Pixel Scroll 3/22/19 Dial P For Pixel

(1) LABORS OF LOVE. The Hugo Award Book Club has completed its series of articles on the depiction of labor unions in science fiction. Olav Rokne sent the links with a note, “I welcome any feedback, and appreciate being informed of any omissions.” 

At their peak in 1954, unions represented almost a third of workers in the United States, and it was easy to take their existence — and their action as a counterbalance to the power of capital — for granted. Even employees in non-union workplaces enjoyed gains because employers had to keep up with union shops to retain and recruit labour.

But despite their prevalence in society, labour unions were largely absent from science fictional narratives during the Golden Age, and their few portrayals in the genre are usually either comedic or antagonistic.

As labour activist and science fiction author Eric Flint pointed out atWorldCon76, the major contributors to the development of science fiction — from the dawn of the Golden Age of Science Fiction through this era of union organizing and stability — were largely drawn from academic circles or the upper middle class. Despite working for a living, these authors and editors did not see themselves as part of the proletariat, and thus based their narratives on assumptions that their privileged working relationships allowed them to hold.

Cory Doctorow has been one of the leading lights of the genre’s reappraisal of the role of employment in society and the relationship between workers and employers. Tackling such subjects as employment precarity, labour mobility, and income inequality, Doctorow’s work consistently shows a strong understanding of the labour union world.

Of particular note is his 2010 novel For The Win which depicts a unionization drive amongst workers who are paid to gather resources in a World Of Warcraft-style online game. This depiction shows the necessity of worker organization in the face of capital overreach, and is informed by knowledge of the systemic flaws in traditional labour organizing.

The first unmistakable labour union in science fiction cinema that we were able to find is the Textile and Garment Workers Union depicted in the 1951 Ealing Studios comedy The Man In The White Suit. The film revolves around the invention of an indestructible fabric by a mild-mannered chemist played by Sir Alec Guinness, and the subsequent attempts by business and labour unions to suppress the invention. The depiction of unions in this movie is broad and largely inaccurate, depicting them as collaborating with management and encouraging industrial sabotage.

Despite these inaccuracies about how unions operate, we will be endorsing The Man In The White Suit for 1952 Retro Hugos, . It is in most ways a superb and thoughtful piece of science fiction about the introduction of a new technology, and is elevated by witty dialogue and star-worthy performances (Guinness was nominated for an Academy Award that year for a different comedy from the same studio).

(2) COLD READING. Wil Wheaton has done a free audiocast of a 1931 story from Astounding, “The Cave Of Horrors” by Captain S.P. Meek at Soundcloud.

I needed to get out of my comfort zone, so I went to Project Gutenberg, clicked through a few bookshelves until I got to classic Science Fiction, and decided to do an unrehearsed, essentially live narration of a story that was published in Astounding Stories of Super Science in 1931.

It’s not the greatest story I’ve ever read (if I’d read it before I narrated it, I wouldn’t have chosen it), but it’s a fine representative of that era’s genre fiction writing. I had some fun doing my best impression of someone reading it in 1931, and I recorded it to share with any of you who are interested in this sort of thing.

(3) DAYS OF YORE. Rob Hansen has added reports, photos, and publications from “Brumcon 2 – The 1965 Eastercon” to his British fanhistory site THEN. Charlie Winstone’s conreport sets the stage:

It all started some fifteen months ago, – the Brummies, in a fit of derring-do, talked Ken Cheslin into standing up and calling for the 1965 Convention venue to be Birmingham. This he did, not without some misgivings. After all the British Science-Fiction Association’s Committee was also centred upon Birmingham. Still, there were plenty of Brummies (Easter Brummies, as they were christened by Archie Mercer) around – it was surely not an impossible task to put on a Convention.

(4) THE FINAL COURSE. Scott Edelman welcomes you to dig into dessert with Parvus Press publisher Colin Coyle in Episode 91 of Eating the Fantastic

Colin Coyle

This episode of Eating the Fantastic almost didn’t happen, and not just because it was recorded somewhat spontaneously. No, the reason this episode almost didn’t happen was because instead of digging into dessert, we were afraid we might be spending the night being interrogated by the Secret Service. And if that had occurred, the blame would be entirely on Parvus Press publisher Colin Coyle.

It was all due to his afternoon mission to visit the White House and fulfill Kickstarter rewards relating to his recently released anthology If This Goes On, edited by Cat Rambo. And because that title contains my short story “The Stranded Time Traveler Embraces the Inevitable,” I decided to tag along. We had an off-the-record lunch at Jaleo, but once we we’d completed our mission, we debriefed what we’d just done over dessert at Art and Soul.

We discussed the reason we were glad we got to record the episode rather than spend the night in jail, how the tragic events of Charlottesville inspired him to hire Cat Rambo to assemble the If This Goes On anthology, why he switched over to the Kickstarter model for this book and what surprises he discovered during the process, the reason his company isn’t publishing horror even though he’d like to, the surprising shared plot point slush pile writers used to indicate future American culture was failing, what an episode of West Wing taught him about launching Parvus Press, what he isn’t seeing enough of in the slush pile, the acting role of which he’s proudest from back in his theater days (hint: you’ve probably seen Danny DeVito do it), the advice he wishes he could have given himself when he started out as a publisher, and much more.

(5) RIGHTS GRAB. Peter Grant flags “Another Attack on Author Rights” at Mad Genius Club. He points to an Authors Guild report that the “Los Angeles Times Wants Rights to Books Written by Staff”, which begins –

One of the nation’s leading newspapers is attempting an unprecedented rights grab, according to its writers. In the midst of contract negotiations with its newsroom staff, the Los Angeles Times, purchased last year by biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shionghas proposed that its journalists, as a condition of employment, cede control of any books or other creative works made outside of their daily journalistic duties.

The Los Angeles Times Guild, a trade union representing some 400 newsroom staffers, has called the proposal “a new low in the newspaper industry,” pointing out that no other major newspaper has such strict copyright restrictions. “If we have a book idea related to our work,” according to the Times Guild, “the company wants unfettered power to claim control over whether it gets written, who owns the copyright and what we might get paid for it.”

 In a comment Dorothy Grant asks whether the AG complaint should be taken at face value:

Several thoughts on that: first, we’re not seeing the actual contract clause, we’re seeing what one party to the negotiations has taken public in an attempt to pressure the other side. Which means that the ratio of truth to hyperbole is… unknown.

(6) GO RIGHT TO THE SOURCE. “Many of the short stories that inspired Love, Death + Robots are free online” says The Verge’s Andrew Liptak in a post that supplies the links.

(7) PUNCHING IN. Charlie Martin touts “The Power of Pulp” at PJ Media.  

But have you read any “quality” fiction recently? Between making sure that all the right demographics are presented in the exact right way, and the tendency of “quality” fiction to still be about nothing, most of it is not much fun. In fact, there’s even a technical term for reading that’s supposed to be fun: it’s called ludic fiction. It’s characterized by a particular experience: you get lost in it. You forget you’re reading and you’re engrossed in the vicarious experience.

Have you noticed that the people who stress the importance of “fun” rarely sound like they’re having any?

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 22, 1920 Ross Martin. Best known for portraying Artemus Gordon on The Wild Wild West. I watched the entire series on DVD one summer some decades back include the films in less than a month from start to finish. Now that was fun! It looks like Conquest of Space, a 1955 SF film, in which he played Andre Fodor was his first genre outing. The Colossus of New York in which he was the brilliant Jeremy ‘Jerry’ Spensser came next, followed by appearances on Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond, The Twilight Zone, Zorro, The Immortal, Night Gallery, Invisible ManGemini Man (a far cheaper version of Invisible Man), Quark (truly one of the worst SF series ever), Fantasy Island and Mork & Mindy. (Died 1981.)
  • Born March 22, 1930 Stephen Sondheim, 89. Several of his works were of a fantastical nature including Into The Woods which mines deeply into both Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault for its source material. And there’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street which is damn fun even if it isn’t genre. 
  • Born March 22, 1931 William Shatner, 88. Today is indeed his Birthday.  I could write a long, detailed Birthday entry but y’all know everything I could possibly say here. Suffice it to that I did enjoy him on Trek for the most part and actually found his acting on TekWar where he was Walter H. Bascom to be some of his better work. Now the short-lived Barbary Coast series featuring his character of Jeff Cable was the epitome of his genre acting career. 
  • Born March 22, 1946 Rudy Rucker, 73. He’s certainly best known for the Ware Tetralogy, the first two of which, Software and Wetware, both won Philip K. Dick Award. Though not genre, I do recommend As Above, So Below: A Novel of Peter Bruegel.
  • Born March 22, 1950 Mary Tamm. She’s remembered for her role as Romana, the companion to the Fourth Doctor in “The Key to Time” story. It seemed liked she was there longer only because another actress, Lalla Ward, played her in the following season. This actress was soon to be married to Tom Baker. She also appears briefly in the 20th Anniversary special The Five Doctors through the reuse of footage from the uncompleted story Shada. Tamm had only one other genre gig, to wit as  Ginny in  “Luau” on the Tales That Witness Madness series. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 22, 1969 Alex Irvine, 50. I strongly recommend One King, One Soldier, his offbeat Arthurian novel, and The Narrows, a WW II Detroit golem factory where fantasy tropes get a severe trouncing. He’s also wrote The Vertigo Encyclopedia which was an in-house project so, as he told me back then, DC delivered him one copy of every Vertigo title they had sitting in the warehouse.  For research purposes. And he’s written a fair number of comics, major and minor houses alike.  
  • Born March 22, 1978 Joanna Page, 41. Queen Elizabeth I in the first episode of “The Day of the Doctor” on Doctor Who in which the Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor and the War Doctor all make appearances. Other genre appearances are scant but she did play María on Bedlam, a British supernatural series, she was Gladys in a film adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, and she also played of Ann Cook in  the film adaptation of Alan Moore’s From Hell.  

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • In Baldo someone has come up with a good trick for increasing their reading time.
  • Cats’ fascination with laser pointers is the basis for the science fictional humor in Grimmy.
  • Arctic Circle has a gag inspired by Chang’e-4.
  • A retro tech joke in Bizarro. (How many Filers remember when these were sold in the backs of comic books?)
  • BBC’s article “How a bookshop wolf handles awkward customers” includes lots of illos.

We’ve all heard of the saying “the customer is always right” but when you work in service industries, what can you do to vent your frustration when the customer is rather annoying?

Whether it’s children running riot, requests for the most obscure information, or just plain rude customers, Australian bookshop worker Anne Barnetson has faced it all. But she’s come up with a rather novel way of dealing with such awkward situations.

Anne is the creator of Customer Service Wolf, a comic found on Instagram and Tumblr. It gives a humorous anthropomorphic take on life dealing with strangers turning up in bookshops with strange requests.

(10) PLAYING IN OVERTIME. Tolkien and Hubbard are not the only prolific deceased authors in our midst. See “Isaac Bashevis Singer from Beyond the Grave” in The Paris Review.

As if in fulfillment of his own prophecy, Isaac Bashevis Singer has been astonishingly prolific in death. An untranslated magnum opus, Shadows on the Hudson, was translated into English in 1998, followed by a sequel collection of reminiscences of pre-1914 Jewish Warsaw, More Stories from My Father’s Court, followed by a steady, enviable beat of short stories, either unpublished or published in Yiddish but never translated, stories steadily adding to and enriching Singer’s great twin themes: the magical Yiddishkeit cosmos wrecked in World War II and the scattered, wandering survivors of that wreckage. In the past two years, Singer’s stories have been published in Harper’s and The New Yorker. Another, “The Murderer,” appears in the current spring issue of The Paris Review. Every few months, it seems, there is a Singer dispatch from beyond the grave, another unlabeled bottle floating in on the tide. Reading his bibliography, one would never guess he has been dead nearly three decades. And there will be more Singer for the foreseeable future, as the editor of his estate told The New Yorker: “There are novels, short stories, memoirs, even plays—some of which appeared in Yiddish and some of which … exist only as handwritten manuscripts.” Heaps of Singer’s words are wheeling blindly about in library archives, at the bottoms of desk drawers, manuscripts translated by hand on magazine tear sheets, unilluminated microfilm vibrantly uncollected and unclassified. He and his oeuvre refuse to be still. They seem to wend their way to the surface with something like the residue of Singer’s consciousness, or rather with the uncanny pseudoconsciousness of an automaton, set in motion by a now-dead hand.

(11) GAME IN THE WORKS. Rad Magpie’s mission is to “Support underrepresented creators and radical interactive media.” Their first in-house studio is working on the first Sri Lankan fantasy game to exist called Sigiriya with Mary Anne Mohanraj

Sigiriya is a mobile game set in the ancient Sri Lankan fortress of the same name. Our interactive experience marries heart-centered, narrative-driven gameplay with both fantastical and historical elements.

Our team is working to bring this game to life, and we are currently in the early production phases.

(12) YOU ASKED FOR IT, WE GOT IT.  “Toyota to Help Develop Moon Rover” says the headline, though Daniel Dern comments, “In my initial glimpse I thought it said “Moon River” and wasn’t sure if it was about the song, or they were going ‘Lunar Duckboats!’”

Toyota will be adding some depth to its development prowess when it partners with Japan’s space agency to create a manned lunar rover powered by fuel cell technologies.

According to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), though Japan has no plans to send humans into space at this time, the rover could serve as a building block to eventually get them there.

(13) DRAGON LADY. In her New Yorker article “A Battle for My Life”. Emilia Clarke, TV’s Daenerys Targaryen, reveals she had two surgeries for brain aneurysms after season 1 and season 3 of Game of Thrones, and discusses that people should be urgently treated if they have brain or stroke problems.

Just when all my childhood dreams seemed to have come true, I nearly lost my mind and then my life. I’ve never told this story publicly, but now it’s time.

(14) ABOVE THE STORM. BBC admires this photo taken by Juno: “Planet Jupiter: Spectacular picture of Jupiter’s storms”.

This beautiful picture of Jupiter was assembled from three separate images acquired by Nasa’s Juno spacecraft as it made another of its close passes of the gas giant.

The probe has a colour camera onboard and citizen scientists are encouraged to play with the data to make their own views of the planet.

This one, which is colour-enhanced, was produced by Kevin M Gill.

The US space agency has dubbed it “Jupiter Marble” – a reference to the full disc pictures of Earth captured by satellites down the years that have been called “Blue Marble”.

(15) LOOK OUT, IT’S A JUGGERNAUT! From BBC we learn – “Autonomous shuttle to be tested in New York City”.

A self-driving shuttle service is to be deployed in New York City by the middle of the year.

Boston start-up Optimus Ride will run vehicles on private roads at the Brooklyn Navy Yard site located on New York’s East River.

The shuttle will help workers get around the large site.

(16) CALL FOR A VERDICT. The question is: “Can you murder a robot?” The BBC story covers a lot of ground.

Back in 2015, a hitchhiker was murdered on the streets of Philadelphia.

It was no ordinary crime. The hitchhiker in question was a little robot called Hitchbot. The “death” raised an interesting question about human-robot relationship – not so much whether we can trust robots but whether the robots can trust us.

The answer, it seems, was no.….

Hitchbot is not the first robot to meet a violent end.

Dr Kate Darling, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), encouraged people to hit dinosaur robots with a mallet, in an workshop designed to test just how nasty we could be to a machine.

She also conducted an experiment with small bug-like robots.

Most people struggled to hurt the bots, found Dr Darling.

“There was a correlation between how empathetic people were and how long it took them to hit a robot,” she told BBC News, at her lab in Boston.

“What does it say about you as a person if you are willing to be cruel to a robot. Is it morally disturbing to beat up something that reacts in a very lifelike way?” she asked.

The reaction of most people was to protect and care for the robots.

“One woman was so distressed that she removed the robot’s batteries so that it couldn’t feel pain,” Dr Darling said.

(17) MERGER MASHUPS. Chris Hemsworth on Instagram celebrated the Disney-Fox merger by wearing a Deadpool outfit with a Viking helmet.  Ryan Reynolds marked the merger by wearing mouse ears on his Deadpool outfit on his Instagram post.

View this post on Instagram

Our love child #thor #deadpool @vancityreynolds

A post shared by Chris Hemsworth (@chrishemsworth) on

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Feels like the first day of ‘Pool.

A post shared by Ryan Reynolds (@vancityreynolds) on

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Why Do Flat-Earth Believers Still Exist?” on YouTube, John Timmer of Ars Technica shows the increasinly flimsy evidence flat earth followers have for claiming the earth is flat.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/20/19 Pix-El: The Man of Scroll

(1) TOLKIEN RESEARCH SURVEY. Robin Anne Reid of the Department of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce is continuing to collect surveys for the project mentioned in the January 11 Scroll (item 2) – “I have 42 but more would be nice.”

The link leads to Reid’s academic Dreamwidth page for the informed consent information. The link from there goes to SurveyMonkey. Reid’s cover letter says: 

Hello: I am a professor of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce (TAMUC) who is doing a research project. The project asks how readers of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium who are at least eighteen years old and who are atheists, agnostics, animists, or part of New Age movements interpret his work in the context of the common assumption that Tolkien’s Catholic beliefs must play a part in what readers see as the meaning of his fiction.

I have created a short survey which consists of ten open-ended questions about your religious and/or spiritual background, your experiences of Tolkien’s work, and your ideas about the relationship between religious beliefs and interpreting his work. It would take anywhere from thirty minutes to several hours to complete the survey, depending on how much you write in response to the questions.  The survey is uploaded to my personal account at Survey Monkey: only I will have access to the responses. My research proposal has been reviewed by the TAMUC Institutional Review Board.

If you are eighteen years or older, and are an atheist, agnostic, animist, or part of a New Age movement that emphasizes spirituality but not a creator figure, you are invited to go to my academic blog to see more information about the survey. The survey will be open from December 1, 2018-January 31, 2019, closing at 11:30 PM GMT-0500 Central Daylight Time.

Complete information about the project and how your anonymity and privacy will be protected can be found at by clicking on the link:

https://robin-anne-reid.dreamwidth.org/50424.html

(2) RETRO READING. The Hugo Award Book Club‘s Olav Rokne recalls: “The Retro-Hugo for Best Graphic Story was overlooked by enough nominators that it failed to be awarded last year. That’s a real shame, because I can tell you that there was a lot of work that’s worth celebrating. It’s actually quite sad that it was forgotten last year, and I’m sincerely hoping that people don’t neglect the category this year.” That’s the reason for his recommended reading post  “Retro Hugo – Best Graphic Story 1944”.  

(3) A FEMINIST SFF ROUNDUP. Cheryl Morgan gives an overview of 2018 in “A Year In Feminist Speculative Fiction” at the British Science Fiction Association’s Vector blog. Morgan’s first recommendation —

Top of the list for anyone’s feminist reading from 2018 must be Maria Dahvana Headley’s amazing re-telling of Beowulf, The Mere Wife. Set in contemporary America, with a gated community taking the place of Heorot Hall, and a policeman called Ben Wolfe in the title role, it uses the poem’s story to tackle a variety of issues. Chief among them is one of translation. Why is it that Beowulf is always described as a hero, whereas Grendel’s Mother is a hag or a wretch? In the original Anglo-Saxon, the same word is used to describe both of them. And why do white women vote for Trump? The book tackles both of those questions, and more. I expect to see it scooping awards.

(4) HONEY, YOU GOT TO GET THE SCIENCE RIGHT. Where have I heard that before? Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is netting all kinds of awards, but writing for CNN, physicist Don Lincoln opines that, “‘Spider-verse’ gets the science right — and wrong.” Of course, this is an animated movie and maybe Don is a bit of a grump.

CNN—(Warning: Contains mild spoilers) 

As a scientist who has written about colliding black holes and alien space probes, I was already convinced I was pretty cool. But it wasn’t until I sat down to watch “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” that I understood the extent of my own coolness. There on the screen was fictional scientific equipment that was clearly inspired by the actual apparatus that my colleagues and I use to try to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

Amid the action, the coming-of-age story, a little romance and a few twists and turns, the movie shows a fictional gadget located in New York City called a collider, which connects parallel universes and brings many different versions of Spider-Man into a single universe.

(5) SFF TV EDITOR. CreativeCOW.net features a rising star in “Editing SYFY”.

When talking about her career path, you get the immediate sense that rejection isn’t a “no” for Shiran Amir. There’s never been an obstacle that’s kept her from living her dream. Shattering ceiling after glass ceiling, she makes her rise up through the ranks look like a piece of cake. However, her story is equal parts strategy and risk – and none of it was easy.

After taking countless chances in her career, of which some aspiring editors don’t see the other side, she has continually pushed herself to move onward and upward. She’s been an assistant editor on Fear the Walking Dead, The OA, and Outcast to name a few, before becoming a full-fledged editor of Z Nation for SyFy, editing the 4th and 9th episodes of the zombie apocalypse show’s final season, with its final episode airing December 28, 2018. She’s currently on the Editors Guild Board of Directors and is involved in the post-production community in Los Angeles.

And she’s only 30 years old.

(6) ARISIA. Bjo Trimble poses with fans in Star Trek uniforms.

The con also overcame horrible weather and other challenges:

And here’s a further example of the Arisia’s antiharassment measures:

(7) EXTRA CREDITS. The Extra Credits Sci Fi series on YouTube began Season 3 with “Tolkien and Herbert – The World Builder”

Mythic worldbuilding and intentionality just weren’t staples of science fiction until the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert were published. We’ll be doing an analysis of The Lord of the Rings and Dune, respectively–works that still stand out today because they are meticulously crafted.

Here are links to playlists for the first two seasons:

  • The first season covered the origins of SF up to John Campbell.
  • The second season covered the Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke era up to the start of the New Wave.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 20, 1884 A. Merritt. Early pulp writer whose career consisted of eight complete novels and a number of short stories. Gutenberg has all of all his novels and most of his stories available online.  H. P. Lovecraft notes in a letter that he was a major influence upon his writings, and a number of authors including Michael Moorcock and Robert Bloch list him as being among their favorite authors. 
  • Born January 20, 1920 DeForest Kelley. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy on the original Trek and a number of films that followed plus the animated series. Other genre appearances include voicing voicing Viking 1 in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (his last acting work) and a 1955 episode of Science Fiction Theatre entitled “Y..O..R..D..” being his only ones as he didn’t do SF Really preferring Westerners. (Died 1999.)
  • Born January 20, 1926 Patricia Neal. Best known to genre buffs for her film role as World War II widow Helen Benson in The Day the Earth Stood Still. She also appeared in Stranger from Venus, your usual British made flying saucer film. She shows up in the Eighties in Ghost Story based off a Peter Straub novel, and she did an episode of The Ghost Story series which was later retitled Circle Of Fear in hopes of getting better ratings (it didn’t, it was cancelled).  If Kung Fu counts as genre, she did an appearance there. (Died 2010)
  • Born January 20, 1934 Tom Baker, 85. The Fourth Doctor and my introduction to Doctor Who. My favorite story? The Talons of Weng Chiang with of course the delicious added delight of his companion Leela played by Lousie Jameson. Even the worse of the stories, and there were truly shitty stories, were redeemed by him and his jelly babies. He did have a turn before being the Fourth Doctor as Sherlock Holmes In The Hound of the Baskervilles, and though not genre, he turns up as Rasputin early in his career in Nicholas and Alexandra! Being a working actor, he shows up in a number of low budget films early on such as The Vault of HorrorThe Golden Voyage of SinbadThe MutationsThe Curse of King Tut’s Tomb and The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood. And weirdly enough, he’s Halvarth the Elf in a Czech made  Dungeons & Dragons film which has a score of 10% on Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • Born January 20, 1946 David Lynch, 73. Director of possibly the worst SF film ever made from a really great novel in the form of Dune. Went on to make Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me which is possibly one of the weirdest films ever made. (Well with Blue Velvet being a horror film also vying for top honors as well.) Oh and I know that I didn’t mention Eraserhead. You can talk about that film.
  • Born January 20, 1948Nancy Kress, 71. Best known for her Hugo and Nebula Award winning Beggars in Spain and its sequels. Her latest novel is If Tomorrow Comes: Book 2 in the Yesterday’s Kin trilogy.
  • Born January 20, 1958 Kij Johnson, 61. Writer and associate director of The Center for the Study of Science Fiction the University of Kansas English Department which is I must say a cool genre thing indeed. She’s also worked for Tor, TSR and Dark Horse. Wow. Where was I? Oh about to mention her writings… if you not read her Japanese mythology based The Fox Woman, do so now as it’s superb. The sequel, Fudoki, is just as interesting. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a novella taking a classic Lovecraftian tale and giving a nice twist. Finally I’ll recommend her short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories
  • Born January 20, 1964 Francesca Buller, 55. Performer and wife of Ben Browder, yes that’s relevant as she’s been four different characters on Farscape, to wit she played the characters of Minister Ahkna, Raxil, ro-NA and M’Lee. Minister Ahkn is likely the one you remember her as being. Farscape is her entire genre acting career.  

(9) IS BRAM STOKER SPINNING? It’s all about Scott Edelman:

(10) MAGICON. Fanac.org has added another historic video to its YouTube channel: “MagiCon (1992) Worldcon – Rusty Hevelin interviews Frank Robinson.”

MagiCon, the 50th Worldcon, was held in Orlando, Florida in 1992. In this video, Rusty Hevelin interviews fan, editor and author Frank Robinson on his career, both fannish and professional and on the early days of science fiction. Frank talks about the war years, the fanzines he published, the Ray Palmer era in magazines, his time at Rogue Magazine and lots more. Highlights include: working with Ray Palmer, discussion on the line between fan and pro writing, the story of George Pal’s production of ‘The Power’ from Frank’s story of that name, and Frank’s views on the impact of science fiction and of fantasy. Frank Robinson was a true devotee of the field – “Science fiction can change the world.”

(11) MUONS VS. MEGS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]Those cheering for the stupid-large shark in last year’s The Meg, may now know what to blame for the lack of megalodons in the current age. A story in Quanta Magazine (“How Nearby Stellar Explosions Could Have Killed Off Large Animals”) explains a preprint paper (“Hypothesis: Muon Radiation Dose and Marine Megafaunal Extinction at the End-Pliocene Supernova”). Using iron-60 as a tracer, supernovae have been tracked to a time of mass extinction at the Pliocene-Pleistocene boundary 2.6 million years ago. The paper’s authors make the leap from that to a hypothesis that a huge spike in muons that would have occurred when supernova radiation slammed into Earth’s atmosphere could have contributed to that extinction.

Even though Earth is floating in the void, it does not exist in a vacuum. The planet is constantly bombarded by stuff from space, including a daily deluge of micrometeorites and a shower of radiation from the sun and more-distant stars. Sometimes, things from space can maim or kill us, like the gargantuan asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. More often, stellar smithereens make their way to Earth and the moon and then peacefully settle, remaining for eternity, or at least until scientists dig them up.

[…] But the search for cosmic debris on Earth has a long history. Other researchers have demonstrated that it’s possible to find fossil evidence of astrophysical particles in Earth’s crust. Some researchers are pondering how these cosmic events affect Earth — even whether they have altered the course of evolution. A new study suggests that energetic particles from an exploding star may have contributed to the extinction of a number of megafauna, including the prehistoric monster shark megalodon, which went extinct at around the same time.

“It’s an interesting coincidence,” said Adrian Melott, an astrophysicist at the University of Kansas and the author of a new paper.

(12) STEPPING UP. “Girl Scouts of America offers badge in cybersecurity” – a BBC video report.

Girl Scouts of America is now offering girls as young as five a badge in cybersecurity.

It’s part of a drive to get more girls involved in science, technology engineering and mathematics from a young age.

An event in Silicon Valley gave scouts an opportunity to earn the first patch in the activity, with the help of some eggs.

(13) A LITTLE GETAWAY. The BBC asks “Is this the least romantic weekend ever?”

The road runs straight and black into the gloom of the snowy birch forest. It is -5C (23F), the sky is slate-grey and we’re in a steamy minibus full of strangers. Not very romantic you’re thinking, and I haven’t yet told you where we’re going.

My wife, Bee, had suggested a cheeky New Year break. Just the two of us, no kids. “Surprise me,” she’d said.

Then I met a bloke at a friend’s 50th. He told me how much he and his girlfriend had enjoyed a trip to Chernobyl – that’s right, the nuclear power station that blew up in the 1980s, causing the worst civilian nuclear disaster in history.

“Don’t worry,” my new friend declared, a large glass of wine in his hand. “It’s safe now.”

Well, she’d said she’d like something memorable…

(14) HARRIMAN REDUX. BBC considers the question — “Chang’e-4: Can anyone ‘own’ the Moon?”

Companies are looking at mining the surface of the Moon for precious materials. So what rules are there on humans exploiting and claiming ownership?

It’s almost 50 years since Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon. “That’s one small step for a man,” the US astronaut famously said, “one giant leap for mankind.”

Shortly afterwards, his colleague Buzz Aldrin joined him in bounding across the Sea of Tranquility. After descending from the steps of the Eagle lunar module, he gazed at the empty landscape and said: “Magnificent desolation.”

Since the Apollo 11 mission of July 1969, the Moon has remained largely untouched – no human has been there since 1972. But this could change soon, with several companies expressing an interest in exploring and, possibly, mining its surface for resources including gold, platinum and the rare earth minerals widely used in electronics.

(15) UNIDENTIFIED FEDERAL OUTLAYS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Piggybacking on a Washington Post article (paywalled here) and a Vice article (freely available here), SYFY Wire says, “The government’s secret UFO program has just been revealed, and it’s something out of a sci-fi movie.”

We didn’t know much about the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program until now, but apparently, the Department of Defense has been focusing its efforts far beyond potential threats on Earth.

The Defense Intelligence Agency has finally let the public in on at least some of what it’s been up to by recently releasing a list of 38 research titles that range from the weird to the downright bizarre. It would have never revealed these titles—on topics like invisibility cloaking, wormholes and extradimensional manipulation—if it wasn’t for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request put in by the director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Society, Steven Aftergood.

(16) STANDING TALL. BBC traces “How Japan’s skyscrapers are built to survive earthquakes” in a photo gallery with some interesting tech info. “Japan is home to some of the most resilient buildings in the world – and their secret lies in their capacity to dance as the ground moves beneath them.”

The bar is set by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. This was a large earthquake – of magnitude 7.9 – that devastated Tokyo and Yokohama, and killed more than 140,000 people.

For earthquakes of a greater magnitude than this benchmark, preserving buildings perfectly is no longer the goal. Any damage that does not cause a human casualty is acceptable.

“You design buildings to protect people’s lives,” says Ziggy Lubkowski, a seismic specialist at University College London. “That’s the minimum requirement.”

(17) ORDER IN THE TINY BRICK COURT. SYFY Wire reports “Ruth Bader Ginsburg will uphold the Constitution in Lego Movie 2: The Second Part cameo”.

If nothing else, the upcoming sequel to The Lego Movie will adhere strictly to the legal confines of the U.S. Constitution.

That’s because 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will have a cameo as a black-robed, law-defining minifigure in The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, according to the film’s director, Mike Mitchell.

“These movies are so full of surprises. And we were thinking, ‘Who’s the last person you would think to see in a Lego film as a minifig?’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg!” Mitchell told USA Today. “And we’re all huge fans. It made us laugh to think of having her enter this world.”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/21/18 These Pixel Scrolls May Contain Apocalyptic Stories About The End Of Days

(1) CONGRATULATIONS MAYOR RODEN. World Fantasy Award winner Barbara Roden (1997, 2005) is the newly-elected mayor of Ashcroft, British Columbia – the first woman elected to the office. The population of Ashcroft is around 1,500.

(2) AWARD FOR SJW CREDENTIALS IN LITERATURE. The Stephen Memorial Book Award for books with distinctive cats is a literary award that will be of interest to many Filers.

The 2018 winner is a memoir:

The Three Kitties That Saved My Life by Michael Meyer

Cat: Sable, Coco and Pom Pom
Story: The Three Kitties that saved my life.

A biography of troubles and the rescued cats (& Kitty) that pulled him through it. Touching, raw and heart-warming.

The three runners up are all SFF books and are listed here:

Cat: Dascha
Story: Familiar Trials by Taki Drake and T S Paul

Learning to be a familiar is something Dascha was not expecting, but when she does begin, she shows bravery both in and out of the classroom, while learning what it means to be a familiar.

Awarded to Dascha, for bravery and determination in the face of dangerous trials. Stephen Memorial Award 2018

Cat: Purrcasso
Story: The Creatures of Chichester by Christopher Joyce

The cat from the art galley. Wrangling both teenagers and ghosts that came to the Sloe Festival in Chichester. Despite floods and fears, standing firm and proud as only a cat can.

Awarded to Purrcasso, for his assistance in the saving of several ghosts Stephen Memorial Award 2018

Cat: Sir Kipling
Story: Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Cat Magic by Lydia Sherrer

A magical cat who can talk to his wizard. While she is away, he decides that he should, of course, be keeping an eye on anything magical. Of course, when someone evil does try something, Sir Kipling is on hand to ensure that such plans go awry.

Awarded to Sir Kipling, for showing that it takes a good feline to be in charge. Stephen Memorial Award 2018

The award also has a charitable component – this year they partnered with CatChat.org, the cat rehoming charity, and donated £1 for each book entered. Bookangel reports the award raised enough to rehome twenty cats.

(3) KGB READINGS. Ellen Datlow posted her photos from the October Fantastic Fiction at KGB readings where the guests were Tim Pratt and Lawrence M. Schoen.

Lawrence Schoen and Tim Pratt

(4) GAME OF THROWNS. Channel your inner orc at “LA’s premiere ax-throwing facility” — LA AX.

Axe Throwing is a unique and exciting activity that was brought into existence just over a decade ago in the backwoods of Ontario, Canada. Since then, it has exploded into a sport that is making waves on the international stage. Yes, you read that correctly, Axe Throwing is an international sport! How does one become a professional Axe Thrower? Well there are few ways to break into this sport!  Whether you just want to be a casual thrower, a serious professional, or you have a group of friends looking for a fun night out; our LA AX coaches will give you the knowledge you need to become a professional in your own right!

(5) HONEST TRAILERS: SOLO. “The coolest new Star Wars character is… Never mind.” Got that right!

(6) IN THE VACUUM OF THEATER SPACE. According to Looper, First Man failed to gain an audience.

By all accounts, First Man is an excellent film, filled with great performances from stars like Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy. So why isn’t anyone going to see it? Here’s a look at why First Man has bombed at the box office so far…

 

(7) WHAT IF? The Hugo Award Book Club launches its review of Mary Robinett Kowal’s The Calculating Stars with this wee bit of snark —

While we quite enjoyed Seveneves, many readers described it as a bit dry.

A comparison between the two books is apt. Seveneves and The Calculating Stars are books that explore many similar ideas, but they do so in very different ways that will appeal to different people.

(8) WTF? Umm….

(9) FORWARDING ADDRESS. James Davis Nicoll explores “(Semi-)Plausible Strategies for Moving a Whole Damn Planet” at Tor.com. It’s a lot easier if you have the help of supremely intelligent aliens.

Has this ever happened to you? You’re living on a perfectly good planet in orbit around a perfectly acceptable star—and then suddenly, the neighbourhood goes to crap and you have to move. For a lot of people, this means marching onto space arks.

Recapitulating Noah on a cosmic scale is such a pain, though. All that packing. All that choosing who to take and who to leave behind. And no matter how carefully you plan things, it always seems to come down to a race between launch day and doomsday.

Why not, therefore, just take the whole darned planet with you?

(10) BRADBURYIANA. On display at the Ray Bradbury Center in Indianapolis —

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 21, 1904 – Edmond Hamilton, Writer and Member of First Fandom who was one of Weird Tales’ most prolific early contributors, providing nearly 80 stories from the late 20s to the late 40s. Sources say that in the late 1920s and early 1930s he had stories in all of the SF pulp magazines then in publication. His 1933 story “The Island of Unreason” won the first Jules Verne Prize as the best SF story of the year; this was the very first SF prize awarded by the votes of fans, and one source holds it to be a precursor of the Hugo Awards. From 1940 to 1951, he wrote at least 25 Captain Future stories (a universe recently revisited by Allen Steele). From the early 40s to the late 60s, he did work for DC, in stories about Superman and Batman, and he created the Space Ranger character with Gardner Fox and Bob Brown. He was Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 1964 Worldcon. He was married to fellow science fiction author, screenwriter, and fan Leigh Brackett for more than 30 years, until his death at age 72.
  • Born October 21, 1929 – Ursula K. Le Guin, Writer, Editor, Poet, and Translator. She called herself a “Narrative American”. And she most emphatically did not consider herself to be a genre writer – instead preferring to be known as an “American novelist”. Oh, she wrote genre fiction with quite some brillance, be it it the Earthsea sequence, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, or Always Coming Home; her upbringing as the daughter of two academics, one who was an anthropologist and the other who had a graduate degree in psychology, with a home library full of SF, showed in her writing. She wrote reviews and forewards for others’ books, gave academic talks, and did translations as well. Without counting reader’s choice awards, her works received more than 100 nominations for pretty much every genre award in existence, winning most of them at least once; she is one of a very small group of people who have won both Hugo and Nebula Awards in all four fiction length categories. She was Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 1975 Worldcon; was the second of only six women to be named SFWA Grand Master thus far; was given a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement; and was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In later years, she took up internet blogging with great delight, writing essays and poems, and posting pictures and stories of her cat Pard; these were compiled into a non-fiction collection, No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, which won a posthumous Hugo for Best Related Work.

  • Born October 21, 1952 – Don Davis, 66, Artist and Illustrator known for his portrayals of space-related subjects. In addition to providing covers for several SFF magazines in the 70s, he worked for the U. S. Geological Survey’s branch of Astrogeologic Studies during the Apollo Lunar expeditions, and has since painted many images for NASA and provided texture maps for JPL’s Voyager computer simulations. He was part of the team of space artists who provided the visual effects for Carl Sagan’s TV series Cosmos – for which he received an Emmy – and he painted the cover of Sagan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Dragons of Eden, as well as contributing artwork to Sagan’s Comet and Pale Blue Dot. He received the Klumpke-Roberts Award for outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy. The asteroid 13330 Dondavis is named after him, and in 2000 he was elected a Fellow in the International Association of Astronomical Artists.
  • Born October 21, 1956 – Carrie Fisher, Saturn-winning Actor, Writer, and Comedian who is best known to genre fans for playing Leia Organa in the Hugo- and Saturn-winning Star Wars films, a role she started at the age of 19. With her quick mind and sharp wit, she was well-known in Hollywood as the go-to script doctor for films with scripts in trouble. She became an outspoken advocate for the de-stigmatization of mental illness, having struggled her entire adult life with bipolar disorder and the substance abuse it engendered. One of her autobiographies, The Princess Diarist, was a finalist for a Best Related Work Hugo, and she won a Grammy for her audiobook narration of it. She died suddenly and far too soon in December 2016 at the age of 60.
  • Born October 21, 1958 – Julie Bell, 60, Artist and Illustrator who has provided covers for more than 100 science fiction and fantasy books, as well as covers for videogames and Marvel and DC trading cards. She sometimes collaborates on art with her husband, Boris Vallejo; they have done many paintings for worldwide advertising campaigns, and together they put out a Fantasy Art Calendar every year. She has been nominated for the Chesley Award four times, winning three of them. She is also (I did not know this!) the mother, with first husband SF scholar Donald Palumbo, of SFF artists David Palumbo and Anthony Palumbo.
  • Born October 21, 1967 – Jean Pierre Targete, 51, Artist and Illustrator whose early work was cover art for many Avon paperback editions, including Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, the Second Foundation Trilogy, and Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat stories. More recently, he has produced a lot of artwork for RPG books and materials, including for publishers Wizards of the Coast and Paizo. His works have garnered ten Chesley Award nominations, winning once. Some of his work has been collected in the book Illumina: The Art of J. P. Targete.
  • Born October 21, 1971 – Hal Duncan, 47, Computer Programmer and Writer from Scotland whose first novel, Vellum: The Book of All Hours, won a Spectrum Award and received nominations for World Fantasy, British Fantasy, Kurd Laßwitz, Prix Imaginaire, and Locus Best First Novel Awards, as well as winning a Tahtivaeltaja Award for best science fiction novel published in Finnish. His collection Scruffians! and his non-fiction work Rhapsody: Notes on Strange Fictions were also both finalists for British Fantasy Awards. An outspoken advocate and blogger for LGBTQ rights, he was a contributor to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project.
  • Born October 21, 1974 – Christopher J Garcia, 44, Writer, Editor, Filmmaker, Historian, Conrunner, and Fan who was the TAFF delegate to the UK Natcon in 2008. He has been editor and co-editor of several fanzines, and has been a finalist for the Fanzine and Fan Writer Hugos several times, including for The Drink Tank with James Bacon, which won a Hugo in 2011; his shall-we-say-effusive acceptance speech was nominated for Dramatic Presentatation Short Form Hugo the following year. He is a past president of the National Fantasy Fan Federation, and is known for running the fan lounges at cons. He has been Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including a Westercon.

(12) REASON TO READ. The Chicago Tribune advises, “Worried about the international panel report on global warming? Go read Octavia Butler’s ‘Earthseed’ books”.

…“Parable of the Sower,” published in 1993 when it was still possible to heed its warning, tells the story of a world collapsed due to climate change, economic inequality and unchecked corporate power. Resources are scarce, and only gated communities are safe.

Set near what used to be Los Angeles, the novel focuses on teenager Lauren Oya Olamina, who has “hyperempathy,” both a gift and an affliction that allows her to feel the pain she witnesses others experiencing. Spurred by her worldview, Lauren develops a new belief system called “Earthseed,” which posits that humans’ time on Earth is a kind of childhood and that they will emerge as adults once they travel to other planets.

It is a story of two diasporas, first as Lauren and other refugees are forced out of Los Angeles, and then as they look toward finding an extraterrestrial home.

(13) LOOK ALIVE. Rolling Stone asks just how far AR startup Magic Leap has gotten toward crossing the Uncanny Valley (“Is This Creepy New AI Assistant Too Lifelike?”).

Some people already talk to Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa like she’s a real person, setting her up for jokes, and having conversations that go way beyond the basic commands like “Alexa, play ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails.” And that’s how people are treating a disembodied voice. But what if you could see her — and what if she looked disturbingly human?

Magic Leap, an augmented-reality startup, introduced the next evolution of the virtual assistant at their conference earlier this month. Mica performs many of the same functions as Alexa or Apple’s Siri, but when users wear Magic Leap’s augmented reality glasses, they can also see her incredibly life-like avatar. Mica smiles, makes eye contact and even yawns, making the interactions even more convincing. “Our focus was to see how far we could push systems to create digital human representations,” John Monos, Magic Leap’s vice president of human-centered AI, said at the conference. “Above all else, her facial movements are what connect you to her.”

(14) PAUL ALLEN AT THE BEGINNING AND THE END. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport has an article about the Stratolaunch, a gigantic airplane funded by Paul Allen — “Paul Allen spent years building the world’s biggest airplane. He’ll never see it fly.”.  This passage explains why Allen was one of us:

Allen grew up knowing all the names of the Mercury 7 astronauts as if they were his favorite baseball players, he wrote in his memoir, “Idea Man.” And like many kids of his generation, he grew up wanting to become an astronaut. But then in the sixth grade he couldn’t see the blackboard at school, he told me in his office, and he knew that meant “my dreams of being an astronaut were over.”

His father was the associate director of the University of Washington Library, a second home of sorts for Allen. “My Dad was just letting me loose in the stacks,” he recalled. “I loved it.”

He devoured not just science fiction, but books about Wernher von Braun, the German-born architect of NASA’s might Saturn V rocket, which sent men to the moon. Once, Allen tried to build a homemade rocket of his own using the arm of an aluminum chair packed with powdered zinc and sulfur and firing it from a coffee pot. It didn’t work.

(15) FOUND AGAIN. There were huge losses in the museum fire, but at least the oldest human fossil found in Latin America was mostly recovered — “Brazil museum fire: Prized ‘Luzia’ fossil skull recovered”.

Most of the skull from a prized 12,000-year-old fossil nicknamed Luzia has been recovered from the wreckage of a fire in Brazil’s National Museum.

The 200-year-old building in Rio de Janeiro burned down in September, destroying almost all of its artefacts.

But on Friday the museum’s director announced that 80% of Luzia’s skull fragments had been identified.

The human remains – the oldest ever found in Latin America – were viewed as the jewel of the museum’s collection.

The museum staff said they were confident they could recover the rest of Luzia’s skull and attempt reassembly.

(16) A CAUTIONARY TALE. With many overseas fans contemplating a trip to Dublin for the 2019 Worldcon, this report from Forbes (“How To Handle Getting Ripped Off On Auto Insurance When Traveling Overseas”) could be of interest. Such a situation can happen anywhere, but this particular situation—where a Hertz clerk insisted wrongly on bundling an overpriced insurance product as a condition of renting a car—happened to be in Dublin.

[Rick] Kahler: As soon as we got back to the U.S., I filed a dispute with my credit card company on both the initial $424 car rental cost and the $584 insurance charge. My grounds were that Hertz violated their contract, which only required me to accept full financial responsibility or to have verified that I had insurance that would cover a loss. They violated the contact by demanding that I prove having coverage in excess of the value of the car and by refusing to accept that proof when I produced it. I eventually got my money back after I complained. But that doesn’t make up for the time and stress they caused me.

(17) ANOTHER SWORD FINDER. Unlike the girl Saga, this one is fictional…. The Kid Who Would Be King is coming to theaters January 25, 2019.

Old school magic meets the modern world in the epic adventure THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING. Alex (Ashbourne Serkis) thinks he’s just another nobody, until he stumbles upon the mythical Sword in the Stone, Excalibur. Now, he must unite his friends and enemies into a band of knights and, together with the legendary wizard Merlin (Stewart), take on the wicked enchantress Morgana (Ferguson). With the future at stake, Alex must become the great leader he never dreamed he could be.

 

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Cora Buhlert, JJ, Cat Eldridge, ULTRAGOTHA, Chip Hitchcock, Steven H Silver, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 9/19/18 Smells Like Teen Pixel

(1) THE DOCTOR IS IN. Stylist got the Thirteenth Doctor to revisit social media about her casting: “Watch: Jodie Whittaker brilliantly responds to Twitter trolls”.

Although the announcement regarding Whittaker being cast in the role was met with many sexist comments last year, the reaction, on the whole, has been a positive one.

“We live in a very unique time, people upload every moment to the internet so you can see the excitement and, in some instances, the fear people have,” Whittaker said, in reference to reading reactions online. “But when you see those videos, from all different ages of all different people from all different worlds about a show – and I hadn’t even done it yet – that’s ace because, if they’re accepting me into their family, what we want to do is make that family bigger.”

Which is why Whittaker popped into the Stylist office to look back on the Twitter reactions from a year ago – the good and the bad.

 

(2) FISH TICKS. Ian Sales (brilliantly) nitpicks the science in the movie Meg in the service of a greater truth about sff storytelling — “The megalodon in the room”.

…And yet… this is, I hear you say, completely irrelevant. It’s a film about a giant fucking prehistoric shark. Which reached lengths of 18 metres (bigger in the this film). Why cavil about submarines and submersibles and depths and pressures when the film is about a giant fucking prehistoric shark? All those facts quoted above, they mean nothing because it’s a film about a giant fucking prehistoric shark!

This is where we part company – myself, that is, and my imaginary critic(s) – because the megalodon, as the title of this post indicates, that’s the central conceit. The story is its scaffolding. Science fiction tropes work the same way. They’re either bolstered by the plot, or by exposition, or by the entire corpus of science fiction. Such as FTL. Or AI. Complete nonsense, both of them. But no one quibbles when they appear in a science fiction because the scaffolding for them has been built up over a century or more of genre publishing…

In every science fiction, we have a megalodon in the room. Sometimes it’s the central conceit, sometimes it’s what we have to tastefully ignore in order for the conceit not to destroy the reading experience. But that science fiction, that conceit, is embedded in a world, either of the author’s invention or recognisably the reader’s own….

(3) ROANHORSE. Paul Weimer’s “Microreview [book]: Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse” at Nerds of a Feather makes me want to read the book —

…That’s where Maggie Hoskie comes in. She’s been trained as a monster hunter by the very best, but she is new to fighting monsters on her own. And it is in the fighting monsters on her own that she is drawn into a plot that will not only gain her a partner, but also uncover a threat to the entire world inside the walls and the people who live there. Can Maggie protect herself, and those around her, when she must also restain an even greater monster–herself? And just what DID happen to her old mentor, anyhow?

This is the central question at the heart of Rebecca Roanhorse’s debut novel, Trail of Lightning.

There is plenty to love in Trail of Lighting, and Maggie as a main character is front and center the heart of the novel and she makes the novel sing….

(4) OKORAFOR AT EMMYS. As The Root sees it, “She Got That Glow: Writer Nnedi Okorafor Gets the Escort of a Lifetime to the 2018 Emmys”.

When you’re an emerging name in the realm of fantasy and science-fiction writing and your first novel is being adapted into a series by award-winning premium network HBO, there are few things better than being invited to the Emmys.

That is, of course, unless your escort for the evening is none other than network darling and best-selling author George R.R. Martin, whose Game of Thrones once again nailed the Outstanding Drama Series award (its 47th Emmy) at this year’s ceremony—oh, and did we mention that Martin is executive producing your series, too?

This is exactly the dream writer Nnedi Okorafor was living on Monday night as she attended the Emmys alongside Martin, whom she says brought her with him for all of his red carpet interviews to promote the upcoming Who Fears Death, a post-apocalyptic coming-of-age story of a young North African woman, based on the Chibok, Nigeria schoolgirls who were kidnapped by terrorist group Boko Haram in 2014….

(5) LOOKING FOR HELP. Olav Rokne and a couple friends at the Hugo Awards Book Club started discussing about film adaptations of Hugo-shortlisted works. He says, “In the ensuing debate, we started compiling a list of various films and TV shows, which ended up being the seed for a blog post on the subject” — “Hollywood has a mixed history adapting Hugo-shortlisted works”. For instance —

Flowers For Algernon is probably the Hugo-winning work that has been adapted most often. On top of various stage productions, there were four movies including one that won an Academy Award, a Tony-nominated musical, and a video game. Several of these adaptations — such as the 1968 movie Charly — seem to have been produced with an understanding of what made the original resonate with audiences.

Rokne hopes Filers will do more than just read the post: “Reason I’m sending this to you, is that I know that there are probably works that are missing from this list. We deliberately excluded Retro Hugo shortlists from the list, as well as adaptations of graphic stories. So this is just prose works from contemporaneous Hugo shortlists that have been adapted. Do you think you, or anyone in your File 770 community would know of movies or TV shows that my friends and I missed from this list?”

(6) STAR WARS MILITARY PAPERWORK. Angry Staff Officer shows what it would look like “If the Hoth Crash was an Air Force Investigation”.

…The mishap aircraft was assigned to Rogue Squadron, assigned to the defenses of Hoth. The mishap crew consisted of a mishap pilot and mishap gunner, both assigned to Rogue Squadron. It was determined that the mishap gunner died instantly, and the mishap pilot was able to escape the Hoth system in an unassigned X-Wing.

The board president found clear and convincing evidence that the cause of the mishap was due to the pilot failing heed sound crew resource management (CRM) principles and ignoring repeated warnings from the mishap gunner regarding failed mission essential systems. Furthermore, the board found other causal factors relating to poor maintenance standards and practices, and contributing factors relating to unsound tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs)….

(7) QUIS CUSTODIET? BBC reports “IBM launches tool aimed at detecting AI bias”.

IBM is launching a tool which will analyse how and why algorithms make decisions in real time.

The Fairness 360 Kit will also scan for signs of bias and recommend adjustments.

There is increasing concern that algorithms used by both tech giants and other firms are not always fair in their decision-making.

For example, in the past, image recognition systems have failed to identify non-white faces.

However, as they increasingly make automated decisions about a wide variety of issues such as policing, insurance and what information people see online, the implications of their recommendations become broader.

(8) GARBAGE COLLECTION. In space, no one can hear you clean — “RemoveDebris: UK satellite nets ‘space junk'”.

The short sequence shows a small, shoebox-sized object tumbling end over end about 6-8m in front of the University of Surrey spacecraft.

Suddenly, a bright web, fired from the satellite, comes into view. It extends outwards and smothers the box.

“It worked just as we hoped it would,” said Prof Guglielmo Aglietti, director of the Surrey Space Centre.

“The target was spinning like you would expect an uncooperative piece of junk to behave, but you can see clearly that the net captures it, and we’re very happy with the way the experiment went.”

(9) THE INSIDE STORY. BBC explores “Captain Marvel: Why Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers is a Marvel game-changer”.

Captain Marvel is the hero that Samuel L. Jackson, as Shield boss Nick Fury, called for help at the end of Avengers: Infinity War.

She’s super strong, can fly, survive in space and project energy (among other things) making Carol Danvers to The Avengers what Superman is to Justice League: the big hitter.

“She’s more powerful than, possibly, all The Avengers combined,” says Claire Lim, a huge comic book fan and a presenter for BBC’s The Social.

“It’s important they’re actually putting a female front and centre as a superhero powerful enough to beat this threat.”

(10) BBC RADIO 4. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie sends links to a pair of BBC radio highlights —

  • BBC Radio 4 religion program (British BBC not US bible belt take) Beyond Belief on the religious dimensions to Frankenstein.

Frankenstein, the tale of a scientist who creates a creature that ultimately destroyed him, has been a popular subject for films for many years. But the religious content of the original novel written by Mary Shelley is lost on the big screen. Her story centres on the scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who plays God. His creation identifies first with Adam and then with Satan in Paradise Lost. He has admirable human qualities but is deprived of love and affection and becomes brutalised. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are Andrew Smith, Professor of Nineteenth Century English Literature at the University of Sheffield; Marie Mulvey-Roberts, Professor of English Literature at the University of the West of England; and Dr James Castell, Lecturer in English Literature at Cardiff University.

“Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, this is an interesting world I find myself in – fits me rather neatly, don’t you think?”

Douglas Noel Adams wasn’t even fifty when he died in 2001, but his imagination had already roamed far. He created The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Meaning of Liff and several episodes of Doctor Who, plus the Dirk Gently character and Last Chance to See.

Nominating him is his co-writer on Last Chance to See, the zoologist Mark Carwardine. Mark’s role, Adams said later, was to be the one who knew what he was talking about. “My role was to be an extremely ignorant non-zoologist to whom everything that happened would come as a complete surprise.”

Joining Mark Carwardine and Matthew Parris in the bar where this was recorded is Douglas Adam’s biographer, Jem Roberts. With archive of Stephen Fry, John Lloyd, Naomi Alderman, Griff Rhys Jones and Geoffrey Perkins.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 19, 1964 The Outer Limits first aired Harlan Ellison’s “Soldier.”

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 19, 1922 – Damon Knight. Author, editor, critic. Kate Wilhelm who was his wife is also regrettably no longer with us either. His 1950 short story, ‘To Serve Man’ was adapted for The Twilight Zone. His first story, ‘The Itching Hour’, appeared in the Summer 1940 number of Futuria Fantasia which was edited and published by Ray Bradbury.

Ok, it’s going to hard briefly sum up his amazing genre career so but let me note he was a member of the Futurians and a reviewer as well as a writer until F&SF refused to run a run of his.  Novels of his I’ll single out are Hell’s PavementThe Observers and Special Delivery but don’t think I’m overlooking his brilliant short stories.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction notes that ‘In 1995, he was granted the SFWA Grand Master Award – which from 2002 became formally known, in his honour, as the Damon Knight Grand Master Award. He was posthumously inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2003.’

  • Born September 19, 1947  — Tanith Lee. Writer of over ninety novels and over three hundred short stories. She was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award best novel award for Death’s Master. I am very fond of the Blood Opera Sequence and the Secret Books of Paradys series. World Horror Convention gave her their Grand Master Award and she also received multiple Nebulas, World Fantasy Awards, British Fantasy Awards and a Lambda Literary Award as well.
  • Born September 19 – Laurie R. King, 66. Writer best known for her long running series that starts off with a fifteen-year-old Mary Russell (she was born on 2 January 1900), who runs into a middle-aged individual she realises is, in indeed, Sherlock Holmes – the former consulting detective of Baker Street, now retired to Sussex, where he tends bees. She however has written one SF novel to wit Califia’s Daughters which is set in the near future and inspired by the ancient myth of the warrior queen Califia.
  • Born September 19 – N.K. Jemisin, 46. One of our best writers ever. Author of three outstanding series, The Inheritance Trilogy the Broken Earth and  Dreamblood series. Better than merely good at writing short stories as well. Geek Wisdom: The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture which she co-wrote with Stephen H. Segal, Genevieve Valentine, Zaki Hasan, and Eric San Juan is highly recommended.

Only winner as you know of three Hugo Awards for Best Novel in a row which got the Puppies pissed which allows me   to congratulate her for getting Beale kicked out of SFWA. Oh and also won myriad Nebula, Locus, Sense of Gender and even an Romantic Times Award.

Damn she’s good.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • From 2005 but it’s news to me – “Cartoonland legalizes gay marriage” at Reality Check.

(14) ALL HALLOW’S EVE HEDONISM. Looking for an exotic and expensive Halloween event in LA? How about an evening of food, booze and drama for $300/night as the “Disco Dining Club & Grim Wreather Present: The Flowering Of The Strange Orchid, H.G. Wells’ botanical horror short story, set in a Victorian greenhouse on the grounds of the 1906 Rives Mansion in the Pico-Union neighborhood of Los Angeles.

A 3-night, botanical horror dinner party.

This 50-person an evening dinner party will take place Friday October 26th, Saturday October 27th, and Sunday October 28th.

Exploring the symbiotic relationship between man and flower, The Flowering Of The Strange Orchid’s uniquely decadent interpretation of Halloween dares to elevate the Fall season. This is your favorite holiday exaggerated with all the opulence, grandeur and hedonism of any Disco Dining Club soiree.

(15) BRANDON SANDERSON IS ONE ANSWER. Last night on Jeopardy! there were a couple of sff-related answers during Double Jeopardy in the “I Got Your Book” category — Show #7822 – Tuesday, September 18, 2018. Do you know the right questions?

(16) NOT THAT HOT. Spacefaring Kitten is not all lit up about the latest adaptation of Bradbury’s classic: “Microreview [Film]: Fahrenheit 451” at Nerds of a Feather.

…Of course, there’s only so much the film can do, given its source material. Fahrenheit 451 is ultimately making a philosophical armchair argument, and transforming that into high-adrenaline political action was never an easy task. For anybody living in 2018, banning fiction as a way to lessen tensions between different worldviews is as nonsensical a proposition as it gets, because practically all other imaginable kinds of human interactions (social media, journalism etc) are much more effective in polarizing societies around the world today. Perhaps this would have been an interesting theme to look into in the movie adaptation, and quite possibly something that Bradbury would be thinking about if he was writing Fahrenheit 451 today….

(17) ASK MCKINNEY. In “The YA Agenda — September 2018” at Lady Business, Jenny (of the Reading the End bookcast) has five questions for L.L. McKinney.

What were you watching, eating, and listening to when you were working on A Blade So Black?

Coffee. Always coffee. And sometimes red bull. If I went to a cafe, I’d get a chai latte and pumpkin something. Maybe pumpkin bread or a muffin, or a scone during that season. As far as watching, lots of TNT reruns, and Frozen. My nephew was in love with Frozen. When it came to listening to stuff, for the most part, I listened to a particular playlist. Before Spotify, it was a watchlist of music videos on YouTube. Now, well, we got Spotify. I think you can still find both lists if you search A Blade So Black on either platform.

(18) FINDING THE LATEST SF IN THE FIFTIES. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett says about “On the Newsstand”, “This particular post is mostly by a fellow by the name of Dave Mason and goes into great detail about magazine distribution and promotion in the fifties. I can assure you the topic is far less dry than you’re assuming. Trust me on this one.”

…Poor Joe Fan! All he wants is to buy the latest issues of Astounding, Galaxy, and if he’s feeling particularly sophisticated, F&SF. Unfortunately for Joe the delivery of his favourite reading material was a cooperative effort. In order for Joe to set eyes upon any magazine the delivery process required not just a publisher but a printer, distributor, and retailer as well. Which wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that none these businesses cared about Joe’s reading preferences. In particular Joe’s druggist had little incentive to sell that one extra copy of any title. Even today the average retailer of magazines has hundreds of magazines in stock, and really, so long as all these titles as a group sell a decent number between them each month what does it matter to the business if a particular title sells 6 copies or only 5?

(19) CHIBNALL UNDER THE MICROSCOPE. Seems a little early to be debunking the new Doctor Who showrunner. Nevertheless! NitPix delves into Chris Chibnall’s resume, discovers he has written only four Doctor Who episodes and hasn’t written a Doctor Who episode in 5 years.  Then they analyze those four episodes and are decidedly unimpressed. (Because who ever wanted to watch a YouTube video by somebody who is impressed by their subject?)

(20) PROSPECT. The trailer and poster for Prospect (a DUST film) are out (VitalThrills.com: “Prospect Trailer and Poster Preview the Sci-Fi Film”). The film, starring Pedro Pascal, Sophie Thatcher, Jay Duplass, Andre Royo, Sheila Vand, and Anwan Glover, will have a theatrical release on November 2 and will come to the DUST site some time in 2019.

A teenage girl and her father travel to a remote alien moon, aiming to strike it rich. They’ve secured a contract to harvest a large deposit of the elusive gems hidden in the depths of the moon’s toxic forest. But there are others roving the wilderness and the job quickly devolves into a fight to survive. Forced to contend not only with the forest’s other ruthless inhabitants, but with her own father’s greed-addled judgment, the girl finds she must carve her own path to escape.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Mark Hepworth, Lenore Jones, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Brian Z., Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, the frighteningly imaginative Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 7/27/18 Why Do Pixels Scroll? …Because They’re Made Of Wood?

(1) DRAGON AWARDS FINALISTS NOTIFIED. This year the Dragon Awards administrators are asking for acceptances. Finalist K.C. Seville confirmed on Facebook, “They’re still notifying and letting people accept or decline.” Last year they started out refusing to let authors withdraw, then reversed that policy.

Finalists are not being asked to hold back the news until the release of the final ballot. Here are links to some of the announcements:

(2) KOWAL’S W76 PROGRAM UPDATE. Mary Robinette Kowal shared news about progress and the process in her “Worldcon 2018 Programming Update”.

With the challenges surrounding WorldCon 2018’s programming, I offered to bring in a small team to help reimagine the schedule. That team was chosen to address a range of identities, marginalizations, and key stakeholders. Together, we’ve spent the past 48 hours diving into this huge, complicated beast.

One note we would like to add here is that there was an enormous amount of good work done by the existing programming team. We are not diminishing or dismissing the errors that were made or the harm that was caused and we are focused on building a stronger program that addresses those concerns.

Process

We have evaluated the existing programming into three categories: Keep, Repair, Replace.

  • Keep is self-explanatory. We like them. Good job!
  • Repair – The core idea was good, but the panel description, staffing, or title needed attention. Most of our effort was here.
  • Replace – These are getting swapped out for another panel for a variety of reasons.

Timeline
We have finished Repairing and Replacing.

Our next task is to contact the finalists and Guests of Honor to offer them first dibs on panels. We recognize that, while efforts were made by the committee to reach out to the finalists, communication was a major issue. We are working within the time constraints to make this as seamless a process as possible while ensuring we don’t accidentally miss anyone who should be included.

Team members who have chosen to be public are: John Picacio, Sarah Gailey, Jason Stevan Hill, Nibedita Sen, Alexandra Rowland, Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, Merc Rustad, Stacey Berg, Julia Rios, Ace Ratcliff, Derek Künsken, Jennifer Mace, Nilah Magruder, Alyshondra Meacham, K Tempest Bradford, Steven H Silver.

Kowal’s post emphasizes –

At 2:45 Central today, I have emailed the finalists. We’ve received a number of bouncebacks. We are working on getting in touch with these individuals but given the extreme time pressure we are operating under, we ask you to please get in touch with us. If you are part of a group nomination and think that one of your co-nominees may not have received this e-mail, please feel free to forward it to that nominee and let us know the nominee’s name and e-mail if you can.

If you are a finalist and did not receive an email with the subject line “[WorldCon76] Hugo finalist programming query”, please contact me: maryrobinettekowal@worldcon76.org.

(3) RETURNED FROM THE FRONT. Rosemary Kirstein makes observations about the panelist purge at Readercon, and compares that controversy to the latest one about Worldcon 76 programming in “Two kerfuffles for the price of one”.

Well, the kerfuffle surrounding Readercon’s disinvitation sweep (AKA “geezer purge”) — as, um, interesting as it was — has now paled in comparison to the new kerfuffle surrounding WorldCon’s programming.

The interesting thing about them is that they seem to be flip-sides of the same general issue:

The geezer purge, while claiming to be about making room for more diversity, had the effect of targeting a specific group (elders), and thus apparently actively discriminating — going against Readercon’s explicit, written policy of inclusion.

While the Worldcon newbie snub favored the established writers over unknowns even when those new writers are among this year’s Hugo finalists.  Yeah, that’s just nuts.  They are Hugo finalists!  People will want to see them, don’t ya think?  And how exactly do you think people become established writers?

One seemed to say: You’re old, get out of the way!  The other seemed to say: Never heard of you, don’t waste our time.

Well.  Mistakes were made, as the saying goes.

(4) ACTION, REACTION, OVERREACTION. David Gerrold analyzes reactions to Worldcon 76 program and life problems in general:

…Examples: The conventions in the sixties had numerous panels about “the new wave.” In the seventies, there were numerous panels about “women in science fiction.” In the 90s, cons had panels about LGBT+ characters in SF. More recently, conventions have felt it necessary to have panels on diversity. These panels were usually well-intentioned efforts to expand the awareness of the audience that SF could do more than just nuts-and-bolts engineering — that the technology of consciousness is a science as well.

So where I sit — right now at my desk, staring into a giant glowing lightbulb with text on it — it seems to me that a) a well-intentioned convention committee will make a sincere effort to address the needs of as many attendees as possible, and b) kerfuffles are inevitable, because that’s what human beings (especially fans) are good at.

Because, bottom-line, we go to the con to have fun. If we want to be self-righteous, angry, and bitter, we stay home and fume about fannish injustices, real and imagined.

Now … before I sign off, let me repeat the disclaimer I began with. None of the above (with the exception of Milo Yiannopoulos and the Rabid Puppies) is meant to demean, diminish, or discredit any individual or group in the science fiction community. I believe that the issues raised about this year’s con-programming are legitimate and worthwhile. And the con-committee is making a sincere effort to address those issues.

I also believe that some people might have overreacted. Don’t take that personally. I think that almost every Worldcon squabble is tainted by overreaction. (Especially those I was personally involved in.) People make mistakes. Never ascribe to malice what can just as easily be explained by stupidity or ignorance.

Perhaps this is a fatal flaw in my character, but I like to believe that serious issues can be resolved without a firestorm of outrage — and in fact, it’s my experience that firestorms of outrage tend to get in the way of resolution, sometimes delaying all possibility of resolution until all the emotional fires have been exhausted. Rationality dies in fire, it’s found only in the ashes…..

(5) WHAT SHOULD WE TALK ABOUT? Hey, here’s four hours worth of programming ideas in this tweet alone –

(6) UDOFF OBIT. It may have been his idea that resulted in the Adam West Batman series says The Hollywood Reporter: “Yale Udoff, ‘Bad Timing’ Screenwriter and ‘Batman’ TV Booster, Dies at 83”.

Udoff began his career at ABC in New York working with producers/executives Douglas Cramer, Edgar Scherick and Roone Arledge, and he is credited by some for coming up with the idea to transform the Batman comic books into a TV series in the 1960s.

“Udoff came in and said we ought to do Batman,” Scherick told author Bob Garcia in the 2016 book Batman: A Celebration of the Classic TV Series. “We threw him out of the office, but he persisted and we decided to look into it.”

Udoff wrote up a formal proposal for Scherick, who then took it to higher-ups at the network. “Suddenly, all these executives were flying back to New York from L.A. reading Batman comic books hidden in their Fortune magazines so that they could get an idea of what was happening,” Udoff says in the book. “Eventually it got on the air.”

Udoff also co-wrote the 1991 feature Eve of Destruction, a sci-fi thriller starring Gregory Hines, and penned episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (in 1967) and Tales From the Crypt (in 1992) and a 1974 ABC movie of the week, Hitchhike!, starring Cloris Leachman.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 27 – Jonathan Rhys Meyers, 41. Dracula in the 2013 – 2014 Dracula series, other genre roles includes being in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, the Gormenghast series and Killer Tongue, a film with poodles transformed into drag queens.
  • Born July 27 – Seamus Dever, 42. A role in the DC’s forthcoming Titans series as the Demon Trigon, father of Raven. Also roles in such genre shows as Ghost Whisperer, Legion, Threshold and Charmed.
  • Born July 27 – Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, 48. Jaime Lannister in Game Of Thrones and Game of Thrones: Conquest & Rebellion: An Animated History of the Seven Kingdoms; as the lead in the short lived New Amsterdam series which is not based on the series by the same name by Elizabeth Bear; also genre roles in the Oblivion and My Name Is Modesty: A Modesty Blaise Adventure films.
  • Born July 27 – Bryan Fuller, 49. Let’s see…There’s credits as either Executive Producer, Producer or Writer for Voyager and DS9, American Gods, Mockingbird Lane, the  last being a reboot of The Munsters, Pushing Daisies, a Carrie reboot, Heroes and Dead Like Me. And adaptor of a quirky Mike Mignola graphic novel entitled The Amazing Screw-On Head.
  • July 27 – Cliff Curtis, 50. Avatar film franchise now numbered at six at least, plus the Hercules: The Legendary Journeys series, Mysterious Island series that was very loosely based on the Jules Verne work, 10,000 BC, The Last Airbender and the Fear the Walking Dead series.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Always funny in a quiet way, this time Tom Gauld nails the future commute.

(9) MARTHA WELLS INTERVIEW. Amazing Stories scored an “Interview with Martha Wells, author of The Murderbot Diaries”. conducted by Veronica Scott.

Veronica for Amazing Stories: What were your major influences when writing the series?

Martha: Even though most of my work up to this point has been fantasy, I’ve always really loved reading SF too, particularly far-future space opera. One recent influence was Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice trilogy, which I think has been a big influence on stories and books about AI in the last few years.

Another influence was the SF I read while I was growing up in the 70s and 80s.  Like Tanith Lee’s The Silver Metal Lover and Don’t Bite the Sun, and John Varley’s early stories.  Also, though their books didn’t usually deal with AI or robots, the SF of Phyllis Gotlieb, like A Judgement of Dragons, about far future aliens coping with human technology, and F.M. Busby’s SF series with Zelde M’tanna and Rissa Kerguelen, which are about a massive rebellion against an oppressive corporate-controlled oligarchy that has taken over Earth and its colony planets and enslaved most of the population.

I’d also read/seen a lot of stories with AI who want to become human, like Data in ‘Star Trek: Next Generation’.  I wanted to write about an AI that wasn’t interested in becoming human at all, and who wasn’t particularly interested in revenge against humans, either.  An AI that just wanted to be left alone.

(10) HUGO AWARD BOOK CLUB. According to Olav Rokne, “After a fair amount of debate and argument, it seems Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club came to an impasse about which book they preferred for the Hugo this year. As a result, they’ve published two competing blog posts, one arguing that New York 2140 deserves to win, the other in favour of The Stone Sky.”

The Stone Sky is presented as “the most artful” of the shortlisted works: The Stone Sky is the most artful book, and that’s why it deserves to win”

… the most ambitious of this year’s Hugo shortlisted novels, succeeds admirably. As such, it is the work that deserves to be recognized with the award….

While New York 2140 is argued as the most relevant book to today: New York 2140 is the book that people need to read, and that is why it deserves to win”.

… not only the most worthy work on this year’s Hugo shortlist, but possibly the most important novel published last year: It forces us to ponder questions that humanity will have to — and is starting to — grapple with…

Says Rokne, “It might be noted that these are not entirely contradictory opinions …”

(11) WHO’S IN EPISODE IX? It’s official: “Star Wars: Episode IX Cast Announced”. Also, J.J. Abrams will direct, and John Williams will score.

Star Wars: Episode IX will begin filming at London’s Pinewood Studios on August 1, 2018….

Returning cast members include Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, and Billie Lourd. Joining the cast of Episode IX are Naomi Ackie, Richard E. Grant, and Keri Russell, who will be joined by veteran Star Wars actors Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, and Billy Dee Williams, who will reprise his role as Lando Calrissian.

The role of Leia Organa will once again be played by Carrie Fisher, using previously unreleased footage shot for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. “We desperately loved Carrie Fisher,” says Abrams. “Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us. We were never going to recast, or use a CG character. With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie, we have found a way to honor Carrie’s legacy and role as Leia in Episode IX by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII.”

(12) THIEVES LIKE THEM. Gobsmacked or outraged, YOU decide!

(13) TEEN TITANS REVIEW. NPR’s Glen Weldon on “‘Teen Titans GO! To The Movies’: Joke! Gag! DC Films Aren’t Just For Mopes Anymore!”

Call it the Anti-Snyder Cut.

Let’s be clear: One silly animated film aimed squarely at kids won’t be enough to admit light and joy into the dour, dolorous and dun-colored DC Cinematic Universe.

(We’re not supposed to call it that anymore, by the way. The company announced last weekend at San Diego Comic-Con that we are to refer to it exclusively as [checks notes] the “Worlds of DC.”)

(You know: Like it’s a theme park.)

(Where it always rains.)

(And if you want to ride the rides, one or both of your parents must be named Martha, and they must be at least this dead.)

The animated film in question, Teen Titans GO! To The Movies, is, well … worlds apart from the bleak portentousness of Batman v. Superman, Suicide Squad and Justice League. It’s smaller in scope and brighter in tone. Also, it’s simply a feature-length version of a popular Cartoon Network series, albeit one boasting a bigger line-item for name voice-talent.

(14) CRUISE MISSION. NPR’s Chris Klimek says: “Spectacular Real-World Stunts Make Mission: Impossible – Fallout A Blast”.

In the opening moments of the 2.5-hour Mission: Impossible — Fallout, producer/stuntman/star Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt shares a tender moment with Julia Meade-Hunt (Michelle Monaghan), the woman for whom he tried to retire from the impossible mission business 12 years and three movies ago, and who’s rated only a silent cameo since. Our Man Hunt’s reverie is swiftly ended with the arrival of yet another soon-to-self-destruct assignment. This one comes in a hollowed-out book concealing an antique reel-to-reel tape recorder.

With those two elements, the the most enrapturing plainclothes action flick since the previous Mission: Impossible three years ago is calling its shot. They promise that Fallout shall 1) attend to the continuity of the six-film series in a way its predecessors seldom have, and 2) honor the longstanding Mission tradition of achieving its stunts and giving us our kicks the hard way. The analog way. The more dangerous and exponentially more exciting way.

(15) A DIFFERENT BREED OF KILLER SHARK. The BBC discovered “Sean Connery co-wrote a Bond film that was never made”.

James Bond has done some memorable things in his time, from dodging laser blasts on a space station to driving an invisible car across a glacier. One thing he hasn’t done, however, is deactivate a robot shark which is carrying an atom bomb through a Manhattan sewer. But he very nearly did. In 1976, a Bond screenplay revolved around a shoal of remote-controlled, nuclear-weaponised robo-sharks. Its title was Warhead. And one of its three screenwriters was none other than the original big-screen 007, Sean Connery.

(16) EARL GREY’S BICENTENNIAL MOMENT. James Artimus Owen admits everything about how he got his friends to believe they were drinking 200-year-old tea out of Boston harbor.

A confession: once while in Boston, I convinced some friends that SO MUCH tea had been dumped into the harbor during the infamous Tea Party that in certain places, at certain times of the year, you could scoop up water in a cup and it would taste like tea….

(17) POOH. Ads and featurettes from Disney promoting Christopher Robin.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/10/18 Ascroll Just Off The Pixels Of Langerhans

(1) LICENSE TO THRILL. Steven H Silver spotted an unusual collectible in traffic the other day —

I was unaware that Illinois issued such event specific license plate until I saw this one today (June 6).  The text around Superman indicates it is for the 40th Annual Superman Festival in Metropolis, Illinois from June 7-10.  On the right you can see that the plate expires on June 10, 2018.

(2) SATISFYING SPACE OPERA. Abigail Nussbaum delivers insightful and fascinating sff analysis in “A Political History of the Future: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente”, at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

To which the answer is, because talking about Space Opera gives me an opportunity to point out a glaring lacuna in almost all the works we’ve discussed so far—the way that nearly every one of them leaves out the centrality of culture, and particularly popular culture, in shaping a society and reflecting its preoccupations.

When I say “culture”, I’m talking about several different things, each integral to the believability of any invented world. Culture can mean shared cultural touchstones, classic and modern, that give people a common frame of reference, like humming a pop song or quoting the Simpsons. It can mean characters who are artists, professional or amateur. It could refer to the way that culture can become a political battleground, as we were discussing just a few days ago in response to the news that conservatives want their own version of SNL. Or it could be a discussion of material culture—fashion, design, architecture—and how it allows people to express themselves in even the most mundane aspects of their lives.

It’s very rare, however, to see science fiction try to engage with any of these aspects of culture. Even as it strives to create fully-realized worlds, art—high and low, functional and abstract, popular and obscure, ridiculous and serious—tends to be absent from them. So are artists—try to remember the last time you encountered a character in a science fiction or fantasy story who had an artistic side, even just as a hobby. Even worse, few characters in SFF stories have any kind of cultural touchstones.

(3) KILL YOUR DARLINGS. Delilah S. Dawson tells what she thinks is the real meaning of that traditional writerly advice “kill your darlings.” The thread starts here —

(4) IN THE BEGINNING. The International Costuming Guild presents its research into what fans wore to the masquerade at the Second Worldcon (1940) — “Convention Costuming History: The Pre-WWII Years – Pt. III”.

The earliest Worldcon masquerades were more like informal costume contests, with several well known authors of the time participating. The costumes worn were a mix of original designs, interpretations of literary characters and what would come to be known as media recreations. 1940 – Chicon I

Following the novelty of Ackerman’s and Douglas’ costumed appearance the previous year, a “Science Fiction Masquerade Party” was featured as part of the convention programming.(1) By Forrest Ackerman’s count, there were 25 people in costume there. The co-host masters of ceremonies were fans and writers Jack Speer and Milton Rothman. Judging from the accounts of the party, the occasion was informal – there was no stage, but there were one or two skits, including one by Ackerman and “Morojo” (Douglas) wearing their outfits from the previous year.

There were several reports of who was there for the first official costumed event. Among that first group of convention costuming contestants were…

(5) ICG IN PASSING. The International Costuming Guild’s in memoriam video, presented at Costume-Con 36 (2018) to recognize those in the community lost in the previous year, is posted on YouTube.

(6) WITH CAT IN HAND. Yoon Ha Lee will be doing an Ask Me Anything on June 12.

(7) THIEVES LIKE US. A recent movie premiere inspires B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog’s listicle “12 Fantasy Heist Novels”.

There are genre tropes, and then there are those archetypes that are mainstays of not just science fiction and fantasy, but of popular culture in general. One of the best examples is the character of the Gentleman Thief (who doesn’t always have to be a gentleman). These rogues are witty, engaging, and will rob you blind with a rakish wink and a smile. You can’t help but be charmed by them. From Robin Hood to Danny Ocean, the character is a permanent favorite in books and on film….

The Holver Alley Crew, by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Maresca’s interconnected Maradaine books (multiple series examining life in the same fantasy city) are a real treat. The latest series is about the Holver Alley crew, a ragtag group of formerly retired thieves are forced to return to a life of crime when their new, respectable shop burns down. When they learn the fire was no accident, they are forced to take desperate measures. All of the Maradaine books are a treat, but this one really stands out because of the especially strong characters. In fine Oceans tradition, Asti and Verci are both brothers and ringleaders, and must assemble a skilled crew to pull of a job to rob a gambling house that took everything from them.

(8) HAWKING OBSEQUIES. Are any of you trying to get in? “Stephen Hawking: Ballot opens for Westminster Abbey service”.

The public is being offered the chance to attend a service of thanksgiving for Professor Stephen Hawking, who died in March aged 76.

It will take place in Westminster Abbey on 15 June and up to 1,000 tickets are available in a ballot.

During the service, the scientist’s ashes will be interred between Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

His daughter, Lucy Hawking, said she wanted to give some of her father’s admirers the chance to remember him.

(9) LAST DAYS. Christopher Stasheff’s son, Edward posted the following to his Facebook page on June 9:

My father, Christopher Stasheff, is currently in hospice and expected to die from Parkinson’s Disease within the next two weeks, quite possibly this week. If anyone would like to say goodbye to him, post it as a response here, and I’ll read it to him the next time I see him (I visit him in the nursing home daily). Thanks.

The most recent reports are suggesting that he may only have a day or so left.

Update:  His son reports Stasheff died this evening.

My father Christopher Stasheff died at 6:45 PM on June 10th, 2018, surrounded by his wife and two of his children. The other two were able to phone in and say goodbye before he passed. He is survived by hundreds of his students and uncountable fans, and his legacy will live on in all the lives he touched.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born June 10, 1952 – Kage Baker

(11) VOLLEYED AND THUNDERED. Edmonton’s Hugo Book Club just put out a new blog post, “Is that The Canon in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”, in which they muse about literary awards and their relation to posterity and questions of enduring value. Is science fiction the new Western Canon?

It is worth noting that Harold Bloom’s 1993 list of The Western Canon included only two works that are traditionally categorized as science fiction: Ursula Le Guin’s Hugo Award winner The Left Hand of Darkness and George Orwell’s 1984.

But of Bloom’s list, I would argue the majority of the works cited are less relevant to the broad public – and to a concept of cultural literacy – than the recent Hugo Award winners and popular works of science fiction.

For example, references and allusions to Wolfram von Eschenbach’s 13th century poem Parzival are lost on the broader public, while Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One protagonist Parzival is familiar to many.

(12) ICE NINE. Galactic Journey’s Victoria Lucas has just read the new Vonnegut release – in 1963: “[June 10, 1963] Foma: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Cat’s Cradle)”

When a friend lent Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s newest novel, Cat’s Cradle to me, I thought, “Oh, I know this book!” because I saw, as I flipped through it, the “ice-nine” and “Bokonon” I’d heard people buzzing so much about.  So I was glad to read it and understand the phenomenon.

But that’s where my joy ended.  Vonnegut is a fine writer.  His style is idiosyncratic, askew; this is a novel novel.  But no one would accuse him of being optimistic or hopeful about the human future.  No Pollyanna he….

(13) BBC RADIO STAR TREK DOCUMENTARY. BBC Radio 4 has just re-broadcast “Star Trek – The Undiscovered Future”, first aired December 2017. It’s available to listen to online right now.

How far have we voyaged towards Star Trek’s vision of the future and what of it is likely to be fulfilled or remain undiscovered in the next 50 years?

Kevin Fong presents archive material of the likes of Leonard Nimoy (Spock) and Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura) talking about the inception and filming of the original Star Trek series, and their thoughts about Roddenberry’s vision of the future and its impact in the United States at the time.

For example, Nichols relates how she had a chance encounter with Martin Luther King the day after she had told Roddenberry that she intended to leave Star Trek after the first series. King told her he was her number fan and almost demanded that she didn’t give up the role of Uhura, because she was an uniquely empowering role model on American television at the time.

For a perspective from today, Kevin also talks to George Takei who played Mr Sulu. Takei laments the ethnically divisive politics of the United States in 2016.

He meets Charles Bolden – the first African American to both command a shuttle mission and lead NASA as its chief administrator. In the age of the International Space Station, he compares himself to the ‘Admiral of Star Fleet’. But the former astronaut also talks about the anger he first felt in 1994 when he was asked to fly the first Russian cosmonaut ever to board an American space shuttle.

Kevin also talk to cultural broadcaster and Star Trek fan Samira Ahmed about the sexual and racial politics of the Original series.

(14) ST:D SEASON TWO. Comedian and new Star Trek: Discovery cast member Tig Notaro opened her set on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert poking fun at her inability to understand any of the tech talk from her Trek dialog. See “‘Star Trek: Discovery’: Tig Notaro Talks Technobabble” at Comicbook.com.

Tig Notaro is one of the new additions to the cast of Star Trek: Discovery in the show’s second season and while she’s excited to be a part of the Star Trek universe she doesn’t exactly speak the language.

Notaro was a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to promote her new comedy special Happy to be Here. She greeted Colbert by saying his theater was “like a room full of pleasant subspace particles wrapped in a tachyon field of good vibes.”
The comment is obviously a reference to her role on Discovery, though she admits “I have no idea what I’m saying on that show…I can’t even picture what I’m talking about.”
She revealed that her character is human and that she plays Commander Jet Reno, a name she got to choose for herself. As for how she got the job, “They just asked if I wanted to do it” she says.

 

(15) BAD WITH NUMBERS? Deadline interviewed the president of Marvel Studios: “Kevin Feige Talks Marvel’s Success, Female Directors, ‘Infinity War II’ & How He’s ‘Bad With Numbers’”.

More female directors on Marvel pics: Captain Marvel is the first Marvel title to have a female director at the helm Anna Boden (who is co-helming with Ryan Fleck. And having more female directors behind his superhero pics is a trend he plans to maintain, “I cannot promise that (the next) 20 Marvel movies will have female directors but a heck of a lot of them will,” he said in response to an audience member’s question. The Marvel boss mentioned that agencies are sending more female directors than men for Marvel directing jobs.

On the $1.3 billion success of Black PantherFeige said that Marvel “wanted to destroy the myth that black movies don’t work well around the world,” and being at Disney with its platinum marketing department allowed the comic book studio to swing for the fences.

“The budget for Black Panther was bigger than Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, and you can’t do that without the support and encouragement from the leaders of the company,” he said.

Feige also applauded Black Panther director Ryan Coogler’s championing his diverse below-the-line team in Hannah Beachler as production designer, Ruth Carter’s costumes, and DP Rachel Morrison. Their resumes, like Marvel’s directors, didn’t scream tentpole experience, but Feige is grateful he heard them pitch rather than rely on his regular team.

“We can’t imagine the movie without them, and the future movies we hope to make with them,” he said.

(16) JURASSIC LARK. In Parade, “Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard Talk Dinosaurs, Parenting and Friendship”.

After their wildly successful first dino film in 2015, the pair reunited last year to film much of Fallen Kingdom on the Kualoa Ranch in Oahu, Hawaii. But even surrounded by tropical paradise, they faced more than a few challenges on camera, from filming in a chlorinated pool that fried Pratt’s hair and skin to riding in a zero-gravity gyrosphere that made Howard nauseous. And Pratt had to do some awkward face-offs with a velociraptor that wasn’t really there—until the special-effects department created it. He acts out how he’d say to the air in front of him, “Get back, get back . . .” and then “Whoa!” as he’d throw himself on the ground. The camera crew, watching on monitors nearby, “didn’t want to say how stupid it looked!”

(17) SCARIEST MOVIE. The Washington Post’s Monica Castillo, in “The story behind ‘Hereditary,’ the Toni Collette horror movie that scared the bejesus out of Sundance”, interviews Hereditary director Ari Aster who, “in his first feature, marries the horror and melodrama genres into an unnerving movie about grief.”

Aster said he deliberately amped up the drama in the film slowly. “I’m not affected by anything in a film unless I’m invested in the people at the center of it,” he said. “I wanted to take my time and immerse people in this family’s life and their dynamic, which is quite complicated. I just wanted to make a film in the tradition of the horror films I grew up loving, like ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ ‘Don’t Look Now’ and ‘The Innocents.’ Films that take their time are very much rooted in character.”

Setting also plays an important role in the creepiness in “Hereditary.” The family’s luxury cabin in the woods has the right dark corners and haunted attics to make it feel like a trap where its inhabitants are left to slowly die. Annie’s miniature houses become a motif. “The miniatures just struck me as a potent metaphor for the family’s situation,” Aster said. “They have no agency, and they’re revealed over the course of the movie to be like dolls in a dollhouse, being manipulated by these outside forces.”

(18) SPONGEBOB TONY. In “How ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ invaded our brains”, Washington Post writer Sonia Rao interviews the cast and creators of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical, which is up for 12 Tonys as best musical tonight and is making a lot of Millennials very happy.

Tom Kenny never thought SpongeBob SquarePants, a character he originated on the children’s program almost 20 years ago, would one day end up on Broadway. Why would he have? Parents clamp their hands over their ears whenever they hear SpongeBob’s helium voice, let alone his nasal laugh. The anthropomorphized sponge is no Hugh Jackman.

And yet, “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” is up for 12 Tonys on Sunday, tied with “Mean Girls” for the most nominations. Its resonance with serious theatergoers is surprising until you consider that even as adults, those of us who watched the series can’t shake its omnipresent songs, references and memes. Somehow, it became a cultural earworm.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Lexica, Olav Rokne, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Jonathan Cowie, Steven H Silver, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 3/24/18 It Would Be The Last Pixel In The World That Scrolled By Molly Grue

(1) START AN INVESTIGATION. “Why the Hell Are These Books Out of Print?” demands James Davis Nicoll in a post at Tor.com. Here are a few of his examples:

Chester Anderson’s 1967 The Butterfly Kid is the first volume in the Greenwich Trilogy. It is without a doubt the finest SF novel in which a collection of futuristic hippies band together to save the world from drugs, blue space lobsters, and the nefarious Laszlo Scott. Anderson and his friend Michael Kurland feature as protagonists. It’s a delightful, light-hearted romp—although apparently not delightful enough, because it has been out of print for decades. The Butterfly Kid was followed in 1969 by Michael Kurland’s The Unicorn Girl and in 1970 by T. A. Waters’ The Probability Pad, both of which are in print.

(2) JOHN TRIMBLE HEART SURGERY. The Trimbles announced on Facebook:

John is getting heart surgery this coming Monday, and the doctor doesn’t want him to do anything strenuous for several months. So a very busy 2018 is going to be seriously curtailed. As for the cruise, we took out insurance, so didn’t lose all the money paid for it. If things go well, we will go next Spring.

John is in good health; in fact the doctor said he was as healthy as the average 60-year-old. The operation is a bit sudden, but when John’s heart checked out to be in the process of clogging, the doctor said he’d as soon operate before doing it during a cardiac arrest. Good thinking!

Good wishes are all John needs. Don’t send flowers, please. But if so moved, please make a donation to the Heart Fund. Any Heart Fund. Research helped to find John’s problem. We’d like to know that others can be helped, too.

(3) NOT READY FOR MORE LIKE THIS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club blog takes an iconoclastic look at Ready Player One in “Tomorrow isn’t about yesterday”, criticizing what they believe is nostalgia’s undermining effect on science fiction.

There is a subtle – but significant – difference between genuine appreciation for works from those who wrote before us and an ugly, toxic nostalgia that displaces the creation and appreciation of new works.

Which brings us to Ready Player One, a book that has become emblematic of the notion that the works of the past are somehow superior to those of the present or perhaps even the future.

… [I] will be forever grateful that Hugo voters did not include it on the ballot in 2012, despite the massive hype it received when published.

(4) WHAT’S THAT SMELL? Whatever you think about the games, this movie based on a famous old game sucked. The Guardian remembers: “‘The stench of it stays with everybody’: inside the Super Mario Bros movie”.

“We’re in the bedroom of King Koopa’s skyscraper; it’s a big set,” recalls actor and co-star Richard Edson. “Dennis [Hopper] comes in and he’s looking pissed off. He’s mumbling to himself, he won’t look at anyone. So the directors ask, ‘What’s up Dennis?’”

Something was about to go horribly wrong.

The incendiary actor-director, who had unapologetically told everyone he had taken the role for money alone, stood amid the grandeur of his character’s penthouse suite and exploded. “He just starts screaming at Annabel and Rocky,” recalls Edson. “He’s telling them they’re completely unprofessional, that he’s never seen anything like this. Rocky says ‘Dennis, what is it?’ And he yells: ‘You rewrote my lines! You call this writing? This is shit! It’s shit! And the fact you’d do it without asking me?’ He went on and on. He couldn’t control himself.

“This went on for 45 minutes. The producers were looking at their watches, Rocky and Annabel were looking at each other, like, what the fuck can we do? The actors were like, oh my God, this is amazing, this is better than the movie. Finally, they say: let’s go to lunch – but lunch turns out to be another two hours of Dennis screaming at the directors and producers about the state of movie making. Meanwhile, there are 300 extras waiting for the next scene. Rocky and Annabel start begging him – they’re like, Dennis, please tell us what you want, we’ll do anything.

“But he wasn’t through yelling at them. People were knocking at the door, producers were going out trying to tell people what the fuck was going on. Finally, Rocky and Annabel said, ‘Look, you rewrite the scene, or we’ll go back to the original, whatever you want.’ And finally he goes: ‘OK, we’ll do the scene the way it’s written now.’ Everyone sighs, we go back three and a half hours after it was meant to be done, we do the scene exactly the way it was written when he started.”

(5) THE CASE FOR CASH. Whether these creators’ games look to the past or future, they look like money says the BBC: “How video games turn teenagers into millionaires”.

Alex Balfanz is an 18-year-old student at Duke University in North Carolina. Every day he has lectures or seminars, followed by assignments. Like many students his age, he devotes a couple of hours per day, and many more at weekends, to video games.

But he’s not just playing them – he’s making them. And making a lot of money doing it.

“In the 10 months that Jailbreak has been released, it has already yielded seven figure profits,” Balfanz says of his cops-and-robbers adventure game released last year. A few weeks ago, it was played for the billionth time.

Balfanz is just one of thousands of young gaming entrepreneurs in their teens or twenties making money in an industry that made $36 billion last year.

(6) ENDANGERED SPECIES. Nobody was more shocked than the dino: “T-Rex goes up in flames at Colorado dinosaur park”.

The owners of a dinosaur theme park in Colorado said an “electrical issue” was behind the demise of a life-sized animatronic T-Rex.

Zach and Carman Reynolds, owners of the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience in Canon City, said in a Facebook post that the Tyrannosaurus Rex statue went “extinct” Thursday.

Mike Kennedy joked, “Are the humans fighting back against the coming robot revolution? But the dino park owners say they plan to replace the bot, so the resistance may need to strike again.”

(7) DOG STAR. NPR’s Chris Klimek says Wes Anderson’s Isle Of Dogs takes Best in Show: “The Fast And The Furry Us: Wes Anderson’s Masterful ‘Isle Of Dogs'”.

You have an opinion, probably, on which of the two most common species of household pet you deem superior — and an opinion, possibly, on the fastidious filmography of Wes Anderson. But this much, at least, is fact: Nobody ever made a good movie about the nobility of cats.

Not even Anderson, who certainly seems like he might be a cat person, with his velvet-and-tweed blazers and his indoor scarves and his arched-eyebrow worldview. But no one will question his right-thinking canine-supremacy bone-a-fides after Isle of Dogs. (Go on, say the title out loud.) His dizzying new stop-motion epic is so visually rich, so narratively ambitious and so openhearted in its admiration for Japanese culture and the unshakable loyalty of doggos that it’ll likely roll right over the familiar cries that Anderson is too fussy or whatnot like a Corgi rolling over for a belly rub.

(8) ROTHFUSS AT WONDERCON. Comics Beat is covering a bunch of panels at this weekend’s WonderCon, such as “WonderCon ’18: Patrick Rothfuss Speaks of ‘What If’ at ‘Gather ‘Round the Campfire: Telling Tales'”.

Novels like J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods are all considered literary masterpieces, but fantasy novels didn’t always get the recognition they do today. Even still there are those who see fantasy as pale comparisons to the likes of Hemingway, Buck, and Steinbeck. If this is the case, why do authors still choose to write in the fantasy genre?

At this year’s WonderCon, this question and others were heavily discussed at the “Gather ‘Round the Campfire: Telling Tales” panel. In attendance were authors Jenna Rhodes, Tina LeCount Myers, R.A. Salvatore, and WonderCon guest of honor Patrick Rothfuss.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 24, 1930 — Steve “The Blob” McQueen

(10) NICE BEANIE. John Scalzi gets more fannish all the time.

(11) CATS AND BOOKS. This image reportedly has gone viral even though the cat is wide awake!

Cats Are Seriously Unimpressed At Being Awakened From Their Nap To Pose Next To Related Works

(12) YOUR NEXT PARTY. Who wouldn’t like this?

(13) THE SCORE. Steve Vertlieb hopes you’ll read his post about the composer for “Max And Me”:

Composer Mark McKenzie has written a superb score for the upcoming animated Mexican film production of “Max And Me”, concerning the life and martyred death of Franciscan priest Maximillian Kolbe, who gave his life so that others may live, in the Auschwitz concentration camp.  Here is my critique of this brilliant original motion picture score.

A note from composer Mark McKenzie regarding the release of his newest, most powerful film score…

One hundred thirty-five of London’s finest musicians gathered at Abbey Road Studios to record MAX AND ME including one of the most expressive solo artists of our generation, concert violinist Joshua Bell. Polish priest Maximillian Kolbe, tortured at Auschwitz asked those around him to not be overcome with hatred but to love for “Only love is creative.” His compassion lead him to sacrificially die in Auschwitz’s starvation bunker to help a man with children survive. The film makers, musicians and I hope this message of hope, love, and beauty amidst great darkness will be enjoyed by many and spread widely. A portion of each sale goes to the Shoah Foundation, Word Vision and Catholic Relief Services.

(14) BACK TO THE PAST. Even when there’s not a Mercury launch, science is smokin’ in 1962 says Galactic Journey: “[March 24, 1963] Bumper Crop (A bounty of exciting space results)”.

February and March have been virtually barren of space shots, and if Gordo Cooper’s Mercury flight gets postponed into May, April will be more of the same.  It’s a terrible week to be a reporter on the space beat, right?

Wrong!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Rocket launches may make for good television, what with the fire, the smoke, and the stately ascent of an overgrown pencil into orbit…but the real excitement lies in the scientific results.  And this month has seen a tremendous harvest, expanding our knowledge of the heavens to new (pardon the pun) heights.  Enjoy this suite of stories, and tell me if I’m not right…

(15) THE COURTS BE WITH YOU. Lucasfilm’s legion of lawyers couldn’t win this one: “Star Wars firm Lucasfilm must pay ‘failed’ Darth Vader film damages”.

A film-maker who sued Stars Wars producers Lucasfilm for blocking plans to make a film about Darth Vader has won almost £39,500 in damages.

Marc John, 46, of Buckinghamshire, claimed he was stopped from beaming a live interview with actor David Prowse to 1,200 cinemas.

He claims the film would have made about £3m, with his share worth £1.35m.

A High Court judge ruled Mr John could have made the film but for Lucasfilm’s interference.

Mr John, of Thornley Close, Aylesbury, claimed the Darth Vader interview and other scenes from the “For the Love of the Force” Star Wars convention in Manchester would have netted him a seven-figure sum.

It would have been broadcast in December 2015, just prior to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, when anticipation and hype for the franchise was “sky high”, his legal team said.

(16) PRE-INTERNET ANTIQUE. Motherboard spreads the word that “You Can Now Play the First LGBTQ Computer Game, For the First Time”.

Caper in the Castro is a legendary video game, not because legions of die-hard fans continue to play it, but because it was thought to be lost forever. Now, what is largely considered to be the first LGBTQ-focused video game (it was released in 1989) is on the Internet Archive for anybody to play.

The game is a noir point-and-click that puts the player in the (gum)shoes of a private detective named Tracker McDyke who is, in case you couldn’t guess by the name, a lesbian. McDyke must unravel the mystery behind the disappearance of Tessy LaFemme, a transgender woman, in San Francisco’s Castro district, an historically gay neighbourhood.

Caper in the Castro was coded by a developer who goes by CM Ralph and spread through early message board systems, known as BBS boards. The game was originally released as “CharityWare,” and came with a short message from Ralph asking the player to donate to an AIDS charity. Since those early days, though, the game was thought to be lost and unpreserved for future generations to enjoy or appreciate. Until now.

(17) BOUNCEHENGE. This 2012 item is still news to me! “English Artist Creates Life-Sized Stonehenge Bounce House”

Stonehenge is one of the most famous monuments in the world, but if you go to visit it you have to enjoy it from a distance. In order to protect the historical site, tourists must stick to a path that surrounds the stones and can’t actually walk among them. Recently, the Turner Prize winning artist, Jeremy Deller, created a monument of his own that visitors are more than welcome to walk through; in fact, visitors to this version of Stonehenge are encouraged to jump and flail about to their hearts content. There’s no need to worry about damaging this Stonehenge, for as visitors will quickly find out as they approach the structure, it is actually a bounce house.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, ULTRAGOTHA, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mark Hepworth, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Olav Rokne, Steve Vertlieb, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Barrett.]

Pixel Scroll 3/2/18 Green Eggs And Lembas

(1) ADDING AN OSCAR. Animation World Network asks, “Do Digital Characters Deserve Academy Awards?”

Producing photorealistic digital humans, animals and other types of creatures has been a one of the holy grails for computer scientists and digital artists since the nascent days of the CGI technology revolution. More recently, in the last 10-15 years, many filmmakers have made significant strides toward achieving the goal — some more convincingly than others — of bringing believable photoreal human and lifelike digital characters to the screen.

From the first full-length photorealistic animated film, Hironobu Sakaguchi’s Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) to Peter Jackson’s ground-breaking Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003), Robert Zemeckis’ innovative but not hugely popular Polar Express (2004) and Beowulf (2007), David Fincher’s mesmerizing The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), various wildly popular Marvel movies starting with Iron Man (2008), and of course, seminal films like James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) and Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), filmmakers have continually raised the bar, and stakes, with a series of increasingly complex digital characters that don’t just wow audiences with their stunning visuals, but capture people’s hearts with their believably emotional performances. The growing list of such digital performances is a testament to the unending audience appetite for visually engaging storytelling produced by a new generation of talented filmmakers more and more adept at embracing and making use of sophisticated production technology.

… According to Edlund, when you consider digital characters such as Caesar, you must also consider the team responsible for animating the performance. “Well, [the Academy is] studying this whole issue,” he says. “I know Andy Serkis thinks that he was the first one to use motion-capture and all that, and he’s a talented guy. But the thing is, Andy Serkis’s performances are also tweaked by animators, and so rather than giving Andy Serkis the entire award…if he were to be nominated and voted in, you’d have to split the award with the animators. So, it’s a very difficult thing. There’s always a serendipity about performance. There are things not on the page of the script that happen within the performance of the actor. When you animate, everything is intellectual, everything is being created. So, this is the valley that animators have to cross.”

(2) ALL FAME IS FLEETING. It’s time again for Young People Read Old SFF. James Davis Nicoll has turned them loose on Hall of Fame short story “It’s A Good Life” by Jerome Bixby.

Jerome Bixby was one of those reliable, unremarkable mid-listers the field used to support in decades past. In general, his work was a decent way to pass a half hour but not often memorable. “It’s a Good Life” is the exception, selected for the Hall of Fame, adapted to TV and the silver screen and referenced in a number of other works. Of course, the story’s heyday was in the distance past, in a now half-forgotten era of slide-rules and black & white television. How will it read to my Young Readers?

(3) #WHOAGAINSTGUNS. Doctor Who fandom is becoming a nexus of support in efforts against gun violence. A podcast, with some Who celebrities as participants, will be used as a fundraiser reports Comics Beat — “Doctor Who writers, artists, fans launch podcast to benefit gun violence prevention”

This groundswell of action also includes fan communities. One such organization is .Gallifrey Stands, a coalition who announced their Who Against Guns campaign on Monday. According to organizers, the campaign is “an initiative to encourage Doctor Who fans to take action against gun violence.”

To that end, the group has organized a massive charity podcasting effort: 40 Doctor Who fans, which include professional Doctor Who writers and artists, will record an exclusive commentary to the 1969 Classic Who story “The War Games.” The 11-episode podcast will only be released to listeners who make a donation of $10 or more to an organization committed to ending gun violence. Supporters then forward their receipt to the group, and the commentary will be made available for download on March 12th.

Who Against Guns suggests that fans direct donations towards several groups working to prevent gun violence: the aforementioned March For Our Lives, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Moms Demand Action. In recognition of Doctor Who’s international fan base, organizers have said they will honor donations made to charities that work to prevent gun violence outside of the US, and have provided a few suggestions on their website.

One of Who’s biggest names is involved — “Steven Moffat joins Who Against Guns”.

Doctor Who showrunner and writer Steven Moffat is joining the effort to raise money for gun violence prevention charities–but only if fans donate a total of $7000 by March 12. If they do, Moffat will provide a special commentary on episode 10 of “The War Games.”

…He joins a growing roster of professional Doctor Who scribes that have signed on to Who Against Guns, lending their thoughts to a commentary which includes Paul Cornell (“Human Nature”, “Family of Blood”) Jamie Mathieson (“Oxygen”, “Flatline”), Andrew Smith (“Full Circle”), and Peter Harness (“The Zygon Invasion”, “Kill The Moon”).

Comic professionals have also lent their efforts to the campaign. Titan Comic artists  Rachael Stott (Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor), and Simon Fraser (Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor) are among those commentating, as are a number of Doctor Who podcasters.

(4) ARCHIVE RESCUED. Comichron’s John Jackson Miller reports “History saved: Comics Buyer’s Guide bound and file copies, distributor publication library preserved”. Miller and Maggie Thompson have saved the Krause era (1983-2013) of Comics Buyer’s Guide from destruction.

Krause Publications, which for years published both Comics Buyer’s Guide and Comics Retailer,  is closing its Iola, Wis., office in March, moving the remaining personnel to a larger city. But as my fellow former employee Maggie Thompson learned last week, the file copies of most of the magazines were to be discarded, as well as a significant portion of the library materials.

For Comics Buyer’s Guide — read my history of the magazine here — this took in a huge number of issues. More than 5,000 copies, between two and ten each of every issue from #482 in 1983 to #1699 in 2013. This amounted to 105 cases weighing more than two tons — all destined for destruction.

The company donated the materials to Maggie and me to place, but the caveat was that we only had 72 hours to find homes for them all — and while Maggie sent the CBG bound copies to Columbia University, the file copies were still a very large problem.

(5) WATCH THE WATCH. The Verge says Pratchett’s famous series is coming to television: “BBC Studios is adapting Terry Pratchett’s iconic Discworld books for a six-part TV series”.

Discworld is a massive series written by Pratchett — who died in 2015 — which spans 41 books, dozens of characters, and a variety of smaller, thematic sub-series within the larger work. This show will reportedly be a six-episode series, with a current working title The Watch. That implies that it’ll be based off one of the most popular subsets of the overall series, featuring the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, which grows from a ramshackle group of a couple officers trying to get by to a full-fledged city police force over the course of the series.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BREWER

  • Born March 2, 1904  — Theodor Seuss Geisel

Narragansett Beer has reason to celebrate.

Today we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss with a little bit of history you might not have known… So pull up a chair and prepare for the story of how Dr. Seuss made his way into our wonderfully weird world of beer.

Who Knew? Dr. Seuss Could Brew?

Whether it’s the childhood memories of his books or you’re watching the new films today, Dr. Seuss’s tales are “too good to miss.” Theodor Seuss Geisel was born on March 2, 1904 in Springfield, MA. Remember those famous illustrations he made for Narragansett Beer back in the day? The most famous being the tray shown above. Antique collectors date these works around the 1940?s. He did other illustrations that appeared in print ads and coasters like this one.

One of the most interesting facts was that both his father, Theodor Robert Geisel, and grandfather Geisel were brewers. In fact, his German immigrant grandfather owned the Kalmbach and Geisel Brewery, or “Come Back and Guzzle” as the locals called it, in Springfield. In 1894 it was renamed the Highland Brewery and five years later it became part of the Springfield Breweries.

(7) LE GUIN OVERVIEW. John Crowley, in “The Whole Household of Man”, reviews the Library of America edition of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Hainish Novels and Stories for Harper’s Magazine.

In the science fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin, who died last month at the age of eighty-eight, planets circle suns other than ours, yet have landscapes and skies and seas not so unlike ours and natives who are mostly not very different from us. A single, tremendous idea made her imagined realms effectively strange, even while binding them all together as realms of the human. This is what she conceived: Some hundreds of thousands of terrestrial years ago, an advanced society on an Earth-like planet called Hain discovered the principle of near-light-speed travel, and with this advance they began to explore their galaxy. They sought planets where, whatever the differences from their home, beings like themselves could live and thrive, and there they planted colonies. Over the course of cosmic time, nine planets (among them our Earth, called Terra) were populated by Hainish people. Some of the populations are different in body and all different to some degree in culture; they come to have histories reaching back to time out of mind, and ways of doing and understanding things that are also ancient—but they are our own relations, brought and adapted to their worlds by our common ancestor. For every way we differ there is a way in which we are alike.

Le Guin’s parents were both famed ethnographers—her father, Alfred Kroeber, documented the life of Ishi, called “the last wild Indian in California”; her mother, Theodora, wrote Ishi in Two Worlds, a popular telling of his story. Le Guin became in her fiction not one ethnographer or historian but many. She deploys a force of investigators throughout the Hainish-populated parts of the galaxy to rediscover colonies founded millennia before, who observe and collect and draw conclusions that sometimes turn out to be inconsistent with one another—just as human ethnography and ethnographers do.

(8) NATIONAL BIRD. NPR’s All Things Considered says “If You Want To Find The Millennium Falcon, Just Head To The National Cathedral”.

For the last six months, a red-tailed hawk has made its home in the ramparts of the Washington National Cathedral. And now, it officially has a name: Millennium Falcon.

(9) MONSTROUS GOOD STORY. Edmonton Hugo’s Book Club argues that Emil Ferris’ recent graphic novel My Favourite Thing Is Monsters should be strongly considered for nomination for this year’s Best Graphic Story Hugo. They compare the art to that of luminaries like Robert Crumb and Maurice Sendak, and suggest that this artwork elevates is above other contenders for comic book awards this year: “Best Graphic Story 2017 – My Favourite Thing Is Monsters”.

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is the first graphic novel from Chicago-born illustrator and toy designer Emil Ferris. It may be the most significant and worthwhile graphic presentation to be published in the past decade.

Told in the form of a diary written by a 10-year-old girl in late-‘60s Chicago, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is a love-letter to classic horror movies, to science fiction fandom, and to Forrest J. Ackerman’s Famous Monsters Of Filmland.

Ferris weaves a variety of narratives through the work, as the young protagonist Karen Reyes investigates the murder of her mysterious neighbor Anka Silverberg. Reyes’ isolation and alienation are expressed through her transformation (possibly only in her imagination) into a werewolf-style monster.

(10) SAFETY FIRST. Superseding flat-packs? “AutoSaw: Robot carpenter makes custom furniture”.

Robotics have long been used to manufacture mass-produced, flat-pack furniture but MIT’s work could pave the way for robots to create custom furniture for specific purposes and spaces.

The robots will cut the wood correctly, adding the holes needed to assemble it, and carry the component parts around the room.

Compared to existing machines used by carpenters, AutoSaw is considerably cheaper and more mobile. As well as Roomba, the project uses two robots from German firm Kuka – though the particular model utilised by MIT’s team has since been discontinued.

(11) MORE THAN A LITTLE. There was so much penguin poo it was visible from space, says the BBC. Oh, and so were the birds: “Penguin super-colony spotted from space”.

Scientists have stumbled across a huge group of previously unknown Adélie penguins on the most northerly point of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Numbering more than 1.5 million birds, they were first noticed when great patches of their poo, or guano, showed up in pictures taken from space.

The animals are crammed on to a rocky archipelago called the Danger Islands.

(12) JUNK AVOIDANCE. Inspired by Gravity: “The teenage scientist tracking a sea of space junk”. [Video.]

When Amber Yang watched the film Gravity – which features a cataclysmic collision which destroys the International Space Station – it gave her an idea.

She knew that hundreds and thousands of miles above Earth, pieces of wreckage were whizzing around our planet – some of them big enough to cause billions of dollars worth of damage to precious satellites and spacecraft.

So Yang, bored by her schoolwork, decided to try and find a way of tracking it, and ensuring cosmic debris doesn’t become a danger to the next generation of humans venturing into space.

(13) BEST OF BRITISH SF. Here is the table of contents for “Best of British Science Fiction 2017” edited by Donna Scott. Twenty-two stories, from established names and rising stars.

Introduction – Donna Scott
Blinders – Tyler Keevil
In the Night of the Comet (2017) – Adam Roberts
The Walls of Tithonium Chasma – Tim Major
3.8 Missions – Katie Gray
Over You – Jaine Fenn
The Ghosts of Europa Will Keep You Trapped in a Prison You Make for Yourself – Matt Dovey
Uniquo – Aliya Whiteley
Looking for Laika – Laura Mauro
A Good Citizen – Anne Charnock
Mercury Teardrops – Jeff Noon
The Nightingales in Plàtres – Natalia Theodoridou
The Road to the Sea – Lavie Tidhar
When I Close My Eyes – Chris Barnham
Targets – Eric Brown
London Calling – Philip A. Suggars
The Last Word – Ken MacLeod
After the Atrocity – Ian Creasey
Voicemail – Karen McCreedy
Green Boughs Will Cover Thee – Sarah Byrne
Airless – N.J. Ramsden
Product Recall – Robert Bagnall
The Endling Market – E. J. Swift
About the Authors

(14) SPACE MUSIC. Broken Bells’s “The Ghost Inside” is a music video that has spaceships and other sf imagery in it.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Tim Walters, Mark Hepworth, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/31/17 Another Scroll Over, a Pixel Just Begun

(1) WEEPIN’ WESLEY. The ST:TNG Lego-style figure set discussed in yesterday’s Scroll compelled a response from Wil Wheaton “because so many of you asked…”

…In this particular custom set, though, Wesley is depicted as a crying child, and that’s not just disappointing to me, it’s kind of insulting and demeaning to everyone who loved that character when they were kids. The creator of this set is saying that Wesley Crusher is a crybaby, and he doesn’t deserve to stand shoulder to minifig shoulder with the rest of the crew. People who loved Wesley, who were inspired by him to pursue careers in science and engineering, who were thrilled when they were kids to see another kid driving a spaceship? Well, the character they loved was a crybaby so just suck it up I guess.

“Oh, Wil Wheaton, you sweet summer child,” you are saying right now. “You think people actually loved Wesley Crusher. You’re adorable.”

So this is, as you can imagine, something I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with for thirty years….

So back to the minifig: it’s “Shut up, Wesley,” made into what would otherwise be an awesome minifig, in a collection of truly amazing and beautiful minifigs. It’s a huge disappointment to me, because I’d love to have a Wesley in his little rainbow acting-ensign uniform, but I believe that it’s insulting to all the kids who are now adults who loved the character and were inspired by him to go into science and engineering, or who had a character on TV they could relate to, because they were too smart for their own good, a little awkward and weird, and out of place everywhere they went (oh hey I just described myself. I never claimed to be objective here)….

(2) ARTIST AWARENESS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club blog encourages Hugo voters to consider some unusual choices when nominating works for Best Professional Artist in their blog post “Beyond The Standard Palette”.

Thanks to the Internet, digital print-on-demand services, small-press art books, alternate art posters, the availability of new artistic tools, and the fact that science fiction has gone mainstream, we are in the middle of a boom in science fiction art. Over the past decade, there have likely been more artists making science fiction art than there have ever been before. Some of the work that is flying under the radar of Hugo voters is breathtakingly imaginative, technically accomplished, and worthy of consideration.

Their post includes sample work by their suggested favorites.

(3) SMUGGLERS’ BEST. The Book Smugglers, Ana and Thea, each offer their ten best lists in “The Book Smugglers’ Best Books of 2017”, and several other lists while they’re at it. Ana begins –

Remember how 2016 was a terrible year and we were all “what a trash fire of a year”? Good times. 2017 proved to be even worse in many ways – and yet, somehow through it all, I did manage to read MORE than last year. It was just the ONE book more – 61 as opposed to 2016’s 60 – but hey, I will take my victories where I can.

And just like last year, I had to be extremely careful picking the books I’d read – not only because of time constraints but also because I wanted to read happy, light books. My average rate for 2017 is pretty dam high at 7.9, an all-time high. Predictably, picking a mere top 10 was a super difficult task and at one point, I emailed Thea to ask if my top 10 could be a top 12.

(4) WRONG QUESTIONS’ BEST READS. Likewise, Abigail Nussbaum read over five dozen books last year and explains her top picks in “2017, A Year in Reading: Best Books of the Year” at Asking the Wrong Questions.

As usual, this list is presented in alphabetical order of the author’s surname:

  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Book One by Emil FerrisIt’s amazing to think that this long, dense, expertly-crafted volume was Ferris’s first published work.  It feels like the grand capping-off of an illustrious career, not an introduction of an exciting new artist.  The book itself, however, is very much about the emergence and development of a young talent.  In pen-stroke drawings meant to evoke a child’s sketchbook, Ferris introduces us to Karen Reyes, a ten-year-old girl growing up in a seedy 1968 Chicago neighborhood.  Karen’s life is troubled by her mother’s illness, her father’s absence, her older brother’s emotional problems, and the death of her beloved upstairs neighbor, the Holocaust survivor Anka.  She is also, however, struggling with her own identity–as an artist, as a working class woman of color, as a lesbian, and, as she thinks of it, as a monster, straight out of the schlocky horror movies she loves so much.  Her drawings dash between fantasy and reality, between Chicago in the 60s and Germany in the 30s, as she listens to Anka’s recorded testimony of the things she did to survive, which went on to haunt her and may have gotten her killed.  The result is a mystery story, a coming of age tale, a narrative of artistic growth, and a major art object in itself….

(5) TIME FOR THE STARS: As the year disappears, Jason returns quickly with the “Annual Summation: 2017” which looks back on the last twelve months of Featured Futures and the world of webzines.

This summation has three parts. The first is a list and slideshow of the magazines Featured Futures covered in 2017, with statistics and lists of the stories read and recommended from them. The second is a list of this blog’s popular posts and most-visited stories, with a pitch for some “underclicked” stories. The third is a note about some non-webzine readings I did for Tangent.

(6) OBAMA AND GENRE. Axios’ report “Barack Obama shares his favorite books and songs of 2017” says The Power by Naomi Alderman is on his Facebook list. I checked, and so is Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward.

(7) BY THE NUMBERS. Dorothy Grant opens the discussion of what is a “Successful Author” at Mad Genius Club.

Dean Wesley Smith, who’s been in this business for a few decades, has said that he knew a crusty old bookstore owner who figured you weren’t a “pro” until you had ten books out, as he’d seen far too many writers quit before they got that far. So the day Dean slapped that tenth published book on the table, the old gent acknowledged that he was “no longer a neo-pro.”

But for actual hard numbers, Author Earnings has pulled back the curtain and let us take a good hard look at actual sales figures, and the amount of money going to the author from those sales. They found about 10,000 authors are making $10,000+ a year from their sales on Amazon.com. (May 2016 Report). Of those, slightly over 4,600 were earning above $25K/yr on Amazon.com (not counting .co.uk, .au, .de, .ca, or kobo/iTunes, etc., so I expect the actual numbers are a little higher.)

(8) A BLAND NEW YEAR. The Traveler at Galactic Journey has reached January 1963 and isn’t finding Analog any more to his taste than it was last year: “[Dec. 31, 1962] So it goes… (January 1963 Analog)”.

This month’s Analog, the last sf digest of the month, complements the news situation.  It’s filled with pages and pages of pages, none of which will likely stick with you long after you set it down.  The stories in this month’s issue don’t even have the virtue of being terrible.  Just redolent in that smug mediocrity that so frequently characterizes this mag, once the flagship of science fiction.

(9) WINDY CITY’S GOH. Doug Ellis & John Gunnison announced F. Paul Wilson will be GoH of the 2018 Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention, April 6-8, 2018 in Lombard, IL.

F. Paul Wilson. Photo by and copyright © Andrew Porter

Wilson is the author of over 50 books, many of which feature his popular anti-hero, Repairman Jack.  Among his numerous awards are the Bram Stoker Award, the Prometheus Award, the Porgie Award and the Inkpot Award.  His first published story, “The Cleaning Machine,” appeared in the March 1971 issue of Startling Mystery Stories, while his second appeared a month later, in the April 1971 issue of the John Campbell edited Analog.  His newest novel, “The God Gene,” is scheduled to be released by Forge Books on January 2, 2018.  Wilson contributed the Foreword to The Art of the Pulps, published in October 2017, where he shared that “I love the pulps. … I’ve been a fan of the pulps since my teens…”  We’re excited to have him as our GoH, and we know that our attendees will enjoy meeting him at the convention!

(10) HE WENT PSYCHO. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett ends the year by explaining his theory about director Alfred Hitchcock’s decisions for adapting The Birds“Psycho Birds Bloch Hitchcock!”

Having at last seen the film version of The Birds I find I was right to assume that a 1963 Hollywood production, even with Hitchcock at the helm, could not match the power of du Maurier’s original. Overall I thought The Birds was okay, certainly better than I had assumed it would be, but still not great. I can see why Hitchcock made so many changes as I doubt that in 1963 a more faithful translation of the story would sell tickets, but I can also see why Daphne du Maurier hated what he did to her story. I didn’t hate it myself but I did think it was the least impressive Hitchcock film I’ve ever seen.

None the less I was fascinated the way Hitchcock started off the film with a light romance that had nothing to do with du Maurier’s story and didn’t begin to introduce anything by du Maurier until the romance plot was well advanced. Why did he take such an unexpected approach I wondered as I watched this story unfold? Afterwards however it occurred to me that Hitchcock began The Birds the way he did in order to replicate the success of Psycho.

This theory of mine starts with not with Hitchcock but Robert Bloch for it was he who wrote the 1959 novel Hitchcock turned into his famous film….

(11) OF BRONZE. Cat Rambo continues to share the pleasures she finds in the old series in — “Reading Doc Savage: The Czar of Fear”.

…And then we hear a sound from the radio: “a tolling, like the slow note of a big, listless bell. Mixed with the reverberations was an unearthly dirge of moaning and wailing.” The trio react with panic, but Aunt Nora reassures them, “It’s not likely the Green Bell was tolling for us — that time!” We learn that whenever the bell tolls, it means death and insanity….

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 31, 1935 — C. B. Darrow received a patent for his Monopoly game
  • December 31, 1958 — We saw The Crawling Eye which was originally entitled The Trollenberg Terror.
  • December 31, 1958 The Strange World Of Planet X premiered.
  • December 31, 1961 The Phantom Planet premiered.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 31, 1945 – Connie Willis
  • Born December 31, 1949 – Susan Shwartz
  • Born December 31 – Sharon Sbarsky

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • It’s not easy to crack a joke about an in memoriam presentation – Mike Kennedy says Brewster Rockit managed to do it.

(15) DC NOT AC. The Hollywood Reporter calls it “2017: The Year Almost Everything Went Wrong for Marvel Comics”.

Nearly every month held a new PR crisis for the company where Iron Man, Thor and Captain America live.

2017 has been a bad year for Marvel Entertainment’s comic book division. It’s not simply that sales have tumbled (the company’s traditional dominance in year-end sales charts is absent this year), but that Marvel’s comic book publishing arm has suffered through a year of PR disasters so unforgiving as to make it appear as if the division has become cursed somehow. Here’s how bad things have been over the last twelve months.

(16) BEST COMICS. According to Erik and Paul from Burbank’s House of Secrets, here are the Best Comic Books of 2017.

(17) DANGEROUS TO WHO? Milo’s lawsuit against Simon & Schuster has made the editor’s complaints about his manuscript part of the public record. Follow the tweet to see two pages of the publisher’s rebuttal submitted to the court.

Ivers considered plaintiff’s first draft to be, at best, a superficial work full of incendiary jokes with no coherent or sophisticated analysis of political issues of free speech… Plainly it was not acceptable to Simon & Schuster for publication.

(18) AND THE BAND PLAYED ON. The Han Solo movie will also receive the master’s touch: “John Williams Set To Compose A Theme For Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

It looks like Solo: A Star Wars Story is getting a theme from the legendary Star Wars music composter John Williams.

According to a report by Variety, Williams is to continue his working relationship with Lucasfilm, working on a new them for the studio’s upcoming standalone film, Solo.  Williams is to work with How to Train Your Dragon composer John Powell, who is set to work on the rest of the music of the film. Powell’s involvement with the project was announced way back in July last year, and in an interview with the publication, Williams explained how he and Powell would collaborate on Solo’s music.

“[Powell’s] assignment is something I’m very happy about. What I will do is offer this to John, and to [director] Ron Howard, and if all parties are happy with it, then I will be happy. … John [Powell] will complete the score. He will write all the rest of the themes and all of the other material, which I’m going to be very anxious to hear.”

(19) SORTING HAT. I agree with the Facebook matchup, so maybe the others are right, too.

(20) CONTINUED NEXT PHAROAH. The BBC explains the value in “Scan technique reveals secret writing in mummy cases”.

[The cases] are made from scraps of papyrus which were used by ancient Egyptians for shopping lists or tax returns.

The hieroglyphics found on the walls of the tombs of the Pharaohs show how the rich and powerful wanted to be portrayed. It was the propaganda of its time.

The new technique gives Egyptologists access to the real story of Ancient Egypt, according to Prof Adam Gibson of University College London, who led the project.

(21) ACQUIRED TASTES. Abbey White revisits some old favorites as she explains “Why Spice Is a Staple of Science Fiction” at Food & Wine.

One of science fiction’s most famous food tropes, spice often exists as something outside its everyday culinary use. Whether a deadly, interstellar travel enhancer in Frank Herbert’s Dune, a magical form of seduction in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s The Mistress of Spices, a drug in George Lucas’s Star Wars or currency in EA Games sci-fi simulation Spore, across mediums the term has become synonymous with things it ostensibly isn’t. As a result, it’s altered the way we understand food within imagined, futuristic settings. But why are science fiction writers making something so commonplace such a notable element of their universes? The answer lies in the extensive global history of spice.

For many writers, creating new worlds in genre requires first mining through the social and scientific things they’re familiar with and then making them unfamiliar, either by changing their composition or context. Speaking to Food & Wine, Georgia Tech University professor and former president of the Science Fiction Research Association Lisa Yaszek noted that because spice is both a regionally distinctive and internationally mundane aspect of life, it’s a fitting launching board for establishing that familiar/unfamiliar dichotomy in a world of altered technology.

(22) THIS WILL KEEP YOU ON YOUR DIET. Disturbing images accompany Vice’s interview — “Pastry Chef Annabel Lecter [Who] Will Turn Your Nightmares into Cake”. This one is very…vanilla… compared with the others.

Do you get a lot of negative comments on the internet?

It comes with the territory, I get, “Why are you disturbed,” “Why do you do that”, “how can you make this”…and I’m like, “At the end of the day, it’s only a cake.” It’s food. I’m not burying anyone, or digging anyone up, or killing anyone. It’s food. With the baby heads if you google the comments I was called out for “inciting cannibalism,” being a “satanist,” as well as called a racist because they were white chocolate. It was just the best. And with all of that, people were asking if I was upset. No, because I’m none of those. [However], if somebody said they were really badly made I would have cried. If somebody said this tasted like crap then yeah, I’d be upset. The other stuff I just find entertaining. Priorities, you know.

(23) FIXED OPINION. At Yahoo! Lifetyle Murphy Moroney declares, “If the Caretakers Aren’t Your Favorite Characters in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, You Can’t Sit With Us”.

Even a Star Wars franchise novice such as myself picked up on how epic they are right off that bat, and I’ve only seen one-and-a-half of the movies in my 25 years of life. Why should you be as obsessed with them as I am? Because if the Jedi are the head of the universe, then the caretakers are the neck that supports it. And newsflash people: without the neck, there’s no head!

Hey, thanks anyway, but I see some people over there I promised to sit with….

(24) OUT WITH THE OLD. Let Camestros Felapton be the first to wish you…

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Will R., Jason, Olav Rokne, Cat Rambo, and JJ for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 12/16/17 The Hoboken Pixel Emergency

(1) #MAPPINGFANTASY. Alex Acks and Paul Weimer taught their “Mapping Fantasy” online class today. Cat Rambo tweeted the highlights – jump onto the thread here:

(2) PURINA ALIEN CHOW. Food & Wine investigates “How Hollywood’s Sci-Fi Food Stylists Create Futuristic Meals”.

For Janice Poon, one of TV’s most popular food stylists and a frequent collaborator with Bryan Fuller (American Gods, Hannibal, Pushing Daisies), food styling for the future is as much about taking cues from the script or the world around you as it is about pushing your imaginary limits—within production capability, of course.

Poon refers to the script, pulling the tone and character motivations from a food scene, before brainstorming alongside her showrunner (and sometimes even a cinematographer) on how a spread will look. However, Poon says that “because it is sci-fi, you can do just about anything really.” To do just about anything, Poon uses conventional tools like wet wipes and syringes, but also “an ability to problem solve” and a four and a half inch white ceramic santoku knife that enables Poon to work in the darkness of a set

(3) STRAHAN CALLING. Even as Jonathan Strahan’s 2017 best of the year collection is being readied for publication, he’s looking ahead to 2018 — Call for stories: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Vol. 13.

I edit The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year anthology series for Solaris Books. The twelfth volume in the series will be published in April 2018, and the thirteenth volume will appear in March 2019.

I am currently reading for the 2018 volume, and am looking for stories from all branches of science fiction and fantasy: space opera to cyberpunk, fairy tales to the slipstream, or anything else that might qualify. If in doubt, please send it.

Eligibility

This is a reprint anthology. Stories must have been published for the first time between 1 January and 31 December 2018 to be considered.

Deadline

The submission deadline for this year’s book is:

1 November 2018

Anything sent after this deadline will reach me too late, as I  deliver the final book to the publisher in late December. If a magazine, anthology, or collection you are in or you edit is coming out before 31 December 2018 please send galleys or manuscripts so that I can consider the stories in time.

(4) GALACTIC STARS. Meanwhile, The Traveler recognizes the best sff of 1962 in See the Stars at Galactic Journey.

Best Novelette

The Ballad of Lost C’Mell, Cordwainer Smith (Galaxy)

The second time an Instrumentality tale has gotten a Star… and this one is better.

(5) CENTENARY PROJECT. The Clarke Award’s’ Kickstarter to fund “2001: An Odyssey in Words” has started. In this original anthology honoring Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s centenary year every story is precisely two thousand and one words long.

The Arthur C. Clarke Award is famous for its annual redefinition of that elusive term ‘science fiction,’ and Sir Arthur was always adamant that while the award may be named for him, it shouldn’t be styled on his work.

We wanted to make sure that the scope of the anthology was as broad as the fluid definition of science fiction for which the Clarke Award is renowned, while still retaining a direct acknowledgement of Sir Arthur’s own work.

The solution? A collection where every story has all the scope and freedom to imagine that an author might possibly want, but where the word count had to be precisely 2001 words (and we had rules about authors playing clever games with super-long story titles, just to make sure).

(5) CLARKE CENTENARY IN SOCIAL MEDIA. Here are tweets from some of the groups celebrating the day.

  • And I applaud Gideon Marcus for staying in character –

(6) RIVALRY. From 2015, Adam Rowe at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog fondly remembers “The Decades-Long Flame War Between Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov”.

While introducing his Asimov at an event in London, Clarke had plenty of time to prepare his choicest insults.

“Well, Isaac, I’ve lost my bet. There are more than five people here,” he opened. “I’m not going to waste any time introducing Isaac Asimov. That would be as pointless as introducing the equator, which indeed, he’s coming to resemble more and more closely.”

(7) SUPERBOOTS ON THE GROUND. Andrew Liptak combed through all sci-fi media and came up with a list of “18 suits of power armor from science fiction you don’t want to meet on the battlefield” in The Verge. Here’s one of them:

Goliath Mk ? Powersuit, James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse

In The Expanse, Mars possesses the most advanced military force in the solar system, and its elite Marines are trained to operate in deep space, onboard spaceships, and planetary surfaces. They come decked out in a powerful suit of armor called the Goliath Powersuit. This armor completely protects its wearer, providing life support and armor, as well as a heads up display to help soldiers with targeting. They also come equipped with guns mounted directly into their arms, and carry a small rack of missiles on their backs.

These suits will resist small arms fire, and are small enough that they can be used inside the narrow corridors of a spaceship. But they’re not invincible, as Bobbie Draper’s Marines discovered on Ganymede during the television show’s second season.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Lillian Disney (wife of Walt) came up with the name Mickey Mouse.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 16, 1901 — Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit was first published
  • December 16, 1981 Beach Babes from Beyond premiered.
  • December 16, 2016Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was released.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born December 16, 1775 — Jane Austen
  • Born December 16, 1917 — Arthur C. Clarke
  • Born December 16, 1927 — Randall Garrett
  • Born December 16, 1927 — Peter Dickinson
  • Born December 16, 1928 — Philip K. Dick
  • Born December 16, 1957 — Lenore Jean Jones
  • Born December 16, 1981 — Krysten Ritter (aka Jessica Jones)

(11) SWORD OF LIGHT. In honor of the release of The Last Jedi, Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett sent along this quote from Kaldar, World of Antares written by Edmond Hamilton and originally published in 1933:

With the tunic went a belt in which were a sword and a tube such as he had noticed. Merrick examined these weapons of the Corlans carefully. The sword seemed at first glance a simple long rapier of metal. But he found that when his grip tightened on the hilt it pressed a catch which released a terrific force stored in the hilt into the blade, making it shine with light. When anything was touched by this shining blade, he found, the force of the blade annihilated it instantly. He learned that the weapon was called a light-sword, due to the shining of the blade when charged, and saw that it was truly a deadly weapon, its touch alone meaning annihilation to any living thing.

(12) BELIEVE IT OR NOT. The price is unbelievable! “Check out an original ‘Star Wars’ lightsaber valued at $450,000”.

Starting Saturday, and just in time for the release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” visitors to Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum in Hollywood, California, will be able to see the iconic prop in person.

Ripley’s purchased the saber hilt for a whopping $450,000 at an auction last June held by Profiles in History. The auction house specializes in Hollywood memorabilia and acquired the prop from the collection of Gary Kurtz, a producer on “Star Wars: A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back.” It’s the first time the prop has been put on public display.

(13) LYRICAL MIRACLE. This thread started in 2013 but gets rediscovered every time a new Star Wars movie comes out – begins here:

(14) HURLEY. BEWARE SPOILERS in Kameron Hurley’s review “The Last Jedi: Promises, Pitfalls, and What Sticks With You”. (No spoilers in this excerpt.)

I came out of watching The Last Jedi, and was like, “Well, that was good, but I’m not blown away.” It had a lot of threads; it felt like three movies in one, and cramming all that story into one movie made it feel a little bloated. The story beats weren’t that clockwork structure that The Force Awakens and the original trilogy stuck to. There were a couple of massive emotional moments that needed to be paid off more than we got.

And yet.

And yet this morning I find that I can’t stop thinking about it. Stories are, at their heart, about characters. If I’m invested in the characters and their struggles, you can fall down on plot and no one cares….

(15) I DON’T KNOW IF THIS IS A SPOILER. If it is, don’t read it.

(16) MODERATE PRAISE. The Hugo Award Book Club concluded “The Stone Sky is the echo of a great book”, but they’d still like to give it an award:

The first book in the series, The Fifth Season, was innovative and unique. It offered a refreshing take on science fiction and fantasy that unquestionably deserved the Hugo Award. But The Stone Sky does not stand on its own. It is good, but mostly because it is an echo of a truly great book.

It might be more appropriate to honour N.K. Jemisin with a Best Series Hugo this year, rather than another Best Novel, because that would recognize how The Stone Sky works as part of a larger whole.

(17) SUMMATION. John Crowley’s Ka is a book-length historical fantasy about a crow. The author has been profiled by an area paper: “Conway author’s handwritten ode to birdwatching”.

The book was written while “looking out at Baptist Hill and watching people mow their lawns, and watching crows fly around.” Crowley explained in a recent interview about what went into the makings of “Ka” and how his living in Conway for nearly the last 35 years influenced his work.

The narrator of the novel, “feels like he is living in a country different from where he grew up,” after moving back home, he explained.

Crowley himself grew up in Brattleboro, Vt., moved to Indiana for college, and then New York City for some professional years, where he wrote his critically acclaimed, “Little, Big.” He eventually returned to New England.

Crowley said the narrator of the novel “says to himself that he is surprised by seeing kinds of birds that he doesn’t remember seeing when he was a child … the Canada geese use to fly overhead and still do, but they’re not going south anymore.”

Things like climate change, but also other elements that just sometimes change with generations, have thrown off this narrator.

“Things like that have changed his feelings about the world and saddened him … If I’m going to leave the world, it’s not the world I began in,” Crowley said about the protagonist.

(18) UNIDENTIFIED FLYING TRAILER. Avengers: Infinity War Reality Stone Trailer (2018). Is this a fan trailer or official?

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]