Pixel Scroll 11/20/20 Trapped In A Pixel He Never Scrolled

(1) “THE FUTURE WAS SO BAD.” “HOW BAD WAS IT?” The Library of Congress’ National Book Festival Blog introduces “2020 National Book Festival Highlights: Dystopian Worlds”.

Why is it that some of us love dystopian novels, the kind of fiction that takes a dim, bleak view of the future? Is it because writers of this genre show us how bad things can become if we aren’t careful? Or that we can feel better about the current state of affairs because they aren’t nearly as bad as the book’s scenario?

The “Dystopian Worlds” conversation at the 2020 National Book Festival featured Dark Star trilogy novelist Marlon James, who spoke with sci-fi/fantasy writer Jeff VanderMeer. James’s most recent novel is “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” (Riverhead), and VanderMeer’s is “A Peculiar Peril” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Everdeen Mason, senior audience editor of The Washington Post, moderated and, in her words, is an “occasional book critic.”

(2) BLOOM’S FINAL LE GUIN APPRECIATION. “The Strange Friendships of Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’” in The New Yorker is an essay was drawn from The Bright Book of Life: Novels to Read and Reread by Harold Bloom (d. 2019), out this month.

…Though I have written about “The Left Hand of Darkness” before, in 1987 and again in 2000, I have forgotten what I said and do not want to consult it now, but, rather, make a fresh start on this marvellous romance. In one of her letters, Ursula remarked that writing “The Dispossessed” was liberating for her, and she seemed to prefer it to “The Left Hand of Darkness.” Rereading both, I find myself torn between the two. The protagonist, Shevek, in “The Dispossessed,” is far more interesting than anyone in the earlier book, and yet he and his story manifest something of the ambivalence of Le Guin’s subtitle: “An Ambiguous Utopia.”

In a fierce introduction to “The Left Hand of Darkness,” Le Guin charmingly remarks, “A novelist’s business is lying.” She adumbrates:

“I talk about the gods; I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.

“The only truth I can understand or express is, logically defined, a lie. Psychologically defined, a symbol. Aesthetically defined, a metaphor.”

Always in Le Guin we hear reverberations of Lao Tzu’s “Tao Te Ching,” which she translated, with J. P. Seaton, as “A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way” (1997). We corresponded about her understanding of the Tao, yet I had to confess my permanent difficulty in absorbing this way that is not a way. I myself always keep to hand a copy of “The Bhagavad-Gita” as rendered by Barbara Stoler Miller, which I purchased in the autumn of 1986, the year of its publication. After hundreds of readings, I think I know what Krishna means by “dark inertia,” “passion,” and “lucidity,” but a dozen readings of the Le Guin-Seaton “Tao Te Ching” have left me muttering that I do not apprehend the water and stone of the Way. Is it that I am not enough open to my own female component? That seems not right. I am more my late mother than my late father. What moves me most in Ursula is the serenity. I lack it utterly….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to loaf around with A.C. Wise in Episode 132 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast as they nibble — she on chocolate zucchini bread and he on cherry pecan bread.

A.C. Wise

Wise is a two-time finalist for the Nebula Award, two-time finalist for the Sunburst Award, and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Plus she’s won the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Her fiction has appeared in UncannyTor.comShimmer, and multiple Year’s Best anthologies. Her work can also be found in two collections, The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again and The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories, both published with Lethe Press. Her debut novel, Wendy, Darling, will be out from Titan Books in June 2021, and a new short story collection, The Ghost Sequences, will be published by Undertow Books next August.

We discussed how her first professionally published fiction ended up printed on a coffee can, the 24-hour challenge which led to the creation of her Lambda Award-nominated collection, which comic book character obsesses her the most, how individual stories can act as commentary on all stories, why she enjoys wielding the power of ambiguity, how workshopping with other writers can help make stories better, what The Queen’s Gambit can teach us about dealing with reader expectations, the unexpected way a flash fiction piece turned into her first novel, and much more

(4) SLF WANTS ENTRIES FOR ILLUSTRATION OF THE YEAR. The Speculative Literature Foundation is making an open call for original artwork combining fantasy and science fiction themes, to be featured as its cover art (Illustrationof the Year or Artwork) for 2021.

Artwork will be displayed on the Speculative Literature Foundation’s (SLF) website and social media accounts. Artwork will also be used as a visual element of SLF’s marketing material and swag, including but not limited to, bookmarks, pins, posters, etc., and may be cropped or otherwise minimally altered to fit these different formats.

The winning artist will receive $500.00 (USD) and will be announced, along with the selected Artwork, on SLF’s website and in a press release.

This is the SLF’s second international open call for Illustration of the Year, and the fourth consecutive year that it has featured an illustration. The SLF, founded in 2004 by author and creative writing professor Mary Anne Mohanraj, is a global non-profit arts foundation serving the speculative literature (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) community. It provides resources to speculative fiction writers, editors, illustrators, and publishers, and aims to develop a greater public appreciation of this art.

Submission Dates: November 20, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. through December 20, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.

Criteria: Each artist (Artist) may submit one (1) artwork for consideration. The artwork may be created digitally or by hand (no photography). The subject matter must combine fantasy and science fiction elements as well as incorporate SLF’s literary focus. All artwork must be submitted in both jpeg and pdf formats. Aspect ratio must work for the website banner, being at least 1500 points wide, and 400-500 points high. Final resolution for print must be at least 11 inches wide and 300 dpi. Files are limited to 10MB.

Submit artwork to development@speculativeliterature.org, including your name, email address, phone number and short bio.

(5) DON’T INVITEMS. LitHub’s Chris Gosden explains “Why Harry Houdini DID NOT Like Arthur Conan Doyle”.

… Later in 1924 Houdini wrote a book exposing mediums and their activities at séances—A Magician among the Spirits.

Houdini’s position was complex and interesting. The greatest illusionist of the last century became the great debunker of illusions. Conversely, Houdini was keen to stress the physical skill and strength that formed the basis for his act and to reveal the tricks employed by others, many of whom claimed not to be tricksters. Houdini himself became the subject of myth-making, seen by some as having shamanistic powers; and Conan Doyle was not alone in considering Houdini to be a magician, a view expressed in his book The Edge of the Unknown (1930).

Conan Doyle’s two-volume work The History of Spiritualism (1926) was an argument for the veracity and validity of the spiritualist movement, citing, among many other cases, the Davenport brothers and the Spirit Cabinet as an instance when people were able to summon spirits.

Important issues were contained in the disagreements between Houdini and Doyle that resonated elsewhere. First was the issue of evidence and how different people were either convinced by, or skeptical of, exactly the same set of events, such as the activities within the Davenports’ Spirit Cabinet. The creator of the arch-empiricist and logician, Sherlock Holmes, was famously credulous. Houdini took a lot to be convinced of other-worldly phenomena.

Deeper issues were also involved, concerning the nature of the person and of reality more broadly. Were people divided into body and spirit, with the latter surviving the death of the body? As skepticism concerning religious belief grew, so did doubts about life after death, which in turn threw notions of the composition of the person into doubt—perhaps people did not have souls or some form of immaterial reality?…

(6) THE G.O.A.T. In “An Oral History of ‘Marge vs The Monorail’, the Episode That Changed ‘The Simpsons'” on Vice, Sean Cole interviews the people involved in “Marge vs. The Monorail,” which many think is the greatest episode of The Simpsons.  The episode was written by Conan O’Brien, directed by Rich Moore (who won an Oscar for Zootopia) and had guest spots by Phil Hartman and Leonard Nimoy.

Jeff Martin: Mindless groupthink is a recurrent theme on The Simpsons, and I think the monorail episode is the best – and certainly my favourite – example of Springfield mob mentality. Watching the episode, I decided to go ahead and time it. From Lanley whistling in the back of the auditorium to the entire town marching on the town hall steps singing “Monorail!” is a little less than two minutes. I think it took Harold Hill at least four minutes to whip up River City.

Rich Moore: That musical number was almost harder to pull off than the whole third act climax. I’d done “A Streetcar Named Marge” before. That was a big musical spectacular, so it felt like, ‘Okay, we’re going to have to pull off what we did on that episode.’ That’s hard to do when you’re not working under the same roof as the animators. We would send a very complete blueprint, with all the key posing and animation timing, to Korea [where the bulk of animation is done by a studio called AKOM], but there was a bit of crossing your fingers and hoping, since you’re not there in the room to direct them. Everything is being communicated through instructions on exposure sheets, which have been translated from English to Korean.

Jeff Martin: Every single word of the monorail song was unchanged from Conan’s first draft, which is impressive. My niche on the show in those days was to actually write the tunes to the songs. I wrote a bunch of songs, so I was assigned to set the monorail song to music. It’s sort of like, “Bum, bum, bum, bum. I think I’m done!” It’s barely a song. It’s just sort of a rhythm and “Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!” The notion that Conan and I co-wrote that song is laughable. I’ve told Conan over the years that he had his part in that song. Elton John, meaning me, needs Bernie Taupin, meaning him.

(7) VOSS OBIT. Actor Philip Voss has died of COVID-19 at the age of 84. The Guardian ran anoverview of his career.

…His television career had begun in the first (1963) season of Doctor Who, with William Hartnell, as Acomat, the leader of Mongolian bandits, in the Marco Polo story, and as a young Dulcian, Wahed, a humanoid pacifist killed by Quarks, a few years later, with Patrick Troughton as the second doctor. His last television role was as Ian McKellen’s acid-tongued brother, Mason, in the sitcom Vicious (2013-16).

In the late 1970s he was also a member of the BBC Radio Drama Company, working with the directors Jane Morgan and Celia De Wolff, in subsequent years, on The Lord of the Rings (he was Lord of the Nazgûl)… On film, he popped up in Octopussy (1983) with Roger Moore as James Bond, Trevor Nunn’s Lady Jane (1986), Bob Rafelson’s Mountains of the Moon (1990) and as Laura’s father in Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994).

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1980 — Forty years ago, Roger Zelazny would win the Balrog Award for “The Last Defenders of Camelot”. It was originally published in Asimov’s SF Adventure Magazine, Summer 1979. The Balrog Award were a set of awards given annually from 1979 to 1985 for the best works and achievements of genre fiction in the previous year. You knew what they were named after. The awards were originally announced by editor Jonathan Bacon in Issue #15 of Fantasy Crossroads and presented at the Fool-Con II convention on April Fool’s Day, 1979. Bacon says that they were not to considered serious awards. 

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 20, 1964 The First Men in the Moon premiered. It’s an adaptation by screenwriter Nigel Kneale of H. G. Wells novel of the same name. It was produced by Charles H. Schneer, and directed by Nathan Juran. It  starred Edward Judd, Martha Hyer and Lionel Jeffries. Ray Harryhausen of course did the special effects with sculptor Bryan Kneale constructing the Selenites from Harryhausen’s designs. With the exception of the grinch critic at the New York Times, critics loved it, though it was a box-office bomb which Harryhausen thought was the fault of too much comedy in the script. It holds a respectable sixty-seven percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 20, 1858 – Selma Lagerlöf.  Nine novels, a score of shorter stories for us, many others of each outside our field.  First woman to win Nobel Prize in Literature; given “in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination, and spiritual perception that characterize her writings”.  (Died 1940) [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1923 – Len Moffatt.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 25.  Forry Award (for life contribution to SF; given to pros and fans, some people are both).  With wife June, Fan GoH at Loscon 8; TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegates, publishing The Moffatt House Abroad; Evans-Freehafer Award (for service to L.A. Science Fantasy Society); fanzine Moonshine; L & J and I published Button-Tack (memorial zine for Rick Sneary – rhymes with “sherry”); L & J posthumously in First Fandom Hall of Fame.  My appreciation of Len here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1926 John Gardner. Author of more Bond novels that one would think possible. He’d write fourteen original James Bond novels, more than Fleming wrote, and the novelized versions of two Bond films. He also dip into the Sherlock universe, writing three novels around the character of Professor Moriarty. Rights to film them were optioned but never developed. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born November 20, 1929 Jerry Hardin, 91. He’s best known for playing Deep Throat on The X-Files. He’s also been on Quantum Leap, StarmanBrimstone and Strange World, plus he was in the Doomsday Virus miniseries. And he made a rather good Samuel Clemens in the two part “Time’s Arrow” story on Next Gen. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1932 Richard Dawson. Usually one appearance in a genre film or show isn’t enough to make the Birthday list but he was Damon Killian on The Running Man, a juicy enough role to ensure his making this list, and twenty years earlier he was Joey on Munster, Go Home! He’d voiceLong John Silver on an animated Treasure Island film in the Seventies as well. And he had a one-off on the classic Fantasy Island. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1936 – Don DeLillo, 84.  A dozen novels, half as many shorter stories, for us; four other novels, a score of other shorter stories, plays, a screenplay.  Nat’l Book Award, PEN/Faulkner Award (Poets, Essayists, Novelists), PEN / Saul Bellow Award, Lib’y of Congress Award.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1944 Molly Gloss, 76. She received the Otherwise Award for her Wild Life novel, and nominated for another one for The Dazzle of Day novel.  Much of her excellent short stories are collected in the recently released Unforeseen which along with her two genre novels are available from the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1950 – Donita Paul, 70.  A dozen novels.  Romances and juveniles under another name.  Why shouldn’t a Christian author write of dragons – what about St. George? [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1956 Bo Derek, 64. She makes the Birthday list for being Jane Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man. There’s also Ghosts Can’t Do It and Horror 101 as wellas the two Sharknado films she just did. (CE)
  • Born November 20, 1959 Sean Young, 61. Rachael and her clone in the original Blade Runner and the sequel. More intriguingly she played Chani in Dune. A bit old for the role, wasn’t she? She was the lead, Helen Hyde, in Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde. And she’s a Trekkie as she was in the Star Trek: Renegades video fanfic pilot as Dr. Lucien. (CE) 
  • Born November 20, 1972 – Cerece Rennie Murphy, 48.  Seven novels, one shorter story.  Ardent fan of John Donne, Alice Walker, Kurt Vonnegut, and Alexander Pope from an early age.  A 2nd Grade teacher applauds a CRM book for children, “I have struggled to find books with African-American characters who are not stereotyped or set in a time period of racial struggle.”  [JH]
  • Born November 20, 1980 – Ignacio Bazán Lazcano, 40.  Illustrator and conceptual artist.  Here is Beneath Ceaseless Skies 101.  Here is The Fall of Io.  Here is Welcome.  Here is an astronaut.  Here is a robot bartender.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rich Horton says this Rhymes With Orange reminded him of Howard Waldrop’s first sale (to Analog! Possibly even to Campbell!) — “Lunchbox”.

(12) GREAT DAYS OF ANIMATION. Join legendary animator Glen Keane, director of Over The Moon, for a virtual retrospective conversation with filmmaker and animator Sergio Pablos. Free event on Saturday, December 5 at 7:30 p.m. Pacific. Register here.

A 38-year veteran of Walt Disney Feature Animation, Glen Keane trained under Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men. Keane went on to create many beloved Disney characters such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Beast, Tarzan, and Rapunzel. In 2012, Keane departed Disney to begin Glen Keane Productions as a way to further his artistic explorations in animation, design, and film. He has since gone on to collaborate with Google, the Paris Ballet, and Kobe Bryant. In 2017, he animated and directed the Academy Award-winning animated film “Dear Basketball” in collaboration with legends Kobe Bryant and John Williams. Most recently, he directed OVER THE MOON, now available on Netflix.

(13) A STARCHY PARABLE. [Item by rcade.] The AmITheAsshole subreddit is a place for people to find out whether they’ve done something to someone else that makes them an asshole.

A woman asked: “AITA for “ruining” the rice that my boyfriend cooks with by consolidating the multiple bags of rice which he claims are “different” into a single container?”

Here’s where it becomes fodder for File 770. Commenter SelectNetwork1 has responded in the form of a fairy tale in this thread. [There are now over 4K comments, and it took OGH 10 minutes to find it again, so we’re just going to quote it in full.]

Once there was a princess who always wanted things her way. There were three bags of rice in the kitchen and every day she asked, why can’t all the rice be in the same bag? They are all the same.” And every day her boyfriend replied, “They look the same to you because you only look at them from a distance, but they are not the same. They won’t cook right if they’re mixed together.”

One day, the princess’s boyfriend went away for the weekend, leaving the princess home alone. The three bags of rice sitting were all she could think about. They are the same! she thought, over and over. Why are they not in the same bag together! At last she could stand it no more. She went to the kitchen, found a single, big container, and dumped all three bags of rice into it. Then she shook it very hard so the grains would mix. There, now all the rice is together, she thought. At last, she was at peace.

A few hours later, there was a knock at the door. The princess went to answer it, and on the front step was a mysterious woman. “Did you mix three bags of rice all together?” asked the mysterious woman. “They were all the same, they belonged in one bag,” said the princess. The mysterious woman seemed to grow to a hundred feet tall! The princess cowered, and let out a squeak. She covered her eyes with her hands, and realized her hands were paws! She had been turned into a mouse.

The mysterious woman picked her up and put the mouse princess on her shoulder. The mouse princess clung to her shirt as the mysterious woman went into the house and walked straight to the kitchen. She took the big bag of rice and dumped it out on the kitchen table, then gently lifted the mouse princess off her shoulder and set her down beside the rice, which towered above her mouse head like a mountain. “Do you wish to become a human princess again?” the mysterious woman asked, and the mouse princess nodded and squeaked. “Then you must separate these grains of rice that you have mixed together. Only then will you return to your true form.”

The mouse princess stared up at the mountain of rice: it was too large to contemplate, and the rice was all the same! It seemed like an impossible task. She turned back to the mysterious woman, but she had vanished: the kitchen was empty.

For a while, the mouse princess sulked. Eventually, she got bored, and picked up a grain of rice between her paws. “It’s just rice, it’s all the same,” she tried to say, but it came out as “squeak.” She put it aside, and picked up another grain of rice. “See, just rice?” she tried to say, but that, too, came out as “squeak.” This grain was heavier than the first one, and she looked more closely at it. The first grain was long and thin, and this one was a little shorter, and fatter at the middle. She pawed through the pile and came up with another: this grain was shorter and fatter still. “They are not the same!” she tried to exclaim, but it came out as “Squeak!”

The mouse princess contemplated the mountain of rice, and for the first time since she had been turned into a mouse by the mysterious stranger, she felt a little hope. She took the three grains of rice and set them down in three corners of the table, then went back to the mountain of rice and began to take it apart, one grain at a time.

The longer she worked, the easier it became. After a while, she didn’t have to examine the grains to tell them apart, she could see the difference as soon as she as much as glanced at them. She worked until she was exhausted, then she fell asleep on a pile of rice, and woke up again a few hours later to begin working again. She worked and slept, worked and slept, and worked again.

After three days and three nights, the mouse princess was finished. As soon as she pushed the last grain of rice into its pile, she felt as if the room were shrinking around her! She leapt off the table before she could spill the rice, and landed on the floor on her human feet.

Just as she was getting her bearings, she heard the front door open. Her boyfriend was home! She swiftly found the original bags and swept the three piles of rice into their three separate containers. Just as she set the last bag of rice on the table, her boyfriend walked into the room. When he saw the bags of rice, he sighed. “I’ve told you before, they are not the same just because they look the same to you,” he said. The princess smiled. “I know,” she said. “All the rice looked the same to me when I looked at them only from a distance; now I have looked closer, and I understand that each rice is unique.”

The human princess’s boyfriend looked surprised, but happy. “I’ll start making dinner,” he said. “What kind of rice would you like to eat?”

“The medium-length one,” the princess said. “But rinse it carefully… I think I saw a mouse around here somewhere.”

(14) STAY FROSTY. Variety peeks behind the curtain as “George Clooney Navigates Two Worlds in Sci-Fi Drama ‘The Midnight Sky’”.

Netflix’s sci-fi drama “The Midnight Sky,” set for release next month, will see George Clooney as a scientist in the Arctic trying to protect a little girl, and prevent a group of astronauts from coming back home after a global catastrophe.

“It’s two different worlds; we were basically saying we were going to shoot ‘The Revenant’ and stop, and then shoot ‘Gravity,’” said Clooney about his seventh feature as a director during an online seminar at EnergaCamerimage Film Festival dedicated to “The Midnight Sky,” an adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton novel “Good Morning, Midnight.” He was accompanied by the film’s cinematographer Martin Ruhe.

“Usually, when space movies are shot, up is up and down is down, and that’s not exactly how it works. In ‘Gravity,’ the camera was constantly rotating. We wanted to keep the idea of the horizon being different, without making everyone throw up along the way. But our first conversation was: ‘How do we shoot winter’?,” said Clooney, mentioning that while two-thirds of Earthbound sequences were shot in Iceland, one-third was completed on the sound stage, “which was as cold as Iceland for some reason!,” he said.

(15) A LITTLE GAFFE. “Star Wars: The Mandalorian Has Its Own Game of Thrones Coffee Cup Blunder” in “Chapter 12: The Seige.”

…For the second time on The Mandalorian, an on-set mistake has been noticed, reminding fans of the infamous coffee cup on Game of Thrones. Photo at the link.

Without giving too much away, this episode sees Mando and Baby Yoda return to Nevarro, where Din Djarrin reunites with Greef Carga and Cara Dune to shut down an old Imperial base on the planet. While they’re working through the base, getting into a shootout with a few stormtroopers, a pretty obvious mistake can be noticed in the background….

In the back-left corner of the frame, a man can be seen that clearly isn’t a part of the Star Wars universe. He’s wearing a t-shirt, blue jeans, and a watch. You can only see the left side of his body, and his head is thankfully out of the frame, but it’s still very noticeable.

(16) LAST LIGHTNING. People reports “The CW’s Black Lightning to End with Season 4”.

Black Lightning is coming to an end, the CW announced Friday.

The superhero drama will conclude with its upcoming fourth season, set to premiere in February 2021. Though the network did not give a reason for the series’ end, showrunner Salim Akil released a statement thanking the cast, crew and fans.

“When we first started the Black Lighting journey, I knew that Jefferson Pierce and his family of powerful Black women would be a unique addition to the superhero genre,” the statement said, according to Entertainment Weekly.

He continued, “The love that Blerds and all comic book fans around the globe have shown this series over the past three seasons proved what we imagined: Black people want to see themselves in all their complexities.”

(17) NIGHT OF THE GAS GIANTS, Mental Floss urges everyone, “Don’t Miss Saturn And Jupiter’s Great Conjunction on the Winter Solstice” on December 21.

In 2020, skygazers were treated to meteor showers, a new comet, and a Halloween blue moon. One of the last major astronomical events of the year is set to fall on the night of the winter solstice. On December 21, look up to catch Saturn in conjunction with Jupiter.

WHAT IS THE CONJUNCTION OF SATURN AND JUPITER?

In astronomy, a conjunction occurs when two planets appear exceptionally close in the night sky. Two of our solar system’s gas giants will share a celestial “kiss” on the longest night of the year. The rare meeting of Saturn and Jupiter is known as the “great conjunction” by astronomers.

(18) A MODEST DESIGN PROPOSAL. The election coverage is winding down, so here’s what Fox News has moved on to: “Grow-your-own human steaks meal kit is not ‘technically’ cannibalism, makers say”.

…A “DIY meal kit” for growing steaks made from human cells was recently nominated for “design of the year” by the London-based Design Museum.

Named the Ouroboros Steak after the circular symbol of a snake eating itself tail-first, the hypothetical kit would come with everything one needs to use their own cells to grow miniature human meat steaks.

“People think that eating oneself is cannibalism, which technically this is not,” Grace Knight, one of the designers, told Dezeen magazine.

(19) THAT’S NO MOON! The Planetary Society pointed readers to NASA’s story “Earth May Have Captured a 1960s-Era Rocket Booster”. This one’s not a conjunction – it’s just regular junk.

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory were puzzled over Earth’s newest moon: an object in orbit around the Earth, temporarily captured by our planet’s gravity. Tracing the object’s trajectory back through time, they discovered it came from Earth itself in 1966, when NASA launched Surveyor 2 to the Moon. The object is likely the rocket’s upper stage.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Rich Horton, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, John Hertz, rcade, Contrarius, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 12/14/18 Good King Pixelslas Looked Out On The File Of Seven

(1) WRITING SPACE. In “Why I Write in Cafes”, Rachel Swirsky unpacks all of her reasons.

I’ve been writing a lot in cafes recently. Well, mostly one cafe, but I’ve dallied with others…

I always accomplish something, or prove I can’t.

Because I’m at the cafe with someone else, and we are there with a purpose, I always spend at least some time trying to write. Some days, nothing comes. More often, even if I feel creatively dry, I can scrape up something, whether it’s a bit of editing, a paragraph or two, or the beginning of a story (which I may never finish). On my own I can get depressed over those days when the writing doesn’twork, and it makes me avoidant for a while afterward. With a writing partner, there’s a set time to try again.

(2) BRING PLENTY OF NAPKINS. Scott Edelman will be at the microphone while you slurp down Thai Beef Noodle Soup with Stephen Kozeniewski in Episode 84 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

This time around you’ll sit in on my meal at Noodle Charm with horror writer Stephen Kozeniewski.

At least I think we ate at Noodle Charm. I’m not really sure. (Give a listen to the episode to find out the reason for my uncertainty.)

Kozeniewski is the author of such gonzo novels as Braineater Jones, Billy and the Cloneasaurus, and The Ghoul Archipelago. He’s also been part of the writers room for Silverwood: The Door, a 10-episode prose follow-up to Tony Valenzuela’s Black Box TV series Silverwood, which was released in weekly installments in both prose and audiobook formats.

We discussed how it took nearly 500 submissions before his first novel was finally accepted, why he has no interest in writing sequels, his advice for winning a Turkey Award for the worst possible opening to the worst possible science fiction or fantasy novel, why his output is split between horror and science fiction (but not mysteries), the reason Brian Keene was who he wanted to be when he grew up, why almost any story would be more interesting with zombies, when you should follow and when you should break the accepted rules of writing, where he falls on the fast vs. slow zombies debate, and much more.

(3) BROKE-DOWN ENGINE. NPR’s Mark Jenkins is frank: “‘Mortal Engines’ Internally Combusts”.

…That’s just a cursory account of Mortal Engines, which would have benefited from losing a few supporting characters, several flashbacks and at least one subplot. Yet the movie’s major weakness is not story, but characterization.

The only actor who holds the screen is Weaving, and even he suffers from a cardboard role and plywood dialogue. Hilmar, Natsworthy and Jihae are all as bland as their parts, lacking charm, swagger and humor. The disastrous absence of the last quality can partly be blamed on the script, which hazards a joke about every 45 minutes.

(4) CAUGHT UP INTHE WEB. Meanwhile, Chris Klimek writes at NPR that “‘Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse’ Is A Fun, Warm-Hearted Treat”.

It’s hard to fathom that the same Sony Pictures that, in 2012, decided the best way to expand the appeal of its live-action Spider-Man franchise was to start over with lesser movies, has now become smart enough to put its resources into a superb new — really new — Spider-Man cartoon. Maybe someone in a Culver City boardroom got bit by a radioactive MacArthur Fellow.

Whatever the reason, for a powerful corporation to relax its grip on an ancient specimen of blue-chip IP enough to let the creatives have some fun is a rare thing, and one that should not go unheralded. Marvel Comics weathered the ire of reactionary fandom back in 2011 when it introduced Miles Morales, a Spider-Man no less Amazing than that nerdy orphan Peter Parker, but for the fact he was the son of a Puerto Rican ER nurse and an African-American beat cop. Miles became the Spider-Man of the publisher’s “Ultimate” line, a spiral arm of the Marvel Universe that…

…you know what? Don’t worry about it. To cite the refrain of this graphically dazzling, generously imaginative, nakedly optimistic, mercilessly funny and inclusive-without-being-all-pious-about-it animated oydssey called Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, “Anyone can wear the mask.”

(5) STELLAR POPPINS.The BBC’s Nicholas Barber finds many defects compared to the original, but gives 4 stars to Mary Poppins Returns.

Sensibly, Blunt doesn’t impersonate Andrews. Less sensibly, she impersonates Maggie Smith: her haughty, upper-crust Mary would be right at home in Downtown Abbey. But otherwise, Mary Poppins Returns is so similar to its predecessor as to be almost identical. There are no revelations, no unexpected locations, no hints at what Mary gets up to when she isn’t looking after the Banks children – although we’ll probably get a prequel set in nanny-training college in a few years’ time. The only significant difference is that the story has been moved on from 1910 to the 1930s, so it’s Mary Poppins: The Next Generation.

(6) BORDER TOWN DROPPED. “DC Cancels Hit Comic Book Series ‘Border Town’ After Abuse Claims”says The Hollywood Reporter.

The publisher is immediately ending the critically acclaimed series, amid accusations of sexual abuse by writer and co-creator Eric M. Esquivel.

DC Entertainmentimprint DC Vertigo has canceled comic book series Border Town effective immediately, with all orders for the unreleased issues 5 and 6 being canceled, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. Those issues will not be published, and all issues already released are also being made returnable, according to the publisher.

The publisher has not commented on the reasons for the title’s cancellation, but it coincides with the release of a statement by toy designer Cynthia Naugle in which she wrote about being “sexually, mentally, and emotionally abused” by an unnamed figure later identified on social media — and seemingly confirmed by Naugle via retweets — as Border Town writer and co-creator Eric M. Esquivel.

Since Naugle’s statement went live, both Border Town artist Ramon Villalobos and color artist Tamra Bonvillain released statements via Twitter on the subject, distancing themselves from the project.

(7) HUGO VOTING STRATEGY TRUE OR FALSE. Karl-Johan Norén warns, “The meme that one should not ‘dilute’ ones Hugo nomination power under EPH is going around again, and I wrote a quick refutation.”

…As a voter and nominator for the Hugos, it is in your best interest to nominate as many works as you find worthy as you can.

I will illustrate it using two cases. The first is that if every single nominator in a Hugo category nominates only a single work, EPH will default back to a simple first past the post selection with six finalists — exactly the system that we had before EPH, but with much less input! …

(8) THE POINTY THRONE. This cover for the March issue of Amazing Spider-Man resonates with a certain TV show you may have seen….

(9) BLACK SCI-FI DOCUMENTARY. Three excerpts from Terrence Francis’ 1992 documentary Black Sci-Fi, originally broadcast on BBC2 as part of the Birthrights series.

The documentary focuses on Black science fiction in literature, film and television and features interviews with Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Mike Sargent, Steven Barnes and Nichelle Nichols.

In this extract, Octavia Butler discusses how her interest in science fiction developed and the genre’s potential for exploring new ideas and ways of being.

In this section Samuel R. Delany, Mike Sargent and Steven Barnes discuss the stereotypical portrayal of black characters in science fiction literature and cinema, including the predictable fate of Paul Winfield in films like Damnation Alley, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and The Terminator.

In this section, Nichelle Nichols discusses the significance of her character, Uhura, in Star Trek; Steven Barnes and Mike Sargent consider how attitudes towards race and skin colour might develop in the (far) future.

(10) VAULT OF THE BEAST. Robert Weinberg interviewed A.E. Van Vogt in 1980 – now posted at Sevagram.

Weinberg: How did you first get interested in science fiction, and in particular, how did you come to write a science fiction story?

Van Vogt: I first read science fiction in the old British Chum annual when I was about 12 years old. Chum was a British boy’s weekly which, at the end of the year was bound into a single huge book; and the following Christmas parents bought it as Christmas presents for male children. The science fiction in these stories was simple. Somebody built a spaceship in his tool shop (in his backyard) and when he left earth he took along all the neighborhood twelve-year-olds without the parents seeming to object.

Later, at age 14, I saw the November 1926 Amazing and promptly purchased it, read it avidly until Hugo Gernsbach lost control and it got awful under the next editor, T. O’Connor Sloane. So I had my background when I picked up the July, 1938 issue of Astounding and read “Who Goes There?” It was one of the great SF stories; and it stimulated me to send Campbell, the editor, a one paragraph outline of what later became “Vault of the Beast. “If he hadn’t answered, that would probably have been the end of my SF career. But I learned later he answered all query letters either favorably or with helpful advice. The helpful advice he gave me was to suggest that I write with a lot of atmosphere. To me that meant a lot of imagery, and verbs other than “to be” or “to have.”

(11) ANDERSON OBIT. Author Paul Dale Anderson (1944-2018) has died, the president of the Horror Writers Association Is reporting. Biographical details from hiswebsite —

Paul Dale Anderson has written more than 27 novels and hundreds of short stories, mostly in the horror, fantasy, science fiction, and suspense-thriller genres. Paul has also written contemporary romances, mysteries, and westerns. Paul is an Active Member of SFWA and HWA, and he was elected a Vice President and Trustee of Horror Writers Association in 1987.  Paul is also a member of International Thriller Writers, the Authors Guild, and MWA.

His wife, Gretta, predeceased him in 2012.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 14, 1984 – John Carpenter’s Starman premiered on this day.
  • December 14, 1984 – For better or worse – Dune debuted in theaters.
  • December 14, 2007 – Will Smith’s I Am Legend opened.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 14, 1916 Shirley Jackson. First gained public attention for her short story “The Lottery, or, The Adventures of James Harris” but it was her The Haunting of Hill House novel which has been made her legendary as a horror novelist as it’s truly a chilling ghost story.  I see that’s she wrote quite a bit of genre short fiction —has anyone here read it? (Died 1965.)
  • Born December 14, 1920 Rosemary Sutcliff. English novelist whose best known for children’s books particularly her historical fiction which  involved retellings of myths and legends, Arthurian and otherwise. Digging into my memory, I remember reading The Chronicles of Robin Hood which was her first published novel and rather good; The Eagle of the Ninth is set in Roman Britain and was an equally fine read. (Died 1992.)
  • Born December 14, 1949 David A. Cherry, 69. Illustrator working mostly in the genre. Amazingly he has been nominated eleven times for Hugo Awards, and eighteen times for Chesley Awards with an astonishing eight wins! He is a past president of the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists.
  • Oh and he’s is the brother of the science fiction writer C. J. Cherryh (“Cherry” is the original spelling of the last name of the family) so you won’t be surprised that he’s painted cover art for some of her books as well as books for Robert Asprin, Andre Norton, Diane Duane, Lynn Abbey and Piers Anthony to name but a few of his contracts.
  • Born December 14, 1966Sarah Zettel, 52. Her first novel, Reclamation, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award in 1996, and in 1997 tied for the Locus Award for the Best First Novel. Writing under the alias of C. L. Anderson, her novel Bitter Angels won the 2010 Philip K. Dick award for best paperback original novel. If you’ve not read her, I’d recommend her YA American Fairy Trilogy as a good place to start. 
  • Born December 14, 1968 Kelley Armstrong, 50. Canadian writer, primarily of fantasy novels since the early party of the century. She has published thirty-one fantasy novels to date, thirteen in her Women of the Otherworld series, another five in her Cainsville series. I’m wracking my brain to think what I’ve read of hers as I know I’ve read something. Ahhhh I’m reasonably sure I listened to the Cainsville series and would recommend it wholeheartedly.

(14) SAVE THE PICKLE! Has your deli warned of a shortage? Chip Hitchcock says, “Famous fan stop Rein’s, near Hartford, had a problem a few years ago.” From NPR : “Scientists Are Fighting For The Stricken Pickle Against This Tricky Disease”.

With failed harvests, fewer growers are taking a chance on cucumbers. According to USDA records, pickling cucumber acreage declined nearly 25 percent between 2004 and 2015. Globally, downy mildew threatens fields as far flung as India, Israel, Mexico and China.

“This is the number one threat to the pickle industry,” says vegetable pathologist Lina Quesada-Ocampo of North Carolina State University. The growers, she says, lose money on failed crops and pricey fungicides. “It is a really bad double whammy.”

Fortunately for pickle lovers, vegetable breeder Michael Mazourek of Cornell University is close to releasing varieties that resist downy mildew. “It’s been one of our proudest David and Goliath stories,” he says. But his success hinges on funding at a time when public support of agricultural research is declining.

(15) HEVELIN PHOTOS SOUGHT. Bruce Hevelin is looking for photos of his father, James “Rusty” Hevelin. If you have any scanned in or in digital form, please send them to him at: <bruce911@sonic.net>

(16) WOODEN FRIED CHICKEN. Forget about making this one of your last-minute gift purchases – The Takeout says “KFC fried chicken-scented firelog sold out in hours ¯\_(?)_/’”:

Update, December 14: Oh, you actually were interested in that chicken-scented log, eh? Sorry for those who didn’t snatch theirs up early, as the logs reportedly sold out within hours yesterday.

Original story, December 13:

“Back in my day,” your grandpa begins wheezily, “If we wanted fried chicken-smellin’ fires, we had to throw the chicken on the flames ourselves.”

He’s right, friends, but that hardship ends today, as KFC introduces a firelog that smells like the Colonel’s 11-herbs-and-spices fried chicken, made in partnership with Enviro-Log.

(17) NOT SOLD OUT.This is still available. No wonder! It will cost a heck of a lot more than a log! The Houdini Seance at LA’s Magic Castle.

The séance is held for a private group of ten to twelve guests in our historic Houdini Séance Chamber. Decorated in the High Victorian style, it is now the home of many priceless pieces of Houdini memorabilia, including the only set of cuffs Houdini was unable to open.

…You will experience remarkable things you might not fully understand. Don’t feel alone. It’s that way for all of us.

Your party begins its experience with a four-course gourmet meal at 6:30 p.m. with bottomless red and white house wine during the dining portion of your evening — all created by your own private chef and served by your own private butler.

A medium will then join you who will open the veil between this world and the next. Your medium will begin with fascinating experiments in the power of the unseen and then, forming a magic circle, will summon the spirits and allow them to demonstrate their awesome ability to manifest in our physical world.

(18) THE SECRET IS NOT TO BANG THE ROCKS TOGETHER. BBC asks “What chance has Nasa of finding life on Mars?”

It could be easier to detect the signs of ancient life on Mars than it is on Earth, say scientists connected with Nasa’s next rover mission.

The six-wheeled robot is due to touch down on the Red Planet in 2021 with the specific aim of trying to identify evidence of past biology.

It will be searching for clues in rocks that are perhaps 3.9 billion years old.

Confirming life on Earth at that age is tough enough, but Mars may have better preservation, say the researchers.

It comes down to the dynamic processes on our home world that constantly churn and recycle rocks – processes that can erase life’s traces but which shut down on the Red Planet early in its history.

“We don’t believe, for example, that Mars had plate tectonics in the way Earth has had for most of its history,” said Ken Williford from Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.

“Most of Earth’s rock record has been destroyed by subduction under the ocean crust. But even the rock left at the surface is heated and squeezed in ways it might not have been on Mars.”

(19) BEFORE THE STORY WAS TRAPPED IN AMBER. BBC tells about “The Jurassic Park film that was never made”.

The structure is so ancient that it feels almost prehistoric. Some people take a trip to a remote island, they see some dinosaurs, and then the dinosaurs try to have them for lunch. It’s what happened in Jurassic Park in 1993, and by the time the first sequel came out in 1997, the screenplay was already poking fun at how formulaic it was. “‘Ooh, aah’, that’s how it always starts,” says Jeff Goldblum’s Dr Ian Malcolm in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. “Then later there’s running and screaming.” How right he was. But this self-knowledge didn’t stop the makers of Jurassic Park III (2001) and Jurassic World (2015) sticking to the formula, and it wasn’t until the second half of this year’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom that the series found somewhere else to go.

How different things might have been. Back in 2004, John Sayles (the writer-director of Passion Fish and Lone Star) wrote a half-crazy half-brilliant screenplay for Jurassic Park 4 that took the story all over the planet, and which pioneered several radical ideas that are only just being incorporated into the franchise now. Steven Spielberg, the series’ producer and its original director was keen at first, and it’s easy to see why: Sayles’ rollicking script is sprinkled with quintessentially Spielberg-y moments. On the other hand, it’s also easy to see why Spielberg cooled off on the project. A movie about a globe-trotting A-Team of genetically modified, crime-busting Deinonychuses might have strayed just a little too far from the Jurassic Park films that audiences knew and loved.

(20) TITANS. The season-ending episode:

Titans 1×11 “Dick Grayson” Season 1 Episode 11 Promo (Season Finale) – Robin faces off against Batman when Dick takes a dark journey back to Gotham in the first season finale of Titans.

(21) YOU THOUGHT YOU HAD BAGGAGE PROBLEMS. “Southwest Airlines flight turns back after human heart discovery” – BBC has the story.

A US passenger plane travelling from Seattle to Dallas was forced to turn back hours into its flight because a human heart had been left on board.

Southwest Airlines says the organ was flown to Seattle from California, where it was to be processed at a hospital to have a valve recovered for future use.

But it was never unloaded and its absence was not noticed until the plane was almost half-way to Dallas.

The heart itself had not been intended for a specific patient.

(22) WHERE TO FIND YOUR DOOM, AND WHAT TO DRINK ON THE WAY. Another thing for Worldcon travelers to check out: “In Ireland, a taste of the underworld”

Oweynagat cave is a placeof both birth and death. An unimposing gash in the ancient misty hills of north-western Ireland, it is said to be the entrance to the underworld where fairies and demons lure mortals to their doom, and the sacred birthplace of a warrior queen. For thousands of years, the Irish have regarded Oweynagat as a site of awe-inspiring magic, weaving a rich tapestry of mythology around it.

…For millennia, Queen Medb has remained the most intoxicating thing to come out of the cave. However, just this year that changed with the creation of a beer made from wild yeast cultivated from the walls of Oweynagat. Called Underworld Savage Ale for the mythic place that it was conceived, this beer is the first of its kind, with a backstory strange enough to fit within the cave’s fantastic mythology

(23) FROM THE HISTORIC RECORDS. Rachel Swirsky discovered a reference to File 770 in a 1981 copy of Fandom Directory.  The zine was only three years old at the time.

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Mother of All Demos Hosted by Douglas Englebart” on YouTube is a video (recorded by Stewart Brand) of the December 1968 demonstration where Douglas Englebart introduced the world to videoconferencing, hypertext, and the computer mouse.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/31/18 Niels Pixel’s Underground Scrolls

(1) REALLY AND SINCERELY DEAD. [Item by Bill.] Harry Houdini died 92 years ago today:

The Official Houdini Seance will be held this year in Baltimore at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. The event will feature talks by Houdini experts and performances by magicians. The museum is currently home to the exhibition Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini. Note: This event is SOLD OUT.

Although his fame was based on his magic and escapes, he was genre-adjacent:

  • His movie serial Master Mystery (1919) featured Q the Mechanical Man, one of the first robots on film.

  • In his film The Man from Beyond (1922), he plays a man frozen in ice in 1820 and revived in 1922.

  • He had a couple of pieces of fiction published in Weird Tales (ghost-written by H. P. Lovecraft).

(2) WEAR YOUR HALLOWEEN COSTUME TO WORK. This won the Internet today:

(3) CANDY CONVERTER. Here’s what you all are going to be looking for later tonight – from Adweek, “Reese’s Halloween Vending Machine Lets You Exchange Trash Candy for the Good Stuff”.

According to the Food Network, the machines had their maiden voyage on October 27 in Tarrytown, New York, birthplace of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, at the town’s big annual Halloween parade. And on Halloween, October 31, Reese’s will set up a Candy Exchange Vending Machine in New York City, so New Yorkers can ditch whatever candy they’re not that into for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

(4) SERIOUS SCIENTIFIC CANDY TALK. From LAist, “LAist’s Ultra Scientific Halloween Candy Ranker Proves Reese’s Is The Best Candy Bar Ever”.

(5) BLACK PANTHER ON HALLOWEEN. Michael Cavna and David Betancourt in the Washington Post ask if it’s all right for white kids to dress as characters from Black Panther for Halloween, with many white parents bothered by this but African-Americans such as director Reg Hudlin and Black Panther costume director Ruth E. Carter told him, “Yes, any kid can wear a Black Panther costume, say creators who helped shape the character”.

SINCE FEBRUARY, when Disney/Marvel’s smash “Black Panther” first captured not only audience attention but also the cultural zeitgeist, reporters have been asking the question: Which kids are permitted to don the superhero costume from the fictional African nation of Wakanda?

Or as Joshua David Stein wondered in a column at the time for Fatherly: “Should I allow my white son to dress as a black superhero?”

Jen Juneau wrote on People.com this month: “Parents of white children may want to think twice before purchasing a Black Panther Halloween costume this year.” And Steph Montgomery, writing this month for the online publication Romper, said: “I don’t think it’s appropriate for my white children to dress up as main characters T’Challa and Shuri, or the members of Dora Milaje — the badass women special forces of Wakanda.

…But in interviews with The Washington Post, several creators who have helped shape the Black Panther character, along with other prominent authors who have written characters of color, are adamant: Any kid can dress as Black Panther.

“The idea that only black kids would wear Black Panther costumes is insane to me,” said Reg Hudlin, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker who has worked on Wakanda-set projects for both the page and screen, including the animated TV miniseries “Black Panther.” “Why would anyone say that?”

…Ruth E. Carter, the Oscar-nominated costume designer (“Malcolm X,” “Amistad”), created the beautifully intricate attire for Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther,” drawing inspiration from not only the comics but also from real-world designs in Africa.

She says the point in creating such Afrofuturistic art is to build not barriers but, rather, cultural bridges — and so fans should embrace that the world of Black Panther is “taking its royal place in the vast Comic-Con and cosplayer universe.”

So why are people posing this question over T’Challa now, Carter says rhetorically.

“The only reason we’re asking that question now is because the Black Panther is a black man. And I think that’s what’s wrong with people — that’s what’s wrong with parents,” Carter said. “Because I see kids far and wide embracing the concept of a superhero. I believe they see him as someone who is majestic and powerful and doing good, and has a kingdom and a legacy and is pretty cool. I don’t think they see a black guy — I think they see the image of a superhero,” she added, and “it happens to be the Black Panther just as it happens to be Superman.”

(6) FUTURE TENSE. Each month in 2018, Future Tense Fiction—a series of short stories from Future Tense and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives— is publishing a story on a theme.

This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is: “Burned-Over Territory” by Lee Konstantinou.

I’m halfway through a plate of soggy risotto, giving my opinion about the Project Approval Framework, when my phone buzzes. I thought I’d muted notifications. I’m tempted to check the alert, but 30 faces are watching me, all Members, some from Zardoz House, the rest from other Houses around Rochester. We’re at a table made from reclaimed wood, which is covered with food and drink. It’s freezing. Everyone’s wearing sweaters, hats, coats, scarves, mittens; I’m in a blue blazer over a T-shirt, jeans, and leather boots. My hair is buzzed into a crew cut, and even though it makes me feel like an ass clown, I’m wearing makeup….

It was published along with a response essay, “What Problem Is Universal Basic Income Really Trying to Solve?”, by UBI advocate Sebastian Johnson.

…Many policy advocates and technologists have promoted universal basic income, or UBI, as one way to cope with the specter of joblessness wrought by advances in artificial intelligence. UBI would provide each individual with a no-strings-attached payment each month to cover basic needs and prevent individuals from falling below the poverty line. The benefits of UBI, according to proponents, would include the elimination of poverty, the fairer distribution of technologically generated wealth, and human flourishing. Critics are less sanguine, variously seeing in UBI a Trojan horse for dismantling the welfare state, an ill-considered policy that will sap humans of the self-actualization and pride derived from work, and a wholly inadequate response to the structural problems with late capitalism….

(7) WATCH THE WATCH. Deadline reports “Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ Adaptation ‘The Watch’ Lands At BBC America”.

The U.S. cable network describes the show as a “punk rock thriller” inspired by the City Watch subset of Discworld novels. The character-driven series centers on Terry Pratchett’s misfit cops as they fight to save a ramshackle city of normalized wrongness, from both the past and future in a perilous quest.

The Watch features many Discworld creations including City Watch Captain Sam Vimes, the last scion of nobility Lady Sybil Ramkin, the naïve but heroic Carrot Ironfoundersson, the mysterious Angua and the ingenious forensics expert Cheri together with Terry Pratchett’s iconic characterization of Death…

(8) KEPLER OBIT. Phys.org bids farewell to an exoplanet pioneer: “Kepler telescope dead after finding thousands of worlds”.

NASA’s elite planet-hunting spacecraft has been declared dead, just a few months shy of its 10th anniversary.

Officials announced the Kepler Space Telescope’s demise Tuesday.

Already well past its expected lifetime, the 9 1/2-year-old Kepler had been running low on fuel for months. Its ability to point at distant stars and identify possible alien worlds worsened dramatically at the beginning of October, but flight controllers still managed to retrieve its latest observations. The telescope has now gone silent, its fuel tank empty.

“Kepler opened the gate for mankind’s exploration of the cosmos,” said retired NASA scientist William Borucki, who led the original Kepler science team.

Kepler discovered 2,681 planets outside our solar system and even more potential candidates.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

They were out there on Halloween 1936 to try what few people at the time had tried: lighting a liquid rocket engine. It took them four attempts to get a rocket to fire for a glorious three seconds — though an oxygen hose also broke loose and sent them scampering for safety as it thrashed around.

  • October 31, 1962The First Spaceship On Venus premiered at your local drive-in.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 31, 1923 – Art Saha, Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Member of First Fandom who is credited with coining the term “Trekkies”. After becoming an editor at DAW books, he edited 8 volumes of The Year’s Best Fantasy, and, with Donald Wollheim, 19 volumes of The Annual World’s Best SF. He also edited the souvenir program book for the 1977 Worldcon and was a co-editor of the fanzine Parnassus. He was president of First Fandom and the NY Science Fiction Society (the Lunarians), chaired a number of Lunacons, and was named to the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1992.
  • Born October 31, 1930 – Michael Collins, 88, Astronaut and Test Pilot who was the Command Module pilot for Apollo 11 while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to become the first astronauts on the moon. He later served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, then went on to be director of the National Air and Space Museum, before becoming undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
  • Born October 31, 1937 – Jael, 81, Artist, Illustrator, and Fan whose work has appeared in books, magazines, and calendars. She became interested in producing speculative art after attending a symposium on contact with aliens and meeting writers C J Cherryh, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle. In her 50-year career, she has created more than 38,000 paintings and images, many of which are housed in public and private collections. She has received eight Chesley Award nominations, and has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions.
  • October 31, 1941 – Dan Alderson, Rocket Scientist and Fan who worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he wrote the navigation software for Voyagers 1 and 2, as well as trajectory monitoring software for low-thrust craft which was used for decades. He was a member of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, an Official Editor of the comic book APA CAPA-alpha, and an early member of gaming fandom. He died of complications of diabetes at the far-too-young age of 47, but has been immortalized as “Dan Forrester” in Niven and Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer.
  • Born October 31, 1950 – John Franklin Candy, Actor and Comedian from Canada best known in genre circles for playing Barf in Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs, as well as appearing in Frank Oz’s Little Shop of Horrors, Splash, Heavy Metal, Boris and Natasha, and the hilarious alt-history Canadian Bacon (one of JJ’s favorites). He was the narrator of “Blumpoe the Grumpoe Meets Arnold the Cat/Millions of Cats” for Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories. His talents were lost to the world far too early when he passed away in his sleep at the age of 43.
  • Born October 31, 1959 – Neal Stephenson, 59, Writer and Game Designer who is well known for doorstopper-length, award-nominated science fiction novels, including The Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon, Anathem, the Baroque Cycle trilogy, Snow Crash, and the hotly-debated Seveneves. His works have been translated into numerous languages and have won Hugo, Clarke, Prometheus, Premio Ignotus, Kurd Laßwitz, and Prix Imaginaire Awards. This year he was recognized with the Robert A. Heinlein Award, which recognizes authors who produce exceptional works promoting space exploration.
  • Born October 31, 1961 – Peter Jackson, 57, Writer, Director, and Producer from New Zealand whose most famous genre works are the spectacular Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, as well as The Frighteners, King Kong, The Lovely Bones, and the upcoming Mortal Engines. His use of the NZ-based Weta Workshop for his films has helped turn that firm into a computer graphics and special-effects powerhouse now known for their work on many Hollywood blockbusters.
  • Born October 31, 1982 – Justin Chatwin, 36, Actor from Canada who was the principal guest star in the rather delightful 2016 Doctor Who Christmas special “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”. He’s also been in War of The Worlds, Dragonball Evolution, and The Invisible; had recurring roles in the Orphan Black and American Gothic series; and appeared in episodes of The Listener, Lost, Smallville, Mysterious Ways, and Night Visions.
  • Born October 31, 1979 – Erica Cerra, 39, Actor from Canada who is best known for her portrayal of Deputy Jo Lupo on the Eureka series, but has extensive genre credentials which include recurring roles on Battlestar Galactica and The 100, and guest parts in episodes of Supernatural, The 4400, Smallville, The Dead Zone, Warehouse 13, iZombie, Reaper, Dead Like Me, Special Unit 2, and Sanctuary. You get to guess how many were filmed in Vancouver, BC…
  • Born October 31, 1994 – Letitia Michelle Wright, 24, Guyanese-born British Actor who, in just 8 short years, has built a substantial genre resume including a recurring role in the TV series Humans and guest parts in the Doctor Who episode “Face the Raven” and the Black Mirror episode “Black Museum”, for which she received an Emmy Award nomination. Her genre film credits include a Saturn-nominated role as Shuri in Black Panther (a character which will be the subject of a new comic book series by Hugo winner Nnedi Okorafor), Ready Player One, Avengers: Infinity War, and the upgoming Avengers sequel.

(11) WIMPY BOOK TOUR. Christina Barron in the Washington Post says that Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney, rather than a traditional book tour, is having “Wimpy Kid Live: The Meltdown Show,” with “costumes, cartooning, and the chance to stump the author on Wimpy Kid trivia: “Jeff Kinney puts on a show to launch new ‘Wimpy Kid’ book”.

Considering “The Meltdown” is Number 13 in the series, you might expect Kinney’s next book to be “Diary of a Weary Writer.” But instead of slowing down, the author is changing up what he does when he meets his many fans. He’s doing a few typical talks and book signings, but Kinney is also putting on a show.

“We thought it would be really fun to change the idea of what a book signing is,” Kinney said in a recent phone conversation.

(12) AGITPROP. The Hollywood Reporter takes note when a “’Rehire James Gunn’ Billboard Appears Near Disneyland”:

On Monday, a digital billboard popped up in Garden Grove, California, at an intersection just over four miles away from Disneyland in Anaheim. The billboard, which reads “Save the Galaxy: James Gunn for Vol. 3,” was paid for via a GoFundMe campaign that has raised nearly $5,000 since launching last month. The campaign sprang from the minds of a group of fans who organized online soon after Disney fired Gunn as director of Guardians 3 on July 20, after conservative personalities resurfaced old tweets in which the filmmaker joked about rape and pedophilia.

(13) SUMMER SCARES. The Horror Writers Association announced its “Summer Scares Reading Program”.

The Horror Writers Association (HWA), in partnership with United for Libraries, Book Riot, and Library Journal/School Library Journal, has launched a reading program that provides libraries and schools with an annual list of recommended horror titles for adult, young adult (teen), and middle grade readers. The goal is to introduce new authors and help librarians start conversations with readers that will extend beyond the books from each list and promote reading for years to come.

Each year, a special guest author and a committee of four librarians will select 3 recommended fiction titles in each of 3 reading levels (Middle Grade, Teen, and Adult), for a total of 9 Summer Scares selections. The goal of the program is to encourage a national conversation about the entire horror genre, across all age levels, at libraries all over the country and ultimately get more adults, teens, and children interested in reading. Official Summer Scares designated authors will also be available to appear, either virtually or in person, at public and school libraries all over the country, for free.

The committee’s final selections will be announced on February 14— National Library Lover’s Day. Some or all of the authors of those titles will appear on kickoff panels during Librarian’s Day at StokerCon each year.

(14) CIXIN LIU ADAPTATION. At The Verge, Weekend Editor Andrew Liptak seems to be taken with the teaser trailer for the Chinese film The Wandering Earth, an adaptation of a Cixin Liu story. (“The Wandering Earth could be China’s breakout sci-fi blockbuster film”) The movie appears to be the first in a proposed six-film franchise.

China isn’t typically known for its science fiction blockbusters, but a new trailer for an upcoming film called The Wandering Earth has all the hallmarks of a big, Hollywood-style genre movie: it features a dramatic story of the Earth in peril, complete with eye-popping scenes of spaceships escaping Earth.

The Wandering Earth is based on a story by Cixin Liu, the author best known for The Three-Body Problem, and, more recently, Ball Lightning. In the original story, scientists discovered that the sun is on the verge of turning into a red giant, and when it does, it’ll expand beyond the orbit of Mars, incinerating all of the solar system’s potentially habitable planets. They concoct a desperate plan to move Earth out of the solar system to a new star, Proxima Centauri.

 

(15) NOT GOING AT NIGHT. Popular Science raised a cheer because “NASA’s Parker Solar Probe just smashed two all-time records on its way to the sun”. The Parker Solar Probe has broken records as the fastest moving manmade object (relative to the Sun) and the closest manmade object to the Sun. Over a series of orbits, the perihelion will get progressively closer to the Sun, until the PSP dips into the solar corona.

The corona paradoxically burns millions of degrees hotter than the surface of the star itself, despite extending millions of miles into space. NASA expects that Parker will directly sample this unexplored zone on its 22nd orbit, which will take place in about six years.

Until then it will continue to best its own speed and closest approach records, which McDowell says is a fitting update to the largely overlooked legacy of Helios 1 and 2. “The great 1970s space probes, the really ambitious ones, there were three pairs: Viking, Voyager, and Helios. You’ve heard of Viking and Voyager, but you’ve never heard of Helios,” [astrophysicist Jonathon] McDowell says. Its measurements of the solar wind and magnetic field didn’t capture the public’s imagination in the same way as its camera-bearing cousins did, he suggests, but its speed record stood for nearly 42 years nonetheless.

(16) THE OLD EQUATIONS. Geek Tyrant can’t wait: “Anna Kendrick Heads To Mars in a New Sci-Fi Film Called STOWAWAY”.

Anna Kendrick is set to star in a new sci-fi thriller from XYZ Films called Stowaway. We’ve never really seen Kendrick in a sci-fi film before, so it’s cool to see her try something new.

Stowaway follows “the crew of a spaceship headed to Mars that discovers an accidental stowaway shortly after takeoff. Too far from Earth to turn back and with resources quickly dwindling, the ship’s medical researcher (Kendrick) emerges as the only dissenting voice against the group consensus that has already decided in favor of a grim outcome.”

(17) WOMEN OF THE GALAXY. A new book shows off badass female characters from the Star Wars universe (Polygon: “New art showcases the badassest women in the Star Wars universe”). The hardcover is a 30 October release from Chronicle Books and features a foreword by producer Kathleen Kennedy. It lists for $29.95.

Women of the Galaxy, a new art book examining female characters from every corner of the Star Wars universe, is exactly the kind of thing I would have read cover to cover twice in one sitting if you’d given it to me when I was nine.

From Jedi Master Aayla Secura to bounty hunter Zam Wesell, each alphabetical entry features art from a group of 18 women illustrators, as well as an explanation of the character’s history from Nerdist and StarWars.com writer Amy Ratcliffe. And with more than 70 characters in the book, there’s bound to be someone in here you’ve never heard of, but wish you had.

(18) DINO SUIT. Here’s our chance to test who are the most ferocious predators, Jurassic Park dinos or Hollywood lawyers: “‘Jurassic World’ Campaign to “Save the Dinos” Sparks $10M Lawsuit”

The Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom campaign to “Save the Dinos” has sparked a $10 million trademark infringement and breach of contract lawsuit against producers.

Frederick Zaccheo of The Dinosaur Project claims filmmakers breached their contract with him by using the slogan on merchandise.

According to the complaint filed Tuesday in New York federal court, lawyers for Universal and Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment contacted Zaccheo requesting his consent to use his trademarked phrase. They paid him $50,000 for the right to use it in advertising for the film and promised not to use it in connection with clothing or to promote any charity, specifically animal rights, endangered species and environmental causes. They also agreed that the slogan must always be used with Jurassic Park franchise branding.

“In the months leading up to the release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Defendants launched a multi-faceted advertising and marketing campaign centered around the theme of saving the fictional dinosaurs on the fictional island from the fictional volcano,” writes attorney Hillel Parness in the complaint. “To that end, Defendants created the ‘Dinosaur Protection Group,’ a fictional organization run by the character of Claire Dearing from the first Jurassic World film and portrayed by Bryce Dallas Howard.”

The campaign included a Dinosaur Protection Group website and social media sites and featured an Adopt-A-Dinosaur contest which offered Save the Dinos merchandise as prizes. (See the complaint below for screenshots.)

(19) ORLY? Camestros Felapton was surprised to hear the founder of Infogalactic touting it as a success: “Voxopedia Again”.

…What had caught my interest was that much of the content was actually about Voxopedia, the vanity Wikipedia project that’s just like Wikipedia but out of date and with nonsense attached. I was curious because manifestly as a project it has failed and clearly at some point it will be abandoned. I had assumed that it had already slipped into a zone of lack-of-interest as newer, shinier projects competed for attention*. But it seems not. rather Vox was holding up Voxopedia as a shining example of how he has all the experience he needs to run a social network.

Now note, currently Voxopedia has about 6-10 active editors or whom only two really are doing any work, two of whom are just feuding conspiracy theories maintaining their own separate (and incompatible) conspiracy pages, one of whom is engaged  in a personal campaign to document all things about Englebert Humperdinck (and nothing else) and one of whom is doing nothing but write hate pieces about transgender people….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Halloween: John Locke vs. The Zombies” on YouTube, American Enterprise Institute fellow Jonah Goldberg explains why political philosopher John Locke would support killing zombies during a zombie apocalypse.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/31/16 The One They Pixel, The One You’ll Scroll By

(1) IT’S BIG. At Entertainment Weekly, “Jeff VanderMeer explains what it’s like to edit The Big Book of Science Fiction”.

During one part of our research, we even had to contact the Czech ambassador to the Philippines for intel on particular authors; in another life this man had been the editor of a Czech science-fiction magazine that, before the Wall came down, paid Western writers in items like books of surreal erotic photography. He had become an expert, due to his travels, on fiction in many countries. From him we received a flurry of photocopies and advice that will likely inform future projects. It’s a small world, but also a big, complex one, too.

(2) ENOUGH PI? NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory answers the question “How Many Decimals of Pi Do We Really Need?”

We posed this question to the director and chief engineer for NASA’s Dawn mission, Marc Rayman. Here’s what he said:

Thank you for your question! This isn’t the first time I’ve heard a question like this. In fact, it was posed many years ago by a sixth-grade science and space enthusiast who was later fortunate enough to earn a doctorate in physics and become involved in space exploration. His name was Marc Rayman.

To start, let me answer your question directly. For JPL’s highest accuracy calculations, which are for interplanetary navigation, we use 3.141592653589793. Let’s look at this a little more closely to understand why we don’t use more decimal places. I think we can even see that there are no physically realistic calculations scientists ever perform for which it is necessary to include nearly as many decimal points as you present. Consider these examples:

  1. The most distant spacecraft from Earth is Voyager 1. It is about 12.5 billion miles away. Let’s say we have a circle with a radius of exactly that size (or 25 billion miles in diameter) and we want to calculate the circumference, which is pi times the radius times 2. Using pi rounded to the 15th decimal, as I gave above, that comes out to a little more than 78 billion miles. We don’t need to be concerned here with exactly what the value is (you can multiply it out if you like) but rather what the error in the value is by not using more digits of pi. In other words, by cutting pi off at the 15th decimal point, we would calculate a circumference for that circle that is very slightly off. It turns out that our calculated circumference of the 25 billion mile diameter circle would be wrong by 1.5 inches. Think about that. We have a circle more than 78 billion miles around, and our calculation of that distance would be off by perhaps less than the length of your little finger….

(3) WHICH GHOST WROTE THE MOST? “Houdini manuscript ‘Cancer of Superstition’ divides opinion over Lovecraft, Eddy ghostwriting”. The Chicago Tribune has the story.

…Potter & Potter lists Lovecraft as the ghostwriter, in part citing “An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia” by S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, a 2001 anthology of Lovecraft’s work. The book says, however, Houdini approached Lovecraft and Lovecraft’s fellow Providence, R.I., author C.M. Eddy Jr. “jointly to ghostwrite a full-scale book on superstition.”

But how much of “The Cancer of Superstition” was the work of Lovecraft vs. Eddy is up for debate.

Douglas A. Anderson, co-founder of Wormwoodiana, a blog dedicated to researching and discussing the work of Lovecraft and his peers, said one needs to look at “The Dark Brotherhood and Other Pieces,” a 1966 Lovecraft anthology edited by August Derleth that published a detailed outline and the project’s first chapter. Derleth, who had exchanged letters with Eddy prior to the book’s publication, listed Lovecraft as the author of the outline but Eddy as the author of the chapter….

(4) CASSIDY IN GALLERY SHOW. Kyle Cassidy’s photos from Toni Carr’s Geek Knits book will be part of an art show opening April 1 at the Stanek Gallery in Philadelphia. The book, subtitled Over 30 Projects for Fantasy Fanatics, Science Fiction Fiends, and Knitting Nerds, has been mentioned here in the Scroll before. Cassidy is known in sf for his photographs of fans taken at the Montreal Worldcon in 2009.

EPSON MFP image

thread of art exhibit

(5) LOSE THE RECUSE. Kevin Standlee says Cheryl Morgan ”Talked Me Into It”.

I am quite obviously eligible for the Best Fan Writer Hugo Award for the stuff I write on this LJ plus a whole lot of writing elsewhere, possibly most notably on Mike Glyer’s File 770 news site. But as people were talking me up for a Hugo Award nomination, I was uneasy, given that I’m Chairman of the WSFS Mark Protection Committee and possibly the most visible member of the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee. While I’m not required to recuse myself from consideration, I thought it possible that it would be unseemly and that I’d be considered using undue influence. But Cheryl Morgan wrote yesterday about this subject, and I found her argument persuasive. So if you should in fact think that my writing is award-worthy, don’t think that you’re throwing your vote away to mention me.

(6) INFLUENCE VS PERFORMANCE. Or as Cheryl Morgan said it in “Kevin and the Hugos”

My view on this is that it is one thing to have a high position and get nominated for something else (in my case being on the staff of Clarkesworld). It is quite another to have a high position and get nominated for doing that job. In my case, if my WSFS job was getting me votes for my Clarkesworld work, that could be construed as unfair. (I think it is silly to suggest that it was, and the Business Meeting agreed, but that’s not relevant here.) In Kevin’s case the job and the work are the same thing. So yes, having the job makes him noticed, but he’s being nominated for doing the job. That seems entirely reasonable to me.

(7) YOUTUBE STARS. Here’s a trailer for Electra Woman & Dyna Girl, which will be “available on all major digital platforms” on June 7.

(8) COME CORRECT. Adam-Troy Castro says “No, You Have Not Been Nominated For a Hugo This Year”.

Attention to a certain self-published author: no, you have not been nominated for a Hugo this year. Now, I don’t know whether you’ve made an honest mistake, have fallen prey to wishful thinking, or are actively lying, but in any event, you are wrong; just because some folks have filled out the name of your magnum opus on the online Hugo nomination form, doesn’t mean you are “nominated;” certainly not before the nomination period closes, this Thursday.

(9) IT’S GREAT TO BE A GENIUS OF COURSE. Kate Paulk holds forth on “The Problem of Being Too Good” at Mad Genius Club.

One of the things I learned was that in pretty much any creative endeavor the really good ones don’t look like they’re making any effort. They’re so good they make it look easy. They make it feel easy, and they appear to effortlessly produce the effect they’re aiming for, be it a gem of a musical performance or a story that’s a perfect or near perfect example of its art – and it’s so apparently effortless and clear that those of lesser understanding can too easily fail to see the work the author or musician or artist has carefully concealed behind the appearance of easy. That is why seeing the writer sweat is annoying.

Of course, this leads to those of lesser understanding (many of whom think they’re the bees knees and – to paraphrase Douglas Adams – the every other assorted insectile erogenous zone in existence) thinking that a book (or performance or whatever) that looks effortless actually is effortless and therefore is easy. Simply put, they mistake sweat and visible exertion for skill.

What this reminds me of is my favorite Robert Moore Williams quote. Williams was a self-admitted hack sf writer. He was leery of losing sales by being too literary. He said, “You have to stink ’em up just right.”

(10) WHERE THE ROCKS ARE. An amazing map of prehistoric stone structures in the United Kingdom can be found at http://m.megalithic.co.uk/asb_mapsquare.php.

This map of Britain and Ireland, is divided into 100 kilometre squares. Locations of prehistoric stone circles and stone rows are indicated by the red dots. Click on a grid square to see that map sheet in greater detail. Many of the pages have images and links to information elsewhere on the web, making this a master index of Britain and Ireland’s Prehistoric sites.

(11) MEOW WOW.  “George R.R. Martin Spent $3.5 Million to Make This Sci-Fi Art Utopia a Reality” – at Vice.

Perhaps the only thing more disorienting than visiting the art collective Meow Wolf’s permanent art installation, the House of Eternal Return, is getting a Skype tour of the place, which is what I recently received. Labyrinthine and almost hallucinatory, the sprawling former bowling alley has been transformed to a freak-out art mecca, funded by $3.5 million from Game of Thrones creator George R. R. Martin and another $2.5 million from Kickstarter and other fundraising.

The 20,000-square-foot art space, the size of Gagosian’s Chelsea gallery, opened on Friday with a cavalcade of 5,500 visitors in the first three days, including Martin himself and Neil Gaiman. Described by 33-year-old CEO Vince Kadlubek as the “inside [of] a sci-fi novel,” the House of Eternal Return is many things: a psychedelic art space, a bar, an educational center, a ceramics studio, and an elaborate music venue (with a half school-bus upper deck), featuring a slew of dream-like elements such as black-light carpeting, a laser harp, pneumatic doors, and a 20-foot climbable lookout tower.

(12) COLE’S HEART. I was very impressed with Myke Cole’s contribution to “The Big Idea” feature at Whatever – but I didn’t want to pick an excerpt that would dilute the reading experience, so here is a comparatively bland quote…

When I did my Big Idea post for Gemini Cell, I straight up owned the PTSD allegory. Schweitzer’s undead status kept him permanently apart from the living. He was among them, but not of them, anymore. The resultant isolation was pretty much the same thing many returning veterans feel.

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 31, 1969 — Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Slaughterhouse Five, published.

(14) SUPER BOOKS. Random House Books for Young Readers announced the acquisition of four DC Comics YA novels, with bestselling young adult authors: Wonder Woman will be written by Leigh Bardugo, Batman will be written by Marie Lu, Superman will be written by Matt de la Peña, and Catwoman will be written by Sarah J. Maas.

Wonder Woman will release first at the end of August 2017.

(15) CURSES VERSUS. “Superman And The Damage Done” at Birth.Movies.Death.

There have been other Supermans since, and while none have, in my opinion, reached the heights of Christopher Reeve, all have imparted a similar sense of decency, humbleness and grace. From Brandon Routh to various animated incarnations, children growing up over the past 40 years have found new Supermans they could look to as inspirational models of how heroes act.

But what do the children of today have? Warner Bros, custodian of the Superman legacy, has handed the keys of the character over to Zack Snyder, a filmmaker who has shown he feels nothing but contempt for the character. In doing so they have opened the character to an ugly new interpretation, one that devalues the simple heroism of Superman and turns the decent, graceful character into a mean, nasty force of brutish strength.

Where Superman was originally intended as a hopeful view of strength wielded with responsibility, Snyder presents him as a view of strength as constant destructive force; where Christopher Reeve’s Superman would often float and flit away, Snyder’s version explodes like a rocket at all times, creating sonic booms above city centers in fits of pique, such as after his scene of moping on Lois Lane’s Washington DC hotel balcony. He is a constant weapon of destruction, often smashing concrete when he comes to earth. There are no soft landings for this Superman.

(16) CROWD PLEASER. “SciFi Author Alan Dean Foster Draws Largest Science Speaker Series Crowd in Prescott Campus History” reports the Embry-Riddle Newsroom.

Hundreds of students, staff and faculty filled the AC-1 lecture hall to capacity to hear internationally acclaimed science fiction author Alan Dean Foster talk about “Science in Science Fiction” as part of the College of Arts and Science Speaker Series last Friday.

Foster has written over 100 novels but is best known for authoring the novel versions of many science fiction films including “Star Wars”, the first three Alien films, “The Chronicles of Riddick”, “Star Trek”, “Terminator: Salvation”, and two Transformers films.

Foster believes science is the foundation of science fiction. If the work is not grounded in science then it’s not science fiction, it is fantasy or science fantasy.

“Science fiction sets you on other worlds where you have to create entire environments. Maybe it’s a world with seven different layers or an entirely frozen world. You have to look at a problem and say what’s the best solution here, even if it’s not been created yet,” said Foster. “That solution should still be reasonable. As an author of science fiction, and especially with novel adaptations from movies, I try to fix the science as best as I can. Sometimes they let me and sometimes they don’t.”

(17) BREAKING GAME SHOW NEWS. The March 31 episode of Jeopardy! had a Hugo Award-Winning Novels category – but I haven’t found out what the titles were yet.

(18) SAD NUMBERS. Brandon Kempner spends the last voting day “Estimating the 2016 Hugo Nominations, Part 4” at Chaos Horizon.

What we do know, though, is that last nomination season the Sad Puppies were able to drive between 100-200 votes to the Hugos in most categories, and the their numbers likely grew in the finally voting stage. I estimated 450. All those voters are eligible to nominate again; if you figured the Sad Puppies doubled from the nomination stage in 2015 to now, they’d be able to bring 200-400 votes to the table. Then again, their votes might be diffused over the longer list; some Sad Puppies might abandon the list completely; some Sad Puppies might become Rabid Puppies, and so forth into confusion.

When you do predictive modelling, almost nothing good comes from showing how the sausage is made. Most modelling hides behind the mathematics (statistical mathematics forces you to make all sorts of assumptions as well, they’re just buried in the formulas, such as “I assume the responses are distributed along a normal curve”) or black box the whole thing since people only care about the results. Black boxing is probably the smart move as it prevents criticism. Chaos Horizon doesn’t work that way.

So, I need some sort of decay curve of the 10 Sad Puppy recommendations to run through my model. What I decided to go with is treating the Sad Puppy list as a poll showing the relative popularity of the novels. That worked pretty well in predicting the Nebulas. Here’s that chart, listing how many votes each Sad Puppy received, as well as the relative % compared to the top vote getter.

(19) FROM TEARS TO CHEERS. Dave Hogg is basically a happy voter tonight.

(20) NOT AN APRIL FOOL? From the Official Gmail Blog: “Introducing Gmail Mic Drop”.

Friends and family have been testing Gmail Mic Drop for months, and the response so far has been awesome:

  • “Sending email is so much easier when you don’t have to worry about people responding!”
  • “Mic Drop is a huge improvement over Mute! I can finally let everyone know I’m just not interested.”
  • “My team solves problems so much faster with Mic Drop. In fact, we stopped talking to each other entirely!”

Gmail Mic Drop is launching first on the web, but mobile updates are on the way. So stay tuned, and stay saucy.

Will R. asks me, “Will you be introducing a similar feature? It would make the flounce a whole lot easier.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, A Wee Green Man, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Swanwick, Will R., Rich Lynch, and Reed Andrus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]

Pixel Scroll 3/15/16 At The Age of 37, She Realized She’d Never Scroll Through Paris With The Warm Pixels In Her Hair

(1) THE MAN WHO WOULD BE WHO. An actor who’s already accumulated a lot of experience traveling in time one day in front of the next has his eye on the prize. Metro News says “Brian Blessed wants to be the next Doctor Who after Peter Capaldi”

The actor, who is fast approaching the ripe old age of 80, has been speaking to Calibre magazine about his desire to be the next Time Lord after Peter Capaldi; he said:

‘I would love to play the Doctor, absolutely!’

Doctor Who fans may remember Blessed as King Ycarnos in 1986’s The Trial Of A Time Lord, where his character went on to marry the Sixth Doctor’s companion, Peri.

If Blessed were to become the next Doctor, he would be the oldest actor to do so, with some twenty years on current TARDIS pilot Capaldi.

(2) BEANS IN SPACE. Whereas the poster for the Australian competition referenced Mad Max: Fury Road, the “2016 Hungarian Aeropress Championship” post goes with a Star Wars icon.

Hungarian aeropress championship COMP

Fast circulating rumours, perhaps with the assistance of a HyperDrive, are suggesting the coffee has been sourced by coffee’s home planet of Alderaan. Unfortunately these rumours have been denied by Ewoks on the forrest moon of Endor who have hand-picked all the rainforest alliance coffee. The variety of the coffee is mostly heirloom, sometimes also know as Degu(bah) and is famous for having very high midi-chorian levels, but low caffeine.  The coffee was fermented and de-pulped in the now re-purposed garbage disposal units on the detention level of the Death Star. That’s enough lame Star Wars references for now i think…

(3) HPL ON THE AUCTION BLOCK. FineBooks & Collections reports “Found: Lovecraft-Houdini Manuscript”.

Whispered about by hopeful collectors and scholars for decades, the manuscript of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Cancer of Superstition, commisssioned and co-written by magician Harry Houdini, has finally come to light. It was rather incredibly “discovered by a private collector among the records of a now-defunct magic shop,” according to Chicago’s Potter & Potter Auctions, which will auction the 31-page typewritten story on April 9.

A brief description of the manuscript is provided in the Potter & Potter auction catalog available for download here [PDF file]. The bidding will open at lucky $13,000….

(4) OCTAVIA BUTLER. From Southern California Public Radio, “The life and legacy of Octavia Butler – and 5 stories you should read”.

It’s been a decade since science fiction writer Octavia Butler passed away.

The California native fell in love with storytelling as a kid at the Pasadena Library, and later grew up to be the only sci-fi writer to receive a MacArthur Genius Fellowship. She was also the first African American woman in the genre to achieve international fame.

According to her friend and fellow writer Steven Barnes, Butler anticipated the challenges of presenting black characters in her stories.

“In her early novels, they would put green people or aliens on the covers of her books,” Barnes said.

“Or blond, white women,” added Tananarive Due, also a friend of Butler’s.

As a teacher and another African American female author, Due knows firsthand how influential Butler’s work is.

“I wish I had discovered Octavia’s work when I was a learning writer,” Due said. “When I wrote my first novel, I had no idea whether or not there would be an audience for speculative fiction — speculative fiction being science fiction, fantasy or horror novel — with black characters, you know, not necessarily intended for black readers.”

(5) JONESING. Everyone who’s still alive in 2019 can see if the iconic star of the Indiana Jones movies can claim the same. The Walt Disney Company announces, “Spielberg and Ford Reunite as Indiana Jones Returns to Theaters July 19, 2019”.

Indiana Jones will return to the big screen on July 19, 2019, for a fifth epic adventure in the blockbuster series. Steven Spielberg, who directed all four previous films, will helm the as-yet-untitled project with star Harrison Ford reprising his iconic role. Franchise veterans Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall will produce.

“Indiana Jones is one of the greatest heroes in cinematic history, and we can’t wait to bring him back to the screen in 2019,” said Alan Horn, Chairman, The Walt Disney Studios. “It’s rare to have such a perfect combination of director, producers, actor and role, and we couldn’t be more excited to embark on this adventure with Harrison and Steven.”

(6) GAVEL RAPPER. Kevin Standlee says a Business Meeting chair has “No Magic Bullets”. Nor any other kind, to be sure.

A couple of days ago, I got into a conversation on billroper‘s LJ about the “Heckler’s Veto” and that led to me thinking about something that had worried me about running the WSFS Business Meeting. After all, the entire meeting process, and parliamentary procedure itself, assumes that the people gathering actually are willing to play by the rules. If a significant number of the people showing up won’t play by the rules, the meeting will dissolve. It would be like a bunch of football players deciding during a match that they don’t like the rule book and that they can ignore the officials and do anything they want. There’s not a lot the officials can do in that case, other than leave.

I did give a lot of thought to this approaching the 2015 WSFS Business Meeting, what with doomsday scenarios of thousands of people overrunning the meeting and refusing to obey any rules and shouting down anything they didn’t like and generally causing chaos. I concluded that a meeting whose members refuse to follow their own rules is not a meeting, but a mob, and I’m not chairing a mob. Had such a thing happened, I would have ordered the meeting adjourned “at the call of the chair” and turned to the convention for help. The convention would then in turn have had to ask the convention security to clear the area, and potentially even call the police if non-members (including any people who had their memberships revoked) refused to leave on their own accord.

(7) TO HAL WITH IT. 2001 A Space Odyssey: A Look Behind the Future is a 1960s promotional film. The 10-minute color documentary includes production of props, revolving spaceship set, etc.

(8) CURRENT EVENTS. A much more recent sf film will also be the subject of a documentary: Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey.  It will be a bonus on the movie’s Blu-Ray disc, to be released April 5.

(9) GROWING UP AI. At The Way Finder, Hugh C. Howey says he has observed “The Birth of Artificial Intelligence”.

…This was not the week, however, that AI was born. This was the week that I realized that AI was born quite some time ago…..

It’s in the early years of human development where I think we can see the current state of AI being somewhere post-birth and yet pre-awareness. But the development of strong AI will have incredible advantages over the human acquisition of general intelligence. This arise from the modular nature of intelligence.

Our brains are not one big thinking engine; they are collections of hundreds of individual engines, each of which develop at different rates. What’s amazing about AI is that the learning does not need to be done twice for every module. When we build a chess-playing module, and a Go-playing module, and a Jeopardy-playing module, all of these can be “plugged in” to our general AI. Our baby girl is growing every day, and thousands of people are pouring billions of dollars of research into her education. We, the general public, are contributing with petabytes of data. It is already happening, and we won’t even recognize when our first daughter graduates into strong AI. Every day will be — as parents know — one small miracle added to the last, a succession of amazing little first steps that result in them going off to college and being their own person.

Each headline you read is us — as collective parents — gasping to our spouse at what our baby girl just did for the first time.

Google has already taught our daughter to drive a car. Amazon is doing amazing things with their Alexa device, creating the beginnings of the virtual assistant seen in Her. IBM is building the best medical mind the field has ever known. In the last five years, AI has taken strides that even the optimistic find startling. The next five years will see similar advances. And this progress will only accelerate, because we’re operating in the realm of Moore’s Law. We are building the tools that help us build faster tools, which help us build faster tools.

(10) IRENE LARSEN OBIT. Magic Castle co-founder Irene Larsen died February 25 reports Variety.

Irene Larsen, co-founder of the Academy of Magical Arts and the private clubhouse the Magic Castle, died unexpectedly on Thursday morning at her Los Angeles home. She was 79.

After she assisted her late husband William “Bill” Larsen Jr. in his various magic acts for years, the two launched the Magic Castle together in 1963. Larsen’s dedication to the role of ambassador of magic helped elevate the AMA to an internationally renowned and respected organization within the art’s community.

(11) WRITING WHILE WAITING FOR THE EMERGENCY. Amanda S. Green’s “Putting things into perspective” at Mad Genius Club demonstrates how a professional writer honors her real-life priorities — a friend’s health and her writing commitments .

…One of my oldest and dearest friends is facing a challenge the vast majority of us will only ever read about. She is going to need me with her as she faces this challenge. Even if she hadn’t asked, I would be there for her. Why? Because she has always been there for me and mine.

That’s what friends and family do. You rally around those you care about.

But, when you do, work is impacted.

I know that the next few weeks and months will see us waiting for the shoe to drop. In some ways, it will be like those last weeks of pregnancy. A bag will be packed, the gas tank filled and we will all be waiting for the phone to ring to tell us it is time to leave. No, not a bug-out, at least not in a Ringo-esque sort of way. This is the call to get to the hospital within a certain amount of time. The clock is ticking and it is very loud….

It has also meant changing what I have with me at any time. I’ve always had my phone and a small notepad squirreled away in my purse in case I needed to make a note about something. Smart phones are great for being able to use for dictation and look up things, etc. Now, however, the small purse — my preference — has been traded for a larger one. The smartphone and pad have been joined by my Surface Pro 3, stylus and charger. Why? Because the SP3 gives me everything my laptop does but at a fraction of the weight. The screen, while small, is still larger than my Android tablet and the keyboard is much better than the virtual keyboard on the Android. Add in the thumb drive with all my working files and I have my office on the go….

The result has been that I can and have been getting the job done despite the worry that is constantly there right now. I am working hard to not only meet the schedule I set for myself at the beginning of the year but to get ahead. I want that cushion for the day when we get the call telling us it is time to meet my friends at the hospital. I want to be able to be there for them and not worry about falling behind on “work”. I need to know that I am keeping with my schedule so the money can and will keep coming in. I need to know that, no matter what the time of day or day of the week, I am able to continue working without worry about where I happen to be….

(12) COMIC-CON HQ TO LAUNCH. San Diego’s Comic-Con International will brand a video-on-demand service.

The Hollywood Reporter: “Lionsgate, Comic-Con Set Launch Date for Streaming Service”

Lionsgate and Comic-Con International will launch Comic-Con HQ, their newly-named fanboy streamer, on May 7, ahead of an official launch in June. The subscription video-on-demand service will have a soft launch in May, with an official bow to follow in June in the lead up to Comic-Con International: San Diego in July.

Deadline: “Lionsgate & Comic-Con’s SVOD Channel Comic-Con HQ Sets Launch Date”

The ad-free streaming service will feature “an evolving slate of programming including original scripted and unscripted series, recurring daily and weekly entertainment commentary, plus unique access to a growing library of live and archival programming from their world-class events, a highly-curated selection of film and TV genre titles, and behind-the-scenes access and bonus features from genre titles that defy and define pop culture,” per the announcement.

Variety: “Lionsgate to Launch Comic-Con Channel in May”

Monday’s announcement disclosed that gaming personality Adam Sessler, former host of G4’s X-Play, will executive produce programs on comics, science and gaming, along with hosting his own interview series. Other formats being developed include a general pop culture news show, a late-night talk show, a weekly movie talk in partnership with Complex’s Collider and an all-female panel on pop culture from women’s perspectives.

(13) ONCE AROUND THE BLOCK. Mr. Sci-Fi has something to say about the Paramount/CBS suit against the maker of Axanar.

Sci-Fi Writer-Producer Marc Zicree discusses Paramount’s lawsuit against Star Trek Axanar and puts it in context with the long history of science fiction fan fiction and fan films — and suggests several possible win-win strategies for a successful outcome.

 

[Thanks to Will R., Steven Johnson, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 10/31 Standlee’s Instant Summons

(1) The title of Jeb Kinnison’s review encapsulates his opinion — “’Tomorrowland’: Tragic Misfire”.

Having seen mixed reviews, I waited until Tomorrowland came out on cheaper streaming services. Directed and mostly written by Brad Bird, auteur of brilliant work like Iron Giant and The Incredibles, the previews looked promising — a story about the shiny visions of the technological future we had as kids in the 1960s, and a world where they actually happened.

(2) An old b&w photo of a scientist controlling waldos to diaper a baby doll is one of the relics in the Vault of the Atomic Space Age.

(3) William Shatner tells how his face was used for the mask that Halloween film franchise killer Michael Myers wore.

(4) “Jim Burns’ Halloween Reverie: Then and Now” from last year, at the local New York CBS station’s website.

Twenty-five years ago, youngsters at my door could see through the screen to a life-sized Superman and Batman that were just past me, in the living room.

On another night, every window of my home was adorned with special Halloween themed balloons, the merry Mylar reaching high into the October sky.

For another year, a wide assortment of latex masks of classic  Hollywood monsters (a wolfman, a mummy, Planet of the Apes’ Dr. Zaius and  creatures from The Outer Limits)–an amazing collection I had somehow acquired–peered out from those portals, gazing upon a lawn filled with a virtual galaxy of giant pumpkin lawn bags!

(5) How big did you say those pumpkin bags were, Jim? A giant inflatable pumpkin got away the other day in Arizona….

Diego Ramirez captured video of the 25-foot-tall jack o’lantern blowing around in traffic after it broke free of its straps at the Peoria Sports Complex.

“I was so shocked to see that it was like bouncing like a basketball all the way down the road,” Patrick Sparkes of Big AZ Promotions, the company that owns the decoration, told KPNX-TV.

The company said the 350-pound pumpkin broke free from its straps with the help of strong winds.

“We showed up and it wasn’t there and we spent the last 40 minutes driving around looking for it,” Sparkes said.

There were no injuries from the pumpkin’s dash for freedom, but there was some damage done to streetlamps.

(6) The Addams Family: The Broadway Musical evidently has been around for years, but it’s news to me!

THE ADDAMS FAMILY features an original story, and it’s every father’s nightmare. Wednesday Addams, the ultimate princess of darkness, has grown up and fallen in love with a sweet, smart young man from a respectable family. A man her parents have never met. And if that weren’t upsetting enough, she confides in her father and begs him not to tell her mother. Now, Gomez Addams must do something he’s never done before — keep a secret from his beloved wife, Morticia. Everything will change for the whole family on the fateful night they host a dinner for Wednesday’s “normal” boyfriend and his parents.

 

(7) The SJW viewpoint strikes again! A. J. Jacobs told NPR host Scott Simon some famous monsters aren’t as horrible as you think. I think I hear “Officer Krupke” in the background…

SCOTT SIMON, HOST: Misunderstood, misunderstood.

JACOBS: Misunderstood – that’s what I’m here to do is trying to salvage the reputation of some of these Halloween monsters. So yes, Frankenstein I think gets a really raw deal in the reputation department. We all think of Frankenstein’s monster as this monosyllabic idiot from the movies. But actually, in Mary Shelley’s original novel from 1818, Frankenstein’s monster was more of a sensitive intellectual type. He read Plutarch and Goethe. He was more Brooklyn hipster and less unfrozen caveman.

(8) A mysterious castle, a deserted village and things that go bump in the night are all in a day’s work for a TODAY team on the hunt for Dracula — “Take a Trip ‘Behind the Screams’ in Transylvania”

(9) Today In History

  • October 31, 1926Harry Houdini dies. Harry Houdini, the most celebrated magician and escape artist of the 20th century, dies of peritonitis in a Detroit hospital. Twelve days before, Houdini had been talking to a group of students after a lecture in Montreal when he commented on the strength of his stomach muscles and their ability to withstand hard blows. Suddenly, one of the students punched Houdini twice in the stomach. The magician hadn’t had time to prepare, and the blows ruptured his appendix. He fell ill on the train to Detroit, and, after performing one last time, was hospitalized. Doctors operated on him, but to no avail. The burst appendix poisoned his system, and on October 31 he died.
  • October 31, 2001 — Lovecraft adaptation Dagon makes its theatrical premiere in Spain.

(10) Today’s Birthday Boy

  • October 31, 1961 — Peter Jackson is born on Halloween in Wellington, New Zealand.

(11) The photo comes from “Susan Beatrice Recycles Old Watch Parts Into Intricately Detailed Steampunk Scultptures” on EarthPorm, but here full gallery is here. Amazing stuff.

recycled-watch-parts-sculptures-vintage-antique-susan-beatrice-36

Beatrice’s creations bring boring old gears and machinery to life. She has the ability to turn ratchets and other tiny technical parts into a lively mouse, seahorse or fairy. The more you look at her varied artwork the more you wonder what this woman can’t do… as it appears she can make everything out of anything.

(12) How badly do you want to be one of the first people to see the new Star Wars movie? Air France can help you out.

Lines will form at the crack of dawn on December 18 as die-hard fans set out to snag the best seats to see Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens in theaters.

But some very lucky trans-Atlantic plane passengers will get the jump on them.

In what seems like a ploy to rope super-fans into buying very expensive plane tickets, Air France will be letting passengers watch the much-anticipated flick two days before its official release, on December 16.

The French airline is teaming up with EuropaCorp CINEMAS to offer the advance screenings for passengers on four Paris-bound flights, AF083 from San Francisco to Paris, AF065 from Los Angeles, AF011 from New York and AF009 from New York.

[Thanks to James H. Burns, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, Soon Lee.]