively trapped Megalodon in discrete, ever-decreasing puddles of warm coastal waters. If, as Robert Purdy’s paleoecological study suggests, Megalodon was limited to warm waters and relied on coastal areas as pupping grounds – no matter from whence it descended or what it looked like – it had a very sandtiger-like life history. And this may have led to Megalodon’s ultimate undoing.

(17) WALK A MILE IN HER SHOES. April Wolfe in the Washington Post explores the issue of “women wearing unreasonable shoes in action films” with a discussion of Bryce Dallas Howard’s high heels in Jurassic World and interviews with costume designers Ellen Mirojnick and Black Panther costume designer Ruth Carter: “The tortured history of action-film heroines and their high heels. (‘Jurassic World,’ anyone?)”

…What became clear is that movie audiences are more attuned than ever to on-screen footwear, amid our culture’s greater scrutiny of gender norms in film. But a look back at the history of heroines in heels shows that the issue is more complex than it seems.

For instance, one reason “Jurassic World” caught flak is not just that Howard was wearing heels but also that Trevorrow didn’t hide them. Veteran costume designer Ellen Mirojnick (“Cliffhanger,” “Speed,” “Strange Days”) explained that it’s typical for characters dressed in heels to be shot in a way that their shoes are not visible during any of the action. Try finding a single frame of “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” in which you can clearly make out Gemma Arterton’s shoes in a fight.

“We do substitutes, where we might put a wedge [heel] on her, because you won’t be actually seeing her feet,” Mirojnick said. “So we build a .?.?. shoe that will have the right height for the scene, but the audience is never to assume she’s wearing anything but the heel we saw her in before.”

It’s often just too difficult to perform any stunts, even running, in a heel. Some films, such as “True Lies” or “Red,” show a heroine in heels and then make it a point to show her removing them, to represent her shedding that more feminine identity, which also makes the action sequences easier to perform….

(18) A MONSTER “KID” REMEMBERS. Movie fan Steve Vertlieb shares the story of his life in “A Monster Kid Remembers” at The Thunderchild.

Cosmic dreams (and provocative nightmares) of tantalizing journeys through time and space … infinite, conceptual exploration of the stars … alien creatures … Hammer Films … Universal Pictures … “King Kong” … Harryhausen dinosaurs … and Famous “Monsters” of all shapes, sizes, and creeds, both conceived and lovingly chronicled in books, magazines, journals, tabloids, and on line for half a century, inspired this affectionate, deeply personal, if slightly Monstrous, remembrance of a life in “horror” by a gray haired, unabashedly child like, Monster “Kid.”

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

Pixel Scroll 4/7/18 The Secret Diary Of Pixel Scroll, Aged Four And Five Fifths

(1) HUMANITY. Marko Kloos describes his reaction to “The Münster incident”.

There was a vehicle-based attack in Germany today. It happened in the city of Münster, which is where I spent much of my childhood. I went to kindergarten and elementary school there, and my family still lives in the surrounding area, so they are in the city a lot.

You want to know a Xanax moment? Try texting your siblings after learning of a terror attack in the city where they go to school and do their weekend shopping trips. Today was a sunny day, the first really nice day of spring, and the sidewalk cafes were full. Some asshole with a box truck intentionally crashed it into one of those sidewalk cafes, killed two people, and injured thirty more (six of which are still in critical condition.)

To the dismay of some of the German right-wing party members, the attacker wasn’t a Muslim. He was a 27-year-old German with no police record, but he had a history of mental illness. So nobody gets to make much hay out of this incident–just a brain wired wrong. The perpetrator killed himself with a gun right after he had plowed into the crowd, so this was clearly a suicide that was supposed to make a statement.

…But I keep looking at that picture, taken a minute or so into the incident. The first police car has just arrived on the left edge of the picture, and one of the civilians is hurrying over to them to let them know the situation. But look at the people by the van. They don’t know the background of the attack or the motivation of the driver (other than the fact that it was clearly intentional.) They don’t know if the driver is armed, or if there are explosives in the van. But before the authorities even get there, they are busy helping the injured and each other.

(2) LGBTQ INITIATIVE. Inspired by John Picacio’s success with the Mexicanx Initiative, Chuck Serface has launched the “LGBTQ Initiative for Worldcon 76”.

Recently, John Picacio raised enough money to send 50 deserving Mexicanx professionals and fans to Worldcon 76 happening in San Jose, California from August 16-20, 2018. Let’s replicate that success by opening the door for interested members of the LGBTQ community.  Welcome to the LGBTQ Initiative for Worldcon 76!

You can participate in two ways.

As a Donor

Your donation will fund sponsored memberships for LGBTQ science-fiction and fantasy professionals and fans. We’ve begun accepting gifts already. So far we’ve gathered $1135, enough to fully fund seven memberships.  Help us keep that momentum rolling!  We’d like to help 50 individuals.

Click here to give: http://www.worldcon76.org/donations

As a Sponsored Membership Recipient

To apply for sponsored memberships, send an email to lgbtqworldcon@gmail.com telling me about yourself and why you want to attend Worldcon 76.

You must identify as LGBTQ.

You can be a professional writer, artist, or any kind of performer in the science-fiction and fantasy realm. Why do you want to attend Worldcon 76? Show me your enthusiasm!

You can be a fan. If so, why do you want to attend Worldcon 76? Let’s see that passion!

I, Chuck Serface, will review submissions and select recipients.  Please keep your statements under 500 words. I may ask follow-up questions, however.  If you’re a professional, links to examples of your work would be helpful.

We realize that marginalized groups have felt reticent about joining us, and understandably so. But we need more representation from the LGBTQ community in science fiction fandom! Bring it!

(3) THE TWILIGHT ZONE’S PAST GLEAMING. Galactic Journey’s Natalie Devitt covers “[April 7, 1963] The Twilight Zone, Season 4, Episodes 9-12”.

What is the price you would pay for one last chance at achieving a dream? That is the question that Douglas Winter, played by Robert Sterling, has to wrestle with in Printer’s Devil. Douglas is the editor of a failing newspaper called The Courier. Faced with the possibility of the paper, to which he has dedicated his life, folding, Douglas contemplates suicide. He drives himself out to a local bridge in the middle of the night, hoping to end it all there. At the bridge, he meets a mysterious stranger named Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith is played by Twilight Zone favorite Burgess Meredith. Mr. Smith offers Douglas everything he needs in order to keep The Courier in business. In no time, the paper is beating its competition to the latest scoop. In this surprisingly strong update of Faust, Douglas begins to question if his paper’s success is worth the price he will have to pay Mr. Smith, who is really the devil in disguise.

(4) RULES TO LIVE BY. Stephen L. Carter shares “My own 12 rules of life: Drawn from science fiction but a good fit for reality”.

Like so many other scribes, I have been inspired by psychologist Jordan Peterson’s fascinating book to sketch my 12 rules of life. But mine are different, because each is drawn from canonical science fiction. Why? Maybe because this is the literature on which I grew up, or maybe because I have never lost the taste for it. Or maybe because the sci-fi canon really does have a lot to teach about the well-lived life.

Here are a couple of examples:

  • “Repressive societies always seemed to understand the danger of ‘wrong’ ideas.” (Octavia Butler, “Kindred.”)

Butler, of course, means this the other way around: that a society’s taste for getting rid of “wrong” ideas is a mark of its repressive nature. The time-traveling narrator is explaining the need to get rid of an inflammatory book in the antebellum South — inflammatory in this case meaning that it might spark a slave uprising. Whether the “wrong” ideas that must not be expressed are ideas we love or ideas we hate, the same mischief is afoot. Better by far for us to trust each other to draw the right answers from the wrong books….

  • “The books are to remind us what asses and fools we are. They’re Caesar’s praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, ‘Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal.’?” (Ray Bradbury, “Fahrenheit 451.”)

As Bradbury notes, a crucial reason to read is that we can be surprised, upset, offended, turned in a different direction. Books at their best make us think. We don’t live in a thoughtful age, and for just that reason, reading books that challenge us has become more important than ever. When we read seriously and thoughtfully, we run the risk that we might change our minds. That’s good. One of the worst things in the world is conformity, which is another word for intellectual cowardice.

(5) EVANGELIZING READERS. Here’s video from this weekend’s Science Fiction Outreach Project at Silicon Valley Comic Con.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 6, 1933 King Kong premiered theatrically. (Trivial Trivia: Upon a re-release of the movie, in 1938, Ray Bradbury & Ray Harryhausen took double dates to see King Kong.)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY TWONKY

  • Born April 7, 1915 – Henry Kuttner

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy says, “I don’t believe Spielberg got his start like this Bloom County might imply.”
  • Mike also admits, “This Non Sequitur isn’t clearly genre, but given how much Cat Fancy has been going on at File 770, I thought you’d want to see it.”

(9) RADCH AND OTHERS. Glyn Morgan, in an essay for LA Review of Books, devotes a great deal of attention to the Imperial Radch trilogy before exploring the questions “Where Have We Come From? Where Are We Going?: Identity and Self in Ann Leckie’s ‘Provenance’”.

…In Provenance, too, Leckie diverts us toward quieter, more introspective fare, expanding the size and complexity of her universe while retaining the character-driven focus that has become her trademark. Indeed, much of the novel’s success or failure rests on how the reader warms to its protagonist, Ingray Aughskold. At the opening of the novel, Ingray hatches a plot to rescue convicted thief Pahlad Budrakin from the prison planet euphemistically known as “Compassionate Removal” in order to identify the location of the priceless Budrakin vestiges, historical artifacts prized by Ingray’s Hwaean people for their connection to the past. Recovering these vestiges, Ingray hopes, will give her the edge on her brother Danach in the siblings’ lifelong competition to succeed their adoptive mother, the aristocratic Netano, as heir.

The Budrakin vestiges are particularly valuable because they date back to the ancient arrival of the Budrakin ancestors on Hwae. Vestiges of lesser value include party invitations, event tickets, and myriad souvenirs and mementos whose values increase with connection to important figures. It quickly becomes apparent that the Hwaean people’s obsession with vestiges goes far beyond a reverence for momentous artifacts like the Magna Carta or The Declaration of Independence: instead, it resembles a mania for collectibles and memorabilia. This mindset knowingly evokes an environment familiar to science fiction fans and attendees at conventions, some of whom pay significant sums for autographs and photographs of even minor actors from their favorite shows….

(10) HE’S ON THE COVER. At Not A Blog, George R.R. Martin shared his latest triumph as a “Cover Boy” on the Chinese edition of Esquire.

(11) FEED YOUR HEADSET. The TechCrunch headline “MIT’s new headset reads the ‘words in your head” dramatizes things to the point of misrepresenting what this headset actually does. See if you can figure it out:

“The motivation for this was to build an IA device — an intelligence-augmentation device,” grad student Arnav Kapur said in a release tied to the news. “Our idea was: Could we have a computing platform that’s more internal, that melds human and machine in some ways and that feels like an internal extension of our own cognition?”

The school tested the device on 10 subjects, who essentially trained the product to read their own neurophysiology. Once calibrated, the research team says it was able to get around 92 percent accuracy for commands — which, honestly, doesn’t seem too far off from the accuracy of voice commands for the assistants I’ve used.

The MIT Media Lab says:

AlterEgo is a wearable system that allows a user to silently converse with a computing device without any voice or discernible movements — thereby enabling the user to communicate with devices, AI assistants, applications, or other people in a silent, concealed, and seamless manner. A human user could transmit queries, simply by vocalizing internally (subtle internal movements) and receive aural output through bone conduction without obstructing the user’s physical senses and without invading a user’s privacy. AlterEgo aims to combine humans and computers—such that computing, the internet, and AI would weave into human personality as a “second self” and augment human cognition and abilities.

 

(12) D&D&FUD. C.J. Ciaramella admires “The Radical Freedom of Dungeons & Dragons”, a retrospective on Gary Gygax and D&D at Reason.com.

D&D is a deeply libertarian game—not in a crude political sense or because its currency system is based on precious metals, but in its expansive and generous belief in its players’ creative potential. It’s collaborative, not competitive. It offers a framework of rules, but no victory condition and no end. The world you play in, and how you shape it, are entirely up to you.

In the afterword to the original D&D manuals, Gygax encouraged players to resist contacting him for clarification on rules and lore: “Why have us do any more of your imagining for you?”

(13) BUT WAS IT WEARING A KILT? More on the Skye discovery: “Giant dinosaur tracks found in Scotland reveal the secrets of the Jurassic period”.

The discovery is being lauded for how much it can tell us about the Middle Jurassic Period, in particular, an important time in dinosaur evolution when meat-eating tyrannosaurs and the first birds came exist. The find was made at Brothers’ Point on the north-east coast of the Island of Skye. While it is now a collection of craggy ridges and stunning rocky beaches, the area used to be subtropical in the days of the dinosaurs, with lagoons and rivers.

(14) POKEMON INFILTRATED? The keen-eyed Hampus Eckerman asks –

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

Cats Sleep on SFF: Rivers of London

Hampus Eckerman shares a wide-awake cat in front of a wide variety of paperbacks:

Here’s Vlad, not sleeping and about 10 seconds from wrecking havoc among the SF-books I’m trying to pack for my Australia trip. Among 5-6 ended up on the floor and the dreaded toothbrush nemesis was defeated once again.


Photos of your felines resting on genre works are welcome. Send to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com