Pixel Scroll 6/20/18 Poltergoose

(1) SPFBO LONGLIST. Mark Lawrence rounded up 300 entries for the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off in a very short time, and now has assigned 30 titles to each of his 10 participating review bloggers. See the longlist at “SPFBO 2018, Phase 1”.

(2) AMAZING STORIES REJECTS. Steve Davidson has denied a news story reported by Jason Sanford and linked in yesterday’s Scroll: “Amazing Stories and Rejections”. Here are excerpts from his explanation.

….It is entirely untrue that we are not notifying authors of rejections.

However, we understand why there may be some confusion on this matter.

The vast majority of our rejections take the form of an automated “status update” email to the submitter.  A story goes from draft to being read, to being rejected or accepted.  Submitters are notified both in an email and on their submissions account of any status changes that affect their submissions.

…Some people had issues on initial sign up, and some people are (now) complaining of  not receiving rejection notices.  Both the initial sign up issue and no receipt of rejections are a result of the user’s email server.  We’ve checked, double-checked and re-checked;  all status notices, all sign-up verifications, are being properly generated by the system and are being sent out.  Non-receipt has, in every case, turned out to be the result of an email server rejection.  Permissions are too picky, the user has not white listed the email address, etc.

Unfortunately, other than informing you of this situation, there is nothing that we can do on our end to correct this.

Our system is WordPress based.  That software platform hosts more than a third of all internet sites (and a large number of genre-related sites);  our system is therefore no more and no less “complicated” than any other WordPress based site you may be familiar with….

(3) SANFORD ANSWERS. Jason Sanford responded in a Twitter thread that begins here and includes these comments:

(4) FANS RALLY ROUND. ComicsBeat is calling attention to a “Crowdfunding campaign set up after writer Leah Moore suffers a brain injury”.

Leah Moore and her partner John Reppion have written some top notch comics for DC, Dynamite and many other publishers.

But now they are facing a huge challenge.

Moore suffered severe head trauma and brain injury while attending a music festival.

Andrew O’Neill set up a JustGiving appeal for “Leah and John”.

Leah and John are comic book writers, who usually scrape by on caffeine and stress while creating wonderful art. Recently, they have been beset by brutal circumstances – John recently lost his sister Dawn and Leah has sustained a severe and degenerative brain injury at Download (metal!) and has had an operation to remove a blood clot.

Needless to say, their already fragile and insecure method of putting food on the table for themselves and their three kids (two feral) is going to be impossible while Leah recovers and John looks after her.

As an artistic community and bunch of pals, let’s raise some money to help them through, (and then we can use our generosity later on as leverage for favours and cake).

The goal was to raise 2,500 UKP – they’ve already raised 11,142 UKP.

(5) MISSING THE MIND MELD. I’ve fallen behind in linking to one of my favorite features on the sff web: this installment of Mind Meld appeared in March — “Mind Meld: Books That Expand the Definition of Genre”, curated by Shana DuBois at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog. The participants are Tristan Palmgren, Jeannette Ng, Patrice Sarath, Rebecca Kuang, Aliya Whiteley, Gareth L. Powell, Jasmine Gower.

The evolution of storytelling has followed us through the ages from fairy and folk tales to the vast variety of mediums now available to us.

As storytelling expands in unusual and innovative ways to keep pace with global conversations, what are some books you’re most excited about?

(6) HOLD ROBOTIC CONVERSATIONS ABOUT WESTWORLD. Adweek tells readers “You Can Now Explore the Depths of Westworld by Talking to Alexa”, “But only ‘true fans’ will make it all the way through.”

You can now explore the depths of Westworld from your living room, kitchen, bathroom, wherever—as long as you have your Amazon Echo nearby and within earshot. All you have to say is, “Alexa, open Westworld.”

Today, HBO announced the debut of its new Alexa skill, called Westworld: The Maze. It’s designed specifically for fans of the show to play on their various Amazon voice devices, just in time for the show’s upcoming Season 2 finale this Sunday. HBO partnered with agency 360i and Westworld production team Kilter Films on the project.

The Maze is a choose-your-own-adventure game with over 60 storylines, 400 possible choices for players to make and roughly two hours of game time in which Westworld fans can immerse themselves. Fans will recognize the voices of characters from the show, including Jeffrey Wright as Bernard and Angela Sarafyan as Clementine, as they dive into this mystical world.

 

(7) FRANKENBOOK. Arizona State University’s  Joey Eschrich, Editor and Program Manager, Center for Science and the Imagination, and Assistant Director, Future Tense, sends word about a new project involving the Center, The MIT Press, and MIT Media Lab that marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein.

Frankenbook is a collective reading experience of the original 1818 text of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein. The project is hosted by Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, The MIT Press, and MIT Media Lab. It features annotations from over 80 experts in disciplines ranging from philosophy and literature to astrobiology and neuroscience; essays by scientists, ethicists, and science fiction authors Cory Doctorow and Elizabeth Bear; audio journalism; and original animations and interactives.

Readers can contribute their own text and rich-media annotations to the book and customize their reading experience by turning on and off a variety of themes that filter annotations by topic; themes range from literary history and political theory to health, technology, and equity and inclusion. Frankenbook is free to use, open to everyone, and built using the open-source PubPub platform for collaborative community publishing.

The project has already garnered attention from Boing Boing and Brain Pickings, and they’d love to have more participation in the project from the SF community.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 20, 1975 – Steven Spielberg’s Jaws premieres.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Kendall sends along a two-parter from Library Comic about Mount TBR – #412
    and #413.
  • Lise Andreasen found that Deflocked is not the comic you’re looking for. (And yet I’m linking to it anyway….)

(10) WAS THE EMPIRE DESTINED TO FAIL? In her Vox post “Solo reveals the weakness of the Star Wars Galactic Empire”, Amy Erica Smith lays out a detailed argument why Solo: A Star Wars Story shows up the Galactic Empire as a fatally weak state. WARNING: The whole story is basically one big spoiler.

Pop quiz: What’s missing in Solo?

Okay, there’s a long list: the opening crawl. R2-D2.

More importantly: the Emperor. Darth Vader. And 90 percent of the Stormtrooper presence of other movies.

That last item is the most telling indicator of the Galactic Empire’s glaring open secret — its extreme weakness. From a political science perspective, the movie Solo fills in a lot of holes in how we understand the Galactic Empire — the approximately 22-year regime between the dictator Sheev Palpatine’s consolidation of power as Emperor at the end of Episode III and his death at the hands of his second-in-command at the end of Episode VI.

What we learn from Solo is that the Galactic Empire is a very, very weak state. It’s so weak that it’s not much of a state at all. Don’t believe the Empire’s propagandists.

The detailed analysis —and a bunch of spoilers — follows from there.

(11) JOHN SCALZI ENDORSES FREEDOM. Well, of course. But it’s also the brand name of a technology Scalzi finds helpful for keeping him from frittering away his writing time.

…I end up checking news and social media sites more often than is useful, when what I really need to be doing is working on a book.

…It got to a point in the last couple of months that I had to accept the problem was me, and that I wasn’t going to go away anytime soon, so I had to take other steps. So I looked into “distraction free” software, i.e., those programs that block your access to Web sites and apps for a period of time so you have no choice but actually do the work you’re supposed to do. After comparison shopping, I went ahead and picked Freedom. Freedom works on a subscription model and can block sites and apps on your desktop and phone; it has pre-selected block lists you can choose from (including for news, social media, shopping and adult sites among others), and you can also create your own lists. Once you do that, you can set a time for how long you want to have the blocking run, up to 24 hours. You can also schedule blocks, to have them show up at the same time every day and etc.

…And it worked well — I’d check out Twitter almost by muscle memory and get confronted by a green screen that said things like “You are free from this site” and “Do things that matter,” which seemed a little snarky and pushy, but on the other hand, I was in fact trying to do something that mattered (finish my book), so. …It did what it was supposed to do, which was keep me on track and writing on the book.

(12) SFF FROM MADRID. Rachel Cordasco recommends a “New Collection by Cristina Jurado” at Speculative Fiction in Translation.

Nevsky Books will publish a new collection of stories by Spanish SF author and editor Cristina Jurado in July entitled Alphaland.

“From upgraded humans to individuals living among daydreams, from monsters to fantastic beings, these creatures populate a highly imaginative and evocative world, impregnated by an inspired sense of wonder. Draw near with care and enter Alphaland!”

Cristina Jurado (Madrid, 1972) is a bilingual writer and the editor of SuperSonic Magazine, a Spanish and English venue which has re-energized the Spanish speculative fiction scene….

(13) LONDON CALLING, MILWAUKEE ANSWERING. “Orange Mike” Lowrey is back on the BBC – this time on the BBC World Service programme Trending (June 17): “The Mysterious Wikipedia Editor”.

Who is “Philip Cross”? That’s the name on an account that has made more than 130,000 Wikipedia edits since 2004. But it’s not so much the volume of his work but his subject matter that has irritated anti-war politicians and journalists around the world. His detractors claim that he’s biased against them and that his influence has made some entries unreliable. It’s a charge that’s rejected by the foundation behind Wikipedia, but the person behind Philip Cross remains elusive. So what happened when we tried to track him down?

(14) OPEN THE POP3 PORTS PLEASE, HAL. This Gizmodo headline starts with the bad news and follows with the good news: “This Light-Up HAL 9000 USB Flash Drive Can’t Sing, But Probably Won’t Kill You Either”.

Master Replicas, makers of some of the finest lightsaber replicas in any galaxy, sadly closed its doors back in 2008. Last year, however, part of its original team opened Master Replicas Group, a new company that’s relaunching with a series of 2001: A Space Odyssey collectibles to start, including a flash drive based on one of Hollywood’s most terrifying villains.

You don’t have to be worried about this miniature HAL 9000 replica refusing to open an air lock for you, or listening in on private conversations by covertly reading your lips. This one-sixth scale replica of HAL 9000 has no smarts and no ill intentions, but it does recreate the computer’s glowing red eye whenever it’s plugged into your computer.

The Master Replicas Group product page shows a limited edition 32 gigabyte USB flash drive modeled on the “eye” from 2001’s HAL 9000 at $64.95, and a 16 gigabyte  version available for $24.95 where the product page makes no mention of this version being a limited edition.

(15) SPACE IN THE SIXTIES. The Russians and Americans are pushing the envelope at Galactic Journey: “[June 20, 1963] Crossing stars (the flights of Vostoks 5 and 6)”.

Gordo Cooper’s 22-orbit flight in Faith 7 afforded America a rare monopoly on space news during the month of May.  Now, a new Soviet spectacular has put the West in the shade and ushered in a new era of spaceflight.

(16) PICK UP THIS MESS. From now on, no more Pigs in Space, so to speak: “Astronauts eject UK-led space junk demo mission”.

A UK-led project to showcase methods to tackle space junk has just been pushed out of the International Space Station.

The RemoveDebris satellite was ejected a short while ago with the help of a robotic arm.

The 100kg craft, built in Guildford, has a net and a harpoon.

These are just two of the multiple ideas currently being considered to snare rogue hardware, some 7,500 tonnes of which is now said to be circling the planet.

This material – old rocket parts and broken fragments of spacecraft – poses a collision hazard to operational satellites that deliver important services, such as telecommunications.

(17) PREVIEW. BBC reports that “Stranger Things comic will explore the Upside Down”.

The first series, due for release in September, will focus on Will Byers and his time in an alternate dimension.

The character spends nearly all the first season in a mysterious place which his friends name the Upside Down – but his experience is barely seen.

 

(18) HULK DEPARTURE. Nick Schager, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story Hulk At 15:  How Ang Lee’s Distinctive Blockbuster Paved the Way for the Modern Marvel Cinematic Universe,” says that “Hulk taught Marvel to temper their movies’ thematic ambitions” by making all the MCU movies part of a large tapestry rather than highly individual films like Lee’s.

…In most respects, Marvel, beginning with 2008’s Iron Man, shunned the risks taken by Hulk, and thus Lee’s film now functions as ground zero for the creative decisions that have guided the past decade of MCU endeavors. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Lee’s storytelling approach, which seeks to duplicate the look and feel of a comic-book page. That’s felt in the fonts used for his opening credit sequence, and in his use of square and rectangular split-screens and transitions, all of which aim to duplicate the structure of a comic’s paneled layout. Segueing from shot to shot, and scene to scene, with digitized wipes and rotations, and employing extreme close-ups, iris devices, and other superimposed imagery — most thrillingly, a late freeze-frame of Josh Lucas’s villain in front of a massive explosion — Lee diligently echoes, at every turn, the very medium that first gave birth to heroes like the Hulk.

That method was never to be seen again in the MCU, which has consequently adhered to a far more conventional cinematographic schema that allows its various franchises to feel as if they’re complementary parts of a larger tapestry. Simply put — a movie universe doesn’t work if any individual entry is too eccentric to match its brethren….

(19) COMING SHORT FICTION. Mythic Delirium has acquired two new collections, Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss and The History of Soul 2065 by Barbara Krasnoff.  Mike Allen says both are scheduled for release in 2019.

Theodora Goss

In Snow White Learns Witchcraft, World Fantasy Award winner Theodora Goss retells and and recasts fairy tales by Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimms, Hans Christian Andersen, and Oscar Wilde. In these stories and poems, sometimes harrowing, sometimes hilarious, always lyrical, Goss re-centers and empowers the women at the hearts of these timeless narratives, much as her acclaimed novel series, The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, does for the classics of Victorian supernatural literature.

With cover art by Ruth Sanderson and an introduction by Jane Yolen, Snow White Learns Witchcraft is currently scheduled for a February 2019 launch.

Barbara Krasnoff

In The History of Soul 2065, Nebula Award finalist Barbara Krasnoff has accomplished a stunning feat. This collection of interconnected short stories crosses many genres, spinning tales of sorcery, ghosts, time travel, virtual reality, alien contact, and epic, elemental confrontations between good and evil. The book also spans past and future generations, telling the heart-breaking and heart-warming histories of two Jewish immigrant families, one from Eastern Europe, one from Western Europe, whose lives are intricately, mysteriously intertwined.

The History of Soul 2065, with cover art commissioned from Paula Arwen Owen, is scheduled for a July 2019 release.

(20) STUCK TO THE SHELVES. Toys’R Us is trying to empty out its stores with a massive going out of business sale. WorldClassBullshitters found some things just aren’t going — “The Star Wars Toy Landfill Has Been Found!”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/30/18 Pixels, Scrolls…I’m The Guy With The Book

(1) TAKEDOWN. The New York Post tells how “Accountant embezzled $3.4M from famed literary agency”.

A Manhattan accountant cooked the books at a prestigious literary agency that represents top writers, including “Fight Club” author Chuck Palahniuk, bilking its clients of millions and leaving the company on the brink of bankruptcy, according to legal papers.

Darin Webb, 47, faces 20 years in jail on wire-fraud charges for embezzling $3.4 million from storied Manhattan agency Donadio & Olson, according to a recently unsealed federal criminal complaint.

Although the agency, which also represents the estates of “Godfather” writer Mario Puzo and radio legend Studs Terkel, was not named in court papers, a lawyer representing the firm confirmed to The Post that Donadio & Olson was the subject of the alleged theft.

…The stolen money — allegedly lifted between January 2011 and March of this year — was earmarked for author royalties and advances, the complaint says.

But the theft could be exponentially more, a source told The Post, noting that a forensic accountant is combing through Donadio & Olson’s books all the way back to 2001, Webb’s first year at the agency.

He allegedly fessed up to the theft in March in a videotaped interview with company executives and their attorneys at the agency’s Chelsea office, saying he filed monthly financial reports that “contained false and fraudulent representations in order to accomplish the theft and evade detection,” the complaint states.

Webb was arrested May 15 by the FBI and is out on $200,000 bail.

The Guardian reports on a celebrity victim: “Chuck Palahniuk ‘close to broke’ as agent’s accountant faces fraud charges”.

Palahniuk – one of many starry authors represented by the firm, including the estates of Mario Puzo and Studs Terkel – said his income had dwindled for several years. He had blamed multiple factors, including piracy and problems at his publisher, for the decline in earnings.

More recently, Palahniuk said, “the trickle of my income stopped” and payments for titles including Fight Club 2 “never seemed to arrive”. He wondered if the money had been stolen, but told himself he “had to be crazy” – until the news broke.

“All the royalties and advance monies and film-option payments that had accumulated in my author’s account in New York, or had been delayed somewhere in the banking pipeline, [were] gone. Poof. I can’t even guess how much income. Someone confessed on video he’d been stealing. I wasn’t crazy,” wrote Palahniuk in a statement on his website.

The novelist said that “this chain of events leaves me close to broke”, but that he had found himself to be “rich … with friends and readers who’ve rushed to my rescue”.

“On the minus side, the legal process will be long and offers an iffy reward. On the plus side, I’m not crazy. Nor am I alone,” added the author.

(2) WISCON. Sophygurl, a Tumblr blogger, was present at a controversial WisCon panel and has written an account of what she heard: “WisCon 42 panel The Desire for Killable Bodies in SFF”. The post begins –

This is going to serve as my panel write-up for this panel, but it also a copy of what I wrote as a report to the Safety team about the panel. I am posting this on DreamWidth and Tumblr and will be linking to Twitter and Facebook. Please feel free to link elsewhere. This should all be public knowledge, imo.

For anyone who doesn’t know – this panel included a panelist who ended up talking about the importance of sympathizing with Nazis. This is obviously not the kind of thing you expect to find at an intersectional feminist convention. It was upsetting and disturbing. Most of the panel was actually very interesting and even funny, and I appreciated what the other two panelists had to say. I even appreciated *some* of what the panelist in question had to say. All of this was overshadowed by the awful things she said, however.

(3) BRANDON SANDERSON WARNS FANX. Utah author Brandon Sanderson has raised his voice against “Harassment at FanX”. (For background, see “FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention Sharply Criticized for Handling of Anti-harassment Complaint”.)

I don’t normally discuss charged issues on my social media, but I do find harassment at science fiction conventions a topic that is very important to discuss. It is also very relevant to my fans, as conventions are often how they interact with me.

Recently, Salt Lake City’s biggest media convention (FanX, formerly called Salt Lake Comic Con) has made some troubling missteps. First, it grossly mishandled harassment claims—then it doubled down on its mistakes, bungling interactions with voices that have called for reform.

Some authors I respect deeply have composed an open letter to FanX, calling for them to do better—and I have co-signed it. Many of these authors have spoken better about this specific issue than I can, and I encourage you all to read what they have said. I believe that conventions like these (alongside the smaller literary conventions that were so instrumental in my road to publication) are important parts of our community—and it is essential that they provide a place where victims are not silenced and harassment is not tolerated.

For now, I am still scheduled to appear at FanX this fall. My team and I have been evaluating whether or not this is a position we can still take—and it will greatly depend on how FanX responds to this letter in the next few weeks. I will keep you informed of our decision—and if I do decide to bow out of FanX, I will try to schedule some replacement signings instead.

(4) OPEN LETTER. The “Open Letter to FanX” that Sanderson refers to calls on the convention to do the following thigs:

One: In a public statement, and without disclosing her name, apologize to the victim who filed the sexual harassment report for disclosing their private report to the media without their knowledge or consent. Admit that the victim’s trust was violated, and promise future attendees who may report incidents that they will never undergo the same scrutiny or mishandling. Assure everyone that all reports will be heard, evaluated, and confidential. Keep the victims’ names confidential at all times.

Two: Hire a professional with experience writing, implementing, and upholding sexual harassment policies. Clarify the consequences for breaking the policy and reiterate that those consequences will be upheld. Removal and banishment from the conference should be among those ramifications.

Three: Address harassment complaints quickly. The past complaint was filed in October, and the complaint was not investigated until January. This shows a lack of concern and a reluctance to address the situation, as well as disregard for the seriousness of the issue.

Four: Recognize that trust is earned not through words, policies, and statements, but by a proven track record of implementation and action over time.

It’s signed by Robison Wells, Shannon Hale, Bree Despain, Emily R. King, Ally Condie, and Dean Hale, and co-signed by Brandon Sanderson, Maureen Johnson, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, Annette Lyon, Mette Harrison, J. R. Johansson, Jessica Day George, Courtney Alameda, Lindsey Leavitt, and Sarah M. Eden.

(5) BOMB DISPOSAL. The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik, in “How Disney could get Star Wars back on track”, says the relative failure of Solo at the box office shows that Disney will have to take steps to make Star Wars films more appealing, including spacing them out more, making them edgier, and not releasing Star Wars films in May or June.

Fewer movies. Five months is not a long time for Star Wars to be away. Certainly it’s not the year that stretched between the previous three movies, or the 10 years between the last of the George Lucas movies and “The Force Awakens” in 2015. With Marvel that seems to help — releases in quick succession enhance one another. But with Star Wars, seen less as the rapid-fire sequel, novelty and absence may be the key to the game. Disney could do better by going back to the 12-month spacing — or even longer.

Why it’s tricky: This sounds good to fans. The problem is it doesn’t sound good to Wall Street or Disney financial executives. Star Wars movies are such juggernauts that Disney wants to cash in whenever it can. Waiting that long doesn’t help in that bid. Disney and Lucasfilm are encountering a major paradox here. Modern Hollywood says when you have successes you should replicate them early and often. But making Star Wars movies early and often may make them less successful.

(6) SOLO ACT. Guess who’s writing the tie-in? “’Solo: A Star Wars Story’ Novelization Coming In September 4th, Written By Mur Lafferty”.

The Solo novelization is continuing the trend that The Last Jedi novelization started of being released several months after the film.  Previously the novelizations have been released closer to the films theatrical releases.  The original and prequel novelizations were released before the films, while The Force Awakens and Rogue One adaptations were released as e-books the same day as the film and as hardcovers shortly thereafter.

(7) SFWA STUFF. Security protocols may have been breached….

(8) BIG BOX STORE. Adweek reports “Amazon Is Driving Around a Jurassic-Sized Box, and You Can Ask Alexa What’s Inside”. (Registration required to read full article.)

The last time we noticed Amazon driving around a giant box, the mysterious delivery turned out to be a Nissan Versa. But this time, perhaps it’s something a bit more … carnivorous?

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock thinks those penguin prognosticators might be right about what’s coming: Arctic Circle Cartoons.
  • Not sure whether I should thank Chip for also making sure I didn’t miss a horrible pop-culture pun at Bliss.

(10) THE DIRECTOR VANISHES. Comics shop owner Cliff Biggers showed this photo to his Facebook friends.

UPS employees like Alfred Hitchcock so much that they opened our package, tore open the action figure packaging, stole the figure, and then re-taped the box and sent it to us.

(11) LISTEN UP. The Parsec Awards Steering Committee is accepting nominations for the 2018 Parsec Awards through June 15 – submit nominations here.

Any material released between May 1, 2017 and April 30, 2018 is eligible for the 2018 awards. Material released needs to be free for download and released via a mechanism that allows for subscriptions. Thus, YouTube, Facebook, etc.. series are eligible.

If you are a podcaster or author, please feel free to nominate your own podcast or story. It is one way we know that your contact information filled is correct.

(12) KEEPING SCORE AT HOME. Seanan McGuire, in the area for ConCarolinas this weekend, took time to rate Ursula Vernon’s cats. Start the thread here —

(13) THE LAW & ANN LECKIE. A little known fact (in some quarters).

(14) SPEAKING OF WHOM. Joe Sherry launches his Nerds of a Feather post series with “Reading the Hugos: Novel”:

Provenance: This is a novel which took a while to settle out from under the weight of unfair expectations that I placed on it. Once it did, I was able to engage more fully with Leckie’s story of truth, lies, and cultural identity. Provenance is a strong novel in its own right, and in the end, I appreciated Leckie’s light touch in how she connected it to the larger Ancillary universe.

It’s just that when we look back on Leckie’s career in twenty years, I suspect Provenance will be viewed as minor Leckie. It’s good, please don’t take this the wrong way, but the Ancillary trilogy was a major accomplishment and Provenance is “just” a very good book. I appreciated how Provenance pushed me to think about historical documents and relics, how their perception of importance could override the truth they should represent. There’s great stuff to chew on here

(15) SOLO REVIEW. And Nerds of a Feather contributor Dean E. S. Richard sounds relieved as much as anything in “Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

The good news: it doesn’t suck! I mean, there’s some forgettable stuff, and Han Solo isn’t, like, Han Solo, but if you’re willing to watch it for the sake of itself and not expect Harrison Ford, it’s fine. It tries a little too hard for quips, and his against-odds/I-don’t-actually-have-a-plan moments come across a little forced, but, again, we’re measuring this against complete disaster, so I’ll take it.

(16) SIPS OF CEASELESS. Charles Payseur comments in “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #252”

Competition can bring out the worst in people, but as this issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies proves, it can also bring out the best. Both stories this issue are about races, and magical ones at that, featuring women who find themselves squaring off against their lovers (former or current) for the chance to win a great prize. In both stories, though, the actual prize might not matter as much as the competition itself, as the thrill of the race. Because when these characters are faced with what they’d do if they won, the results are…interesting. It’s a wonderfully fun pair of stories, expertly paired, and I’ll stop yammering on in introduction and just get to the reviews!

(17) THE ORIGINS DEBACLE GOES ANOTHER ROUND. According to Larry Correia, who was dropped as a GoH of Origins Game Fair two weeks ago, “Origins sent out yet ANOTHER message about me, and my response” [Internet Archive link].

At Monster Hunter Nation he cites this as the text of Origins’ Executive Director John Ward’s message to educate vendors about the social media uproar following the “disinvitation.”

Good afternoon Exhibitors,

We are a few weeks away from Origins and the anticipation is building!

Things are looking great for this year’s show. The Exhibit Hall is officially sold out and badges are currently trending 15% above pre-registration numbers from 2017.

We have taken a brief hiatus from social media but are fully prepared to continue promoting the show and its exhibitors starting this week. Before we begin communicating through social, there are a few things we wanted to bring to your attention.

Some individuals have rallied online with plans to harass companies exhibiting at the show—this is in response to the disinviting of Larry Correia as a guest at Origins.

To provide you with some background: our original decision to invite Larry as a guest at Origins was simple—he’s a successful author, has been a guest at other conventions in previous years, and any one that knows him knows that he is big into gaming.

Unfortunately, we were not aware of Mr. Correia’s online presence and following. Upon further research we found an abundance of confrontational discourse and polarizing behavior online.

We have nothing against Larry as a person or as a professional, but we have seen the drama that follows him, and we do not want that at Origins.

As an exhibitor at Origins, we wanted you to be aware of the general MO of the group we are explaining:

Company pages are inundated with comments and negative rankings
Employers and publishers are contacted
Messages with keywords regarding to the show are targeted

Time has passed, and things have calmed down, but we should all still be aware of these potential behaviors. If you receive any threats or libel regarding you or your company, please send them to John Ward.

Thank you for your support. Good luck with the final preparations for the show!

Correia explains that he actually believes vendors should be left alone. Except for the ones that deserve what’s happening to them, that is.

My only comments during this entire debacle concerning the vendors was that they should be left alone. The vendors are just small businessmen trying to have a good sales weekend, and they have nothing to do with the incompetence of John Ward.  I’ve specifically gone out of my way to say that to my fans on multiple occasions.

The only vendors I’ve seen animosity directed at were the ones who specifically went out of their way to virtue signal on Twitter about how booting me for having the wrong opinions was So Brave. And that’s a short and very specific list who did that usual social media thing where they decided to throw punches, and then cry about getting punched back afterwards.

But hey, toss that out there. The important thing is that everyone knows Origins is the real victim here.

(18) GAME LOSES STEAM. Who thought this was a good idea? “School shooting game Active Shooter pulled by Steam”.

A game pitched as a “school shooting simulation” has been ditched from Steam’s online store ahead of release.

The title had been criticised by parents of real-life school shooting victims, and an online petition opposing its launch had attracted more than 180,000 signatures.

Steam’s owner, Valve, said it had dropped the game because its developer had a history of bad behaviour.

But the individual named has denied involvement.

Active Shooter came to prominence after the BBC revealed that an anti-gun violence charity had described it as “appalling” last week.

CNN subsequently reported that the families of two students killed in February’s high school attack in Parkland, Florida had described the game as being “despicable” and “horrific”.

(19) LE GUIN FILM. I’ve linked to the trailer before, but here’s a new Bustle post about the project: “This Ursula K. Le Guin Documentary Reveals How Much The Author Struggled To Write Women In Sci-Fi”.

Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, a new documentary by Arwen Curry about the life and legacy of the late author, explores Le Guin’s long career as a pioneer in speculative fiction, including the role of feminism in her work and the struggles she faced teaching herself how to write women into her novels. In the film, which Curry worked on with the author for 10 years, Le Guin admits that “from my own cultural upbringing, I couldn’t go down deep and come up with a woman wizard.” According to the author, she had been “a woman pretending to think like a man,” a behavior she had to unlearn before she could create some of her best work.

As Le Guin tells Curry in the film:

“I had to rethink my entire approach to writing fiction … it was important to think about privilege and power and domination, in terms of gender, which was something science fiction and fantasy had not done. All I changed is the point of view. All of a sudden we are seeing Earthsea … from the point of view of the powerless.”

 

(20) BIG HERO 6 THE SERIES. Coming to a Disney Channel near you. (Which means not very close to me, but maybe to you.)

Hiro, Baymax and the Big Hero 6 team are back and ready to save San Fransokyo! Big Hero 6 The Series premieres Saturday, June 9 at 9A on Disney Channel. The adventure continues for 14-year-old tech genius Hiro and his compassionate, cutting-edge robot Baymax. If dealing with the academic pressure of being the new kid at the prestigious San Fransokyo Institute of Technology weren’t enough, it’s off campus where things really get tricky. Hiro and Baymax, along with their friends Wasabi, Honey Lemon, Go Go and Fred, unite to form the legendary superhero team Big Hero 6, protecting their city from a colorful array of scientifically-enhanced villains intent on creating chaos and mayhem!

 

(21) EXPANSE. Already linked in comments, but let the Scroll Record reflect: “It’s official: Amazon has saved The Expanse”. The Verge story says —

It’s official: The Expanse has been saved. After the Syfy Channel canceled The Expanse earlier this month, Alcon Entertainment has confirmed that Amazon will pick up the show for a fourth season, after after outcry from the show’s fans.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/28/18 Chapter 5 – Our Last, Best Hope For Pixels

(1) MORE ABOUT WISCON’S KILLABLE BODIES PANEL. One of the program participants, Nicasio Reed, put up “a quick mid-WisCon post”. This excerpt is about half of it.

So this morning I was on a 10AM panel at WisCon 42, and it was called The Desire for Killable Bodies in SFF. I’d been very much looking forward to the discussion, even though we’d had little pre-panel discussion about it. It’s a topic that deeply interests me, and that I strive to think deeply about while consuming and creating narratives and characters. The panel was staffed by myself, one other panelist, and a moderator. I was familiar with Molly Aplet, our moderator, who very appropriately made the call to act also a third panelist, because there were just the three of us. Lisa Freitag, my fellow panelist, I knew from one email before the start of the convention, and from a brief conversation in the Dealer’s Room on the Saturday before the panel, when we chatted about texts to bring up. My biggest fear before the panel started was not getting to bring up all the things I wanted to talk about, or not having intelligent responses to the inevitably brilliant audience questions.

Turns out I should be more creative with my fears! As was reported live via Twitter, and then on the WisCon blog, Lisa repeatedly made statements that expressed a desire to sympathize with both individual Nazis (in this context we would be talking about, I believe, Third Reich-era Nazis), and later also individual Confederate soldiers. That this happened once was confusing, surprising, and alarming. That this happened multiple times as the panel went on was flabbergasting, frightening, and finally just damaging.

A lot of people have checked in on me since the panel, making sure I was doing okay, and I appreciate all of you so much. However, I was absolutely not the most affected by what she said, and what she brought into that room. Most saliently, I’m not Jewish. I want to apologize to everyone who was there who was justly rattled, afraid, saddened, or made to feel unsafe. While I gathered myself enough to push back ideologically while on the panel, I didn’t take the step of directly turning to Lisa and saying, in however many words, “That was a fucked up thing to say, and it’s not okay.” The person who did eventually do that was an audience member, who I won’t name here without their permission. (Panelist and moderator names are, of course, public knowledge.) The onus for directly confronting those statements should absolutely not have fallen on the audience, particularly on those most directly and historically affected by the views expressed. That was my failure, and I am extremely sorry for it. So, again, to everyone in the audience who helped to push back, I’m sorry, and thank you….

The blogger Coffeeandink attended the panel and wrote a post detailing some of the discussion.

I don’t feel comfortable naming the panelist, though I wouldn’t say it was wrong to do so, either, and I do link to a post that names them. For this post, though, I’m just going to call them X.

I’m willing to answer questions about what happened. I am not willing to discuss the punishment or the con’s reaction with people who are not targeted by Nazis. If you are not Jewish, Roma, queer, disabled, or nonwhite/a person of color, please have that discussion elsewhere.

  • The discussion was focused on Nazis in Third Reich.
  • X did not express support for Nazi or Confederate ideology. What they did, repeatedly, was express sympathy for Nazi individuals and stress the need to “humanize” Nazis. They mentioned Confederates in support of this, appearing to think that saying that every soldier on both sides was “some mother’s son” was a convincing argument for extending compassion to Nazis. They argued that some Nazis were “good people”.
  • According to Wiscon’s post, X “appeared to posit that disabled or injured people sometimes ‘have to be sacrificed'”, but I was pretty distracted at the point when that came up and can’t confirm it.
  • The panel description focused on SFF “killable bodies” that are stand-ins for marginalized people, so I was not expecting the subject of Nazis as killable bodies rather than as killers to come up. It’s not innately problematic for a panel discussion to have a larger scope than its description, but I think a lot of people had this expectation and that it made the approach X took especially unexpected.
  • Multiple audience members, multiple times, objected to what X was saying. At the end of the panel, one audience member said bluntly, “There’s a difference between understanding Nazis and sympathizing with them.”
  • I remember the audience as being the ones who pushed back most assertively, but the moderator and panelist Nicasio Reed also argued with X after the audience broke the ice. I do not blame anyone for being too startled to respond firmly while in the room. I myself did not speak up.
  • It’s important to recognize and acknowledge the humanity of people who do terrible things. However, when doing so, it is a moral imperative to center the victims of those terrible things. X centered the emotions and conflicts of the perpetrators–directly in the face of survivors or people who would have been targeted, who repeatedly pointed out that this is what X was doing. I do not believe X did spoke out of malice, but this is a topic that requires great care. If X has considered the topic with that care, it was not apparent during the panel….

(2) THE LAST OF LE GUIN. David Naimon on working with a legend at Literary Hub: “Ursula K. Le Guin, Editing to the End”.

Ursula’s final words to me, her final edits on the manuscript of our collected conversations, were in pencil. We had talked in one of these conversations about technology, about how, in her mind, she was unfairly labeled a Luddite. That some of the most perfect tools—a pestle, a kitchen knife—were in fact perfected technologies. I had just received the manuscript from her days before, and the pencil on it reminded me of the aura of in-the-world magic this whole endeavor, bringing a book into the world together, had assumed.

The manuscript had traveled in the world as an object, one carried by foot and passed hand to hand. Our publisher, Tin House, located literally in a house of tin on the corner of a leafy boulevard in Northwest Portland, was just down the hill from Ursula’s home. And by a remarkable twist of fate, as if sharing the same street were not enough, Ursula’s own granddaughter worked as an intern there. It was often her or the book’s editor Tony who would walk up the hill to deliver the pages, or walk up the hill to walk them back down again. …

She could have published most if not all of her books at one of the big five publishers in New York. She could’ve economized and maximized her time by only granting interviews to the likes of Terry Gross, Bill Moyers, and Charlie Rose. And yet she continued to choose small presses, and often ones distant from the hierarchy of the publishing powers in NYC, whether an anarchist press from San Francisco or a feminist science fiction press from Seattle. Similarly, she never said no to her hometown community radio, KBOO, a station that is not Portland’s NPR affiliate, but whose mission statement is to give voice to the voiceless, with shows like Rose City Native Radio, Transpositive PDX, and Black Book Talk. By conventional metrics, KBOO is a small station, both in reach and listenership, and yet you wouldn’t get that impression when Ursula speaks of it…

(3) CALLING ALL HOLLYWOOD ACCOUNTANTS. We Got This Covered puts its flopologist to work: “Disney Responds To Solo: A Star Wars Story Flopping At The Box Office”.

Although the full four-day estimate won’t be released until later today, it’s probably safe to say that the Anthology pic won’t be gunning for the Memorial Day holiday weekend record anymore. As you’ve surely heard, the Ron Howard-directed space western hauled in $83.3 million in its opening weekend and will finish off Monday with about $110 million, nowhere even remotely near the current record holder, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End ($140M).

In a year that’s seen three releases enter the domestic top thirty for all-time opening weekends, Deadpool 2 ($125M), Black Panther ($202M) and Avengers: Infinity War ($257M), the box office failure of Solo: A Stars Wars Story is only amplified that much more.

(4) DANCING IN AND AROUND THE MAY POOL: At Featured Futures, Jason has compiled another month of choice reading to dip into with “Summation: May 2018”.

This month’s baker’s dozen of noted stories (four recommended) comes from the pool of ninety (of 440 Kwds) published between April 30 and May 28. The print zines were individually strongest with Analog and F&SF each contributing multiple tales but the web combined to contribute seven.

While not applicable to the monthly recommendations, I did review a collection this month which had eight reprints (three recommended) that I especially liked.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY REDWOMBAT

  • Born May 28, 1977 – Ursula Vernon

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY SPOOK

  • Born May 28, 1908 – Ian Fleming. Happy Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) WORD TO THE WIS(E)CON. I wish I could transplant this axiom to the comment section here. Beware the free-floating harshers of squee.

(9) HARDLY A MARVEL. Nicholas Whyte chimes in with his preferences for “The 2018 Hugo finalists for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form”. Landing well below No Award is —

7) Thor: Ragnarok

This is the fourth Marvel Universe film I have seen, but only the third in chronological order – the others were the first Iron Man, which didn’t impress me much, and nor did Captain America: The First Avenger, which I also ranked below No Award. On the other hand there is also Black Panther, made after Thor: Ragnarok but which I saw earlier this year, and loved. I’m afraid Thor: Ragnarok is back to the usual form for me. Not being terribly invested in the characters of the Marvel Universe, let alone the Thor storyline, I could see that the whole thing was trying to be funny but it wasn’t really my fandom. At least Jeff Goldblum was treating it with the approriate level of seriousness. I am sure it will do better than seventh place in the overall vote.

(10) DINING (WAY) OUT. NPR reports “Great White Sharks Have A Secret ‘Cafe,’ And They Led Scientists Right To It”.

“We expected it to be the desert that the textbooks sort of advertised it would be,” said Bruce Robison, a senior scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

But this was no desert.

A layer of nutrient-rich plant life exists deeper under the ocean than satellites could detect. Tiny creatures feed on it, and larger creatures feed on them. And up and up. It represents “a complete food chain, a ladder of consumption, that made us believe that there was an adequate food supply out here for big animals like tunas and the sharks,” Robison said.

(11) LET’S ALL TWEET LIKE THE ROBOTS DO. Too sensitive: “Bulgarians tweeting in Cyrillic confused for Russian bots”. Twitter has several criteria, ANY of which can cause a tweet or account to be suppressed; using Cyrillic is one of them, despite it being used in 11 countries beside Russia.

Speaking at a United States Senate Committee inquiry into extremist content and Russian disinformation online, Twitter’s acting general counsel Sean Edgett shed some light on why this might be happening.

He said in October 2017 that Twitter’s tools “do not attempt to differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ automation,” when looking for Russian-linked accounts.

“They rely on objective, measurable signals, such as the timing of tweets and engagements to classify a given action as automated.”

What can qualify as a Russian-linked Twitter account?

  • Created in Russia
  • Registered with a Russian phone carrier or email address
  • User’s display name contains Cyrillic characters
  • Tweets are frequently in the Russian language
  • Logged in to Twitter via a Russian IP address even once

“We considered an account to be Russian-linked if it had even one of the relevant criteria,” said Mr Edgett.

(12) DINO DANDER. Might be evidence of the first step towards birds: “Dinosaur dandruff reveals first evidence of skin shedding”

An analysis of fossilised dandruff fragments has given scientists their first evidence of how dinosaurs and early birds shed their skin.

Found among the plumage of these ancient creatures, the 125-million-year-old flakes are almost identical to those found in modern birds.

It shows that these dinosaurs shed their skins in small pieces, and not all at once like many modern reptiles.

It’s more evidence that early birds had limited flying skills, the authors say.

(13) FUN FOR ALL. Here’s video of the Anime North 2018 religious protesters. (There’s several posts about them in Reddit’s Anime North thread.)

These guys show up every year. The congoers also do this every year [play songs on a loudspeaker].

 

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

Pixel Scroll 5/25/18 The Prospect Of Incontinent Hobgoblins

(1) FANX FLOUNDERS ON. How long will FanX’s Bryan Brandenburg’s “indefinite leave” be?

FanX’s other leader, Dan Farr, now has added his own statement and apology.

I, Dan Farr, apologize fully for any instances in which a participant has felt unsafe. We do not condone these behaviors, from anyone.

It is not our role or responsibility to judge any individual nor to disparage or use inflammatory language about any participant in our conference. It is our role to do all within our power to keep our participants safe. Our conversation with the author resulted in a mutual agreement that he will not be participating in our future events. With this agreement, we consider the matter resolved.

Additionally, my partner and cofounder, Bryan Brandenburg has made a personal and heartfelt apology for his remarks on social media that were insensitive about our attendees’ sexual harassment concerns.

However, continued postings in social media and the press have shown energy and anger to a level that Bryan has decided that his continued participation, for now, is a distraction from the goals we are striving to uphold.

Beginning immediately, Bryan Brandenburg is taking an executive leave that he hopes and believes will help to dispel the negative energy that is taking us away from our greater mission and goals. While he has not suggested a timeframe, this leave may not be permanent. We hope to see Bryan at our September event with his wife and new son.

As for Brandenburg stepping back from social media – well, he’s stepped back from where the public can see it, but he’s still busy posting – see the screencaps in this set of tweets.

Yesterday’s latest Salt Lake Tribune coverage quoted from one of the screencaps that showed Brandenburg justifying how FanX dealt with the Richard Evans harassment complaint:

The comments were later deleted, but not before screengrabs circulated on Twitter.

“We absolutely could not publicly ban [Evans],” Brandenburg wrote. “We had no proof. We would be sued for libel and defamation from Richard. Then it would get out that you would be banned and humiliated from FanX for kissing a guest on the cheek and touching her. We would be out of business. Nobody would care to read the details. We did not see it happen. It would be her word against his.”

Hale has questioned whether organizers attempted to talk to people who may have witnessed the interaction, and whether Brandenburg’s statement means that allegations won’t be looked into if they weren’t witnessed by FanX employees.

FanX’s new harassment policy promises that every report of harassment will be investigated.

Howard Tayler’s Twitter thread deconstructs the Brandenburg rationale, quoted in the Tribune. The thread starts here:

And includes these comments:

(2) OH, THE NONHUMANITY! Here’s an admirable idea for a listicle: “The 12 Most Gratuitous Robot Deaths in Sci-Fi” at Tor.com.

Sometimes it feels like robots only exist to be abused, you know? We love them and the window they provide on the human condition, but science fiction is usually pretty mean to them overall. It loves to torment robots (and when we say “robots” we’re really talking about any form of android or A.I. or sentient toaster or what-have-you) with the constant threat of obsolescence or deactivation or destruction. And some of these deaths are just plain gratuitous, leaving us betrayed, bewildered, and otherwise bereaved.

Here are the worst of them….

(3) MORE POOH. Here’s is Disney’s Christopher Robin Official Trailer. In theaters August 3.

In the heartwarming live action adventure Disney’s “Christopher Robin,” the young boy who shared countless adventures with his band of lovable stuffed animals in the Hundred Acre Wood is now grown up and living in London but he has lost his way. Now it is up to his childhood friends to venture into our world and help Christopher Robin rediscover the joys of family life, the value of friendship and to appreciate the simple pleasures in life once again.

 

(4) NEWSLETTER SIGNUP INCENTIVE. Get to know seven authors and fill a shelf with science fiction and fantasy — The SFF Grand Newsletter Giveaway is a chance to win a dozen signed books. The seven writers in this international group range from debut to established, and from near-future thrillers to high fantasy — Aliette de Bodard, SL Huang, Beth Cato, Kate Heartfield, Jim C. Hines, Kate Elliott, and JY Yang.

Between May 25 and June 25, readers can enter the giveaway once for each author, for up to seven entries. For each author, entrants will have the choice of subscribing to that author’s newsletter to enter (signing up for the newsletter is not required to be entered in the giveaway). Existing subscribers to an author’s newsletter can simply choose the giveaway-only option to receive an entry for that author.

The contest is open worldwide. One winner (chosen at random) will receive signed, physical copies of all the books:

  • The first three Tensorate novellas by JY Yang
  • The complete Court of Fives trilogy by Kate Elliott if the winner has a U.S. address, or a choice of one of the following by Kate Elliott if the winner has a non-U.S. address: Court of Fives, Cold Magic, Black Wolves, or Spirit Gate
  • Terminal Alliance by Jim C. Hines
  • Breath of Earth by Beth Cato
  • Zero Sum Game by SL Huang and The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist (novelette) by SL Huang
  • The Tea Master and the Detective and The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
  • Armed in Her Fashion and Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield

Everyone who uses this page to sign up for ANY of our newsletters before June 25 will be entered into the giveaway! You can enter once for each author, for up to 7 entries. From among ALL entries we’ll draw ONE lucky winner — who will receive SIGNED BOOKS from every one of us! A chance to win a dozen or more signed books — a whole shelf of new SFF!

(5) WRITER V. CHARACTER. Ian Sales, in “His master’s voice”, defends his criticism of a Clarke Award finalist.

So, a couple of days ago I tweeted a short quote from the book I was reading, one of this year’s Clarke Award finalists, and remarked that I was surprised to find the position expressed in the quote in a genre novel published in 2017. Most people who saw my tweet were as dismayed as I was – although, to be fair, they saw only my quote.

Which changes things. Apparently.

The book in question is Sea of Rust by C Robert Cargill, and the exact quote was “Gender is defined by genitalia”, which is spoken by the book’s narrator, Brittle, a robot, in a paragraph in which “she” admits that robots have no gender, it is not something “she” has ever thought about, but she henceforth chooses to define herself as female.

Two people I consider friends – very smart people both, and genre critics whose opinions I respect* – decided to insult my intelligence by questioning by understanding of how narrative works. Because the offending phrase – and it is offensive – was spoken by a character, they stated, that does not mean it reflects the author’s sensibilities. As another friend pointed out, I have myself written fiction featuring Nazis – and I have: ‘Wunderwaffe’ – but that obviously does not make me a Nazi. This is indeed true. Cargill has written a novel about robots, in which the first person narrator is a robot… but obviously he is not a robot himself. I never claimed this.

But the people arguing against my comment were themselves making the same assumption about me they were accusing myself of making against Cargill. Except, I think my position is backed up by the narrative.

…So yes, I do understand how narrative works. I also understand how writing works. And while I may not be as accomplished at writing as others… and I may place a higher value on narrative rigour than most people… I stand my original position:

Unless the narrative evidences a foundation for a sensibility or attitude, then it’s reasonable to assume it is a sensibility or attitude of the author that has leaked through into the narrative.

(6) MARY SHELLEY BIOPIC. NPR’s Mark Jenkins says “‘Mary Shelley’ Is Less Than The Sum Of Its Parts”

Given the familiarity of the material, the makers of Mary Shelley would have been smart to find a new approach. Philosophically, they sort of do, giving Mary more credit than usual for both her work and her choices.

Stylistically, though, the movie is all too typical of the 19th-century British literary/romantic drama. It presents London circa 1815 as misery for the poor, the young, the female, and the liberal-minded — and yet picturesque enough for a tourist brochure, suffused with dappled sun-, lamp- and candlelight and swathed in yearning music.

(7) BAIN OBIT. Meredith marks the passing of “John Bain, also known as TotalBiscuit, the Cynical Brit, who died yesterday after being diagnosed with inoperable cancer in 2015. He was a popular gaming YouTuber and started out by covering the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion before moving on to wider coverage, including a lot of indie games. He championed games on the PC and was always honest about his opinions of games, beginning in a time when that was far less common.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 25, 1953 It Came From Outer Space appeared in theaters, a movie based on a story by Ray Bradbury.
  • May 25, 1977Star Wars premiered.
  • May 25, 1983Return of the Jedi opened in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MUPPETEER

  • Born May 25, 1944 – Frank Oz

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cat Eldridge says “I’ve had dozens of emails telling me about the organization and how it’s complying with GDPR.” And now Xkcd is getting in on the act.

(11) NATAL DAY. Steven H Silver celebrates: “Birthday Reviews: Vera Nazarian’s ‘Salmon in the Drain Pipe’” at Black Gate.

Nazarian was nominated for a WSFA Small Press Award for her short story “Port Custodial Blues” in 2007. The following year she received a nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “The Story of Love.” She also received a Nebula nomination in 2009 for her novella The Duke in His Castle. In addition to writing, Nazarian has worked as the editor and publisher of Norilana Books since the company’s founding in 2006.

(12) KNOWS ALL, HEARS ALL, TELLS ALL. The Guardian asks “Alexa, when did the Church of England become so tech-savvy?”

The Amazon assistant can now help you with your Anglican needs. Just don’t expect answers to the really big questions…

Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer was well ahead of its time when in 1549 it addressed “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be opened, all desires known, and no secrets hid” – but it would take nearly five centuries for the church to turn this vision into technology. For now there is a Church of England “skill” – a set of canned responses – on , Amazon’s virtual assistant which can give its answer to 30 religious questions. It doesn’t answer the interesting ones though. “Alexa, ask the Church of England how can I be saved?” produces a silence easily interpreted as baffled, and I don’t think this is because the Church of England long ago decided that I couldn’t be….

(13) SFF IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Here’s another list to pick apart, BBC Culture’s “The 100 stories that shaped the world”. Homer’s Odyssey is number 1.

Chip Hitchcock celebrates that “SFF cracked the top 5,” and he tentatively identifies the stories with these rankings as SFF: 3, 4, 15, 16, 44, 67?, 71, 72, 73? 83?

(14) THEY WERE THERE. “How ancient DNA is transforming our view of the past” the “pots not people” (cultural exchange) view is giving way to knowledge that there were huge population shifts, e.g. Stonehenge builders disappearing under flood of Beaker People.

…Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, studies of ancient DNA from our own species were highly contentious because of observations that skeletal remains were easily contaminated by the DNA of living people.

As such, there were always nagging doubts about whether a genetic sequence belonged to the long-dead individual being studied or to an archaeologist involved in excavating the remains, a museum curator who had handled them, or a visitor to the lab where they were being analysed.

However, crucial progress in overcoming these obstacles began in the late 90s with the effort to sequence DNA from Neanderthals, which was led by Professor Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

Pääbo’s group developed a set of protocols to prevent contamination slipping through, including having the same samples sequenced in two laboratories by different teams….

But the field experienced a revolution with the emergence of so-called next-generation sequencing technology. When an organism dies, the DNA in its cells begins to break down – over time it splits into smaller and smaller chunks, as well as accumulating other forms of damage.

It also gets contaminated with vast amounts of microbial DNA from the wider environment. The new sequencing machines could be used to isolate the human genetic material from bacterial DNA and then stitch together the tiny fragments into a readable sequence….

(15) ROADBLOCK. Traffic came to a standstill when….

(16) SFWA GAME CHAT. The inaugural episode of SFWA Game Chat aired this week on YouTube, hosted by Cat Rambo with Monica Valentinelli.

Did you know that SFWA now admits science fiction and fantasy game writers? Cat Rambo introduces a new show that discusses sci-fi/fantasy game writing!

 

(17) GAMING PIONEER. The Great Big Story has released a piece on the woman behind the design of the early 80’s text-based computer/adventure game, The Hobbit. Veronika Megler fell out of contact with the company that developed the game and went for many years without knowing how successful it was and how many lives it touched: “The Hunt for ‘The Hobbit’s’ Missing Hero”.

The six and a half minute video is great and the story of how (now) Dr. Megler has seized upon the lasting power of the game to help address gender balance in computer science is affecting.

 

(18) NOT AGENT 86. Missed out on this shoephone revival:

T-Mobile’s Sidekick gets a remake! Inspired by the past but stepping boldly into the future, it has revolutionary AI, headphones that double as chargers, personalized GPS guidance by John Legere, and more!

 

(19) SECOND OPINION. NPR’s Justin Chang calls Solo “A High-Speed, Low-Energy Intergalactic Heist”:

It was a good sign when Alden Ehrenreich, the terrific young actor from “Tetro” and “Hail, Caesar!” was cast as Han and also when Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the merry comic daredevils behind “The Lego Movie” and “21 Jump Street,” were hired to direct. But then Lord and Miller were fired last year due to apparently irreconcilable creative differences. And you could sense the iron will of Lucasfilm asserting itself. God forbid anyone should try to inject a little wit or personality into this surefire cash cow.

The directors were replaced by the much more risk-averse Ron Howard. And as a consequence, what might have once been a fresh and funny tour de force has devolved into bland, impersonal hackwork.

(20) CANTINA CHOW. Extra Crispy’s Tim Nelson was not impressed with the Solo/Denny’s promotional campaign, launched in April, that included trading cards and (not so) special menu items.

In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Obi Wan Kenobi warns Luke Skywalker that “you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy” than Mos Eiseley, home to the cantina where viewers first meet smuggler and scoundrel Han Solo. It’s also a fitting way to describe any Denny’s located within stumbling distance of a bar after 11 p.m.

…With proceeds from trading card purchases going to help fund nonprofit organization No Kid Hungry, the whole thing seems inoffensive enough. But if some leaked information posted on a Star Wars forum is true, some of the Solo-themed menu items seem a bit silly.

There’s the “lightspeed slam,” a healthy dish that looks more like something from a depressed nutritionist’s Instagram than a meal fit for the Star Wars universe. While Denny’s earns some points for the inclusion of “Crystal Crunch Rocks” in a milkshake and a stack of pancakes, that looks to be the closest the menu gets to anything outside the universe of the diner chain’s typical fare.

As with past Star Wars-food tie-ins, one has to wonder what purpose putting ghost pepper sauce on a bacon cheeseburger and passing it off as something Han Solo might eat ultimately serves. Why not at least serve pancakes shaped like Chewbacca’s face?

(21) NO RECIPE FOR SUCCESS? Mad Genius Club’s Peter Grant made the point that “Writing books is not like frying shrimp”, inspired by the hilarious commercial linked below.

Trouble is, some new entrants into the book-writing and -publishing business think that their ambitions can be realized in a very similar fashion.  Just set up everything, add pre-set ingredients according to some arcane recipe, strike a spark, and voila!  It’s done!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Meredith, Chip Hitchcock, SL Huang, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, JJ, IanP, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Elisa.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions — #30


Solo: A Star Wars Story/A Film Review

By Chris M. Barkley:

Solo; A Star Wars Story, (***) with Alden Ehrenreich, Donald Glover, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Walter-Bridge, Joonas Soutamo and Paul Bettany. Screenplay by Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan, based on characters created by George Lucas, Directed by Ron Howard.

Sooner or later, it happens. A film franchise overstays its welcome and the whole enterprise implodes on its own bloated budget, poor storytelling, lackluster acting performances, studio hubris and finally, the indifference of the audience.

But, fortunately for legions of Star Wars fans everywhere, Solo, the second film in a series of standalone films, dodges this bullet.

An orphan, young Han (Alden Ehrenreich), manages to barely escape poverty and is forced into thievery on his home world, Corellia, only to find himself fighting as an infantryman for the Empire on the dangerous backwater worlds on the Outer Rim. He sees a chance to desert when he encounters a group of smugglers disguised as soldiers headed up by Tobias (Woody Harrelson) and Val (Thandie Newton). Not wanting any new recruits, they arrange to have Han thrown in the brig, where he meets and wins over the trust of a fellow prisoner, a wookiee named Chewbacca. The duo’s escape impresses Tobias so much, he takes them on apprentices.

Complications arise when a heist goes wrong and the gang finds themselves in the debt of Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), leader of the Crimson Dawn Syndicate. His lieutenant, Qi’ra, is someone Han’s know well: she is the other person he was forced to leave behind when he fled Correlia. A new heist is set into motion but one of the requirements is a very fast ship to deliver the merchandise in an incredibly tight timeframe. So the gang seeks out a legendary “retired” smuggler named Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), the owner of a certain YT-1300 freighter named the Millennium Falcon…

A number of mainstream reviewers and critics are already bashing Solo because, in their estimation, it adds “nothing new” to the Star Wars canon. Well, to be perfectly honest, they don’t get it. Star Wars fans probably know most of Han Solo’s story before they see a frame of this movie. What they want is too actually fill in the blanks of his story; to see where he came from and what formed his character from an early age.

And for the most part, this movie delivers some slightly predictable, but pertinent answers. Sure, Han Solo has some rough edges but, as Jake and Lawrence Kasdan’s screenplay takes pains to point out, he’s smart, resourceful and cunning, and he’s still trying to figure things out, including who he is and exactly what he wants to do with his life.

Both Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover had the most unenviable tasks in Solo; trying to convince audiences that they can fill the shoes of Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams. And surprisingly, they did evoke enough of the ambiance, mannerisms and swagger needed to succeed on their own terms.  And after seeing his work here, I desperately want Donald Glover to headline his own Star Wars spinoff, with Han and Chewie as the supporting characters.

Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra radiates a smug confidence about herself and her abilities but at certain points, also show a vulnerable side that can barely hold back telling Han her true feelings and unbearable secrets. (And her true employer, who is revealed towards the end of the movie, is, trust me, a real SHOCKER!)

If Solo has a palatable weakness, it’s Woody Harrleson’s Tobias Beckett. He’s Solo’s Yoda, so to speak, giving sage advice and trying, against his better nature and interest, to mentor Han. But his narrative function in the story seems a bit too well telegraphed as the movie goes forward.  This, however, did not diminish my admiration of his acting; I just wish his character had been more hard-edged in marked contrast to Solo’s.

A particular delight was Phoebe Walter-Bridge voice performance as Lando’s navigator and companion, L3-37. A “liberated” droid who freely dispensed advice, insults and insights, she was easily my favorite new Star Wars character. And after three films, I think Joonas Soutamo owns the role of Chewbacca for the next generation or so.

If anyone was wondering if they could distinguish which parts were directed by the original directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (who were fired but accepted Executive Producer credits) and their replacement, Ron Howard, don’t bother because it doesn’t really matter. It’s all very well-directed with some gorgeous visuals and nifty callbacks (or, rather, call-forwards) to Han and Chewie’s other adventures.

Solo: A Star Wars Story may not be a top rank film like its predecessor, Rogue One, but it is a smart, fun little thrill ride that will tide fans over very nicely until Episode Nine opens in a year and a half.

Pixel Scroll 5/15/18 Pixel sCrola. It’s The Refreshing Cola With The Scrolling Taste You Love!

(1) ENCHANTED PORCH. Comics writer Gail Simone found something unexpected with the rest of the deliveries on her porch. Hilarious thread – starts here.

(2) HIDING INSIDE CHUCK TINGLE? The actor, appearing in disguise on a South Korean TV show, let people discover “Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds is a surprisingly great singer”.

Deadpool is a natural performer, the superhero that’s as good at wisecracking as he is at battling villains. So it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds can not only act, he can sing like a rock star.

While promoting Deadpool 2 in Asia, Reynolds entered a singing competition on Korean TV while dressed liked a unicorn.

 

(3) DOESN’T GET BETTER THAN THIS. Ansible Links pointed to the amazing cover design for Oregan Publishing’s Kindle edition of Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth, released May 7.

(4) UNSUBTLE. NPR’s Glen Weldon on new releases: “‘Solo’ Makes The Jump To Light-Speed … Eventually”.

…You get the picture: Should you harbor burning questions about infinitesimal details of Han Solo’s backstory that are entirely and hilariously immaterial to the Star Wars saga’s broader tale, or if you’re prepping for a Han Solo-themed pub quiz, know that fan service doesn’t get more serviceable than Solo: A Star Wars Story.

For everyone else: Donald Glover’s Lando is really, really smooth and funny!

Inasmuch as Solo is, expressly and unambiguously, an origin story, it contains numerous winks to the more well-versed members of the audience (as when a character demands of Han, “Do you know what it’s like to have a price on your head?” har har har). Actually, wink implies subtlety — which is not, for director Ron Howard and screenwriters Jonathan and Larry Kasdan, a going concern….

(5) IN HOT TRIVIAL PURSUIT. NPR’s Glen Weldon has also taken in the weekend’s other blockbuster release: “Grim ‘N’ Gritty Is Out, Glib ‘N’ Smarmy Is In: ‘Deadpool 2′”.

…There are, it is only fair to note, actual jokes in Deadpool 2 — sincere, crafted, legitimately funny gags that are clearly the product of human thought and loving effort. There’s … not a lot of those, but they’re there if you look, and should you happen across one, it will very likely delight you.

Because what’s taking up most of the room that would otherwise be occupied by jokes in Deadpool 2‘s screenplay are those many, many, many references.

It’s Family Guy: The Movie.

Or, technically I suppose, it’s Family Guy 2: Here Are Some More Mentions Of Other, Tangentially Related Things You Recognize And Like.

… And it’s gonna make a kabillion dollars….

(6) BBC DEADPOOL ROUNDUP. The BBC also finds a mixed bag: “Deadpool 2: What the critics thought”.

Many have welcomed the return of Reynolds’ wise-cracking vigilante and his X-Force team, but it wasn’t all five-star reviews.

Some felt that while the sequel stayed true to its predecessor’s style of quickfire edgy jokes and send-ups of the superhero genre, it was starting to feel a bit cynical….

(7) VORKOSIVERSE. The cover was just revealed at Lois McMaster Bujold’s Facebook page.

(8) EARTHSEA. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak, in his art-filled post “This illustrated collection of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea books finally does the series justice”, says The Books of Earthsea will be in stores October 23.

Saga Press’ editorial director Joe Monti tells The Verge that the project was something he wanted to do from “day one,” when he joined Simon & Schuster’s Saga Press in 2013. Last November the imprint released several collected editions of the late author’s work under his supervision. (Library of America likewise released an omnibus edition of some of her work with The Hainish Novels & Stories, Volume One and Volume 2 last year, as well.) While they had long wanted to tackle a comprehensive volume of Le Guin’s Earthsea stories, something in the vein of the many omnibus editions of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Monti says that “Ursula was reticent” to the idea, having “been burned over the last several of decades” by creative partners that never listened or accepted her creative vision.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 15, 1968 Witchfinder General with Vincent Price is released.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mark Hepworth spotted this horrific vision:

(11) CORREIA. Larry Correia expanded on yesterday’s Facebook statement in today’s blog post at Monster Hunter Nation: “Statement Concerning My Being Disinvited as the Guest of Honor for Origins Game Fair” [Internet Archive}. This included a fresh spin about Sad Puppies:

…Up next, there was much outrage about how I was a Sad Puppy. Correction, I was the original Sad Puppy, and I’m proud of that. Now, the way these people portray it, this was my evil scheme to rig the sainted Hugo awards, to get myself an award, and to also simultaneously keep women and minorities out of publishing.  Which is ironic, since by “rig” they meant I got more fans to participate in the voting, I turned down my nomination, and since the other people I got nominated included a bunch of women and minorities (as well as authors of various sexual orientations and belief systems) I must really suck at this bigotry thing. But keep in mind, the people slandering me over Sad Puppies are the same folks who the year before hailed 14 white liberals and 1 Asian liberal winning as a huge victory for diversity.

In reality, it was my attempt to demonstrate that the Hugo awards were not in fact an award to represent all of fandom, but were actually extremely politically biased, and dominated by a few small insular cliques. They went out of their way to prove I was right….

(12) INDUSTRY INSIDERS. Posted on Reddit, this is reportedly the text of a message sent by John Ward, Executive Director of Origins Game Fair, to the Game Manufacturers Association:

(13) A PIUS FINN. Declan Finn recommended some ideas for harassing Ward in “Correia was Ringoed”.

…Though to be honest, I was sort of surprised this even worked once, on Ringo. He’s a bestselling author. He doesn’t need the PR by going to cons. He goes to have fun and hang out. Larry too is also at the level where con appearances can only help the con, not himself.

But hey, it makes the SJWs feel good. It makes them think that they’re getting something done. I suppose that pointing out to people that this will only force Larry to have more free time is a waste of time.

Now, I’m not going to suggest sending an email to GoDaddy about how the originsgamefair.com site is being used by John Ward to defame Larry Correia.

….Though you can email at abuse@godaddy.com, and send something like, oh, I don’t know….

(14) CRITICAL CORRESPONDENCE. Jason Cordova’s post “Origins” quoted the entirety of his letter to John Ward, which says in part:

…Mr. Correia had always shown grace, been polite, and worked with the concom of every convention he has attended. Those who seek to discredit and destroy him are abusing the rules of your convention in a manner which they were not meant for and raising enough of an outcry that your convention, undoubtedly, feels compelled to respond to. Unfortunately, instead of speaking with Mr. Correia, it appears that you have reacted in a manner which can only be described as “knee-jerk”. You have allowed concern trolls to dictate your guest list while alienating you from a fan base which both pays to see their favorite author and supports other commercial endeavors at conventions as well.

Conventions such as Origins are supposed to be for all fans. However, with outward appearance of appeasement to the vocal minority who seek to undermine all of Mr. Correia’s hard work as well as alienate his fan base from any future conventions you might host, it behooves me to suggest that you are hurting nobody but yourselves with this move….

(15) VOICE OF VOX. Vox Day’s reaction “Larry Correia banned from Origins” [Internet Archive] largely consists of quotes:

This is almost unbelievable. SJWs are running completely amok.

[Screencap of John Ward’s FB announcement]

It just goes to show that they will come for you eventually, no matter how minor your offenses against the Narrative may be.

[Text of Larry Correia’s original response (without expanded text linked above)]

One gets the impression that Larry is simply too worn out with the Culture War to feel like fighting the SJWs anymore. And, let’s face it, like John Ringo, he is too independently successful for their antics to do him any real harm. For now, anyhow.

(16) INTERNET TOXICITY. James Patrick Kelly made these posts at the end of February. I spotted them while doing some Google searches today.

It was possible at the time to read this as a tongue-in-cheek PR stunt that failed, since despite Correia’s lobbying, Monster Hunter Legion did not make the Hugo ballot. However, the next year he returned with reinforcements, birthing the insurgency known as the Sad Puppies. (The self-deprecating name refers to this ASPCA commercial www.youtube.com/watch?v=IO9d2PpP7tQ. It’s meant to compare pulp writers who provide entertainment to the masses, but get no recognition, to abused pets.) Not only did Correia have a new novel to flog, but he also posted a slate www.monsterhunternation.com/2014/03/25/my-hugo-slate of twelve works of fiction and non-fiction that he urged his Puppy minions to nominate. As an act of provocation, he included a novelette by one Vox Day, a pseudonym for a notorious internet troll www.time.com/4457110/internet-trolls named Theodore Beale. As Correia blogged, “. . . one of my stated goals was to demonstrate that SJWs would have a massive freak out if somebody with the wrong politics got on. So on the slate it went. I nominated Vox Day because Satan didn’t have any eligible works that period.” What’s a SJW, you ask. Wikipedia explains http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_justice_warrior: “‘Social justice warrior” is a pejorative term for an individual promoting  socially progressive views, including feminism, civil rights, multiculturalism, and identity politics.”

A follow-up installment, “Troll Bridge”, takes a broad look at internet culture:

In 2018, the challenge of internet governance looms large. Last year the Pew Research Center www.pewinternet.org issued a report called The Future of Free Speech, Trolls, Anonymity and Fake News Online www.pewinternet.org/2017/03/29/the-future-of-free-speech-trolls-anonymity-and-fake-news-online. The researchers asked 1,537 technology experts, scholars, corporate practitioners, and government leaders, “In the next decade, will public discourse online become more or less shaped by bad actors, harassment, trolls, and an overall tone of griping, distrust, and disgust?” Forty-two percent of the respondents said they expected no major change for better or worse in our current troubling online culture, while 39 percent thought that the next decade would see even more negative activity. Just 19 percent were hopeful that online interactions would be “less shaped” by harassment, trolling, and distrust.

These experts were invited to expand on their replies by considering how social media might evolve. Are there technologies on the horizon that might discourage trolling and encourage inclusive behaviors? How might these solutions impact free speech?

Their extended responses are well worth a look, although they fill some eighty pages in the PDF version, and, alas, reach no consensus. They fall into four broad themes.

(17) HOW’S YOUR SPANISH? Morgan Blackhand’s Spanish-language blog post “Polémica en la Origins Game Fair” is highly critical of Correia and complimentary towards Origins Game Fair’s decision to revoke his GoH invite.

(18) HOW’S YOUR ENGLISH? Meanwhile, Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green defends and praises Larry Correia at length in “It is time to fight back”  [Internet Archive.]

…Now, how many problems can you see with this statement by John Ward? I see a number. First, it is all about him. He didn’t know. He wasn’t aware. He felt it necessary re “recend” Larry’s invitation. No mention that he discussed it with the rest of those folks involved with the running of the con. No mention that he did due diligence ahead of time to see who his guest of honor was or what he did. Note also there is no mention of the fact Larry is an avid gamer. Nope, Ward was told Larry was a bad man and knee-jerked his reaction. Now he is running and hiding and refusing to answer simple questions like “exactly how are Larry’s views specifically unaligned with the philosophy” of the con?

I find it amazing Ward could issue this statement within an hour or so of first announcing Larry would be GoH and then the revocation of his invite and yet he couldn’t be bothered to answer the many questions about why?

Oh, there’s more.

Even as the con removed the thread on their Facebook page about Larry, they left this thread up. [Now removed] For those not wanting to go there, here’s the image you need to be aware of.

Now, if you had seen this yesterday before Larry was uninvited, his name would have been included as one of the tagged authors. In fact, if you look at the book cover, you see him listed as the third author. So the con has no problem making money off of him. He’s just not good enough to attend their con. Needless to say, there are a number of folks asking how long before this image is changed as well, possibly with the con organizers blacking out Larry’s name or even asking for volunteers to help tear out the pages on which his story is printed. After all, we mustn’t risk letting his annoying and dangerous ideas out into the gaming public.

(19) MORE PRO-CORREIA RESPONSE. Victory Girls Blog begins “Origins Game Fair Caves to SJZ Brownshirts” like so:

The usual purple-haired, hairy armpitted, androgynous, “mayonnaise is a gender,” social justice landwhales swung into action, whining about how upset they were that Larry was invited as Guest of Honor. They maligned him as a racist (he’s actually a person of color), misogynist (despite the fact that Larry spent years teaching self defense to women), they claimed he was a terrible, awful person who made them feel unsafe (even though Larry has attended numerous conventions, and by every account was charming, bright, funny, friendly, and polite), and they demanded that Origins rescind the invitation, because SAD PUPPIES!

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

Pixel Scroll 5/11/18 The Seventh Sealion

(1) SHELDON AND AMY. Some say it’s a bigger wedding than the one coming up across the pond: Yahoo! Entertainment has video — “‘The Big Bang Theory’ wedding gives Mark Hamill the feels”.

Wil Wheaton was originally going to officiate the wedding. But after Howard called in a favor, Mark Hamill replaced him. It was the least Mark could do after Howard found his dog, Bark Hamill.

…Mark Hamill was so taken aback by the touching vows that he was almost too emotional to continue, but he did. Choking back tears, he said, “Then by the power vested in me by evenyoucanperformweddings.com, I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

(2) EXPANSE GETS AXED. Syfy has cancelled The Expanse, however, it may be picked up by another network: “‘The Expanse’ To End On Syfy With Season 3, Will Be Shopped Elsewhere By Alcon”.

The current third season of The Expanse will be the space drama’s last one on Syfy. The cable network has decided not to renew the show for a fourth season, with the last episode slated to air in early July. Alcon Television Group, which fully finances and produces the critically praised series, plans to shop it to other buyers.

The Expanse transported us across the solar system for three brilliant seasons of television,” said Chris McCumber, President, Entertainment Networks for NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment. “Everyone at Syfy is a massive fan of the series, and this was an incredibly difficult decision. We want to sincerely thank The Expanse’s amazing cast, crew and all the dedicated creatives who helped bring James S.A. Corey’s story to life. And to the series’ loyal fans, we thank you most of all.”

(3) DINO DAZE. Universal’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ‘A Look Inside’ Featurette” explains the new movie’s connection to the series.

It’s been four years since theme park and luxury resort Jurassic World was destroyed by dinosaurs out of containment. Isla Nublar now sits abandoned by humans while the surviving dinosaurs fend for themselves in the jungles. When the island’s dormant volcano begins roaring to life, Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) mount a campaign to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from this extinction-level event. Owen is driven to find Blue, his lead raptor who’s still missing in the wild, and Claire has grown a respect for these creatures she now makes her mission. Arriving on the unstable island as lava begins raining down, their expedition uncovers a conspiracy that could return our entire planet to a perilous order not seen since prehistoric times.

 

(4) THIS POISON COMES RECOMMENDED. NPR’s Glen Weldon says: “New ‘Rocky And Bullwinkle’ Is Something We Hope You’ll Really Like”.

Nostalgia is a paralytic toxin.

It’s killing us slowly, steadily: Every time an old, smarmy sitcom, or a pallid network drama, or a toy ad that masqueraded as a cringeworthy children’s cartoon gets dredged from the feculent muck of history’s lake bed and rebooted for a contemporary audience, our cultural blood pressure incrementally drops, our collective pulse grows that much threadier, our soft tissues go just a scosh more necrotic. That’s because these properties exude nostalgia’s deadly poison — they’re sticky with it — and there is no antidote….

Nostalgia is no longer a part of our culture. It has become our culture. And the toxin it carries has leached into the groundwater. It riddles the food chain. It’s airborne. We are lost.

Now: All of the above is true. (Resolutely so. Fundamentally so. Incontrovertibly so.)

And here is another thing that is equally true: This new Rocky and Bullwinkle is pretty good!

(5) SOLO EARLY REACTIONS. The BBC says “Solo: A Star Wars Story praised by first to see it”.

The first reactions to the new Star Wars film Solo have come out, after its premiere in the US.

And the verdict? While some said it was clunky in parts, most loved it – describing the movie as fun, epic and “a blast”.

There was particular praise for Fleabag star Phoebe Waller-Bridge, in her role as droid L3-37.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. The first time a hologram was filmed in a movie was in the 1976 theatrical release of Logan’s Run.  Because of this achievement it won a Special Achievement Academy Award Oscar.

Wikipedia:  “For the scene where Logan is interrogated by the Deep Sleep central computer, it was decided genuine holograms would be most convincing, with Saul David advocating a new hologram effect be created.”

 

For more history, see the American Cinematographer article “The Use of Holograms in ‘Logan’s Run’”.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lise Andreasen learned from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal that Smaug isn’t very smart.

(8) A HEAP OF WATER. Hilbert Schenck should have seen this, says Chip Hitchcock: “Massive wave is southern hemisphere record, scientists believe”.

Scientists in New Zealand have documented what they believe is the largest wave ever recorded in the southern hemisphere.

The 23.8m (78ft) wave was measured by a buoy on New Zealand’s Campbell Island in the Southern Ocean on Tuesday, the country’s weather authority said.

It eclipses a 22.03m wave that was identified south of the Australian state of Tasmania in 2012.

Larger waves have been recorded in the northern hemisphere.

The Meteorological Service of New Zealand (MetService) installed its solar-powered buoy in March. The area is known for big storm activity, but waves had been previously difficult to measure.

(9) PROGRESS REPORT. The Ray Bradbury Experience Museum in Waukegan has a website. They plan to open in 2020.

(10) JDA AND FOGCON. Jon Del Arroz’ version of his experience attending Bay Area convention FogCon (see March 13 Pixel Scroll (item #8)) did not suggest the impression he made would lead to this —

JDA responded in a new blog post [Internet Archive link] by reminding everyone he is already suing the Worldcon:

“It can’t happen to our team, we control the cons,” they might think. Or perhaps they may not think at all. But this is what happens when the path of silencing dissenting ideas is taken. In California, I’ll remind, that there are civil rights laws to address this kind of behavior by organizations. It’s called the Unruh Act, and FogCon, in their attempt to appease a few bullies trying to hate popular conservatives out of fandom, would be good to remember that not applying standards equally to all is very illegal in this state.

(11) GAS LIGHT. Science headline: “Trump White House quietly cancels NASA research verifying greenhouse gas cuts”.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. The adage is especially relevant for climate-warming greenhouse gases, which are crucial to manage—and challenging to measure. In recent years, though, satellite and aircraft instruments have begun monitoring carbon dioxide and methane remotely, and NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), a $10-million-a-year research line, has helped stitch together observations of sources and sinks into high-resolution models of the planet’s flows of carbon. Now, President Donald Trump’s administration has quietly killed the CMS, Science has learned.

…The agency declined to provide a reason for the cancellation beyond “budget constraints and higher priorities within the science budget.” But the CMS is an obvious target for the Trump administration because of its association with climate treaties and its work to help foreign nations understand their emissions, says Phil Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts. And, unlike the satellites that provide the data, the research line had no private contractor to lobby for it.

The cancelation saves only $10 million/year; which seems well below the rounding error; NASA’s budget is about $20 billion/year.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/3/18 In Space, No One Can Hear Your Shirt

(1) SAVING THROW. A replacement pop-up con for Universal Fan Con served vendors and a thousand fans in Baltimore: “How The Creators of Wicomicon Executed A Blerd Convention In A Week”Black Enterprise has the story.

Karama Horne was moved to tears when she entered the room at 1100 Wicomico St. in Baltimore on Saturday morning. She knew people were going to show up but just how many, she wasn’t sure. The week prior, one of the largest, blackest, most diverse fan-organized conventions, Universal FanCon, had indefinitely postponed its 24-hour event leaving fans stranded with hotel bills and plane fares they couldn’t get out of. Knowing the financial hole people were in, but also understanding the longstanding stigma and perhaps the consequences of the cancellation of the convention, prompted Horne and her friends to band together to create and hold WICOMICON on the same day Universal FanCon was supposed to be held.

(2) LET THE AI WIN. Dr. Janelle Shane has been at it again, this time with D&D character names  At lewisandquark: “D&D character names – generated by a neural network”. Some are pretty good. Not these —

Other names made perhaps less sense.

  • The Cart – Kenku Rogue
  • Nine Case – Dark Elf Fighter
  • Rump – Kenku Cleric
  • Gubble Daggers – Tabaxi Monk
  • Bog – halfling wizard
  • Jameless – Dwarf Champion Barbarian
  • Rune Diggler – Halfling Rogue
  • Borsh the Bardlock – Human Paladin
  • Spullbeard – Dwarf Fighter
  • Tovendirgle – Human Ranger
  • Pinderhand The Bugs – Gnome Wizard
  • Rune Wash – Human Wizard
  • Stumbleduckle – Human Paladin

(3) DEADPOOL AND DION. ScienceFiction.com says “Celine Dion And Deadpool Make Beautiful Music In ‘Deadpool 2’ Trailer”.

Deadpool 2’ has brought back the music video in its own weird way by having Celine Dion sing a song for the upcoming film. The music video gives us a glorious shot of Deadpool in heels dancing to the music.

 

(4) THE ROMANCE IS OVER. Digital Reader reports the pushback being given to Dragon Con about a guest: “DragonCon Invites the Infamous Lori James of All Romance eBooks as Author Guest”.

All Romance eBooks was at one time a leading romance ebook retailer, but by the time it shut down in late 2016 it was clouded in scandal…

ARe owner Lori James is being sued by a class of authors, so one would think she would maintain a low profile.

… According to the DragonCon website, Lori James has been invited to attend the con as an author guest. She will be coming under her pen name, Samantha Sommersby, but no matter what you call her this is still the same person who owes authors hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

DragonCon was first made aware of this situation 3 weeks ago by authors who belong to the (closed) FB group Pissed Off former ARe Authors

Dragon Con says they’re looking into it.

(5) PART ROLLER COASTER, PART VIDEO. A VR sci-fi theme park in China:

Looking for an out of this world experience during your next theme park adventure? Well, today we get our first look at China’s massive new Sci-Fi virtual reality theme park, the ‘Oriental Science Fiction Valley.’ This unique part is found in Guizhou, China, spanning over 330 acres while allowing visitors to immerse themselves in a futuristic world. The park features everything from VR attractions and much more, offering 35 rides in all for guests to enjoy.

The highlight of the park is the huge mecha at 174 feet tall that weighs 700 tons. CEO Chen Jianli said in a YouTube interview “There’s fierce competition in the theme park market right now.” He went on to add “We are trying to give customers a new experience by combining modern technologies such as VR and [augmented reality] with traditional recreational facilities.

 

(6) WELCOME TO CALIFORNIA. A “New Film Festival Planned In Beverly Hills” will feature the premiere of a new restoration of 1953 sci-fi classic War of the Worlds.The Hollywood Reporter says —

The City of Beverly Hills will be the home of a newly-created film festival aimed at bridging Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach.

While planning is still underway, the debut The Beverly Hills Infinity Film Festival is slated to take place Nov. 1-4 with The Paley Center for Media as its home base. Additional intended locations include the Writers Guild Theater and various private screening rooms at Beverly Hills-based talent agencies. Organizers also hope to attract Beverly Hills hotels for participation and various retail storefronts to host pop-ups for exhibitions and installations.

The first two days will feature screenings and programming for industry professionals. At press time, organizers confirmed that Paramount Pictures intends to premiere a new restoration of its 1953 classic War of the Worlds, which won an Academy Award for special effects, at the festival….

(7) TRIBUTE TO LE GUIN. Literary Arts announced tickets are now available for the Tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin on June 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, Oregon. Click here to reserve your free seat. Tickets are for General Admission (open seating). Reservations will be limited to 2 tickets per person.

This event will include tributes from fellow writers and close friends of Le Guin, including Margaret Atwood (by video), Molly Gloss, Walidah Imarisha, Jonathan Lethem, Kelly Link, China Miéville, and Daniel José Older. The tribute will also include rare documentary footage of Le Guin, along with photos and images from her life and work

(8) PROTTER OBIT. Literary agent Susan Protter (1939-2018) died on May 3. Andrew Porter recalls, she was the agent for many SF writers, including Rudy Rucker, Terry Bisson, David Nighbert, Michael D. Weaver, and David Hartwell. More info here.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy and John King Tarpinian saw how the world ends in Non Sequitur.

(10) PREDATORS ON DISPLAY. Visit “Fran Wilde’s Museum of Errant Critters” at Terrible Minds. Exhibit includes her cartoons of each specimen.

Welcome to The Museum of Errant Critters – Established somewhere between 1812 and 2018 to catalog and archive mind-creatures that often behave in creatively destructive ways.

Visit our exhibits to learn tips and tricks for Critter Management… (results not guaranteed). In particular, we’ve found that identification and discussion helps with management of many of these critters. At least, it helps with identifying the gnawing sounds in the dark of night….

Guilt Gorilla

The gravity well near most Guilt Gorillas is extensive and can drag down even a stalwart creative. Feeds on: pre-existing feelings of not doing enough, overwork, and lateness. Distraction devices include planning calendars, reminding yourself to stand up and stretch once in a while, and that yes even you should take a @!%$#@ vacation now and then.

(11) DESPERATELY SEEKING SNORTS. Yes, this is what we’re talking about:

(12) COLLECTIBLES. If only you’d ever owned one of these in the first place, right? Syfy Wire chronicles “Awesome Stuff We Want: The original Star Wars toy vouchers are insanely valuable now”.

There is no shortage of Star Wars toys and paraphernalia these days; the franchise is an industry unto itself, with branded merchandise that spans from action figures to toiletries, and just about anything else you can imagine. But back when the first movie premiered in 1977, Lucasfilm and Fox had no idea how big of a hit it would be and what kind of demand it would create for Star Wars toys. They had to scramble to catch up, and so they issued vouchers that fans could redeem for toys when they were ready.

Up for grabs on eBay is one of those Star Wars Early Bird Certificate packages, which has remarkably never been opened. It’s just an envelope from 1977 that promises a handful of the first Star Wars action figures to arrive in the middle of 1978 — and it is now way more valuable than any of those toys. All it will cost you is $12,950.

(13) OH, NUTS! The Popular Mechanics headline reads: “Screws and Washers Are Falling Off NASA’s Multi-Billion Dollar Space Telescope”.

On anything that moves, from vehicles to rolling office chairs, you need to be wary of bolts rattling loose over time. Thread-locking fluids and tapes are a great way to make sure your suspect bolts stay where they should, and nyloc nuts can also keep components snug and secure.

Northrop Grumman might need to look into something along these lines, because apparently “screws and washers” are falling off the spacecraft and sunshield it is building to carry NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Space News reports that NASA’s JWST program director, Greg Robinson, said that hardware was found underneath the spacecraft element of JWST (everything but the mirror and instruments) after it was moved from an acoustic testing chamber to a vibration testing chamber.

“Right now we believe that all of this hardware—we’re talking screws and washers here—come from the sunshield cover,” Robinson said today at the National Academies’ Space Studies Board in Washington D.C., according to Space News. “We’re looking at what this really means and what is the recovery plan.”

And the Space News story has more details: “JWST suffers new problem during spacecraft testing”

(14) 24 KLEENEX PER SECOND. MeTV asks you to “Pick: What’s your favorite cartoon tearjerker?”.

Who got you to turn on the waterworks: Dumbo or Mufasa?

Some cartoon movies are so good, you could cry. In fact, many of them set out to make you do just that. But which cartoon tearjerker inspired the most waterworks for you?

Log your vote below for your favorite cartoon tearjerker to make your choice between classics like Bambi and those emotional Pixar movies that dependably dampen faces today. See how many others wept along with you!

(15) SCARCE AS HEN’S TEETH. There was a time when they weren’t so rare — “How birds got their beaks – new fossil evidence”.

Scientists have pieced together the skull of a strange ancient bird, revealing a primitive beak lined with teeth.

The “transitional” bird sheds light on a pivotal point in the pathway from dinosaurs to modern birds.

Ichthyornis dispar lived in North America about 86 million years ago.

The seagull-sized bird had a beak and a brain much like modern birds, but the sharp teeth and powerful jaws of dinosaurs like Velociraptor.

“It shows us what the first bird beak looked like,” said Bhart-Anjan Bhullar of Yale University, a study researcher.

“It’s a real mosaic of features, a transitional form.”

(16) ASK THE MAN WHO OWNS ONE. More Solo: A Star Wars Story promo – “Tour The Millennium Falcon with Donald Glover”

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

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.]

Pixel Scroll 4/29/18 First Step On Our New Homeworld. That’s One Small Pixel For A Fan, One Giant Scroll For Fankind

(1) AVENGERS KEEP THE REGISTER RINGING. The Hollywood Reporter has the numbers: “Box Office: ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Passes ‘Star Wars: Force Awakens’ With Record $250M U.S. Bow”

Disney and Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War kicked off the summer box office in high style over the weekend, opening to a record-setting $250 million in North America and $380 million overseas for a global total of $630 million, the top worldwide debut of all time. The superhero mashup accomplished the feat without China, where it doesn’t unfurl until May 11.

(2) HAPPY CUSTOMER. Doc at Sci-Fi Storm praises the new MCU film: “Avengers: Infinity War breaks records, looks at $250M opening; Non-Review”.

There is very little I can say about the movie that isn’t a spoiler, so I’ll limit myself to what little there is that isn’t. This movie is practically non-stop, with powerful action sequences and emotional points throughout. There are so many characters we know I’m amazed they were given the amount of time that they could!

(3) END OF A LUCKY STREAK. Abigail Nussbaum tells Asking the Wrong Question readers why Avengers: Infinity War” doesn’t work for her.

…So even though I wouldn’t say that I walked into Avengers: Infinity War with high hopes, I had certain expectations from it.  I’m not a great fan of any of the MCU’s team-up movies–I think Avengers is more impressive for being attempted than for its limited success; I get more annoyed with Age of Ultron whenever I think about it; and though I praised Civil War when I first watched it, it has aged very poorly for me, and I now remember mainly its risible politics and the fact that it has made me dislike Steve Rogers.  But for all that, I still believed that the question aroused by the Infinity War concept–how can Marvel rope together dozens of characters from multiple storylines into a battle against a single universe-destroying villain, and make a successful and entertaining movie out of it?–would be answered with the same definitive success as previous ones.  I didn’t expect to love Infinity War, but I expected it to work.

Instead, it is barely even a movie.  The answer to “how can you give each of these lovingly crafted characters the space and attention they deserve” turns out to be “you can’t”….

(4) KERMODE ON AVENGERS. Mark Kermode’s review for the BBC is spoiler free. But IanP notes: “However as he is not a dyed in the wool comic fan he didn’t manage to fully engage emotionally with the film, while fully understanding while fans will. Overall I think he admired what they’d managed to do without it actually working for him.”

(5) ALONG FOR THE RIDE. A Blue Origin New Shepard space vehicle was launched Sunday on a suborbital hop carrying a dummy astronaut. His name?  Mannequin Skywalker. Cnet has the story: “Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin launch used rocket, and fleas, to space”.

After a number of delays Sunday morning, a Blue Origin New Shepard rocket blasted off from the west Texas desert just after noon Central Daylight Time, sending a crew capsule carrying a dummy named “Mannequin Skywalker” on a brief trip to space.

For the eighth time, Jeff Bezos’ commercial space company successfully tested the system it hopes to use to send paying passengers on suborbital flights in the coming months.

The spacecraft reached an altitude of 350,000 feet (106,680 meters), or about 5 percent higher than previous New Shepard test flights. That height sent the rocket beyond the internationally accepted boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space, called the Karman Line.

(6) SATURN TESTS. In 1963, Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus wonders why it’s taking so long to get to the moon. Who knew we’d be asking that question again in 2018. “[Apr. 29, 1963] When a malfunction isn’t (the flight of Saturn I #4 and other space tidbits)”.

Enter the two-stage Saturn I, whose first stage has eight engines, like the Nova, but they are much smaller.  Still, altogether, they produce 1.5 million pounds of thrust — that’s six times more than the Atlas that will put Gordo Cooper’s Mercury into orbit next month.  The Saturn I’s second stage will likely also be the third stage on the Saturn V.

The Saturn I has had the most successful testing program of any rocket that I know of.  It’s also one of the most maddeningly slow testing programs (I’m not really complaining — methodical is good, and it’s not as if Apollo’s ready to fly, anyway).

(7) NEW VORKOSIVERSE NOVELLA ON THE WAY. Lois McMaster Bujold read part of this story on her last tour says ULTRAGOTHA – “The Flowers of Vashnoi bloom in May”.

I am pleased and somewhat surprised to report that a new Vorkosiverse novella is upcoming, probably in late May.

Title is “The Flowers of Vashnoi”, cover label is going to be “an Ekaterin Vorkosigan novella”, and the length is about 22,400 words, roughly the same as “Winterfair Gifts”.

As usual, no pre-order will be set up; you can just buy it when it goes live, at our usual three online vendors Kindle, iTunes, and Nook. I will certainly post the news when that occurs.

Final revisions are almost complete – it’s down to the stage where I spend all morning adding two sentences and all afternoon taking them back out, which is generally a sign to stop. The other part to be nailed down is the e-cover, still in development, so no sneak peek yet.

Possibly my shortest novella, this one has, oddly, taken the longest of anything to complete. My computer files claim I started the first draft back in November, 2011. (I could not even remember.) It ran along well for a while, then hit a brick wall and died on impact, I thought. I believed it was buried forever, but apparently it was just cryofrozen, because it came back to life a couple of months ago when I was trying and failing to boot up a new adventure for Penric and Desdemona. When my backbrain hands me a gift like that, I’ve found it’s better not to refuse it.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MOGUL

  • Born April 29, 1923  — Irvin Kershner. The Force was with him.

(9) MYTHIC CHOW. Atlas Obscura’s Anne Ewbank ponders “Why Do Fantasy Novels Have So Much Food?”.

Food in fantasy dates back to early myths and legends, which are full of symbolic, often menacing fare. The Greek goddess Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds in the underworld, consigning her to spend six months of the year with Hades, the god of death. European tales and poems abound with mystical fairies or elves using food to lure humans. In the poem “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” written in 1819 by Romantic poet John Keats, a knight falls in love with a fairy girl, who feeds him “roots of relish sweet, And honey wild, and manna-dew.” But one day, the knight wakes up to find himself abandoned and half-mad for what he lost. In 1859, poet Christina Rossetti wrote “Goblin Market,” about eerie, otherworldly creatures that sell fruit that, once tasted, drive people crazy for more.

The trope of dangerous fairy food still exists in modern fantasy, says Dr. Robert Maslen. Maslen is a senior lecturer at the University of Glasgow, where he founded one of the world’s first master’s degrees in fantasy literature. He gives two modern examples: the film Pan’s Labyrinth and Ellen Kushner’s novel Thomas the Rhymer. When food comes with consequences, it’s a sign that “we’re in a world where the rules are very different.”

(10) TAFF REPORT. Now you can pick up Jim Mowatt’s 2013 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund trip report – Where I Lay My Hat. Let Jim tell you about it —

After years of desperate procrastination the Taff report of my 2013 Taff trip to North America is now complete. It tells the tale of my visits to Toronto, Abingdon, Seattle, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Antonio (Worldcon) and New Orleans. It features art from (in order of appearance) Alan White, Al Sirois, Stu Shiffman, Carrie Mowatt, D. West, Taral Wayne, Brad Foster, Allison Hershey, Ulf Skei, Valeri Purcell, Julie McMurray and Anne Stokes. There are many fine full colour photos of frolicking fans and I’ve even shoved a few words in there. I’m recommending a donation to Taff of about 20 pounds (28 or 29 dollars) and you can donate using the Taff donations buttons at taff.org.uk. Email me,  jim (at) umor.co.uk or John Purcell at 2017taff2019 (at) gmail.com and we’ll post out a copy.

(11) CONTASTROPHE. Aja Romano’s “Great Con Disasters Of The Past: A Thread” begins here:

(12) DON’T BLOW YOUR CHANCE. Atlas Obscura shares “The Uncanny Delights of the World Balloon Convention”.

…This year’s WBC was held in mid-March, in San Diego, California. According to the official website, close to 900 people attended, from 52 countries. The best of the best participated in the Convention’s nine separate competitions, battling to take home titles in everything from “Large Sculpture” to “Balloon Hat.”

The competitors are incredibly skilled. (Most are “Certified Balloon Artists,” which means they have passed a qualifying exam.) Several categories require creating entire landscapes out of gas and latex. Incredible details are achieved with a limited palette of shapes. Sometimes the juxtapositions are funny: The winner of the “Fashion & Costume” category has reimagined a lightsaber as a long, floppy balloon. In the “Large Sculpture” winner, a tiger sports armor that, if you zoom in, looks like sausage links….

(13) APRIL SUMMATIONS BRING MAY FEATURES: Jason has summed Summation: April 2018 over at Featured Futures.

Ten of this month’s eleven noted stories (five recommended) come from the 50 (of just over 200,000 words) that I’ve read with a publication date between April 1 and April 28. Nature and Terraform had a good month with a recommended story and an honorable mention each. Some venues appeared for just the first or second time this year (Grievous Angel, On Spec (reviewed for Tangent), and Strange Horizons (with an especially strong story)), though some of the usual suspects (BCS, Clarkesworld, and Lightspeed) also pitched in. Aside from unusual venues, this month’s wombat is a relatively large number of SF (and no fantasy) honorable mentions.

The eleventh noted story is another first-time appearance. It comes from Slate’s “Future Tense Fiction” department and coverage of that is one of three changes in Featured Futures to report. The latest “Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up” caught up on the stories already released this year and future stories will be continue to be covered there.

Meanwhile, Lightspeed and Nightmare have been covered in the “Wrap-Ups” but will be covered as monthly issues beginning in May.

Lastly, Featured Futures is going to the final frontier: coverage of  short fiction in books. So far, there are a couple of collections and maybe an anthology I’ll see about covering in May.

(14) SHARKTICLE. Another Shadow Clarke juror tells what they will be reading: “Negotiating Cartography by Samira Nadkarni”.

 …As a small cross-section: I started reading Sami Schalk’s Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)Ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction—whose introduction discusses Jasbir Puar whose work I’m following for another project on queerness and warfare— while waiting for Janelle Monàe’s Dirty Computer to drop. Monàe’s vehemently queer 44-minute emotion picture will locate itself around a technocratic society in which citizens are termed “computers,” a section of whom are now on the run from an authoritarian government. Based on what we’ve seen of the three tracks dropped so far, the project is also fiercely Black, and strongly rooted in the political. It’s impossible not to think back to Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures: The Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race (followed by a film of the same name starring Monàe, Taraji P. Henson, and Octavia Spencer) which made evident the links between women (Black women in particular) and the history of computers. Knowing that early production units were called “kilo-girls” to denote the number of hours worked and that these women were called “computers,” Monàe’s choice of a return to “computers” as words for people in videos peopled almost exclusively by Black people, and heavily peopled by Black women in this futuristic melding of technology, activism, and talking back to an authoritarian regime feels poignant and part of an evolving expression of futurity located in historicity.

… All of this was with me when I sat down to make this shortlist. I’m hoping the explanation helps contextualise my interest in books that not only talk about power, but also may talk about the complications of power that may come even with resistance and reclamation.

(15) RON HOWARD EXPLAINS IT ALL. …In a new Solo: A Star Wars Story “Becoming Solo Featurette.”

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, ULTRAGOTHA, Mark Hepworth, Steve Bartlett, Jim Mowatt, Carl Slaughter, Jason, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mister Dalliard.]