Pixel Scroll 7/3/18 Too Bad I Don’t Have A Scrollographic Memory

(1) THE PRICE OF LIBERTY. It isn’t cheap — Gizmodo has the story: “USPS Ordered to Pay $3.5 Million After Putting Artist’s Weird ‘Sexier’ Lady Liberty on Stamps”.

The USPS put a Getty Images photo of artist Robert S. Davidson’s Las Vegas version of the sculpture on roughly 3.5 billion stamps before the incongruity was noticed in 2011. In his original civil complaint, art market platform Artsy wrote last year, Davidson wrote the USPS never asked permission and that his version is materially different than the one from 1875 and thus protected under copyright—specifically that it is “more ‘fresh-faced,’ ‘sultry’ and even ‘sexier’ than the original located in New York.” (Davidson very weirdly added that he took the inspiration for this sex bomb Lady Liberty from, umm, “certain facial features of his close female relatives.”)

(2) BRAM STOKER HISTORY TOUR. The Horror Writers Association has revamped their Bram Stoker Awards site. HWA President Lisa Morton says:

For the first time ever, you can now find all the information you need on the awards gathered in one place, with each winner/nominee listed individually, cross-linked to year and category. The site also includes galleries of photos going all the way back to the beginning of the awards, trivia, rules, and more.

…We expect this site to be a continuing work in progress as we add more data and fun stuff.

As the “Fun Facts” article shows, Stephen King is the Babe Ruth of the Stoker Awards:

  • The top number of nominations by any one author: Stephen King, with 32 total nominations.
  • The top number of wins by any one author: Stephen King, with 12 total wins.
  • The top number of losses by any one author: Stephen King, with 20 total losses….

(3) LEAKAGE. ScienceFiction.com says the Time Lords are in hot pursuit of the leaker of the missing minute: “BBC Goes To Court To Find Who Leaked ‘Doctor Who’ Footage Of Jodie Whittaker”.

‘Doctor Who’ fans are breathless with anticipation, awaiting the first trailers or clips from the upcoming eleventh season.  Excitement is extra high this time around because for the first time in the show’s 54-year history, said Doctor will be a woman, Jodie Whittaker.  But fans want to abide by the BBC’s plans to unveil what they choose to at their discretion.  (Whittaker will be present for a panel at San Diego Comic-Con, so chances are high that there will be some new footage shown.)  But when a pirate released a minute-long clip featuring the first scenes of Whittaker’s thirteenth Doctor on American messaging app Tapatalk, which then found its way to Twitter, fans revolted, attacking the poster for spoiling the new season.  The BBC quickly had the post deleted but they aren’t stopping there.  They want to know who leaked the footage and they’re going after them!

The British Broadcasting Company “requested a clerk at the California federal court issue a subpoena to Tapatalk, a mobile community platform.”  The BBC is demanding that records be turned over which could help identify the responsible persons.  They have also enlisted the aid of law firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, which has made a name for itself over the past few years for going after pirates of major events like these.

(4) WORLDCON 76 PROGRAM. The committee is making a list and checking it twice —

(5) THE SHEEP LOOK OUT. Let a Filer be your guide. “I was asked to write a travel blog for the Dublin 2019 site,” he says. The result is: “Touring Tuesdays: Round Renvyle with Nigel Quinlan”.

This week Nigel Quinlan takes us into the wilds of Connemara…

Drive vaguely and meanderingly northwest out of Galway city, following signs for Connemara or Clifden or Sheep On The Road or Invasive Species Do Not Eat. Through Oughterard with its pleasant riverside park on the far side, Maam Cross with a rather musty replica of the cottage from John Ford’s The Quiet Man and the film itself on repeat in the bar at the hotel, turning right down the genuinely spectacular Inagh Valley where your attention will be divided between the splendid bleak majesties of the open boglands, the rocky glories of the mountains and watching out for the sodding sheep that are ON THE ROAD.

(6) HOW TO VOTE FOR AN SF AWARD. The SF & Fantasy Poetry Association’s SPECPO blog tries to make “Approaching the Elgin Voting” less daunting and more accessible. Between the Elgin’s two categories, members have 51 finalists to consider. SFPA President Bryan Thao Worra’s guidance could also be adapted for use by newbie Hugo voters.

History demonstrates that often, readers, reviewers and literati of any given age have varying degrees of success identifying works of enduring merit and literary impact. Who actually survives into the next decades, let alone the next centuries as “must read” authors is often very surprising, whether it’s in mainstream literature, pulp fiction and genre offerings.

That being said, here are some grounding principles:

  • You don’t have to read a book that’s not grabbing you all of the way through. With a full-length chapbook or book, we’re looking for works that are consistently outstanding, not one filled with one amazing gem to rival “The Raven” and 99 uninspiring verses filling out the rest of the set.
  • This isn’t the search for the greatest of all time, but within the set of this year. You don’t necessarily need to fret about how well a given book stands up against the great works of the last 5 to 100 years. You can leave that concern at the door. But are you reading a book where you can see yourself recommending it to another, and returning to it regularly yourself?
  • Try breaking your options into batches. Picking 3 out of 30 is difficult, but when one starts by sorting it into more manageable batches of approximately 5 to 6 books, it becomes easier to pick your 2 favorites of that batch, and then in the final set, identifying your three favorites.
  • Each member has their own tastes, preferred literary traditions and forms, and if you come across a text that isn’t meeting your tastes, that’s fine. Fans of a particular style are more likely to vote it up into the effective running than those who aren’t. So if you’re not a scifaiku fan, feel free to weigh in if you want, but you can also “sit it out” on that text if you don’t feel strongly about what you’re reading.

(7) LEARNING CURVE. “11 Essential Books On Writing, Based On The Genre You Want To Write” at The Bustle.

Now, before we dig into these books, please note that I’m talking about genre and not subgenre. No matter if you write steampunk, space westerns, or post-apocalyptic stories, you’re looking for the Science Fiction recommendation below. Similarly, whether you want to make your mark on sword and sorcery, paranormal, or grimdark, the book listed under Fantasy is for you. I know that all six of those subgenres are very clearly defined and different from one another, but I’m aiming for broad utility here.

For example, if you want to write Fantasy, read Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 3, 1985 Back to the Future was released.
  • July 3, 1996 Independence Day landed in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 3—Tom Cruise, 56. Genre films include Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, Minority Report, War of the Worlds, OblivionEdge of Tomorrow and, shudder, The Mummy.
  • Born July 3 – Olivia Munn, 38. A surprising number of roles in genre films including Insanitarium, Scarecrow Gone Wild, Iron Man 2X-Men: Apocalypse and the latest Predator reboot.

(10) RETRO LAW AND ORDER. David Doering rediscovered these forgotten charges against L. Ron Hubbard in Fantasy News Annual, v. 7, issue 1, whole no. 150, July 27, 1941.

HUBBARD MAKES MURDEROUS ATTACK ON SHEA!

PERPETRATOR OF WEIRD LITERARY CRIME SEEKS REFUGE IN U.S. ARMED FORCES!

Harold Shea, popular fantasy hero, created by L. Sprague de.Camp and Fletcher Pratt, was subjected in the August UNKNOWN to an assault with intent to kill by L. Ron (“Golden Egg”) Hubbard, author of the lead novel, “The Case Of the Friendly Corpse”.  The red-haired adventurer-author caused his competitor’s character to be seized and swallowed by a gigantic snake into which a magic wand carried by one of his minor characters turned.

Shea’s creators, however, with fiendish snickers, have announced that they are taking suitable steps to rehabilitate their hero, and obtain revenge for this bit of outrageous literary impertinence, They are working on a story which will tell what r?e?a?l?l?y? happened to Shea in the College of the Unholy Names, site of the crime. (This institution is headed by the President J. Klark, believed to be the astral body of Dr. John D. Clark, well-known Philadelphia fan.)

“Just wait”, sneered Pratt, “till you see what we do to Hubbard’s characters!” They explained that, as the explorer and bear-tamer is now Lieut. Hubbard, USN, he probably would not have time to reply in his turn.

“You see”, leered de Camp, “we’re altruists. That means we believe in doing unto others what they would like to do unto us, and doing it first!”

(11) ON LOCATION. Joe Flood, writing in the Washington Post, says he enjoyed watching the Wonder Woman shoot at the Hirshhorn Museum last weekend, but “what wasn’t so cool was Wonder Woman 1984 shutting down Pennsylvania Avenue all weekend long, blocking off bike lanes with no alternate accommodations.” — “There are no superheroes in D.C.”

And then, there were Gadot and Pine, wearing the same clothes as the stand-ins but anointed with the familiarity of stars. You know them, but you don’t. Their images are the only things truly accessible.

They duplicated what the stand-ins did. Walk, talk, react. Pine gawked at whatever was in the sky but with considerably more subtlety than the stand-in. That’s probably why he’s the movie star.

(12) BAGGED THEIR LIMIT. A handsome hunting credential poses with its SJW:

(13) RECIPE FOR HUMOR.

(14) MARVEL PANELS AT SDCC. If you’ll be at San Diego Comic-Con this month you’ll have a chance to see these Marvel Comics panels.

MARVEL: Making Comics the Marvel Way
Thursday 7/19/18, 12:00pm-1:00pm
Room 25ABC

Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski and Talent Scout Rickey Purdin join a multitude of Mighty Marvel Guests to take you behind-the-scenes and show you how a Marvel comic book is made! Learn about every aspect of production including writing, penciling, inking, coloring, lettering, editing, and more – with creators on hand to offer personal insights and anecdotes. If you’re interested in the ins-and-outs of the comic book industry, this is the one panel you can’t miss!

MARVEL COMICS: Spider-Man
Friday 7/20, 12:30-1:30pm
Room 5AB

Editor Nick Lowe with his Amazing Friends Nick Spencer (Amazing Spider-Man) and Donny Cates (Venom) swing into SDCC with all the hottest spider-news! Nick Spencer ushers in a new era for Spidey that takes the web-head back to basics, while all-new Venom writer Donny Cates lays out what’s in store for the symbiotic hero in both the past and present in his definitive take on the character. PLUS, learn the latest about your favorite spider-heroes from across time and space as they crawl closer and closer towards the Edge of Spider-Geddon!

MARVEL: Cup O’Joe – Marvel Knights 20th Anniversary
Friday 7/20, 1:30-2:30pm
Room 5AB

Join Joe and fellow comics legend Jimmy Palmiotti as they reflect on the industry-redefining MARVEL KNIGHTS imprint as it celebrates its 20th anniversary.  What was it like to pioneer this bold new storytelling style for Marvel’s heroes, and how has it impacted Marvel comics, movies, and television series over the last two decades?  Learn about all this and more at this must-attend retrospective – and bring your own burning questions!  NOT to be missed by any fan of the Mighty Marvel Manner!

MARVEL COMICS: Next Big Thing
Saturday 7/21, 1:45-2:45pm
Room 6A

Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski and star Executive Editor Nick Lowe are joined by Donny Cates (Cosmic Ghost Rider, Death of Inhumans) and Margaret Stohl (Life of Captain Marvel) to discuss the startling stories and initiatives that are truly the NEXT BIG THINGS in the Marvel Universe!  In Fantastic Four, the Richards family is heading back to Earth, but they still have one more cosmic obstacle to overcome. Meanwhile, the specter of death hangs around the Inhumans and the Ghost Rider of a dark future in Donny Cates’ Death of Inhumans and Cosmic Ghost Rider. And as the Infinity Wars ignite, are any characters truly safe? All this, plus learn more about the definitive origin of Captain Marvel as Margaret Stohl opens up about Life of Captain Marvel!  If you want to learn about the biggest Marvel stories of 2018, this is THE panel not to miss!

MARVEL COMICS: Meet the Editor-in-Chief!
Saturday 7/21, 3:00pm-4:00pm
Room 6A

This is your chance to meet the new head of editorial at Marvel! In this exclusive one-on-one interview led by Skottie Young (Deadpool), freshly-minted Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski will talk about anything and everything involved in what’s next for Marvel. Want to know where to search for the Infinity Stones? Dying to find out what’s next for Wolverine? What does Forbush Man really look like without his helmet? Ask C.B. these questions and more in the Q&A!  PLUS – don’t miss a surprise exclusive giveaway variant comic!

MARVEL: True Believers*
Sunday 7/22, 10:00am-11:00am
Indigo Ballroom, Hilton San Diego Bayfront

Join Executive Editor Nick Lowe along with creators Ryan North (Unbeatable Squirrel Girl), Robbie Thompson (Spider-Man/Deadpool), and Jeremy Whitley (Unstoppable Wasp) for a private panel discussion of what’s happening inside the Marvel Universe.  Get FREE merchandise, never-before-seen sneak peeks of upcoming comics, Q&A session and more!  Not to be missed! Open only to Marvel Unlimited Plus members and Marvel MasterCard cardholders.

*Panel line-up is subject to change. Free items available while supplies last.  Must have valid ID and one of the following for entry: Marvel MasterCard Member – Event Invite, Marvel MasterCard, or event RSVP confirmation; Marvel Unlimited Plus Members – membership card, or MU+ order confirmation email.

MARVEL COMICS: X-Men
Sunday 7/22, 11:15am-12:15pm
Room 5AB

Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski, Sina Grace (Iceman), Seanan Maguire (X-Men Gold Annual), Matthew Rosenberg (Astonishing X-Men), and Tom Taylor (X-Men Red) take you through the full spectrum of current X-Men madness! The Red, Blue, and Gold teams confront Atlanteans, uncertainty, and Extermination, and the secrets of a NEW X-team are revealed! Deadpool and X-23 both rediscover their roots, and the Astonishing team faces ever stranger challenges! PLUS- Stay for the whole panel for an exclusive giveaway variant comic!

Don’t miss your chance to hear all the news and excitement from Marvel Comics at San Diego Comic Con!

(15) REMAKE. Cnet frames the art: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi remake poster mocks angry fans”.

An artist is poking fun at Star Wars fans clamoring for a remake of The Last Jedi.

Fernando Reza — an LA-based graphic artist — on Monday tweeted an image of his poster for the project, which centers on a muscled Luke Skywalker wielding a lightsaber and massive handgun.

 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, David Doering, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH, taken from an email he wrote to Steve Davidson after being told he repeated a Scroll title Steve submitted in 2016.]

Pixel Scroll 7/2/18 Bring Me The Pixel Of Scroll Charming!

(1) KLAATU BARADA UFO. The Independent celebrates World UFO Day with a roll-call of alien encounter films: “World UFO Day 2018: Top 10 alien encounter B-movies from the golden age of schlock sci-fi”.

World UFO Day is being observed around the galaxy on Monday.

The occasion is held on 2 July in memory of the US Army Air Forces weather balloon crash in Roswell, New Mexico, that many believe was really a flying saucer landing covered up by the Pentagon.

It is marked by sky-watching parties as keen ufologists survey the heavens in search of fresh evidence of alien life.

Others prefer to mark the day on 24 June, the date on which American aviator Kenneth Arnold reported spotting a fleet of nine spaceships over Mount Rainier, Washington, in 1947….

(2) HOT READS. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak says these are “12 fantastic science fiction and fantasy novels that you should check out this July”.

July 10th

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Naomi Novik earned a Nebula Award for her fairy tale-inspired novel Uprooted. She’s back with an new book that similarly delves into folklore, Spinning Silver. In this book, a girl named Miryem is the daughter of moneylenders, but her family has fallen onto hard times. She takes their predicament into her own hands, turning silver into gold. Her abilities attract the attention of the Fey king of the Staryk, who gives her an impossible challenge, and accidentally spins a web that draws in the daughter of a local lord, angering the Tsar who had pledged to wed her.

Read an excerpt here.

Game of the Gods by Jay Schiffman

Set in the future, Jay Schiffman’s debut novel Game of the Gods follows a Federacy military commander named Max Cone, who just wants to be left alone. When war breaks out, he becomes an unwitting pawn in a global game to try to get him into the fight once again. He’s given a device that allows him to predict the future, and when his wife and children are kidnapped, he’s drawn in to rescue them, aided by a band of unlikely allies — a 13-year old girl with special abilities, a mathematician, a religious zealot, and a drug addict who was once a revolutionary

(3) SUPERHERO, SUPER REVIEWER. Luke Cage is back, and so is Abigail Nussbaum: “Five Comments on Luke Cage, Season 2”.

I don’t have that much to say about the second season of Luke Cage.  Which is actually a shame, because despite some problems, I’d say that it’s the strongest and most consistently entertaining season of television the Netflix MCU has produced since the first season of Jessica Jones.  It’s just that the things I’d have to say about it are basically a combination of my review of the first season, and my review of the second season of Jessica Jones.  The stuff that worked in season one is back here, but better–the strong visuals, the amazing music, the thrilling fight scenes, the palpable sense of place.  And like Jessica Jones, coming back for a second season seems to have freed Luke Cage from the burden of having to justify its own existence as a superhero show about X (a woman, a black man), and allowed it to simply tell a story in which most of the characters are people of color (and some of them have superpowers).  At the same time, a lot of the problems that plagued the first season, and suggested that the Luke Cage concept might not be as durable as we could hope, are back in force here, with little indication that the show is interested in addressing them.  Here are a few thoughts I had at the end of the season, though the bottom line is that it is definitely worth watching….

(4) TAFF RINGS THE REGISTER. Jim Mowatt has enriched the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund by completing his trip report Wherever I Lay My Hat!

I have recently sent copies of my 2013 TAFF report to SCIFI and FANAC and both happily paid 500 dollars each into the TAFF coffers, so helping us to keep sending more delegates across the ocean to strengthen the science fictional bonds that enhance our community. Many thanks to both these fine organisations for their encouragement and support for the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund

Find out how to get a copy here.

(5) HE’S NOT BUGGED. NPR’s Glen Weldon says you won’t demand your 2 hours back: “Flyweight: Wee, The People: ‘Ant-Man And The Wasp'”.

It’s fine.

Ant-Man and the Wasp, the sequel to 2015’s feather-light and perfectly forgettable Ant-Man, is just fine.

It does what it sets out to do, which, by all readily legible indicators, is to be … fine. Agreeable. Inoffensive. A good way to pass a couple of hours in air-conditioned darkness. Jokes. Car chases. Fight scenes. Michelle Pfeiffer, briefly, in a hoodie and a chalk-white wig and, for some reason, fingerless gloves. A gruff Michael Douglas, less briefly, as the resident goateed genius of this particular corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Tony Stark and Doctor Strange having their attentions turned elsewhere).

Also: Evangeline Lilly as badass superhero The Wasp, kickin’ thoraxes and takin’ names and even crackin’ the occasional joke, thank God. The always-winning Michael Peña as voluble sidekick Luis, whose presence in any given scene amps up its charm factor. Phrases like “We have to adjust the refractors on the regulator!” (LOTS of those.)…

(6) ADAMS OBIT.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The original time machine from the 1960 movie was sold at the MGM studio auction in 1971, the same auction that originally sold the Ruby Slippers (The Wizard of Oz (1939)). The winner of the auction was the owner of a traveling show. Five years later the prop was found in a thrift store in Orange, CA. Film historian Bob Burns purchased it for $1,000. Using blueprints his friend George Pal had given him years earlier, he and a crew of friends restored it. The restoration crew included D.C. Fontana script consultant and writer on Star Trek (1966) and Michael Minor art director on Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 2 – Margot Robbie, 28. The Legend of Tarzan was her first genre film (maybe) followed by Suicide SquadGoodbye Christopher Robin, an animated Peter Rabbit, more DCU announced films than bear thinking about and intriguingly she’s announced to be Marian in Marian, a telling of her life after the death of Robin.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian was surprised to see who is the pitchman for retirement plans in the Star Trek universe: Brevity.
  • Chip Hitchcock calls this one Arctic Circle meets Connie Willis.

(10) SUPERHERO CHOW. The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore boasts a ”DC Comics Superhero Café”. Here’s the real menu [PDF file.]

Dine in, take-away, save the day – at this immersive café-retail experience, home to the DC Comics universe.

Find apparel, accessories and gifts to unleash the DC super hero within you. Chill out at the Superman-inspired café; sip the Batman’s Late Night Summer Latte or get buzzed from The Flash’s Espresso. Grab a Green Lantern pizza to go.

At our Justice League tribute diner – eat-in for a serious scoffing of Batman’s epic Dark Knight charcoal-brioche-bun burger or battle out with The Flash Mushroom Linguine. Feeling villainous? Get your “just desserts” from the Joker.

(11) SEQUEL SUCCESS. Camestros Felapton finds time to “Review: The Incredibles 2”.

…At the time Pixar eschewed sequels (with the exception of Toy Story) and despite the implications of the end of the film, a second Incredibles movie seemed unlikely. Time moves on and Disney-Pixar is keen to capitalise on the IP it owns. Could a sequel possibly manage that same balance of action and character?

Absolutely….

(12) YOU HAVE TO WONDER. Given the 80’s setting of the upcoming Wonder Woman film, digital artist Bosslogic has populated his Instagram feed with reimaginings of the alter egos fo other superheroes as they might have looked if they were in 1984 continuity. Take a look for the   “WW84” posts scattered among the entries at Bosslogic. Here, for instance, is Henry Cavill as Clark Kent — if he were plopped down in 1984…

Credit to SYFY Wire for tipping us to this art with their story “B-Boy Batman Meets Superman’s Sweet Mullet in Awesome ’80S Fan Art for Wonder Woman 2”.

(13) INFREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS. This job is not that f**king easy!

(14) FUTURE STUNTS. TechCrunch goes behind the scenes:  “Disney Imagineering has created autonomous robot stunt doubles”.

Disney it taking their robotics to new heights… at least for a few seconds. Born out of an experiment called Stickman, the new development “Stuntronics” can fling articulated robot figures into the air. The bots control their orientation and poses to nail the same tricks — such as a superhero pose — time after time after time. According to project personnel Tony Dohi (Principal R&D Imagineer) and Morgan Pope (Associate Research Scientist):

“So what this is about is the realization we came to after seeing where our characters are going on screen,” says Dohi, “whether they be Star Wars characters, or Pixar characters, or Marvel characters or our own animation characters, is that they’re doing all these things that are really, really active. And so that becomes the expectation our park guests have that our characters are doing all these things on screen — but when it comes to our attractions, what are our animatronic figures doing? We realized we have kind of a disconnect here.”

…“So often our robots are in the uncanny valley where you got a lot of function, but it still doesn’t look quite right. And I think here the opposite is true,” says Pope. “When you’re flying through the air, you can have a little bit of function and you can produce a lot of stuff that looks pretty good, because of this really neat physics opportunity — you’ve got these beautiful kinds of parabolas and sine waves that just kind of fall out of rotating and spinning through the air in ways that are hard for people to predict, but that look fantastic.”

…“One of our goals of Stuntronics is to see if we can leap across the uncanny valley.”

 

(15) EVIL DEAD AUCTION. Bloody Disgusting points the way: “The “Ash vs. Evil Dead” Prop and Costume Auction is the Coolest, Most Gruesome Auction We’ve Ever Seen”.

…A final attempt to make some money off the show, the official “Ash vs. Evil Dead” Series Finale Auction just launched this week, and it’s continuing through August 17. Don’t worry about showing up anywhere in person to get in on the bidding, as it’s taking place entirely online.

Modern technology, am I right?!

The auction features over 1,000 screen-used costumes, props, prosthetics and set decorations from all three seasons, all of them direct from the studio and coming with Certificates of Authenticity. If you saw it on the show, it’s probably up for grabs, with the auction including Ash’s chainsaw, the Season 3 demon baby, Ash’s wardrobe and TONS of gory practical effects.

Check out some highlights below and head over to VIP Fan Auctions to see more!

(16) FIRMIN RESUME. When SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie learned that Peter Firmin died, he rounded up some links to help me appreciate the loss: “His co-creations (with Oliver Postgate) of The ClangersNoggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine wowed generations of Brits.  Arguably worth checking out and if fans have young kids then sharing.”

  • The Clangers were an alien race who live on the Moon.

The Clangers are peacefully building a house. We hear a whistling sound and down comes something. The Clangers run for cover. The thing is a terrestrial space-probe vehicle with large initials on it.

  • Noggin the Nog was a fantasy series set in Viking times with dragons etc. (eat your heart out Martin).

  • Ivor the Engine was an almost living steam locomotive.

“Wonderful stuff,” Jonathan concludes.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/29/18 My Pixel’s Back, It’s Going To Save My Reputation, If I Were You, I’d Take An Internet Vacation

(1) ‘TIS THE SEASON. It’s time now for yard signs to sprout on neighborhood lawns as Brianna Wu’s campaign stands up for the September 4 primary.

(2) SMALL PLEASURES. N.K. Jemisin is right about that —

(3) MATTHEW KRESSEL. Scott Edelman entreats you to share BBQ brosket with Matthew Kressel in episode 70 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

This episode’s guest is Matthew Kressel, whose short story “The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard)” was one of the finalists this year. He was a previous finalist twice before in the same category for “The Sounds of Old Earth” in 2014 and “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” in 2015. His short stories have appeared in Lightspeed, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Analog, Interzone, and many others, as well as in anthologies such as Mad Hatters and March Hares, Cyber World, The People of the Book, and more. His novel, King of Shards, was praised by NPR as being “majestic, resonant, reality-twisting madness.”

He was also nominated for a World Fantasy Award for his work editing the speculative fiction magazine Sybil’s Garage, and is the co-host—along with former Eating the Fantastic guest Ellen Datlow—of the Fantastic Fiction reading series held at the KGB Bar.

Our dinner Friday night that weekend was at Pork & Beans, which has been voted best BBQ in Pittsburgh.

We discussed the story of his accepted by an editor within an hour and then praised by Joyce Carol Oates, the ways in which famed editor Alice Turner was the catalyst which helped turn him into a writer, why after publishing only short stories for 10 years he eventually published a novel, how comments from his Altered Fluid writing workshop helped make his Nebula-nominated “The Sounds of Old Earth” a better story, why a writing self-help book made him swear off those kinds of self-help books, the secrets to having a happy, heathy writing career, why he’s grown to be OK with reading bad reviews, what he learned from reading slush at Sybil’s Garage, and much more

(4) FINNEGAN BEGIN AGAIN. Fatherly tells how “You Can Now Get Drunk Like Captain Kirk From ‘Star Trek’”.

This week, Silver Screen Bottling Co. announced an “official” James T. Kirk Straight Bourbon Whiskey. You can’t order this in a bar, yet, but you can pre-order a bottle right here, where they’re also selling signature glasses, and showing the whiskey next to cigars, even though Kirk never really smoked. (Except for that one time he was in a space prison in Star Trek VI.)

If you don’t want to order Star Trek whiskey online, the James T. Kirk Straight Bourbon Whiskey will also be on sale at San Diego Comic-Con, starting on July 19. At that point, Silver Screen Bottling Co. will announce other Star Trek-themed spirits.

(5) GORTON OBIT. Bob Gorton, former chairman of Pulpcon, passed away on May 31. Mike Chomko wrote a brief tribute.

A retired mathematics professor at the University of Dayton, Bob was known for his dry sense of humor. He served as an important bridge between the lengthy term of Rusty Hevelin as Pulpcon chairman and the founding of PulpFest in 2009. A quiet man, Bob was the winner of the Lamont Award in 2002, presented at Pulpcon 31 in Dayton, Ohio. He will be missed.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 29, 1979 Moonraker premiered on this day theatrically

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 29 – Sharon Lawrence, 57. Amelia Earhart in Star Trek: Voyager, Maxima in the animated Superman series, and Vivian Cates in Wolf Lake, a short lived werewolves among us series.
  • Born June 29, 1920 – Ray Harryhausen.

Ray and Diana Harryhausen with Steve Vertlieb in 1990.

Steve Vertlieb invites you to hop over to The Thunder Child and read his “Ray Harryhausen Tribute”.

Ray Harryhausen remains one of the most revered figures in fantasy/sci-fi motion picture history. Born June 29th, 1920, Ray was not only a childhood hero, but became a dear and cherished friend of nearly fifty years duration. His work in films inspired and influenced generations of film makers, and garnered him a special Academy Award, presented by Tom Hanks, for a lifetime of cinematic achievement. Steven Spielberg joyously proclaimed that his own inspiration for directing “Jurassic Park” was the pioneering special effects work of Harryhausen. Published after his death several years ago, here is a celebration and loving remembrance of the life and work of cinematic master, and special effects genius, Ray Harryhausen. It is also the tender story of a very special man, as well as an often remarkable personal friendship. I love you, Ray. You filled my dreams, my life, and my world with your wondrous creatures.

Ray would have turned 98 years young had he lived. In remembrance of this wonderful soul, here is my affectionate tribute to my friend of nearly fifty years, and boyhood hero of interminable recollection and duration…the incomparable Stop Motion genius, and Oscar honored special effects pioneer, Ray Harryhausen. Journey with me now to a “Land Beyond Beyond” where dreams were born, Cyclopian creatures thundered across a primeval landscape, mythological dragons roared in awe struck wonder, and magical stallions ascended above the clouds…Once Upon A Time.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) FARCE FIELD. Steven Levy in WIRED profiles Palmer Luckey, founder of Anduril Technologies, which aims to install a virtual surveillance system on the U.S.-Mexico border. “Inside Palmer Luckey’s Bid to Build a Border Wall”.

…Palmer Luckey—yes, that Palmer Luckey, the 25-year-old entrepreneur who founded the virtual reality company Oculus, sold it to Facebook, and then left Facebook in a haze of political controversy—hands me a Samsung Gear VR headset. Slipping it over my eyes, I am instantly immersed in a digital world that simulates the exact view I had just been enjoying in real life. In the virtual valley below is a glowing green square with text that reads PERSON 98%. Luckey directs me to tilt my head downward, toward the box, and suddenly an image pops up over the VR rendering. A human is making his way through the rugged sagebrush, a scene captured by cameras on a tower behind me. To his right I see another green box, this one labeled ANIMAL 86%. Zooming in on it brings up a photo of a calf, grazing a bit outside its usual range.

The system I’m trying out is Luckey’s solution to how the US should detect unauthorized border crossings. It merges VR with surveillance tools to create a digital wall that is not a barrier so much as a web of all-seeing eyes, with intelligence to know what it sees. Luckey’s company, Anduril Industries, is pitching its technology to the Department of Homeland Security as a complement to—or substitute for—much of President Trump’s promised physical wall along the border with Mexico.

Anduril is barely a year old, and the trespassing I’d witnessed was part of an informal test on a rancher’s private land. The company has installed three portable, 32-foot towers packed with radar, communications antennae, and a laser-­enhanced camera—the first implementation of a system Anduril is calling Lattice. It can detect and identify motion within about a 2-mile radius. The person I saw in my headset was an Anduril technician dispatched to the valley via ATV to demonstrate how the system works; he was about a mile away….

…Middle-earth buffs will recognize Anduril as the enchanted blade that was Aragorn’s go-to lethal weapon…”All of us are Lord of the Rings fans, so it was a pretty fun name,’ Luckey says. ‘Also, I have Anduril the sword hanging on my wall.  (Luckey procured a collector’s version, not the original movie prop.)…

Another fannish connection:  Anduril Industries has hired former MythBusters co-host Jamie Hyneman to develop an “autonomous firefighting machine’ called Sentry designed to put out California wildfires.  Hyneman, Levy reports, ‘built one of the fiercest battlebots in Robot Wars history.”

(10) THE STARS HIS DESTINATION. His facial expression is disturbingly like that of  Autopilot in the movie Airplane! — “Floating robot Cimon sent to International Space Station”.

An experimental robot with an animated cartoon face has been sent to the International Space Station (ISS) on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Dubbed Cimon (Crew Interactive Mobile Companion), the device is intended as an “an AI-based assistant for astronauts”.

Cimon weighs 5kg but in zero gravity it will float move around thanks to 14 internal fans.

It is an attempt to find out whether robots and astronauts can collaborate.

To this end, Cimon is equipped with microphones and cameras that help it recognise Alexander Gerst, the German astronaut with whom it will work.

(11) SAFETY FIRST. Adweek tells why “This Lovable Aardman Animation Is a Cautionary Tale and a ‘Dam’ Good Lesson”.

Dammy, a Canadian beaver, learns vital safety lessons in this tuneful Aardman-animated video from Ontario Power Generation.

Our anthropomorphized hero—his big, flat tail jutting out from the seat of his pants—loves to fish from a rowboat, and dreams of landing “the big one.” Alas, his quest takes him perilously near a massive hydroelectric dam.

“Don’t ignore that warning sign, your life could be on the line,” croons Canadian folk and bluegrass singer Ken Whiteley on the campfire-song soundtrack he helped compose.

Hey, listen to the lyrics and steer clear of those turbines because the fur could really fly! Of course, Dammy dodges the whammy by the skin of his teeth.

 

(12) OUR FOREFATHERS, AND FOREMOTHERS. “Partaaaaay like it’s the 60’s. The 1860s, that is,” says Mike Kennedy. “This is cosplay like you’ve never seen before.”

An episode of the Vice video series, American Conventions, takes you inside the annual meeting of the Association of Lincoln Presenters in Freeport IL—which features more than a score of Abraham Lincolns, over a dozen Mary Todd Lincolns, and multiple other period costumers. Each of them seems dedicated to not just dressing the part, but being the part. The 12 minute video is interrupted by two short commercial breaks, but may should be worth your time. And, the ghods know we could use more people in this world with the ethics of Honest Abe (or at least those of his best nature; all people are flawed in some way). The video host—Darlene Demorizi—even gets into the spirit as she dresses as Lincoln and makes a heartfelt toast to the gathered crowd.

(13) ORGANIC INVENTORY OF ENCELADUS. Behind the paywall at Nature: “Macromolecular organic compounds from the depths of Enceladus”.

Saturn’s moon Enceladus harbours a global water ocean1, which lies under an ice crust and above a rocky core2. Through warm cracks in the crust3 a cryo-volcanic plume ejects ice grains and vapour into space4,5,6,7 that contain materials originating from the ocean8,9. Hydrothermal activity is suspected to occur deep inside the porous core10,11,12, powered by tidal dissipation13. So far, only simple organic compounds with molecular masses mostly below 50 atomic mass units have been observed in plume material6,14,15. Here we report observations of emitted ice grains containing concentrated and complex macromolecular organic material with molecular masses above 200 atomic mass units. The data constrain the macromolecular structure of organics detected in the ice grains and suggest the presence of a thin organic-rich film on top of the oceanic water table, where organic nucleation cores generated by the bursting of bubbles allow the probing of Enceladus’ organic inventory in enhanced concentrations.

The popular science version of this story is free on BBC: “Saturn moon a step closer to hosting life”.

Scientists have found complex carbon-based molecules in the waters of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

Compounds like this have only previously been found on Earth, and in some meteorites.

They are thought to have formed in reactions between water and warm rock at the base of the moon’s subsurface ocean.

Though not a sign of life, their presence suggests Enceladus could play host to living organisms.

The discovery came from data gathered by the Cassini spacecraft….

(14) A WORLDWIDE REACH. Jeff VanderMeer shares his appreciation for “The International Covers of The Southern Reach Trilogy”. See the images at the link.

Ever since FSG Originals came out with the now-classic Southern Reach covers, there has been what seems like an ongoing competition to create amazing original art and design for other editions, from the somber grace of the original UK hardcovers to, well, the neon color of the UK paperbacks, which riffed off of FSG’s gutsy X hardcover design. An incredible amount of creativity has gone into these other editions. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but the Turkish, South Korean, and Spanish covers (Pablo Delcan!) are right up there. Not to mention the lovely Hungarian cut-out covers and a Ukrainian Brutalist Rubic’s Cube with a tiny cute bunny clinging to one of its levels.

(15) YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW. Yahoo! Entertainment listens in while “Mark Hamill and Chris Evans Discuss Whether a Lightsaber Could Break Captain America’s Shield”.

Mark Hamill and Chris Evans have answered a question that kids everywhere want to know: if Luke Skywalker and Captain America got into a fight, could Luke’s lightsaber break through Cap’s vibranium shield?

(16) INFINITY WAR IMPROVED. Carl Slaughter declares this is “Probably the best How It Should Have Ended episode yet.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Jonathan Cowie, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Allan Maurer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Harlan Ellison Tribute Roundup

Acclaimed speculative fiction writer Harlan Ellison died today at the age of 84. Here is a selection of tributes and reactions posted in social media immediately following the announcement.

Stephen King

Samuel Delany on Facebook

Here’s the guy who started the notable part of my career. At the Tricon, he ran up to me and demand a story: I wrote it at the upcoming Milford–Aye and Gomorrah, which won the following year’s Nebula Award.

Patton Oswalt

Arthur Cover on Facebook

As most of the planet knows, Harlan Ellison passed away in his sleep last night. I am seriously bummed. Little did I know when I bought the first volume of the paperback edition on Dangerous Visions when I was a sophomore at Tech did those two words would have such a profound impact on my life. Harlan was responsible for my first sale, to the mythical Last Dangerous Visions, at a Clarion Workshop.

He became a big brother figure to me, and I stayed at Ellison Wonderland on and off during the many times when I was *ahem* between places in LA. I knew his dog Abu, who used to sneak out of the house to get some Hungarian Goulash from a couple down the street. I knew his maid Yosondua, a wonderful person. And I missed meeting his mother by a couple of weeks. There’s so much to remember about him that I can barely stand it.

I met a whole bunch of interesting people thanks to him. Forget the famous ones like Erica Jong; thanks to him, I met Pam Zoline, author of “The Heat Death of the Universe.” We saw Borges together. Thanks to him, I discovered Mahler and Bruckner. I turned him on to Kalinnikov. We both read comics and he liked to impersonate the Hulk with the voice of Ronald Coleman. (Try it.) He tried to set me up with young women; usually I ignored them, thus driving him stinking bonkers. And that was just the 70s.

Then there’s that Dangerous Visions thing – a whole bunch of autograph parties just for starters. (And let’s not forget the time he streaked A Change of Hobbit.) He was immensely supportive throughout the entire frustrating, rewarding enterprise. True, he had his faults; usually I ignored them too. But the exception of my family and friends from Tazewell, I wouldn’t know any of you today were it not for his generosity and friendship. He was a helluva guy, and I have been proud to be his friend forever.

Barbara Hambly on Facebook

Just got word that my friend Harlan Ellison passed away last night. An amazing man to know. I knew he was very ill – he’d never really recovered from a stroke a couple of years ago. So I feel no surprise. Just very, very sad.

Michael Cassutt on Facebook

A talented writer for sure, a self-made writer for absolutely sure…. I so remember “Repent, Harlequin” and “On the Downhill Side” and THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER… and his columns that became THE GLASS TEAT, which sent me here to LA…. and more, the friendship that developed in the past decade or so, where I would pop up to Ellison Wonderland and have coffee with HE in his kitchen…. telling tales of George O. Smith and who else. I am actually bawling right now…..Harlan was my big brother and while his passing now, given his stroke three years back, is not a surprise…. it’ s still a shock.

Jaym Gates on Facebook

Harlan Ellison has died. My sympathies to those who will miss him. His voice was powerful, sometimes for good.

As a woman, I am not sad that there will be one less person who thinks it is funny to grope a woman on stage, and who was often used as a smoke screen for bad behavior by creative men.

Wil Wheaton on Twitter

Rest in Peace, Harlan. You always treated me like I was a person whose voice mattered, and I will cherish that memory for the rest of my life.

David Gerrold on Facebook

Harlan didn’t drink. I rarely drink.

Today I will drink.

Today I will toast a man who was a role model, a mentor, a critic, a friend — and ultimately my big brother.

He knew how much I loved him. I told him more than once.

The one thing he said about me that I cherish the most was shortly after I adopted Sean. He said, introducing me to someone else, “David Gerrold is the most courageous man I know.” Actually, it was Sean who needed the courage, but I understood what he was saying. He was acknowledging that I had finally grown up.

Harlan had a great public persona — but it was the private soul I loved the most. And goddammit, I’m going to miss that man.

Charles de Lint on Facebook

I’m very sad to have to write this but Harlan Ellison has passed away. He was a voice of reason, if somewhat contrary, and one of the best short story writers this field, or really any field, has known. He wore his “angry young man” persona lost after he was a young man but behind that bluster was a kind and generous man who would do anything for a friend. He will be greatly missed.

Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing

Ellison’s voice was infectious and has a tendency to creep into his fans’ writing. When I was 19, I attended a writing workshop at a local convention taught by Ann Crispin, who told me that I would be pretty good writer once I stopped trying to write like Harlan Ellison (I went on to sell that very Ellisonian story to Pulphouse).

Harlan was one of my Clarion instructors in 1992. He taught us remotely, by speakerphone, from his hospital bed in LA where he was recovering from angioplasty. I had attended that year because I couldn’t miss the opportunity to learn from Harlan Ellison, whom I held in highest regard (“hero worship” is not too strong a phrase to use here).

Ellison was not a good teacher (that year, at least). In fact, I think it’s safe to say that his instructional methods, which involved a combination of performative bullying and favorite-playing, were viewed as a disaster by all of my classmates, at least in hindsight.

Confronting the very real foibles of the object of my hero-worship was the beginning of a very important, long-running lesson whose curriculum I’m still working through: the ability to separate artists from art and the ability to understand the sins of people who’ve done wonderful things.

John Scalzi in the Los Angeles Times

…My second Harlan Ellison story was from 2011, the last time he was a finalist for the Nebula Award, given out by SFWA. Traditionally, SFWA contacts the Nebula finalists by phone to see if they’ll accept being on the ballot, and knowing of Harlan’s sometimes irascible phone manners, I was the one to call.

Harlan was not irascible. He wept into the phone. He had been ill, he said, and he wondered if what he was writing now still resonated and still mattered to people. To have his professional peers nominate him for one of the field’s most significant awards, he said, meant everything to him.

In that moment he wasn’t a giant of the field, a figure equally loved and loathed, a man about whom everyone had a story, or an opinion, about. He was simply a writer, happy to be in the company of, and remembered by, other writers.

Jeff VanderMeer on Facebook

He was a monumental personality who was influential in his day and to some extent today. He dove into the style and issues of his times with vigor, which sometimes makes his work feel dated but also resulted in classics that feel timeless. As an anthologist, he pushed boundaries in ways that, like his fiction, risked looking silly or actively terrible to modern audiences, but because of that also published a ton of innovative material and furthered the careers of writers who were quite experimental.

In erratic and sporadic fashion Ellison tended to be immensely helpful to some beginning writers and actively not helpful to others for no particular reason. Sometimes, I think, because he was too caught up in his mythology. Sometimes because he had a chip on his shoulder and was mercurial. I have mixed feelings about him for that reason, not to mention others, but there’s no denying he was a protean creative talent. I did learn to take risks in my writing from him, while also learning who I did not want to be as a teacher.

Richard Pini on Facebook

There are no words. He used them all anyway, and far better than most.

Robert Crais on Facebook

We lost Harlan Ellison today. The dedication to THE FIRST RULE reads as follows: “For my friend, Harlan Ellison, whose work, more than any other, brought me to this place.”. He cannot be replaced. He was a giant. He mattered.

David Brin on Facebook

Harlan was wickedly witty, profanely-provocative, yet generous to a fault. His penchant for skewering all authority would have got him strangled in any other human civilization, yet in this one he lived – honored – to 84… decades longer than he swore he would, much to our benefit with startling, rambunctious stories that will echo for ages.

John Hertz

I can’t remember who first remarked that “H.E.” stood equally for Harlan Ellison and High Explosive.

It also stands for His Excellency. Our H.E. being a whole-souled egalitarian would never have stood for that. But if one can break from the bonds of aristocratic associations – which in principle he was always for – it’s true.

I’m glad, not I hope without humility, that what pushed down the Montaigne piece was your notice of Brother Ellison’s death. Although Montaigne and the nature of zeal were two topics I never discussed with him, he might – and he did this sometimes – have approved.

David Doering

I feel a strong sense of loss with his passing. While he and I shared few opinions in common, I always appreciated his ability to stir up discussion.

To be clear, I did not have much personal interaction with Harlan over the years. The first tho was at a Worldcon in the 80s when he asked a large audience who had read a particular book he appreciated. Turned out that only he and I had done so. We chatted for a minute sharing comments, and, as a first encounter, I found him pleasant despite his reputation.

The other time was when Ray Bradbury suggested I call “his friend Harlan” about serving as a guest to LTUE. I can just imagine what must have gone through Harlan’s mind when he got a call from Utah, and from very Mormon BYU at that, asking about being a guest. (Had it happened, it would certainly have stirred things up here!) He was polite, straightforward, and nothing like his public “persona”. I came away appreciating him much more.

The last time was at a LASFS meeting at the old “Hooverville” building. He looked tired, but came to be with fen and seemed to have a good time. I’ll keep that image in my mind as I remember him.

Deadline.com“Harlan Ellison Dead: Legendary ‘Star Trek’, ‘A Boy And His Dog’ Sci-Fi Writer was 84”

Along with the Star Trek episode, Ellison’s 1964 Outer Limits installment “Demon with a Glass Hand” is widely considered among the best of its series. The bizarre, uncanny episode starred Robert Culp as a man who wakes with no memory but an apparently all-knowing glass hand. For years, rumors persisted that “Demon” inspired Terminator, though Ellison was quoted to have said, “Terminator was not stolen from ‘Demon with a Glass Hand,’ it was a ripoff of my OTHER Outer Limits script, ‘Soldier.’” According to a 1991 Los Angeles Times article, Ellison once again sued and settled.

ComicBook.comSci-Fi Writer Harlan Ellison Dies At 84

…Ellison also crafted a script for the Batman ’66 television series that would’ve introduced Two-Face into the show’s canon, but it was never shot. The story recently was turned into a comic titled Batman ’66: The Lost Episode, which officially brings the character into the series.

Variety Harlan Ellison Dead: Sci-Fi Writer Was 84

…When he dealt with Hollywood, he fearlessly said exactly what he thought again and again — often causing fallout as a result. In the wake of the 1977 release of “Star Wars,” a Warner Bros. executive asked Ellison to adapt Isaac Asimov’s short story collection “I, Robot” for the bigscreen.

Ellison penned a script and met with studio chief Robert Shapiro to discuss it; when the author concluded that the executive was commenting on his work without having read it, Ellison claimed to have said to Shapiro that he had “the intellectual capacity of an artichoke.” Needless to say, Ellison was dropped from the project. Ellison’s work was ultimately published with permission of the studio, but the 2004 Will Smith film “I, Robot” was not based on the material Ellison wrote.

Perhaps Ellison’s most famous story not adapted for the screen was 1965’s “Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman,” which celebrates civil disobedience against a repressive establishment. “Repent” is one of the most reprinted stories ever.

Shawn Crosby

[Editor’s note: The evil done to Harlan Ellison’s television scripts by cigar-chomping producers has long been part of his legend. In some of the worst cases he refused to have his name appear in the credits, and they aired with his pseudonym Cordwainer Bird shouldering the blame.]

Harlan’s death is accompanied by the passing of Cordwainer Bird, his writing partner of many years, described as “a short, choleric, self-possessed writer of mystery stories and science-fiction for television”, who “has no compunction about punching directors and producers two foot taller than himself right in the mouth.” Bird’s parents were Jason Bird and Rhonda Rassendyll, and he is nephew to The Shadow and a descendent of Leopold Bloom. As a member of the Wold Newton Family himself, Bird’s illustrious heritage has made him something of a fighter for justice in his own right.

Godspeed, gentlemen…

Mark Barsotti

A great voice silenced.

Until you pick up one of his books…

 

Pixel Scroll 6/21/18 It’s A World Of Fiction, A World Of Smiles, It’s A World Of Pixels In Daily Files

(1) THE FRUITS OF VICTORY. Mark Lawrence posted a photo of the award being sent to the winner of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off: “Where Loyalties Lie wins the PRESTIGIOUS SPFBO Selfie Stick!”

Yes, that time has come again. Following Where Loyalties Lies’ defeat of 299 other fantasy books in SPFBO 2017, it remained only for me to commission the fabled craftspeople of somewhere with low labour costs to fashion the third SPFBO Selfie Stick award.

This exquisite award, carved by hand from finest polymer resin has no association whatsoever with any wizarding school. So shut up.

(2) MORE SPFBO FUN. David H. introduced Filers to the “SPFBO title generator” in a comment:

My favorite titles generated were “The Legacy Shadow of the Legacy Shipwreck” and “The Brutal Raven of the Last Faces.” Someone got “The Foolish Oath of the Necromancer,” which sounds great, too.

I gave it a whirl and got The Spinning Kingdom of the Rise

(3) SFF IN TURKEY. The Economist explores “Why Turkish students are turning to speculative fiction”.

…In this difficult climate, speculative fiction has thrived as students turn to magical worlds to understand the grimness of the real one. A hundred books in the genre are being published in the country each year. Fantasy Fiction clubs continue to grow as students gather together to wage good against evil in unfettered realms. Istanbul University Science Fiction and Fantasy Club (BKFK), resurrected in the autumn of 2016, now claims more than 150 members. Fantasy has so far avoided the censors’ displeasure, though two men were indicted for “publicly denigrating” president Recep Tayyip Erdogan by likening him to Gollum, a character in “The Lord of the Rings” (one has since been acquitted).

“Despite what the name suggests, this genre is very interconnected with life,” writes Asli, the editor of Siginak, a fantasy-fiction magazine run by students (throughout this piece we refer to students only by their first names in the interests of their safety). In her story, titled “R-09 and Pluto”, two artificially intelligent robots contemplate the limits of their brains. Humans, the bots agree, are afraid of their creation’s potential power, so rules are designed to limit the use of their full intellect and to keep them from questioning authority. What could happen, one bot suggests, if they broke those rules and freed their minds?

(4) DANGEROUS VISIONS. Jonathan Cowie draws attention to BBC Radio 4’s new season of Dangerous Visions SF dramas: “Dangerous Visions: back… with a difference!” They include –

  • A 5-part drama (45 minute episodes) called First World Problems in which Britain fractures into civil war and a family with a Down’s syndrome teenager has to make some tough decisions.
  • A one-off 45 minute play called Freedom.

Marian has always told her son, Jamie, that it is fine to be gay, fine to be who you really are and that, in years to come, of course it will be possible for him to marry another man or adopt children.

All this changes when a newly elected coalition government decides political correctness has got out of hand and passes a Freedom Law that licenses both the freedom to say whatever you like, however hateful, and the right not to be offended. Now Jamie has to decide how to be true to himself in a society where intolerance has become acceptable, and Marian confronts what she might need to do to keep him safe.

An absorbing play about the political becoming personal and how an apparently liberal society can threaten those who don’t conform.

  • A one-off 45 minute play called Speak.

Lucian has a vocabulary that is limited to a core 1500 words, but Clara wants to teach him those that are forbidden. A dystopian love story about the power of words, set in a near future where the language spoken is Globish – a reduced version of English.

The OED lists 171,476 English words in current use. The average adult native English speaker has an active vocabulary of about 35,000 – 50,000 words. But studies suggest our vocabularies are shrinking.

Globish is a real international business language, developed in 2004, made up of the most common 1500 English words. It is designed to promote international communication in the global economy. ‘Speak’ imagines a future in which Globish has become the official language.

A gripping two-hander about the power of words; how words – and even more, the absence of words – can control, confine, leach emotion and trap minds.

(5) INKLINGS BEGINS. Brenton Dickieson recounts a bit of literary history with the help of a Lewis biographer: “The First Meeting of the Inklings, with George Sayer”.

For years no regular event delighted Jack more than the Thursday evening meetings of the little group of friends called the Inklings. His was the second group to use this name. Its predecessor was founded in about 1930 by a University College undergraduate named Tangye Lean. Members met in each other’s rooms to read aloud their poems and other work. There would be discussion, criticism, encouragement, and frivolity, all washed down with wine or beer. Lean’s group consisted mainly of students, but a few sympathetic dons were invited to join, including Tolkien and Jack, who may have been Lean’s tutor. Lean graduated in June 1933, and that autumn Jack first used the name the Inklings to describe the group that had already begun to meet in his rooms.

It was always utterly informal. There were no rules, no officers, and certainly no agenda. To become a member, one had to be invited, usually by Jack. Nearly all members were his friends.

(6) BABY’S BIRTHDAY. BBC recalls “The ‘Baby’ that ushered in modern computer age”.

A machine that took up an entire room at a laboratory in Manchester University ran its first programme at 11am on 21 June 1948.

The prototype completed the task in 52 minutes, having run through 3.5 million calculations.

The Manchester Baby, known formally as the Small-Scale Experimental Machine, was the world’s first stored-program computer.

(7) GOLDEN AGE. Steven H Silver celebrates an author’s natal day in “Birthday Reviews: Cleve Cartmill’s ‘Huge Beast’” at Black Gate.

Cleve Cartmill was born on June 21, 1908 and died on February 11, 1964. Cartmill also used the name Michael Corbin when he had two stories appearing in the same issue of Unknown Worlds in 1943.

He is perhaps best known for his story “Deadline,” which appeared in the March 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The story was discussed at Los Alamos, where Edward Teller noted that Cartmill had described aspects of their research in detail. The discussion led to an FBI investigation into Cartmill, Campbell, and some other science fiction authors. Cartmill is said to have had a low opinion of the story, himself.

(8) OCTAVIA BUTLER GOOGLE DOODLE. Google is honoring Octavia Butler’s birthday, June 22, with this artwork:

(9) IN THE BACK YARD. Jeff VanderMeer is not a gardener’s typical customer:

(10) OUT OF THE TOOLBOX. Nancy Kress shared these humorous highlights from the Taos Toolbox critiques:

At Taos Toolbox, Carrie Vaughn gave a great talk on goal setting and handling a long series. We also had two lectures, Walter’s and mine, and critiqued four manuscripts — a long day. Memorable quote from the critiques:

“I love when she stuffs the alien pterodactyl shell down her bra.”

“Space seems to have been colonized only by Germans.”

“You can’t really hide a pulsar.”

“It needs to be clearer that the starfish and the librarians are different species.”

“I love that she gave away Mars.”

“WTF did I just read — in a good way!”

“It’s Guardians of the Galaxy meets House of Usher.”

“There are too few bicycles in fantasy. Gandalf would have ridden a Cannondale.”

“You might want to put some people on the planet who aren’t dumb as stumps.”

(11) THE SKY’S NOT THE ONLY LIMIT. Multiple record-holding astronaut Peggy Whitson is retiring from NASA, in large part because she’s been in space so long (over several missions) that she’s hit her lifetime radiation limit. Among other things, Whitson, holds the U.S. record for the most cumulative time in space. She’s been the oldest female astronaut in space (57), the oldest female spacewalker, and has the record for the most spacewalks by a woman (10). She was also the first female chief of the Astronaut Office—she stepped down from that in 2012 so she could fly more missions.

SYFY Wire says “Everyone should know Peggy Whitson’s name”.

This doesn’t come as a huge shock; there’s actually a very good, practical reason that Whitson stepped down. Anyone that is outside the protection of the Earth’s atmosphere is exposed to higher levels of radiation. There are yearly exposure limits, as well as lifetime limits, established by NASA. Whitson is so well-traveled that this has become a problem. “I have hit my radiation limit,” she told Business Insider. As a result, she can no longer fly in space through NASA

A BBC News video story about what she had to overcome — “100 Women: Astronaut Peggy Whitson on being told she’d never go to space”.

Quoting the NASA press release, “Record-Setting NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson Retires”:

“Peggy Whitson is a testament to the American spirit,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Her determination, strength of mind, character, and dedication to science, exploration, and discovery are an inspiration to NASA and America. We owe her a great debt for her service and she will be missed. We thank her for her service to our agency and country.”

Whitson, a native of Beaconsfield, Iowa, first came to NASA in 1986 as a National Research Council Resident Research Associate at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. She served in a number of scientific roles, including project scientist for the Shuttle-Mir Program and co-chair of the U.S.-Russian Mission Science Working Group, before her selection to the astronaut corps in 1996.

“It has been the utmost honor to have Peggy Whitson represent our entire NASA Flight Operations team,” said Brian Kelly, director of Flight Operations at Johnson. “She set the highest standards for human spaceflight operations, as well as being an outstanding role model for women and men in America and across the globe. Godspeed, Peg.”

As an astronaut, Whitson completed three long-duration missions to the International Space Station, setting records on each. She made her first trip in 2002 as part of Expedition 5, during which she took part in 21 science investigations and became NASA’s first space station science officer. In 2008, Whitson returned on Expedition 16 and became the first female commander of the space station.

During her most recent mission, spanning Expeditions 50, 51 and 52 from November 2016 to September 2017, Whitson became the first woman to command the space station twice (Expedition 51). She also claimed the title for most spacewalks by a woman – 10 spacewalks totaling 60 hours and 21 minutes – and set the record for most time spent in space by a U.S. astronaut at 665 days.

(12) RETURN OF SARAH CONNOR. Any dedicated Terminator fans in the house? You guys have your own website!

TheTerminatorFans.com has pictures from the set of the upcoming Terminator movie showing Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor: “Exclusive First Look at Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator (2019)”.

(13) MASS DEFECT. Today’s issue of Nature reports some (just some) of the universe’s missing mass seems to have been found.

(14) SEA LEVEL. Another Nature comment paper (open access) assesses whether “Sea-level rise could overwhelm coral reefs” [PDF file]. Research paper abstract here, also behind a paywall if you’re not a Nature subscriber.

(15) LAST JEDI REMAKERS. ULTRAGOTHA asks: “Have you seen this? Some, er, I can’t actually call them fans, are evidently attempting to raise money to re-make a DISNEY property. Presumably to get rid of POC and Girl Cooties. Or maybe they’re not raising money and some ‘Producers’ have pledged to pay for this?  What producer in his right mind would think he could get away with meddling with a Disney property, or that Disney would agree to this?”

Chuck Wendig has some questions for them in this Twitter thread.

Travis Clark, in “‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ director Rian Johnson taunted a campaign to remake the movie” on Business Insider, says somebody on Twitter using the account Remake The Last Jedi claims to have enough money to remake Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a claim mocked by many, including Rian Johnson:

(16) GENRE BLENDING. “Hong Kong sci-fi film mixes robots and Chinese opera” (video).

Featuring flying warrior robots and guitar-toting opera singers, Hong Kong animation Dragon’s Delusion aims to break stereotypes of Chinese culture.

Its producers are now making a feature-length film after a successful crowdfunding exercise.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/15/18 Yon Pixel Has A Lean And Hungry Look

(1) LUCAS MUSEUM. NBC Los Angeles was there for Wednesday’s ceremony: “George Lucas’ $1 Billion Museum Breaks Ground in Exposition Park”.

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts in Exposition Park is beginning to take shape in Los Angeles’ Exposition Park area.

Filmmaker George Lucas and wife Mellody Hobson were at a groundbreaking Wednesday for the $1 billion museum. The museum will house works by painters such as Edgar Degas, Winslow Homer and Pierre-Auguste Renoir; illustrations, comic art and photography by artists such as Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and N.C. Wyeth; as well as storyboards, props and other items from popular films. It will be a “barrier-free museum” where “artificial divisions between `high’ art and `popular’ art are absent,” according to the museum’s website.

“It will be beautiful. It will be 11 acres of new parkland here,” Hobson said. “Everyone always wonders why we are doing so much to make this building stand out. George said, ‘I want an iconic building. I want a child to look at this building and say I want to see what is inside of that building.’ The building itself is a piece of art that will be in this park that we’re creating for this entire community and the world.”

The museum plans to feature a five-story building with 300,000 square feet of floor area for a cafe and restaurant, theaters, office space, lecture halls, a library, classrooms, exhibition space and landscaped open space.

Lucas told a CBS News interviewer:

Movies, including the “Star Wars” series, will be featured in exhibits showing what it takes to make a film, from set designs to character and costume sketches. There will be film storyboards and comic art. But the museum will also display paintings by Renoir, N.C. Wyeth, Winslow Homer, Maxfield Parrish and Norman Rockwell – all from Lucas’ private collection.

“I think more people will come in for Rockwell than will come in for ‘Star Wars,'” Lucas said.

“Norman Rockwell can tell a whole story in one picture,” Lucas said.

“When were you captivated by Rockwell?” Blackstone asked.

“When I was 8 years old… I wanted to be an illustrator. I wanted to be able to do that,” Lucas said. “I wanted to be able to do pictures that have a message that appeals to a lot of people.”

Art that tells a story inspired him to tell stories. That narrative art is what Lucas will share in his museum.

(2) ANNIHILATION. Camestros Felapton has eyeballed the evidence and delivered his verdict: “Review: Annihilation (movie 2018 – Netflix)”.

The film (which had a very limited cinema release in the US and then a Netflix release internationally) is a different creature than the book. Events have been changed, plot elements removed, characters adjusted and the structure of the story altered. All of which seems to have been a good idea. The film carries the same sense of paranoia and wonder as the book and the same theme of people trying to cope when confronted with the incomprehensible. However, it has been remade into its own thing – a story with its own structure and characters that shares DNA with the book but which follows its own course.

(3) HELP WANTED. Journey Planet wants contributors for a Star Wars theme issue —

Regular Editors Chris Garcia and James Bacon, joined by Will Frank, have set out to create an issue of Journey Planet dedicated to the legendary Star Wars Universe. The issue, set for a May 4th release, will look at the films, the universe, the fans, the books, the comics, the toys, the Irish Connection and the meaning of the greatest of all science fiction franchises!

We want to hear from you if you are interested in contributing. We have an instant fanzine and are soliciting pieces, from short pieces on the first time you saw the films, about your massive collection of Star Wars figures (Mint-on-Card, of course)

We already have a beautiful cover by Sarah Wilkinson.

Please contact — journeyplanet@gmail.com

Tell us what you’d like to write about. Then content submission Deadline is April 17th

And may the Force be with you!

 

(4) HAL/ALEXA. So how is this invention supposed to parallel the workings of HAL-9000 – by preventing people from getting back into their homes? The Verge tells us “This replica of HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey comes with Amazon’s Alexa built in”.

HAL-9000, the malevolent supercomputer at the heart of Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, is an icon of science fiction cinema. So much so, that if you ask any one of the virtual assistants to “Open the pod bay doors,” they’ll dutifully parrot HAL’s lines from the movie back at you. Now, Master Replicas Group wants to take that step a bit further, turning HAL into a virtual assistant that can control your home.

The company name might be familiar to prop and costume fans: the original Master Replicas produced a range of high-quality props from franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek before going out of business a decade ago. If you’ve seen someone swinging around a lightsaber, there’s a good chance it’s one of Master Replicas’ props, or based off of their models. The new company is made up of several former employees, who are getting back into the prop replica business with a new range of products, including an interactive replica of HAL.

This isn’t the first time that someone’s thought about putting HAL into your home’s smart devices: a couple of years ago, fan prop-maker GoldenArmor made its own version that allows someone to mount it over their Nest thermostat. MRG’s prop goes a bit beyond that. It recently obtained the license from Warner Bros. to create an exact replica of the iconic computer, and while most prop replicas are static recreations of a movie or film prop, this version is designed to be interactive, using Amazon’s smart assistant, Alexa.

A humorous video simulating “If HAL9000 was Amazon.com’s Alexa” has already gone viral —

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 15, 1956 Forbidden Planet premiered.
  • March 15, 1967 Frankenstein Created Woman stitched together a story for the theaters.
  • March 15, 1972 Slaughterhouse Five was first released theatrically.

(6) IS IT VINTAGE? Mark Kelly considers the sequel to Dandelion Wine in “Ray Bradbury: FAREWELL SUMMER”.

RB provides an afterword to this book, also, in which he explains where this book came from. In the mid 1950s (several years after the successes of THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES and THE ILLUSTRATED MAN)  he submitted a manuscript to his publisher, Doubleday, for the book that became DW. But that original manuscript was too long and his editor suggested cutting it. RB quotes his reply (p210 in FS): “ ‘Why don’t we published the first 90,000 words as a novel and keep the second part for some future year when you feel it is ready to be published.’ At the time, I called the full, primitive version The Blue Remembered Hills. The original title for what would become Dandelion Wine was Summer, Morning, Summer Night. Even all those years ago, I had a title ready for this unborn book: Farewell Summer.”

With DANDELION WINE such an entrenched classic, it’s difficult to imagine how the content of FAREWELL SUMMER could have been incorporated into it. That would have been a completely different book. As it came to be, DW has a perfect story arc, across one summer in the life of a 12-year-old. Yet even as a leftover, on its own, FS is a quite different, a rather oddly amazing and moving, book.

(7) WHEATON MEETS SHATNER. In this video, Wil Wheaton acts out meeting William Bleeping Shatner when ST:TNG was in its second season.

The filming of Star Trek 5 happened only a few doors away from Star Trek The Next Generation, Giving Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher) the chance to meet his idol William Shatner, it didn’t go as well as he had hoped…

 

(8) LAST-MINUTE CAMPAIGNING. We’re annually snowed under by award eligibility posts, but it’s strange to see them still arriving with less than 24 hours left to nominate, when voters no longer have time to read/listen to the person’s recommended body of work.

Lawrence Schoen urges consideration of his Eating Authors blog:

Every Monday morning*, since June of 2011, I’ve put out a blog post featuring authors and their most memorable meals. That’s more than 350 stories of incredible food, amazing dinning companions, astonishing circumstances, and remarkable settings.

And Crystal Huff points to a year’s worth of tweets:

(9) POOP HAPPENS. From Pitchfork we learn: “Neil Young Writing a Sci-Fi Novel Called Canary”.

Neil Young recently sat down with Rolling Stone’s Patrick Doyle to discuss his role in the upcoming film Paradox. In the midst of the interview, he opened up about the sci-fi novel he’s been writing. It’s called Canary, and Young said it focused on a power company employee who gets caught exposing the corruption at his workplace. “He discovers the solar company he works for is a hoax,” he explained. “And they’re not really using solar. They’re using this shit—the guy who’s doing this has come up with a way to make bad fuel, the bad energy, this really ugly terrible stuff, and he’s figured out a way to genetically create these animals that shit that gives the energy to make the [fuel]. So he’s created this new species. But the species escapes. So it’s a fuckin’ mess. It’s a long story.”

Young said he already has a New York agent on board with the project, but didn’t share a possible publication date. He also got candid when it came to the topic of retirement tours. “When I retire, people will know, because I’ll be dead,” he said. “I’m not gonna say, ‘I’m not coming back.’ What kind of bullshit is that? I could go out and play if I felt like it, but I don’t feel like it.”

(10) SHETTERLY. Are Will Shetterly’s and Jon Del Arroz’ situations alike? JDA evidently thinks so.

(11) YO HO NO. Fraser Sherman is teed off: “Books are too expensive, so it’s okay to pirate them. Oh, really?”

I have no sympathy for this crap. In the many years I did the struggling-writer shtick, I saw lots of books I couldn’t afford. I didn’t steal copies. I wouldn’t do it if I were still struggling. If it was a paper copy, would they shoplift it from Barnes & Noble if they thought it was overpriced? Or how about a restaurant — if the service takes too long (the “they don’t release it fast enough” argument), does that mean they’re entitled to steal food from the salad bar? Soft drinks cost a fraction of what they sell for, does that make it okay to steal them? Or movie tickets — lord knows those are outrageously priced, but does that justify sneaking in without paying?

(12) THE JEOPARDY BEAT. Rich Lynch says tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! included this answer:

A contestant got it right.

(13) GOT OBSIDIAN? “Changing environment influenced human evolution”: a site in Kenya is “the earliest known example of such long distance [25-95km] transport, and possibly of trade.”

Early humans were in the area for about 700,000 years, making large hand axes from nearby stone, explained Dr Potts.

“[Technologically], things changed very slowly, if at all, over hundreds of thousands of years,” he said.

Then, roughly 500,000 years ago, something did change.

A period of tectonic upheaval and erratic climate conditions swept across the region, and there is a 180,000 year interruption in the geological record due to erosion.

It was not only the landscape that altered, but also the plant and animal life in the region – transforming the resources available to our early ancestors….

(14) STORAGE WARS. That stuff sure looked familiar…. “Police: Marvel fan spotted his $1.4M collection for sale online”.

Police in California said two men were arrested on burglary charges after a man discovered his $1.4 million collection of Marvel super hero memorabilia for sale online.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office said the Rancho Cucamonga Police Department responded Feb. 22 to a storage facility where a man discovered his collection of Marvel collectibles had been stolen after he was made aware that some of his items were listed for sale online.

(15) LATE NIGHT NERDS. Joel Zakem spotted this TV highlight: “Steven Colbert talks to Paul Giamatti about Science Fiction and used book stores during the first 5 minutes of this interview from yesterday’s Late Show. It’s probably the only time you will hear Henry Kuttner and Avram Davidson mentioned on late night TV.” — “Paul Giamatti And Stephen Are Science Fiction Nerds”

‘Billions’ star Paul Giamatti gets some gifts or reading assignments from Stephen, depending on how you look at them.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 3/6/18 Ready Pixel One

(1) DISNEY’S CHRISTOPHER ROBIN. Disney has dropped the Christopher Robin official teaser trailer.

The Hundred Acre Wood is opening up to our world. Watch the brand-new teaser trailer for Disney’s Christopher Robin. Coming soon to theatres Disney’s “Christopher Robin” is directed by Marc Forster from a screenplay by Alex Ross Perry and Allison Schroeder and a story by Perry based on characters created by A.A. Milne. The producers are Brigham Taylor and Kristin Burr with Renée Wolfe and Jeremy Johns serving as executive producers. The film stars Ewan McGregor as Christopher Robin; Hayley Atwell as his wife Evelyn; Bronte Carmichael as his daughter Madeline; and Mark Gatiss as Keith Winslow, Robin’s boss. The film also features the voices of: Jim Cummings as Winnie the Pooh; Chris O’Dowd as Tigger; Brad Garrett as Eeyore; Toby Jones as Owl; Nick Mohammed as Piglet; Peter Capaldi as Rabbit; and Sophie Okonedo as Kanga.

 

(2) CTHULHU. But if Pooh is too sweet for your taste, Reddit’s “Ask Historians” takes a deep dive into question: “Where did HP Lovecraft come up with the idea of Cthulhu?”

…So the idea of Cthulhu was percolating in Lovecraft for some time; he borrowed portions of concepts from other writers – artificial mythology, sleeping gods and mountainous size from Dunsany; the alien origin and creepy cults from Theosophy (this is actually made more explicit in the text); the telepathic dream-sendings from Dunsany and de Mausauppant – the octopus/dragon mixture is a little hard to pin down, since Lovecraft never went into specifics about his influences on that in his letters, although he did provide a sketch of the idol. But tentacles were not unfamiliar in weird fiction in the period….

(3) PRO TIPS. Much to be learned from “8 Writing Tips from Jeff VanderMeer” at the Chicago Review of Books.

1—The amount of time you spend writing isn’t necessarily as important as the time spent thinking about what you are going to write.

I often feel it is easier to spoil a novel by beginning to write too soon than by beginning to write too late. Perhaps this is because I need to know certain things before I can even contemplate writing a novel.

For example, I need to know the main characters very well, the initial situation, and the ending (even if the ending changes by the time I write it). I also have to have some kind of ecstatic vision about a scene or character, some moment that transcends, and I have to have what I call charged images associated with the characters. These aren’t images that are symbolic in the Freudian sense (humbly, I submit that Freud just gets you to the same banal place, as a novelist, every time), but they are definitely more than just images. They have a kind of life to them, and exploring their meaning creates theme and subtext. For example, the biologist encountering the starfish in Annihilation or Rachel in Borne reaching out to pluck Borne from the fur of the giant bear. (Both of which also have their origin in transformed autobiographical moments, and thus an added layer of resonance.)

Once I know these things, it may still be six months to a year before I begin to write a novel. The process at that point is to just record every inspiration I have and relax into inhabiting the world of the novel. To not have a day go by when I’m not thinking about the characters, the world they inhabit, and the situations. If I lose the thread of a novel, it’s not because I take a week off from writing, but because I take a week off from living with the characters, in my head. But, hopefully, the novel takes on such a life that everything in the world around me becomes fodder for it, even transformed….

(4) FINDING THE GOOD STUFF. At Rocket Stack Rank: “New Features: Flag, Rate, Group, Highlight Stories”. Greg Hullender explains:

Our main goal is to be as useful as possible to readers looking for good stories and for fans trying to make nominations for awards, and a key part of that has always been the big tables of recommended stories. Almost from the beginning, people have asked us to give them more ways to navigate those tables, and we’ve finally put something together.

Fans wanting to use RSR to manage his/her Hugo longlist and short list can do that now by giving 5-stars to the shortlist and 4-stars to the longlist-only stories. These ratings are saved on your local device and can be backed up, copied, shared, etc.

Readers who only read stories that are free online can highlight all such stories—including the ones that appeared in print magazines but are also available online.

Readers who care about the recommendations of particular reviewers can highlight those.

Etc.

The feature is new, and doubtless has some bugs in it. We’d welcome any and all feedback.

(5) DEVELOPING STORY. Jason Sanford, in a free post on his Patreon, published a “Response from Left Hand Publishers” to some issues he raised about their business practices.

This morning I received a response from Left Hand Publishers to my analysis of concerns related to their publishing house. The response is presented below in its entirety, along with additional information provided by the publisher in regards to issues I raised about their contract…

(6) PUSHBACK ACKNOWLEDGED. In “Washington National Cathedral’s hawk is named Millennium Falcon. How stupid are we?”, the Washington Post’s John Kelly investigates the red-tailed hawk Miillennium Falcon currently living at Washington National Cathedral.  He consults an expert at the Audubon Naturalist Society who says that both hawks and falcons are both part of the order Falconiformes and then comes up with other exciting names for the bird, including Hawk Solo and Jabba the Hawk.

That’s the name a majority of the voters picked: Millennium Falcon, even though the bird is not a falcon but a hawk. Hawks have feathered “fingers” at the ends of their wings, instead of the tapered points that falcon wings come to. Falcons such as the peregrine are rarer in our area.

This is what happens when you let the public vote. Sometimes, we can’t be trusted. Look at that research vessel in Britain, which, if the public had had its way, would have been christened Boaty McBoatface. (It became RRS Sir David Attenborough, with an underwater vehicle it carries bearing the BMcB moniker.)

I figured that ornithologists and other bird-lovers would surely share my sense of outrage. I mean, a hawk isn’t a falcon. With our skyscrapers, chemicals and habitat destruction, humans are killing millions of birds a year. Shouldn’t we at least be able to properly differentiate among the victims?

But Alison Pierce at the Audubon Naturalist Society in Chevy Chase, Md., was more forgiving. “Hawk Solo would have been a more taxonomically-correct choice,” she wrote in an email. “But since hawks and falcons are both part of the order Falconiformes, we’re willing to give them a pass on Millennium Falcon. As the D.C. region’s consummate birdwatchers and lovers, we think it’s cool that so many area residents appreciate the beauty of the red-tailed hawk, which is one of our most common raptors.”

(7) NICHOLLS OBIT. Encyclopedia of SF creator Peter Nicholls died March 6, of cancer reports SF Site News. He won a Hugo Award in 1980 for its first edition, and shared Hugos won by its subsequent editions in 1994 and 2012. Nicholls also won SFRA’s Pilgrim Award (1980), and the Peter McNamara Award (2006), among other honors.

His SFE colleague John Clute said in “Peter Nicholls (1939-2018)”:

We announce with great regret the death on 6 March of Peter Nicholls (1939-2018), who conceived and edited the first edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1979), who co-edited the second edition in 1993, and who served as Editor Emeritus of this third edition (2011-current) until today. His withdrawal from active editing was due solely to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease in 2000, after which he rarely left his native Australia; but he continued to speak to the rest of us, sometimes firmly, always with the deepest loyalty to the encyclopedia he had given birth to and nurtured.

 

Peter Nicholls. Photo (c) Andrew Porter.

(8) BAYLIS OBIT. Trevor Baylis, the inventor of the wind-up radio, has died.

Trevor Baylis believed that the key to success was to think unconventional thoughts.

It was this mindset that saw him develop his clockwork radio after hearing about the problems of educating African people about HIV and Aids.

It enabled those in remote areas without electricity, or access to batteries, to get the information that could save their lives.

But despite the success of this, and other inventions, Baylis never made a great deal of money from his many ideas.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy saw Brewster Rockit get a good laugh out of a well-known sf trope.

(10) AN OLD FAMILIAR FACE. The Hollywood Reporter says some major movies are the focus of litigation over technology infringement: “New Copyright Theory Tested in Lawsuit Over Disney’s ‘Avengers,’ ‘Guardians of the Galaxy'”.

A VFX firm asserts its software program is an original literary work and that Hollywood studios are liable for vicarious and contributory infringement.

Rearden LLC, the VFX firm that claims ownership to a popular facial motion-capture technology used in Hollywood, is not giving up on hopes of winning a copyright lawsuit against Disney, Paramount and Fox. On Tuesday, the plaintiff brought an amended lawsuit that tests a new copyright theory over blockbuster films including Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Beauty and the Beast. Ultimately, the plaintiff remains insistent that these films deserve to be literally impounded and destroyed.

The background of the case is complicated, but what’s essential to know is that in a previous lawsuit, Rearden was able to convince a judge that its technology was stolen by Digital Domain 3.0 and a Chinese company. After the victory, Rearden went after the customers of the technology — the Hollywood studios using facial motion-capture software to do things like de-age Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator Genisys or transform actor Dan Stevens into Beast for Beauty and the Beast.

(11) LIPTAK. Andrew Liptak has been writing up a storm at The Verge (as always) and Filers will find plenty of interest in his recent posts.

There are a ton of podcasts out there, but finding the right one can be difficult. In our new column Pod Hunters, we cover what we’ve been listening to that we can’t stop thinking about.

A couple of years ago, Verge listener David Carlson wanted to help his wife. She had a new job with a long commute, and he wanted her to read some of his favorite articles at The Verge, like All Queens Must Die and Welcome to Uberville, so he recorded audio versions for her to listen to en route. He’s since moved on to a project of his own: The Hyacinth Disaster, a science fiction story told through the black box transmissions of a doomed asteroid mining ship in our solar system.

In his debut novel, author Tom Sweterlitsch constructed a fascinating mystery with Tomorrow and Tomorrow, set in a virtual version of Pittsburgh after a terrorist attack leveled the city. In The Gone World, he introduces an even more ambitious investigation: one that jumps back and forth in time, and which could decide the fate of humanity. It’s a complicated, dazzling novel that keeps the reader hooked until the last pages.

The Gone World opens with a 20th-century NCIS agent named Shannon Moss on a training mission in the distant future of 2199. She’s part of the Naval Space Command, which runs a covert space and time-traveling program that sends Navy personnel across the galaxy and across time. On her first mission, she discovers a horrifying scene: a version of herself crucified mid-air in a broken wasteland. She’s witnessed what her agency calls The Terminus, a mysterious phenomenon which signals an apocalypse that appears to be moving closer and closer to the present. After her training, she’s called to investigate a brutal murder in her present — 1997. The apparent culprit appears to be a Navy SEAL named Patrick Mursult, once part of the same time-travel program as Moss — until his starship, the Libra, was lost on a mission.

Star Trek: Discovery is the biggest change to the Star Trek franchise in years, adopting the same attitudes that the showrunners for Stargate and Battlestar used: putting an emphasis on agonizing decisions that challenge the characters in complicated ways. At New York Comic Con, Discovery executive producer Akiva Goldsman explained that the new version was putting an emphasis on its characters. “If Jim Kirk had to deal with Edith Keeler’s death in ‘City on the Edge of Forever’ as if it were real life, it would take a whole series or a season,” Goldsman said.

In the months since, I’ve found that the Kindle opens up more dedicated reading time. While before I’d only use the Kindle app on my phone to read snippets while I was bored (and usually without cellular service), I’m now using it to actually take time and sit and read. I can’t flip over to check e-mail or lose myself in Twitter. I can capture that 15 to 30 minutes at night or in the morning to read without turning on a light.

The results are promising. I strive to read about a book a week, and I’ve been setting aside time in the morning to sit down and read, before I plug into the world for the rest of the day. I haven’t abandoned my paper books — I’ve got more of them in my house than ever — but what the Kindle does is give me options.

(12) NEW WRINKLE. In the Washington Post, Sandie Angulo Chen interviews Storm Reid, who is happy to star in A Wrinkle in Time and proud to be “a kid of color” — “Storm Reid felt an instant bond with ‘Wrinkle in Time’ character”.

The ninth-grader first read Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 science-fiction classic when she was in the sixth grade. Storm says she felt an immediate connection with Meg, a brilliant but misunderstood middle-schooler who goes on an adventure across time and space.

“She’s such a peculiar character, and I wanted to know more about her. And I thought it was so amazing that she couldn’t realize how beautiful and smart and gracious she was, but everyone around her saw it,” the 14-year-old actress told KidsPost. “It took her a trip around the universe to notice that.”

Like Meg, Storm loves and excels in science and math. But she doesn’t think readers or viewers have to like those subjects to understand the character.

“I relate to Meg so much, and other teenagers and kids relate to her, because we are all trying to figure things out,” Storm explained. “We all might have things in our lives that are stopping us, but Meg shows all of us that we can overcome our challenges and we can live out our dreams.”

(13) MUSICAL TRADITION COMING TO AN END. The 86-year-old composer is finishing his run: “’Star Wars’ Composer John Williams May Stop After ‘Episode IX’: ‘That Will Be Quite Enough for Me’”.

There’s at least one member of the “Star Wars” galaxy who might not be saddling up for any further adventures after J.J. Abrams’ “Episode IX” wraps the Skywalker saga in 2019. NME reports (from a chat on California radio station KUSC) that longtime composer John Williams might be leaving the franchise after Abrams’ film arrives in 2019.

(14) NON-CENSUS. An opponent to the census claims to be elsetime to avoid being recorded: “New Zealand census campaigner takes to his TARDIS”.

An anti-census campaigner in New Zealand is hoping to avoid today’s compulsory national count by hiding in a TARDIS, it’s reported.

The self-styled Laird McGillicuddy, otherwise known as Graeme Cairns, says he is using the Doctor Who time-travelling space craft to boycott the five-yearly census by “travelling in time”, the New Zealand Herald reports.

Mr Cairns, who was once the leader of the satirical McGillicuddy Serious Party, has a history of unusual stunts to protest the census, which is compulsory for all New Zealanders.

He’s once claimed not to be in New Zealand by hovering above the city of Hamilton in a hot-air balloon, and on another occasion declared himself “temporarily dead”.

(15) WORDS TO LIVE BY. Jane Yolen features in The Big Idea at Whatever.

My two mottos are BIC and YIC:

Butt in chair. (Or for the finer minds—backside, behind, bottom).

Yes I Can. The answer I give if someone asks if I have time or inclination to write something for their blog, journal, magazine, anthology, publishing house. I can always say no after careful consideration. But an immediate no shuts the door for good.

Both BIC and YIC are variants of my late husband’s motto: Carpe Diem. Seize the day.

However, the word I hate most when a reviewer or introducer are talking about me is prolific. It carries on its old farmer’s back a whiff of a sniff. As if someone is looking own his or her rarified patrician nose and saying, “Well, of course she writes a lot. . .” That’s their dog whistle for inconsequential, not literary kind of stuff, things like kiddy books and verse, scifi and fantasy. Or as my father said when I was years past my fiftieth plus book, “When are you going to grow up and write something real?”

(16) BREAK THE INTERNET. Last week there was also a trailer for the new Wreck-It Ralph movie due in November.

“Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2” leaves Litwak’s video arcade behind, venturing into the uncharted, expansive and thrilling world of the internet—which may or may not survive Ralph’s wrecking. Video game bad guy Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) and fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman) must risk it all by traveling to the world wide web in search of a replacement part to save Vanellope’s video game, Sugar Rush. In way over their heads, Ralph and Vanellope rely on the citizens of the internet—the netizens—to help navigate their way, including a webite entrepreneur named Yesss (voice of Taraji P. Henson), who is the head algorithm and the heart and soul of trend-making site “BuzzzTube.” “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-Ralph 2” hits theaters on Nov. 21, 2018.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 2/27/18 But A Scroll Files What It Wants To File And Pixelates The Rest

(1) SCROLLO. Four genuine Solo posters appeared in this space recently. I learned from Nerdist there have been a lot of Solo parodies, like these —

(2) WHAT, ME WORRY? In December, the Scroll linked to Washington Post writer Joel Achenbach’s query about whether robots will kill us all once AI becomes smarter than people. The Bookmark has responded with “Artificial Intelligence: Today’s Intrigue. Tomorrow’s Terminator”, which tells each AI’s Terminator Score, and how close each AI is to bringing about the end of the world.

“How might AI fit into our lives?” Our chart explains advancements in AI ranging from novelty to utility. You can click on any of the AI to learn more about how humans benefit from their existence. And, use our Terminator score (with 1 being the least threatening and 5 being the most) to help decide if you should worry about a robot uprising with each AI.

(3) LEVAR AND LANGFORD. Congratulations to David Langford, whose short story “Different Kinds of Darkness” is on Episode 19 of LeVar Burton Reads.

A group of children form a secret society around a mysterious and powerful artifact….

(4) SURPRISED BESTSTELLER. This scam involving fake books is a means of laundering money (not to gull regular readers into buying fake books as if they came from their favorite author) — “Money Laundering Via Author Impersonation on Amazon?”

Patrick Reames had no idea why Amazon.com sent him a 1099 form saying he’d made almost $24,000 selling books via Createspace, the company’s on-demand publishing arm. That is, until he searched the site for his name and discovered someone has been using it to peddle a $555 book that’s full of nothing but gibberish….

…Reames said he suspects someone has been buying the book using stolen credit and/or debit cards, and pocketing the 60 percent that Amazon gives to authors. At $555 a pop, it would only take approximately 70 sales over three months to rack up the earnings that Amazon said he made.

(5) KUGALI. One of several crowdsourced projects hoping to ride the Black Panther’s wave is “The Kugali Anthology”, featuring African and diaspora creators.

200 full colour pages.  15 incredibly talented creators, 6 amazing stories and two wonderfully designed covers. But above all: a comic book experience you won’t find anywhere else!

From multiple award-winners to the brightest up-and-coming voices, Kugali has united some of the most talented artists across the African continent and diaspora. Our creators hail from across Africa (Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Senegal, Cameroon, South Africa, Uganda) and other parts of the world (Venezuela, Brazil, Jamaica, the US and the UK)….

So far backers have pledged $2,890 of the $13,596 goal, with 28 days remaining.

(6) OTHERING. Dare Segun Falowo has a lot of interesting things to say about the villains from Black Panther.

….A lot of people are like he was right ideologically and I get where they are coming from. Still he wouldn’t have ended up being morally right because his repressed disdain for his place in the world has left him ill. He would have kept on drinking more and more of that sense of complete and utter power and it would have ruined him. He even had the purple plant destroyed because he wanted it for himself alone.

So he basically had actions that marked him out as obviously villainous but behind all these actions are factors like being abandoned as a child, being excluded by his blood. Think of it, how African Americans and certain Africans don’t get along because these Africans believe that African Americans are not African blah blah blah. It really hits a spot and the way the character is crafted, down to the jagged family ties, brings together a lot of the facets of what is seemingly wrong with the idea of the African-American both from the Western viewpoint, and from the African viewpoint. He stands in the middle. He’s othered actually. He’s an other in the story. Even though he has the accent and all, he belongs nowhere….

(7) SOCIOLOGY AT THE BOX OFFICE. According to NPR, a “Hollywood Diversity Study Finds ‘Mixed Bag’ When It Comes To Representation”.

The global box office success of Black Panther is no surprise to UCLA sociologist Darnell Hunt. His annual report on Hollywood diversity argues that movies and TV shows with diverse casts and creators pay off for the industry’s bottom line.

Hunt says Black Panther, for example, “smashed all of the Hollywood myths that you can’t have a black lead, that you can’t have a predominantly black cast and [have] the film do well. It’s an example of what can be done if the industry is true to the nature of the market. But it’s too early to tell if Black Panther will change business practices or it’s an outlier. We argue it demonstrates what’s possible beyond standard Hollywood practices.”

The fifth annual diversity report is subtitled, “Five Years of Progress and Missed Opportunities,” suggesting that America’s increasingly diverse audience prefers diverse film and television content. The study reports that people of color bought the majority of movie tickets for the five of the top 10 films in 2016, and television shows with diverse casts did well in both ratings and social media.

(8) MELNIKER OBIT. Benjamin Melniker, best known as a producer on Warner Bros.’ many Batman projects, has died at the age of 104.

Melniker was credited on every big-screen version of the DC superhero since Tim Burton’s 1989 film.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian found genre laughs in the Wizard of Id – I laughed too!

(10) DEEPSOUTHCON. At last weekend’s DeepSouthCon business meeting, CONtraflow (New Orleans) won its bid to host DSC in 2020.

(11) ANNIHILATION. The BBC’s Caryn James awards “Four Stars for the thrilling Annihilation.

… The further the team explores, the more we see of each character’s particular vulnerability. Cass is grieving for a dead child. Anya is a sober addict. In flashback we learn that Lena’s marriage was not as perfect as it seemed at the start. “Almost none of us commit suicide,” Ventress says about the team’s apparent suicide mission, extending it to a sweeping assessment of human nature. “Almost all of us self-destruct.”

Garland playfully borrows from classic genre films and makes those references and influences his own. There are scenes that evoke 2001, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Alien and any number of Terrence Malick films. The minimalist, electronic score by Geoff Barrow (of the group Portishead) and Ben Salisbury adds a subtle layer of mystery….

(12) YOUTUBER MIGRATES TO TUBE WITH NEW SFF COMEDY. The Daily Beast’s Karen Han asks “Is ‘Final Space’ the Next Great Animated Series?”

Even if the name Olan Rogers doesn’t ring a bell, if you’ve spent any time on the internet over the past few years, you’ve probably seen his face. His YouTube channel has close to a million subscribers, and his videos are popular to the point that they’ve been mined for reaction images and GIFs. His latest project is considerably larger in scale, though it still bears the signs, good and bad, of that more short-form medium.

Final Space, airing on TBS and executive produced by Conan O’Brien, is an animated sci-fi comedy. Like most TV shows, it falls prey to the rule of “give it a few episodes and then it’ll get good,” but it’s charmingly animated and bite-sized to boot (each episode clocks in at just over 20 minutes), so it’s worth sitting through the shaky opening episodes to get to what lies beyond.

(13) NO MORE HAPPY FEET? French scientists report that king penguin breeding grounds will become untenable due to global warming: “Scientists Predict King Penguins Face Major Threats Due To Climate Change” (Of course, you all know Happy Feet is about emperor penguins rather than king penguins, so apologies if the headline struck you as a shocking error….)

Seventy percent of the world’s king penguin population could face threats to its habitat by the end of this century, according to a new scientific model.

The researchers say the problem is that the animals’ primary source of food is moving farther away from places where the penguins can breed. They’re very likely going to have to swim farther for their dinner.

“This is really surprising to us, to find such a massive change is going to happen in such a short time frame,” says Emiliano Trucchi, a researcher in evolutionary genetics from the University of Ferrara. The team’s research, co-led by Céline Le Bohec of the Université de Strasbourg, was published Monday in Nature Climate Change.

Trucchi tells NPR that king penguins breed only on islands that are ice-free near Antarctica, and there are “just a handful” of those.

BBC also has a story.

(14) KEEP DANCING. Maxwell Smart would be proud: hands-free emergency signaling via shoe radios: “Morse code shoes send toe tapping texts at MWC 2018”.

A pair of smart shoes has been created to let industrial workers keep in touch via toe-typed coded messages.

The footwear was inspired by Morse code, but made possible by the latest communication technologies.

BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones meets the firm responsible at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

(15) TODAY’S OUTRAGE. Io9 was not exactly surprised to find an argument on the internet getting out of hand, one that seemed to have lost track of an obvious fact: “We’re Sorry to Have to Remind You, But Groot Is Dead”.

Groot is dead. Long live Baby Groot!

Die-hard Guardians of the Galaxy fans are known for having watched and rewatched the James Gunn films multiple times in search of the hard-to-find Easter eggs the filmmaker scattered throughout the movie. That’s what makes it so odd that these fans seem to have forgotten something rather important about our dear friend Groot. He’s dead.

Gunn recently got into a heated philosophical debate with Entertainment Tonight producer Ash Crossan about whether it would be better to save the life of a single porg (from Star Wars: The Last Jedi) or Groot if forced to choose in a hypothetical situation. Crossnan argued in favor of the porg and Gunn understandably went to bat for Groot, pointing out that the sentient plant had a direct hand in saving the universe.

(16) LUCIFER EPISODE RECAP. Martin Morse Wooster decided to save me from my bad wi-fi by writing a recap instead of sending a link. Thanks, Martin!

I watched Lucifer last night.  I haven’t seen the show in a while, but it now has a credit (which it didn’t used to have) acknowledging that the comic book on which it is based was created by Neil Gaiman and two other people.  This was the first time I saw that Gaiman had anything to do with this show.

The plot was about a popular YA author who wrote the Class of 3001 series, in which she fictionalized characters from her high school years.  But she put her high school antics in the future, and as one detective said, “She did have to come up with that futuristic sci-fi fantasy stuff.  That’s not easy.”  The author died because she wrote her novels on a typewriter, and there was only one copy.  The killer pummeled the author with her typewriter, and ultimately confessed that he did it because “she ended the series in the most boring way possible” and didn’t want anyone to read her ending.

Also, in the show a clueless nerd fails to impress a blind date by giving her a plant that was “the traditional Mexican cure for constipation.”

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

Pixel Scroll 2/23/18 In The Unlikely Event Of A Pixel Landing, Scrolls May Be Used For Flotation Devices

(1) EL-MOHTAR LAUNCHES. This week Amal El-Mohtar took up her duties as sff reviewer for the New York Times “Otherworldly” column: “The Latest in Science Fiction and Fantasy”.

…Del and Sofia Samatar are siblings, and MONSTER PORTRAITS (Rose Metal, paper, $14.95) is a dialogue between Del’s art and Sofia’s words that is equal parts exploration, investigation and meditation about monsters and monstrosity. From the title I expected something like a bestiary, where the text would build fictions out of the art to pen (as it were) the creatures into a mythology — but this book is nothing so simple or straightforward; it is, if anything, an anti-bestiary, organized around the systems that produce bestiaries. Most of the portraits describe an author’s encounters with the creatures depicted, encounters that spark real-world musings on race and diaspora, framing the often contradictory ways in which we represent, consume or reject monstrosity. It’s a book of discomfort, of itching beneath the skin — which dovetails beautifully with the fact that Del Samatar works as a tattoo artist, and that many of the images in this book are easily imagined inked onto bodies….

(2) ARE THEY NEEDED? Rafia Zakaria speaks “In Praise of Negative Reviews” at The Baffler.

“Startlingly smart,” “remarkable,” “endlessly interesting,” “delicious.” Such are the adulatory adjectives scattered through the pages of the book review section in one of America’s leading newspapers. The praise is poignant, particularly if one happens to be the author, hoping for the kind of testimonial that will drive sales. Waiting for the critic’s verdict used to be a moment of high anxiety, but there’s not so much to worry about anymore. The general tone and tenor of the contemporary book review is an advertisement-style frippery. And, if a rave isn’t in order, the reviewer will give a stylized summary of sorts, bookended with non-conclusions as to the book’s content. Absent in either is any critical engagement, let alone any excavation of the book’s umbilical connection to the world in which it is born. Only the longest-serving critics, if they are lucky enough to be ensconced in the handful of newspapers that still have them, paw at the possibility of a negative review. And even they, embarking on that journey of a polemical book review, temper their taunts and defang their dissection. In essence they bow to the premise that every book is a gem, and every reviewer a professional gift-wrapper who appears during the holidays.

It is a pitiable present, this one that celebrates the enfeebling of literary criticism, but we were warned of it.

(3) FRIED GREEN TOMATOES. Scott Edelman invites Eating the Fantastic listeners to “Gobble fried green tomatoes with Thomas F. Monteleone”.

I don’t know which meal you’re getting ready for wherever you happen to be, but here at Eating the Fantastic world headquarters, it’s time for lunch at the Mountain Branch Grille & Pub with Thomas F. Monteleone, a five-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, who’s published more than 100 stories since his first one appeared in Amazing back in 1972.

My first fictional encounter with him, though, wasn’t until 1975, when his first novel, Seeds of Change, became the debut title for the famed (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) Laser Books science fiction line, and in this episode you’ll get to hear all about the serendipity which made that sale happen.

He’s accomplished so much since those early sales that last year, the Horror Writers Association honored him with its Lifetime Achievement Award. He’s also a highly opinionated guy, as is proven by his ongoing no-holds-barred column The Mothers And Fathers Italian Association, a collection of which won the 2003 Bram Stoker Award for Non-Fiction …and is also proven by this episode.

We discussed the tricks he teaches to transform writers at his famed Borderlands Bootcamp, the 200+ rejections he received before he finally made his first fiction sale, how Theodore Sturgeon helped him realize it was possible for him to become a writer, why he ended up as a horror icon after his big start in science fiction, which horror writers you want on your team when you’re choosing sides for softball, the reason his live readings have become legendary, how Peter Straub reacted when Tom put him on his list of most overrated writers, how a challenge from Damon Knight changed his life, and much more.

(4) ADAPTATION AND ANNIHLATION. At Lit Hub, Jeff VanderMeer and Christina Sibul talk about “What’s It Really Like to Have Your Book Made Into a Movie”.

JV:  . . . But with regard to the monster [in Annihilation], I think what I was after in the books was to destabilize the usual reveal. The reason it’s gradual is to kind of acclimate you so when you actually finally see it you notice more than just the horror and surprise of it but the beauty and the strangeness of it as well. And I think Garland [the director of the Annihilation adaptation] gets there a different way. He’s still thinking about the same things, and in many ways, it’s a very loose translation of the book. But you can see many points where he is translating, where he is reacting to something in the book, and so I do think that in the third act of the movie where you do see the crawler—and you don’t see it before that—he somehow manages visually to get the horror and beauty of it by being very precise.

The thing I found fascinating is on the set visit they had what I would call a three-act structure of the visual imagination. Like, literally on the walls all around this building they had just pasted photographs and pictures, some of which they found and some of which they created as, like, what is the tone and texture of this part. And for the third act, several of the images they had that were inspiration for the monster were the same things that I’d come up with during my research, but we had not communicated about this. They had just come to it through parallel evolution. So, I think that the depiction of the crawler is very accurate in some ways. And very horrific and beautiful at the same time. There’s another monster too in there because there’s the moaning creature in the books, and the moaning creature he translated into this strange bear that also combines aspects of the boar that’s in the book. So, there’s another translation of the monster where someone may see it and say, “That’s not from the book,” but in actual fact it kind of is, you know

(5) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian and I are old enough to get the visual references in Heathcliff. Maybe you are, too.
  • And this Dracula joke in Speedbump is pretty dumb, but I laughed.

(6) THE GOODBYE BATGIRL. Yesterday I read somewhere “Joss Whedon Drops Out of Batgirl”. Adam-Troy Castro won’t miss him: “Joss Whedon Quit the BATGIRL Movie For All The Right Reasons”.

Joss Whedon has stepped down from scripting duties on a proposed BATGIRL movie, saying he just couldn’t come up with a story.

I suspect he had some other reasons, some of which speak well of him and some of which don’t, but that’s a boring subject. (So is whether there should be a Batgirl movie, period. Let’s just say that my personal enthusiasm at this point, is limited. We have more than enough movies in this genre, thank you.)

But let us talk of his stated reason for having so much trouble with the character: paraphrased, he couldn’t think of a reason why this girl’s head would be so messed up she would start doing this thing.

And instantly you know that he doesn’t get the character at all and that stepping away was a good thing.

You see, the premise that a person’s head must be “messed up” in some way to become a hero in this genre is based on only a very few examples.

(7) DEATH OF THE MIGHTY THOR. Jane Foster’s time as The Mighty Thor may be coming to an end. And in this case I don’t think that’s a spoiler.

For more than three years, Jason Aaron has been building Jane Foster’s story to its epic conclusion – and it all comes together in Mighty Thor #705! This March, don’t miss the final chapter of Thor’s journey, written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Russell Dauterman, as Mangog’s rampage threatens to bring about the end of Asgard as we know it – and the Goddess of Thunder herself.

 

(8) COMICS BUYER. Daniel P. Dern sends a link to io9’s “Ordering Physical Comics Books Is About to Get Slightly Easier”, which says Diamond’s new Pullbox will simplify (pre)ordering your hardcopy comics from your comic store.

It’s not completely digital—you still have to go and physically collect your orders from your local store, after all, so if you’re looking to avoid the potentially intimidating act of heading into a comics store, Pullbox isn’t the solution.

Dern comments: “I’d like to think that not all comic stores are intimidating, e.g., certainly not <shoutout>The Outer Limits, in Waltham MA</shoutout> (where I’ve been a customer since it opened back in 1983). A larger concern, I’d guess, would be the decreasing # of comic shops, as in, (not) having one near (enough). Yeah, you can mail-order, but not the same experience.

“I’m happy that it sounds like this new service isn’t trying to disintermediate the stores, but rather work with and within them.”

(9) CREATIVE TEAM BEHIND BLACK PANTHER. Calgary comic book scholar Michael Hoskin offers a roundup of all the comic book creators who had a hand in the Black Panther movie. He makes a compelling case that Christopher Priest (the first full-time black writer at Marvel comics) should be getting more credit for what was seen on screen: “Black Panther (2018) creator credits”.

(10) EXPANSE. Syfy dropped The Expanse Season 3 teaser trailer.

(11) GONE FISHING. The industry has a surprising amount of coverage: “New Maps Reveal Global Fishing’s ‘Vast Scope Of Exploitation Of The Ocean'”.

The maps show the most intense fishing activity along the coasts of heavily populated areas like Europe and China. But fishing also covers much of the high seas. According to the researchers, commercial fishing operations covered at least 55 percent of the world’s oceans. That area, it calculates, is four times larger than the area devoted to agriculture on land.

The researchers also were able to distinguish between fishing vessels from different countries. According to the study, five countries — China, Spain, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea — accounted for 85 percent of all high-seas fishing.

The BBC also has a summary.

(12) TOUGH TO KILL Jurassic Dead is coming to theaters. Run away!

PLOT: A cracked scientist aligns with the Axis of Evil to bring down the US of A with EMP blasts, toxic zombification gas and an unleashing of the ultimate undead killing monstrosity — the Z-REX. When a hot-wired militia squad and a crew of college hipsters are thrown together to do something about it, chaotic Predator-Thunder action runs amok.

 

(13) THE REAL FUTURE OF AI. On the Nextnature blog, Menno Gutfeld and Koort van Mensvoort interview Bruce Sterling about how bodies will become mechancially augmented in the future and when artificial intelligence will become sentient: “Interview: Bruce Sterling on the Convergence of Humans and Machines”.

 Lots of people are actually talking about and also investing a lot of money in this idea of convergence of the machine and humans. What are your thoughts on this?

That convergence will not happen, because the ambition is basically metaphysical. It will recede over the horizon like a heat mirage.  We are never going to get there. It works like this: first, far-fetched metaphysical propositions. Then an academic computer scientist will try and build one in the lab. Some aspect of that can actually be commercialized, distributed and sold.

This is the history of artificial intelligence. We do not have Artificial Intelligence today, but we do have other stuff like computer vision systems, robotic abilities to move around, gripper systems. We have bits and pieces of the grand idea,  but those pieces are big industries. They do not fit together to form one super thing. Siri can talk, but she cannot grip things. There are machines that grip and manipulate, but they do not talk. You end up with this unbundling of the metaphysical ideas and their replacement by actual products and services. Those products exist in the marketplace like most other artifacts that we have: like potato chips, bags, shoes, Hollywood products, games.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The (End) of History Illusion)–Miu Miu Women’s Tales” on Vimeo, Celia Rowlson-Hall describes the fabulous future after atomic attack, where you can live in a bunker wearing swell clothes from the 1950s and eat all the canned carrots you want!

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