Pixel Scroll 12/26/18 And The Fur Suit Of Happiness

(1) NEW BUJOLD NOVELLA ON THE WAY. Bujold announced it on Goodreads — a “new Lakerwalker novella impending”.

…I am pleased to report that I have finished the first draft of a new novella in the world of The Sharing Knife. Functionally a novella, anyway; its length, at the moment, is a tad over 49,000 words, so it’s technically a short novel. This falls in an odd limbo in categorization — the official cap for a novella is 40k or 45k words, but the minimum contractual length for a commercially published novel is usually 100k. (It was 80k back when I started, but word-count inflation has occurred since then.) Since it’s headed for original e-publication, I don’t have to care, so the main concern is to label it so readers won’t charge in expecting something twice as long.

The working title was “Barr & Lily”, which is also its subject matter, being a sort of slice-of-Lakewalker-life character study. However, that won’t do for the final, since it sounds a bit too much like the name of a tea company. The current front-runner is “Knife Children”, but I’m not sure yet if that is going to stick.

It takes place about a dozen years after the events of the tetralogy, but should be perfectly readable as a stand-alone. (Old readers will gratify me if they can refrain from fending off potential new readers by telling them they have to read four other books first.)…

(2) 9W HIATUS. On December 22, London’s Nine Worlds convention governance committee made a response to some recent critical tweets, and acknowledged there will be no 9W in 2019. Thread starts here.

(3) WHATEVER’S NUMBERS. While John Scalzi’s annual statistical roundup shows it’s getting very hard to measure anyone’s social media reach, I still read these breakdowns in rapt fascination: “Top Whatever Posts and Social Media Stats, 2018”.

 Every year I post stats on traffic for Whatever, and every year it gets harder to see how it accurately reflects my actual readership, because of the way people read things I post here. Bluntly, relatively few people visit the site directly at this point in time — As of this moment, for 2018, Whatever has had 2.82 million direct visits in 2018, down from last year’s 4.1 million, and substantially down from the 2012 high of 8.16 million. At the same time, Whatever has 30k+ followers through WordPress and email, another 10k+ on Feedly and other RSS aggregators, a few thousand though social media feeds, and there an unknown number of people reading the site’s content on mobile, through AMP versions of the site. None of those impressions/reads get tracked through the WordPress stats suite.

(4) SANS SERIF FACTOR THREE, MR. SULU. Hyperallergenic contends that “Many Stories Are Told Through the Typography in Science Fiction Films”.

In film, there is a shorthand for the future, the typeface Eurostile Bold Extended. It appears on the interface screens of the time-traveling Delorean in Back to the Future (1985), and in the logo of Lunar Industries at the lonely lunar station in Moon (2009). It adorns the exterior of the USS Enterprise starship in the Star Trek franchise, and the Federal Colonies intergalactic megacorporation branding in Total Recall (1990). It gives both the Battlestar Galactica series title and the credits of District 9 (2009) an ultramodern tone.

As blogger and designer Dave Addey explains in his new book Typeset in the Future, out now from Abrams, he first noticed the ubiquity of the typeface in 2013. 

(5) THE YEAR IN SCIENCE. BBC picked its “Ten big science stories of 2018”. Second on the list —  

The earliest animals

The one-million-plus animal species alive today are staggeringly diverse, from the giant oceanic blue whale to the wriggly earthworms beneath our feet. But their early evolution from single-celled ancestors remains shrouded in mystery.

In the hunt for the earliest animal life, much attention has been focused on a group of enigmatic life forms – known as the “Ediacaran biota” – from more than 500 million years ago. These were some of the first complex organisms to appear on Earth.

But their position on the tree of life is difficult decipher. These curious creatures have been variously categorised as lichens, fungi, and even as a halfway house between plants and animals.

In September, scientists were able to extract molecules of cholesterol from a fossilised Ediacaran life form called Dickinsonia, which resembled a flat jellyfish. Cholesterol is one of the molecular hallmarks of animal life, clearly demonstrating that the Ediacaran biota were animals.

(6) THE SIGN OF THE ZERO. A.V. Club is impressed, in a negative sort of way: Holmes & Watson crack the case of the 0 percent Rotten Tomatoes score”.

Entering into a robust fraternity of cinematic triumphs that includes such highlights as Gotti and Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly’s new comedy Holmes & Watson has joined the storied pantheon of movies rocking a 0 percent “rotten” score on film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. For those unfamiliar with the site’s system, that means that not a single one of the 15 critics currently being polled for the film’s merits have said it’s even marginally worth the 89 minutes of your life it would take to watch, making this a real anti-Paddington 2 situation.

(7) DOA ON BAKER STREET. Here’s The Hollywood Reporter’s contribution to the funeral cortege: “‘Holmes & Watson’: Film Review”.

You can feel the flop sweat emanating from the third onscreen pairing of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. Making their previous vehicles Step Brothers and Talladega Nights seem the height of comic sophistication by comparison, Holmes & Watson features the duo parodying Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous characters to devastatingly unfunny effect. Numerous talented British thespians are wasted in supporting roles in this Christmas turkey that, not surprisingly, wasn’t screened in advance for critics. Although making them troop out to theaters Christmas morning is something of which even Ebenezer Scrooge wouldn’t have approved.

(8) EISENBERG OBIT. Scientist and sff author Larry Eisenberg achieved his greatest fame writing limericks in comments to the online New York Times over the past decade: “Larry Eisenberg, 99, Dead; His Limericks Were Very Well Read”. Eisenberg died December 25 from complications of acute myeloid leukemia.

Dr. Eisenberg joined Rockefeller University in 1958 and later became a director of its electronics laboratory. Early in his tenure at Rockefeller, he helped develop a transistorized, battery-operated cardiac pacemaker, which was considered a vast improvement over the wire-laden earlier models. He taught at the university until 2000.

As a science-fiction writer, Dr. Eisenberg was best known for his short story “What Happened to Auguste Clarot?” The comic tale of a disappearing Parisian scientist, it was published in “Dangerous Visions” (1967), the noted anthology edited by Harlan Ellison.

He was also known for his stories featuring Prof. Emmett Duckworth, an amiably hapless Nobel Prize-winning scientist. (Duckworth’s inventions include an intensely addictive aphrodisiac containing 150,000 calories per ounce.)

…In a 2011 feature, Dr. Eisenberg was asked by The 6th Floor, a Times Magazine blog, to supply a brief biographical summary for readers. He replied — a mere 20 minutes later — in the form he knew best:

A nonagenarian, I,
A sometime writer of sci-fi,
Biomed engineer,
Gen’rally of good cheer,
With lim’ricks in ready supply.

(9) ISAACS OBIT. Boston area conrunning fan Fred Isaacs died December 26 after a long battle with COPD. Just a few items from his extensive resume — he chaired Boskone 9 (1972), and was co-inventor of the concourse format of organizing exhibits and fan tables for the 1989 Worldcon, which was frequently emulated by later Worldcons.  

(10) GRAU OBIT. Jorge Grau (1930-2018): Spanish screenwriter and director, reportedly died today, aged 88. Best known for the horror film The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (1974, aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie). Also directed The Legend of Blood Castle (1973, aka The Female Butcher) and Violent Blood Bath (1974).

(11) MOSIMAN OBIT. Billie Sue Mosiman (1947-2018) has died. She had her first fiction published in the 1980s, and went on to become an Edgar nominee for her novel Night Cruise and a Stoker nominee for Widow. She authored eight suspense novels and more than 150 short stories, and coedited six anthologies.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 26, 1911Milton Luros. Illustrator during the Golden Age of pulp magazines from 1942 to 1954 (yes I’ve expansive on what I consider to be to the Golden Age). His work graced Science Fiction Quarterly, Astounding Stories,  Future Combined with Science Fiction StoriesFuture Science Fiction StoriesDynamic Science Fiction and  Science Fiction Quarterly. He had an amazing ability to illustrate women in outfits in hostile environments that simply were impractical such as one for Science Fiction Quarterly (UK), October 1952 cover had a cut out in her spacesuit so her décolletage was bare. (Died 1999.)
  • Born December 26, 1930Donald Moffat. Yes he just passed on several days ago but his Birthday is today so he gets written up. Yes The Thing indeed was first SF undertaking followed by License to KillThe Terminal Man, Exo-Man, Monster in the Closet and Earthquake films, plus The Twilight Zone and Six Million Dollar Man series. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 26, 1961 Tahnee Welch, 57. Daughter of Raquel Welch, she has  shows up in Cocoon and Cocoon: The Return; also in Sleeping Beauty, Johnny 2.0 and Black Light. She also appears in a SF video game called Ripper that took place in 2040 NYC and uses Jack as the basis for the plot there.
  • Born December 26, 1974Danielle Cormack, 44. Performer of New Zealander status so you can guess what that means — Ephiny on  Xena: Warrior Princess, a one shot as Lady Marie DeValle on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Ephiny on the same series, Katherine on Jack of All Trades (which I’ve mentioned before was one of Kage Baker’s fav shows), Raina on Cleopatra 2525 and Shota on the Legend of the Seeker. Genre television has been very, very good for the New Zealand economy! 
  • Born December 26, 1986Kit Harington, 32. Jon Snow on Game of Thornes of course but also voiced the Eret character in the How to Train Your Dragon films, a considerably lighter affair I’d say. Also played Bill Bradley in Seventh Son and is voicing Sir Gadabout In Zog, yet another dragon-centred film, I gather. 
  • Born December 26, 1960Temuera Morrison, 58. New Zealand performer known for being Jango Fett in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (and Commander Cody in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. He also voiced the clone troopers in both films. He is also voiced Chief Tui, the father of the title character in Disney’s Moana, and for playing Arthur Curry’s father in Aquaman.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • XKCD on feathered dinosaurs.

(14) SOMEDAY MY PRINTS WILL COME. Io9 has a cool décor suggestion: “Hang Iconic Doctor Who Moments on Your Wall With These Fantastic Framed Prints”.

Over the past few months, Classic Stills has been capturing high-res moments from genre faves like Jurassic Park and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as artsy prints you can frame on your wall. Now, it’s turning its hand to TV, in the form of another genre icon: 55 years of Doctor Who’s adventures in time and space….

(15) DO YOU PREFER LEINSTER OR JENKINS? Now’s your chance to find out. Murray Leinster’s daughter recently put together a short collection of mainstream short stories published under his real name of Will F. Jenkins which was, as Bruce D. Arthurs notes, was “Apparently the actual majority, and bread-and-butter, of his writing career.” Intro by Michael Swanwick. Available on Amazon. Link to Swanwick’s blog post: “The Mainstream Murray Leinster”.

…In a career that began in 1913 and ended with his death in 1975, Jenkins published some 1,800 stories in more than 150 periodicals, as well as 74 novels and collections. Only a small part of his output was science fiction — and that was written over the horrified objections of his agent. (SF didn’t pay as well as the slicks, which were his usual markets.) But Jenkins loved science and wrote science fiction for the fun of it, utilizing the Leinster pen name to protect his other fiction….

(16) SUCCESSFUL DEMONSTRATION. NPR asks “What’s Next For Tiny Satellites?” but doesn’t really have much of an answer yet.

On Nov. 26, as the probe known as InSight plummeted through the Martian atmosphere on its way to the planet’s surface, two miniature spacecraft — known collectively as MarCO — relayed telemetry from InSight to Earth, assuring all those watching that the landing of the probe was proceeding successfully and was soft.

In the past, spacecraft were only able to transmit back to Earth simple tones during a landing. Those tones would change for major milestones, such as parachute deployment, the firing of landing rockets or touchdown.

This time, as InSight team member Christine Szalai called out altitudes from the control room in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, she was reading off actual data from InSight’s onboard radar. It was live play-by-play, bearing in mind that the radio signal from Mars took approximately eight minutes to reach Earth.

… After its relay mission was over, the MarCOs sailed past Mars; they’ll go into orbit around the sun. Marinan says the research team on Earth will check in on the cubesats from time to time, just to see how long they last.

(17) I’VE SEEN THAT FACE BEFORE. A crossover comic brings together two characters played by actor Bruce Campbell: “Interview: Scott Duvall on How Ash Meets Bubba Ho-Tep in Dynamite’s New Army of Darkness Crossover”.

Worlds collide this February when Ash meets Elvis and a foul-mouthed mummy in Dynamite’s latest crossover Army of Darkness vs. Bubba Ho-Tep. The four-issue mini-series not only brings together two beloved cult classics, it also pits Bruce Campbell’s infamous character against another of his best personas (the actor played Ash in the Evil Dead series as well as Elvis Presley in Bubba Ho-Tep in 2002).

Written by Scott Duvall (They Called Us Enemy, Heavy Metal) and with art by Vincenzo Federici (Grimm Fairy Tales), the story follows Ash on a road trip through Texas in search of Elvis, who is rumored to be alive and taking down evil mummies. With a time-traveling Elvis jumpsuit and a new evil Book of the Dead, Ash must then come face to face with Bubba Ho-Tep, the soul-sucking mummy.

(18) THIS SCEPTRED ISLE. For those of us beyond the range of Her Majesty’s broadcast, Camestros Felapton helpfully supplies a transcript: “And now a message from the Queen to her commonwealth”.

When the creatures of the void break through the veil of cosmogyny and come to rend your essence from your bones and then marke sport with your skeleton while your howling soul looks on, to whom would you turn? Your milquetoast post-modernist professors? Your “Jeremiah Corbills”? Your “republicans” and constitutional reformers?

Or instead will you turn to a family that are the heirs to Boudicca, King Arthur, William the Conqueror, or my namesake Glorianna herself Elizabeth the First?

(19) TRANSFORMATIVE MURDERBOTS. Meredith advised:

For those who may not be aware: Transformative works fandom has a yearly secret santa gift exchange called Yuletide where people write small-fandom fanfiction for each other, and book fandoms usually make quite a good showing. This year’s collection can be found here.

(It’s also one of several fannish endeavours founded by Astolat, who also writes some really excellent and Hugo-nominated books when she’s not writing fanfic.)

Then JJ discovered –

There are 8 Murderbot fics!

And one of them features Timothy!

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

Best Series Hugo: Eligible Series from 2018

By JJ: To assist Hugo nominators, listed below are the series believed to be eligible as of this writing for the 2019 Best Series Hugo next year *†.

Each series name is followed by the main author name(s) and the 2018-published work.

Feel free to add missing series and the name of the 2018-eligible work in the comments, and I will get them included in the main post.

I just ask that suggesters (1) first do a Find on author surname on this page, to check whether the series is already on the list, and (2) then make an effort to verify that a series does indeed have 3 volumes, that it has a 2018-published work, and that it has likely met the 240,000 word threshold; in the past I have spent a considerable amount of time trying to verify suggested series, only to discover that they had fewer than 3 volumes, or nothing published in the current year, or weren’t anything close to 240,000 words (e.g., children’s books). Self-published works may or may not be added to the list at my discretion.

Note that the 2017 Hugo Administrator ruled that nominations for a series and one of its subseries will not be combined. Therefore, when nominating a subseries work, think carefully under which series name it should be nominated. If the subseries does not yet meet the 3-volume, 240,000 word count threshold, then the main series name should be nominated. If the subseries does meet that threshold, then the subseries name should probably be nominated. This will ensure that another subseries in the same universe, or the main series itself, would still be eligible next year if this subseries is a finalist this year.

Updated: The 2019 Hugo Administrators have announced that the 2017 Best Series Finalists, although the result of a one-time category, are subject to the same re-qualification requirements as the 2018 Best Series Finalists; bear that in mind when making your nominations.

* ineligible series are preceded by an asterisk

Read more…

Pixel Scroll 7/26/18 What Is The Law? Not To Reuse Titles, That Is The Law

(1) GOOD THOUGHTS ON BAD PRACTICES. Kristine Kathryn Rusch comments on historic efforts to game Amazon’s algorithms. “Business Musings: Sometimes I Just React…”

…Back when I started blogging on publishing in 2010 (after writing The Freelancer’s Survival Guide on this site in 2009), I had the lovely experience of being trashed repeatedly by the Kindle Unlimited folks. Only there wasn’t Unlimited—not yet. There was just the Kindle Boards, where writers gathered to talk.

And what they talked about was what professional writers everywhere talk about—how to make money. (We don’t dare discuss craft with each other for fear that we’ll insult our peers. We all have friends who have great writing careers, whom we believe {in our heart of hearts} can’t write their way out of a paper bag. And, we know, that some of our friends think the same thing about us. It’s better to discuss quantifiable things, like money, instead of qualitative things, like craft. {See my post on “Taste” from last week.})

That “how to make money” thing took on a life of its own on the Kindle Boards. It wasn’t about how to improve your storytelling to make money. It wasn’t about those old-fashioned systems like agents or traditional publishers or contracts, although there occasionally was talk like that.

Instead, it was about which subgenres sold, and how many books you had to write and publish each month to stay ahead of the algorithms. It was about writing short so that you had more books published (in the early days) or putting the table of contents at the end so that the algorithm would think someone who clicked there had read the whole book….

(2) RUNNING DARMOK. Whew, people really took off with this meme game….

For example (the second is what I have in mind) —

JJ suggests, “Breq, outside a tavern in snow.”

(3) AT THE CORE. Scientific American tells how “Milky Way’s Black Hole Provides Long-Sought Test of Einstein’s General Relativity”.

Genzel and his colleagues have tracked the journey of this star, known as S2, since the early 1990s. Using telescopes at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, the scientists watch it as it travels in an elliptical orbit around the black hole, which lies 26,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Sagittarius. With a mass of 4 million times the Sun, the black hole generates the strongest gravitational field in the Milky Way. That makes it an ideal place to hunt for relativistic effects.

On 18 May this year, S2 passed as close as it ever does to the black hole. The researchers pointed instruments including GRAVITY, an instrument called an interferometer that combines light from four 8-meter telescopes and became operational in 2016. “With our measurements the door is wide open to black-hole physics,” says team member Frank Eisenhauer, an astronomer at the Max Planck institute.

GRAVITY measured S2’s movement across the sky; at its fastest, the star whizzed along at more than 7,600 kilometres a second, or nearly 3% the speed of light. Meanwhile, a different instrument studied how fast S2 moved towards and away from Earth as it swung past the black hole. Combining the observations allowed Genzel’s team to detect the star’s gravitational redshift—its light being stretched to longer wavelengths by the black hole’s immense gravitational pull, which is consistent with the predictions of general relativity.

“What we measured cannot be described by Newton any more,” says Odele Straub, an astrophysicist at the Paris Observatory. Future observations of S2 might confirm other Einstein predictions, such as how the spinning black hole drags space-time around with it.

(4) SFWA MENTEE PROGRAM. The deadline to apply is July 31.

(5) UNCANNY KICKSTARTER. Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas have launched a Kickstarter for Year Five of their 2016 and 2017 Hugo Award-winning professional online SF/F magazine: Uncanny Magazine. The funds will cover some of its operational and production costs for the fifth year, with an initial goal of $18,700. plus an added stretch goal of launching a new Uncanny TV video magazine. The Kickstarter runs through August 24: “Uncanny Magazine Year Five: I Want My Uncanny TV!”

For Year Five, Uncanny has solicited original short fiction from Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award-winning and nominated authors and bestselling authors including: Ursula Vernon, Mary Robinette Kowal, Kelly Robson, Maurice Broaddus, Fran Wilde, Ellen Klages, Naomi Kritzer, Greg van Eekhout, John Chu, Sarah Pinsker,  Rebecca Roanhorse, and Delilah S. Dawson.  There will also be numerous slots for unsolicited submissions.

Uncanny Magazine Year Five plans to showcase original essays by Mark Oshiro, Zoë Quinn, Alexandra Erin, Tanya DePass, Jim C. Hines, and Diana M. Pho,  plus poetry by Beth Cato, S. Qiouyi Lu, Brandon O’Brien, Cassandra Khaw, Nicasio Reed, and Leah Bobet.

Uncanny Magazine Year Five will also feature cover art by John Picacio and Galen Dara.

This year, Uncanny is back with a new mission for the ranger corps: UNCANNY TV.

Hosted and produced by Michi Trota and Matt Peters, Uncanny TV will be the launch of our community-based vid channel, featuring exclusive geeky content related to Uncanny and the Space Unicorn Ranger Corps community. Matt Peters & Michi Trota will host a short (20-30 min) variety talk show Uncanny Magazine style: highlighting creators in SF/F working in a variety of art forms and projects, focusing on people building and nurturing their communities, particularly highlighting marginalized creators. They’ll talk about topics that can be serious, but the overall tone of the show will be to celebrate the things we enjoy and the people who make our communities good places to be in SF/F.

(6) DOES THIS WORK? Beatrice Verhoeven, in The Wrap’s story “‘Star Wars’ Director Rian Johnson Deletes 20,000 Tweets After James Gunn Firing in ‘Why Not?’ Move”, says that Johnson has deleted all his tweets before January 25 of this year, explaining, “if trolls looking for ammunition is the new normal, this seems like a ‘why not’ move.”

On Tuesday, The Mary Sue tweeted a story that said, “it’s also possible that Disney has issued some sort of directive to their talent about social media post-Gunn situation, suggesting caution or deletion.” In response, Johnson tweeted, “No official directive at all, and I don’t think I’ve ever tweeted anything that bad. But it’s nine years of stuff written largely off the cuff as ephemera, if trolls scrutinizing it for ammunition is the new normal, this seems like a ‘why not?’ move.”

(7) NO BUCKS AND NO BUCK ROGERS. The Hollywood Reporter has the latest about the Buck Rogers rights litigation: “Judge Directs Government Intervention in “Buck Rogers” Bankruptcy”.

The audacious plan to use a bankruptcy court to auction off “Buck Rogers” rights despite lingering ownership challenges appears to have backfired on those ostensibly serving the interests of heirs of John Dille, who published the fictional space hero in magazines in the early-to-mid 20th century. On Wednesday, a Pennsylvania bankruptcy court issued an extraordinary decision that faulted the Dille Family Trust with a number of sins. As a result, the Office of the U.S. Trustee has been directed to appoint a Chapter 11 Trustee in what could ultimately result in a long anticipated film adaptation of Armageddon 2419 A.D., the 1929 novella by Philip Francis Nowlan that introduced the Buck Rogers character.

The background of what happened is detailed much more extensively here, but in November 2017, the Dilles declared bankruptcy in the midst of litigation with Nowlan’s heirs about trademark rights and in the middle of fighting with producer Don Murphy about whether Armageddon 2419 A.D. was in the public domain. Filing for bankruptcy meant a pause on litigation, and the Dilles wanted to liquidate their interests in Buck Rogers rights — whatever those might be — through Heritage Auctions. Since the filing of bankruptcy, Murphy and the Nowlans have pounded the table that this proceeding was all a farce.

Now, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jeffery Deller has seen enough.

In a memorandum opinion (read here), he writes that it is undisputed that the Dille Family Trust has no business operations, has no meaningful income, is liquidating as opposed to reorganizing, has incurred administrative expenses with no liquid assets available to satisfy these debts, and has invoked the automatic stay for the primary purpose of avoiding a trial regarding an alleged interest in various intellectual property.

(8) WORLDCON WOES. John Scalzi delivers “A Little More On Recent Worldcon Stuff”.

Also, while I’m on the subject of the Hugo and Worldcon, I see some various turdlings out there are gleeful about the recent dustup re: the Worldcon program. “The SJWs are eating themselves!” is the basic line of the turdlings. In fact, something entirely different happened.

Which was: When the problems cropped up (and they did) and people started to complain (and they did), the Worldcon, within a day, acknowledged that various mistakes had happened and actively moved to correct those mistakes. Not perfectly or instantly, but it still happened.

Which is what you want to happen! In an ideal world, mistakes don’t get made, but we don’t live in an ideal world and none of us is our ideal self. The next best thing is, when mistakes are pointed out, you move to fix them and to learn from them.

The turdlings who are gleeful at the Worldcon’s temporary woes don’t care about anything other than an institution they dislike and tried (or are still trying) to sabotage having a stumble. That’s because they’re basically awful, whiny menchildren. No surprise there.

(9) TAKE ME OUT TO THE BOT GAME. Flippy the Robot, from Miso Robotics, will be “wearing” Dodger blue this summer (Food & Wine: “Flippy the Robot Is the Tater Tot-Making Boyfriend I Deserve”) and manning (robotting?) the fry basket:

In 2017, Miso Robotics introduced the world to Flippy, a jaunty new robot that can make food alongside humans, prepping fried chicken and tater tots and burgers with ease. And this summer, Flippy will be gainfully employed at Dodgers Stadium to make concessions, working the frying station. This follows a successful stint flipping burgers at a Pasadena CaliBurger earlier this year.

“Adapting Flippy into a fryer assistant … has been a great opportunity to demonstrate the scale of Miso’s platform,” Miso Robotics CEO David Zitosaid in a statement. “[T]his technology [is] a win-win — improving working conditions for stadium employees and improving the game experience for fans.” In February, Flippy raised $10 million from investors.

(10) ROBOTS OVER THE MILLENNIA. A Nature open-access PDF article, “Ancient dreams of intelligent machines: 3,000 years of robots”, in which “Stephen Cave and Kanta Dihal revisit the extraordinary history of cultural responses to automata.”

The word ‘robot’ was born in Czech writer Karel ?apek’s 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). In the very work coining the term, the robots rebel against and destroy their creators. And that narrative of rebellion has proved to be the most potent of all our AI fears, retold repeatedly as technology evolves.

During the cold war space race, the film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) gave us HAL 9000, the murderous spaceship supercomputer. With the rise of the Internet, we got Skynet — a defence network that becomes self-aware in the Terminator films (starting in 1984) — and The Matrix (1999), featuring intelligent machines that farm humans whose minds unknowingly inhabit a virtual reality. Now, with AI dominating headlines, we have sophisticated robots again overthrowing their wetware masters, from Ava in the 2015 film Ex Machina to the android amusement-park hosts in the Westworld television series.

The persistent trope of robot revolts reveals the paradox at the heart of our relationship with intelligent machines. We want to create clever tools that can do everything we can do, and more. They will be the perfect oracles, servants, soldiers, even lovers. To fulfil our hopes, they must have attributes such as intellect and agency — minds of their own, superior to ours. But, paradoxically, that is also why we fear HAL and Skynet. The tension lies in our conflicted desire to create beings superhuman in capacity, but subhuman in status.

(11) PETERSEN OBIT. Andrew Petersen, a student I met at Azusa Pacific University’s Yosemite Semester in 2001, has died. One of his ambitions was to captain a Jungle Cruise boat at Disneyland and he not only did that, he went to work at the Park, along the way running the Indiana Jones ride and the Enchanted Tiki Room. What a character he was, what a great guy.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 26, 1894 – Aldous Huxley. Swap two numbers in the year and you have another dystopian author’s book.
  • Born July 26, 1928 – Stanley Kubrick.
  • Born July 26 – Helen Mirren, 73. Genre work includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, the classic Twilight Zone, Faerie Tale Theatre and as Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy film.
  • Born July 26 – Sandra Bullock, 54. First genre role was in, I kid you not, Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, also Demolition Man and Gravity to name but two of her other genre appearances.
  • Born July 26 – Jeremy Piven, 53. Jeffrey Tanner in the quickly and mercifully canceled Wisdom of the Crowd series, in Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde, the Hercules animated series, the Cupid series as well and a lot of voice work.
  • Born July 26 – Olivia Williams, 50. Adelle DeWitt in Dollhouse and Emily Burton Silk in Counterpart, also the Jason and the Argonauts series in a recurring role as Hera, yet another Peter Pan  film, and apparently an uncredited appearance in X-Men: The Last Stand.
  • Born July 26 – Kate Beckinsale, 45. Selene in the Underworld film franchise, also Van HelsingAlice Through the Looking Glass, Haunted and a recurring role in the Elder Scrolls Online video game franchise.
  • Born July 26 – Eve Myles, 40. Gwen Cooper in both the Doctor Who and Torchwood series, and voice performer in the Big Finish series of audiobooks including Golden Age, a splendid story involving Torchwood India.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) A CAREER, JUST NOT THE ONE PRESENTED. Her history of crowdsourcing funds, promoting literary events, and tendency to not deliver made the LA Times ask “Who Is Anna March?”

…Anna March whisked in and out, a flash of pink hair in a polka-dot dress. The 2015 party at the Ace’s mezzanine bar, serving free drinks, was packed to overflowing.

March had never published a book but had been quietly working literary Los Angeles’ social media connections for months. A spunky, unapologetic, sex-positive feminist ready to raise hell, she was supportive and flattering. She was also conspicuously generous — concerned about the line of people waiting to get into the party, March asked a pair of new acquaintances if she should give $20 bills to those stuck on the sidewalk. The bill for the night would total more than $22,000.

Why is she doing this? people asked, stealing glances at March.

Some had a larger question:

Who was Anna March?

That was a harder question to answer than you might think. Anna March first appeared around 2011, when she started publishing online. Before that, she was known by different names in different cities. In researching this story, The Times found four: Anna March, Delaney Anderson, Nancy Kruse and Nancy Lott.

In three places — Los Angeles, San Diego and Rehoboth Beach, Del. — March became a part of the literary community. She won over new friends, even accomplished authors but especially writers trying to find a way into that world, with her generosity, her enthusiasm and apparent literary success — only to leave town abruptly…

(15) DOUBLE JEOPARDY. No sooner had Jon Del Arroz started an Indiegogo to fund a comic book project than somebody unveiled a bogus Kickstarter featuring an image of the same character. JDA has gotten the hoax Kickstarter taken down.

Fake fundraiser screencap

JDA knows his audience — his announcement of the real Indiegogo appeal on his blog is sandwiched between a post gloating about Worldcon 76 program travails and another post complaining that Tor Books is attacking him — and the Indiegogo appeal is closing in on its $6,000 goal.

(16) ALAN MOORE. Paste Magazine says these are “The 10 Best Alan Moore Comics of All Time”.

  1. A Small Killing
    Artist: Oscar Zarate
    Publisher: Avatar Press
    Here’s the landmark which stands nearest to Moore. Allow me to explain: I don’t think A Small Killing is the work that means the most to Moore emotionally, or that it shows some never-revealed Rosebud, or that it amounts to autobiography by code. What I mean is that A Small Killing is the work I see as somehow closest to the heart of the creator, the way the Book of Job is central to any exegesis of the Tanakh. A Small Killing is a story that unconsciously comments on Moore’s anxiety. (This is all rabid hearsay, of course, and should not be aired in a legitimate court of law.)

(17) IN UNIFORM. People.com shows how “Natalie Portman Transforms Into NASA Astronaut in Pale Blue Dot. Natalie Portman plays a NASA astronaut in Pale Blue Dot, a fictional story said to be based loosely on the Lisa Nowak -Bill Oefelein-Colleen Shipman “astronaut love triangle” of 2007.

In the early morning hours of that day, Nowak was wearing a black wig and trench coat when she approached Colleen Shipman’s car in the parking lot of Orlando International Airport. She banged on the Shipman’s window and begged for a ride. When Shipman rolled down her window, Nowak sprayed her with pepper spray and tried to get in the car.

Shipman fled the scene, shaken but unhurt. Police arrested Nowak on attempted murder and kidnapping charges.

The resulting case was dubbed the “astronaut love triangle.”

(18) DOOR-TO-DOOR.

(19) ON THE BEACH. “Liquid water ‘lake’ revealed on Mars” — ESA’s Mars orbiter finds something too big (12 miles across) to be just sub-ice meltwater — probably very cold and briny, and a mile under the ice, but definitely a lake.

Marsis wasn’t able to determine how thick the layer of water might be, but the research team estimate that it is a minimum of one metre.

“This really qualifies this as a body of water. A lake, not some kind of meltwater filling some space between rock and ice, as happens in certain glaciers on Earth,” Prof Orosei added.

(20) MARSWARD BOUND. Here’s The First Teaser. The series comes to Hulu September 14.

The First is created by Beau Willimon (House of Cards) and stars Sean Penn. Set in the near future (2030), this groundbreaking story explores the challenges of taking the first steps towards Mars. Viewers will get an intimate look at the dedicated characters trying to reach the unknown while dealing with the psychological and physical toll it takes to achieve the impossible.

 

(21) NOT ALONE. The last man on earth was alone in his room. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. – Oops, sorry, this is not the Fredric Brown story, it’s the I Think We’re Alone Now teaser trailer.

Del (Peter Dinklage) is alone in the world. After the human race is wiped out, he lives in his small, empty town, content in his solitude and the utopia he’s methodically created for himself – until he is discovered by Grace (Elle Fanning), an interloper whose history and motives are obscure. Worse yet, she wants to stay.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 7/18/18 Your Scroll Is Important To Us. Please Hold.

(1) OKORAFOR BRANCHES OUT. The Black Panther’s sister, Shuri, is getting her own comic series. Marvel’s press release says:

All hail Wakanda’s technological genius! As revealed exclusively on Bustle, Marvel is thrilled to announce that this fall, award winning author Nnedi Okorafor and Eisner-nominated artist Leonardo Romero (Hawkeye) will be bringing SHURI #1 to readers everywhere! And revealed for the first time, Marvel is excited to share the dazzling cover to issue #1 by industry-acclaimed artist, Sam Spratt, best known for his cover art work on Janelle Monae’s “Electric Lady.”

The world of Wakanda is facing a tragic crisis: Black Panther is lost in space, and everyone is looking at who will step up to lead their country in his absence. But Shuri is happier in a lab than she is on the throne…how does a princess choose between her duties to her country and her own ideals?

“Shuri is an African young woman of genius level intelligence who is obsessed with technology and has traveled spiritually so far into the past that she’s seen Wakanda before it was Wakanda,” Okorafor told Bustle in an interview. “The Ancestors call her Ancient Future. And she’s super ambitious. What do I love about her? Alllll that and more. She’s a character in the Marvel Universe who really sings to me.”

(2) OVERLORD TRAILER. J.J. Abrams’ zombie horror movie Overlord is in theaters November 9.

On the eve of D-Day, US paratroopers drop behind enemy lines, to infiltrate a small village. Unfortunately, they realize the Nazis are experimenting with supernatural forces to fight them.

 

(3) BATWOMAN ON THE WAY. SYFY Wire has two stories about the development of a Batwoman TV show to join the other DC Comics properties running on the CW network (the “Arrowverse”). CW is already the home of The FlashArrowLegends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl, with a tradition of doing a set of crossover episodes as an annual event since the 2014–2015 season. In “Batwoman TV Series in Development at the CW to Join the Arrowverse” some of the basics are discussed:

Vampire Diaries writer/producer Caroline Dries is locked in as a writer and producer on the project, along with Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, and Geoff Johns. To that end, the casting and tonal decisions made for the crossover event would likely carry over into a potential series. Think of it as one heck of a big backdoor pilot, basically.

That article also speculates on which version of Batgirl would be filmed, noting that the original 1956 character is not in the modern comics:

However, this iteration of the hero was wiped out of DC’s continuity during 1985’s seminal limited series, Crisis on Infinite Earths. Batwoman was reestablished into existence in 2006 in the form of Kate Kane, a Jewish LBGTQ character, one of the first-openly gay characters in the DC universe.

The story “Report: The CW Seeking Lesbian Actress With Open Ethnicity to Play Batwoman in Solo Series” pursues that aspect more thoroughly as well as sounding a cautionary note [emphasis added]:

TVLine is reporting the network has put out the call for an actress of any ethnicity who can play in the age range of 24-29, and that it’s looking for a lesbian for the role if possible. The right person would join scriptwriter and co-producer Caroline Dries (The Vampire Diaries) to develop the standalone Batwoman series. Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, and Geoff Johns are also co-producing.

News that The CW is eyeing Batwoman for the series treatment is still super-fresh, and it’s not guaranteed that her appearance in the crossover will lead directly to a green-lit show. If the network does move forward with Batwoman, the show is expected to debut sometime next year.

(4) SHAZAM! Yahoo! Entertainment reports Shazam! will be released April 5, 2019 — “Shazam! on EW’s special Comic-Con cover: ‘It’s Superman meets Big'”.

Zachary Levi throws off the perfect Shazam! pitch: “It’s Superman meets Big!” declares the affable former Chuck star who’s squeezing into a skin-tight suit to play what’s perhaps the ultimate daydream-come-true superhero across all of comic book lore: An ordinary 14-year-old kid named Billy Batson who can transform into a grown-up superhero with an array of heroic powers by uttering a single world (“Soundhound!” No wait: “Shazam!”) and then return to his regular self whenever he wants.

(5) THAT SOUND YOU HEARD. JJ read this tweet and squeed — “This is by the same guy who did The Silence space SF trilogy which I really loved last year (under pen name D. Nolan Clark).”

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 18, 1948 — James Faulkner, who played Mr. K in Martian Chronicles (TV edition in the US)
  • Born July 18 – Paul Verhoeven, 80. Director of RoboCop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers. Also Hollow Man which has a gratuitous nude scene fitting a man who responsible for Basic Instinct. Also Producer of the animated Starship Troopers series which is quite excellent. Writer for the apparently forthcoming RoboCop Returns film.
  • Born July 18 – Vin Diesel, 51. Guardians of The Galaxy (“I am Groot!”) and other MCU films, The Iron Giant, xXx and Chronicles of Riddick franchises and The Fifth Element.
  • Born July 18 – Kristen Bell, 38. The forthcoming animated Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, also DeadwoodFlatland: The Movie, Heroes and the Astro Boy franchise and iZombie.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • SJW credential tech in Arlo and Janis.
  • Fantasy tropes face retrenchment in Bizarro.
  • Something has two possible explanations, and since you’re reading this blog the odds are you’ll prefer Last Kiss’ second choice.

(8) MARKET REPORT. According to Yahoo! Finance, “Comic sales are down as readers abandon print”.

Comic book and graphic novel sales fell 6.5% in 2017 from a 2016 high of $1.015 billion. Graphic novels brought in $570 million while comic books brought in about $350 million.

A report posted to Comichron notes that comic stores are still the biggest source for revenue while $90 million is attributable to digital downloads.

“After a multiyear growth run, the comics shop market gave back some of its gains in 2017, with lackluster response to new periodical offerings and, consequently, graphic novel sales,” wrote Comichron’s John Jackson Miller. “The third quarter of 2017 saw the worst of the year-over-year declines, leading into what has turned out to be a stronger spring for stores in 2018.”

(9) THE OVERPRICE GUIDE. (Or so Bruce Pelz used to call it….) Heritage Auctions encourages comics collectors to “Download the Complete 2018-19 48th Edition Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide!” at a cost of $30.

In conjunction with the release of the book the new 2018-19, 48th edition of the electronic Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide is now available for immediate download! (Compatible with both Mac and PC!) No serious collector should be without an Overstreet, and this is even more true of the searchable electronic version. Available exclusively through Heritage Auctions, this new version is:

  • Alphabetically indexed
  • Searchable (by any keyword)

At a cost of only $30, this revolutionary new format is one of the best investments available in our hobby. Begin enjoying the benefits right now. Download your copy to your hard drive today.

(10) SEE IT FREE. On July 22 the community will get in free to the Dreaming the Universe sf exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of History.

(11) OWN BOND’S RIDE. Lego has come out with the official James Bond Aston Martin DB5 which you can make out of Lego elements.

(12) MORE LEGO CREATIONS. Here are a couple more cool projects, including a ferocious Lego SJW credential….

(13) DOUBLE PARKED. When Bob Shaw MC’d the Hugos in 1986, one of his humorous interludes involved a job assignment to write copy about a submarine prone to take “unplanned depth excursions.” “Spain’s new submarine ‘too big for its dock'”.

An attempt to deploy a new submarine for Spain’s navy has run aground again, after it emerged it cannot fit in its dock, Spanish media report.

The S-80 boat was redesigned at great expense after an earlier mistake meant it had problems floating, and it was lengthened to correct the issue.

Spanish newspaper El País now reports that after the changes, the docks at Cartagena can no longer fit the vessel….

The original problem with the submarine dates back to 2013, when it was discovered that it was about 100 tons heavier than it needed to be.

That caused a problem for its buoyancy – so it could submerge, but might not come back up again.

A former Spanish official told the Associated Press at the time that someone had put a decimal point in the wrong place, and “nobody paid attention to review the calculations”.

(14) BIG LIFTER. Clip of the An-124 in action: “Business booming for giant cargo planes”. Possibly highest capacity — internal crane, kneeling landing gear — what’s not to like?

$7tn of goods travel by air every year. Most goes in the hold of normal airliners. But for those big, awkward loads, something rather larger is required.

(15) TAKING A BITE OUT OF DEVELOPMENT. “Anne Rice’s ‘Vampire Chronicles’ Lands at Hulu”The Hollywood Reporter has the news.

Two years after being put into development, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles TV series has found a home.

In a competitive situation with multiple outlets pursuing the project, Hulu has landed Vampire Chronicles. The streamer, home to Emmy darling The Handmaid’s Tale, has put the drama into development.

Bryan Fuller, who boarded the Paramount Television and Anonymous Content effort as showrunner in January, exited the project six months ago. Fuller opted to step back rather than step on the toes of longtime friends Rice and her son, Christopher, who penned the original script. (Christopher is a four-time New York Times best-selling author and recipient of the Lambda Literary Award.)

Anne and Christopher Rice will executive produce the potential series, alongside Anonymous Content’s David Kanter and Steve Golin.

Paramount Television and Anonymous Content optioned the rights to 11 books from the Vampire Chronicles franchise back in April 2017. More than 100 million copies have been sold worldwide. Rice’s Interview With the Vampire was first published in 1976 and served as the basis for the 1994 feature of the same name starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst and Antonio Banderas.

(16) COURT RULES ON PARENT’S NOTE. Dear Judge, please excuse my boy from having the pants sued off him for thieving on the internet….. From Techspot we learn that a “Federal court says Epic can go ahead with its lawsuit against teen”.

Judge says mother’s letter does not establish a strong enough claim to dismiss…

According to TorrentFreak, most of the arguments put forth in the document were irrelevant because they failed to state a claim. The only complaint that held any water was whether or not C.R. could have entered into the EULA agreement.

Epic argued that minors cannot invalidate the terms of a contract while receiving the benefits of said contract. In other words, C.R. illegally misrepresented himself as an adult and is therefore still obligated to the contractual terms.

According to court rules, an accuser’s complaint holds more weight than a motion to dismiss. Judge Howard ruled that the letter from the mother was not enough to throw out the suit.

“As detailed in plaintiff’s response memorandum, defendant has not shown that the complaint fails to allege sufficient facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. [T]herefore, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, plaintiff has stated a plausible claim, and the motion to dismiss must be denied.”

The defendant now has two weeks to file a response to the complaint. Failing that, Epic can proceed to ask for a default judgment in the case.

(17) ENCHANTMENT UNDER THE SEA.  Deadline has the art: “‘Aquaman’ Poster Revealed: Jason Momoa Dives In To The Crowded DC Pool”

The film will have [a] Comic-Con panel this week, where director James Wan has said the fir.st trailer will be revealed. The initial footage shown at CinemaCon showed the undersea kingdom of Atlantis, replete with swimming fish people — some riding sea horses — and futuristic submarines. Aquaman is challenged by his brother (Patrick Wilson) for the throne, with Amber Heard’s Mera begging Aquaman, “Unless you help us, millions will die.”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/4/18 We Read About Dinos And We Read About Space At Ten-Thousand Words A Go

(1) THUMB ON THE SCALES. The Fourth of July was the day Vicksburg fell and the day after the South lost the Battle of Gettysburg. On our timeline, anyway. The war had a different outcome at Dinosaur Kingdom II — a theme park in Virginia where dinosaurs and an assortment of other creatures helped the Confederates defeat the Union. Or so goes the pitch from Vice News: “Inside the weird dinosaur park where Confederates defeat the Union army”).

The owner claims not to be quite the Confederate apologist you might suppose: “That war had to have happened, because the fact that you and I can own somebody is just totally outrageous… and so that had to change.” And after watching a video tour of the park I was left wondering if Vice is selling the dino Lost Cause angle a lot harder than the attraction’s owner….

(2) BRAND NEW. Jeff VanderMeer has allowed the Last Exit To Nowhere company to make Southern Reach T-shirts. He told them that they needed to donate a portion of the profits to St. Mark’s Wildlife Refuge and notes that the zip code on the shirt is the zip code for the refuge.

An official T-shirt approved by the author, Jeff VanderMeer. The inspiration for the novel was a 14-mile hike through St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in northwestern Florida. Many of the animals and vegetation that VanderMeer has seen on this hike over the past 17 years appear in the novel. A proportion of the profits for this T-shirt goes to Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge. A single colour design, using a glow-in-the-dark ink hand screen printed on a regular fit 100% cotton military olive T-shirt.

(3) BOB MADLE RECOVERING FROM STROKE. Bob Madle, 98, one of the two remaining fans who attended the first Worldcon (1939) suffered a stroke last month reports Curt Phillips” “I’ve been given permission by his daughter Jane to report that First Fandom Founder, TAFF Delegate, SF Bookseller, long time SF fan and all-around good guy Bob Madle is back at home now and doing very well after a stroke suffered during the second week of June.”

According to Jane:

My Dad is home from rehab and doing very well. His speech, which was the main thing impacted, is improving every day. He’s continuing to get therapy at home. He said he’s fine with letting others know about the stroke.

Phillips filled in the timeframe:

I had gone to Rockville just over a week ago to do some preparatory work for a convention – Corflu 36 – and naturally had tried to call Bob to arrange a visit with my fellow First Fandom member and pulpfan. It was quite alarming when my several phone calls over multiple days failed to be answered, something which had never happened before when calling Bob. I left messages and while driving home to Abingdon the next day I received a phone call from Stephen Haffner who told me about Bob’s stroke and that he was still in the hospital. Subsequent emails with Jane filled in the picture and I learned that Bob was headed for rehab the following week, which has now been successfully completed. Bob is, at this hour, back at home, no doubt watching a baseball game on tv.

Stephen and I lacked permission from Bob or his family to share this news until now, probably for concerns of Bob being overtaxed with phone calls and so forth, but Jane now tells me that he’s improving steadily, to my great relief. Keep up the good progress, Bob! I’ll come to see you next time I’m in town to share a beer, watch a ball game with you, and maybe even buy a pulp magazine or two!

(4) A REAL THREE-BODY PROBLEM. In an article on Gizmodo (“Einstein’s Theory of Gravity Holds Up on Test of a Three-Star System”), Ryan F. Mandelbaum examines a new paper in Nature (“Universality of free fall from the orbital motion of a pulsar in a stellar triple system”) and makes some comparisons on the side to Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem. The Nature paper describes a test of general relativity using a 3-body system (PSR J0337+1715, about 4200 light years from Earth) which consists of a millisecond pulsar (neutron star) and a white dwarf co-orbiting each other very closely and another white dwarf less than 1 AU distant.

Quoting the Gizmodo article:

They used 800 observations of the system spanning over six years, using the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope in the Netherlands, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, and the William E. Gordon telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico….

The researchers [Ingrid Stairs and Anne Archibald] could measure this behavior based on the pulsing behavior of the spinning neutron star. The observations revealed that the white dwarf and the pulsar seemed to behave exactly the same way in response to the other white dwarf’s gravity. General relativity wins again….

[Mandelbaum] also asked Archibald and Stairs whether they’d read The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin. Stairs hadn’t, and Archibald is halfway through. “One of the themes of the book is fundamental physics… if you do the same experiment in two places, physics doesn’t depend on where. It’s this universal fundamental physics you can get at with careful experimentation. [Liu] asks, what happens if physics doesn’t work that way?” she said. “I’m testing that at a fundamental level.”

(5) A PERSISTENT VISITOR. JJ says be sure you read the thread down to the poem. The thread starts here.

(6) AI SPREADS HOAX DEATH REPORT. While io9 headlines “Siri Erroneously Told People That Stan Lee Was Dead” as a Siri/Apple story (and it certainly is that), the underlying story is that a troll changed a Wikidata.org page to falsely say Stan Lee was dead. (Wikidata is a sister project to the better-known Wikipedia, which latter is reportedly one of the sources used by Alexa ) Siri (and a number of other digital assistants) pull info from various sources — some of which can be edited by the public — when asked questions. In this case, Siri would be in error on Stan Lee until another Wikidata editor reverted the change less than an hour later. That window, though, was clearly enough to cause some alarm.

Quoting the article:

In a post on CinemaBlend, writer Sean O’Connell described a moment where he and his teenage son were driving home from an Ant-Man and the Wasp screening on Wednesday, to have his son ask Apple’s digital assistant Siri how old Stan Lee was. The response? “Stan Lee died on July 2, 2018.” They were concerned and checked the internet for news, but there was none… because it wasn’t true. But we were curious why Siri would share this specific information.

The io9 article concludes:

The troublesome user (“&beer&love”) who started the bad data cascade had been kicked off Wikidata before and reportedly has now been kicked off again. Sadly, as  long as there are trolls and as long as we collectively depend on data sources that can be corrupted by them, there will be such problems.

(7) MULLER OBIT. Robert Muller (1940-2018): Dutch cinematographer, died July 3, aged 78. Worked on Repo Man (1984) and Until the End of the World (1991).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY PLANET. Put another million candles on its birthday cake. “Scientists Capture First Birth Of A Planet” reports NPR.

An international team of scientists has discovered a young planet — just 5 or 6 million years old — forging its own path through space and likely growing along the way.

The scientists captured a photograph, which they say is the very first direct image of the birth of a planet still forming around a star.

It’s a major finding for those of us on Earth, a 4.5-billion-year-old planet.

The newly discovered planet may be young, but it’s huge: many times the size of Jupiter, which could fit 1,300 planet Earths inside.

The BBC adds:

Researchers have long been on the hunt for a baby planet, and this is the first confirmed discovery of its kind.

Young dwarf star PDS 70 is less than 10 million years old, and its planetary companion is thought to be between five and six million years old.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock learned from Bizarro that tech shall not release you.

(10) BOVINES WHO NEED BEANO. BBC science news — “Surf And Turf: To Reduce Gas Emissions From Cows, Scientists Look To The Ocean”. There’s much less methane being released than CO2 — but pound-for-pound it has a much worse effect on greenhousing.

Scientists think they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by tweaking the food that cows eat. A recent experiment from the University of California, Davis suggests that adding seaweed to cattle feed can dramatically decrease their emissions of the potent gas methane.

Livestock is a major source of greenhouse gases worldwide. About quarter of the methane emissions due to human activity in the U.S. can be chalked up to gas released from these animals, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

(11) HARD TO BE HUMBLE WHEN YOU’RE REALLY A GENIUS. Chuck Tingle proves love again.

(12) FUN WITH BUGS. Camestros Felapton tries but is unable to restrain his enthusiasm in “Review: Ant-man & The Wasp”.

I think it is fair to say that Ant-man & The Wasp is the most inconsequential Marvel movie for some time. No new superheroes are introduced, no new approaches to the genre are taken, there is little impact on the other MCU films, there are no big or deep themes to discuss. It is the first MCU film to have the name of a female Avenger in the title but that’s about it.

But it is a fun, often silly film….

(13) FLASH AND THEY’RE GONE. People who love LibertyCon really love it. Rev. Bob brings word that the con sold out its 2019 memberships today, the first day they were available online.

To be more precise, they opened online registration today and sold all 750 memberships in just under six hours. (“5 hours, 52 minutes, and 50 seconds!” per one source.) This is according to multiple Facebook posts by associated individuals, as well as the official convention Facebook page.

It is worth noting that, according to those same sources, no 2019 memberships were sold at the convention itself. In addition, hotel room reservations have not yet opened; that won’t happen until sometime in September.

(14) ALREADY SPOILED. Remember that spoiler-filled Batman news item I warned you about so strenuously in the July 1 Scroll? Well, genre news sites have splattered the spoiler everywhere and the comic issues in question have hit the stands. It’s up to you – skip the next paragraph if you want to preserve the surprise.

Two articles published today (SYFY Wire: “Batman and the X-Men wedding dramas are the latest in comics’ matrimonial insanity” and Comicbook.com: “‘Batman’ Writer Tom King Reveals What’s Next After the Wedding”) take separate looks at love and marriage in comic books.

As writer John Wenz says on SYFY Wire,

Superhero romance is … fraught. Marriage doubly so…

Wenz casually reels off nearly a dozen different ways that marriages have failed to happen or fallen apart in just the first few paragraphs of his article. The most recent Marvel and DC will-they/won’t-they/oh-Great-Gnu-what-just-happened stories are examined in how they fit into these patterns.

On Comicbook.com, Patrick Cavanaugh talks to Batman writer Tom King to get his view on What Just Happened. King point out that this issue (#50) is just halfway through a planned 100-issue arc so the readers don’t know how the overall story will end. King is quoted as saying,

We’re halfway through that journey. It’s a long story, a long journey. It could have a happy ending or a sad ending. You’re halfway through the movie now. You’re in the middle of Empire Strikes Back and Vader just showed up and took Han’s gun.

(15) A BUTTLOAD OF CATS. Martin Morse Wooster would hate for anyone to miss Rachel Bloom’s musical salute to SJW credentials, performed on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

This is the cleaned-up version, although to my ear “buttload” fits the meter better than “fuckton” anyway.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/28/18 Stay Scrolled, Pixelboy… Stay Scrolled…

(1) FUTURE TENSE. Joey Eschrich, Editor and Program Manager at ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination and the Assistant Director, Future Tense, forwards the latest entry in the Future Tense Fiction series: “A Brief and Fearful Star” by Carmen Maria Machado.

Mama did not talk about her journey west very much; the circumstances had to be right. When she did—in the electric moments before rainfall, if a rabbit crossed clockwise against our path, if she found me flipping through the battered almanac from the year of my birth—she described it like a painting she was viewing through a fever.

“The light,” she said once, when we encountered a set of twigs that had fallen into the shape of a cross. “It was like being underwater, all blue and soft and bright.”

It was published along with a response essay, “Could the Experiences of Our Ancestors Be “Seared Into Our Cells”?” by science journalist Erika Hayasaki.

Our memories are made up of the stories we come to believe about our past, about how we got here and who we are, a running inner-narrative of scenes, summary, and anecdotes colored with bits of truth and speculation. We tend to define our lives through largely made-up memories, to decipher what makes us resilient, or what makes us weak.

There’s something seductive in believing we could also inherit memories in a biological sense, too. An ancestor passing down the experience of endurance or trauma, for example, transmitting traces of a distant past that does not belong to us and yet might be built into us before we are born. A coding that primes decedents to fear, to cope with, to prepare for, or to survive through the same perils. It makes for an uncomfortable solace, thinking that the memories of generations before may reside within our genes. It gives us explanations….

(2) FUTURE LAW. The Institute for Information Law at the Universiteit van Amsterdam invites English-language entries in the inaugural “’Science Fiction & Information Law’ Essay Competition”. The deadline is December 15.

We welcome essays that reflect on our possible data-driven future, where data has been firmly established as an economic asset and new, data-driven smart technologies can change the way we live, work, love, think and vote. How will AI change politics, democracy or the future of the media? What will life be like with robot judges and digital professors? What is the future of transportation in the wake of drones, the autonomous car and perfect matching of transportation needs? Is there a life beyond the ubiquity of social media: Is there bound to be an anti-thesis and if so, what will the synthesis look like? What will happen when social media corporations start fully-fledged co-operation with the police? Or unleash the power of public engagement to solve or prevent crime by themselves? How would crime respond to all this? What could be the true implications of the ‘data economy’ and if we really can pay our bills with our data? How will future information law look like in the age of AI?

The authors of the best five essays will compete for the IViR Science Fiction & Information Law Award. The award will be granted by an independent jury, and the five authors will be invited to Amsterdam for a public symposium…..

We welcome essays between 5000-8000 words in English. We encourage contributions from sci-fi authors but also from all scholars, thinkers, lay-philosophers, bloggers and interested citizens who like to think about technology and society, and maybe have been toying with the idea of writing something for quite some time but never did. This is your opportunity!
Please send your essay to n.helberger@uva.nl by 15 December 2018.

(3) NEEDLE FOUND AT LAST. The Portalist asks Robert Silverberg about the forthcoming film adaptation of one of his short stories: “Interview: Sci-Fi Great Robert Silverberg Talks Time Travel”.

The director, John Ridley, is best known for the movie Three Kings, for which he wrote the story, and 12 Years a Slave, which earned him an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Do you know what attracted him to “Needle in a Timestack”? 

He read it in Playboy long ago—it was published there in 1983—and said, “I want to make a movie out of that.” But once he got into a position to do that he couldn’t, because it had been optioned and later bought outright by Miramax. So it was tied up, and he was not a Miramax person, so it was in limbo for years. Vince Gerardis, my lovely Hollywood agent, managed to get the rights back. At that point John had had a huge success with 12 Years and Miramax asked him, is there anything else you want to do, and he said, “Needle in a Timestack.” So they optioned it the second time, hired Ridley, and then let the option run out. But he was hooked, and went and found another producer, who is now producing. He’s deeply attached to the project—not just in the Hollywood sense, he really loves it. He wrote the screenplay and apparently the screenplay is quite faithful to the story.

(4) YEARS AGO AT DRAGON CON. Two days ago, SF/F author K. T. Katzmann tweeted, “Also, I once watched one of the most famous SF/fantasy authors in the world pull off an act of conspiracy to commit murder over their microphone in a convention panel, but my lips are sealed until they die.”

That author was Harlan Ellison. Now that he has died, Katzmann tells the whole story in this thread:

(5) APPEAL. File 770 commenter Lurkertype could use some help after getting medical help for a cat:

One of my credentials had surgery this morning, and it’s going to cost $7,000.

Seven. Thousand. Dollars.

Which we don’t have — that’s over 2 months’ total living expenses — and we’re living off (premature, thus heavily taxed) IRA withdrawals. We get the credit to pay our Obamacare premiums, which… who knows if that will continue? Basically we are poor, and as you know, it’s not a swell time to be poor.

So I am begging for money.

You can send it to my PayPal account, which is under lurkertype (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Any amount, no matter how small, will be deliriously accepted.

I promise to send a photo of him on some SF. He is a handsome tuxedo beastie of 17 pounds. I don’t know if he’ll have a cone of shame or not.

I know many of you don’t have any spare money, but I know how much File 770 loves cats, so any kind thoughts towards him or me, prayers to your favorite deity, or just grumpy thoughts towards the universe to shape up for once are also accepted.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 28 – Mel Brooks, 92. Writer, actor and producer in, and this is a very selective listing, Get Smart, Young Frankenstein, Spaceballs and Spaceballs: The Animated Series, the Hotel Transylvania animated films and Blazing Saddles.
  • Born June 28 – Kathy Bates, 70. Performer, among many genre roles,  in Dick Tracy, The Stand, Hansel and Gretel, The Golden CompassDolores Claiborne and the American Horror Story series.
  • Born June 28 – Felicia Day, 39. Performer in Buffy the Vampire Slayer,  Eureka, Supernatural, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Mystery Science Theater 3000 and LARPs which is not a complete accounting. Also writer and theme song singer (!) for Mystery Science Theater 3000. 
  • Born June 28 – Jon Watts, 37. Director of Spider-Man: Far From Home and Spider-Man Homecoming, screenplay of latter as well

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lise Andreasen sends the Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal strip “Evolution” with the cryptic recommendation, “I like ‘’I like big butts and cannot lie’ and cannot lie.” I have the cryptographic section working on this….
  • On the other hand, JJ’s Incidental Comics pick “Books are….” will be readily understood by every Filer.

(8) ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT FROM DC. Io9 shares DC’s plan: “The New DC Universe Streaming Service Will Bundle Superhero Comics and TV Shows All in One Place”.

As more and more people have begun reading comics digitally, DC’s fans have been wondering when (if ever) the publisher was going to get in on the all-you-can-read subscription service game much in the same way that Marvel has. As it turns out, that time is now.

Today, DC Comics and Warner Bros. announced the impending arrival of DC Universe, the new, fan-oriented platform where many of company’s upcoming shows like Young Justice: Outsiders, Titans, and Harley Quinn will live alongside a deep back catalog of curated DC comic books, TV shows, and films.

(9) GRIM FATE. Comics artist Warrick Wong has been producing fan art of the somewhat grim future of The Incredibles and posting on his Instagram feed. Gizmodo’s io9 has taken note (“Artist Envisions The Incredibles’ Future, and It’s Powerfully Bleak”). He’s gone into the future a decade or more where “Violet has taken over as the matriarch of the Parr family following the death of their parents [with] a facial scar and full-body tattoos” or “Dash [is] a reckless and rebellious teenager, while Jack-Jack explores his powers as a polymorph, figuring out how to control all of his abilities.” He’s also looked in the nearer term where “Old Man Incredible” has “a bitching beard” and “some awesome tattoos,” but is locked on “a path of vengeance after Mrs. Incredible was supposedly killed.”

(10) A VISIT FROM VESTA. Mike Kennedy felt this news deserved a dramatic introduction: “Aaaaaaah! We must be dooooooomed! A massive asteroid is so close to Earth you can see it with the naked eye!”

After he calmed down, Kennedy continued — “Well, closer than it’s been in a number of years… but close is a relative term here. Vesta (full name “4 Vesta”) is the second largest asteroid in the main belt and is currently in approximate opposition to Earth and about 106 million miles from our planet. That makes it bright enough to be seen with the naked eye for the next couple of weeks if you have excellent viewing conditions (such as having clear skies and being well away from a city or other source of light pollution).

“Of course, being in the main belt it’s in a nearly circular orbit (its eccentricity is only 0.08874) and isn’t going to pose any threat to Earth in the foreseeable future… not that that a lack of a threat will stop some people from trying to whip up a panic.

Newsweek reports “Vesta: Asteroid the Width of Arizona Makes Close Approach to Earth—And It’s Visible With the Naked Eye”.

Stargazers will be able to view it in both the northern and southern hemispheres until about July 16 or 17 “but only as a point of light, and only in dark skies,” Massey said. For optimum viewing, binoculars or telescopes are recommended.

Vesta will appear near the constellation Sagittarius until June 28, after which it will move into the vicinity of the constellation Ophiuchus.

The asteroid is so large, that it accounts for nearly 9 percent of the total mass of all asteroids in the asteroid belt, with only the dwarf planet Ceres being more massive, according to NASA.

Inverse says “Massive 4 Vesta Asteroid Is Zooming by Earth — Here’s How You Can Spot It”.

You can see 4 Vesta every night until July 16 or 17, which means you’ve got just weeks left to catch a glimpse of the asteroid this close to Earth until after the year 2040.

(11) CATASTROPHE AVERTED. Business Insider invites us to remember when “NASA literally saved us from a planet-wide apocalypse”. In the 1980’s NASA was one of the leading organizations that pushed to sharply reduce chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) use because of the damage to the ozone layer that could have led to ecological collapse due to doubling of the UV radiation reaching the ground. Dr. Susan Strahan (Senior Research Scientist with the Universities Space Research Association/NASA Goddard) is featured in a video that helps explain the problem. Because politicians listened to scientists (an almost unimaginable thing in some parts of the world today) the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was signed in 1987 and production of CFCs was curtailed and eliminated entirely in developed countries.

Quoting the article’s conclusion:

By 1996, CFCs were banned completely in developed countries. And today, Now satellite data indicates that the ozone hole is on the mend. And if we keep it up, it could be completely healed by the end of this century.

So it looks like the world won’t crumble by 2065 anymore. Well, at least not from a depleted ozone layer.

However, some evidence has surfaced semi-recently that someone is cheating on the Montreal Protocol and producing/releasing CFCs. See The Japan Times’ article “Scientists detect probable cheating on ozone treaty as drop in key CFC slows”.

The decline in the atmosphere of an ozone-depleting chemical banned by the Montreal Protocol has recently slowed by half, suggesting a serious violation of the 196-nation treaty, researchers revealed Wednesday.

Measurements at remote sites — including the government-run Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii — of the chemical, known as CFC-11, point to East Asia as the source or renewed production.

“We show that the rate of decline of atmospheric CFC-11 was constant from 2002 to 2012, and then slowed by about 50 percent after 2012,” an international team of scientists concluded in a study.

“This evidence strongly suggests increased CFC-11 emissions from eastern Asia after 2012.”

(12) IT’S TIME. Jack Black’s next flick — The House with a Clock in Its Walls.

In the tradition of Amblin classics where fantastical events occur in the most unexpected places, Jack Black and two-time Academy Award® winner Cate Blanchett star in The House with a Clock in Its Walls, from Amblin Entertainment. The magical adventure tells the spine-tingling tale of 10-year-old Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) who goes to live with his uncle in a creaky old house with a mysterious tick-tocking heart. But his new town’s sleepy façade jolts to life with a secret world of warlocks and witches when Lewis accidentally awakens the dead. Based on the beloved children’s classic written by John Bellairs and illustrated by Edward Gorey, The House with a Clock in Its Walls is directed by master frightener Eli Roth and written by Eric Kripke (creator of TV’s Supernatural). Co-starring Kyle MacLachlan, Colleen Camp, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Vanessa Anne Williams and Sunny Suljic, it is produced by Mythology Entertainment’s Brad Fischer (Shutter Island) and James Vanderbilt (Zodiac), as well as Kripke.

 

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

What’s In The 2018 Hugo Voter Packet?


By JJ:
On May 30, the 2018 Hugo Awards voter packet became available for download by Supporting, Attending, Youth, Child, and Active Duty members of Worldcon 76. The packet is an electronic collection which helps voters become better informed about the works and creators on the ballot. Works which are included have been made available through the generosity of finalists and their publishers.

The voter packet contains complete texts of many Hugo-nominated works, preview versions of some works, and directions for finding some finalists’ works online. Some novels have been made available through NetGalley, which requires a user account for access (registration is free).

The packet is available for download from the Worldcon 76 website in the “Hugo Voter Packet” section. You must have a valid Membership Number and PIN to download the packet. If you have recently joined Worldcon 76, you will be sent a membership number and PIN shortly after joining. Your PIN will be e-mailed to you using the e-mail address you entered when you registered with Worldcon 76. If you do not receive the e-mail, or your name or membership number and PIN fail to authenticate, you can use the PIN lookup page to request your PIN.

If you haven’t yet downloaded this year’s Hugo Voter Packet and wish to download only selected parts, or if you’re still trying to decide whether to purchase a membership, a breakdown of its contents is presented below.

The Hugo Voter Packet will be available for download until the voting deadline at 11:59 pm Pacific Daylight Time on July 31, 2018. As in previous years, Worldcon 76 asks that voters honor publishers’ and creators’ request that they reserve these copies for their personal use only, and that they do not share these works with non-members of Worldcon 76.

Only members of Worldcon 76 can access the 2018 Hugo Award Voter packet and vote on the 2018 Hugo Awards. To become a member of Worldcon 76, see the membership page.

If you don’t have access to the Hugo Voter Packet, here is a list of links to read the 2018 Hugo Finalists which are available for free online. Some detailed discussions of the Finalist works can be found on the 2018 Hugo Award Finalists announcement thread, as well as in other posts on File 770.

Worldcon 76 and WSFS are deeply appreciative of the publishers, authors, artists, editors, and other creators who have generously provided their works to this year’s Hugo Voter Packet, and ask that voters who feel the same way consider posting on social media to thank the publishers, editors, and creators who have participated in the packet.

My thanks to Camestros Felapton for assistance with the multi-part category packets.

Here is the breakdown of the 2018 Hugo Voter Packet contents:

Read more…

Pixel Scroll 6/18/18 Nancy Pixel And The Scroll Of The Trademarked Cocky

(1) JEMISIN ON CNN. N.K. Jemisin is on episode 6 of W. Kamau Bell’s CNN program United Shades of America. In this episode he goes back to Mobile, Alabama, and brings her along for one of the segments.

(2) WRONG TURN. The bear and the maiden fair.

(3) DINO CHOW. Adweek supplies a new reason to burn a hole in your credit card: “These $25 Collector’s Edition Cereal Boxes Include Digital Screens Showing Jurassic World Video”.

Dinosaur-loving fans eagerly anticipate the arrival of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom this Friday, but now they can get in on the action a bit closer to home. Like … right at the breakfast table.

Kellogg’s has partnered with Universal Studios to develop limited-edition boxes of Keebler Fudge Stripes and Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes that come with a digital screen embedded into the box. Each screen airs an exclusive five-minute video of behind-the-scenes footage from the flick, showing fans how the dinosaurs are brought to life as well as additional special effects from the movie.

(4) THUNDER LIZARDS. The movie is already killing overseas: “China Box Office: ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ Rampages to $112M Debut”.

Universal and Amblin have claimed Hollywood’s fourth-biggest opening ever in China.

Universal and Amblin’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opened with a roar at the Chinese box office over the weekend, earning $111.9 million.

It was Universal’s second-biggest debut ever in the market, behind only The Fate Of The Furious. The opening was also considerably better than the $99.2 million that the first Jurassic World film earned in its first full week in Chinese cinemas in 2015 (openings were tallied by the week rather than weekend back then).

The dino tentpole also pulled in $10 million from 520 Imax screens. Altogether it claimed over 75 percent of the weekend’s total ticket revenue in China.

(5) NEW CATEGORY PROPOSED. Nope, not the Hugos: “Some Survivors Of Category 5 Hurricane Irma Want A Category 6”.

Tom Krall lives on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands on the west end of the island, high on a ridge. That’s where he was in September when Hurricane Irma roared through.

“We had the full blast,” Krall says. “Twenty of the 30 houses in my neighborhood lost their roofs or worse.”

The National Hurricane Center says Irma had sustained winds of 185 mph when it hit the Virgin Islands with gusts of 200 mph or higher. They were the most powerful winds ever recorded in that part of the Caribbean.

In his more than 30 years on St. John, Krall has hunkered down for many hurricanes, including other Category 5 storms. He says Irma’s winds were dramatically worse than other hurricanes. He knows what winds are like at 150 mph.

(6) NEED MORE PITCHFORKS. NPR concludes “It’ll Take More Than A Few Angry Villagers To Kill Off ‘Frankenstein'”. And also discusses changes between original (1818) and the version most of us know (1831).

Frankenstein has been popular for two centuries because every era since has felt like the end times to those in it, so every era needs a story unafraid to discuss annihilation.

(7) DO YOU WANT TO BE CURED? WHO classification: “Gaming becomes the latest addiction”.

The World Health Organisation’s classification of gaming disorder as a condition which is capable of debilitating addiction is an important moment in the shifting relationship between technology and society.

Concern among parents about the impact of smartphones in particular, and the response of technology firms to those concerns, has become a staple of the news agenda.

Apple’s much covered Digital Health initiative was derided in some quarters, with analysts and punters alike sceptical about the desire of that company to in any way reduce smartphone usage, given its still heavy reliance on smartphones for revenue.

(8) CAT OBITS. Condolences to three Filers who recently suffered the loss of a beloved cat. Two of these venerable SJW credentials featured in Cats Sleep on SFF.

  • Doctor Science

I had to say good-bye to Sneakers, my SJW credential, on Friday. You may recall him sleeping on Lady Trent.

  • nickpheas

Sadly I also have a loss to report.

Steerpike, by then having celebrated his 18th birthday, developed lymphoma and was wasting away before being put to sleep. He had a good innings and is missed.

  • Anne Sheller

Pepper, my oldest, died about 2 hours ago. I found her unconscious and unresponsive earlier in the evening. I opted not to make an emergency visit to the vet since she didn’t seem to be suffering but seemed too far gone to revive. It took her a few hours to stop breathing.

She was a tiny dark tabby, 15 years and about 7 1/2 months old. She’d been diagnosed with diabetes just over a year ago, and been to the vet for a checkup just this past week. I wasn’t expecting her to live a whole lot longer, but her death tonight was unexpected. I’ve had her since she was about 5 months old, and loved her very much.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 18, 1983 — Sally Ride became the first American woman in space.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 18 – Carol Kane, 66. Valerie in The Princess Bride, Myth in The Muppet Movie which looks to be her first genre role, Ghost of Christmas Present in Scrooged, and more recently as Gertrude Kapelput in Gotham. 
  • Born June 18 – Isabella Rossellini, 66. Thar in the ‘05 Earthsea series, Nimue in the ‘98 Merlin series, Athena in the ‘98 The Odyssey series and a number of other genre roles.
  • Born June 18 – Paul McCartney. Writer: “Come Together” episode of the Justice League animated series, actor in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. 
  • Born June 18 – Barbara Broccoli, 58. Producer or Director credit in at least fourteen Bond films which or may not be genre depending on how you view them. Her only acting role is as an uncredited Opera patron in The Living Daylights. 
  • Born June 18 – Kim Dickens, 53. Currently Madison Clark in Fear the Walking Dead, Jake’s Mom in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and roles in Flashforward and Lost.
  • Born June 18 — Richard Madden, 32. Rob Stark in Game Of Thrones and Agent Ross in Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

This is a true story, based on an actual sign in my local public library and the chaos my children wreak when we visit.

(11) LONELY PLANET. In “There’s at Least a 39 Percent Chance We’re Alone in the Observable Universe”, Motherboard has taken a look at a new paper (now in preprint or arXiv.org) by the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford that itself takes a look at the Fermi Paradox. By taking a probabilistic approach to the Drake Equation, that paper concludes:

…[W]e find a substantial probability that we are alone in our galaxy, and perhaps even in our observable universe (53%–99.6% and 39%–85% respectively). ’Where are they?’ — probably extremely far away, and quite possibly beyond the cosmological horizon and forever unreachable.

Note that since this is a preprint article it has not been peer-reviewed yet. Motherboard summarized their own take on the paper as:

These are sobering results, but the researchers caution against any kneejerk cosmic pessimism. “This conclusion does not mean that we are alone, just that this is very scientifically plausible and should not surprise us,” the researchers wrote. “It is a statement about our state of knowledge, rather than a new measurement.”

In other words, there’s no reason to despair—yet. The more we learn about the universe and our own planet, the more we will decrease the uncertainty latent in the Drake equation. For example, our inability to detect extraterrestrial civilizations over the decade can increase our certainty that we’re alone, but then again, the universe may be awash in extraterrestrial signals and we simply haven’t learned how to recognize them yet. For now, however, the researchers suggest that if there are aliens, they are “probably extremely far away and quite possibly beyond the cosmological horizon and forever unreachable.”

(12) WITHDRAWAL PAINS. JDA advertised on Twitter he was “Off Social Media Til 6/21” but he must have noticed we were enjoying it more than he was. Today he broke his fast early by posting “The White Male Initiative For Worldcon 76” [Internet Archive link] on his blog.

I, Jon Del Arroz, the leading Hispanic voice in science fiction, will review submissions and select recipients.  Please keep your statements under 500 words. I may ask follow-up questions, however.  If you’re a professional, links to examples of your work would be helpful.

We realize that marginalized majority groups have felt reticent about joining us, and understandably so. But we need more representation from the white male community in science fiction fandom! Bring it!

(13) WHO BROKE THE BANK? That wasn’t the only post JDA published today. Another tells how his plan to abandon Patreon has come a cropper – “The Biggest News Story You’ll Never Hear: Big Tech Strikes At Finances Of Political Opponents” [Internet Archive link].

As you know, I urged my fans and friends who are supporting this blog and my fiction work on a subscription basis to switch their pledges from Patreon to Freestartr because Patreon was removing right wing political commentators over their content.

This weekend, Freestartr was shut down by Stripe, the collections company used to process credit card transactions– a company set up as a paypal alternative because the latter was already known for trying to deplatform right wing personalities through demonetizing. From their website:

FreeStartr currently has lost the ability to collect funds for our creators. CEO Charles C. Johnson’s comments can be found here.

(14) REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY. Wouldn’t The Verge have done more to discourage people from buying this by ignoring it altogether, instead of cleverly badmouthing it? Survey says – Yes! “This unlicensed Harry Potter battery pack makes a bad pun out of an even worse product”. (Wait, was this frame actually written by the same guy who introduced the last two Scroll items?)

If you’ve read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — which I generally assume is most of the global population — you’re probably familiar with the Elder Wand, a powerful wand wielded by both Dumbledore and the dark wizard Voldemort over the course of the series.

The CELLder Wand is not the Elder Wand. Where one is a fictional, legendary magical artifact of ultimate power, the CELLder wand is a Kickstarter campaign for a possibly fictional hunk of plastic that surrounds a fairly ordinary 3,200 mAh USB battery pack.

(15) ABOVE AND BEYOND. Gizmodo enthuses: “This Video Made From Real Mars Data Will Make You Feel Like You’re Flying Over the Red Planet”.

There are lots of incredible things you can do with data. Like make this incredible animation of the Martian surface, for example.

This animation is the latest from visual artist Seán Doran, using real data taken by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (MRO) Of course, it’s not actual video footage, and required a lot of processing to achieve the realistic effect. But it does give the exciting impression that one is flying just above the Martian surface.

 

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “DIY–Behind the Scenes” on Vimeo explains how an animated film is made.

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

The Revolution Will Be Incrementalized: Peter Watts and The Freeze-Frame Revolution


By JJ: Imagine being groomed from birth for a role on an galactic construction ship, on an endless journey to build a cosmic superhighway of wormhole transport gates for humans to use in the far future. Imagine being awakened by the ship’s AI for a few days, as part of a team to assist with a gate build, then spending millennia in cryogenic sleep before being awakened again to work with a different team of people – an endless cycle broken only by the occasional appearance of a strange lifeform as the ship exits at hyperspeed from a newly-constructed gate. Imagine the boredom, the isolation, and the devastating realization of the personal futility of being near-immortal, yet never getting to live a full life. Imagine the anger and resentment at realizing that you’ve been sold a bill of goods about this being your “noble destiny”.

Imagine trying to coordinate a rebellion with your co-workers, when you’re only awake for a few days every several thousand years – with an omnipresent artificial intelligence which has been programmed to protect the ship’s mission at all costs watching your every move, and hearing every word that you say.

This is the premise behind Peter Watts’ Sunflowers series and the just-released novella* The Freeze-Frame Revolution**.

Sunday Ahzmundin is one of 30,000 “spores” – diasporans who were groomed from birth to be sent out on the Eriophora, a cryosleep ship powered by a singularity and accelerated up to one-fifth of lightspeed, on a mission to prepare the way for a future humanity to travel the stars once their technology has advanced to the point where such travel would be possible. But their ship was a last-ditch effort made by a race of troubled people on a poisoned planet, whose survival was far from assured. And the ship left Earth more than 60 million years ago: the spores have no idea whether there are even any humans other than themselves still left alive in the galaxy. They have come to realize that they are living only shallow imitations of real lives – and they’ve discovered that their ship’s AI has been lying to them… about something.

It’s clear that the full story of this universe is something which Watts has had in development for at least a decade, because the worldbuilding in the novelettes “The Island” (which won a Hugo in 2010), “Giants” (2013), and “Hotshot” (2014) is solidly intertwined with that of The Freeze-Frame Revolution. And it is a wonderfully-rich, hard science fiction universe, filled with big concepts and unique imagery woven together in a plausible execution.

I was just as blown away by this fantastic story as I have been by all of his other works. The Freeze-Frame Revolution has earned a place at the top of my Hugo Novella nomination ballot next year – and I will be very surprised if I read anything this year to displace it from its Number 1 spot.

The Freeze-Frame Revolution is available right now on Kindle in both the U.S. and the UK, and will be released in paperback on June 12 in the U.S., and on June 28 in the UK.


* the cover says “A Novel”, but the story is 41,300 words, and Watts considers it a novella

** I received a free e-ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Read more…