Pixel Scroll 2/14/19 Scot Hunk, Cyber Punk, Even If It’s Old Junk

(1) HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY. I found my holiday inspiration at SYFY Wire: “Debate Club: The 5 best romances in sci-fi movies”.

Welcome to Debate Club, where Tim Grierson and Will Leitch, the hosts of the Grierson & Leitch podcast, tackle the greatest arguments in pop culture.

Hey, it’s Valentine’s Week! And even if you’re not out with your significant other on Thursday night, you can still appreciate a good love story, particularly one that’s surrounded by the genre trappings we’ve all come to appreciate. We need love stories to humanize all the theatrics, to make sure human beings aren’t lost among the stars.

Skipping all the details, the movies (and couples and actors, where applicable) Grierson and Leitch choose are:

Upstream Color (2013) — Jeff (Shane Carruth) and Kris (Amy Seimetz)

The Empire Strikes Back (1980) — Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher)

Edward Scissorhands (1990) — Edward (Johnny Depp) and Kim (Winona Ryder)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) — Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet)

WALL-E (2008) — WALL-E and EVE

(2) THE TMZ OF THE MCU. And yes, love is in the air, even after 50% of humanity is gone (Inverse: “Who’s Dating Who in the MCU? After Thanos’ Snap, Here’s the Complete Guide”).

This Valentine’s Day, there’s no better place to look for love than in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which boasts more than 80 characters in 20 movies with stories spanning across various countries, realms, galaxies, and even timelines. And only half of them are dead!

Many characters are now gone. We get it. But hey, love is complicated! Love is patient. Love is kind. Time travel Love can fix anything.

(3) BEWARE THE IDEAS OF MARCH. John Scalzi tweeted, “Oh, hey, here’s a trailer for you, he said, with no personal vested interest at all.” I wonder what he meant by that? Love Death + Robots debuts on Netflix on March 15.

Sentient dairy products, werewolf soldiers, robots gone wild, garbage monsters, cyborg bounty hunters, alien spiders and blood-thirsty demons from hell – all converge in eighteen NSFW animated stories. Presented by Tim Miller & David Fincher.

(4) WAKE-UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE. Um, can you even do that in the vacuum of space? The promoters of Space Roasters say that’s where they’ll perfect your cup of coffee.

TrendHunter Marketing has the details — “Re-Entry from Space Heats Space Roasters’ Coffee Beans”.

Space Roasters is looking to “revolutionize coffee roasting” by taking the process to outer space. Space Roasters plans to send green coffee into space and allow the heat from its re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere to take care of the roasting—and in the process, address many of the pitfalls of conventional coffee-roasting practices. Since gravity interferes with coffee beans tumbling and breaking, Space Roasters aims to create a zero-gravity setting for roasting that creates evenly distributed heat and perfectly roasted beans.

Daniel Dern notes: “This makes me think of the Tom Swift Jr book where he sends up rockets holding cargoes of solar batteries so they can charge in space, and then come back to earth.”

(5) GEORGE PAL. Arnold Leibovit’s GoFundMe “Fantasy Worlds of George Pal Film Preservation” hope to raise $9,850 to preserve a series of historic rare archival videotape interviews – many never released –  from The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal  (1986).

In the annals of Hollywood, Academy Award winner George Pal will always be remembered as a titan, a brilliant visionary who profoundly shaped the art of motion pictures. As an animator, Pal was a pioneer of stop-motion animation known as Puppetoons ™ and a peer of Walt Disney and Walter Lantz. In the 1950’s as a producer and director of live-action films, he brought to the screen such classics as “The War of the Worlds”, “The Time Machine”, “When Worlds Collide”, “Destination Moon”, “Tom Thumb”, “Houdini”, “Atlantis the Lost Continent” “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm”, “7 Faces of Dr. Lao”, “The Power”, “Doc Savage: Man of Bronze” and others.  Pal’s cinematic legacy can be traced in the works of Walt Disney, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Gene Roddenberry, Tim Burton, James Cameron, Peter Jackson and dozens of others.

The original 1 inch ‘B’ NTSC video format used in the production of “The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal” are long out of use. To make matters worse, only 2  working ‘B’ NTSC machines exist that can aid in the digitization process.  There is no telling how long these machines will last or their working parts as they are also no longer in existence!

… Talent interviews to preserve includes: Rod Taylor, Alan Young, Tony Randall, Tony Curtis, Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury, Gene Roddenberry, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Russ Tamblyn, Barbara Eden, Ann Robinson, Roy E. Disney, Ward Kimball, Robert Wise, George Pal, Mrs. George Pal,  David Pal, Gae Griffith, Walter Lantz, Gene Warren Sr., Wah Chang, Jim Danforth, Robert Bloch, Chesley Bonestell, Albert Nozaki, William Tuttle, Duke Goldstone, Bob Baker and Phil Kellison….

(6) REBEL AND WRITE CLEARLY. Benjamin Dreyer, vice president, executive managing editor and copy chief, of Random House, and the author of Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style asserts in a Washington Post opinion piece: “I’m not the grammar police. But writing well is an act of resistance.”.

…I might also urge you to kondo your prose of what I call the Wan Intensifiers and Throat Clearers® — the “very”s and “quite”s and “rather”s and “actually”s in which many (most?) of us bury our writing like so many packing peanuts. Because once you’ve stripped those away, I insist, you’ll find yourself looking at sentences that are bolder in their spareness.

And perhaps be less eager to grab up the latest bit of jargony businessspeak — is it not enough to orient new employees? Must we onboard them, and is that not prohibited anyway by the Geneva Conventions?

As a copy editor I find myself frequently asked to weigh in on an array of language peeves and crotchets: “Is it okay to use ‘literally’ to mean ‘figuratively’?” “What about ‘begs the question’?” “What do I do about supermarket signs that read ‘Ten Items or Less’?” (Respectively: If I say no, is that going to stop you? I plead the Fifth. Get a hobby.)

(7) PRIME PADDINGTON. He looks pretty good for 50. Paddington Bear passed the half-century mark last last year but apparently isn’t retired yet (BBC News: “Paddington returns as a TV series with the voice of Ben Whishaw”).

The actor has already provided the voice for the bear for two films that were critical and box office hits. 

The series for pre-schoolers will be a 3D CG-animated series, which follows the adventures of a younger Paddington.

[…] “It is a joy to bring this uniquely life-enhancing bear to a whole new audience of younger children. We are thrilled that the inimitably brilliant Ben Whishaw will continue to voice Paddington,” [executive producer David Heyman] said. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 14, 1929 Vic Morrow. I usually avoid dealing in death here but this time I can’t. He and two child actors were killed in 1982 by a stunt helicopter crash during the filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie. It was his first big budget SF film having done only two low-budget ones before that, Message from Space (Ucyuu karano messeiji), a Japanese film where he was cast as General Garuda, and as Hank Slattery in Humanoids of the Deep. (Died 1982.)
  • Born February 14, 1933 Robert Shea. Author with Robert Anton Wilson of The Illuminatus Trilogy (The Eye in the PyramidThe Golden Apple and Leviathan). Weird shit. Is it really genre? Or just the ravings of two insane writers? (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 14, 1942 Andrew Robinson, 77. Elim Garak on Deep Space Nine. He wrote a novel based based on his character, A Stitch in Time  and a novella, “The Calling” which can be found in Prophecy and Change, a DS9 anthology edited by Marco Palmieri. Other genre credits include Larry Cotton in Hellraiser, appearing in The Puppet Masters as Hawthorne and playing John F. Kennedy on the The New Twilight Zone
  • Born February 14, 1948 Teller, 70. Performed on Babylon 5 in the episode scripted by Neil Gaiman titled “Day of The Dead” as part of Penn & Teller who portrayed comedians Rebo and Zooty. It’s one of my favorite episodes of the series. 
  • Born February 14, 1952 Paula M. Block, 67. Star Trek author and editor; but primarily known for working in Paramount Pictures’ consumer licensing division and then with CBS Consumer Products. Remember that novel I noted by Andrew Robinson? Yeah that’s her bailiwick. She’s also written with her husband Terry J. Erdmann, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion and Star Trek: Costumes: Five Decades of Fashion from the Final Frontier. It looks like she did some Trek fanfic as well including “The Girl Who Controlled Gene Kelly’s Feet”.
  • Born February 14, 1952 Gwyneth Jones, 67. Interesting person the she is, let’s start with her thoughts on chestnuts. Just because I can. Now regarding her fiction, I’d strongly recommend her Bold As Love series of a Britain that went to pieces, and her twenty year-old Deconstructing the Starships: Science, Fiction and Reality polemic is still worth reading.
  • Born February 14, 1963 Enrico Colantoni, 56. Any excuse to mention Galaxy Quest is one I’ll gladly take. He played a delightful Mathesar on that film and that was his first genre role, lucky bastard. up next for him was A.I. Artificial Intelligence as The Murderer followed by appearing in Justice League Dark as the voice of Felix Faust where (SPOILER!) his fate was very, very bad. He had an amazing role on Person of Interest as Charlie Burton / Carl Elias. Not genre, but his acting as Sgt. Gregory Parker on Flashpointa Canadian police drama television series is worth noting
  • Born February 14, 1970 Simon Pegg, 49. Best known for playing Montgomery Scott in Star TrekStar Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond (with a co-writing credit for the latter). His first foray into the genre was Shaun of the Dead which he co-wrote and had an acting role in. Late genre roles include Land of the Dead where he’s a Photo Booth Zombie, Diary of the Dead where he has a cameo as a Newsreader, and he portrays Benji Dunn in the present Mission: Impossible franchise.
  • Born February 14, 1978 Danai Guirira, 41. She’s best known for her role as Michonne on The Walking Dead, and as Okoye in the MCU franchise starting with Black Panther, and later reprising that role in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Her first genre film was Ghost Town in which she’s listed as playing assorted ghosts, and she’s got some role in the forthcoming Godzilla vs. Kong

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) LOOKING BACKWARD. At the Dublin 2019 site Ian Moore does a category overview: “Retro Hugos: dramatic Presentations in 1943”.

…Science fiction pictures as we know them now were still relatively rare in 1943. However, horror films provide a rich vein of Retro Hugo eligible material, admittedly of variable quality. Universal brought out another version of The Phantom of the Opera, with Arthur Lubin directing Claude Rains in the title role. Somewhat unusually for horror films of the era, this film was awarded Academy Awards in the cinematography and art direction categories. At just over 90 minutes it is eligible for the long form dramatic Retro Hugo.

Universal also brought out the short Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, directed by Roy William Neill. This was the first of their films to feature an encounter between two of their monsters. Lon Chaney Jr. reprised his role as the Wolf Man while Bela Lugosi finally played Frankenstein’s Monster, a role he had famously turned down when the 1931 Frankenstein was being cast. Chaney also appeared in the Universal short films Calling Dr. Death (directed by Reginald LeBorg), a lost memory murder mystery, and Son of Dracula (directed by Robert Siodmak), in which he took on Lugosi’s Dracula role. By 1943 Lugosi meanwhile was ageing, but he still managed to play another vampire role in Columbia’s short Return of the Vampire (directed by Lew Landers) and The Ape Man (a short for Banner Pictures, directed by William Beaudine), in which he plays a scientist who transforms into an ape-man hybrid following some ethically dubious experiments….

(11) VALENTINE’S DAY BURRITO. John Scalzi reached 160,000 Twitter followers yesterday. By popular acclaim he celebrated by making a burrito. A thread with the recipe starts here. He’s also published it as a Whatever blog post.

(12) PERSPECTIVES ON SFF HISTORY. SYFY Wire’s “Fangrrls” takes a look at, “How genre has failed and served queer representation.”

Two years ago, during my annual pilgrimage to the Lesbian Herstory Archives’ book sale, I stumbled across Kindred Spirits, the first anthology of gay and lesbian science fiction stories ever, to my knowledge, published. First published in 1984 by Alyson Publications, one of the oldest LGBTQ publishing houses in operation, the anthology boasted twelve queer science fiction stories written by authors of varying identities, ranging from legendary lesbian author Joanna Russ to openly gay Star Trek screenwriter David Gerrold, who wrote the iconic episode “The Trouble With Tribbles.”

[…] [Editor Jeffrey M.] Elliot clearly hoped that anthologizing these stories would engender empathy and acceptance in his readers, but he was also cognizant of the limitations of fiction, citing the clear and urgent work of queer activists as moving the goalposts forward. Turning away from the darkness of the past, Elliot looks hopefully to a future where speculative fiction both reflects increasing acceptance of the LGBTQ community and can be used to increase acceptance of the LGBTQ community.

It’s been 35 years since Kindred Spirits was published in that hope. Have we lived up to it?

(13) SOMETHING WICKED. Flavor Wire quotes from Frank Skinner’s introduction to the Folio Society’s new edition of a Ray Bradbury classic, which contemplates what exactly makes this story so scary: “Book Excerpt: On the Potent Fear of ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’”.

…Bradbury, it seems, is something of a student of fear. It is, he suggests, much more complex than we might think. It is certainly not just one thing. I once lived in an apartment overlooking the Thames. Seeing so much of the old river made me realise how different it could be from day to day, from hour to hour. It swirled and settled, it grew darker, it sparkled, it seemed, sometimes, almost to stop flowing. It feels as if Bradbury, through his writings, has similarly studied fear on a daily basis, noting its ebbs and flows, recognising its surprising variety. Thirteen-year-old boys can be a strange mix of high energy and deep languor. Their fear, Bradbury shows us, is subject to similar peaks and troughs. Having been near-paralysed with foreboding for a sustained period, Will and Jim become ‘starchy with boredom and fatigued with sameness’ and consider giving themselves up to the carnival just for something to do….

(14) IT’S A DRY HEAT. So far, Dune has pretty firmly resisted adaptation to the silver screen. Director Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049) is lining up talent for the next attempt (IGN Entertainment: “Dune Movie: Every Actor in the Sci-Fi Reboot”). Actors listed in the article as signed (or in talks) include:

  • Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) — Paul Atreides
  • Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible – Fallout) — Lady Jessica
  • Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) — Duke Leto Atreides
  • Stellan Skarsgård (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) — Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
  • Dave Bautista (Blade Runner 2049) — Glossu Rabban
  • Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming) — in talks to play Chani
  • Charlotte Rampling (Red Sparrow) — Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam
  • Javier Bardem — in talks to play Stilgar
  • Josh Brolin (Deadpool 2) — Gurney Halleck
  • Jason Momoa (Aquaman) — reportedly in talks to play Duncan Idaho

(15) ASKING FOR A TIME REFUND. Think Story deems the TV production of Nightflyers to be “A Hot Mess in Space.”

Were you as disappointed in Netflix’s “Nightflyers” as I was? Join me as we take a look at what could have been a great series but was thrown out the airlock.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/24/17 Is The Grisly Pixel Scrolling?

(1) THE GREAT UNREAD. James Davis Nicoll fesses up – now you can, too: “Twenty Core Speculative Fiction Works It May Surprise You To Learn I Have Not Yet Read Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”. Who knew there were 20 sff books altogether than he hadn’t read, much less ones not by Castalia House authors? Here are a few examples:

  • Re: Colonised Planet 5, Shikasta by Doris Lessing
  • The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
  • England Swings SF edited by Judith Merril

(2) MOVING DAY. Meanwhile, at another of his platforms, James Davis Nicoll has gone silent while he works on moving that website.

Why was my site down? Because it turns out the soft-on-Nazis fuckwits running DreamHost thought it would be a good idea to host the Daily Stormer. My site will be moving. Until it has been moved, I won’t be updating it; I will go back to posting reviews on DW.

(3) GENRE TENSIONS. Here’s what Teleread’s Paul St. John Mackintosh deemed to be the takeaway from an all-star panel at Helsinki: “Worldcon 75: Horror and the World Fantasy Award”.

[Stephen] Jones pointed to the origins of the WFA Awards and their parent convention, the World Fantasy Convention, during the horror boom of the mid-1970s. The first WFC, held in Providence, RI in 1975, had as its theme “The Lovecraft Circle,” and that Lovecraftian association has persisted ever since, despite the name on the billboard. Jones attributed the perceived bias towards horror at fantasy and other conventions to the view that “the horror guys the people who go to all the fun conventions.” [Ellen] Datlow, conversely, reported that “from the horror people’s point of view, in the past ten years, they always feel there’s a bias towards fantasy.” Her analysis of actual awards and nominations showed no bias either way, and she saw this as “all perception,” depending on which end of the imaginative literature spectrum it’s seen from. [John] Clute described the situation as “pretty deeply confusing altogether,” given that the WFC externally was intended as a fantasy convention, and the final result has become “terminologically inexact,” though Jones pointed out that “the community itself has changed and mutated, as has the genre.”

(4) VOICE OF EXPERIENCE. Simon Owens reveals “What’s behind the meteoric rise of science fiction podcasts?” – and these are just the drama podcasts, never mind all the nonfiction ones…

According to Valenti, a serialized fiction podcast is an inexpensive way for aspiring filmmakers to gain recognition in the industry. “The reason you’re seeing all these shows crop up is because it’s so much less expensive to experiment and prove yourself as a storyteller in this medium, more than any other,” he said. It used to be that Hollywood directors got their foot in the door with short, independent films, but even those kinds of projects require significant resources. “With podcasts, you don’t have to spend any money on locations,” he explained. “You don’t have to spend any money on cameras, hardware, or hiring a cinematographer. And even if you have the footage, and you had a decent camera, which you probably had to rent because they cost thousands of dollars a day, you’re getting someone to color grade everything after it’s over.” Podcasts rarely require anything more than decent mics, actors, and audio mixing technology. And speaking of actors, your average voiceover performer costs much less to hire than a SAG member.

(5) INKY AWARDS. The shortlists for the 2017 Inky Awards were announced August 15 – the Gold Inky for Australia titles, and the Silver Inky for international titles. The award recognises achievement in young adult literature, with nominees and winners selected by voters under the age of 20. Some of these titles are of genre interest. Voting is currently open for the winners. [H/T Earl Grey Editing Services.]

(6) MORE WORLDCON WRITEUPS. The conreports keep on coming.

Kelly Robson: “What it’s like to lose a Hugo Award”

The Campbell was the second-to-last award, and sure, I was disappointed not to win, but not horribly. On a scale of one to ten, it was about a three at the time and now is zero. I’m very happy for Ada. She deserves every success.

However, I did feel foolish for thinking I could win, which was painful but mostly dispersed by morning. Being a finalist is wonderful. Winning would have been amazing, but it does come with a certain amount of pressure. So maybe — just maybe — being a finalist is the best of both worlds. And that lovely pin in the first picture is mine forever.

Ian Sales: “Kiitos, Helsinki”

My second panel of the con was at noon on the Saturday, Mighty space fleets of war. When I’d registered at the con, I’d discovered I was moderating the panel, which I hadn’t known. I checked back over the emails I’d been sent by the con’s programming team. Oops. I was the moderator. The other two panellists were Jack Campbell and Chris Gerrib. As we took our seats on the stage, Mary Robinette Kowal was gathering her stuff from the previous panel. I jokingly asked if she wanted to join our panel. And then asked if she’d moderate it. She said she was happy to moderate if we wanted her to, but we decided to muddle through ourselves. The panel went quite well, I thought. We got a bit of disagreement going – well, me versus the other two, both of whom admitted to having been USN in the past. I got a wave of applause for a crack about Brexit, and we managed to stay on topic – realistic space combat – for the entire time. I’d prepared a bunch of notes, but by fifteen minutes in, I’d used up all my points. In future, I’ll take in paper and pencil so I can jot stuff down as other members of the panel speak.

Marzie: “The Long Overdue WorldCon Recap!”

This was the first WorldCon I’ve attended and while I had voted in previous Hugo Awards, and attended other Cons (for instance NYCC) I was kind of taken aback by how non-commercial WorldCon is. A case is point is that there are no publishers hawking books at WorldCon, which, on the one hand is great because you don’t get tempted to buy a bunch of stuff and spend a fortune shipping it home and on the other hand is bad because if you’ve travelled a long way with a carry-on only bag, you’re probably packing clothes, not books for your favorite author to sign. Some authors take it all in stride, bringing their own small promotional items they can sign (Fran Wilde, Carrie Vaughn) or will happily sign anything that you set in front of them (Max Gladstone kindly signed a WorldCon postcard for my friend and fellow blogger Alex, who couldn’t come to WorldCon because of Fiscal Realities of New Home vs. Sincere Desire. So other than some interesting panels (climate change in science fiction and fantasy, readings by Amal El-Mohtar and Annalee Newitz, while I can say that pigeonholing fantasy genres is not for me!) the author signings and beloved kaffeeklatsches, the latter limited to ten people, are the definitely the most exciting thing about WorldCon.

Ian Moore: “Helsinki Worldcon write-up Part 1: estrangement, We3, crowds”

Tomi Huttunen introduced the concept of Estrangement, which derives from Russian art theorist Viktor Shklovsky who discussed the topic (Ostrananie) in an article in 1917. Huttunen and others on the academic track offered varying definitions of the concept, noting that different people in the past had come at this in a different way. For all that he was someone primarily associated with the avant-garde, Shklovsky’s own definition appeared to imply that all art involved a process of estrangement because of the difference between an actual thing and its artistic representation. Brecht later attempted his own definition, which appeared to be more about uncanny valley or the German concept of the unheimlich, which I found interesting as for all his ground-breaking approach to theatre Brecht had not particularly involved himself in work that strayed into non-realistic territory.

“Helsinki Worldcon write-up Part 2: Saunas, Robert Silverberg & Tanith Lee #Worldcon75”

On Thursday I did not quite get up in time to make it from where I was staying to the convention centre in time for the presentation on Tove Jansson’s illustrations for The Hobbit (which apparently appear only in Scandinavian editions of the book for Tolkien-estate reasons). I did make it to a panel on Bland Protagonists. One of the panelists was Robert Silverberg, a star of Worldcon and a living link to the heroic age of Science Fiction. He is a great raconteur and such an entertaining panelist that I wonder whether people do not want to appear on panels with him for fear of being overshadowed.

“Helsinki Worldcon write-up Part 3: Moomins, Clipping #Worldcon75”

After the Tanith Lee discussion there were a lot of potentially interesting things happening but we felt that we had to go to a session on the Moomins (entitled Moomins!). As you know, these are character that appeared in books written and illustrated by Tove Jansson of Finland. They started life in books and then progressed to comics and subsequently to a succession of animated TV series. If you’ve never heard of them, the Moomins are vaguely hippopotamus shaped creatures that live in a house in Moominvalley and have a variety of strange friends and adopted family members. Moomin stories are pretty cute but also deal with subjects a bit darker and more existential than is normally expected in children’s books.

(7) ROBOCRIMEVICTIM. It is a lawless country out there: “Popular Robots are Dangerously Easy to Hack, Cybersecurity Firm Says”.

The Seattle-based cybersecurity firm found major security flaws in industrial models sold by Universal Robots, a division of U.S. technology company Teradyne Inc. It also cited issues with consumer robots Pepper and NAO, which are manufactured by Japan’s Softbank Group Corp., and the Alpha 1 and Alpha 2 made by China-based UBTech Robotics.

These vulnerabilities could allow the robots to be turned into surveillance devices, surreptitiously spying on their owners, or let them to be hijacked and used to physically harm people or damage property, the researchers wrote in a report released Tuesday.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Pluto Demoted Day

Many of us are fascinated by outer space and its many mysteries. Our own solar system went through a change in classification on 2006, when Pluto was demoted from a planet to a dwarf planet. Pluto Demoted Day now takes place every year to mark that very occasion. While sad for fans of the former ninth planet of the solar system, Pluto Demoted Day is an important day for our scientific history and is important to remember.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 24, 1966 Fantastic Voyage premiered theatrically on this day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born August 24, 1951 – Orson Scott Card

(11) COMIC SECTION. Finnish comic  Fingerpori has a joke about the George R.R. Martin signing at W75. Tehri says it translates something like this (with the third frame being a sight gag):

First panel: (The guy’s name is Heimo Vesa) “What’s going on?”

“George R.R. Martin’s signing queue.”

Middle panel: “Well, I must experience this”.

(As in once in a lifetime thing.)

And Mike Kennedy says today’s Dilbert Classic confirms that publishers exist in order to stomp on potential author’s dreams.

(12) SHE HAS A LITTLE LIST. Kayleigh Donaldson asks “Did This Book Buy Its Way Onto The New York Times Bestseller List?” at Pajiba.

Nowadays, you can make the bestseller list with about 5,000 sales. That’s not the heights of publishing’s heyday but it’s still harder to get than you’d think. Some publishers spend thousands of dollars on advertising and blogger outreach to get that number. Everyone’s looking for the next big thing and that costs a lot of cash. For the past 25 weeks, that big book in the YA world has been The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a searing politically charged drama about a young black girl who sees a police officer kill her friend, and the fallout it causes in her community. Through publisher buzz and exceedingly strong word of mouth, the novel has stormed to the forefront of the YA world and found thousands of fans, with a film on the way. Knocking that from the top of the NYT YA list would be a major deal, and this week it’s going to happen. But something’s not right.

Handbook For Mortals by Lani Sarem is the debut novel from the publishing arm of website GeekNation. The site announced this news only last week, through a press release that can be read on places like The Hollywood Reporter, not a site known for extensive YA coverage. Sarem has an IMDb page with some very minor acting roles, several of which are uncredited, but details on the book are scanter to find. Googling it leads to several other books with the same title, but most of the coverage for it is press release based. There’s little real excitement or details on it coming from the YA blogging world, which is a mighty community who are not quiet about the things they’re passionate about (believe me, first hand experience here).

YA writer and publisher Phil Stamper raised the alarm bells on this novel’s sudden success through a series of tweets, noting GeekNation’s own low traffic, the inability to even buy it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and its out-of-nowhere relevance…

(13) AMAZONIAN BOGOSITY. While reporters are dissecting the bestseller list, Camestros Felapton turns his attention to Amazon and the subject of “Spotting Fakery?”

One thing new to me from those articles was this site: http://fakespot.com/about It claims to be a site that will analyse reviews on sites like Amazon and Yelp and then rate the reviews in terms of how “fake” they seem to be. The mechanism looks at reviewers and review content and looks for relations with other reviews, and also rates reviewers who only ever give positive reviews lower. Now, I don’t know if their methods are sound or reliable, so take the rest of this with a pinch of salt for the time being.

Time to plug some things into their machine but what! Steve J No-Relation Wright has very bravely volunteered to start reading Vox Day’s epic fantasy book because it was available for $0 ( https://stevejwright.wordpress.com/2017/08/23/a-throne-of-bones-by-vox-day-preamble-on-managing-expectations/ ) and so why not see what Fakespot has to say about “Throne of Bones” http://fakespot.com/product/a-throne-of-bones-arts-of-dark-and-light

(14) WORLD DOESN’T END, FILM AT ELEVEN. Kristine Kathryn Rusch got a column out of the eclipse – “Eclipse Expectations”.

The idea for the post? Much of what occurred around the eclipse in my small town happens in publishing all the time. Let me lay out my thinking.

First, what happened in Lincoln City this weekend:

Damn near nothing. Yeah, I was surprised. Yeah, we all were surprised.

Because for the past 18 months, all we heard about the eclipse was what a mini-disaster it would be for our small town. We expected 100,000 visitors minimum. Hotel rooms were booked more than a year in advance—all of them. Which, the planners told us, meant that we would have at least that many people camping roadside as well.

The airlines had to add extra flights into Portland (the nearest major airport). One million additional people were flooding into Oregon for the five days around the eclipse. Rental cars were booked months in advance. (One woman found an available car for Thursday only and the rental car company had slapped a one-day rate on the car of $850. Yeah, no.)

The state, local, and regional governments were planning for disaster. We were warned that electricity might go down, especially if the temperature in the valley (away from us, but near the big power grids) soared over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 Celsius). Our internet connection would probably go down, they said. (Great, we said. Our business is on the internet. Phooey!) Our cell phones would definitely go down.

The state called out the National Guard, expecting all the trouble you get when you cram too many people in a small space. The hospitals staffed up. We were told that traffic would be in gridlock for four days, so plan travel accordingly. Dean and I own three retail stores in the area, so we spent weeks discussing scheduling—who could walk to work, who couldn’t, who might stay overnight if need be. Right now, as I write this, Dean is working our new bookstore, because the bookstore employees live 6 miles away, and couldn’t walk if there was gridlock. The schedule was set in stone; no gridlock, but Dean was scheduled, not the usual employee, so Dean is guarding the fort (so to speak).

(15) MAKING BOOKINGS. Website Focus on Travel News has made note of the Dublin win: “Dublin to host the 77th Annual World Science Fiction Convention”.

The successful Dublin bid was led by James Bacon, with support and guidance from the bid committee, Fáilte Ireland, Dublin Convention Bureau (DCB) and The CCD. Dublin was confirmed as the 2019 location by site selection voters at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki where 1,227 votes were received, of which Dublin won 1,160 votes.

“It’s fantastic that we had such a large turnout, indicating strong support for the bid,” said James Bacon, Dublin 2019 chair. “Voting is a vital part of the process so twelve hundred votes is a great endorsement and I’m very pleased it’s a new record for an uncontested bid. Given New Orleans and Nice have declared for 2023 and Perth and Seattle for 2025, that we remained unopposed is indicative of the enthusiasm, strategic determination and commitment from all involved with the bid. It’s absolutely magnificent to be able to say we are bringing the Worldcon to Ireland and we cannot wait now for 2019.”

(16) HELP IS COMING. Drones at serious work: “Tanzania Gears Up To Become A Nation Of Medical Drones”

Entries like these popped up as Keller Rinaudo browsed a database of health emergencies during a 2014 visit to Tanzania. It was “a lightbulb moment,” says the CEO and co-founder of the California drone startup Zipline.

Rinaudo was visiting a scientist at Ifakara Health Institute who had created the database to track nationwide medical emergencies. Using cellphones, health workers would send a text message whenever a patient needed blood or other critical supplies. Trouble is, while the system collected real-time information about dying patients, the east African country’s rough terrain and poor supply chain often kept them from getting timely help. “We were essentially looking at a database of death,” Rinaudo says.

That Tanzania trip motivated his company to spend the next three years building what they envisioned as “the other half of that system — where you know a patient is having a medical emergency and can immediately send the product needed to save that person’s life,” Rinaudo says.

(17) ROBOPRIEST. St Aquin? Not yet: “Robot priest: the future of funerals?” BBC video at the link.

Developers in Japan are offering a robot “priest” to conduct Buddhist funeral rites complete with chanted sutras and drum tapping – all at a fraction of the cost of a human.

It is the latest use of Softbank’s humanoid robot Pepper.

(18) UNDERSEA DRIVING. Call these “tunnel pipe-dreams”: “The Channel tunnel that was never built”.

The Channel Tunnel linking Britain and France holds the record for the longest undersea tunnel in the world – 50km (31 miles) long. More than 20 years after its opening, it carries more than 10 million passengers a year – and more than 1.6 million lorries – via its rail-based shuttle service.

What many people don’t know, however, is that when owner Eurotunnel won the contract to build its undersea connection, the firm was obliged to come up with plans for a second Channel Tunnel… by the year 2000. Although those plans were published the same year, the tunnel still has not gone ahead.

The second ‘Chunnel’ isn’t the only underwater tunnel to remain a possibility. For centuries, there have been discussions about other potential tunnelling projects around the British Isles, too. These include a link between the island of Orkney and the Scottish mainland, a tunnel between the Republic of Ireland and Wales and one between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

[Thanks to JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, lauowolf, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, and Robot Archie for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day rcade.]