Pixel Scroll 7/3/19 These Are The Pixels That Try Men’s Scrolls

(1) IN OPINIONS YET TO COME. Brooke Bolander is the latest sff author to pen a futuristic op-ed for the New York Times.

As Tor.com puts it –

Asking “Who Should Live in Flooded Old New York?” Bolander imagines a time in which it’s illegal to live in the flooded remains of NYC, with the only residents being those who are too poor to move elsewhere. In this future, Mr. Rogers’ theme song has turned into an “old folk song,” and “draconian federal regulations” punish those remaining, while millionaires running illegal tourism schemes in the city get off scot-free.

(2) WHAT TOR LEARNED FROM LIBRARY SALES EMBARGO. Jason Sanford’s analysis, “Does library ebook lending hurt book sales? Tor Books experiment reveals answers, may lead to new ebook lending terms”, is a free post at his Patreon page. 

Sanford interviewed Fritz Foy, president and publisher of Tom Doherty Associates, the unit of Macmillan that includes Tor, who shared “an unprecedented look at their embargo test….”

…To discover if library ebook lending was indeed hurting sales, Macmillan used their Minotaur imprint as a control group and Tor Books as an experimental group. The two groups have books which sold in similar patterns along with authors and book series which drove steady sales from year to year.

For the experiment Tor prohibited ebook sales to libraries until four months after a book’s release. After that date libraries could purchase the Tor ebooks. The control group Minotaur instituted no such restriction. (As a side-note, Foy said the there was never a plan to do a six-month embargo on ebook sales to libraries, as reported in that Good e-Reader article.)

Foy was surprised by the experiment’s stark results.

“All but one title we compared (in the Tor experiment group) had higher sales after the four month embargo on ebook sales to libraries,” he said. “And the only title where we didn’t see this happen had bad reviews. And when you looked at the control group, sales remained the same.”

(3) LOTR DIRECTOR. “‘The Lord Of The Rings’: J.A. Bayona To Direct Amazon Series”Deadline has the story.

Amazon Studios’ high-profile The Lord of the Rings TV series has made a key hire. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom director Juan Antonio (J.A.) Bayona has been tapped to direct the first two episodes of the big-scope fantasy drama, following in the footsteps of Peter Jackson, who directed the feature adaptations of the classic J.R.R. Tolkien novels.

…Bayona’s first feature film, critically acclaimed thriller The Orphanage, executive produced by Guillermo del Toro, premiered to a 10-minute standing ovation at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival and later won seven Goya Awards in Spain, including best new director.

Bayona most recently directed Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, which grossed more than $1.3 billion worldwide last year. He also directed the features The Impossible, starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, and A Monster Calls, starring Sigourney Weaver, Liam Neeson and Felicity Jones, as well as the first two episodes of Showtime’s hit series Penny Dreadful.

(4) LOTR LOCATION. And where will the series be filmed? Probably where you’d have predicted it would if you never heard about the plan for Scotland. Yahoo! Movies reports “Scotland loses out on lucrative ‘Lord of the Rings’ shoot over ‘Brexit uncertainty’, claims new report”.

Amazon’s $1.5 billion (£1.19bn) Lord of the Rings series looks set to begin filming in New Zealand this month, after producers reportedly got cold feet about shooting in Scotland.

The NZ Herald reports that a “huge” part of the series, said to be the most expensive TV show ever made, will be produced in Auckland, specifically at the Kumeu Film Studios and Auckland Film Studios, with an official announcement coming this month. The report states that pre-production on the Amazon show has been based at the two studios for the last year.

Producers were also said to be considering Scotland as a production base, but New Zealand’s public-service radio broadcaster Radio New Zealand (Radio NZ), claims “the tumultuous Brexit situation hindered Scotland’s pitch”.

(5) RESNICK RETURNS TO FB. Mike Resnick gave Facebook readers a medical update about his frightening health news:

Sorry to be absent for a month. 4 weeks ago I was walking from one room to the next when I collapsed. Carol called the ambulance, and 2 days later I woke up in the hospital minus my large intestine. Just got home last night.

I don’t like growing old.

(6) TIDHAR PICKS BUNDLED. Storybundle announced the The 2019 World SF Bundle, curated by Lavie Tidhar:

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Afro SF V3 by Ivor W. Hartmann
  • The Apex Book of World SF 5 by Cristina Jurado and Lavie Tidhar
  • Nexhuman by Francesco Verso
  • Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus SIX more!

  • Escape from Baghdad! by Saad Z. Hossain
  • After the Flare by Deji Bryce Olukotun
  • The Thousand Year Beach by TOBI Hirotaka
  • Slipping by Lauren Beukes
  • Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson
  • The Vanishing Kind by Lavie Tidhar

This bundle is available only for a limited time.

(7) JAMES WHITE AWARD. The judges for the 2019 James White Award will be Justina Robson, Chris Beckett and Donna Scott.

The competition is open to original, unpublished short stories of not more than 6,000 words by non-professional writers. The award, established in 2000, offers non-professional writers the opportunity to have their work published in Interzone, the UK’s leading sf magazine. The deadline for submissions was June 28. The winner will be announced in August.

(8) JUMANJI. The next sequel will be in theaters at Christmas.

In Jumanji: The Next Level, the gang is back but the game has changed. As they return to Jumanji to rescue one of their own, they discover that nothing is as they expect. The players will have to brave parts unknown and unexplored, from the arid deserts to the snowy mountains, in order to escape the world’s most dangerous game.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 3, 1958 Fiend Without A Face premiered.
  • July 3, 1985 Back to the Future was released.
  • July 3, 1996 Independence Day debuted in theaters.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 3, 1898 E. Hoffmann Price. He’s most readily remembered as being a Weird Tales writer, one of a group that included Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith. He did a few collaborations, one of which was with H. P. Lovecraft, “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”. Another work, “The Infidel’s Daughter”, a satire on the Ku Klux Klan, also angered many Southern readers. (Died 1998.)
  • Born July 3, 1926 William Rotsler. An artist, cartoonist, pornographer and SF author. Well, that is his bio. Rotsler was a four-time Hugo Award winner for Best Fan Artist and one-time Nebula Award nominee. He also won a “Retro-Hugo” for his work in 1946 and was runner-up for 1951. He responsible for giving Uhura her first name, created “Rotsler’s Rules for Costuming”, popularized the idea fans wore propeller beanies and well, being amazing sounding. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 3, 1927 Tim O’Connor. He was Dr. Elias Huer in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century for much of its run. Other genre appearances were on The Six Million Dollar ManThe Twilight Zone, The Outer LimitsWonder WomanKnight RiderStar Trek: The Next Generation and The Burning Zone. (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 3, 1927 Ken Russell. Altered States is his best known SF film but he’s also done The Devils, an historical horror film, and Alice in Russialand. Russell had a cameo in the film adaptation of Brian Aldiss’s novel Brothers of the Head by the directors of Lost in La Mancha. And, of course, he’s responsible for The Who’s Tommy. (Died 2012.)
  • Born July 3, 1937 Tom Stoppard, 82. Screenplay writer, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead which is adjacent genre if not actually genre. Also scripted of course Brazil which he co-authored with Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeow. He also did the final Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade final rewrite of Jeffrey Boam’s rewrite of Menno Meyjes’s screenplay. And finally Shakespeare in Love which he co-authored with Marc Norman.
  • Born July 3, 1943 Kurtwood Smith, 76. Clarence Boddicker in Robocop, Federation President in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and voiced Kanjar Ro in Green Lantern: First Flight. He’s got series appearances on Blue ThunderThe Terrible ThunderlizardsThe X-FilesStar Trek: Deep Space NineStar Trek: VoyagerMen in Black: The Series3rd Rock from the SunTodd McFarlane’s Spawn, Judtice League, Batman Beyond, Green Lantern and Beware the Batman. His last role was as Vernon Masters as the superb Agent Carter.
  • Born July 3, 1962 Tom Cruise, 57. I’m reasonably sure his first genre role was as Jack in Legend. Next up was Lestat de Lioncourt in Interview with the Vampire followed by being Ethan Hunt in the first of many Mission Impossible films. Then he was John Anderton in the abysmal Minority Report followed by Ray Ferrier in the even far more abysmal War of The Worlds. I’ve not seen him as Maj. William Cage in Edge of Tomorrow so I’ve no idea how good he or the film is. Alas then Nick Morton in, oh god, The Mummy

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) IT DON’T PAY TO BE IGNORANT. Not on Jeopardy! as Andrew Porter witnessed tonight:

In the category American Writers, the answer was, “In a story by this sci-fi master, ‘I Sing the Body Electric!’ is the title of a pamphlet for a robot grandmother.”

Wrong questions: “Who is Isaac Asimov?” and “Who is Robert Heinlein?”

(13) AURORA AWARDS. The 2019 Aurora Awards Voter Package is online, available to members of the Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association.

The purpose of the Aurora Awards Voter Package is simple. Before you vote for the Aurora Awards this year, we want you to be able to read as much of the nominated work as possible, so you can make and informed decision about what is the best of the year. Please note: the package is only available while voting is open. Remember voting ends September 14, 2019 at 11:59:59 EDT!

The electronic versions of these Aurora Award nominated works are made available to you through the generosity of the nominees and publishers. We are grateful for their participation and willingness to share with CSFFA members. If you like what you read, please support the creators by purchasing their works, which are available in bookstores and online.

(14) EN ROUTE. John Hertz, while packing for his journey to Spikecon, paused to quote from the classics:

Farewell my friends, farewell my foes;
To distant planets Freddy goes;
To face grave perils he intends.
Farewell my foes, goodbye my friends.

(15) MORE BOOKS I HAVEN’T READ. At Tor.com, Gabriella Tutino publicized a list compiled by Reddit User einsiboy, creator of the TopRedditBooks site: “Here are the 100 Most Discussed Fantasy Books on Reddit”.  The Reddit link is here. I’ve only read 19 of these – what a disgrace!

(16) JDA REAPPLIES TO SFWA. Mary Robinette Kowal took office as SFWA’s new President at the start of the month. Jon Del Arroz says his latest application for membership is already in her inbox: “A New Dawn For SFWA!” [Internet Archive link].

Things are changing at SFWA as my friend Mary Robinette Kowal has been installed as president, after I endorsed her candidacy early on.

…As she has featured my books on her blog not once, but twice, I know that Ms. Kowal’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity is important to her, and she will be doing everything she can to change the perception that SFWA is a place where Conservatives and Christians are not welcome to be called professional authors.

As such, I have reapplied to SFWA as of yesterday, and let Ms. Kowal know, so we can begin the long journey of working together to ensure equality for Conservative and Christian authors. I’ve offered my services as an ambassador to the community, so she will directly be able to hear the grievances of such authors who have been treated as second class citizens — dare I say, 3/5ths of a professional author — for so long now within the science fiction community.

(17) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE INTERNET. Shades of Cryptonomicon. Futurism.com thinks that the “Russian Sub That Caught Fire Possibly Sent to Cut Internet Cables”

Fire Down Below

On Monday, a Russian submarine caught fire during a mission, killing 14 sailors on board.

But the public didn’t find out about the incident until the next day, when Russia finally released a statement about the accident — though two days after the event, the nation still wouldn’t say exactly what kind of sub caught fire or whether it was nuclear-powered.

A possible reason for Russia’s caginess? Multiple sources are now claiming the sub was an AS-12 “Losharik,” a nuclear-powered submarine some speculate was designed to cut the undersea cables that deliver internet to the world.

(18) FOUR FOR THE FOURTH. For the holiday, James Davis Nicoll has lined up “4 SF Works Featuring a Far-Future U.S.A.” at Tor.com.

In Joe and Jack C. Haldeman’s There Is No Darkness, English is an obscure language, spoken only on backwater worlds and a few places on Earth. We don’t know exactly when the book takes place, as year zero has been set to the founding of the (future) Confederacion. We are told the year is A.C. 354.

What we see of a future Texas suggests that it’s still as recognizably American as Justinian’s Constantinople would have been recognizably Roman. While the region seems a bit down at heel, it’s also one of the more optimistic takes on a future America.

(19) SCALZI GIVEAWAY. Or maybe Christmas will come early and you can read this:

(20) IF IT E-QUACKS LIKE A DUCK. Thomas has found a place where “Robots Replace Ducks in Rice Paddy Fields”.

Aigamo is a Japanese farming method that uses ducks to keep unwanted plants and parasites out of rice paddy fields. This duck crossbreed is able to keep the paddy clear without the use of herbicides or pesticides, and the fowls’ waste actually works as a pretty good fertilizer.  

The method was first introduced in the 16th century but soon fell out of favor. It wasn’t reintroduced as a natural farming method until 1985 and it quickly became popular across the country as well as in China, Iran, France, and other countries. 

About 15 ducks can keep a 1,000-square-meter area clear of insects, worms, and weeds, and they even enrich the water with oxygen by constantly stirring up the soil. But as humans are prone to do, an engineer from Nissan Motor, needed to build a better mousetrap, although this one may not have too many beating down a path to his door. 

Created as a side project, the Aigamo Robot looks less like its namesake and more like a white, floating Roomba with eyes. While the ducks can be trained to patrol specific areas, the robot employs Wi-Fi and GPS to help the robot stir up the soil and keep bugs at bay, though no word yet on how much ground it can cover in a single day. 

(21) SPIDER TO THE FLIER. Have you seen “United–Fly Like a Superhero” on YouTube? The Spider-Man version of the United Airlines safety video? Too bad it’s not as much fun as the Air New Zealand hobbit videos.

(22) STRANGE VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “9 Ways To Draw A Person” on Vimeo, Sasha Svirsky offers a strange video that doesn’t actually tell you how to draw a person.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Jason Sanford, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Greg Hullender, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day rcade.]

Pixel Scroll 4/19/19 There’s A Broken Heart For Every Pixel On The Internet

(1) THE OTHER SHOE DROPS. There are now two bids for the 2021 Westercon, with Phoenix, AZ having officially filed.

Bid Location: Phoenix, AZ

Venue: Hyatt Regency Phoenix

Dates: 2nd to 5th July, 2021, with a preview night on the 1st

Bid officers are: • Chair: Hal C. F. Astell • Treasurer: Stephanie Bannon

Phoenix makes it a race by challenging the bid for Tonopah, NV. Site selection voting is being conducted by Spikecon, which among other things is this year’s Westercon.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to enjoy an enchilada with Steve Stiles in Episode 93 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Steve Stiles

This latest episode of Eating the Fantastic — recorded at Mezcal Mexican restaurant in Owings Mills — quickly turns nostalgic, because guest Steve Stiles and I were the proverbial ships that passed in the night at mid-‘70s Marvel Comics. My first job there was as the associate editor for the company’s line of British reprint books, which was a department he only started working at the following year, once I’d already moved over to the Bullpen to work on the American originals.

Stiles may be best-known for the post-apocalyptic dinosaur-filled future of Xenozoic Tales, which he drew for eight years, but he’s also appeared in titles such as Death Rattle, Bizarre Sex, and Anarchy Comics for underground publishers like Kitchen Sink and Last Gasp. He’s also done kid-friendly work, though, like The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Royal Roy.

And so much more — like the fanzine art which has made him a 17-time nominee for the Hugo Award, with nominations spread over a 50-year period from 1967 to 2018, an award which he won in 2016.

We discussed what it was like to work at Marvel Comics in the mid-’70s, the ironic reason he no longer owns his Silver Age Marvels, the time he thought he’d gotten the gig to draw Dr. Strange (but really hadn’t), what it was like being taught by the great Burne Hogarth at the School of Visual Arts, his first professional art sale (and why it ended up hanging on Hugh Hefner’s wall), how his famed comic strip The Adventures Of Professor Thintwhistle And His Incredible Aether Flier was born, why he didn’t like being art-directed by Marie Severin, which current comics he keeps up with, what Robert Silverberg said to him when he won his first Hugo Award after 14 tries and 49 years, the phrase he most wants carved onto his gravestone, and much more.

(3) LEAVES AN EMPTY SPACE. The Hollywood Reporter says “Fans Are Already Mourning The Avengers”.

‘Endgame’ will be goodbye to several characters, and as UCLA psychology professor Yalda Uhls notes: “Absolutely that can feel like real grief.”

“God, it seems like a thousand years ago,” Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) says in the second trailer for Avengers: Endgame. “I fought my way out of that cave, became Iron Man…”

While it hasn’t quite been a thousand years, the final installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Infinity Saga represents an unprecedented moment in movie history, partly because some of the characters who have been a consistent presence in movie theaters since 2008 might retire, or even die.

And over time, those characters have started to feel like real friends to audiences.

(4) SIGNAL BOOST. The Free Times of Columbia, SC led its piece about “What’s at Stake With the Stakes of Avengers: Endgame” with a juicy quote from Paul Weimer:

In fantasy stories, like any stories, the stakes matter.

In 2012, writing for the now-defunct fan site SF Signal, Paul Weimer suggested a classification for such tales based on the relative size of what’s at stake, ranging from sagas in which only a city or smaller community is in peril to those where the whole universe hangs in the balance. Wherever a story lands on that scale, one thing remains crucial: The stakes have to feel real.

“Stakes are what the actions or inactions of the protagonist cause to happen, or fail to happen, depending on their success or failure,” Weimer wrote in “Stakes in Fantasy Novels: A Schemata of Classification.” “You can have multiple sets of stakes going on at one time, but you can look at a work of fantasy in terms the largest stakes, and use that to give an overall sense of the scale of the conflict in that book.”

(5) OUT OF NOLLYWOOD. Okayafrica’s Daniel Okechukwu discusses “6 Films Showing How Sci-Fi Stories Can Be Relevant in Nollywood”  — “An introduction to a subgenre in Nigeria’s film industry that’s only getting started.”

Nollywood screenwriter and director Dimeji Ajibola recently released a 1-minute teaser of his upcoming dystopian movie, Ratnik. Impressed by the visual effects and dystopian locations, local publications waxed lyrical about the film. YNaija! called it “the dystopian action-thriller we deserve in 2019.” Ratnik deserves its early praise; it is an ambitious project and its visual effects are impressive.

For some, a sci-fi Nigerian movie is unheard of, but Ratnik is not the first time a Nollywood sci-fi film will generate this much buzz. Kajola—the last one that did—was an utter disappointment. The debut film of now Nollywood box office king, Niyi Akinmolayan, it was released in 2009 to much fanfare. Akinmolayan was tired of Nollywood filmmakers: “those yeye people that don’t know how to make cool stuff.” Young and naïve, he thought he would change Nollywood forever by making “the greatest Nigerian movie ever. It will be action/sci-fi with lots of effects and we are going to win an Oscar.”

(6) NOT DEAD YET. The Digital Antiquarian studies the history of Activision in “An Unlikely Savior”.

Activision Blizzard is the largest game publisher in the Western world today, generating a staggering $7.5 billion in revenue every year. Along with the only slightly smaller behemoth Electronic Arts and a few Japanese competitors, Activision for all intents and purposes is the face of gaming as a mainstream, mass-media phenomenon. Even as the gaming intelligentsia looks askance at Activision for their unshakeable fixation on sequels and tried-and-true formulas, the general public just can’t seem to get enough Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, World of Warcraft, and Candy Crush Saga. Likewise, Bobby Kotick, who has sat in the CEO’s chair at Activision for over a quarter of a century now, is as hated by gamers of a certain progressive sensibility as he is loved by the investment community.

But Activision’s story could have — perhaps by all rights should have — gone very differently. When Kotick became CEO, the company was a shambling wreck that hadn’t been consistently profitable in almost a decade. Mismanagement combined with bad luck had driven it to the ragged edge of oblivion. What to a large degree saved Activision and made the world safe for World of Warcraft was, of all things, a defunct maker of text adventures which longtime readers of this ongoing history have gotten to know quite well. The fact that Infocom, the red-headed stepchild a previous Activision CEO had never wanted, is directly responsible for Activision’s continuing existence today is one of the strangest aspects of both companies’ stories….

(7) UNSOUND ADVICE. io9/Gizmodo names “8 Silent Films Every Sci-Fi and Horror Fan Should See”. I don’t know, my reaction to this advice is about the same as Queen Elizabeth I’s opinion of taking a bath. The list is comprised of:

1) The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
2) Metropolis (1927)
3) Nosferatu (1922)
4) The Lost World (1925)
5) Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922)
6) Aelita: Queen of Mars (1924)
7) A Trip to the Moon (1902)
8) The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

(8) FULL LID. Alasdair Stuart sends a link to The Full Lid with this introduction:

This week’s Full Lid features a look at the deeply fantastic zombie coming of age comedy musical Anna and the Apocalypse. Also this week, there’s a review of the first issue of the excellent new fantasy detective comic FairLady and a look at the first month of The SCP Archives, a new podcast bringing stories from the legendary wiki fiction experiment to life. The spotlight is James Davis Nicoll, there’s a photo of my word buckets and a short film from excellent Irish writer director Chris Brosnahan.

(9) NEW YORK SLICE. A heartwarming story about George R.R. Martin. The thread begins here.

(10) COBB OBIT. History-making pilot Jerry Cobb died March 18. Ars Technica paid tribute: “Jerrie Cobb, one of the most gifted female pilots in history, has died”.

Geraldyn “Jerrie” M. Cobb, a noted aviation pioneer and fierce advocate for women flying into space, died March 18 at her home in Florida, her family has revealed. She was 88.

Cobb is perhaps most well-known for her participation in what became known as the “Mercury 13,” a group of 13 women who passed preliminary screening processes in 1960 and 1961 to determine their suitability as astronauts under the guidance of Dr. Randolph Lovelace. Cobb scored in the top 2 percent of all who had taken the battery of tests for candidates previously, including both women and men.

However, the privately funded effort was not officially sanctioned by NASA. A Netflix documentary about the experience, released in 2018, offered a clear verdict for why women were excluded from NASA in the space agency’s early days—”good old-fashioned prejudice,” as one of the participants said.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 19, 1925 Hugh O’Brian. His only meaningful genre involvement was being Harry Chamberlain in Rocketship X-M in which he was also the voice on the loudspeaker.  He’d play the evil Hussein in Son of Ali Baba, and he was Richard Camalier in Doin’ Time on Planet Earth as well. He’d have one-offs appearances on shows such the Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and he had five different roles on Fantasy Island. (Died 2016.)
  • Born April 19, 1933 W.R. Cole. Author of A Checklist of Science Fiction Anthologies, self-published In 1964. Ok, I’m including him today because I’m puzzled. SFE said of this that ‘Though it has now been superseded and updated by William Contento’s indexes of Anthologies, it is remembered as one the essential pioneering efforts in Bibliography undertaken by sf Fandom.’  Was this really the first time someone compiled an index of anthologies? I seem to remember earlier efforts though I can’t remember precisely who. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 19, 1935 Herman Zimmerman, 83. He was the art director and production designer who worked between 1987 and 2005 for the Trek franchise. Excepting Voyager, he in that era worked on all other live-action productions including the first season of Next Gen, the entire runs of Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, as well as six Trek films. As Memory Alpha notes, “Together with Rick Sternbach he designed the space station Deep Space 9, with John Eaves the USS Enterprise-B and the USS Enterprise-E. His most recognizable work though, have been his (co-)designs for nearly all of the standing sets, those of the bridge, Main Engineering (co-designed with Andrew Probert) and Ten Forward for the USS Enterprise-D in particular.” Not surprisingly, he co-wrote the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual with Rick Sternbach and Doug Drexler.
  • Born April 19, 1936 Tom Purdom, 83. There’s very little on him on the web, so I’ll let Michael Swanwick speak to him: ‘How highly do I regard Tom’s fiction?  So highly that I wrote the introduction to the collection — and I hate writing introductions.  They’re a lot of work.  But these stories deserve enormous praise, so I was glad to do it.’  He’s written five novels and has either one or two collections of his stories. 
  • Born April 19, 1946 Tim Curry, 73. Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show of course is not his first genre appearance as he’d appeared a year earlier at the Scottish Opera in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Puck. (And yes, I adore RHPS.) And yes, I know that he appeared in the live show which was at the Chelsea Classic Cinema and other venues before the film was done. Other genre appearances include playing Darkness in Legend, an outstanding Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers, Farley Claymore in The Shadow (great role), another superb performance playing Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island and in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as The Player.
  • Born April 19, 1952 Mark Rogers. He’s probably best known for writing and illustrating the Adventures of Samurai Cat series. His debut fantasy novel Zorachus was followed by The Nightmare of God sequel. His novella “The Runestone” was adapted as a film of the same name. And his art is collected in Nothing But a Smile: The Pinup Art of Mark Rogers and The Art of Fantasy. (Died 2014.)
  • Born April 19, 1967 Steven H Silver, 52. Fan and publisher, author, and editor. He has been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twelve times and Best Fanzine four times without winning. Ok, is that a record? He’s a longtime contributing editor to SF Site and has written that site’s news page since its beginning. Over twenty years ago, he founded the Sidewise Award for Alternate History and has served as a judge ever since. And he publishes his own fanzine, Argentus.
  • Born April 19, 1968 Ashley Judd, 51. Best known genre wise for playing Natalie Prior in the Divergent film franchise. She was also Carly Harris-Thompson in the Tooth Fairy film, and was Ensign Robin Lefler in a few episodes of Next Gen. She played Beverly Paige on several episodes of Twin Peaks as well. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) AO3. Somebody’s not whispering quietly enough. Supporters of Jason Sanford’s Patreon can find out who.

This could be a clue — Sanford retweeted Interstellar Teahouse’s thread, which starts here.

(14) AO1. Ryan George imagines what it was like to be “The First Guy Ever To Write Fiction.”

(15) ANCIENT CODE. Ars Technica reports “You can now download the source code for all Infocom text adventure classics”.

The source code of every Infocom text adventure game has been uploaded to code-sharing repository GitHub, allowing savvy programmers to examine and build upon some of the most beloved works of digital storytelling to date.

There are numerous repositories under the name historicalsource, each for a different game. Titles include, but are not limited to, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyPlanetfallShogun, and several Zork games—plus some more unusual inclusions like an incomplete version of Hitchhiker’s sequel The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Infocom samplers, and an unreleased adaptation of James Cameron’s The Abyss.

[…] The games were written in the LISP-esque “Zork Implementation Language,” or ZIL, which you could be forgiven for not being intimately familiar with already. Fortunately, Scott also tweeted a link to a helpful manual for the language on archive.org.

(16) YTTERBIUM. A fashion update from John Scalzi:

Sure, if you have the same color eyes as the Easter Bunny….

(17) A DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW ABOUT GOT. Eneasz Brodski voices “Mad Respect for Cersei” at Death Is Bad.

There is the possibility that the undead will win and destroy all life on Westeros, yes. But that is preferable to returning to life as chattel. If humanity has such a problem with extinction, maybe it shouldn’t have made life a living hell for so many.

(18) SPOILER PREVENTION. Slate’s Sam Adams rejects the extinction outcome, as logical as it may be in “The One Death Game of Thrones Can’t Face”.

There’s just one problem. The show that became famous for its willingness to kill off seemingly essential figures has grown less and less likely to do so. Even before Jon Snow came back from the dead, viewers had begun to develop a sense of which characters were essential to the series’ endgame, and thus impossible to kill off. You didn’t need Ramsay Bolton or even Littlefinger to tie up the story’s loose ends, but it’s impossible to imagine Dany or Jon getting axed for shock value. There was no chance the High Sparrow would dethrone Cersei for good or that Arya would fail the Faceless Men’s tests. The show’s core characters had acquired what fans call “plot armor,” which meant that any time the odds seemed truly hopeless, when they were backed against a wall and there seemed to be no way out, we knew the question wasn’t if they’d escape but only how.

(19) BEES SURVIVE. FromSnopes, repeating an AP story: “Drunk on Smoke: Notre Dame’s Bees Survive Fire”.

Hunkered down in their hives and drunk on smoke, Notre Dame’s smallest official residents — some 180,000 bees — somehow managed to survive the inferno that consumed the cathedral’s ancient wooden roof.

Confounding officials who thought they had perished, the bees clung to life, protecting their queen.

“It’s a big day. I am so relieved. I saw satellite photos that showed the three hives didn’t burn,” Notre Dame beekeeper Nicolas Geant told The Associated Press on Friday.

“Instead of killing them, the CO2 (from smoke) makes them drunk, puts them to sleep,” he explained.

Geant has overseen the bees since 2013, when three hives were installed on the roof of the stone sacristy that joins the south end of the monument. The move was part of a Paris-wide initiative to boost declining bee numbers. Hives were also introduced above Paris’ gilded Opera.

(20) FELINE EFFECTS. Epic Cats presents a superpowered credential.

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

2018 Novellapalooza

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ: I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading 31 of the novellas published in 2015, 35 of the novellas published in 2016, and 46 of the novellas published in 2017 (though a few of those were after Hugo nominations closed).

The result of this was the 2016 Novellapalooza and the 2017 Novellapalooza. I really felt as though I was able to do Hugo nominations for the novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

The success and popularity of novellas in the last 4 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas, with Tor.com, Subterranean Press, NewCon Press, PS Publishing, Book Smugglers, Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Tachyon bringing out a multitude of works, along with the traditional magazines Asimov’s, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Analog – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low. Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

I thought it would be helpful to have a thread where all the Filers’ thoughts on novellas are collected in one place, as a resource when Hugo nomination time rolls around. Which of these novellas have you read? And what did you think of them?

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2018 novellas which you’ve read, as well.

(Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)

Read more…

Pixel Scoll 10/17/18 They Scrolled Paradise And Pixeled A Parking Lot

(1) BEST OF TED. Ideas.Ted.com. features Nnedi Okorafor: “’Write your story, and don’t be afraid to write it’ — a sci-fi writer talks about finding her voice and being a superhero”.

During family visits to Nigeria in the 1990s and 2000s, Okorafor was fascinated by the harmony between traditional belief systems and brand-new electronic devices. “I started noticing the use and the interplay of technology in Nigerian communities, especially when cell phones came around,” she says. “I saw phones popping up in the most remote places, and they were normalized in really cool ways.” She wondered why stories didn’t depict technology in African nations. In fact, she began to wonder why she wasn’t writing such stories herself.

In college, however, Okorafor found herself discouraged from writing science fiction. “I had professors who were constantly telling me, ‘You’re such a good writer; you want to stay away from all of that weird stuff,’” she remembers. “Eventually I just kind of jumped the rails, because I couldn’t help it.” Okorafor dove headfirst into creating the stories she never found on library shelves growing up — ones with strong female protagonists of color, African locations, speculative technology, aliens and magic, as well as complex and relevant social themes like racial identity and gender violence.

(2) A VISION OF THE FUTURE. Ray Bradbury biographer Sam Weller blasts a proposal to raze Waukegan’s old Carnegie Library building:

And this is why Charles Selle’s ridiculous call to “raze the edifice” of Waukegan, Illinois’ historic 1903 Carnegie Library building is short-sighted and, frankly, emblematic of Waukegan’s frustrating inability to capitalize on its own crown jewel lakefront location and its remarkable history. Cities large and small across the nation are embracing historic revitalization and renovation, attracting artists and entrepreneurs, restaurateurs and urban visionaries who see the connection to the past and the future. Selle’s assertion that the city is “hanging on to the past” with the long-abandoned Carnegie building is correct. Yet he misses the point entirely. Waukegan should hang on to its past. Selle doesn’t even propose a replacement suggestion for the location, instead only calling for the complete demolition of a building with landmark status. The fact of the matter is that the current plans to house the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum in the Carnegie is the best chance to renovate the old biblio-gem, to raise the needed funding, and to properly honor one of the world’s great, inspiring imaginations….

(3) OUT OF THE LINEUP. With Wendig gone, the Shadow of Vader comic has been sidelined, says The Hollywood Reporter — “Marvel Pulls Fired Writer Chuck Wendig’s ‘Shadow of Vader’ Series From Schedule”.

Marvel Entertainment released the official list of January 2019 comic book product this week, and one title was notable by its absence: Shadow of Vader, the five-issue comic book series written by Chuck Wendig, the writer Marvel fired last week because of his social media use.

(4) EREWHON BOOKS BEGINS. Tor.com boosted one of its editors’ new company: “Hugo Award-Winning Editor Liz Gorinsky Launches New Publishing Company Erewhon Books”.

(5) UPTOWN SPOT. Ed Green worked as a background actor on the Bruno Mars “Uptown Funk” music video – it’s good thing he got the gig before this new generation of robots came along!

(6) IN PRAISE OF FAMOUS MEN. Except in Slate, this praise is intended satirically — “In Defense of Soylent Green Inventor Henry C. Santini”.

On October 16, 2018, Popular Mechanics published a deeply weird tribute to mercurial industrialist Elon Musk, in which a carefully-curated group of technology journalists and Musk’s fellow rich people praised him for trying, regardless of what he was trying to do, whether or not he succeeded, or the methods he used to pursue his goals. One writer compared him at length to Mark Twain!

On October 16, 2022, NYPD detective Frank Thorn discovered that Soylent Green was made of people. The ensuing public scandal threatened the reputation of Henry C. Santini, the Governor of New York and a board member of both Holcox Manufacturing of Norfolk, Virginia and its parent company, the New-York-based Soylent Corporation.

On October 17, 2022, Slate sprang into action.

He is under attack. For saying the wrong thing, for not making enough Soylent Green, for creating a global manufacturing pipeline based on baking human corpses into little green crackers and telling people they’re made out of plankton. Some of the criticisms have merit. Much of it is myopic and small-brained, from sideline observers gleefully salivating at the opportunity to take him down a peg and maybe score a few extra rations in the process. But what have these anti-cannibalism activists and pontificators done for humanity?

Henry Santini is an engineer at heart, a tinkerer, a problem-solver, a genius at disguising the taste of human flesh—the kind of person Slate has always championed—and the problems he’s trying to solve are hard. Really hard. He could find better ways to spend his money, that’s for sure….

(7) HONEST TRAILERS. These YouTubers bid you “Return to the MCU franchise that makes you say ‘sure’ – It’s Ant-Man and The Wasp.”

(8) PUTTING AWAY THE FEATHERS. Variety has the story — “‘Sesame Street’ Puppeteer Caroll Spinney Retires From Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch Roles”.

Caroll Spinney has been a television mainstay since 1969, but his face has rarely made an appearance.

Disguised beneath a frock of bright yellow feathers and an orange bill, the “Sesame Street” puppeteer was the heart and soul behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since the show’s premiere almost 50 years ago.

Now, at the age of 84, Spinney told the New York Times that he is retiring from “Sesame Street” after nearly half a century playing some of the show’s most iconic characters. Come Thursday, Spinney will enter the “Sesame Street” studios in Astoria, Queens for the last time before leaving the roles behind forever.

(9) TODAY IN DUCK HISTORY

  • October 17, 1937 — Huey, Dewey, and Louie first appeared in a comic strip.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 17, 1914 – Jerry Siegel, Comic Book Writer who also used pseudonyms including Joe Carter and Jerry Ess. His first foray into genre was as editor of a 5-issue fanzine called Science Fiction. He was co-creator of the Superman character, along with Joe Shuster. They started off selling stories to National Allied Publications, the original precursor of DC Comics, and sold the Superman character to Detective Comics, Inc., yet another forerunner of DC. His contentious career with DC and elsewhere is far too long to detail here; suffice it to say that if you’ve read comics, you’ve likely encountered some of his characters. He was inducted posthumously, with Shuster, into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame.
  • Born October 17, 1917 – Marsha Hunt, 101, Actor and Singer whose career was hampered by blacklisting during the McCarthy era. She had guest roles on the original versions of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, and The Outer Limits, as well as on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Shadow Chasers, and the TV movie Fear No Evil. She has spent decades doing humanitarian work to fight poverty, starvation, homelessness, and mental illness.
  • Born October 17, 1922 – George Hay (Oswyn Robert Tregonwell), Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Fan from the UK who served on convention committees and helped establish the Science Fiction Foundation in 1972. In addition to writing his own four novels, he co-edited the first 6 issues of the long-running Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction, edited several anthologies, and his fanzines included Realtime and Door Into George. He co-edited two volumes of The John W. Campbell Letters, the first of which was a finalist for a Hugo for Best Nonfiction Work. Named after him is the George Hay Memorial Lecture, an annual program item at Eastercon (the UK Natcon) in which an invited speaker, often a prominent British scientist, gives a talk on a scientific topic.
  • Born October 17, 1933 – William Anders, 85, Engineer and Astronaut, who was one of the first three persons to leave low Earth orbit and travel to the Moon in Apollo 8 along with fellow astronauts Frank Borman and Jim Lovell. The famous photograph Earthrise was taken by him. His foundation created the Heritage Flight Museum in Washington state; he serves as its President and until 2008 was an active participant in its air shows (his career includes more than 8,000 hours of flight time). The Anders crater on the Moon is named in his honor.
  • Born October 17, 1934 – Alan Garner, 84, Writer from England who is best known for his children’s fantasy novels and his retellings of traditional British folk tales. However, at least two of his novels, Boneland and Thursbitch, are decidedly adult in language and complexity in their storytelling. I strongly recommend both of them for Autumnal reading. His novel The Owl Service received the Carnegie Medal, and he has been recognized with British Fantasy Awards’ Karl Edward Wagner Award for contributions to genre, and with the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, as well as Guest of Honor at World Fantasy Convention.
  • Born October 17, 1946 – Bruce McAllister, 72, Writer, Editor, Teacher, and Poet of mainly short fiction whose novelette “Dream Baby”, about a Vietnam War nurse who can foresee which soldiers will die in battle, was nominated for Hugo and Nebula Awards, and was later expanded into a novel which was a Locus Award finalist. Other stories have garnered another Hugo nomination and a Shirley Jackson nomination. As a 16-year-old, he sent a survey to 150 well-known science fiction authors, asking them about symbolism in their work, and whether it was conscious or unconscious, intentional or the invention of readers – and received responses from half of them, ranging from an admin assistant’s blow-off to a thick packet of single-spaced typescript.
  • Born October 17, 1948 – Margot Kidder, Actor and Producer who is best known to genre fans as Lois Lane from Christopher Reeve’s Superman films. Other movie roles included The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, The Amityville Horror, and Halloween II, and guest parts in episodes of The (new) Outer Limits, Tales from the Crypt, Earth: Final Conflict, The Hitchhiker, and – most appropriately – Smallville. She struggled with health issues and bipolar disorder for decades, but in recent years had maintained steady work in numerous independent films and TV roles; sadly, she succumbed to an overdose of alcohol and painkillers in May of this year.
  • Born October 17, 1948 – Robert Jordan (James Oliver Rigney, Jr.), Writer who started out in the 80s writing Conan pastiche novels as well as westerns and historical novels, but who struck gold in the 90s with his Wheel of Time series. The novels were massively popular with fans; his series spawned an ardent Usenet forum community who called themselves Darkfriends and who later built an extensive internet resource at Dragonmount.com (what would now be considered a fandom wiki), inspired the Jordancon annual convention of devotees, and sold millions of copies. In the mid-2000s, he revealed that he had been diagnosed with a terminal illness, but continued to work on plot notes for the completion of the WoT series until his death. His widow, Tor editor Harriet McDougal, personally chose author Brandon Sanderson to complete the series using Jordan’s notes, and after the final three volumes were published, the entire series was nominated by Hugo voters for Best Novel. He was Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and was posthumously given the Phoenix Award for Lifetime Achievement by Southern Fandom.
  • Born October 17, 1950 – Michael J. Walsh, 68, Publisher, Conrunner, and Fan who found fandom at the age of 17 and became involved in running conventions; he chaired numerous Disclave, Capclave, Balticon, and World Fantasy Conventions, as well as the notoriously-insolvent 1983 Worldcon. He is a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association, and has held a number of offices in that organization in addition to starting WSFA Press, which publishes special editions of works by Disclave and Capclave Guests of Honor. In 1993, he founded Old Earth Books, which publishes niche editions and reprints of out-of-print works, and which received a Special World Fantasy Award for its collections of Howard Waldrop’s short fiction; and he has been Guest of Honor at several conventions.
  • Born October 17, 1956 – Dr. Mae C. Jemison, 62, Physician, Engineer, and Astronaut who was a member of NASA’s eight-day 50th Space Shuttle mission in 1992, beginning each shift with the words “Hailing frequencies open” in honor of Nichelle Nichols, the Star Trek actor who inspired her to become an astronaut. The following year she left NASA to found her own company to promote STEM education to young people; her company won the bid for the joint DARPA and NASA 100 Year Starship Project to create a business plan that can last 100 years in order to help foster the research needed for interstellar travel. Jemison had a cameo on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and served as technical consultant for the current season of National Geographic’s drama series Mars (which – hey! is available in the U.S. via online streaming… BRB in about 6 hours). She was immortalized last year in LEGO’s Women of NASA minifigure set.
  • Born October 17, 1958 – Jo Fletcher, 60, Journalist, Writer, Editor, Critic, Poet, and Publisher from the UK who became involved in fandom at the age of 20, contributing to, and later editing, the British Fantasy Society’s Bulletin and attending conventions. Eventually she wound up running the British Fantasy Society with editor Stephen Jones, chairing Fantasycon (the British Fantasy Convention) and the first World Fantasy Convention held outside of North America, and serving on the boards of the WFA and WHA. After 16 years of running Orion’s Gollancz SFF imprint, including its SF Masterworks and Fantasy Masterworks lines, in 2011 she started her own imprint under Quercus; as ample demonstration of her acumen, Jo Fletcher Books published Robert Jackson Bennett’s Hugo-nominated Divine Cities trilogy. She’s been Guest of Honor at FantasyCon and WFC, has been recognized with the BFA’s Karl Edward Wagner Award for her contributions to genre and the BFS, and was given a special World Fantasy Award for Gollancz’ Fantasy Masterworks series.
  • Born October 17, 1971 – Patrick Ness, 47, Writer, Journalist, and Producer who emigrated from the U.S. to England. He is best known for his books for young adults, including the Chaos Walking trilogy, the novels of which received a Tiptree Award, a Carnegie Medal, and a Clarke Award nomination, and were adapted into a movie which will be out next March. His novel A Monster Calls won a Carnegie Medal and was nominated for a Stoker Award and the Prix Imaginaire; he adapted it into a movie which was nominated for a Saturn Award. He also wrote and produced the Doctor Who spinoff series Class, about a group of teenagers dealing with time travel and aliens.
  • Born October 17, 1983 – Felicity Jones, 35, Actor from England who gained genre fame, and a Saturn nomination, starring in the Star Wars film Rogue One, which won a Saturn Award and was a Hugo finalist for Best Dramatic Presentation; she reprised that role in the animated Star Wars: Forces of Destiny series. Other genre appearances include an Oscar-nominated lead role in the Stephen Hawking docudrama The Theory of Everything, the Saturn-nominated film adaptation of Ness’ A Monster Calls, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Inferno, a main role in the TV series The Worst Witch and its sequel series Weirdsister College, and an episode of Doctor Who. She has a lead role in next year’s The Aeronauts, a fictionalized version of the story of the hot air balloon pilot and the scientist who, in 1862, set a still-standing record for ascending 7 miles up in the atmosphere.
  • Born October 17, 1984 – Randall Munroe, 34, Engineer, Writer, and Cartoonist who has become famous for his webcomic xkcd, which frequently has panels relating to science, genre fiction, and other items of genre interest – including the Filer favorite Today’s Lucky 10,000. His 2015 book Thing Explainer explains concepts using only the 1,000 most common English words. He was twice a finalist for the Best Fan Artist Hugo, and his animated graphic sequence Time won a Hugo for Best Graphic Novel.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) PROBLEMS WITH NOCTURNAL READER’S BOX. Jason Sanford shares a free report from his Patreon: “Publisher files suit against Nocturnal Reader’s Box, alleges $100,000 in books from multiple genre presses are missing”.

Nocturnal Reader’s Box (NRB), a “subscription box service shipping horror-themed books and merchandise for the price of $35 per month,” shut down in September. According to Bleeding Cool, the service run by the husband and wife team of Jessica and Vincent Guerrero was the “subject of numerous complaints about late or nonexistent shipping, changes to the company’s terms of service, missing or different-than-advertised items, and purportedly non-existent tracking numbers.”

The website for NRB currently states that “We’re temporarily closed!” Despite this, people online are alleging that NRB is still charging credit cards and that automatic renewal charges are still going through….

(13) VIEWED FROM THE INSIDE. Joseph Bentz answers the question “Why Is Writing So Hard?” — but as many books as he has out, you’d never suspect he had reason to ask!

Why do you need all those writers conferences to commiserate and moan about an activity—writing—that you supposedly love?

It’s a fair point, and yet, writers are very familiar with all those agonizing hours we spend squirming, staring at walls, searching for words, deleting words, and writing through drafts that won’t quite come together. Why such struggle?

I finally figured out why writing is so hard….

(14) FRANCOFILE. Adweek devotes an article to French company Cdiscount’s ad campaign — “These Outlandish Aliens Getting Ecommerce Deals Is the Spaciest of Oddities” – unfortunately, registration is required to read it.

The animated space creatures featured in Cdiscount’s latest campaign are absolutely over the moon about the French ecommerce site.

Thanks to YouTube you can see the ad – and if you speak French, even understand it!

(15) LEGACY. Vice’s Motherboard website explains how “How Paul Allen Saved the American Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence” by donating money to the effort.

On Monday evening, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 65. At the time of his death, Allen was the 47th richest person in the world, with a net worth of $26 billion. For the last few decades of his life, Allen used his wealth for a staggering variety of business and philanthropic interests. In addition to owning the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers, Allen founded a brain science institute, an AI institute, and Stratolaunch Systems, which was exploring private spaceflight.

Yet one of the research areas where Allen made the biggest impact was also the one he spoke about the least: the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Indeed, Allen almost single-handedly rescued American SETI by donating over $30 million to scientists scanning the cosmos for intelligent radio signals.

(16) BRIGHT IDEA? According to the People’s Daily Online, China plans to use a mirror satellite to provide outdoors nighttime illumination for the city of Chengdu—and real soon now  (“Chengdu to launch ‘artificial moon’ in 2020”). The claim is that it will be several times brighter than a full moon over the city.

Southwestern China’s city of Chengdu plans to launch its illumination satellite, also known as the “artificial moon”, in 2020, according to Wu Chunfeng, chairman of Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co., Ltd.

Wu made the remarks at a national mass innovation and entrepreneurship activity held in Chengdu on Oct. 10.

The illumination satellite is designed to complement the moon at night. Wu introduced that the brightness of the “artificial moon” is eight times that of the real moon, and will be bright enough to replace street lights.

…Some people expressed concern that the lights reflected from space could have adverse effects on the daily routine of certain animals and astronomical observation.

Kang Weimin, director of the Institute of Optics, School of Aerospace, Harbin Institute of Technology, explained that the light of the satellite is similar to a dusk-like glow, so it should not affect animals’ routines

(17) WAX ON. WAX OFF. Gizmodo’s io9 warns you, “Don’t Blink: Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who Wax Figure Is Watching You.”

That’s not a picture of Jodie Whittaker, Doctor Who’s new star, up there. Seriously. It’s a wax recreation so good that even the Nestene Consciousness itself would be a bit jealous of the handiwork behind it.

This frankly absurdly lifelike replica of Whittaker in her full 13th Doctor regalia is the work of a new Doctor Who experience at Madame Tussauds in Blackpool. Alongside the uncanny recreation of the actress, the experience includes one of the actual TARDIS props used during the filming of the 11th season of the show, as visitors are tasked with trawling a forest to hunt down the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver—retrieving it and bringing it back to its rightful, albeit waxy, owner.

(18) TROPE THEORY. The Fifth Element, Enchanted, Tron Legacy, My Stepmother Is an Alien, Sheena, Planet of the Apes, Stargate, Star Trek, Splash and other mermaid tales, even Forbidden Planet.  The female characters in the movies and shows are what Pop Culture Detective labels “born sexy yesterday” and describes as a male fantasy trope.  Occasionally, as in Star Man, the trope is in reverse.

(19) LIVE FROM 2007. For reasons that would take too long to explain I watched a lot of Commando Cody episodes before the start of LASFS meetings, so I especially enjoyed this parody of the classic serial –

[Thanks to JJ, John A Arkansawyer, Jason Sanford, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter, for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor and earworm creator of the day bill.]

Pixel Scroll 9/25/18 I Want To Be In The Scroll Where It Happens

(1) A STORY OF REVOLUTION. Luke the Son of Anakin (Star Wars + Hamilton Parody) is from 2016 but managed to elude me until today. Turn on closed captioning to see the text of the lyrics.

(2) MODEL TARDIS. “Maladroit Modeller” has built a “working” Tardis — that is, it is truly bigger on the inside than on the outside, and he’s provided video proof.

Bill sent the link with a request, “Viewers may be strongly tempted to go searching to figure out how this works. They may be successful. But I’d hope they would keep that information to themselves, rather than post it in the comments and spoiling the mystery.”

(3) THINGS THAT DON’T MAKE SENSE. Naomi Kritzer critiques the worldbuilding involved in setting stories from the world of Harry Potter in America. The thread starts here.

(4) STILL AFLAME. Alex Acks wrote up the FIYAH/Goodreads controversy for Book Riot: “All Issues of FIYAH Literary Magazine Removed from Goodreads”

The near-simultaneous removal of the only two speculative fiction magazines that exclusively publish Black writers and writers of color does not seem like a coincidental thing. There is ample cause for people in speculative fiction to be on the alert for activity like this. Speculative fiction is a small field—which is why you notice when two magazines suddenly vanish from site like Goodreads—and it’s had serious problems lately with the racist machinations of groups like the Puppies and even individuals who, for example, are just really upset about N.K. Jemisin winning so many Hugos even though they’ve never bothered to read her books.

(5) A VORACIOUS READER’S CHOICES. Jason Sanford listed his picks of the “Best SF/F short fiction, January through June 2018”.

I originally set out to read a short story a day this year but massively failed in that attempt. That said, I still read more than 130 short stories, novelettes and novellas published between January and the end of June.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t missed some great stories — I’m certain I did. In particular, I read relatively few novellas this go around. I’ll try to make up for that in the coming months and will add any stories I missed to my next listing of the year’s best short fiction, which will be released in December.

(6) BUT YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF THE GAME. Popular Mechanics asks what you can do with a super-soldier who wants out of the game (“Suddenly Superhuman: If the Pentagon Turns People Into Augmented Super-Soldiers, Can It Turn Them Back?”). In other words, if Halo’s Master Chief retires, can he ever become just a regular human again?

A soldier wears a skullcap that stimulates his brain to make him learn skills faster, or reads his thoughts as a way to control a drone. Another is plugged into a Tron-like “active cyber defense system,” in which she mentally teams up with computer systems “to successfully multitask during complex military missions.”

The Pentagon is already researching these seemingly sci-fi concepts. The basics of brain-machine interfaces are being developed—just watch the videos of patients moving prosthetic limbs with their minds. The Defense Department is examining newly scientific tools, like genetic engineering, brain chemistry, and shrinking robotics, for even more dramatic enhancements.

But the real trick may not be granting superpowers, but rather making sure those effects are temporary.

The latest line augmentation research at DARPA, the Next-Generation Nonsurgical Neurotechnology (N3) program, is focused on one key part of augmenting soldiers: making sure the effects can be reversed.

(7) BEYOND CONFUSE-A-CAT. Our future AI overlords are sneaking another “job” away from humans… amusing SJW credentials (Inverse:This A.I. Cat Toy Draws Out the Most Violent Feline Behavior to Play”).

Who would’ve thought that the most sophisticated cat toy imaginable would also be the one that happens to trigger a cat’s most ruthless and disturbing behavior?

That’s what you get from Mousr, a super-smart cat toy from Petronics that has a time-of-flight sensor, a real-time operating system in a custom-built microcontroller, and A.I. programming all working on concert to convince your cat that it’s a mouse and not a tiny robot. Mousr can map its surroundings — and it even initiates a struggle protocol when it feels trapped by its predator. My cats absolutely love the struggle part.…

“A lot of automatic or autonomous toys eventually just make cats bored by doing the same exact thing over and over again,” Cohen said. “But Mousr — and real mice — will react to a cat.” Unlike many comparable devices that simply simulate a motion on repeat, Mousr uses onboard artificial intelligence to navigate the physical space around it.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 25, 1924 — In in Russia, Aelita: Queen Of Mars had its theatrical premiere.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 25, 1919 – Betty Ballantine. Editor who with husband created Bantam Books in 1945 and were responsible for Ballantine Books in 1952. They became freelance publishers in the 1970s. She wrote a novel that was genre, The Secret Oceans. The Ballantines won a special World Fantasy Award for professional work in 1975 and another one shared with Joy Chant and other creators of The High Kings (Bantam, 1983), a reference book on the Matter of Britain that incorporates stories of the Arthurian myths.
  • Born September 25, 1930 – Shel Silverstein. Cheerfully admitting he’s not genre but I want to include him anyways. Film, theater, song, illustration, writing — he was a bloody genius. For books, I’ll single out The Giving Tree, Where The Sidewalk Ends and A Light in The Attic. Oh for albums, let’s do Hairy JazzFreakin’ at the Freakers Ball and The Best of Shel Silverstein: His Words His Songs His Friends.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) MAKING IT UP AS YOU GO ALONG. In “The Big Idea: Ryan North” at Whatever, North explains why his fictional world needs a book titled How To Invent Everything:

I made up a future in which time travel existed and was practiced routinely.  It was a world in which time machines are rented like cars: generally painlessly, though sometimes with the risk that your too-good-to-be-true deal of a vehicle breaks down.  It was a way to ease myself (and readers) into the concept, and it helped me set up some ground rules: you, as a reader, are a temporal tourist.  You are trapped in the past in a broken rental-market time machine.  There is a repair guide, but it very quickly reveals a unfortunate truth: that time machines are for sure the most complicated pieces of machinery humans have ever produced, and that there aren’t any user-serviceable parts inside.  Time machines are so complicated, in fact, that it’s actually easier to tell you how to rebuild all of civilization than it is to explain how a 45.3EHz chrotonic flux inverter works.  So that’s what this time machine repair guide does.

(12) KING JAMES VERSION, OF COURSE. Nate Sanders Auctions set a minimum bid of $40,000 on a “Bible Flown to & Landed Upon the Moon During the Apollo 14 Mission” – bids are being taken until September 27.

Extraordinarily rare Bible lunar-landed upon the moon aboard Apollo 14, one of only a handful of such Bibles to have graced the surface of the moon, flight-certified by both Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell and the Director of the Apollo Prayer League Reverend John Stout.

Complete King James microform Bible, Serial Number 14-026, originates from the Apollo Prayer League, formed with the dual goals of praying for the astronauts, and also of sending a Bible to the moon in the memory of Edward White, the astronaut who died in the Apollo 1 fire before he could fulfill his dream of bringing a Bible to the moon.

(13) FIRST LOTR. Hasn’t been to the moon and the minimum bid is only $4,000, but you still might be interested in this “First Edition Set of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’”. Bidding is open til September 27.

Rare first edition, second printing set of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ”Lord of the Rings” trilogy. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1954 & 1955. All three books are well-preserved, in their original dust jackets and with maps present. ”The Fellowship of the Ring” is a first edition, second printing (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1954) with map attached to rear flyleaf. Publisher’s red cloth with gilt spine titles.

(14) THE UNRECOGNIZABLE BRADBURY. According to The American Conservative, “Ray Bradbury Was the Coolest Non-Conformist on the Planet”, but they do their best to make him sound rather Sad Puppyesque. Really, is this the same guy that the FBI ran a file on?

Still, even Bradbury could not fully disguise or dismiss his own political and cultural view of the world. When asked what the truth was that emerged from Fahrenheit 451, he admitted he wrote it in response to “Hitler and Stalin and China, where they burned God knows how many books, killed God knows how many teachers.” Add to this, he feared, the disaster of Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s, and free thought and free expression would collapse in America. Siding with Alexis de Tocqueville, Bradbury feared that true oppression in the United States would be a soft despotism, with the culture being run by progressive busy bodies, moralizing and oppressing with a myriad of rules and acceptable attitudes. Fahrenheit 451, thus, anticipated political correctness almost three full decades before it became a deadly and nascent issue in the late 1980s.

(15) SIGN UP FOR THIS COURSE. NPR tells about a new college degree: “Space Mining — Learning How To Fuel An Interplanetary Gas Station”.

Starting this semester, the Colorado School of Mines is offering the world’s first degree programs in Space Resources — essentially mining in outer space.

It’s not just academic institutions like the School of Mines taking note; a small but growing number of startups expect this to be very big business sooner than a lot of us might think.

If people ever want to land on Mars, or explore beyond it, it’s too expensive to rocket everything these missions will ever need from Earth. You need interplanetary gas stations on the moon or on asteroids, extracting raw materials to fuel future deep space missions.

(16) ARE YOU AS SMART AS A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD? See if you can answer these — “Quiz: Test your knowledge of evolution”.

Even spelling the word, evolution, can be tricky when you’re seven, but Sophia tells me confidently that evolution “basically means engineering”.

And Jack says that sharks are lighter underneath so that “when the sun is on the sea, you can’t really see the sharks”.

He’s talking about the fact that sharks have evolved a form of camouflage that helps them sneak up on their prey.

At the opening of the new Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, school children are learning about evolution through the help of cuddly sharks of all shapes and sizes, fruit flies and even a tame owl.

(17) MIND UNDER MATTER. Rose Eveleth, in an episode of her podcast Fast Forward called “Fungus Among Us”, interviews sf authors David Walton and Tade Thompson in an episode discussing possible futures where people’s brains are taken over by fungi.  Also in this episode: zombie ants!

How much of what you do is actually your choice? What if you were secretly being controlled by a parasite that had infected your brain? What if that infection was spreading?

(18) ANIME. SYFY Wire has a list of “10 LGBTQ+ anime that you need to watch now”, several of them genre stories.

What may surprise many who aren’t terribly familiar with anime is the wealth of LGBTQ+ focused series out there. Sure, many series have gratuitous fanservice and crossdressing is a recurring trope across the board, but there are earnest stories out there with a strong, if not singular, focus on LGBTQ+ characters.

To get started you need to know your terminology. Shounen-ai is boys love, while shoujo-ai is girls love. Yaoi is explicit boys love, so you’re going to get some sexy times on screen. Likewise, yuri is explicit girls love.

Now that you’ve got that down pat, here is our list of LGBTQ+ anime to watch!

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Chapter 17:  The Grid Man’s Universal Translator on Vimeo, Stan Schwartz offers a story of identical twins with unusual powers and a universal translator with supernatural results. [Note: Vimeo has this video set so it can’t be embedded here.]

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

Pixel Scroll 6/26/18 Eliminate The Inscrollible, Whatever Remains, However Impixellable, Must Be The Fifth

(1) AMAZING’S SUBMISSION SYSTEM, TAKE TWO. Jason Sanford sent a link to his open post on Patreon, “Amazing Stories rejection emails and why I report on the SF/F genre”.

Last week File770 covered my reporting on Amazing Stories and their submission system. Steve Davidson commented on that Pixel Scroll article and it lead to some discussions between he and I. I published an update this morning and figured I’d pass it along in case you were interested in it…

Sanford recounts an unnamed author’s description of problems they had getting the status of a submission to Amazing Stories, and how he put it to the test.

…After talking with authors like the person above and seeing comments from many other writers who said they didn’t receive rejections, I decided to do more digging into the Amazing Stories submission system. I set up two test accounts of my own in their system, one using a Yahoo account and the other a Gmail account. I didn’t receive either of the initial email verifications for these accounts or the multiple password resets I requested. These emails didn’t even arrive in my spam folders.

I also examined the email header and code from one of the Amazing Stories rejections which an author did receive and forwarded to me. This rejection email was sent through the Amazing Stories submission system using a Gmail account as the send-from address with a separate reply-to address using the amazingstories.com domain. (Note: I won’t publish these email addresses to respect the privacy of the people working on Amazing Stories.)

The author quoted above used Gmail, as did some of other authors who said they didn’t receive their rejection emails. One of the test accounts I set up was also a Gmail account. Google should not block emails sent between valid Gmail accounts, so the failure of these emails to arrive into other Gmail accounts strongly suggests something was wrong with how the Amazing Stories system was set up or sending out emails.

After doing these tests I spoke with Steve Davidson about all this. His complete response is quoted below. Steve said he’d pass along the information about the email verification and password resets to his webmaster to be investigated and, if needed, fixed.

A few hours after Steve said his webmaster would look into the issue, I again tested the password resets. They now worked and I received the emails in my Yahoo and Gmail test accounts. Another author also confirmed they now worked where they hadn’t before.

In short, shortly before I raised this issue with Steve the emails wouldn’t arrive from their system. After Steve said he’d let his webmaster know about the issue, the emailed worked. This alone strongly suggests there was an issue with Amazing Stories’ system.

I hope this means the issue the Amazing Stories submission system is fixed. I personally want to see Amazing Stories succeed with their relaunch and believe most people in the genre feel the same. And there’s no shame with admitting a new submission system had some issues. Galaxy’s Edge recently had a major submission glitch with a number of subs being lost. They posted a message explaining the issue and even authors whose submissions were lost appeared to be cool with everything….

Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson responded on Facebook.

…While we investigated and then explained that the issue(s) were on the recipient’s end of the email chain (spam folder, settings that were overly sensitive to automated messages originating with our server’s email program) we nevertheless have changed the system to originate from a Gmail sending account, which ought to make it past nearly everyone’s electronic censors.

We are also adding an FAQ and a direct contact button on our submissions page; we’ve re-written the rejection notice and have re-examined our internal policy for when more personalized rejection emails will be sent.

One “issue” that apparently exacerbated this situation for some was the fact that we were not made aware of the problem(s) for some authors directly, which we believe ought to have been the first step on the part of people having issues. We received over 200 submissions the first day we opened and have processed several hundred more since; the number of direct queries we received regarding failed communications can be counted on one hand.

Each of those was handled on an individual case bases and, from our end, did not appear to rise to the level of a “systemic” problem that needed to be looked into more deeply.

In point of fact, our native email server was sending out the appropriate status update messages (it was checked numerous times), but some recipient email servers were rejecting the messages, most likely because they originated from an unfamiliar source (our email server) AND were automated status updates.

From our end, everything appeared to be working as it should and, lacking feedback to the contrary, we were in no position to do anything about it.

Once we were made aware of the problem, we thought that an explanation would prompt users to look into their email servers and address the issue with their providers. Since this largely seems to not have been done and we continued to receive complaints, we have taken the steps outlined above.

If you continue to have an issue with email communications from our website, we STRONGLY request that you contact us directly.

(2) BEYOND COCKYGATE. Elsewhere, Jason Sanford has surfaced another interesting trademark claim. The thread starts here.

(3) BUSTED. Is it true that JDA has a lot more followers in Twitter than he did a few days ago?

(4) NERO AWARD. The “Nero” is presented annually by The Wolfe Pack for the best American Mystery. The award criteria include:

  • written in the tradition of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories
  • first published in the year preceding the award year
  • originally published in the United States

The 2018 Nero Award finalists are:

  • The Dime by Kathleen Kent, (Mulholland Books / Little, Brown)
  • The Lioness is the Hunter by Loren D. Estelman (Forge)
  • Gone to Dust by Matt Goldman (Forge)
  • August Snow by Stephen Mack Jones (Soho)
  • Blood for Wine by Warren C. Easley (Poisoned Pen Press)

(5) CAMPBELL. Analog has posted a lengthy excerpt from Alec Nevala-Lee’s forthcoming book ASTOUNDING: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

“The Campbell Machine” plumbs the obsessions behind several of his ideas about the human mind.

…In “Design Flaw,” Campbell had argued that the solution to highway hypnosis lay in “a solid engineering job,” and psionics was his attempt to frame the project in terms that he thought would appeal to his readers, prompting them to collect data that would illuminate the unexplored aspects of consciousness that had resulted in Joe’s accident. The editor had once held out similar hopes for dianetics, but now his motives were far more personal. He had been unable to avenge his stepson directly, so he would overthrow all of physics and psychology instead.

If he proved unable to stick with it for long, this only reflected a pattern that had been evident throughout his life. In his article on Joe’s death, Campbell had claimed that some people had “an acquired immunity” to highway hypnosis, but he didn’t mention that he included himself in that category, or that he attributed it to the hell of his youth. On the day after the crash, he had written a long letter to his father, explaining why he was impervious to hypnotic trances. The drivers who were the most at risk, he wrote, were the ones who were good at concentrating, and Campbell was “not just intellectually afraid of it—deeply and effectively afraid.”

He placed the responsibility for this squarely on his parents: “You and Mother so disagreed that I had a hell of a time trying to satisfy the requirements which both of you placed on me; doing so was inherently impossible, and it was damned uncomfortable. But you did give me a life-long immunity to highway hypnosis!” His childhood had taught him to survive, but at a devastating cost: “You and Mother between you gave me immunity to many things that neither one of you could have; either of you could have crippled me. . . . At the time, of course, I felt a vast injustice; I do not forgive you, because that’s a useless and arrogant thing.”…

(6) LUND OBIT. Land of the Giants actress Deanna Lund, 81, died June 22. The Hollywood Reporter obituary begins —

Deanna Lund, who played one of the seven castaways trying to survive in a world of large, unfriendly people on the 1960s ABC series Land of the Giants, has died. She was 81.

Lund died Friday at her home in Century City of pancreatic cancer, her daughter, actress and novelist Michele Matheson, told The Hollywood Reporter. She was diagnosed in September.

Lund starred as Valerie Scott, a selfish party girl, on the Irwin Allen-created series, which aired for two seasons, from September 1968 until March 1970.

Set in the year 1983, 20th Century Fox’s Land of the Giants revolved around the crew and passengers of the spaceship Spindrift, which on the way to London crashed on a planet whose humanoid inhabitants were hostile and unbelievably huge. The show was extremely expensive to make, costing a reported $250,000 an episode.

The sexy Lund had appeared as a redheaded lesbian stripper opposite Frank Sinatra in Tony Rome (1967) and as Anna Gram, a moll working for The Riddler (John Astin), on ABC’s Batman, leading to her being cast on the show….

(7) NOT MY SPACE LEADER. Vice Motherboard is sorry you missed it: “The Space Nation of Asgardia Inaugurated Its First Leader in an Incredible Ceremony”. Asgardia, a self-proclaimed space-based democracy, has “inaugurated” its first head of “state” — namely Igor Raufovich Ashurbeyli, the billionaire providing what appears to be the bulk of the backing for the “state.” Ashurbeyl, a native of Baku, Azerbaijan, has made his fortune on weapons and related aspects of the Russian military-industrial complex. He has also been said to be a “true patriot and believer in the strong [Russian] state.”

Mike Kennedy sent the link with an observation: “So, a Russian oligarch is heading up a ‘space-based democracy’ which is to be ‘a united supra-national space state open to all people on Earth.’ What could possibly go wrong?”

The space nation held an incredible ceremony on Monday inaugurating its self-declared leader Igor Ashurbeyli as its head of state. Ashurbeyli is a Russian billionaire whose money comes from weapons systems. His backing has allowed Asgardia to thrive and he wants the country to join the UN, but to do so it must have a functioning government. It elected a parliament in April (a motley collection of international characters between the ages of 40 and 80, as specified by the Asgardian constitution) followed by Ashurbeyli declaring himself head of state.

To celebrate the momentous occasion, the Asgardians held a fantastical celebration at the 13th century Hofburg palace, the former principal imperial palace in the center of Vienna, Austria. It was creepy. It was beautiful. It was elegant and magical in a way that Terra-based ceremonies no longer are and it began with children introducing cosmonaut Oleg Artemiev who shared a very special message from the International Space Station.

(8) FIRST STAN, NOW BUZZ. What’s the use of being a babe magnet if your adult children get in the way? The Independent has the story: “Buzz Aldrin sues his children for trying to take control of his finances after claiming he suffers from dementia”.

Astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin has sued two of his children and former business manager for trying to take control of his finances and accused them of “slander” for saying he suffers from dementia.

The 88-year-old said in a lawsuit that Janice Aldrin, Andrew Aldrin, and former manager Christina Korp are included in the lawsuit which claimed they took control of millions of dollars of “space memorabilia” and his company finances “for their own self-dealing and enrichment”. Mr Aldrin owns BuzzAldrin Enterprises and a charity group called the ShareSpace Foundation.

He has also accused the three of elder exploitation for “knowingly and through deception or intimidation” keeping him from his property as well as stifling his “personal romantic relationships”.

(9) SYNDROME ROUNDUP. Carl Slaughter picked these out —

(10) VALE BOB NEWBY. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Emmys: How the ‘Stranger Things’ VFX team brought Sean Astin’s bloody death to life”, says that Sean Astin’s death on this show was a shocker and the Stranger Things vfx crew deserves credit for making the on-screen death plausible.

It’s the moment that had Stranger Things fans screaming: adorkable Radio Shack manager Bob Newby (played by geek icon Sean Astin) uses his technical savvy to save the day, only to become chow for the monstrous Demodogs. Bob’s shocking death scene is arguably the biggest highlight of the show’s second season, replacing #JusticeForBarb with #JusticeForBob as a trending Twitter topic. It also provides some of the best evidence of the show’s Emmyworthy special effects, overseen up by husband-and-wife F/X team of Paul and Christina Graff.

(11) THEY BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE. H.P. posted this Venn diagram at Every Day Should Be Tuesday:

He says it illustrates this idea:

A story can be good but be neither superversive nor pulp.  A story can be pulp but be neither superversive nor good.  A story can be superversive and good but not pulp.  A story can be all three (easier said than done).  A story can be none of the three (easy enough—the real trick is figuring out how to win awards for it).  And so on.  Think of it as a Venn diagram.

However, the Filer who sent it to me says what the diagram shows is that most superversive and pulp fiction isn’t good.

Who’s right?

Regardless, what H.P.’s trying to do is define the characteristics of “superversive.”

People associated with Superversive Press have written several posts that I will be drawing from that attempt to pin down just what the term means.  The best are by Tom Simon, Corey McCleery, and L. Jagi Lamplighter.  Each identifies particular traits of a superversive story.  Simon points to moral high ground and courage.  McCleery insists that superversive stories should be aspiring/inspiring, virtuous, heroic, decisive, and non-subversive.  Lamplighter argues that, for a story to be superversive, it must have good storytelling, the characters must be heroic, and the story must have an element of wonder.

These are good starting points.  You can probably guess which trait I like least.  “Good storytelling” isn’t useful as a trait because it conflates superversive with good.  The only other term I really don’t like is “non-subversive.”  If you are defining superversive in contrast with subversive, as Simon does, then it is no more than a truism.  And a superversive work may subvert, indeed, it probably should.

(12) SPEAK HUP. Will Seuss Inc. sue the BBC? Verse illustrates the Beeb’s article “The haughty history of the letter H”.

Throughout history, those with social clout have set the standards for what’s the more acceptable pronunciation….

Like Dr. Seuss’ Star-Belly Sneetches and Plain-Belly Sneetches, there are two types of creatures — haitchers with H on their 8th letter name and aitchers with “none upon thars”.

That H isn’t so big. It’s really so small. You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.

But it does — the tiny H on “(h)aitch” divides the nation. The pronunciation has become something of a social password, a spoken shibboleth distinguishing in-groupers from out-groupers. Those with social clout set the standards for what’s “in” and what’s “out” — no H has the stamp of approval.

The best kind of people are people without!

Shibboleths die hard — the opprobrium attached to haitch probably derives from its long association with Irish Catholic education. There’s no real evidence for this, mind, as Sue Butler points out, but never let facts get in the way of a good shibboleth.

(13) A CAT ON THE RAILS. The BBC has pictures: “Japan unveils Hello Kitty-themed bullet train”

It is enough to wake the tired eyes of the groggiest commuter. A striking white and pink bullet train themed around the Japanese cartoon character and marketing phenomenon Hello Kitty.

The bespoke train will begin a three month run between the western cities of Osaka and Fukuoka on Saturday.

It was unveiled by the West Japan Railway firm which hopes the use of a famous local export will boost tourism.

Hello Kitty branding features on the windows, seat covers, and flooring.

(14) CASH FOUND BEHIND THE SEAT CUSHIONS. But not the currency you’d expect: “Hoax ‘devil coins’ found in Bath Abbey”.

Two “devil coins” that were hidden in Scandinavian churches as part of an elaborate hoax in the 1970s have been discovered in the unlikely setting of Bath Abbey.

Dusty odds and ends, including an order of service from 1902, were found in the abbey when stalls were removed for restoration work.

The most intriguing discovery, however, was two coins bearing a picture of Satan and the legend Civitas Diaboli on one side and 13 Maj Anholt 1973 on the other.

Experts figured out the coins were linked to the story of a Danish eccentric who perpetrated an elaborate 40-year hoax that was only discovered almost a decade after his death.

(15) YOUR OWN MARTIAN ODYSSEY. Red Rover, Red Rover send HiRISE right over… SYFY Wire reports “A Mars video game developed from NASA data now exists, and it’s pretty far out”. Developer Alan Chan has a new Mars rover driving game available for the Steam gaming platform. It features terrain developed from NASA data gathered by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It also features a “ridiculously overpowered Mars rover” which is even equipped with jump jets. You can careen across (or even a bit above) Mars’ Victoria Crater, Western Cerberus, South Olympus, Jezero Crater, Bequerel Crater, Hibes Montes, Candor Chasma, Aeolis Streams, and Noctis Labyrinthus at speeds far beyond any yet achieved on Mars.

Quoting the article:

“The HiRISE camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is the most powerful one of its kind ever sent to another planet,” states HiRISE Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. “Its high resolution allows us to see Mars like never before, and helps other missions choose a safe spot to land for future exploration.”

…Red Rover is now available on Steam for $4.99, and it even supports Oculus Rift for the ultimate immersive VR experience.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 6/20/18 Poltergoose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But now they are facing a huge challenge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

(9) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

Pop quiz: What’s missing in Solo?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Theodora Goss

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

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

Barbara Krasnoff

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 6/19/18 I Get No Glyphs From Sham Flames

(1) MEXICANX. The final four of 50 Mexicanx Initiative recipients have been announced by John Piciacio.

(2) DEEP DISH READING SERIES. Chicago’s Deep Dish SF/F reading series will resume at Volumes Book Cafe beginning in September. Here is the schedule:

September 6, 2018
November 8, 2018
March 7, 2019
May 9, 2019

Join us from 7 – 8:30 p.m. for a rapid-fire reading from the best of Chicago’s SF/F scene!

If you’re interested in reading with us, drop the SLF’s director, Mary Anne Mohanraj, a note — director@speclit.org, with the subject line READING SERIES. We welcome beginners, emerging, and established writers, though if you have a book coming out next year, do let us know, as we’ll try to schedule you for a featured slot.

Co-sponsored by the Speculative Literature Foundation (www.speclit.org), SFWA (www.sfwa.org), and the Chicago Nerds Social Club (www.chicagonerds.org).

(3) BUILDING THIS WORLD. Malka Older’s talk on “Speculative Resistance” at #PDF18 is available on YouTube. Think about worldbuilding as an activist tool and a planner tool.

(4) NEWS TO THEM. We should be celebrating when someone is one of today’s Lucky 10,000 — A. Merc Rustad encourages the idea in a Twitter thread that starts here.

(5) IT’S WAR. Manchester, UK theatergoers can enlist for War With The Newts, with the campaign to be staged October 2-6.

The creators of smash-hit “Bin Laden: The One Man Show” bring you Karel Capek’s apocalyptic science-fiction satire re-imagined for a Europe of tomorrow. Global risk and technological revolution come together in this immersive experience from Knaïve Theatre. Fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Witness the rise and fall of a new(t) capitalism. Deep in the bowels of an oyster-dredging vessel, an ocean of opportunity arises as a new resource makes contact. With live surround sound installation by sonic artist Robert Bentall.

At the discretion of The Company life jackets may be provided.

(6) CHECK THE BACK OF YOUR CLOSET. Yahoo! Finance advises “Your old video games could be worth serious cash”.

That’s right, those vintage consoles and games your mom dumped in the basement years ago could be worth some serious cash to the right buyer. Got a copy of “Nintendo World Championships 1990?” Then you’re looking at $100,000. But it’s not all about the cash. Many collectors are more interested in rounding out their personal game libraries, reliving the games they loved as children or simply exploring the history of the gaming industry first-hand.

(7) TIME TUNNELS. The New York Transit Museum’s exhibition “Underground Heroes: New York Transit in Comics” runs from June 21 through January 6, 2019.

New York’s rich visual vernacular is a colorful setting for illustrated stories, so it comes as no surprise that our iconic transportation system plays a starring role in comics and graphic novels. Drawing on satirical cartoons, comic strips and comic books from the 19th through the 21st centuries, Underground Heroes: New York Transit in Comics is a raucous ride through New York’s transit system from a range of visual storytellers. The exhibit includes such luminaries as Winsor McCay, Will Eisner, Bill Griffith, Roz Chast, Ronald Wimberly and Julia Wertz whose work demonstrates the influence that mass transit has on the stories that are irrevocably woven into the cultural fabric of New York City.

The Big Apple is often as important as the people (and creatures) in comics narratives, and the creators of these fantastic stories draw inspiration from the world around them. The transit system serves as the scene for heroic rescues, as secret lairs for supervillains, and as the site for epic battles of wills. Subways, railroads, streetcars, and buses can whisk heroes to far-flung corners of the city, or serve as a rogue’s gallery of unusual characters.

(8) SPACE FORCE. More Star Wars? “Trump Calls For ‘Space Force’ To Defend U.S. Interests Among The Stars” – NPR has the story.

President Trump Monday announced his intention to create a “space force” that would oversee the military’s activities off-world.

“When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space,” Trump said at a meeting of the National Space Council, which oversees the nation’s space policy. “We must have American dominance in space. So important.”

“I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. That’s a big statement,” the president continued.

Experts were quick to point out that President Trump cannot actually create a space force. A new branch of the military can only be established by an act of Congress — something that hasn’t happened since the Air Force was split from the Army in 1947.

The CBS News story “Trump directs Pentagon to create military Space Force” adds:

Mr. Trump provided no details and no timetable, but the establishment of a new branch of the military would be a major undertaking requiring extensive debate and congressional support.

The Pentagon’s chief spokesperson Dana W. White issued a statement suggesting the process will take some time.

“We understand the President’s guidance. Our Policy Board will begin working on this issue, which has implications for intelligence operations for the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy. Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders.”

In a letter to lawmakers last year, Defense Secretary James Mattis “strongly” urged Congress to reconsider a proposal to establish a separate “Space Corps,” saying it was “premature” to set up a new organization “at a time I am trying to reduce overhead.”

(9) SPEAK OF THE DEVIL. “Amazon Echo comes to Marriott hotels” reports the BBC. The fannish possibilities are endless…

Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa will be installed in some US Marriott-owned hotels, following a partnership between the two firms.

Its functions will include ordering room service, housekeeping and providing concierge advice, the firm said.

The Wynn Resorts chain in Las Vegas installed the Amazon Echo in around 5,000 hotel suites in 2016.

Marriott is reported to have considered both Alexa and Apple’s Siri.

(10) HOMEBUILT. “The $300 system in the fight against illegal images” is a story reminiscent of Gernbackian inventor SF — but for a cause that old SF probably couldn’t have discussed in print.

A security researcher has built a system for detecting illegal images that costs less than $300 (£227) and uses less power than a lightbulb.

Christian Haschek, who lives in Austria, came up with the solution after he discovered an image showing child sex abuse had been uploaded on his image hosting platform Pictshare.

He called the police, who told him to print it out and bring it to them.

However it is illegal to possess images of child abuse, digitally or in print.

“Erm… not what I planned to do,” Mr Haschek said.

Instead he put together a homegrown solution for identifying and removing explicit images.

Mr Haschek used three Raspberry PIs, powering two Intel Movidius sticks, which can be trained to classify images. He also used an open source algorithm for identifying explicit material called NSFW (Not Safe For Work), available free of charge from Yahoo.

(11) REVEALED. “And just look at that gorgeous cover by Reiko Murakami,” says JJ. Click through for a view — “A Smugglerific Cover: THE NINETY-NINTH BRIDE by Catherine Faris King”.

About the Novel

“Sister, would you please tell me a story?”

Dunya is fifteen when her father, the Grand Vizier, gives her over to the mad Sultan for his bride. Ninety-eight Sultanas before Dunya have been executed, slaughtered at the break of dawn following their first night with their new husband. But on her own wedding night, the ninety-ninth bride finds help from the mysterious and beautiful Zahra, who proposes to tell the Sultan a story…

The Ninety-Ninth Bride is a story of sisters and magic, and a kingdom on the brink of disaster.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 19, 1964The Twilight Zone aired its series finale, “The Bewitchin’ Pool,” written by Earl Hamner.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 19 – Zoe Saldana, 40. Both Guardians Of The Galaxy films, the entire Avatar film series, Star Trek series, and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl to name but a few of her genre films.
  • Born June 19 – Aidan Turner, 35. The Hobbit film trilogy, the BBC Being Human series, and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones film.

(14) DAMMIT, JIM, I’M A DOCTOR NOT A TEAMSTER. Syfy Wire says these comics will take us where no truck has gone before: “A new IDW comic is mashing up Star Trek and Transformers in the most glorious way possible”.

DW Comics, which has taken the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise on adventures with everyone from Doctor Who to Dr. Zaius, will be releasing a crossover comic titled Star Trek vs. Transformers. The four-issue miniseries is due out in September and will be written by John Barber and Mike Johnson, both of whom have written numerous Star Trek and Transformers comic book storylines.

…Artist Philip Murphy and colorist Leonardo Ito will be providing its distinct look, which will blend the unique aesthetic of 1973’s Star Trek: The Animated Series with 1984’s classic Transformers cartoon.

(15) WOMEN WRITERS OF THE SEVENTIES. James Davis Nicoll’s Tor.com series continues with the letter P: “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1970s, Part VIII”.

Katherine Paterson’s list of awards includes the Newbery, the National Book Award, the Hans Christian Andersen Award, and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, among others. Her well-known novel Bridge to Terabithia, which helped inspire the Death by Newbery trope, is if not genre, then at least genre-adjacent. Bridge is strongly recommended to parents of children unduly burdened with excessive levels of joie de vivre.

(16) THE COMPETITION. Meg Elison reports Jason Sanford is kicking File 770’s ass. Well, it certainly makes more sense to send Sanford a buck for news that isn’t reported here than to reward Locus Online for posting news they found reading here.

(17) SPEAK, MEMORY. Wired says we have this to look forward to: “Now the Computer Can Argue With You”. The coming rise of our AI overlords now includes machine intelligence engaging in live formal debate with human debate champions… and maybe winning.

“Fighting technology means fighting human ingenuity,” an IBM software program admonished Israeli debating champion Dan Zafrir in San Francisco Monday. The program, dubbed Project Debater, and Zafrir, were debating the value of telemedicine, but the point could also apply to the future of the technology itself.

Software that processes speech and language has improved enough to do more than tell you the weather forecast. You may not be ready for machines capable of conversation or arguing, but tech companies are working to find uses for them. IBM’s demo of Project Debater comes a month after Google released audio of a bot called Duplex booking restaurants and haircuts over the phone.

IBM’s stunt Monday was a sequel of sorts to the triumph of its Watson computer over Jeopardy! champions in 2011. Project Debater, in the works for six years, took on two Israeli student debating champions, Zafrir and Noa Ovadia. In back-to-back bouts each lasting 20 minutes, the software first argued that governments should subsidize space exploration, then that telemedicine should be used more widely.

(18) QUICK SIPS. Charles Payseur gets to work on new releases in “Quick Sips – Uncanny #22 [June stuff]”.

Uncanny meets June with three stories and two poems and a decidedly dark tone. In these pieces people struggle with big issues. With systems and environments that are broken, that are hungry for blood. Where monsters and demons lurk. And they are settings where the characters are expected to accept their victimization, where if they struggle it will only hurt them more. Only, of course, these characters don’t accept that. Instead, they push back against these environments and when they meet someone who might have the power to change things, they seek to use that power. To convince it or take it in order to remake the world. Or to right a wrong situation. The stories are often violent, and uncomfortable, but they also shine with resilience and with care, and with the hope that things can get better. To the reviews!

(21) BOYCOTTING WENDIG. This protest has been just as effective as the Tor Boycott, wouldn’t you say? Chuck Wendig’s Twitter thread starts here.

(22) ENTRY LEVEL SUPERHERO. The Washington Post’s Sandie Angulo Chen interviews Huck Milner, who plays Dash Parr in The Incredibles 2: “‘Incredibles 2’ is a super first acting job for 10-year-old”.

Luckily for Huck, the filmmakers decided to replace the original voice actor, who is now in his 20s, with a more authentic-sounding 10-year-old’s voice. Back in fourth grade, Huck did the first audition, got a call for a meeting with the director, Brad Bird, and then received news so good, he thought it was a prank.

“I got the call that I had gotten the part, and I thought it was an April Fool’s joke, because my mom told me right around April Fool’s,” Huck recalled. “I really thought it was a joke.”

(23) EXPANDING UNIVERSE. Jennifer Maas, in “Alex Kurtzman Signs New Five-Year CBS-TV Overall Deal, WIll Expand Star Trek TV Universe” for The Wrap, says that Kurtzman has been named showrunner for Star Trek :Discovery and has his five-year pact to produce “new series, mini-series, and other content opportunities” related to Star Trek.

Under the agreement, CBS will have exclusive rights to produce all television content created and developed by Kurtzman’s new company, Secret Hideout, which is producing “Discovery.”

Kurtzman’s new deal comes after he split with his longtime producing partner Roberto Orci and their K/O Paper Products banner. Heather Kadin, formerly of K/O, will join Secret Hideout as president of television. Kadin previously worked at Warner Bros. and ABC, where she was instrumental in the development and production of such hit series as “Lost,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “Alias.”

(24) CAPTAIN SIR PAT. Rumors say that Star Trek, under Kurtzman, might venture someplace man has gone before:

The Hollywood Reporter claimed on Tuesday (June 19) that Sir Patrick Stewart is attached to a brand new Star Trek series in development at CBS that will see him reprise his Next Generation role as Picard.

The project is reportedly one of several Star Trek series and miniseries that are being developed by Star Trek: Discovery showrunner Alex Kurtzman as part of his newly-signed multi-year production pact with CBS.

THR notes that the Picard series is in very early development, and might not happen at all, so it’s probably best that fans of The Next Generation don’t get their hopes up for a return of the Holodeck quite yet.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/15/18 Up Forty Or Better On Your Right Scroll, Corp’r’l, Or The Pixels’ll Degauss Your Files!

(1) NUMBERS RAMPED UP: WHY? Jason Sanford contends “Questionable sales surround Writers of the Future anthologies”. He analyzes Writers of the Future anthology sales over the years as reported by Bookscan.

Note: This market analysis is available free to the public. If you like my original reporting on genre issues, consider backing my Patreon.

There are numerous warnings being raised in the SF/F genre about connections between the Writers of the Future contest and Scientology. While these connections have been explored before, new concerns are being raised — such as by former WotF winner Keffy Kehrli and others like Vajra Chandrasekera — that the contest gives “legitimacy” with regards to Scientology and its abusive practices. For more, see this post from The Underground Bunker.

These concerns should absolutely be listened to. The science fiction genre spawned Scientology and for far too long the SF/F genre has maintained a “look the other way” attitude to Scientology and its many documented abuses. The genre must now take the lead in ending this relationship and support.

And Jason Kimble comments:

(2) LAWYER DAGGET, SHE DRAWS HIM LIKE A GUN. “Stan Lee Sues Former Business Manager For Fraud, Elder Abuse — Including One Scheme To Sell His Blood”Deadline has the story:

Comic book industry legend Stan Lee is suing a former business manager for fraud and elder abuse in a suit that alleges such egregious claims of abuse as extracting and selling vials of the Marvel Comics icon’s blood as “collectibles” in Las Vegas.

Lee, whom many consider the godfather of the modern-day superhero, was grieving the death of his wife of 70 years, Joan B. Lee, in late 2017 when he became the target of “unscrupulous businessmen, sycophants and opportunists” who sought to take advantage of his despondency.

A suit filed today in Los Angeles Superior Court alleges Jerardo Olivarez is once such opportunist. A former business associate of Lee’s daughter, the suit claims Olivarez took control of Lee’s professional and financial affairs — and began enriching himself through various schemes and bogus enterprises….

…In one particularly ghoulish money-making scheme, Olivarez instructed a nurse to extract many containers of blood from Lee, which Hands of Respect later sold in Las Vegas for thousands of dollars, the suit contends.

“There are shops in Las Vegas selling Stan Lee’s blood,” said a family friend, Keya Morgan. “They’re stamping his blood inside the Black Panther comic books and they sell them for $500 each.”

(3) GENRE CATS. The New York Public Library is “Feline Good with Our Favorite Literary Cats”. Here’s an excerpt of their roundup:

Fantastical Felines

Catwings, in which Ursula LeGuin writes about the adventures of cats who were born with wings. I have no idea why this isn’t an animated series with plush dolls and t-shirts and fan cons with cosplay cat ears and wings. —Judd Karlman, Pelham Bay

What’s better than a cat who’s a celestial being with purple eyes and sassy attitude? My favorite cat is Faithful in In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce and then reappears again as Pounce in the Beka Cooper series Terrier, also by Pierce. —Chantalle Uzan, Francis Martin

The Aeronaut’s Windlass, Jim Butcher’s second foray into high fantasy, features a race of hyper-intelligent felines who serve the lords of the Spires. Or are they the lords? —Joshua Soule, Spuyten Duyvil

Ursula K. LeGuin’s No Time to Spare: Thinking about What Matters is a collection of the prolific author’s essays on a variety of topics like ageing, writing, our socio-political landscape, and culture. Any cat lover, though, will probably find themselves most delighted by the vivid, playful, and soulful stories of her cat Pard that are sprinkled throughout. —Beth Dukes, Enrichment Zones

My Cat Yugoslavia. Dating can be hard, especially when your boyfriend is a sexy, bigoted, and capricious cat who doesn’t get along with your free-range snake. In Pajtim Statovci’s novel he weaves in this fanciful story line while addressing immigration, Balkin weddings, and isolation. —Richard Dowe, Aguilar…

(4) HORROR GENTRIFIED? The Washington Post’s April Wolfe notes, in “With ‘A Quiet Place’ and ‘Get Out,’ horror is having a mainstream moment. Will that alienate fans?”, some films are now called “elevated horror,” but that people should realize that a lot of very good films (including “horror-adjacent” The Shape of Water, happen to be horror films, and that horror has given a lot of important actors and directors their start.

Adding “elevated” to a movie’s description seems an attempt to distance the film from its lineage, signaling to contemporary filmgoers that a horror film isn’t a “slasher,” the type of blood-and-gore fare that proliferated from the 1980s through the aughts. But even that subgenre offered more than cheap thrills: It offered roles to then-unknown actors such as Tom Hanks, Jennifer Aniston, Leonardo DiCaprio and Charlize Theron, because horror films will make money at the box office whether or not there’s a star attached. It’s one of the few places actors can get their start.

Slashers also trained the next generation of coveted effects artists. For instance, Jim Doyle, who broke ground with chill-inducing effects on “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Prom Night II: Hello Mary Lou,” pioneered what would become the industry-standard fog machine, which earned him a “technical achievement” Academy Award — where horror is most often honored.

(5) REPLAYING THE CLASSICS. Mike Allen says he believes in “Honoring National Poetry Month the lazy way” – by which he means it’s time for him to remind readers about his verse and media collection:

Operating under the theory that it’s become old enough to be new again, I present thirteen poems from my 2008 collection The Journey to Kailash, with illustrations, detailed explanatory notes and even audio of me reciting each poem (you’ll have to activate Flash plug-ins to listen to those). And below the links to the main show I’ve included a bonus, my concrete poem “Phase Shift” from which this blog gets its name. Originally published in Tales of the Unanticipated in 1997, “Phase Shift” appears in my collection Hungry Constellations, but this stunning visualization by artist Bob Freeman appears nowhere else but here.

Poems from The Journey to Kailash:

I. “Defacing the Moon” (note about)
II. “Requited” (note about)
III. “A Curtain of Stars” (note about)
IV. “Bacchanal” (note about)
V. “Midnight Rendezvous, Boston” (note about)
VI. “Manifest Density” (note about)
VII. “Petals” (note about)
VIII. “Giving Back to the Muse” (note about)
IX. “Disaster at the BrainBank™ ATM” (note about)
X. “No One” (note about)
XI. “Sisyphus Walks” (note about)
XII. “The Strip Search” (note about)
XIII. “The Thirteenth Hell” (note about)

(6) CONCATENATION POSTED. The summer season edition of sff news aggregator Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation is out today.

[The new issue] has sections on film, books and publishing, TV, as well as the season’s forthcoming books listing of new titles (also fantasy and non-fiction) from the major imprints in the British Isles, many of which will soon be available elsewhere.  And then there will be the news page’s science as well as science and SF interface section.  Additionally, there isanother in our series by scientists are also SF authors as to their science heroes born in the 20th century (so by-passing Darwin, Einstein etc). We also have a review of this year’s British Eastercon, plus our annual 12-month top box-office SF/F film chart, and annual whimsey from Gaia.  All this and some standalone SF/F/H and science & non-fiction book reviews.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

Cath sends three clippings from the internet of comics:

I’m one of today’s 10,000 – I had no idea that the concept had a name, or had originated from the LessWrong community. I approve of Bob’s response, not to mention XKCD’s variation (reference in the mouseover).

(7) LEFT HIGH AND DRY. SNL’s Shape of Water parody:

After retiring from acting, The Shape of Water’s Fish Man (Kyle Mooney) watches his friend (John Mulaney) succeed in his place.

 

(8) FUTURE HITS. The best is yet to come. Or is already here if you’re from the future.

(9) FAKE TROPE EXPOSED! They have a point. (The thread starts here.)

(10) GROUNDBREAKER. KPFA brings you “Bookwaves – February 15, 2018: Trina Robbins”:

Trina Robbins, in conversation with Richard Wolinsky.

A legend in comic book circles, an artist at a time when hardly any women drew comics, Trina Robbins discusses her latest book, a memoir, “Last Girl Standing,” which deals with her life as an artist, author, and clothing designer. She was the first woman to edit a comic book created by women, “It Ain’t Me Babe,” the first woman to draw “Wonder Woman,” and the single most influential historian chronicling the women who created comics and cartoons.

In this interview, she also talks about her other recent books including a history of women drawing comics during World War II, a graphic novel version of a short story collection originally written by her father in Yiddish, and a graphic novel based on a work by British author Sax Rohmer. Trina Robbins was clothing designer for Los Angeles rock and roll bands in the 1960s and for the Warhol factory in New York. She also was a regular contributor to “Wimmens Comix,” a series of comic books created by women from the 1970s through 1990s.

An extended version of this interview can be found as a Radio Wolinsky podcast

(11) LE GUIN QUOTES. Conext and great quotes together in “Subjectifying the Universe: Ursula K. Le Guin on Science and Poetry as Complementary Modes of Comprehending and Tending to the Natural World” at Brain Pickings.

…Marine biologist Rachel Carson, who catalyzed the modern environmental movement and pioneered a new aesthetic of poetic writing about science, once asserted that “there is in us a deeply seated response to the natural universe, which is part of our humanity.” More than half a century after Carson, Le Guin considers how poetry and science both humble us to that elemental aspect of our humanity and train us to be better stewards of the natural world to which we belong:

To use the world well, to be able to stop wasting it and our time in it, we need to relearn our being in it.

Skill in living, awareness of belonging to the world, delight in being part of the world, always tends to involve knowing our kinship as animals with animals. Darwin first gave that knowledge a scientific basis. And now, both poets and scientists are extending the rational aspect of our sense of relationship to creatures without nervous systems and to non-living beings — our fellowship as creatures with other creatures, things with other things.

(12) PROSPECT. The Ars Technica profile makes me want to see this film: “Sci-fi stunner Prospect values small stories in a galaxy far, far away”.

Make no mistake, South by Southwest conference film darling Prospect takes place within a giant, intergalactic reality. Even lower- to middle-class adventurers like our heroes, Cee (Sophie Thatcher) and Damon (Jay Duplass), have a spacecraft and mostly functional equipment. And when this just-getting-by father and daughter duo takes an unexpected crash/detour that happens to land on a resource-rich planet littered with aurelacs (a valuable stone found inside some slimy pod that must be handled with care or “kaboom!”), Cee recognizes this as an opportunity.

“$10,000?” she retorts after dad ballparks the first gem recovered. “That’s enough to cover the loan… and the pod lease?”

Their ship has been built with Kubrick-like attention for analog detail, with cheap-ish CRT displays punctuated by handwritten notes. The planet they’re now on feels dream-like, a lush swampy Dagobah with a near-constant twinkle in the atmosphere. Nothing could happen from here and Prospect would still be worth watching for an hour-and-change of ambience and aesthetic alone. But as its initial 10 minutes show, this gorgeous-looking sci-fi flick has big subjects to match its style: intergalactic travel regulations, tiers of consumer goods, interplanetary trade standards.

…”We maybe were a bit naive in the conception of this, putting the entire film on the shoulders of a teenage girl,” Chris Caldwell, Prospect co-writer/director, tells Ars. “But she killed it, and in many cases she saved our ass.”

“In another movie, you might get 12 takes, but we’re in helmets that are hard to breathe in—you get four takes,” adds Zeek Earl, co-writer/director and cinematographer. “She nailed it.”

Movie’s Facebook page: Prospect.

Also, the teaser trailer:

(13) IN THE RUNNING FOR NUMBER ONE. Andrew Liptak guarantees “Space Opera is the funniest science fiction novel I’ve read since Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” at The Verge.

Many authors attempt comedy in science fiction, but few pull it off. Alongside very funny works like John Scalzi’s Redshirts and Terry Pratchett’s entire Discworld series, the pinnacle of hilarious science fiction is Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, about the misadventures of Arthur Dent as he travels across the universe. But Catherynne M. Valente’s new novel Space Opera might give it a run for its money, because it’s one of the funniest books that I’ve ever read.

Space Opera’s title is a pun. Valente said recently that the story came out of a dare on Twitter after a conversation about Eurovision, and the novel lovingly skewers long-standing science fiction tropes, driving home humor with every single sentence. In Space Opera, humanity is living blissfully unaware of alien life, until extraterrestrials appear and invite them into an advanced intergalactic civilization. But there’s a catch: humans have to prove their sentience in a talent show called the Megagalactic Grand Prix, instituted after a galaxy-wide conflict known as The Sentience Wars. If Earth comes in dead last, humanity will be wiped out, and the biosphere reseeded so the planet can try again later.

(14) THE MARCH TO ECBATAN. Rich Horton concludes yet another Hugo finalist is good-not-great: “Hugo Ballot Review: Provenance, by Ann Leckie”.

…This new novel is set in the same universe, at roughly the same time, but outside the Radch. It is engaging and fun but frankly seems just a little thin next to the Ancillary series. There’s no crime in that – I think it’s a good thing when an author reaches the point where her readers are glad to read each of her books, and are satisfied by them – but also admit that they are not each equally as good (or progressively better). Solid and enjoyable work is nothing to sneeze at. That said, if I’m saying that, it probably means I don’t consider Provenance one of the best five or six SF novels of the year – and that’s true. But it doesn’t disgrace the award by its nomination either – and, indeed, it fits with all the nominees I’ve read so far, in being enjoyable and entertaining but not exceptional…

(15) COVERING THE MARKETPLACE. Pulp specialty website Pulps1st sells disks with galleries of old pulp covers, and other merchandise featuring cover images.

…No other company produces anything like the Pulp Image Library with thousands of pulp cover images on one disk!  No other company produces the different Pulp Image Cover T-Shirts, Mugs, Mousepads, iPad covers, or Postal Stamps.

(16) THE COOLNESS. Wish you could do this? Thread starts here:

(17) WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. Jerry Beck introduces “Brad Bird’s Lost 1980 Pencil Test for ‘The Spirit’”.

Producer Steven Paul Leiva has posted a rare artifact to You Tube – a 1980 pencil test “trailer” for a proposed animated feature based on Will Eisner’s classic comic strip hero, The Spirit.

In 1980, Leiva became involved with Brad Bird and Gary Kurtz (producer of the first two Star Wars movies) in trying to get into production an animated feature based on The Spirit”. In a 2008 piece in the L.A. Times (read it here) Leiva spoke of a pencil test “trailer” for the proposed film, made by Bird along with several classmates from Cal Arts, most of whom were working at Disney at the time.

 

(18) HISTORY UNBOUND. Via The Verge, this news about Mercury 13:

Mercury 13

Netflix has a new documentary coming up looking at the 13 female pilots who went through spaceflight tests around the same time the first men were planning to go up to space. While the 13 pilots never made it to space, their stories speak to the difficult and overlooked work women contributed to the US space program. It comes out April 20th.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Danny Sichel, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Allen, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Mark Hepworth, and Michael Toman. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chip Hitchcock.]

Pixel Scroll 4/14/18 The Adventures Of Scrolli And Pixelwinkle

(1) ISSUES IN SFF REVIEWING. Several interesting threads about reviews and reviewing in sff. Each tweet is the jumping off point for the thread.

  • Bogi Takács

  • Charles Payseur

  • Cecily Kane

  • Also, Jason Sanford did an overview which includes numerous links to reviewers.

(2) WORLD FANTASY AWARDS. John Joseph Adams advises that the 2018 World Fantasy Awards nominations have opened and voting continues until May 31.

The World Fantasy Awards will be presented in Baltimore, MD during the World Fantasy Convention (Nov. 1-4). Deadline for nominating is and ballots must be received by May 31, 2018.

All registered members of the 2016 World Fantasy Convention, the 2017 World Fantasy Convention, and the 2018 event in Baltimore will be eligible to vote before the deadline. If you didn’t attend one of the previously mentioned World Fantasy conventions, and you don’t plan to attend this year, you can still nominate by purchasing a supporting membership.

Already registered? Go and nominate your favorite works! Voting information is available on the World Fantasy Convention 2018 website.

(3) CODE OF OMELAS. Ursula Vernon tells about the ones who stagger away…

(4) SUPER TRAFFIC MONITOR. The Caped Crusader says, “Don’t get run over!” Or something like that. From the BBC: “Lost footage of Batman star Adam West to be screened”. [Video]

Previously lost footage of Batman star Adam West teaching road safety will be screened for the first time in more than 50 years.

The clip from May 1967 of Batman teaching children the Kerb Drill will be shown to an audience of TV professionals and enthusiasts in Birmingham to kick-off a hunt for 100 missing television clips.

Kaleidoscope, which specialises in finding missing television footage, recently discovered the segment, which was never screened outside of the UK.

It will be shown at Birmingham City University on Saturday, as the company launches its list of the UK’s top 100 missing TV shows that industry professionals most want to see recovered.

This includes early episodes of Doctor Who featuring Mark Eden as Marco Polo, Top Of The Pops and The Avengers.

(5) UTAH WESTERCON NEWS. Westercon 72 (July 4-7th, 2019 in Layton, Utah) has added Special Guest Eric Flint. Westercon also will host the 2019 1632 Minicon.

Eric Flint’s writing career began with the science fiction novel Mother of Demons. His alternate history novel 1632 has led to a long-running series with over thirty novels and anthologies in print. He’s also written many other science fiction and fantasy novels. He resides in northwest Indiana with his wife Lucille.

Along with Mr. Flint, we are also pleased to announce the 2019 1632 Minicon will be held in conjunction with Westercon 72. The minicon is the annual event that allows the 1632 fans and authors to get together. (Of course, in the case of 1632, fans and authors overlap substantially.) Each year the minicon is held “inside” a science fiction convention in a different part of the country. Many cons have agreed to host the minicon over the years. (Wording courtesy of https://1632.org )

(6) DISNEY PIXAR. A fresh trailer for Incredibles 2.

(7) TIN FOIL HATS FOR CATS. Did you know these were a thing? From the Archie McPhee catalog:

It’s a tin foil hat for conspiracy cats! They want to know what your cat is thinking. They want to control your cat’s thoughts. Not on our watch! We’ve made a Tin Foil Hat for Cats to make sure that kitty’s thoughts stay private. This mylar hat fits most cats, has a comfy felt lining and is held in place with an elastic strap. It even has holes for cat ears! Take that, Illuminati! Restores the dignity of your kitty. Very effective against MKUltra satellites, cat food company dream-insertion marketing, Guy Fieri, Soviet cat control protocols, psychic dogs, skull tapping, focused magnetic pulse and the neighbor’s labradoodle. Great for pictures! Fits most cats.

(8) BELL OBIT. Art Bell (1945-2018), the original host of the paranormal-themed radio program Coast to Coast AM, died April 13. At its peak in popularity, Bells show was syndicated on more than 500 radio stations and claimed 15 million listeners nightly

(9) TOWFIK OBIT. Sindbad Sci-Fi eulogizes an influential Egyptian sf writer: “Remembering Ahmed Khaled Towfik (1962 – 2018)”.

Ahmed Khaled Towfik is no longer with us. After a period of prolonged illness, he died of a heart attack on 2 April 2018 in El-Demerdash hospital, Cairo, at the age of 55.

By day, Dr Ahmed Khaled Towfik practised as a medical professor at Egypt’s Tanta University. Over time, he was an obsessively prolific writer who became the Arab world’s most prominent bestselling contemporary author of Sci-Fi, fantasy and horror genres. He is claimed to have written over 500 titles of which one third is science fiction, including his Arabic translations of English Sci-Fi.

(10) TODAY’S SFF BIRTHDAYS

  • April 14, 1936 – Arlene Martel. She played Spock’s betrothed, co-starred with Robert Culp in the Outer Limits Demon with a Glass Hand written by Harlan Ellison plus a couple of Twilight Zone episodes.
  • Born April 14, 1958 – Peter Capaldi
  • Born April 14, 1977 — Sarah Michelle Gellar
  • Born April 14, 1982 – Rachel Swirsky

(11) SWIRSKY CELEBRATED. Steven H Silver shares his appreciation in “Birthday Reviews: Rachel Swirsky’s ‘The Monster’s Million Faces’” at Black Gate.

Rachel Swirsky was born on April 14, 1982. To this point, her writing career has been focused on short stories, although in 2010 she co-edited the anthology People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy with Sean Wallace. Her stories have been collected in two volumes, Through the Drowsy Dark and How the World Became Quiet: Myths of the Past, Present, and Future.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

Courtesy of mlex:

(13) GOOD TO THE LAST DROP. Charles Payseur tests a new batch of short fiction: “Quick Sips – Strange Horizons 04/02/2018 & 04/09/2018”.

The short SFF from the first two weeks of April’s Strange Horizons looks at faith and education, memory and time, fiction and hope. The stories feature characters either revisiting their pasts or desperate to do so. They also feature relationships between parents and children, though in opposite directions (one with a mother as main character, the other with a son). And they explore memory and trying to rewrite the past with something better than the crushing weight of the present. The poetry looks at religion and education, at expectation and death. It’s a rather complex collection of pieces, but it makes for some compelling reading. So let’s get to the reviews!

(14) ARE YOU KIDDING? The Deseret News reports “Former FBI director James Comey is a fan of Utah author Brandon Sanderson”.

In an interview with The New York Times Book Review “By the Book” section, Comey said he’s an avid reader of fiction, “almost always (reading) something my kids are reading, so I can … pretend to be cool.”

When asked what books readers would be surprised to find on his shelf, Comey answered with “The Fault in Our Stars,” by John Green; the Mistborn series, by Brandon Sanderson, and the Red Rising series, by Pierce Brown.

(15) SFF HISTORY. Tom De Haven remembers what it was like to write for Byron Preiss in a memoir at Café Pinfold.

…I met Byron Preiss in the 1970s, near the start of both our careers—as I recall, it was at an art show that he’d curated in a small Manhattan gallery (somewhere up near Bloomingdale’s, I believe) that consisted of super-realistic, high-key paintings of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys (yes, the Beach Boys; don’t ask me why, although probably it was the first or second or third step in a scheme to produce a “Byron Preiss Book” sometime in the future). He was the most confident man I’d ever met. Soft spoken, slow moving, but confident as hell. Always well dressed.  Good clothes but they could get rumpled looking. For as long as I knew and saw him, and it was quite a while, Byron always had a hundred ideas for new projects and the sublime confidence they’d all make millions.

So far as I understood it, he worked like this: he’d pitch a slew of different ideas to a variety of book editors in New York City, ideas that (again, so far as I understood it) he’d dreamed up himself, ideas inspired by current trends in publishing or pop culture (U.S.S.A., for example, followed in the wake of the original Red Dawn movie). Whenever Byron got the go-aheads for specific packaging projects, he’d call up writers to do the actual writing. (He was also likely to call up cartoonists and illustrators since most of his books came illustrated. Later, when he was one of the first people to pionneer digital publishing, he probably called up programmers.)

For me, and no doubt for many other “midlist” authors like me, it was often a lifesaver to get a telephone call from Byron Preiss; he took a big cut of any advance, naturally, and the advances were never better than just okay, but when you were in-between books and fresh out of ideas, or in-between advances for novels of your own, or had a major house repair that you couldn’t afford, or there was a new baby on the way, you were glad—at least I was glad—for an offer from Byron….

(16) WILL ROBINSON REBOOTY. NPR’s Glen Weldon goes back and forth in “Will Robinson, Meet Danger; Danger, Will Robinson: The ‘Lost In Space’ Reboot”, props for competent women, points off for repetition.

The original Lost in Space, which ran on network television from 1965 to 1968, began as a straightforward, if high-concept, adventure show: A colony spaceship carrying a nuclear family, a dashing pilot and a sniveling doctor got stranded on a remote planet. They had adventures while wearing v-neck sweaters over their turtlenecks, presumably because Irwin Allen, who produced the show, imagined that the future would be a chilly place. Or maybe he got a deal on velour, who knows.

Over the course of its run, the focus of the show shifted from the family to that weaselly doctor. Looking back, it’s easy to see why: The family was a bunch of white-bread squares in matchy-matchy outfits, but the doctor – played with a sublimely mincing menace by Jonathan Harris, was a revelation. The character of Doctor Smith was vain, overdramatic (“Oh, the pain, the pain!”), selfish, self-pitying, self-aggrandizing – a campy, eminently hissable villain out of a Christmas panto, down to the clipped British accent (which was something the Bronx-born Harris sniffily affected).

(17) LOST ATTENTION. In contrast, the Boston Globe reviewer describes the robot and the series as “sleek, shiny, and boring”: “‘Lost in Space,’ we have a problem” (may be passworded soon).

The casting is a problem, except in one case — Parker Posey as Dr. Smith. Molly Parker, a favorite of mine from “Deadwood” and “Swingtown,” is OK as the logic-and-science-loving Maureen — but she can be so much better than OK. The writers try to give her a personal storyline, since she and husband John, played sternly by Toby Stephens, are dealing with a troubled marriage. But it’s hard to care about the fate of their relationship because they’re so bland and heroic. The rest of the Robinsons are bland too, with Will (Maxwell Jenkins) a sweet but dramatically inert presence. I didn’t worry about their safety during all of their dangerous missions because I just didn’t care enough about them. TV’s original Robinson family wasn’t particularly exciting, either, but at least whimpering Jonathan Harris’s Dr. Smith brought enough camp and cowardice to keep things entertaining.

(18) SHARKE BITES. Shadow Clarke juror Maureen Kincaid Speller shares her picks: “A Shadow Clarke 2018 selection box – six exciting centres”. First, what you won’t find in her box:

This year, inevitably, my decision-making process is going to be more focused and more self-conscious, so I’ve laid out a few ground rules for myself. First, I have tried to avoid seeing what the other jurors are choosing, so this selection process has been conducted in isolation. Second, my Shadow Clarke to-read list isn’t going to feature anything I’ve already read, although there are some titles there I’d dearly like to discuss with the other jurors: Nick Harkaway’s Gnomon, for example, which is very much my kind of novel – formally inventive, a challenging read, a great story. But Gnomon is among a handful of titles already touted as shoo-ins for the official Clarke shortlist, and I have also decided to avoid putting any of those on my to-read list. I’m going to read them anyway and at this stage I’d rather experiment in my reading and see what’s going on in sf. This may seem very perverse but I would remind you that this exercise is categorically not about attempting to second-guess the official shortlist. As such I have leeway to explore.

With those decisions made, things become both easier and more complicated. Critics and reviewers are mortals like the rest of the world, and we all have our prejudices. For example, as I’ve noted before, I dislike zombie novels and while I could test that prejudice by reading a zombie novel – there seems to be a prime candidate on the list – I’ve come to the conclusion that I am secure enough in my understanding of my active dislikes to avoid wasting everyone’s time by confronting them, because the chances of anything positive emerging from the encounter are unlikely.

(19) CALL FOR PAPERS. Sublime Cognition is a very catchy name for a conference:

(20) SOLO CARDS. I don’t think I covered this with the rest of the Denny’s Star Wars-themed advertising: “Solo: A Star Wars Story exclusive trading cards, available only at Denny’s!”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Camestros Felapton, JJ, Mark Hepworth, Chip Hitchcock, Michael O’Donnell, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, mlex, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]