Pixel Scroll 11/3/18 If You Tick The Box I’m On You Will Know When Posts Are Done

(1) MARTIAN SAVINGS TIME. If you’re tempted to complain about having to reset your clock, think about these folks at JPL: “When flying to Mars is your day job”.

When the spacecraft is sleeping at night, we work. So we get all the data down, look at it and tell the spacecraft: “Hey InSight, tomorrow these are the tasks I want you to do!”

And then we uplink it, right before it wakes up in the morning. Then we go to bed and the spacecraft does its work.

But because the Mars day shifts every day, we also have to shift our schedule by an hour every day. So the first day we’ll start at 6am, and then [the next] will be 7am… 8am… 9am… and then we take a day off.

(2) THE BIG BUCKS. The Bank of England is taking nominations — “Think science for the new £50 note”.

You can nominate as many people as you like. But anyone who appears on the new £50 note must:

  • have contributed to the field of science
  • be real – so no fictional characters please
  • not be alive – Her Majesty the Queen is the only exception
  • have shaped thought, innovation, leadership or values in the UK
  • inspire people, not divide them

Or write to: Think Science, Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, London EC2R 8AH.

You’ve got until Friday 14 December 2018. We’ll announce the chosen character in 2019.

 

(3) FANTASY CHOW. Atlas Obscura readers filled out their menus with “The Fictional Foods We Wish Were Real”.

What fictional foods make you as excited as a hobbit in a pantry?

Sure, you can buy a Wonka Bar at any candy store. You can drink a sugary Butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction in Orlando. And you can find a recipe for Lembas Bread on about a million Lord of the Rings fan sites. But none of these initially fictional foods could ever live up to how we imagined they would taste when we first saw or read about them….

Recently, we asked Atlas Obscura readers to tell us which fictional food had sparked their imaginations more than any other….

We’ve collected our favorite responses below. Next time you encounter a mouth-watering food that doesn’t exist, try and decide for yourself what incredible, impossible flavors it might actually have….

Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

What might it taste like?
“A cataclysm of citrus with an effervescent apocalypse. Anything that would make you simultaneously evolve and devolve seems like an interesting way to not die.” — Ian Maxwell, Denver, Colorado USA

A Shmoo from the Lil’ Abner Comics

What might it taste like?
“It says it can taste like steak, chicken or oysters… They are genial playmates for children and then will jump into your frying pan and become dinner. I’ve always remembered the shmoo.” — Roseann Milano, Tucson, Arizona…

Roast Porg from The Last Jedi

What might it taste like?
“Teriyaki chicken. Chewbacca wanted to cook one in The Last Jedi. Might be succulent and savory.” — Leon Easter, Stockton, California

(4) CORDWAINER SMITH’S ALTER EGO. Paul DiFilippo has reproduced Paul M.A. Linebarger’s 1951 article for Nation’s Business, “Hotfoot for Stalin” at theinferior4.

(5) A HORSE, OF COURSE. William Shatner told a LA Times interviewer his fitness secrets: “How horses and e-bikes help William Shatner stay fit and creative at 87”

Horseback riding? How does that keep you fit?

My business manager once said: “Don’t buy anything that eats while you sleep.” Thankfully, I ignored that advice. My wife, Elizabeth, and I have horses in Kentucky and in Moorpark. I’ll ride two, three hours every morning that I’m not working — two or three days a week. People don’t realize it, but you’re not just passively sitting there on a horse. Riding is a stretching and strengthening exercise. It requires balance, expertise, finesse and strength.

(6) SWOFFORD OBIT. Actor Ken Swofford died November 1. He mostly played authority figures —

… On the big screen, Swofford had roles in Robert Wise’s The Andromeda Strain (1971), Stanley Kramer’s The Domino Killings (1977), Blake Edwards’ S.O.B. (1981), John Huston’s Annie (1982) and Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise (1991).

…Swofford provided the voice of the title character in the 2018 short film Happy the Angry Polar Bear, written and directed by his grandson.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • November 3, 1925 – Monica Hughes, Writer from England who emigrated to Canada, and became known as known as one of Canada’s best writers for children and young adults, especially science fiction. She is best known for the Isis Trilogy, about the descendants of Earth colonists on a far-flung planet, which won the Phoenix Award from the Children’s Literature Association. Invitation to the Game, a hard science fiction dystopian novel which features robots and has been translated into numerous languages, won the Hal Clement Young Adult Award.
  • November 3, 1928 – Tezuka Osamu, Artist, Animator, and Producer who is often considered the Japanese equivalent to Walt Disney, a major inspiration during his formative years. His manga series, all of which have had English language translations,  include Astro Boy, Black Jack,  Kimba the White Lion, and Phoenix, all of which won several awards including four Eisner Awards.
  • November 3, 1933  – John Barry Prendergast, Oscar-winning Composer who wrote the scores for more than 120 films, including the genre works Moonraker (and 10 other Bond films), Starcrash, Mercury Rising, Howard the Duck, The Black Hole (for which he received a Saturn nomination), the 1976 King Kong, and the 1972 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. However, he is best known for his pièce de résistance: the haunting, emotive soundtrack for Somewhere in Time – the Saturn-winning film adaptation of SFF author Richard Matheson’s novel Bid Time Return – for which he also won a Saturn Award. Rather than taking a set fee upfront, he had presciently agreed to a percentage of sales. The soundtrack became one of the most popular movie soundtracks of all time, eventually selling more than a million copies, and continues to sell well to this day.
  • November 3, 1950 – Massimo Mongai, Writer from Italy who produced Memorie di un Cuoco d’Astronave (Memories Of A Spaceship Cook), an apparent merging of space opera and cooking manual which won Italy’s Urania Award. I’m really, really hoping someone has read this in the original language as I’d love to know what it’s about!
  • November 3, 1952 – Jim Cummings, 66, Voice Actor and Singer who has hundreds of voice credits in animated features and TV shows, including Aladdin, The Lion King, Shrek, Who Framed Roger Rabbit (as a bullet), The Addams Family, Batman: The Animated Series, Duck Dodgers, The Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Gargoyles (one of my favorite shows), at least three of the animated Star Wars series, and dozens of videogames. He has won two Annie Awards, which are given to recognize outstanding work in the animation industry.
  • November 3, 1952 – Eileen Wilks, 66, Writer whose principal genre series is the World of Lupi, a FBI procedural intertwined with shapeshifters, dragons and a multiverse. Highly entertaining, sometimes considered romance novels, though I don’t consider them so. The audiobooks are amazing!
  • November 3, 1963 – Brian Henson, 55, Actor, Puppeteer, Director, and Producer who, as the son of Jim and Jane Henson, now runs the Jim Henson Company along with his sister Lisa. He voiced the character of Hoggle in the original Hugo and Saturn Award-nominated Labyrinth, and is in the process of producing a remake of that movie. He has provided other voice and puppet characters in many films, including Little Shop of Horrors, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Muppets from Space, and The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz.. He was a producer for the awesome Farscape series, but the less said about his venture The Happytime Murders, the better.
  • November 3, 1964 – Marjean Holden, 54, Actor who has had recurring roles in the genre TV series Crusade, the short-lived spinoff from Babylon 5, and in the Beastmaster series. She’s also appeared in Philadelphia Experiment II, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Babylon 5: A Call to Arms, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Dr. Caligari, and Nemesis, and had guest parts on episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Tales from the Crypt.
  • November 3, 1964 – Brendan Fraser, 50, Actor and Producer whose genre work includes The Mummy films, which I dearly love, but also Monkeybone, based on Kaja Blackley’s graphic novel Dark Town, the Bedazzled remake, Sinbad: Beyond the Veil of Mists, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Encino Man, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and voicing Robotman on the Titans series that airs on DC Universe.

(8) GET ON BOARD. Advertising for The Grinch movie, which opens November 9, has popped up all over LA — “Essay: The LA Grinch Billboards Are Savage And Spot-On”.

The Grinch is also lobbing localized insults at other cities, like New York and Chicago.

As much as we resent viral marketing schemes, we have to tip our hats when they’re this good.

I mean, are they even a joke? Or are they just extra L.A.?

This one’s my favorite –

(9) FRENCH DELICACIES. Snapped at Utopiales 2018 in Nantes, France (where reported attendance is 90,000.)

  • Jim C. Hines, Robert J. Bennett and Kij Johnson.

  • John Scalzi

(10) STROSS. Camestros Felapton found something to praise — “Review: The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross”.

Good grief, nine books into the Laundry Files and Stross is still creating these weird, tense thrillers without really ever repeating himself. The novels have gradually shifted from clever pastiche to exploring their own premise….

(11) OUTLAWED CANDY. Let Atlas Obscura tell you about “Marabou M Peanut”.

M&M’s are known and enjoyed worldwide as movie snacks or general goodies. However, since 2016, this has not been true for Sweden, where the sweets have been banned due to a trademark dispute with a local candy company’s M Peanut.

Marabou’s M Peanut is very similar in taste and appearance to Peanut M&M’s: Both are chocolate-covered peanuts with lowercase m’s on their packaging. They’re so similar that one might think Marabou is an imitation brand. However, in Sweden, M&M’s are seen as the imitator, as Marabou’s candy had been sold in its native country for 50 years before M&M’s arrived.

(12) XENA PREBOOT SCRIPT. The 2016 attempt to reboot Xena never made it off the ground, but now a draft of the pilot script is available online for anyone to read (io9/Gizmodo: “Check Out the Script For the Pilot of the Canned Xena Reboot”). Now I’m wondering when the first dramatic reading will take place at a con.

Xena, brilliant warrior, princess, hero, and one more cancelled reboot.

But now, thanks to Xena Movie Campaign, a Facebook fan group, with the blessing of Javier Grillo-Marxuach, who wrote it, the unused script for the pilot episode of an attempted 2016 reboot of Xena is now available to read online.

(13) GOT WORMS? BBC discusses “Why some computer viruses refuse to die”.

One of the most active zombie viruses is Conficker, which first struck in November 2008. At its height, the worm is believed to have infected up to 15 million Windows PCs.

The French navy, UK warships, Greater Manchester Police and many others were all caught out by Conficker, which targeted the Windows XP operating system.

The malware caused so much trouble that Microsoft put up a bounty of $250,000 (£193,000) for any information that would lead to the capture of Conficker’s creators.

That bounty was still live and, Microsoft told the BBC, remained unclaimed to this day.

(14) WATCHING THE RADIO. They’re tuning in to the music of the spheres in 1963, and Galactic Journey is there — “[November 3, 1963] Listening To The Stars (the new Arecibo Observatory)”

But what is a radio telescope? How can we observe space through radio? Does Jupiter sing? Are the bodies of the solar system harmonising in a heavenly chorus?

Well, that’s not far off the mark. If you have the right equipment, you can even listen to Jupiter’s emissions yourself! You’ll need a shortwave radio (Jupiter radiates strongest at 22Mhz), and you’ll have to build yourself a large dipole antenna. What you’ll hear is an eerie, aggressive static, a lot like waves crashing on the beach. These are the radio emissions produced by charged particles racing through Jupiter’s magnetic field.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Mr. Death” from Norwegian director Andreas J. Riiser is a short film on Vimeo that imagines what Death would be like if he was a chain-smoking Norwegian who has a buzz cut and loves Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.

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

Crystal Huff’s Arisia Statement Evokes Strong Response

As reported earlier today in the Pixel Scroll, Crystal Huff told why she is calling it quits with the Boston convention Arisia: “Why I’m Not At Arisia Anymore: My Rapist is President. Again.” Her 6,000+ word statement explains the charge and a great deal of other history. In the hours her post has been online it’s generated a powerful response.

Two of Arisia 2019’s guests of honor, Daniel Jose Older and Malka Older, say “we’re not GoHing the con as things stand” —

Nalo Hopkinson told Huff that Arisia 2020 had asked her to be GoH and her post had helped her decide —

The Arisia committee, inundated with messages, promises a reply this weekend.

Claire Rousseau and Jim C. Hines have written insightful comments about the issues raised in Crystal’s post.

Claire Rousseau’s Twitter thread starts here.

Jim C. Hines reblogged Crystal Huff’s post with some introductory comments:

…Conventions have gotten better in recent years about establishing policies on abuse and harassment. When it comes to following and enforcing those policies, the record is spottier. I know of some instances where conventions have done an amazing job of following through and working to promote the safety of their attendees.

Crystal’s experience, when she reported this to Arisia, was … well, it sounds like she’s correct when she says she doesn’t think Arisia was prepared to deal with this situation. It’s one thing to create a policy. It gets messier when the accusation is against someone you know. Possibly a friend. Possibly an officer in your organization….

People are reevaluating their plans to attend or work on the con.

Marie Brennan responds to Huff’s statement in “On Arisia”

…This is not a con I can trust with my safety, or that of anybody I know. So while I did not have any existing plans to attend Arisia — just a vague “ooh, I should do that someday!” intention — I now have very firm plans not to attend. Not this year, not next year, not any year until and unless this is made better. And if you’re an Arisia attendee, I encourage you to rethink that plan.

Kate Nepveu has ended her participation in the con:

Effective immediately, please remove me from the org chart as Tiptree Bake Sale staff and from programming as a participant. I will not be attending Arisia until Noel Rosenberg is removed as President of Arisia, Inc. and Division Head of Operations, and is banned from the convention….

Many people have tweeted their concerns or outrage to the Arisia committee, including these writers, editors, and conrunners:

Some additional comments on Facebook:

Richard Man

We were at Arisia one to whatever it was at 1993. Always thought it would be fun to go again, but not until this situation is redressed.

Glenn Hauman

Well, now I don’t feel nearly as bad as I did for not going this coming year. The convention I thought I knew has been changing even more that I thought, the staff member near and dear to my heart has been dead for a decade. I think I can let this one go now.

Nick Mamatas

File under “Geek Culture Must Be Destroyed.” It’s horrifying, what the convention put Huff through to make sure the rapist could…be in charge of safety at the convention. And now he’s President of it.

Juliette Wade

I won’t be attending this convention.

Pixel Scroll 9/9/18 I Can’t Get No Pixel Action When I’m Reading Pixel Scroll

(1) TAFF DATES ANNOUNCED. John  Purcell says it’s almost time to submit nominees for the 2019 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund race.

Since a lot of people have asked, European TAFF Administrator Johan Anglemark and I have established the following dates for the 2019 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund Race to send a North American fan to the World Science Fiction Convention to be held in Dublin, Ireland over August 15 – 19, 2019. Here you go, folks:

The actual nomination period will run from October 1st to November 22nd of 2018. Therefore, if anyone is interested in standing for TAFF, the month of September is the time to line up your nominators.

The actual voting period will start on December 1st, 2018, and end on April 22nd, 2019. The week between the end of nominations and the beginning of voting will give your humble and obedient administrators the time to prepare the proper and official ballot.

A much more informative, official 2019 TAFF Press Release shall follow Real Soon Now and will include procedures and related data potential candidates need to know. In the meantime, if you go to the TAFF website https://taff.org.uk/ maintained by that nice David Langford fellow, you can learn many of these details there.

This race should be a lot fun. If you have any questions, feel free to ask either Johan Anglemark or me, John Purcell, and we will answer them as quickly as possible.

(2) EARLY PROMO ART. Sotheby’s auctioned off a Revenge of the Jedi poster on August 28 (Original Film Posters Online). Note, that’s “Revenge,” not “Return.” They’d estimated it would go for £1,400–2,600. After 23 bids it sold for £23,000.

(3) NO SHEET. Jim C. Hines is on the case —

(4) GREAT AMERICAN READ. Voting at last is open for PBS’ The Great American Read, which has been mentioned here several times. Get clicking!

(5) CONSCIOUS SYNTHS. Abigail Nussbaum’s column for Lawyers, Guns & Money takes on the robotic TV show Humans: “A Political History of the Future: Humans”.

…One core difference between Humans and a lot of other science fiction shows about robots or despised minorities with special powers is that it doesn’t center violence—and, when violence does occur, it is used exclusively to horrifying, demoralizing effect. Synths are strong, quick, and agile, but there are hardly any badass robot fights in this show. On the contrary, it often seems as if synths are a great deal more fragile than humans, succumbing to beatings and abuses that a human might recover from (which makes sense if you consider that these are basically talking household appliances, the sort of thing you’d be expected to replace after a few years). Images of damaged and mistreated synths recur frequently throughout the show, as a reminder of both the danger that our main characters face in human society, and the fact that this is a story where problems will mostly be solved by talking (though some characters, like the belligerent, short-tempered Niska, find this incredibly frustrating). This is a role left primarily to Laura, who over the course of the show’s three seasons embraces the cause of synth rights, and Mia, who becomes a figurehead in the growing community of conscious synths.

It’s an approach that, paradoxically, allows Humans to address much heavier, darker subject matter than more high-concept executions of its premise, precisely because the show is so grounded in the familiar….

(6) WHERE THE MONEY IS. AV/TV Club handicaps the contenders to succeed GoT: “Game of Game Of Thrones thrones: 43 big upcoming fantasy and sci-fi shows”.

Since debuting in April 2011, HBO’s Game Of Thrones has slowly become the defining television phenomenon of this decade, dominating the pop culture conversation in a way no other show has since the glory days of The Sopranos. It was one of a number of shows angling to step into the mob drama’s place, along with Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, Sons Of Anarchy, Justified, and House Of Cards. HBO initially sold its adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic as “The Sopranos in Middle-earth,” hoping to transplant David Chase’s deeply American saga of violence, sex, family, and power to a sprawling, Tolkien-esque fantasy world. It managed to fulfill those expectations and then some, surpassing Sopranos viewership mid-way through its fourth season. Today it’s gone far beyond that: “Khaleesi” was a more popular name for baby girls in 2017 than “Brittany.”

But winter is coming. As Game Of Thrones heads into its final, six-episode season—slated to premiere sometime in 2019—it leaves a gaping hole in the television landscape. Everyone from Apple to FX has pined, sometimes publicly, for their “own Game Of Thrones,” and the model is clear: Find a nerd-culture tome, and throw money at it. Amazon has pledged to invest $1 billion on its prize-horse, a Lord Of The Rings prequel, but, as you’ll see below, this is a race with a lot of horses. There are dozens of such projects in the works, and even more if you factor in the game, film, and comic adaptations drawn in Thrones’ image, not to mention HBO’s own in-house heirs….

(7) HOW IT COULD HAVE ENDED. ScienceFiction.com says showrunner Ira Steven Behr’s idea for “The Original Series Finale For ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ Would Have Blown Viewers Minds!”

His vision was shot down but would have been a direct callback to one of the more interesting episodes in the series. Specifically, it would have directly gone back to “Far Beyond The Stars” from the sixth season. In it, Benjamin Sisko was given a vision of another life by the Wormhole Aliens where instead of being a Starfleet Captain he was actually Benny Russell who was a 1950s science fiction writer. As an author, he came up with the idea of Deep Space Nine in a story that not only dealt with racism but also was “about the dreamer and the dream and who is dreaming and what they are dreaming about.”

As for the potential series finale, it would have revisited the idea of Benny Russell:

“I did pitch to Rick Berman that the final episode would end up with Benny Russell on Stage 17 at Paramount, wandering around the soundstages, realizing that this whole construct, this whole series, that we had done for seven years, was just in Benny’s head. That is how I wanted to end the series. And Rick said “Does this mean The Original Series was in Benny’s head? Does this mean Voyager was in Benny’s head?” I said, “Hey man, I don’t care who is dreaming those shows, I only care about Deep Space Nine, and yes, Benny Russell is dreaming Deep Space Nine.” He didn’t go for it.”

(8) TREKIVERSARY. On the anniversary, SYFY Wire listed “Star Trek: 6 crazy things that nobody remembers about the first episode ever”. The first one thew into doubt just when the anniversary is —

Canada jumped the phaser and aired “The Man Trap” two days early

Famously, the anniversary of the first airing of Star Trek’s first episode is September 8th, 1966 on NBC, in America. But it turns out that the CBC in Canada aired the show two days early, on September 6th. This little-known fact emerged two years ago, surrounding the 50th-anniversary celebrations of the entire Trek franchise. Larry Nemecek, Trek historian and host of the podcast The Trek Files confirms this: “I was shocked that it took 50 years to penetrate us [Americans]! It’s apparently true. I’ve seen scans of Canadian newspaper TV listings that show it.”

(9) BREAKOUT MARVEL. NPR’s Emma Bowman says “Female Breakout ‘Captain Marvel’ Screenwriter Is Disrupting The Superheroine Trope”:

In a male-dominated industry, Geneva Robertson-Dworet is as rare as the female superhero characters she helps craft. The breakout action-genre screenwriter will be adding a historic project to her resume with Captain Marvel, Marvel’s first female-led movie, due out next year.

Robertson-Dworet, who penned the Tomb Raider blockbuster reboot, has also been tapped to work on Sherlock Holmes 3, Gotham City Sirens and the new Dungeons & Dragons adaptation.

In an interview with NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro for Weekend Edition, the screenwriter praises the lengths Marvel took to recruit a female-heavy team — both on screen and behind the scenes — for the film, starring Brie Larson.

“Marvel really went above and beyond with Captain Marvel,” Robertson-Dworet says. “Not only did they have Anna Boden, who, along with Ryan Fleck is directing the movie … they had many female writers working on the project. They also had female producers in the room. And that is really rare to have that.”

(10) THE POWER. The Guardian says this job is not that f*ckin’ easy! “The YouTube stars heading for burnout: ‘The most fun job imaginable became deeply bleak’”.

…Professional YouTubers speak in tones at once reverential and resentful of the power of “the Algorithm” (it’s seen as a near-sentient entity, not only by creators, but also by YouTube’s own engineers). Created by the high priests of Silicon Valley, who continually tweak its characteristics, this is the programming code on which the fate of every YouTuber depends. It decides which videos to pluck from the Niagara of content that splashes on to YouTube every hour (400 hours’ worth every 60 seconds, according to Google) to deliver as “recommended viewing” to the service’s billions of users.

… As part of its Creator Academy, a vast online “school” covering everything from how to “enhance your channel’s search and discovery potential” to how to “make deals with brands”, YouTube recently commissioned a series of videos designed to teach its partners how to avoid fatigue. (Few of the people I speak to who run YouTube channels are aware of the resource.) The video on burnout has been viewed just over 32,000 times. It’s written and presented by 34-year-old Kati Morton. A licensed therapist based in Los Angeles, Morton has been posting videos to YouTube for eight years. As such, she is well placed to understand both the problem and the potential solution.

(11) DAILY OBIT. I Dream of Jeannie’s Bill Daily has died.

Actor Bill Daily, best known for his role as Roger Healey in the popular 1960s sitcom “I Dream of Jeannie,” has died at the age of 91, his son J. Patrick Daily said.

Bill Daily died at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Tuesday, publicist Patterson Lundquist wrote on Facebook.

Patrick Daily said his father “was a very happy man. He was happy with everything he did.”

…Daily played an Army captain, later a major, in the space program, the funny sidekick to Larry Hagman’s Air Force Maj. Tony Nelson, on “Jeannie.” The title character, a 2,000-year-old genie, was played by Barbara Eden.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

A salute —

(13) MOST IMPORTANT GENRE. If the proof of a fan’s intelligence is how closely they agree with you, a lot of people are going to conclude Harari is pretty bright, WIRED interviews him about “Why Science Fiction Is the Most Important Genre”.

Yuval Noah Harari, author of the best-selling books Sapiens and Homo Deus, is a big fan of science fiction, and includes an entire chapter about it in his new book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.

“Today science fiction is the most important artistic genre,” Harari says in Episode 325 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It shapes the understanding of the public on things like artificial intelligence and biotechnology, which are likely to change our lives and society more than anything else in the coming decades.”

(14) INSTRUMENTALITY. Cordwainer Smith is still in mid-career as Galactic Journey considers his story in the latest issue of Galaxy, “On the Gem Planet”: “[September 9, 1963] Great Expectations (October 1963 Galaxy)”.

On a world composed solely of precious stones, a lone horse wanders masterless through a crystal valley.  The Dictator of the planet and his beautiful heir entreat a young visitor, a crusading exile whose sole goal is to regain the throne of his home planet, for an explanation of how the horse came to his current condition.

Nothing more need be said of this piece save that it is another tale of the Instrumentality by the inimitable Smith, and it does not injure the reputation of the series or its writer.  Four stars.

(15) HOLD THAT APPLAUSE. Bastian’s Book Reviews is lukewarm about its latest subject: “Review: The Fairy’s Tale by F.D. Lee”.

The Fairy’s Tale is a humorous novel about Bea, a fairy who works to ensure that fairy tales go according to plan. Bea herself, meanwhile, dreams of being promoted from a watcher to a manager (i.e. a fairy godmother), allowed to interact with the characters (humans) rather than just being an unseen force that applies minor nudges….

(16) NAGATA PRAISED. However, at Black Gate Steve Case finds plenty of good things to say about a book: “A Celebration of the Wonder of the Universe Itself: Vast by Linda Nagata”

I’ll get right to it: Linda Nagata’s Vast is everything you want epic sci-fi to be: a huge scope in time and space, a compelling look at the horizons of human and technological evolution, and a celebration of the wonder of the universe itself. Vast provides all this, with some truly beautiful descriptions of stellar evolution thrown in for good measure. On top of all this, this scale and big ideas are woven alongside excellent character formation and a plot that builds tension so effectively that long years of pursuit between vessels with slow relative velocities still feels sharp and urgent.

I liked this book. A lot.

(17) DRY DOC. io9’s Julie Muncy found a video that demonstrates how “The Star Trek Universe Uses a Surprising Amount of Paper”.

YouTuber EC Henry has put together a fascinating little video chronicling the history of paper usage in the Star Trek universe, chronologically moving from the original series up through the timeline and noting how the use of paper changes as time passes. In Kirk’s time, fascinatingly, paper is everywhere, and is regularly used for military purposes, while by the time of The Next Generation such usages have almost entirely vanished.

 

(18) IN OBSERVATORY YET GREEN. Let Space.com tell you “How to See the Bright Green Comet 21P in Binoculars on Monday”.

Want to see a comet whizzing by Earth? A great chance to catch one of these celestial visitors is overnight tonight, when Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner will be best visible in binoculars or a telescope.

The comet, also known as “21P,” will make its closest approach to Earth at around 2:30 a.m. EDT Monday (630 GMT). The bright-green comet should reach a visual magnitude of 6.5 to 7, according to EarthSky.org. This makes 21P almost bright enough to see with the naked eye — but not quite. […]

To find Comet 21P in the night sky, look east and find the constellation Auriga sometime between midnight and dawn local time. The comet will still be visible even after tomorrow, but it will fade over the coming days. Its exact location from moment to moment is available in NASA’s ephemeris calculator.

(19) IT’S FEELING BETTER. According to Engadget, “Planet-hunting Kepler telescope declares that it is not, in fact, dead”.

At this point, most space enthusiasts and insiders have said their goodbyes to the Kepler spacecraft. We’ve known for months that it’s very low on fuel, and its planet-hunting replacement, TESS, has already launched. But Kepler has a mind of its own, apparently. Despite the fact that its level of fuel is now crippling, and it’s had its share of mechanical issues, the telescope is once again back to work collecting scientific data and looking for new exoplanets.

(20) CUTTING ROOM FLOOR. Variety reports “Michael K. Williams Still Wants to Be Part of ‘Star Wars’ Franchise”.

Michael K. Williams holds no grudges against “Star Wars.”

The actor’s role was cut from the standalone Han Solo film “Solo” after director Ron Howard’s reshoots conflicted with his schedule. Paul Bettany stepped in and the character was reimagined for the new casting.

“I have not had the chance to see ‘Solo’ but shout out to my cast mates,” Williams told Variety on Saturday at the HFPA and InStyle party at the Toronto International Film Festival. “Even though I didn’t make the final cut, they’re still my cast mates. I love you guys.”

He hasn’t seen ‘Solo’ yet, but “I’m quite sure I’ll get around to it but I’m more interested in getting another shot in being in that galaxy…I would love another opportunity to be in ‘Star Wars.’”

(21) STORM WARNING. Unlike the Mercury-Gemini capsule days, a splashdown here would not mean a happy ending. Ars Technica explains: “SpaceX to launch super-heavy payload, land in high seas Sunday night”

After slightly more than a month, SpaceX returns to the launch pad Sunday night to deliver the Telstar 18 Vantage satellite into orbit. The four-hour launch window opens at 11:28pm ET (03:28 UTC) for a mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The flight of a new Block 5 version of the Falcon 9 booster will seek to loft a large telecommunications satellite into geostationary transfer orbit. At 7,060kg, this is the second heaviest satellite SpaceX has flown; the heaviest is the Telstar 19 Vantage satellite in July. It weighed 15kg more.
SpaceX will seek to recover the booster, which may prove a challenge given the tropical activity raging across the Atlantic basin. Due to the heavy payload, the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket will land far out to sea, 660km downrange from the Florida spaceport. There, the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship will be waiting.

Provided the rocket launches on Sunday night, the growing storm Florence—which is likely to be a Category 2 or 3 hurricane by that time—should still be more than 1,000km away. However, another low-pressure system is relatively close by, and choppy wave conditions may make landing more challenging than normal. A delay of one or two days would likely only worsen conditions in the area as Florence gets closer

(22) CAMPBELL. Alis Franklin’s “Everything wrong with science fiction is John W. Campbell’s fault” takes stock of the late editor’s racism and other shortcomings. On the other hand, his immortal novella “Who Goes There?” did inspire this bizarre video:

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

Pixel Scroll 3/22/18 And The Pixels Were All Kept Equal By Hatchet, Ax And Saw

(1) TECH IMPROVED, ETHICS STAYED THE SAME. The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne Jr., in “Yes, we should be outraged about Facebook” analyzes The 480, a 1964 near-future sf novel by Eugene Burdick (co-author of Fail-Safe) in which “people who work with slide rules and calculating machines which can remember an almost infinite bits of information” have divided the U.S. into 480 demographic groups in order to manipulate them into supporting a dark-horse Republican presidential candidate.  Dionne brings up this novel in the context of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal and notes that Burdick based his novel on efforts by Simulatrics Corp. to support the Kennedy campaign in 1960.

(2) INVOLUNTARY EXPERIMENT. The Guardian says Kim Stanley Robinson told them — “Empty half the Earth of its humans. It’s the only way to save the planet”.

Cities are part of the system we’ve invented to keep people alive on Earth. People tend to like cities, and have been congregating in them ever since the invention of agriculture, 10,000 or so years ago. That’s why we call it civilisation. This origin story underlines how agriculture made cities possible, by providing enough food to feed a settled crowd on a regular basis. Cities can’t work without farms, nor without watersheds that provide their water. So as central as cities are to modern civilisation, they are only one aspect of a system.

There are nearly eight billion humans alive on the planet now, and that’s a big number: more than twice as many as were alive 50 years ago. It’s an accidental experiment with enormous stakes, as it isn’t clear that the Earth’s biosphere can supply that many people’s needs – or absorb that many wastes and poisons – on a renewable and sustainable basis over the long haul. We’ll only find out by trying it.

Right now we are not succeeding. The Global Footprint Network estimates that we use up our annual supply of renewable resources by August every year, after which we are cutting into non-renewable supplies – in effect stealing from future generations. Eating the seed corn, they used to call it. At the same time we’re pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a rate that is changing the climate in dangerous ways and will certainly damage agriculture.

(3) TOLKIEN AND LEWIS AT WAR. As reported here in December, a five-part documentary film series A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War about “the transformative friendship between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien forged amid the trauma of war,” is in production. A new trailer has been posted. The film’s release date is set for November 11, 2018, to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I.

The documentary film series, “A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War,” explores how the experience of two world wars shaped the lives and literary imagination of two internationally famous authors and friends, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Based on Joseph Loconte’s New York Times bestseller, the film examines how Tolkien’s combat experience during the First World War—at the Battle of the Somme—launched him on his literary quest. The film reveals how the conflict reinforced Lewis’s youthful atheism—he was injured in combat—but also stirred his spiritual longings. The film traces the careers of both men at Oxford University, and their deepening friendship as they discover a mutual love of medieval, romantic literature. Facing the threat of another world war, Tolkien and Lewis reach back into their earlier experience of war as they compose their epic works of fantasy, The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.

 

(4) HOWARD AWARD. The eligibility list for the 2018 Robert E, Howard Foundation Awards has been posted.

This is full list of eligible candidates for the 2018 REH Foundation Awards. Legacy Circle Members will select the top three nominees in each category from this preliminary ballot. From those final nominees all Premium REHF members will vote for the winners. The awards will be given out at a special ceremony at Howard Days in Cross Plains on June 8.

(5) APOLLO STILLS PUT IN MOTION. Mark Hepworth sent a link to these “Very cool Apollo gifs” at Medium “I looked through all 14,227 Apollo photos… and made GIFs.”

A few days ago Jared Kinsler compiled an excellent selection of the photos of the Apollo missions, which you should check out here…

(6) DINO LUST. They look like horns, but in reality they were babe magnets: “Triceratops may have had horns to attract mates”.

Dinosaurs like the Triceratops may have had horns and frills to attract a mate, a new study suggests.

Ceratopsian, or horned dinosaurs, were previously thought to have developed this ornamentation to distinguish between different species.

This has now been ruled out in a study published in a Royal Society journal.

Instead, the aggressive-looking armour may actually have evolved to signal an animal’s suitability as a partner, known as socio-sexual selection.

“Individuals are advertising their quality or genetic make-up,” explained Andrew Knapp, lead author of the research reported in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“We see that in peacocks too, with their tail feathers.”

(7) SF OBSCURE. Echo Ishii’s search through TV history leads to “Hard Time on Planet Earth”.

Hard Time on Planet Earth was an American series broadcast for 13 episodes in 1989 starring Martin Kove. An elite alien military officer is sentenced to earth as his penalty for rebellion. He is given human form-much weaker than his older form-and sent to Earth to improve his violent behavior. (Or maybe curb his violent instincts or learn about goodness, it all gets a bit murky.) Anyway, he’s banished to Earth with an AI system called Control to monitor him. He’s given the name Jesse. Control  is a giant, floating mechanical eye. Jesse has to help people in need to get back into the Ruling Council’s favor.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CAPTAIN

  • Born March 22, 1931 – William Shatner

(9) HE’S FEELING BETTER. An ad was gaining clicks by falsely reporting Shatner’s death, and the actor teed off on Facebook: “William Shatner Rails at Facebook After Being Told That He’s Dead”.

“Hey @facebook isn’t this your messenger app? What’s up with you allowing this Acocet Retail Sales ad to pass your muster? Thought you were doing something about this?” Shatner wrote.

A Facebook employee later responded with the assurance that the ad and the page had been removed from Facebook. Still, news of Shatner’s demise couldn’t come at a worse time for the actor, as he is expected to turn 87 on Thursday.

It also couldn’t come at a worse time for Facebook, which has been reeling recently over news that 50 million Facebook users unknowingly had their information lifted by data firm Cambridge Analytica.

(10) MEMEWHILE. Elsewhere on the internet, #AddShatnerToAnything was the order of the day. For example…

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian tuned into Broomhilda just as she was about to take gas.

(12) CONS AS PUBLIC UTILITY. Will Shetterly considered himself to have nothing in common with Jon Del Arroz apart from also having been banned from a convention. Well, now that Shetterly has cast shade on Jim C. Hines’ post about JDA’s track record of harassment, in “Two privileges of attending science fiction conventions, and a little about Jon Del Arroz’s law suit”, they have that in common, too. However, this passage struck me as the most interesting part of the post:

Before conventions began banning people, the fundamental privilege of attending science conventions wasn’t discussed because, by capitalist standards, the privilege was fair: anyone who had money could go, and anyone who didn’t, well, capitalist fairness is never about people who don’t have money.

But now that conventions have begun banning people, it’s time to acknowledge the second privilege. Though the genre has grown enormously, it’s still a small community at the top. If you hope to become a professional, it can be enormously helpful to attend WorldCon, the World Fantasy Convention, and literary conventions like ReaderCon, WisCon, and Fourth Street Fantasy. Once your career has begun, you need to be able to attend the Nebulas Awards too. Obviously, only the very privileged can go to most of those conventions regularly, but anyone who wants to make a career in this field should, every year, pick one from from Column A (WorldCon, World Fantasy, Nebula Awards), one from Column B (ReaderCon, WisCon, Fourth Street Fantasy), and one from Column C (local convention, regional convention, major commercial convention like DragonCon).

Being banned from any convention is an enormous blow to a writer’s ability to be a writer, and especially to a new writer’s ability to last in the field. It keeps you from meeting fellow professionals and getting useful tips, and it keeps you from making new fans.

(13) HIMTOO. Shetterly’s post prompted this recollection from Bruce Arthurs:

(14) BRANDED. The logical companion volume to Gene Wolfe’s The Death of Doctor Island and Other Stories and Other Stories, eh John?

(15) NEVER TOO LATE. Kim Wilde is making a comeback, with added science fiction: “Kim Wilde says aliens inspired her pop comeback”.

As a keen sci-fi fan (Arrival and ET are her favourite films), Wilde is fully embracing the theme of her new album – from the sleeve’s terrific B-movie artwork, to the stage show for her upcoming tour.

“I’ve got this little wardrobe set up, of fantastic capes and cloaks,” says the singer, who previously bought her outfits at jumble sales.

“We’re going to go a bit sci-fi and we’re going to a bit glam rock. It’ll be sexy and fun and something to put a big smile on people’s faces. I’m really excited about it.”

(16) A CLOCKWORK COD. Do Asimov’s Laws apply here? “Researchers create robotic fish that can swim underwater on its own”.

Observing fish in their natural ocean habitats goes a long way toward understanding their behaviors and interactions with the surrounding environment. But doing so isn’t easy. Using underwater vehicles to get a look at these species is one option, but they often come with a slew of limitations. Some are loud and use propellers or jet-propulsion that disturb fish and their surroundings. And many are designed in a way that doesn’t allow them to blend in with the marine environment. Controlling such vehicles is also a challenge and in many cases, they have to be tethered to a boat. But researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have come up with a potential solution — a soft robot that can swim on its own underwater.

(17) SEE FOOD. Apparently no fish were harmed in the making of this food? “3D-printed sushi looks like the perfect 8-bit meal” at Cnet.

At this year’s SXSW, Japanese technology company Open Meals revealed its Pixel Food Printer, which 3D-prints edible sushi, and other food, that looks like it was meant for a retro video game.

The pixelated food, including sushi and burgers, is printed first by using the Food Base digital platform that stores data on the exact flavor, shape, texture, color and nutrients of foods.

Then the actual Pixel Food Printer uses a robotic arm that prints out small pixel cubes made of edible gel with the corresponding flavors, colors and nutrients of the type of food being printed out.

(17) SEA PLASTIC. Printing seafood may be necessary at this rate: “Plastic patch in Pacific Ocean growing rapidly, study shows”.

Predictions suggest a build-up of about 80,000 tonnes of plastic in the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” between California and Hawaii.

This figure is up to sixteen times higher than previously reported, say international researchers.

One trawl in the centre of the patch had the highest concentration of plastic ever recorded.

“Plastic concentration is increasing – I think the situation is getting worse,” said Laurent Lebreton of The Ocean Cleanup Foundation in Delft, Netherlands, which led the study.

“This really highlights the urgency to take action in stopping the in-flow of plastic into the ocean and also taking measures to clean up the existing mess.”

Waste accumulates in five ocean areas, the largest being the patch located between Hawaii and California.

(18) KGB. Ellen Datlow shared her photos taken at Fantastic Fiction at KGB on March 21.

Despite our blizzard, people did indeed show up for our reading. They were rewarded by hearing wonderful work by Kelly Robson and Chandler Klang Smith.

(19) SCI-FI SAVES DOG. David Gerrold’s “Jasmine and Friends Book Sale” at GoFundMe is raising money to pay a vet bill and assist a couple of friends. Donate to it and you get some of David’s books.

Our little Jasmine is sixteen years old. She specializes in naps and laps. A few weeks ago, she stopped eating and appeared to be in serious decline.

The vet determined that she had developed a serious abscess in her mouth and needed immediate surgery before she weakened further. She ended up having seven teeth extracted as well.

The good news is that she survived the operation, her mouth is healing, and she’s eating again. She’s out of pain and she’s acting like her old self.

The bad news is that the vet bill was high. Very high. We thought we’d be able to cover it, but despite the vet helping us with a payment plan, we’re still falling short.

Add to that, we have a couple friends who could use a serious financial infusion. Several people on Facebook asked if they could help, so we decided to do it this way.

We’re holding a book sale.

Any donation at all will get you a link to download a set of three stories: “The Bag Lady,” “The Great Milo,” and “Chester” (which was inspired by Jasmine’s best buddy of fifteen years.)

Any donation of $20 or more gets you a link to download a copy of “Jacob”, my vampire novel, plus all the previous.

Any donation of $40 or more gets you a link to download a copy of “thirteen, fourteen, fifteen o’clock” plus all the previous.

Any donation of $60 or more gets you a link to download a copy of “Entanglements and Terrors” (my short story collection) plus all the previous.

Any donation of $80 or more gets you a link to download a copy of “A Promise O f Stars” (another short story collection) plus all the previous.

Any donation of $100 or more gets you all of the above, plus a copy of the Megapack, a flash drive with a half million words of stories, scripts, and stuff. (You’ll have to include a shipping address.)

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

Pixel Scroll 1/23/18 Always Scrolling Home

By JJ:

(1) THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED, I’LL GIVE YOU WHAT YOU NEED. (click on the date/time stamp to see the whole thread)

(2) SOUTHEAST ASIAN ANTHOLOGY. Rambutan Literary is launching its first anthology of works curated from its first two years of publishing Southeast Asian literature with a Kickstarter for Shared Horizons: A Rambutan Literary Anthology.

It’s been two great years since Rambutan Literary started publishing work from the global Southeast Asian literary community. We’ve grown from a tiny journal with a handful of readers to a robust, (proudly) small publication with a readership of thousands worldwide. We continue to publish literature from both established and emerging Southeast Asian writers, and we’re even currently sponsoring the Sing Lit Station 2018 Hawker Prize for Southeast Asian Poetry.

As we enter our third year, we want to celebrate the work that we’ve accomplished together, the amazing literature we’ve had the honor to publish, and the awesome writers we’ve gotten to work with by organizing an anthology of some of our favorite pieces from the last two years!

The Kickstarter thus far has achieved $1,224 in pledges toward a $3,370 goal, with 10 days remaining in the campaign.

(3) YOU GOT YOUR POLITICS IN MY SCIENCE-FICTION. At Tor.com, Judith Tarr provides a re-read review of Andre Norton’s Daybreak – 2250 A.D.:

Here, seven years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Norton gives us the complete destruction of Western civilization and the near-destruction of the human race. She knows about radiation poisoning, she speculates about the range and quality of mutations from it, and she makes it clear that she sees no other end to the atomic age than a cataclysmic blowup.

She also, even before Brown v. Board of Education and right in the middle of the McCarthy era, made clear that the future will not be pure white, though it may be relentlessly patriarchal. Her hero may have fair skin but he’s something other than Aryan-Caucasian, and his closest friend is African-American, descended from the Tuskegee Airmen. The implicitly white Plains people actually have a female leader, and the only women who speak in the whole novel speak at the end against the men’s insistence on perpetual war…

Her theme here, just as much as in her works of the Eighties and later, is that all humans need to work together, that cultural differences are not measures of superiority or its opposite, and that the real future of humanity is among the stars.

Apolitical? Not even slightly.

(4) SPEAKING OF APOLITICAL SF. A tweet from the prematurely-declared SFFCGuild claiming that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was apolitical evolved into a long, raucous Twitter thread on political messages in SFF. At one point, Jim Hines threatens to use a magic tattoo to make Scott Lynch bald. (click on the date/time stamp to see the whole thread)

(5) VIRAL FICTION. Story Seed Vault announces this year’s Flash Fiction contest.

The Story Seed Vault is an online micro-fiction publication that aims to entertain and educate our readers about scientific research through fiction. We are an international publication based in Sydney, Australia. As Story Seed Vault is new to the industry, we are pushing to increase our reach and to partner with science communicators all over the world.

One of the ways that we do this is by holding thematic Flash Fiction contests.

Criteria

  1. It must be based on topics/research relevant to VIROLOGY. The more recent the research, the better. We will judge a great story with science from a few years ago over an alright story with a study published yesterday.
  2. If the story is about VIROLOGY but the research provided is generic educational info, it will not be awarded a placing.
  3. The story has to be able to stand on its own – the science can provide context/make it more interesting, but it should not rely heavily on the science to be entertaining.

1st, 2nd, and 3rd place entrants will receive $10 each.

The submission period is Flash as well: Submissions open at 10pm AEST January 25, 2018, and close at 10pm AEST January 27, 2018. (That’s 7am EDT on those days, for you Yanks.)

Please, PLEASE nobody tell Timothy about this.

(6) KINGFISHER ENVY. Filer Cheryl S. sends a photo of her gorgeous Kickstarter Special Edition of Summer in Orcus by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon). Those who missed out can still get an e-book edition, or read this magical tale for free online at the author’s website.

(7) DO YOU FEEL LUCKY, SOLARPUNK? DO YOU? Tom Cassauwers, on OZY, says Sci-Fi Doesn’t Have to Be Depressing: Welcome to Solarpunk:

Imagine a scene, set in the future, where a child in Burning Man-style punk clothing is standing in front of a yurt powered by solar panels. There weren’t many books with scenes like that in 2014, when Sarena Ulibarri, an editor, first grew interested in a genre of science fiction that imagines a renewable and sustainable future. Four years later, it’s different.

Welcome to solarpunk, a new genre within science fiction that is a reaction against the perceived pessimism of present-day sci-fi and hopes to bring optimistic stories about the future with the aim of encouraging people to change the present.

(8) VISUAL CONFUSION. SFF authors have provided their photo albums from last week’s ConFusion convention in Ann Arbor, Michigan. See Jim C. Hines’ photos and John Scalzi’s photos.

(9) THE FORCE AWAKENED. Bill Capossere, at Fantasy Literature, has posted an insightful review of the non-fiction work Superwomen: Gender, Power, and Representation by Carolyn Cocca:

Stylistically, Cocca is consistently engaging, her prose clear and fluid. The content is well researched, organized, focused, and incredibly detailed, and the entire work is wholly and thoroughly accessible throughout, making for reading that is enjoyable, stimulating, and thought-provoking.

Some of this is well traveled territory, and so those conversant with the topic won’t be surprised for instance to hear about how Wonder Woman’s creator had an overtly feminist motivation, or that female heroes such as Jean Grey or Sue Storm often fainted while exercising their powers. Nor will they be shocked at the difference in posing and costuming between male and female superheroes. Superwomen‘s value here for such readers then isn’t in the presentation of new information, but in how good a job Cocca does placing these things in context of time period and culture, as well as highlighting how a more diverse authorship and artistry (as opposed to just more diverse characters) can make a huge difference.

(10) INACCESSIBILITY. Despite exchanging numerous messages in advance with Ace Comic Con Phoenix, congoer Jen Sauve found the accessibility arrangements less than accommodating:

We had been told upon arrival register and then find an ace rep and they would make sure we were taken care of as per their disability policy. I must’ve asked about 15 different reps including their one at guest relations and the ace info booth and no one seemed to know of any policy or be on the same page. Irritated, I went down to the celeb photo ops redemption (missing the cap panel I wanted to see because hey, making sure I am accommodated and don’t have any sort of medical emergency is important). Celeb photo ops (they seemed rather pissed about this as well mind you) informed me that ace was telling them no one could be in their ada line unless they were in a wheelchair. I know the celeb photo ops staff rather well by this point attending so many cons and could tell they felt awful saying this to me.

(11) SHARKES IN THE WATER. Maureen Kincaid Speller has posted an intro for the 2018 Shadow Clarke project. As someone who was on the outside looking in last year, I find some of her conclusions regarding the reactions to last year’s results… questionable.

To begin with, we discovered that the phenomenon of award shadow juries is apparently not that well known outside Europe. There was an unexpected degree of resistance to the concept from some parts of the global sf community, people who saw our enterprise as part of an ongoing attempt to police their reading, which was certainly not our intention. More than that, we came to realise that a surprising number of people within the sf community had become deeply averse to the whole idea of critical writing…

Our basic approach will be almost the same as last year… But this time we’ll be placing an even greater emphasis on showing our critical working. So, alongside our individual reviews, we hope to include dialogues, round tables, and possibly some podcasts as well if we can sort out the logistics. We’re also going to be talking individually about our critical practice. It’s common to see fiction writers talking about what moves them to write, where their ideas come from, and so on, but nowadays it’s vanishingly rare to see critics and reviewers doing the same. It’s time we changed that. The Shadow Clarke jurors come from a variety of critical backgrounds, and it’s going to be very interesting to compare notes on what we do and how we do it.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS:

(13) FAMILIAL FANTASY V. Fantasy photographer Alexandra Lee has embarked on a very special person project – portraits of her loved ones in fantasy costuming and settings. (click on the date/time stamp to see the tweet, then click on one of the tweet photos to open the gallery)

(14) THIS MUST BE JUST LIKE LIVING IN PARADISE. Viable Paradise 22, a writers’ workshop which will run from Sunday, October 21 to Friday, October 26, 2018, has a discount on applications during the January earlybird period.

Viable Paradise is a unique one-week residential workshop in writing and selling commercial science fiction and fantasy. The workshop is intimate, intense, and features extensive time spent with best-selling and award-winning authors and professional editors currently working in the field. VP concentrates on the art of writing fiction people want to read, and this concentration is reflected in post-workshop professional sales by our alumni…

Viable Paradise encourages an informal and supportive workshop atmosphere. During the week, instructors and students interact in one-on-one discussions, group critiques, lectures, and free-flowing Q&As. The emphasis at first is on critiquing the students’ submitted manuscripts; later, the emphasis shifts to new material produced during the week.

The application fee changes based on when in the application period your application is submitted:

  • For applications submitted from January 1 to January 31: $12.50 (USD).
  • For applications submitted from February 1 to March 31: $25 (USD).
  • For applications submitted from April 1 to May 15: $35 (USD).
  • For applications submitted from May 16 to June 1: $50 (USD).

The application fee is non-refundable and is separate from the tuition cost for applicants accepted to the workshop. For those applicants we accept as students, the non-refundable tuition cost is $1500 (USD) and is due on August 1st.

(15) PINING FOR THE SPLASHGUARDS.

(16) ASIMOV DIDN’T SEE THIS ONE COMING. Scottish supermarket chain Margiotta, which trialled a ShopBot who they affectionately named “Fabio” in an experiment run by Heriot-Watt University for the BBC’s Six Robots & US, discovered that the First Law of Robotics should have been: Do Not Alarm the Customers.

Fabio was programmed with directions to hundreds of items in the company’s flagship Edinburgh store and initially charmed customers with his ‘hello gorgeous’ greeting, playful high fives, jokes and offers of hugs.

But within just a few days, the robot was demoted after giving unhelpful advice such as ‘it’s in the alcohol section’ when asked where to find beer. He also struggled to understand shoppers’ requests because of the ambient background noise.

Banished to an aisle where he was only allowed to offer samples of pulled pork, Fabio started to alarm customers who went out of their way to avoid him…

…when Franco Margiotta, who built the business from scratch, told the little robot they would not be renewing his contract, Fabio asked: “Are you angry?” and some staff were reduced to tears when he was packed away and shipped back to Heriot-Watt.

(17) DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH WAITING FOR MOONBASE ALPHA. Author Mark R. Whittington, in a commentary in the Salt Lake Tribune which speculates that Mitt Romney will run to take the seat vacated by the retiring Senator Orrin Hatch, recommends that Romney reconsider the idea of planting a human colony on the moon.

One of Romney’s opponents, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, proposed the building of a lunar base by the year 2020, then eight years away. Mr. Romney [in 2012] took the occasion of a presidential debate in Tampa to savagely mock the idea of going back to the moon. “If I had a business executive come to me and say I want to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, I’d say, ‘You’re fired.’…

Having listened to the experts on the matter, Trump has duly signed a directive for NASA to set America’s course back to the moon. What Romney once found beyond the pale is now federal government policy.

So, the question arises, considering Romney’s prior position and his well-known antipathy to the president, what is his position now concerning a return to the moon? Would he still fire someone who suggested it to him?

In response, Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering at the University of Utah Noel de Nevers says “Sorry, Mark, but moon colonies are just science fiction right now”:

In support of this idea [Whittington] says, “Water and ice at the lunar poles can be mined and refined to rocket fuel,” and also, “Access to the moon and its abundant resources will be of benefit to the United States.”

Both of these ideas form the basis of entertaining science fiction, e.g. “The Martian.” But the moon (and Mars), as far as we know, do not supply visitors with air, drinking water, food or fuel. Visitors to the moon (or Mars) must bring all of those with them…

So far lunar exploration has not shown that there are “abundant natural resources”, on the moon, and to date there are none whose value on earth (e.g. gold or platinum) would justify the cost of bringing them to earth, even if those resources cost nothing to find and extract from the moon’s surface (or interior, as most earthly gold and platinum is). There is no evidence that the fossil fuels or mineral deposits that life on earth depends on were ever formed by lunar geology and biology, as geology and biology has formed them on earth.

(18) YOU ALSO NEED THIS.

(19) AMNESIA SF. Michael Jan Friedman, who is perhaps best known for his Star Trek tie-in novels and a writing credit on the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Resistance”, has created a Kickstarter campaign for Empty Space, a science fiction adventure in the form of a 128-page full-color graphic novel, with 115 pages of story and illustrations by pencil-and-inks artist Caio Cacau:

Your name is Robinson Dark. You don’t know where you are or how you got there or what happened to the crew you led into space. All you know is you can’t feel a thing – not even fear.

Then it gets weird.

I’ve described Empty Space as a cross between Star Trek and Lost, but it’s really more than that. It’s a twisty, turny, sometimes unsettling narrative set against the limitless backdrop of the stars, with the sort of bizarre alien species and against-all-odds derring-do that’s always characterized the best space adventure – along with a heaping dollop of the macabre.

This is the kind of tale I’ve wanted to tell for a long time. In fact, it’s a dream project for a guy who fell in love with comics and science fiction at the age of six and never stopped loving them.

It’s also a chance for me to give back to you – the readers who’ve been following me for decades – the best, most intriguing, and most entertaining work I can possibly come up with. If at any time in your immersion in Empty Space you think you know where the story is going… I humbly invite you to think again.

The Kickstarter thus far has achieved $3,435 in pledges toward a $10,000 goal, with 23 days remaining in the campaign.

(20) CUBIK MUSIK. It doesn’t get any geekier than this: YouTuber The Cubician plays the Star Wars cantina song as part of solving Rubik’s Cube.

(21) FOR THOSE WHO NEED TO ESCAPE, JUST FOR A LITTLE WHILE, TODAY.

 In Memory of Ursula K. Le Guin, who challenged all of us to become our better selves.

[Thanks to Cheryl S., Cora Buhlert, Hampus Eckerman, lauowolf, Laura Resnick, Lenore Jones, Mark-kitteh, Paul Weimer, Soon Lee, and Standback for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 Contributing Editor of the Day JJ.]

Pixel Scroll 1/15/18 Scroll Down, You File Too Fast, You Got To Make The Pixels Last

(1) KURT ERICHSEN’S RETIREMENT MAKES THE NEWS. The Toledo Blade has published a superb article about fanartist Kurt Erichsen, who is retiring from his day job as vice president of water quality planning for Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments after a 34-year career. I learned all kinds of things I never knew about his work on getting the Ottawa river cleaned up, and was pleased to see they also covered some of the fannish things I did know about the 2002 Rotsler Award winner —

Mr. Erichsen’s passion for environmental planning wasn’t his first calling in life, though. He was fascinated with drawing since he was young. He might have pursued a career as an illustrator if his parents hadn’t convinced him otherwise, but he never gave up his passion for drawing.

From 1980 to 2008, he produced a comic strip called “Murphy’s Manor.” It focused on the lives of gay men living in the fictional town of Black Swamp, Ohio. That series and others he produced, including “The Sparkle Spinsters” and “GLIB Talk,” appeared in as many as 70 publications marketed to homosexuals, resulting in awards from the Gay/?Lesbian Press Association.

“I was trying to be entertaining while making a point,” Mr. Erichsen said.

Mr. Erichsen also has produced artwork for fans of science fiction fanzines and conventions.

(2) COMES THE MILLENNIUM. Congratulations to James Davis Nicoll, who sent a link to his review of Elizabeth Hand’s Winterlong – captioned “And Rain Keeps Falling Like Helpless Tears” – with the note that it is his 1000th review.

Elizabeth Hand’s 1990 debut novel Winterlong is the first volume in her Winterlong Trilogy.

Nuclear war and germ warfare have left Washington a shadow of its once glorious past. A handful of administrators, descended from self-appointed curators, control the relics of America’s lost past, defending the remnants from the diseased, mutated, and simply unlucky inhabitants of the surrounding sea of ruins….

(3) VERSE AS SWORD AND SHIELD. Middle-Earth Reflections’ new post “On the songs of power” discusses how they work in The Silmarillion.

Among many powerful notions in the world of Arda few are more potent than music and language. Music is the essential element of Arda, its heart and soul, as the world was created and shaped by the majestic Music of the Ainur. And it was the word of Ilúvatar — Eä! — that brought the created vision to life.

The power of words in Middle-earth cannot be overestimated. If used masterfully, with subtlety and skill they can inspire others to do incredible things. It is especially prominent when words are put into verse: songs can become something a lot more potent than mere poetic recitals. I have already spoken about the songs of challenge in The Silmarillion: sung in the situations of dire need and despair, they bring hope and salvation against all the odds. A special place in the story is occupied by the songs of power. They are very effective verses able to create or destroy, be used as a weapon or for defence.

It is by means of a song that Yavanna brings to life the Two Trees of Valinor and, later, the last fruit and flower from them used for creating the Sun and the Moon after the Trees’ destruction. Finrod duels with Sauron on the songs of power. Lúthien sings an equally powerful song to make Tol-in-Gaurhoth tremble and be heard by Beren trapped in Sauron’s dungeons.

(4) HANDMAID’S TALE. Hulu previews the second season.

Whatever is silenced will clamor to be heard. The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 returns April 25.

 

(5) ATWOOD’S FEMINISM. Margaret Atwood answers her own question, “Am I a bad feminist?”, in an op-ed at the Toronto Globe and Mail.

So let us suppose that my Good Feminist accusers, and the Bad Feminist that is me, agree on the above points. Where do we diverge? And how did I get into such hot water with the Good Feminists?

In November of 2016, I signed – as a matter of principle, as I have signed many petitions – an Open Letter called UBC Accountable, which calls for holding the University of British Columbia accountable for its failed process in its treatment of one of its former employees, Steven Galloway, the former chair of the department of creative writing, as well as its treatment of those who became ancillary complainants in the case. Specifically, several years ago, the university went public in national media before there was an inquiry, and even before the accused was allowed to know the details of the accusation. Before he could find them out, he had to sign a confidentiality agreement. The public – including me – was left with the impression that this man was a violent serial rapist, and everyone was free to attack him publicly, since under the agreement he had signed, he couldn’t say anything to defend himself. A barrage of invective followed.

But then, after an inquiry by a judge that went on for months, with multiple witnesses and interviews, the judge said there had been no sexual assault, according to a statement released by Mr. Galloway through his lawyer. The employee got fired anyway. Everyone was surprised, including me. His faculty association launched a grievance, which is continuing, and until it is over, the public still cannot have access to the judge’s report or her reasoning from the evidence presented. The not-guilty verdict displeased some people. They continued to attack. It was at this point that details of UBC’s flawed process began to circulate, and the UBC Accountable letter came into being.

A fair-minded person would now withhold judgment as to guilt until the report and the evidence are available for us to see. We are grownups: We can make up our own minds, one way or the other. The signatories of the UBC Accountable letter have always taken this position. My critics have not, because they have already made up their minds. Are these Good Feminists fair-minded people? If not, they are just feeding into the very old narrative that holds women to be incapable of fairness or of considered judgment, and they are giving the opponents of women yet another reason to deny them positions of decision-making in the world.

The #MeToo moment is a symptom of a broken legal system. All too frequently, women and other sexual-abuse complainants couldn’t get a fair hearing through institutions – including corporate structures – so they used a new tool: the internet. Stars fell from the skies. This has been very effective, and has been seen as a massive wake-up call. But what next? The legal system can be fixed, or our society could dispose of it. Institutions, corporations and workplaces can houseclean, or they can expect more stars to fall, and also a lot of asteroids.

If the legal system is bypassed because it is seen as ineffectual, what will take its place? Who will be the new power brokers? It won’t be the Bad Feminists like me. We are acceptable neither to Right nor to Left. In times of extremes, extremists win. Their ideology becomes a religion, anyone who doesn’t puppet their views is seen as an apostate, a heretic or a traitor, and moderates in the middle are annihilated. Fiction writers are particularly suspect because they write about human beings, and people are morally ambiguous. The aim of ideology is to eliminate ambiguity.

(6) VENUS IF YOU WILL. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler reports on the wealth of information collected by the latest (in 1963) Venus probe — “[January 15, 1963] Venus’ true face (Scientific Results of Mariner 2)”.

Getting there is half the fun

Before I talk about Mariner’s encounter with Venus, it’s important to discuss what the spacecraft discovered on the way there.  After all, it was a 185 million mile trip, most of it in interplanetary space charted but once before by Pioneer 5.  And boy, did Mariner learn a lot!

For instance, it has finally been confirmed that the sun does blow a steady stream of charged particles in a gale known as the “Solar Wind.”  The particles get trapped in Earth’s magnetic field and cause, among other things, our beautiful aurorae.

Mariner also measured the interplanetary magnetic field, which is really the sun’s magnetic field.  It varies with the 27-day solar rotation, and if we had more data, I suspect the overall map of the field would look like a spiral.

Why is all this important?  Well, aside from giving us an idea of the kind of “space weather” future probes and astronauts will have to deal with, these observations of the sun’s effect on space give us a window as to what’s going on inside the sun to generate these effects.

One last bit: along the way, Mariner measured the density of “cosmic dust,” little physical particles in space.  It appears that there’s a lot of it around the Earth, perhaps trapped by our magnetic field, and not a lot in space.  It may be that the solar wind sweeps the realm between the planets clean….

(7) LAST JEDI DOES NOT IMPRESS CHINESE. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “China Box Office: ‘Jumanji’ Clobbers Competition With $40M, ‘Last Jedi’ Crashes and Burns”.

Dwane Johnson’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle roared into China over the weekend, racking up a strong $40 million.

The Sony tentpole finally toppled runaway Chinese hit The Ex-File 3: The Return of the Exes, which earned $25.3 million in its third frame, bringing its local total to $272 million. Globally, Jumanji, also starring Kevin Hart, has earned $667 million.

Disney’s and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, meanwhile, didn’t even put up a fight. Only in its second weekend on Chinese screens, The Last Jedi pulled in a paltry $2.4 million — a 92 percent decline from its disappointing $28.7 million debut, according to data from EntGroup.

The Star Wars franchise, never popular in China, appears to be on a precipitous decline in the Middle Kingdom, the world’s second-largest film territory.

…The global picture is far better, of course: As of Sunday, Last Jedi had a worldwide haul of $1.264 billion, making it the biggest film of 2017.

Looper attempts to explain the disappointing numbers –

(8) BINTI ARC CONCLUDES. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog points out how Binti: The Night Masquerade Is the Epic Climax to a Deeply Personal Saga”.

Each of the previous two books in Dr. Nnedi Okorafor’s coming-of-age story saw Binti faced with tremendous change and exposed her to new truths that widened her world, and made it smaller. She’s taken on attributes of the (sometimes) murderous and very alien Meduse, and come to understand there’s more to the seemingly uncivilized desert people of her homeland than she’d ever imagined. The Night Masquerade is the conclusion of her journey, and the title refers to a spectre of change that appears to significant people at times of great crisis. It’s wonderfully evocative of the climactic nature of the story, and Binti will face a great deal more turmoil before hers is done.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 15, 1935 – Robert Silverberg

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy says Pearls Before Swine showed him an excellent reason (or three) to keep the closet closed
  • John King Tarpinian discovered the consequences of making a Flintstones reference in B.C.
  • Mike Kennedy learned news happens whether you know it or not in this installment of Nonsequitur.
  • The Flying McCoys explore what would happen to Batman if a certain supervillain lived up to his name.

(11) WHAT GOES UP. The BBC talks to “The astronaut fighting to save our home in space”:

The International Space Station (ISS) is humanity’s most expensive structure – and in just six years’ time, it may vanish, plunging into the Pacific Ocean. BBC Future meets the man trying to save it.

… “I’ve been very, very, very, very lucky,” he says, laughing. “Most astronauts are very jealous of me, which is probably why I won’t get to fly in space again!”

Most famously, Foale was on board Mir in June 1997 when an un-crewed Progress supply ship ploughed into the station, smashing a solar panel and breaching the hull. With the master alarm sounding, air leaking, power failing and the station spinning, Foale worked with his two Russian crewmates to prepare their Soyuz escape capsule and close off the damaged module.

By holding his thumb to a station window and examining the movement of stars, Foale used his physics training to estimate the spin rate of the station, so mission control could fire thrusters to bring it back under control.

(12) MUST COME DOWN. Someone hit the center divider on the road, went airborne and crashed into the SECOND floor of a dental business —

Which inspired this Harry Potter reference from “Typical Girl” —

(13) MIXED MARTIAL ARTS. In “Bruce Lee Lightsabers Scene Recreation,” Patrick Nan asks, “What if Bruce Lee fought with lightsabers?”

(14) COMMITMENT. Laura Resnick continues a series about her volunteer work — “Cat Rescue, Part 3: Return to Sender”.

I’m writing a series of blog posts about my volunteer work in cat rescue with Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.). Part 1 discusses how I got involved and outlines how it works. Part 2 talks about the happy endings that are so rewarding in this work, as well as the sad ones (and also the appallingly infuriating ones) that make some days very hard.

There is another kind of outcome to pet adoption, too. Despite good people trying hard, sometimes things just don’t work out. A cat turns out to be a bad fit for a family, or the family’s life changes in tragic ways that make keeping the cat impossible… and they return them to C.A.T.. This is sad for everyone, but it is absolutely the right thing to do in such circumstances.

I cannot stress this strongly enough: if family decides not to keep a pet, they should return the animal to us (and any responsible rescue group has this same policy). The most important thing to us is that the cat should always be safe. By rescuing the cat, we made a promise that we will never abandon this animal or allow it to return to the condition from which we rescued it, alone and forsaken in the world. Do not break our promise by abandoning the animal we entrusted to you at the time of adoption. Return it to us.

(15) CLASSIC WEIRD. Jared pays tribute to “Jane Gaskell, First Lady of the Weird” in a compelling review article at Pornokitsch. Here’s an excerpt:

The Atlan Series: The Serpent (1963), Atlan (1965), The City (1966), Some Summer Lands (1977)

Note: To keep things complicated, later printings split The Serpent into two volumes (The Serpent and The Dragon)

This series – Gaskell’s epic fantasy saga – is batshit crazy.

It follows Princess Cija, as she meddles in the politics of Atlantis. She goes from princess to prisoner to conqueror to spy to Chosen One to fugitive to back again… It is bonkers, risque and occasionally befuddling.

In a way, the Atlan saga is an even more extreme version of Strange Evil, exacerbated, perhaps, due to its epic length. Cija, like Judith, lacks agency. She is notable because she is desired, rather than possessing any strong desires of her own. She’s passed from hand to hand (to paw), partner to partner. Her bloodline is important, her presence is ‘destined’, but, again, we find in Cjia a distressing subversion of a Chosen One. She is one that has been Chosen, rather than having any control over her fate. This is the Epic Fantasy with the princess-in-the-tower as the first person protagonist, and it can make for harrowing reading: to be the prize and not the hero is, unsurprisingly, kind of dark.

Atlan also has an utterly ridiculous setting – packed with ‘SPACE AGE’ SF, mad science, dragons, monsters, death rays, lizard people, whatever. It feels almost deliberately pulpy, in a way that makes its sneaky-dark message all the more sinister.

Michael Moorcock included the series in Fantasy: The 100 Best Books (1988), and admires – slightly sarcastically – the over-the-top pulpy elements. He refers to the series’ “bewildering status changes” and “breathless peregrinations”, and his summary gleefully points out how silly the whole thing is. But he eventually concludes “Too much? Never! Stirring stuff, all of it.”

Others also (mostly) approve – John Clute describes it with lukewarm praise: “In genre terms the series – sometimes uneasily, but at points with real panache – marries sf and the popular romance; it is full of vigorous and exuberant invention and occasionally overheated prose.” (It is worth noting that late 1960s ‘popular romance’ was pretty bleak stuff – this isn’t a sappy love story, but a harrowing tale of self-actualisation [or… semi-reluctant acceptance].)

(16) ROBOTS V. FAIRIES. SF Bluestocking’s Bridget McKinney isn’t high on this new collection — “Book Review: Robots vs. Fairies edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe”.

Robots vs. Fairies is my first reading disappointment of 2018. I loved Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe’s first anthology, 2016’s The Starlit Wood, so I was very hyped for this one when it was announced. Unfortunately, Robots vs. Fairies is a bit of a sophomore slump for the editing pair, with a theme that feels more questionable the farther one reads into the collection, stories that largely feel a little too written to spec, and not enough that’s new and interesting to recommend it on those scores. It might work as sort of comfort reading for those who find its table of contents—filled with some of the hottest short fiction writers currently working in SFF—appealing, but if you’re looking for exciting, fresh, innovative work, there’s not much of that here.

(17) JDA TODAY. Jon Del Arroz tries to defend against the Jim C. Hines compilation without mentioning the author by name in “The Ever-Changing Narrative And Double Standards Show They’re Disingenuous” (link to the Internet Archive).

In the past couple days, with that Narrative being such bad publicity for the convention because of the double standard they applied over political affiliation, it’s shifted to “he’s mean on the internet!”  NYT Bestsellers have been swearing about me on their twitter, lower-selling midlist authors are cheering and congratulating each other over spreading rumors and gossip like this is a high school clique rather than professionals. This strategy is going to backfire as well, because first, being mean on the internet is not a crime. No one has been banned from conventions over being mean on the internet before. And it applies to these folk in a massive double standard way. I don’t go around being nearly as mean or cruel as they are.

(18) MEDIC, I’M HIT! I was bitterly disappointed that Jim C. Hines showed in comments today that he reviewed the evidence with JDA about his doctored “Goodbye Jon” email conversation with me (which actually happened in this order) only to conclude —

The summary: We have several possibilities here.

  1. Jon is faking his screenshots.
  2. Mike is lying.
  3. Jon’s Sent Mail shows a different Sent Time than the email(s) Mike received from him.

(19) CHOPPAGE. At Pedestrian, Ben McLeay reports the latest antics of men’s rights activists – erasing women from The Last Jedi — “MRAs Make 46-Minute Cut Of ‘The Last Jedi’ That Edits Out All The Women”.

It is utterly tragic that MRAs aren’t given the respect they deserve. It’s truly galling that just because their entire worldview was formed around a profound sense of entitlement induced by watching thousands of hours of harem anime, no one takes them seriously. It’s heartbreaking to think that people dismiss them out of hand just because – instead of addressing actual issues like the rates of suicide and depression among men – they focus on dumb shit like editing out all the parts of The Last Jedi that aren’t centred around men.

If that last thing sounded too ridiculous to be true, you have clearly forgotten which time it is that we live in and the corresponding fact that pretty much nothing now is too ridiculous to be true. We live in the most aggressively ridiculous timeline. Accordingly, the self-described “chauvinist cut” of TLJ is very, very real, and exactly as dumb as it sounds.

Uploaded to The Pirate Bay yesterday by an anonymous user, the “The Last Jedi: De-Feminized Fanedit” is, according to their own description “basically The Last Jedi minus Girlz Powah and other silly stuff“.

(20) HARD-HITTING JOURNALISM. WIRED delivers a less-than-stunning revelation: “Cantina Talk: The Last Jedi’s Shirtless Kylo Is Proving a Problem for Cosplayers”.

So, About Kylo’s High-Waisted Tights…

Source: The Wall Street Journal, of all places

Probability of Accuracy: They did get a high quality still of shirtless Kylo, so there’s no denying that they know what they’re doing.

The Real Deal: Perhaps the most surprising Last Jedi story to appear in recent weeks is this Wall Street Journal piece about the high-waisted tights Kylo wore in that one super-uncomfortable scene of him Force-communicating with Rey. (Don’t pretend like you know know exactly which one we’re talking about.) For one, it was surprising because it was in the Journal, but also because it focused on how hard Shirtless Buff Kylo Ren was to pull off for cosplayers. The piece even quotes Last Jedi costume designer Michael Kaplan, who said, “The world of Star Wars is not our world… Kylo Ren is not some hipster in hip-hugging jeans. Think Errol Flynn swashbuckling coolness as a point of departure. Hide that navel!” So, now you know. (Also, let’s be honest: Kylo Ren most definitely is some hipster in hip-hugging jeans, even if his wardrobe doesn’t reflect it.)

(21) BLACK PANTHER. Ruth Carter “‘Black Panther’ Costume Designer Talks Tribal-Tech Inspirations” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Ruth Carter has created costumes for some epic films, Amistad, Malcolm X and Selma among them, but nothing prepared her for the size and scope of Black Panther. For the super-stylish superhero film opening Feb. 12, she imagined a new African diaspora with 700 costumes fusing futurism, indigenous dress and high fashion, using research that spanned from the Rose Bowl Flea Market to textile dealers in Accra, Ghana.

The Ryan Coogler-directed film brings to the big screen Marvel Comics’ first black superhero, reinventing the circa 1966 character for today. Black Panther is depicted as T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who rules over the fantastical African country of Wakanda, rich with vibranium, a mythic metal that is woven into the superhero’s sleek black, repeating triangle-pattern suit (designed by Marvel’s Ryan Meinerding), and has allowed the population to make technological advances nearly a century ahead of the rest of the world. The fight for vibranium is at the heart of the story, with T’Challa defending the kingdom against Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger.

Carter worked with five illustrators, 14 designers, mold makers, fabric dyers, jewelry makers and more. “It was an army,” the costume designer says. On her mood boards were images of African dress from the Maasai, Tuareg, Turkana, Xhosa, Zulu, Suri and Dinka peoples (including a men’s glass bead, animal skin and cowry shell corset from the Metropolitan Museum of Art), as well as piercings and body art, and more abstract examples of drapery and beading. She also examined fashion by avant-garde pleating master Issey Miyake, African-style vintage pieces by Yves Saint Laurent and Donna Karan.

(22) STARTS TOMORROW. CW released a clip from Black Lightning — The Resurrection Scene 2 – a show that premieres January 16.

About BLACK LIGHTNING: Jefferson Pierce is a man wrestling with a secret. Nine years ago, Pierce was gifted with the superhuman power to harness and control electricity, which he used to keep his hometown streets safe as the masked vigilante Black Lightning. However, after too many nights with his life and his family on the line, he left his Super Hero days behind. Almost a decade later, Pierce’s crime-fighting days are long behind him…or so he thought. But with crime and corruption spreading like wildfire, Black Lightning returns — to save not only his family, but also the soul of his community.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, ULTRAGOTHA, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, James Davis Nicoll, Dann, Will R., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John From GR.]

Pixel Scroll 1/14/18 Like A File Over Scrolling Pixels, I Will Lay Me Down

(1) ALL KNOWLEDGE. TASAT (There’s a Story About That) is a new community hub for applying science fiction to solve real world problems.

Accessing more than a hundred years of science fiction thought experiments, TASAT will tap into a passionate, global community of writers, scholars, librarians, and fans to crowdsource science fictional stories (across media) that may provide applicable insight into the problems we face today and anticipate facing tomorrow.

Applying Science Fiction to Solve Real World Problems

Envision: You work at an agency, corporation, or NGO, or you’re a citizen who has come across something… unusual. You’ve gathered a team to make recommendations. There seems to be a clear explanation. And yet, you wonder…

…might someone have thought about this very situation, in the past? Perhaps with an alternative idea your team missed? What if, already in some archive, There’s A Story About This?

As TASAT founder David Brin explains here, far-seeing tales can help us avoid mistakes, or at least give us a wider selection of scenarios to think about.

Accessing more than a hundred years of science fiction thought experiments, TASAT taps into a passionate, global community of writers, scholars, librarians, and fans. We aim to curate a reading list applicable to problems and possibilities of tomorrow. TASAT operates on two levels…

(2) MORE LIKE A BIG GULP. Quick Sip Reviews’ Charles Payseur unveils “THE SIPPY AWARDS 2017! The ‘There’s Something in My Eye’ Sippy for Excellent Making Me Ugly-Cry in Short SFF”. I don’t quite understand all of it – perhaps you can explain it to me!

The 3rd Annual Sippy Awards keep right on moving! That’s right, the SFF awards that no one asked for and few pay attention to is back! I’ve shipped my favorite relationships, and I’ve cowered in fear before my favorite horror stories. Which means that it’s week it’s time to reduce myself to a small puddle of tears somewhat resembling a functioning human being. yes, it’s time for…
The “There’s Something in My Eye” Sippy Award 

for Excellent Making Me Ugly-Cry in Short SFF

I’m something of an emotive reader, which means that there are times when reading that a story just hits me right in the feels and I need to take a moment to recover. These are stories that, for me, are defined most by their emotional weight. By the impact they have, the ability to completely destroy all the careful emotional shields we use to keep the rest of the world at bay. These are the stories that pry open the shell of control I try surround myself in and leave me little more than a blubbering mess. So joining me in smiling through the tears and celebrating this year’s winners!

(3) BRIDGE PARTY. ConDor joins forces with SanDiegoLan.net to host the Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator game at ConDor 25, to be held January 19-21 — “Artemis Bridge Simulation at ConDor”.

Artemis is a multiplayer, multi-computer networked game for Windows computers.

Artemis simulates a spaceship bridge by networking several computers together. One computer runs the simulation and the “main screen”, while the others serve as workstations for the normal jobs a bridge officer might do, like Helm, Communication, Engineering, and Weapon Control.

Artemis is a social game where several players are together in one room (“bridge”) , and while they all work together, one player plays the Captain, a person who sits in the middle, doesn’t have a workstation, and tells everyone what to do.

San Diego LAN is a group of people who love getting together and playing PC games over LAN. We always balance the teams and we have a very friendly bunch, (typically ages 18 to 45).

(4) SF IN SOCAL. The Pasadena Museum of History will host the free exhibition “Dreaming the Universe: The Intersection of Science, Fiction & Southern California” from March 3 through September 2.

Dreaming the Universe: The Intersection of Science, Fiction, & Southern California… explores the history of science fiction in Southern California from 1930 to 1980, and how it interacted with the advances of science, the changes in technology, and shifts in American society. Curated by Nick Smith, president of Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, the exhibition will feature historic artifacts, fine and graphic art, books and ephemera, and historic photographs.  This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The museum is at 470 W. Walnut St. , Pasadena, CA 91103.

(5) DEEP DISH. The next Great Deep Dish SFF reading in Chicago will be on March 1, 7 p.m.

The inaugural event in December at Volumes Bookcafe was reported by Mary Anne Mohanraj at the Speculative Literature Foundation.

…thanks again to all the readers and speakers (Mary Robinette Kowal, Stephen Segal, Michi Trota, Michael Moreci, Angeli Primlani, Dan Gonzalez, Sue Burke, Valya Dudycz Lupescu) and everyone else who worked to make it a success, esp. my co-host, Chris Bauer.

(6) DOCUMENTING JDA’S TROLLING. Jim C. Hines has written a lengthy summary of “Jon Del Arroz’s History of Trolling and Harassing”.

Del Arroz’s defenders claim he’s a nice guy, and accusations that he harasses or trolls people are absurd. Del Arroz told me on Facebook that he doesn’t “escalate feuds.” He claims he’s just the victim of blackballing, harassment, threats, and so on.

I’m not saying nobody has ever given Del Arroz shit online. He alleges that people once doxxed his children and sent a glitterbomb to his house. Both were done anonymously. I have no problem condemning both incidents, whoever was responsible. I’ve also heard that people mocked him for his last name, which…yeah, that just seems racist to me.

But if you look through Jon Del Arroz’s interactions with others… Well, here’s a sampling of what people are talking about when they say Del Arroz harasses, insults, and trolls others, and distorts things for publicity and what someone once described as martyrbatiuon.

My goal isn’t to trash Del Arroz, but to document a pattern of behavior.

Warning: there’s a lot of material here….

Hines does an excellent job of mapping many of JDA’s acts of harassment and misogyny over the past year.

(7) LEST WE FORGET. Hines also noticed —

(8) NUSSBAUM BRANCHES OUT. Abigail Nussbaum has launched a new series of articles at Lawyers, Guns & Money “A Political History of the Future: Introduction”.

My plan is to devote each installment to a particular work and discuss how its themes reflect current issues. Even more importantly, I want to talk about how science fiction imagines ways of ordering society that are different from the ones we know, that offer alternatives to the existing social order.

That’s by no means the norm. A lot of the time, when science fiction tries to engage with hot-button political issues, it does so in the terms of post-apocalypse or dystopia. Most climate change novels, for example, can more accurately be described as climate catastrophe novels. That’s not unjustified, obviously, but my interest is in stories that imagine functional societies, even if those societies are also flawed or predatory. And while talking about accuracy and realism in the context of science fiction worldbuilding is often just an excuse to be nitpicky and dismissive, I’m more interested in stories that show their work, that think through how a policy or an institution would come into being, and how it would affect society as a whole.

To give an example from the negative, while I enjoyed it very much as a piece of TV-making and a feminist statement, I’m not planning to write about Hulu’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale (though that might change according to how the second season shakes out). When Margaret Atwood published the original novel in 1985, she constructed its gender-dystopia world in response to forces she saw around her, a combination of anti-feminist backlash, Phyllis Schlafly’s Christianist anti-women doctrine, and the Iranian revolution. That this was an incoherent patchwork didn’t matter because the focus of the novel was on Offred’s mental state, and its scope rarely extended past her confined viewpoint. The television series recreates that world more or less uncritically, and even with the gloss of topicality it layers over, the result doesn’t really hold water. That’s not a criticism of the show, which to my mind is one of the most essential pop culture artifacts of the current era. But it means that I don’t have much to say about it as a piece of political worldbuilding.

(9) PENROSE ON DARK MATTER. On January 19, The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego and the Penrose Institute present a “Roger Penrose Lecture: New Cosmological View of Dark Matter”.

Sir Roger Penrose will give a talk on his latest research and provide an insight into the thinking of a modern day theoretical physicist. Is the Universe destined to collapse, ending in a big crunch or to expand indefinitely until it homogenizes in a heat death? Roger will explain a third alternative, the cosmological conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC) scheme-where the Universe evolves through eons, each ending in the decay of mass and beginning again with new Big Bang. The equations governing the crossover from each aeon to the next demand the creation of a dominant new scalar material, postulated to be dark matter. In order that this material does not build up from aeon to aeon, it is taken to decay away completely over the history of each aeon. The dark matter particles (erebons) may be expected to behave almost as classical particles, though with bosonic properties; they would probably be of about a Planck mass, and interacting only gravitationally. Their decay would produce gravitational signals, and be responsible for the approximately scale invariant temperature fluctuations in the CMB of the succeeding aeon. In our own aeon, erebon decay might well show up in signals discernable by gravitational wave detectors. The talk will blend Roger’s accessible style with an unapologetic detailed look at the physical principles. It should be of interest to practicing physicists and lay people who enjoy taking a more detailed look at physics.

Sir Roger Penrose, Emeritus Professor at the Mathematical Institute of the University of Oxford, winner of the Copley Medal and the Wolf Prize in Physics, which he shared with Stephen Hawking, has made profound contributions encompassing geometry, black hole singularities, the unification of quantum mechanics and general relativity, the structure of space-time, nature of consciousness and the origin of our Universe. In 1989 Penrose wrote The Emperor’s New Mind which challenged the premise that consciousness is computation and proposed new physics to understand it.

On January 19, 2018, 3 p.m. in Liebow Auditorium, UC San Diego. Free and open to the public (seating first-come, first-served).

(10) OUTWORLDS LIVE. Fanac.org is the place to find “Outworlds Live! The 50th issue of Outworlds”, performed at the 1987 Corflu. Not sure if I’ve covered this before, so I’ll link to it now —

Bill Bowers was one of the most respected fanzine editors of his time. He started publishing fanzines in the 1960s. His most notable fanzines were Double-Bill, edited with Bill Mallardi, and Outworlds. Outworlds was published for 70 issues. Bill chaired Corflu IV, Cincinnati (1987). A highlight of the convention was this performance of the 50th issue of Outworlds, Outworlds Live! It featured readings and performances by Bill Bowers, Art Widner, Richard Brandt, Gary Hubbard, Al Curry, Bernadette Bosky, Arthur Hlavaty, Ted White, and Stephen Leigh. Featured is art by Steve Stiles and Joan Hanke-Woods.

Here’s the beginning of a 13-video playlist:

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 14, 1959 Journey to the Center of the Earth premiered.
  • January 14, 1981 — David Cronenberg’s Scanners debuted.
  • January 14, 1976 The Bionic Woman aired its first episode.
  • January 14, 2005 — The first probe to land on Saturn’s moon, Titan, signaled it survived its descent. The Huygens space probe was designed to last only minutes on Titan’s surface, but surpassed the expectations of mission managers. Huygens descended the atmosphere, contacted the surface, and transmitted for at least an hour and a half.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy can see how this might be a very short game — In the Bleachers.
  • Mike Kennedy and John King Tarpinian both demand to know “How dare they go out of business!” after viewing Pearls Before Swine.
  • John King Tarpinian finds aliens have changed their plans for the Earth in Frank and Ernest.

(13) FLOWER POWER. The BBC tells “How flowering plants conquered the world” (albeit after butterflies appeared):

Scientists think they have the answer to a puzzle that baffled even Charles Darwin: How flowers evolved and spread to become the dominant plants on Earth.

Flowering plants, or angiosperms, make up about 90% of all living plant species, including most food crops.

In the distant past, they outpaced plants such as conifers and ferns, which predate them, but how they did this has has been a mystery.

New research suggests it is down to genome size – and small is better.

“It really comes down to a question of cell size and how you can build a small cell and still retain all the attributes that are necessary for life,” says Kevin Simonin from San Francisco State University in California, US.

(14) CROWDSOURCED ASTRONOMY. They hit the jackpot: “Citizen science bags five-planet haul”.

A discovery by citizen scientists has led to the confirmation of a system of five planets orbiting a far-off star.

Furthermore, the planets’ orbits are linked in a mathematical relationship called a resonance chain, with a pattern that is unique among the known planetary systems in our galaxy.

Studying the system could help unlock some mysteries surrounding the formation of planetary systems.

The results were announced at the 231st American Astronomical Society meeting.

The system was found by astronomy enthusiasts using Zooniverse, an online platform for crowdsourcing research.

(15) THE ILLUSION OF DEPTH. From Germany, “The animation genius you’ve (probably) never heard of” (videos at the link.)

The charming story of how Lotte Reiniger became one of the great pioneers of early animation.

(16) ERROR OF THE DAY. Christopher Hensley shared a discovery of Facebook.

So, while doing a legitimate work thing I found out about the greatest HTTP error code ever invented: 418 Error – I am a Teapot. It was issued in RFC 2324 (https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2324) by the IETF as part of an April Fool’s day gag in 1998. But here we are, 20 years later. We are living in an age of the Internet of Things, with networked devices of all kinds in their home. Including, internet enabled electric kettles. And, if you attempt to make an HTTP connection to that electric kettle on the TCP port it uses to communicate with the world the the standards dictate the response code 418 Error – I am a Teapot.

(17) DR. DEMENTO The Doctor has a theme album reports the LA Times “Dr. Demento, comedic song hero and unsung punk rock legend, gets his due on new album”.

The punk connection takes center stage with “Dr. Demento Covered in Punk,” an exceedingly ambitious and densely packed double album — triple in the vinyl edition — being released Jan. 12.

The album comprises 64 tracks spread over a pair of CDs, pulling together new recordings of “mad music and crazy comedy” songs long associated with the quirky radio emcee. Participants include Yankovic, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, William Shatner, Adam West, the Vandals, Fred Schneider of the B-52’s, the Misfits, Japan’s Shonen Knife, Los Straitjackets, Missing Persons, the Dead Milkmen and at least a dozen more.

(18) BAD ROBOT. Quartz reports how “This robotics hobbyist makes a living creating shitty robots”

Simone Giertz’s morning routine involves a lot of really bad robots. They fail miserably at waking her up, brushing her teeth and making her breakfast. The 25-year-old Swedish robot enthusiast has parlayed their failures into a very successful YouTube channel, and full-time job.

Quartz’ video compilation is at the link. Here’s the introductory video from her channel:

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

Pixel Scroll 12/21/17 Look! It’s The Pixel Scroll Repair Man!

(1) FRACTURED EUROPE. Bence Pintér interviewed Dave Hutchinson (in English) for his Hungarian zine Spekulatív Zóna.

The first installment of Dave Hutchinson’s Fractured Europe Sequence, Europe in Autumn will be published soon in Hungary. Years ago I read that one and the two sequels, and now I wanted to know what Mr. Hutchinson think about the future of Europe, and how he came to create a spy, who is in fact a chef.

Europe in Autumn was published only three years ago, but the near-future you imagined with a fractured Europe could be the present soon. Independence movements are booming, Brexit in talks… Do you think the world you created for the books can become reality?

It’s been kind of horrifying to watch world events over the past few years – I started writing Autumn sometime in the very late 1990s and back then the idea of a fractured Europe really was a thing of fiction, although independence movements and micronations are nothing new. Now, it seems a lot more plausible. I’d like to say that I hope the world of the books doesn’t come about; I’m a big fan of the EU ideal and of Schengen. On the other hand, Rudi’s world has always seemed to me to be vibrant and full of possibility. I’ve heard it described as a dystopia, but I don’t think it is – certainly it wasn’t intended that way. I think it would be a very interesting place to live. Whether it will actually happen, I don’t think anyone can predict that. We seem to have gone from the old black-and-white certainties of the Cold War to something a lot more uncertain and fluid, with only a very brief period of hope between them.

(2) THE GOOD STUFF. Ann Leckie returns to tell us about “Some things I’ve read lately”.

Yes, it’s time again for Some Stuff I Have Read and Liked Recently. As always–I am not a reviewer or any sort of critic, and I’m not going to try to be one.

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

Ever since I heard that Nisi was not only working on a steampunk novel set in the Belgian Congo, but that she had gone and sold that novel to Tor, I’ve been eager to read this. I finally got around to it, and I highly recommend it. It’s pretty epic, really, it covers a couple decades in time, from the POVs of a wide variety of characters. Seriously, check this out if you haven’t already….

(3) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. Anika Dane of Women At Warp cheers Star Trek: Discovery “I’m an Age-Appropriate Woman In Command: Hear Me Roar!”

It’s no secret Hollywood has a problem with women aging. There are fewer leading roles for women over the age of 40, and the supporting ones tend to be underdeveloped and fall into the category of mother, wife, woman sad because she’s old, or villain (sad because she’s old). …

[Discovery’s Admiral Cornwell] is experienced and she’s accomplished, and she’s Lorca’s peer, and also his superior. She couldn’t be that at twenty-seven, or thirty-six. Moreover, she’s a woman over fifty, whose eye crinkles and grey hairs have not been erased, who is presented on screen as attractive and desirable. Admiral Cornwell is not beautiful despite her age, she’s beautiful and powerful because of it.

(4) CROWDFUNDING SUCCESS. The James Tiptree Jr. Award made their Giving Thursday goal

We made it! The donations raised through our Facebook fundraiser plus the donations through the Tiptree website total more than $2400! The Tiptree Award will receive all the matching funds available to us! With the help of all who have donated and shared our fundraising message and matched the donations, we’ve raised more than $4800, half of our annual budget. Thank you all for your help. This award wouldn’t be possible without you!

Of course, it’s never too late to add your support to this successful effort. With your donations, you make possible our efforts to encourage the creation of speculative fiction that explores and expands our understanding of gender. And since the Tiptree Award is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, all donations are tax-deductible. https://tiptree.org/support-us/donate

(5) TIPTREE SYMPOSIUM TRANSCRIPTS. The expanded talks from the 2016 Tiptree Symposium have been published in Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology Issue #12.

(6) LE GUIN FELLOWSHIP. Applications are being taken for the Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship, sponsored by the University of Oregon Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) and the Center for the Study of Women in Society (CSWS). The deadline to apply is January 5, 2018. Full guidelines here.

Purpose: The intention of the Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship is to encourage research within collections in the area of feminist science fiction. The UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) houses the papers of authors Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree, Jr., Kate Wilhelm, Suzette Haden Elgin, Sally Miller Gearhart, Kate Elliot, Molly Gloss, Laurie Marks, and Jessica Salmonson, along with Damon Knight. SCUA is also in the process of acquiring the papers of other key feminist science fiction authors.

Fellowship description: This award supports travel for the purpose of research on, and work with, the papers of feminist science fiction authors housed in SCUA. These short-term research fellowships are open to undergraduates, master’s and doctoral students, postdoctoral scholars, college and university faculty at every rank, and independent scholars working in feminist science fiction. In 2018, $2,000 will be awarded to conduct research within these collections. The fellowship selection committee will include representatives from the UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) and the Center for the Study of Women in Society (CSWS).

Past Le Guin Fellows — 2013: Kathryn Allan; 2014: Andrew Ferguson; 2014: Jennifer Rea; 2015: adrienne maree brown; 2016: Roxanne Samer; 2017: Theodora Goss.

(7) NAME THAT TUNE. By George, I think he’s got it.

(8) FEAT IN SEARCH OF AN AWARD. Not sure what category this deserves to win. Since he got it right the first time does that rule out editing?

(9) LAST JEDI. If reading articles about The Last Jedi now leaves me feeling jaded, then you probably started feeling that way two days ago (or fill in your own number). However, a critic for The Hollywood Reporter hooked me with the pop culture insights in “New ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy Is Failing Galactic Politics 101”.  YMMV. Also, BEWARE SPOILERS.

And that’s where we left off before the start of this new trilogy of Star Wars films. After decades of theorizing, fan fiction and “Legacy” stories, The Force Awakens had the exciting task of updating fans of the series about what happened in the decades since we last saw our favorite characters and rooted for the Rebellion. Would we see a New Republic and what would it be like? Who would be the enemy of that Republic and what would our character’s places be in it? The opportunities were endless, with the possibility of giving audiences a brand-new vision for the series, but would also require a deft touch. Yes, the series would have to build on viewers’ knowledge of Star Wars history, but it could also do what A New Hope did: thrust us into a new scenario and slowly give us more information about what transpired to get us here.

As a huge fan of the series, looking back on the new films after the opening weekend of The Last Jedi, I have to admit an incredible frustration and disappointment in the result. While walking through my local Target, I could not help but feel like The Force Awakens had failed what I’m now dubbing the “toy test”: I couldn’t pick up a Star Wars toy and tell you who each character was and their political standings in the newest round of wars, as depicted in the films.

(10) FAUX SHOW. And hey, this is sweet! The absolutely fake Disney/Pixar’s X-Wings Movie Trailer.

(11) ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES. The BBC asks “Is The Last Jedi the most divisive film ever?”

Its audience score of 54% on Rotten Tomatoes (that’s the proportion of users who have rated it 3.5/5 or higher) is the lowest of any Star Wars film, including the much-maligned prequels (The Phantom Menace has 59%).

But something else is going on too – while fans are divided, film critics were largely in agreement.

The LA Times called it the “first flat-out terrific” Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back. Time Out said it “dazzles like the sci-fi saga hasn’t in decades”. The Daily Telegraph said it is “Star Wars as you’ve never felt it”.

The Last Jedi has a critics’ score of 93% – that’s the proportion of writers who gave it a positive review – putting it level with A New Hope and The Force Awakens, and just 1% behind The Empire Strikes Back.

That puts The Last Jedi at number 49 on Rotten Tomatoes’ all-time list. And of the all-time top 100 films, The Last Jedi has by far the biggest gap between the critics’ score and the audience score.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 21, 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood, California
  • December 21, 1968 — Apollo 8, the first manned mission to visit the moon, is launched from Cape Canaveral.
  • December 21, 1979 C.H.O.M.P.S. and The Black Hole both premiered on this day.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY JEDI

  • Born December 21, 1948 — Jedi Master Samuel L. Jackson

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) DREAM STREAM. Nerds of a Feather contributor “English Scribbler” can say it out loud: “Television review of 2017 – the year it beat cinema”.

…Sure, I went to see The Last Jedi  this week like everyone else with the inclination and ability to do so, and it was wonderful. But it felt like, well, a box of popcorn in nutritional terms compared to the hearty vegetable stew of series below. So in no particular order, here is a very personal, haphazard list of series I have been amazed by. Whilst they don’t all quite fit into the classic Nerds Of A Feather, Flock Together genre areas, all share a spirit and flavour with the incredible works highlighted on these pages…

(1) Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)

Originally feeling like a compelling yet shallow computer nerd version of Mad Men (all mysterious arrogant male protagonist dipped in retro nostalgia), this series became, long before this astonishing forth and final season, one of the most accomplished and daring dramas of this decade, and culminated in the best conclusion to a series I’ve seen since possibly Six Feet Under (a work to which this owes much debt). Nothing else this year matched the emotional impact of seeing these five colleagues and friends arrive at a finish line that for once was allowed to be set with purpose and patience by the creators. The setting and subject became less and less relevant (though no less enjoyable) as the masterplan of the writers emerged – that this, like all the greatest tales, was about emotional connections and the rewards that they bring, and the tolls they take. The last three episodes made my smile and cry more than any film, book or other show this year. Exemplary acting, music, sound, cinematography, dialogue to wallow in… superb.

(16) HEERE’S RAY. A wise friend of mine hinted that there hasn’t been enough Bradbury in these pages lately. Let’s drop in Ray’s appearance with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show on March 1, 1978:

(17) TWO RAYS. And Episode 17 of the Ray Harryhausen Podcast “Ray Harryhausen and Ray Bradbury”.

A very special episode of the Ray Harryhausen podcast, as we explore the Ray’s lifelong friendship with legendary author Ray Bradbury.

Phil Nichols from The Centre for Ray Bradbury Studies joins us for an in depth discussion on a relationship which was to span 8 decades. After meeting in the mid-1930s, the two became best friends, and would speak on at least a monthly basis for the rest of their lives. We explore the circumstances that would lead both men to become legends within their own fields of interest, and the early influences which inspired them both to greatness. Both Rays left an incredible archive of their own, and so we examine the parallels between the collection of the Centre for Ray Bradbury Studies, and the Foundation’s own archive.

The show also contains a never-heard-before interview with Ray Bradbury’s daughter Susan, recorded at Ray Harryhausen’s memorial in 2013, where she shares her memories of ‘Uncle Ray’ and their enduring friendship.

(18) HORTON ON SHORT SFF. One of the field’s grandmasters has added a prime story to his resume: “Rich Horton Reviews Short Fiction’ at Locus Online. (Covers F&SF 9-10/17, Analog 9-10/17, Beneath Ceaseless Skies 8/17/17, Lightspeed 10/17, Tor.com 9/6/17.)

The most exciting short fiction news this month is surely the appearance in the September/October F&SF of a new story by Samuel R. Delany. Even better, “The Hermit of Houston” is exceptional work! It’s set some time in a strange future and is hard to get a grip on (the best kind). From one angle it seems a sort of pastoral utopia, from other angles utterly horrifying. It’s mostly about the narrator’s long-time lover, an older man named Cellibrex (sometimes), and about the hints he lets drop of some of the true nature of this future. There is extremely interesting treatment of gender, politics, law, custom, and memory – and I don’t get everything that’s going on in the story, in a good way. One of the stories of the year, I think.

(19) DEVELOPING FIELD. The Washington Posts’s Rachel Rackza, in “In young-adult novels, queer love stories have begun to feel mainstream”, discusses how teenage LGBT readers have read novels by Cassandra Clare, Audrey Coulthurst, and Anna-Marie McLemore and found comfort in reading YA fantasy with gay characters.

For Mackenzi Lee’s whip-smart “The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue,” the author wanted to showcase an authentically positive representation of queer identity in centuries past. “I wanted so badly with this book to say to queer teenagers: ‘You have always existed even before there were words or vocabulary or acceptance,’ ” she said. “I wanted them to know they have not only existed, but they thrived and had fulfilled romantic and sexual lives with people they love.”

(20) SUN-DAY DRIVERS. See: “What Happens When 2 Neutron Stars Collide” — text, and very short video.

An international team of astronomers has concluded that when it comes to theories about colliding neutron stars, Einstein got it right. Everybody else, not so much.

A neutron star is what’s left when a star burns out and collapses in on itself, leaving a small, incredibly dense ball.

Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicted that when two neutron stars collide, they would generate a gravitational wave, a ripple in space time.

That’s exactly what physicists saw for the first time last summer with LIGO, the new gravitational wave observatory.

(21) YOU’VE GOT MAIL. You could send wild game (dead) or people (living) once upon a time — “The strangest things sent in the UK post”

“There was nothing in the rules to say you couldn’t send people”, Mr Taft said.

In 1909 two suffragettes, Miss Solomon and Miss McLellan, used the Royal Mail’s same-day courier service to post themselves to 10 Downing Street so they could deliver their message personally to Prime Minister Herbert Asquith.

But a Downing Street official refused to sign for them and the delivery boy had to return the women and explain to his bosses why he had failed to make the delivery.

Yet Miss Solomon and Miss McLellan were not the UK’s first “human letters”.

W Reginald Bray, an accountant from Forest Hill in south-east London, claimed to hold that honour having posted himself successfully in 1900, then again in 1903 and for a last time in 1932

(22) THE NEXT GENERATION. Funny but not exactly sensitive — Robert Jackson Bennett’s post at Tor.com: “My Terrible Children Are Both Fake Geeks”.

This is way different than when I grew up, when we kept renting a wobbly VHS of A New Hope from the library, and then my dad brought home The Empire Strikes Back and suddenly we realized that they had made more of these movies, oh my God.

So the Large Son is absolutely drowning in genre exposure. He lives in an age of abundance that I was utterly denied. But does he take advantage of it? Does he religiously memorize all of the various planets, as well as the types of ships?

No. He does not. For a whole damned year he called Darth Vader “Star Vader,” and he still calls Boba Fett “Bobo Fett,” and he calls every kind of land transport an “AT-AT,” which is just abysmally fucking wrong in every kind of way. I created a spreadsheet for him but I am fairly sure he only gave it a cursory glance. Perhaps the most galling thing about it all is that, incredibly, despite having never actually watched a Star Wars movie in the six years of his life (he says they are “too loud,” which, okay, sure), he somehow already knows that Vader is Luke’s father, and he’s just utterly fucking blasé about it, too.

(23) GHOST NOUN. An annual tradition continues — Larry Correa’s “CHRISTMAS NOUN X: THE GHOSTS OF DIE HARDS PAST”. (Thoughtfully linked here to a Wayback Machine page.)

Santa gestured for one of his elves to start the PowerPoint slide show.

“As you can see, this reality is much like ours, but their timeline diverged in the 1980s. Because of the misguided actions of their less militant Christmas Ghosts, they were deprived of the greatest Christmas movie ever made.”

“The Firefly Christmas Special?” asked the elf running the computer.

“Oh no, very few lucky universes got that.” Santa chuckled, as he thought about the heartwarming scene where Jayne’s mom had knitted him a Santa hat, which he’d later used to strangle a reaver. “Besides, that was a two hour TV special that aired during Firefly’s fifth season. I’m talking about how this world was deprived of the greatest Christmas movie ever made… Die Hard.

There were gasps around the conference table. That was inconceivable. And only boring losers and communists didn’t think of Die Hard as a Christmas movie.

“I know, right? Christmas there is dull and lame now. So we’re going to use the Christmas Noun to send Tim back to 1988, so he can make sure Die Hard actually happens like it’s supposed to.”

“I don’t know, Santa… Since this crosses into another alternate universe’s jurisdiction, isn’t this a job for Tom Stranger?”

Santa shook his head sadly. “Unfortunately, since Larry Correia first started writing the Christmas Noun stories, Audible.com came along and offered him large sums of money to write Tom Stranger stories exclusively for them, so I doubt Tom will show up here. This is up to us and Tim and any other characters who we still own the rights for!”

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

Pixel Scroll 11/15/17 Or All the Scrolls With Pixels

(1) TURNOVER AT TOLKIEN ESTATE. Christopher Tolkien, 92, resigned as a director of the Tolkien Estate Limited on August 31, 2017 according to records at Companies House in the UK.

Christopher Tolkien

Despite this having occurred over two months ago, the information seems to have become public only recently, and there is rampant speculation what the timing of resignation implies, given Amazon’s announcement this week of a new Lord of the Rings sourced TV production, and Christopher Tolkien’s negative statements about the Peter Jackson adaptations.

While I searched, unsuccessfully, to find who broke the story, via Michael Martinez’ blog I discovered Tolkien Brasil has a long and informative piece about the transition in the Estate’s leadership (in Portuguese – a Google Translate English rendering is at this link, offered with the usual caveats about accuracy.)

The Tolkien Society’s post on the topic clarified that Christopher Tolkien remains his late father’s literary executor.

(2) INDIGENOUS AND BLACK SF. Canada’s CBC Radio program The Current hosted a discussion of indigenous and black sf on November 14. A podcast of the segment is available.

Nov 14 | How Indigenous and black artists are using science fiction to imagine a better future As soon as you can dream about the future, you have hope as well instead of despair.”

Download Nov 14 | How Indigenous and black artists are using science fiction to imagine a better future [mp3 file: runs 00:28:13]

(3) BRETT RATNER OUT. Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot said she would not sign for the sequel if he was still involved: “Gal Gadot confirms Brett Ratner won’t be involved with Wonder Woman 2”The Verge has the story.

Two weeks after a Los Angeles Times report detailed multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment against director and producer Brett Ratner, the filmmaker seems to have been officially cut from the DC cinematic universe. This morning on Good Morning America, Gal Gadot reiterated earlier reports that Ratner’s financing company RatPac-Dune Entertainment, which helped fund 2017’s Wonder Woman, would not be involved with the upcoming sequel.

The confirmation comes a few days after a Page Six report claimed that Gadot threatened to drop out of the sequel if Ratner or his company was involved in any way. On Good Morning America, she says she didn’t come close to leaving. “The truth is, there’s so many people involved in making this movie — it’s not just me — and they all echoed the same sentiments,” she said.

(4) VANDERMEER. Variety reports: “Netflix Nabs ‘Hummingbird Salamander’ From ‘Annihilation’ Author Jeff VanderMeer”.

Netflix is nearing a deal for rights to “Hummingbird Salamander” and plans to tap Sugar23 to produce the picture, Variety has learned.

The book is the latest from Jeff VanderMeer, the best-selling author of the “Southern Reach” trilogy and one of the foremost sci-fi writers working today.  The film will be produced by Michael Sugar and Ashley Zalta at Sugar 23.

… VanderMeer will also executive produce the project.

However, VanderMeer himself sounded uncertain in his Facebook comments about the Variety article

Hmmm. I wonder if this is true. It’d be kind of a dream team to be with Netflix with the Oscar-winning producer of Spotlight producing. It’d be even more incredible if the rumor that it’s a mega deal and I’ll be an executive producer and creative consultant on the film were true…

As you can imagine, for someone who sometimes writes about mushroom people, it’s surreal that every novel I’ve written or am under contract to write since Annihilation may have been optioned for the movies. If these rumors are true.

(5) WIZARD WORLD ON LIFE SUPPORT.  Although the company has 17 conventions planned for 2018, their money is running out: “WIZARD WORLD Warns Of ‘Substantial Doubt’ Of It Continuing Into 2019”.

Wizard World. Inc.’s Q3 2017 quarterly report has been released, with a notice that due to recent operations loss there is “substantial doubt” that the company can continue operating as it is now past November 2018.

“The Company had a loss from operations of $4,454,857 and $1,182,246 for the nine months ended September 30, 2017 and the year ended December 31, 2016, respectively. As of September 30, 2017, we had cash and working capital deficit (excluding the derivative liability) of $1,176,034 and $1,514,182, respectively,” the company stated. “We have evaluated the significance of these conditions in relation to our ability to meet our obligations and have concluded that, due to these conditions, there is substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern through November 2018.”

(6) GOODREADS CHOICE. Matt Mitrovich analyzes an award contender in “Book Review: All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai” at Amazing Stories.

I was informed that All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastain was nominated for the Goodreads Choice 2017 Best Science Fiction and Best Debut Author awards. Since I had a copy sitting in my to read pile since July, I figured now was as good a time as any to finally read it and see what all the fuss is about.

All Our Wrong Todays begins in an alternate timeline where a Lionel Goettreider invents his “Goettreider Engine” on July 11, 1965. This invention produces free energy and sparks the creation to the techo-utopia that 1950s sci-fi authors dreamed about. By 2016, all of those crazy predictions that never came true actually exist, like flying cars, jetpacks and space colonization. Anyone living in this post-scarcity world should be happy…but not Tom Barren.

(7) MONEY IS THE ROOT OF THIS EVIL. Dean E.S. Richard has seen the complaints and has issued “A (cranky) Casual Gamer’s Manifesto (Updated)” at Nerds of a Feather.

The new one has a campaign, and it looks pretty awesome, but we’re here for ground level troops dukeing it out on the best battlefields in the Star Wars galaxy.

At least, I thought that’s why were all here. Apparently, I was wrong. It’s all about getting the most powerful heroes and being able to wreck shop. If you pay attention to video games even a little bit (like, say, as little as i do), you’ve heard about this. It takes roughly 40 hours of gameplay (three years in Real Dean Time [RDT]) to unlock Luke or Vader. This I am fine with. Again, Battlefront is supposed to be about the troops, not the Jedi and Sith and whatnot.

The real problem comes in where the game has a micro transaction system wherein you can just buy credits outright, with your real monies, and thus unlock said heroes. All told, it costs about $800 to unlock all the heroes.

Eight. Hundred. Dollars.

In a sixty dollar game.

I have read comments such as: “that’s like making me work a second job that pays less than minimum wage!” which, no. It’s a game. No one is making you pay for heroes, players just want shortcuts. It’s the same mentality that ruined the Old Republic MMORPG – players were so concerned with getting to level whatever as soon as possible, they never, you know, played the game. For me, and others like me, tagging along with our dinky lightsabers and level 12 or what have you, it got boring in a hurry – which is too bad, because the game itself was a delight.

(8) PANEL TITLE. Jim C. Hines’ “Catching Up: That WindyCon Panel” excerpts the posts tracked here at File 770 and concludes with his own analysis:

Nobody was calling for WindyCon to be burnt at the stake. They were calling out a panel description which, intentional or not, came off as hurtful, insulting, and dismissive.

I’m glad it wasn’t intentional. I would have been much more pissed if this had been a deliberate thing. But we’ve got to stop thinking “I didn’t mean to hurt you” is some kind of magic eraser. “I told you I didn’t intentionally run over your goat. How dare you continue to be upset!”

While I understand the convention was this weekend and everyone was hellabusy, I wish WindyCon had posted their apology sooner. I wish Barkley hadn’t attacked people who were upset about the panel title/description.

I also feel like my tagging Barkley into the conversation on Twitter was one factor in this becoming a larger blow-up than it needed to be, and for that I apologize.

(9) PLANET STORIES. The Guardian says a “Potentially habitable world found just 11 light years away”. So if our TV news signals travel there at the speed of light, they still think it’s the middle of the Bush administration and that Trump is the executive producer of the Miss USA pageant?

A potentially habitable world, termed Ross 128 b, has been discovered just 11 light years away. It is roughly Earth-sized and orbits its parent star once every 9.9 days.

Astronomers calculate that its surface temperature could lie somewhere between –60° and 20°, making it temperate and possibly capable of supporting oceans, and life.

The world was found by a team of European and South American astronomers led by Xavier Bonfils (Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble, France) who were using the European Southern Observatory’s world-leading planet-hunting instrument, HARPS. They reported the discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics.

HARPS identifies planets by the way their gravity forces their parent stars to wobble. It shows that Ross 128 b is more massive than the Earth, with at least 1.35 times our planet’s bulk. So the planet would have a stronger pull of gravity at its surface.

(10) GALAXY QUEST. Writer/producer Paul Scheer doesn’t want his efforts to revive the fan favorite to be overlooked: “‘Galaxy Quest’: Paul Scheer Plans to Blend Original and New Casts For Amazon Series”.

Amazon first announced it was developing the 1999 film as an episodic series in 2015, but things escalated last August when Scheer came on board to work on the show. In a new interview with SlashFilm, he revealed that he’s not only turned in his first script for the series, but has some big ideas on how to honor the original film while also updating the premise for the modern age of television.

“It’s going to be so long before people get to see it, I don’t want people to get too burnt out on me telling you what it’s about before it gets to that point,” he said. “But for me, it was really important to do service to a ‘Galaxy Quest’ story that gives you everything that you want and indoctrinates people who have never seen ‘Galaxy Quest’ into what the fun of that world is […] and also to continue the story of our original characters and have consequences from the first film.”

…As Scheer told SlashFilm, it’s still very early days for “Galaxy Quest: The Series” (officially, according to the final moments of the film, “The Journey Continues”). But this fall, Amazon has been on the hunt for “its own ‘Game of Thrones,’” a need which was theoretically addressed by acquiring the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” universe. What if the platform’s actual breakthrough genre hit ends up being a very different adaptation?

(11) THE MARTIAN BOTANICALS. Would you like that with ranch? “Dubai Airshow: Why the UAE plans to grow lettuce on Mars”.

One thing you can’t accuse the United Arab Emirates of lacking is vision.

First they unveiled plans to launch a Mars probe. Then it was an ambition to colonise the Red Planet.

Now the UAE has a new aim – to grow palm trees and lettuce there.

The space sector is a huge feature of the Dubai Airshow, with exhibitions, conferences, and speakers that include former Nasa Apollo 15 astronaut, Al Worden.

But even before a UAE Mars probe leaves the ground in 2020 from Japan – UAE is working in partnership with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries – the Gulf state has now announced its space agriculture intentions.

“There are similarities between Mars and the desert,” says Rashid Al Zaadi, senior strategic planner at the UAE Space Agency. “The landscape of the UAE, the soil, are similar.”

(12) A LONG WAY FROM HECTO. Awhile ago the Scroll linked to a story about printing a prosthesis, with plastic; these guys are printing with cells: “The firm that can 3D print human body parts”.

Erik Gatenholm grins widely as he presses the start button on a 3D printer, instructing it to print a life-size human nose.

It sparks a frenzied 30-minute burst of energy from the printer, as its thin metal needle buzzes around a Petri dish, distributing light blue ink in a carefully programmed order.

The process looks something like a hi-tech sewing machine weaving an emblem onto a garment.

But soon the pattern begins to rise and swell, and a nose, constructed using a bio-ink containing real human cells, grows upwards from the glass, glowing brightly under an ultraviolet light.

This is 3D bioprinting, and it’s almost too obvious to point out that its potential reads like something from a science fiction novel.

(13) SHRINKING BOOK EXPO. Publishers Lunch says the floor plans for the next Book Expo betray that it is continuing to get smaller.

Book Expo has opened for registration for the 2018 show. The refreshed website lists Wednesday, May 30 as limited to the remainders pavilion, “premium B2B exhibitors,” and the rights center, with two days of regular floor exhibits on May 31 and June 1.

More dramatic for now is the revised floor map* for the shrinking trade show. Though still early, the map shows the smaller southern hall of Javits closed to exhibits, reserved for autographing, shipping and Book Con lines. Even that reduced “show floor” has what looks to be less floor exhibit space: Meeting rooms, lounges, and a stage move to occupying a big chunk of the back two-fifths of the hall.

(14) THAT’S CAT! Congratulations to Richard Paolinelli, winner of “The First Annual Timothy The Talking Cat Award for Excellence in the field of Excellence”. Award spokesbeing Camestros Felapton explains:

The book genuinely was a finalist for the Dragon Awards, so kudos to Richard. The claim for a Nebula nomination seems a bit thin but that’s what all the grumpy stuff was about. However, it doesn’t seem to be actually “award winning” as in the usual sense of “award winning” meaning “winning an award”. Now, plenty of really good books never win awards and what matters deep down is whether readers like your book but sometimes…well sometimes the world of SF can be tough and a bit validation can help a soul along.

So let’s make the claim TRUE. Tim and I got together and thought long and hard about this and we came up with a solution.

(15) THAT’S DOG! Suzy Byrne, in “Carrie Fisher’s beloved bulldog Gary is ‘doing great,’ says ‘Auntie Joely’ Fisher” on Yahoo! Lifestyle, says that Carrie Fisher’s goofy bulldog, Gary Fisher, has found a home with Corby McCown, the personal assistant to  Carrie Fisher’s sister Joely.

The dog has become even more popular since Carrie died. He recently surpassed 150,000 Instagram followers with help from posts including a touching tribute to Carrie on what would have been her 61st birthday last month. He followed up his San Diego Comic-Con appearance with another one at L.A. Comic Con a couple weeks ago. Last weekend, he was at Kansas City Comic Con. (A portion of the money the dog gets for appearances goes to charity.)

Yup, we’d say that Gary is doing great, too.

The dog has a Twitter account at Realgaryfisher.

(16) GROTESQUE JOKE. Not all of the Christmas season advertising has been heartwarming: “Greggs sorry after replacing baby Jesus with sausage roll in advent calendar promotion”.

Greggs has been forced to apologise for replacing the baby Jesus with a sausage roll in the launch of its advent calendar.

The bakers released a promotional image for its festive calendar that showed a sausage roll in a manger surrounded by the Three Wise Men.

But it was met with serious backlash online as offended fans accused the budget chain of religious insensitivity and vowed to boycott it.

Twitter users said that replacing Jesus, who was Jewish, with a pork product was “inappropriate”…

(17) ON JJ’S WISHLIST. JJ says, “Despite having a full collection of manual and power tools, I find myself itching to buy this.” ThinkGeek is offering the “Marvel Thor Hammer Tool Set”.

You must be worthy in order to wield Thor’s hammer, but Marvel never mentioned any restrictions on Thor’s screwdriver or his pliers. Wield them all with our Marvel Thor Hammer Tool Set! This 44-piece tool set, a ThinkGeek creation and exclusive, comes in a molded case that looks like Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir. Inside it has all your basic tool needs, including a hammer (duh), a tape measure, a level, a screwdriver, a wrench, a ratcheting wrench, and a utility knife you can conveniently use to open your next box from ThinkGeek. It’s perfect for someone worthy of their first place or a great extra set of everything to have around in case of emergencies (like having to replace your lock set because Loki got a copy of the key AGAIN). We predict it’s a gift your recipient will return to repeatedly and get a chuckle out of every time.

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