Pixel Scroll 3/23/20 So Tomorrow We Are Heading Up That Scrolly Road, Rocks And All. Got Any Dragons You Need Pixeled?

(1) WORTH YOUR WHILE. Having seen what shoppers are lined up for, James Davis Nicoll tracked down five highly time-absorbent novels — “Five Massive SFF Books to Read While You’re Social-Distancing” at Tor.com.

Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle

Clocking in at a streamlined 1120 pages, Ash tells the tale of 15th century mercenary Ash, a woman whose Europe is both very much like and very much different from our own. A natural soldier, she is drawn into the effort to defend a disunited Europe from the Visigoth army that threatens the continent. Visigoth-ruled Carthage has numbers and a seemingly magical technology the Europeans cannot match. Key to the invader’s success: the Faris, a woman guided by mysterious Voices…a woman who could be Ash’s twin.

(2) INSTANT TSUNDOKU. Paul Weimer presents “Mind Meld: The 101 and the 201 of SFF” at Nerds of a Feather. The feature involves asking people a genre-related question and sharing their responses. Answering this time are Marissa Lingen, Megan O’Keefe, Alix Harrow, Adri Joy, Marina Berlin, Lisa McCurrach, Melissa Caruso, Andrew Hiller, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Keena Roberts, J Kathleen Cheney, Elizabeth Fitz, Camestros Felapton, Catherine Lundoff, Sophia McDougall, and Julie Czerneda. His question is:

Some readers are looking for entry points into fantasy and pointing them at a book rich in the conversation and assumed tropes can throw them right out of it again. Other readers want more than a basic experience but are frustrated with novels that retread the same basics over and over.

So I’d like for you to recommend me *two* books:

1. A 101 SFF book that someone who may have seen Lord of the Rings but never cracked open an SFF book might fruitfully read. 
2. A 201 SFF book for someone looking for a deeper, richer experience, rewarding their previous reading in genre. 

(3) NEW ZEALAND GOING TO TOP ALERT LEVEL. Of concern for those hoping the 2020 Worldcon might still be held this summer, New Zealand’s Prime Minister announced yesterday that the nation has gone to Level 3 status, and tomorrow they will be going to Level 4 status for at least 4 weeks.

A New Zealand Herald article explains: “Coronavirus: What Covid-19 alert levels 3 and 4 mean for you and your family”.

New Zealand has 102 confirmed cases of coronavirus and is now at alert level 3 – and will move to level four for likely at least four weeks from Wednesday.

Alert level 3 means the risk of the potentially deadly virus not being contained and there will either be community transmission of the virus or multiple clusters breaking out.

Level 4 means people are instructed to stay at home, schools and universities closed, as well as non-essential businesses, major reprioritisation of health services, and severely limited travel.

Essential services will be open at all alert levels, but level level 3 means limited travel in areas with clusters of Covid-19 cases, affected educational facilities closed, mass gatherings cancelled, public venues closed (such as libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, amusement parks), some non-essential businesses closed, and non face-to-face primary care consultations, with non-elective services and procedures in hospitals deferred.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has just told the nation “we are all now preparing as a nation to go into self-isolation in the same way we have seen other countries do. Staying at home is essential”.

That would give the health system a chance to cope, she said.

(4) LAFFERTY FANS DISAPPOINTED. Laffcon, a one-day event about the works of R.A. Lafferty that had been scheduled for June 8 in Lawenceville, New Jersey has been postponed until June 2021.

(5) HELP NEEDED. A GoFundMe to help the late Kate Hatcher’s family has been launched by Rick Kovalcik: “Help Ben (and Ireland) Hatcher”.

As you may know, Kate Hatcher passed away early in March after battling pneumonia (http://file770.com/kate-hatcher-1974-2020/). She left behind her partner, Ben Hatcher, and a daughter with health issues, Ireland. Various people have asked if there is anything we could do for Ben and Ireland. Well, John Hertz called me yesterday and said Ben and Ireland really could use some money, especially in the next month, while Ben tries to straighten out the finances and government payments to Ireland. Since John is not on the Internet, the suggestion was that I create a GoFundMe and send the money to Ben Hatcher. I am doing so. As I did for the Boskone ASL Fund, I will make up the GoFundMe fees (up to the asking amount) in addition to my personal contribution so that Ben and Ireland get the full amount that people are donating.  As suggested by John Hertz, I will send Ben a money order on about March 31st with what is raised to that point and then follow up with additional funds as appropriate (perhaps weekly). If anyone wants to check the veracity of this, please feel free to contact John Hertz; if you don’t have his phone number, I can give it to you.

(6) FAN FAVORITES. The nerd folk duo doubleclicks will livestream interviews with two sff authors this week. (Times shown are PDT.)

TUESDAY:
11am: Interview with Hugo Award-Winning author Becky Chambers, author of the Wayfarers Series, which we’ve read about 2 dozen times. The second book has an AI in it whose story makes me feel one million things. Becky’s latest book is To Be Taught, If Fortunate and is also completely lovely!!

THURSDAY:
11am: interview with Hugo Award-Winning author Martha Wells, author of the Murderbot Diaries, which we’ve also read about 2 dozen times. This series is about a “robot” who just wants to binge tv shows and protect people and the books are so funny and real and emotional.

(7) A CHAPTER IN GENRE HISTORY. Joel Cunningham, the person who started the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, tells the story of the site, which closed last December after five years. Thread starts here. He’s got a new job at Lifehacker. 

(8) NOSTALGIA AVAILABLE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] An Ontario guy set up a site with all sorts of old broadcasts and bits and pieces many locals grew up with. Did you know that in 1972, Dan Ackroyd voiced the call sign for a TV station? They also have Judith Merril’s post-show discussions of Doctor Who episodes from 1980, old commercials, stuff from the Buffalo TV stations … a lovely rabbit hole to slither down: Retrontario.com.

(9) PLAGUE INVADES THE LOCKED TOMB. Bad news for those awaiting the sequel to one of last year’s most talked about sff books. Tamsyn Muir told readers today —

(10) UNEVENLY DISTRIBUTED. “Not like the pictures”: “William Gibson Says Today’s Internet Is Nothing Like What He Envisioned”

William Gibson writes visionary stories — in his early work, he imagined an information superhighway long before the Web existed. But in a dozen novels over the last 35 years, Gibson has stalked closer and closer to the present.

His latest, Agency, has a complicated plot that jumps between the far future and the immediate present; Gibson says his favorite type of science fiction requires time and effort to understand. “My greatest pleasure in reading books by other people is to be dropped into a completely baffling scenario,” he says, “and to experience something very genuinely akin to culture shock when first visiting a new culture.”

Gibson imagined that sort of culture shock back in 1982 when he coined the word “cyberspace” in a short story. Two years later he popularized the term in his first novel, Neuromancer, about a washed up hacker hired for one last job.

…”He said once that he was wrong about cyberspace,” says author Lev Grossman, “and the internet when he first conceived it, he thought it was a place that we would all leave the world and go to. Whereas in fact, it came here.”

Grossman is a former book critic for Time magazine and author of the fantasy bestseller, The Magicians. “You have an artificial intelligence that is everywhere. It’s in all your devices. You’re looking through it as a lens to see the rest of the world. It’s an extraordinary vision of how computers will become aware, and become the thing that mediates between us and reality.”

But Gibson himself thinks the future of artificial intelligence will require human sensibility to take it to the next level. “Over the past few years, I’ve more and more frequently encountered people saying that the real change-bringer might not be something, an intelligence that we build from the ground up, but something like an uploaded healing consciousness that we then augment with the sort of artificial intelligence we already have.”

(11) WILD ABOUT HARRY. Marie Claire ran an article about nineandthreequartersco whose products we mentioned here the other day: “Harry Potter-inspired tea and coffee just launched in a whole range of magical flavours”. See more Harry Potter-themed beverages on the company’s Instagram page.

All the names take inspiration from J.K. Rowling’s fictional world; from ‘espresso patronum’, to ‘butter brew’, to ‘brew that must not be named’, there are flavours for every Potterhead.

The ‘espresso patronum’ coffee blend is, as you may have guessed, an espresso blend, promising to provide a smooth and chocolatey cup of coffee with a slightly fruity finish. The ‘butter brew’ coffee on the other hand, is a sweeter butterscotch flavour brew, taking inspiration from the beer the wizards drink at Hogsmede pub. More information about the other coffee flavours on their website.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 23, 1962 — The third season episode of Twilight Zone entitled “Person or Persons Unknown” first aired. Written by Charles Beaumont Who wrote a number of other classic episodes in this series such as “The Howling Man” and “Number 12 Looks Just Like You”, he also was the scriptwriter for such films as  7 Faces of Dr. Lao and Queen of Outer Space. The premise of his script is simple: upon awaking from a bender, his protagonist find no one recognises him. Richard Long is David Andrew Gurney and the supporting cast are quite fine in their roles as well.  

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 23, 1882 Charles Montague Shaw. His most remembered role came in 1936 as Professor Norton in the quite popular Undersea Kingdom serial. It was done in response to the Flash Gordon serial then being played. Ironically, he would appear several year later in the Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars serial as the Clay King. (Died 1968.)
  • Born March 23, 1904 H. Beam Piper. I am reasonably sure that the first thing I read and enjoyed by him was Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen followed by Little Fuzzy and related works which are damn fun reading. Has anyone here read Scalzi’s Fuzzy novel? (Died 1964.)
  • Born March 23, 1934 Neil Barron. Certainly best known for Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction which actually is still a damn fine read which is unusual for this sort of material. If memory thirty years on serves me right, his Fantasy Literature and Horror Literature guides were quite good too. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 23, 1937 Carl Yoke, 83. One of those academics that I stumbled upon when I was looking for information on Zelazny. His 1979 study of him, Roger Zelazny, is quite excellent, as is his essay, “Roger Zelazny’s Bold New Mythologies” which is to be in Tom Staicar’s Critical Encounters II: Writers and Themes in Science Fiction. He also wrote “What a Piece of Work is a Man: Mechanical Gods in the Fiction of Roger Zelazny” which you’ll find in Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, one of those serious academic volumes no one really reads for the most part. Yoke does have two genre stories to his credit, they’re called The Michael Holland Stories.
  • Born March 23, 1952 Kim Stanley Robinson, 68. If the Mars trilogy was the only work that he’d written, he’d rank among the best genre writers ever. But then he went and wrote the outstanding Three Californias Trilogy. I won’t say everything he writes I consider top-flight, the Science in the Capital series just didn’t appeal to me. His best one-off novels I think are without argument (ha!) The Years of Rice and Salt and New York 2140.  I should note he has won myriad Awards including the Hugo Award for Best Novel, BSFA Award for Best Novel, the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy Award. And the Heinlein Society gave him their Robert A. Heinlein Award for his entire body of work! 
  • Born March 23, 1958 John Whitbourn, 62. Writer of a number novels and short stories focusing on an alternative history set in a Catholic universe. It reminds me a bit of Keith Robert’s Pavane but much more detailed. A Dangerous Energy in which Elizabeth I never ascends the throne leads off his series. If that’s not to your taste, Frankenstein’s Legion’s is a sheer delight of Steampunk riffing off Mary Shelley‘s tale. He’s available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born March 23, 1959 Maureen Kincaid Speller, 61. British reviewer and essayist who has been nominated for Hugos for Best Semiprozine and Best Fan Writer. She’s had an extensive career with her writing showing up in MatrixSteam Engine TimeThe Gate and Vector (all of which she either edited or co-edited), Barbed Wire KissesFire & HemlockLocal FanomenaRed Shift, Interzone and The BSFA Review. Other than a brief collection by BSFA, And Another Thing … A Collection of Reviews and Criticism by Maureen Kincaid Speller, her work has not yet been collected. 
  • Born March 23, 1977 Joanna Page, 43. It’s not the longest of genre resumes but it’s an interesting one. First, she’s Ann Crook in From Hell from the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. Next up is appearing in yet another version of The Lost World. (I think there’s there a legal contract requiring one be made every so often.) And finally she’s Queen Elizabeth I in The Day of The Doctor

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro answers the question, “What’s Heaven to a chicken?”
  • Bug-eyed aliens from Neptune invade Calvin & Hobbes.
  • Cul de Sac chronicles The Attack of the Monster Worm!  

(15) COMICS PIPELINE SHUT OFF. Bleeding Cool reports “Diamond Comic Distributors No Longer Taking In New Comics”.

Bleeding Cool has been informed by multiple senior industry figures that Diamond Comic Distributors is requesting that no more product be shipped to any of its warehouse until further notice. Product already in its warehouses will be distributed, such that it can, but after that they will be distributing no more comics, magazine, books, toys, games, or any other product until further notice….

The company’s reasons for the decision are chronicled at Adventures in Poor Taste: “Diamond Comics Distributor explains choice to halt shipping and marks March 25 as last slated shipment”.

… Our publishing partners are also faced with numerous issues in their supply chain, working with creators, printers, and increasing uncertainty when it comes to the production and delivery of products for us to distribute. Our freight networks are feeling the strain and are already experiencing delays, while our distribution centers in New York, California, and Pennsylvania were all closed late last week. Our own home office in Maryland instituted a work from home policy, and experts say that we can expect further closures. Therefore, my only logical conclusion is to cease the distribution of new weekly product until there is greater clarity on the progress made toward stemming the spread of this disease….

(16) CORONA CARTOONIST. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna profiles Chen Wang, who uses the name “Messycow” for her cartoons, who uses her background as someone born in Wuhan but who now lives in Seattle, whose comics deal with how she copes with the coronavirus. “Chinese American cartoonist finds satire in coronavirus crisis — with a perspective from both cultures”.

“People in the rest of the world might not have known much at the time, but it was all people cared about in China,” says the artist, who has family in Wuhan. “I followed the news closely and experienced a lot of emotions.”

To channel those emotions creatively, she took a humorous tone with the comic “Quarantine Makes Life Better,” which depicted a faux-news report of characters coping with stay-at-home life.

(17) PIXAR’S ONWARD ONLINE. Adweek reports “Disney’s Onward Available for Digital Purchase Tonight as Coronavirus Shutters Theaters”.

Disney’s latest Pixar film, Onward, opened in theaters just two weeks ago, but the company is already making it available for digital purchase tonight, making it the latest current release to quickly migrate to video-on-demand platforms as the novel coronavirus’ spread wipes out traditional movie theater attendance.

The film, which follows the adventures of two elf brothers voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, will be available to purchase on digital platforms for $19.99 beginning at 8 p.m. ET, Disney said this morning.

It will then be released on Disney’s streaming service Disney+ just two weeks from now, on April 3.

(18) BRITISH FAN HISTORY. The British Science Fiction Association has made its archive of its official journal Vector available on the Fanac.org website: “Early Vector now open access”.

The BSFA have partnered with FANAC.org to make sixty years’ worth of back issues available free online. This collection includes for the first time scans of all of the first seven issues (editors inclue E.C. Tubb, Terry Jeeves, Roberta Gray, and Michael Moorcock).

Most of what has been digitized is now available on Fanac: issues from the 1980s and 1990s should follow shortly.

(19) COMFORT READS. The New York Times features includes a couple of genre books (one of them by Harlan Ellison): “Celeste Ng, Ann Patchett, Min Jin Lee and Others on the Books That Bring Them Comfort”.

Celeste Ng – ‘The Princess Bride,’ by William Goldman

In 1987, my sister was halfway through reading me “The Princess Bride” when she went off to college. The day she left, I cried myself to sleep — and then, after I got my bearings again, I read the rest of the book on my own. So this has always been a comfort read for me: a fairy tale that acknowledges that life isn’t fair (“It’s just fairer than death, that’s all”) yet still manages to make you feel that the good guys might win, that justice will be served, that there’s a point to it all. If you only know the (fantastic) film, pick the book up, too — it’s just as much of a delight. —Celeste Ng’s most recent book is “Little Fires Everywhere.”

(20) DEPTH SHALL NOT RELEASE YOU. BBC has the bad news — “Climate change: Earth’s deepest ice canyon vulnerable to melting”.

East Antarctic’s Denman Canyon is the deepest land gorge on Earth, reaching 3,500m below sea-level.

It’s also filled top to bottom with ice, which US space agency (Nasa) scientists reveal in a new report has a significant vulnerability to melting.

Retreating and thinning sections of the glacier suggest it is being eroded by encroaching warm ocean water.

Denman is one to watch for the future. If its ice were hollowed out, it would raise the global sea surface by 1.5m.

…Most people recognise the shores around the Dead Sea in the Middle East to have the lowest visible land surface elevation on Earth, at some 430m below sea level. But the base of the gorge occupied by Denman Glacier on the edge of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) actually reaches eight times as deep.

This was only recently established, and it has made Denman a location of renewed scientific interest.

(21) NOT BLASTS FROM THE PAST.  Got to love this title: “Not Rocket Science: SF Stories Involving Alternatives to Space Rocketry”, a Tor.com post by James Davis Nicoll:

…A cousin to the sling is the accelerator, a (presumably firmly bolted down) device which uses some force other than centripetal to accelerate payloads. Such devices have some obvious limits (namely, power supply, heat management, and the trade-off between accelerations low enough not to crush the payload and final velocities high enough to be useful). They also have advantages, not least of which is not having to haul a gigawatt-plus power supply off-planet and across space. Accelerators of various kinds go way back in science fiction, at least as far as Jules Vernes’ From the Earth to the Moon, whose Baltimore Gun Club delivers a living payload past the Moon using a very, very large gun. No, larger than that.

Various flavours of accelerators show up all through SF. One of the more striking examples is Michael Swanwick’s Vacuum Flowers, whose “transit rings” manipulate space-time to accelerate payloads to high speeds without the payloads feeling the forces involved. I wonder if this was inspired by Robert Forward’s Guidelines to Antigravity

(22) LET THE SUNSHINE IN. Oh, sure, if you’re going to count everything“Electric car emissions myth ‘busted'”

Fears that electric cars could actually increase carbon emissions are a damaging myth, new research shows.

Media reports have questioned if electric cars are really “greener” once emissions from manufacture and electricity generation are counted.

The research concludes that in most places electric cars produce fewer emissions overall – even if generation still involves fossil fuels.

Other studies warn that driving overall must be reduced to hit climate targets.

The new research from the universities of Exeter, Nijmegen – in The Netherlands – and Cambridge shows that in 95% of the world, driving an electric car is better for the climate than a petrol car.

The only exceptions are places like Poland, where electricity generation is still mostly based on coal.

(23) SEA FOR YOURSELF. SYFY Wire applauds a scientific development: “Creepy Extinct Fish With Fingers Unearths The Bizarre Truth Of How Hands Evolved”.

Humans may not be directly related to fish (except maybe Abe Sapien or that creature from The Shape of Water), but the fossil of an extinct fish known as Elpisostege watsoni was a breakthrough for a research team from Flinders University in Australia and Universite de Quebec a Rimouski in Canada. This literal fish out of water had fingers, as in actual finger bones, in its pectoral fins. Its 380-million-year-old skeleton revealed how vertebrate fingers evolved from fins — and how prehistoric fish morphed into tetrapods.

(24) ANCIENT PILOT. William Shatner was Archie Goodwin in this adaptation of Nero Wolfe.

An unsold, 1959 pilot for a proposed NERO WOLFE TV series starring Kurt Kasznar as Nero Wolfe and William Shatner as Archie Goodwin. The theme was composed by Alex North. Rumor has it there are two additional unsold pilots with this cast out there somewhere.

(25) VULCAN LIVES. John Prine’s “Lonesome Friends of Science” is news to me!

“This song here is an epic.  This tells you about the humiliation of the planet Pluto, when it was told it was no longer a planet, the romantic escapades of the Vulcan in Birmingham, Alabama, and the end of the world as we know it.  All in a little over four minutes.” 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Nancy Lebovitz, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, rcade, Joe Siclari, Mike Kennedy, Ben Bird Person, Darrah Chavey, Iphinome, Michael J. Walsh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contirebiting editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 8/14/17 All These Scrolls Are Yours, Except Europa; Attempt No Pixelings There

(1) LITIGATING CLARKE’S LAW. N.K. Jemisin is interviewed by Joel Cunningham of the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog in “The Logistics of Throwing Mountains: N.K. Jemisin Discusses The Broken Earth Trilogy”.

The Broken Earth series seems to straddle a line between fantasy and hard science (e.g. the orogenes of the novels acquire their names from orogeny: a folding of the lithosphere that creates mountains, but functionally what they perform is magic). There’s a whole mess of science underpinning the magic. What kind of research did you undertake to make orogeny something done by orogenes. and not a flat, scientific term?

I did want to play around a bit with that corollary of Clarke’s law—the idea that any sufficiently systematized magic is indistinguishable from science. A few years back I wrote a blog post called “But but but—why does magic have to make sense?” in which I argued that the whole point of magic was to defy reasoning and repeatability and all the things that equal science.

But then I wanted to write a world that tries to make sense of it anyway, and partially succeeds. And we can see by the obelisks floating through the sky of the Stillness that at one point in the distant past, people did figure magic out to a much greater degree. At that point, is it still magic? Has it become science? That’s one of the concepts the series is chewing on.

Research-wise, I hung out in seismologist forums and follow a bunch of geologist accounts on Twitter, and read a lot of layperson-oriented articles. I also visit volcanoes whenever possible, because I’m fascinated by them. Awesome demonstrations of the Earth’s power and potential fury. On a research trip to Hawai’i a few years back, I visited four volcanoes in four days. That was fun.

(2)  CASTING NEWS. What a combination of actors and writers — “Michael Sheen, David Tennant to Star in Neil Gaiman’s ‘Good Omens’ at Amazon”.

Michael Sheen and David Tennant have been cast in the lead roles in the Amazon series adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s “Good Omens,” Variety has learned.

The show is set in 2018 on the brink of an apocalypse as humanity prepares for a final judgment. But Aziraphale, a somewhat fussy angel, and Crowley, a demon, aren’t enthusiastic about the end of the world, and can’t seem to find the Antichrist. Sheen will play the role of Aziraphale, while Tennant will play Crowley. It will consist of six one-hour episodes.

…. Gaiman adapted all six episodes of the series and will also serve as showrunner. Following its exclusive launch on Amazon Prime Video, the series will also be broadcast on BBC in the U.K.

(3) BRADBURY LECTURE. The 4th Annual Ray Bradbury Memorial Lecture “Escape Velocity: Ray Bradbury and the American Space Program” will be presented by Jonathan R. Eller, Chancellor’s Professor of English and Director, Center for Ray Bradbury Studies, IUPUI on August 23, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. in the Central Library Riley Room at 40 E. St. Clair Street.

One of the reasons that Ray Bradbury remains one of the best-known writers of our time is that his dreams of reaching the stars became our dreams, too. The stories that grew into The Martian Chronicles and filled the pages of The Illustrated Man paved the way for his half-century relationship with NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and all the missions that took humans to the moon and launched unmanned craft to all the planets of our solar system.

(4) RUGS FOR THUGS. The Drum interviewed an Ikea marketer about “How Ikea responded to the news HBO’s Game of Thrones uses its rugs as costumes”.

Responding to the news, Ikea decked out some of its staff in the rugs in a real-time marketing stunt, jumping upon the Game of Thrones bandwagon in an organic way.

The Drum: Was the marketing team aware that Ikea goods were being used to furnish the show?

AF: We weren’t aware that Ikea’s rugs had been used in the show until the PR team spotted it in the news on Monday morning. Together with our PR agency, Hope & Glory, we quickly developed an idea that provided our ‘twinkle in the eye’ take on the news, it was low cost and could be pulled together in a couple of hours. As any PR professional will know, timing is of the essence when a story breaks and we wanted to be able to respond as quickly as possible.

We connected with the Ikea Wembley store and the deputy store manager walked the shop-floor identifying co-workers that looked the part to re-create the Game of Thrones look. Within a couple of hours we were in the rugs department with the co-workers, trying on the different rugs and generally having a bit of a laugh.

(5) RECORD HOLDER. After he saw this photo John Hertz asked, “What does Brother Davidson say about the last line of that Guinness certificate?”

Hugo Award Record

Steve Davidson replied, “The government of the United States has, in their lack of infinite wisdom, chosen NOT to give me exclusive control and ownership of the word ‘AMAZING’, more’s the pity.”

(6) SCIENCE IMAGINED. Nancy Kress analyzes the cultural impact of “The Science of Science Fiction:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.

However, that the “science” the public learns from SF is debatable doesn’t strike me as the worst problem. That comes from another source: Writers and scriptwriters often make science itself the villain. A problem involving some scientific advance—cloning, nanotechnology, AI—is set up, and all the negative aspects of the tech are brought out, exaggerated, falsified, and blamed. I understand the impetus for this—I’m a writer, too!—which is to create the conflict necessary to drive any story. But the cumulative net effect is the impression that new science and its offspring, new tech, are invariably bad.

In the movie Ex Machina, robots turn murderous.

In countless SF stories, AI tries to take over and must be fought, shut down, destroyed.

Cloning produces not crops or food animals that can feed an ever-expanding population, but rather the oppressive (and ridiculous) one-world biological totalitarianism of Gattaca

(7) BOLOGNA OBIT. Actor Joe Bologna died August 13 at the age of 82. He was well-known for playing King Kaiser in My Favorite Year (1982). His genre work included The Big Bus (1976), and Transylvania 6-5000 (1985). He voiced characters in the animated Superman TV series (1997-1998), and Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006).

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

When first introduced to Eastern bloc fans at an Eighties Worldcon, they called them “the black cookies.” They’re a fan favorite, but Yahoo! claims “You Will Never Look at Oreos the Same Way Again After Reading These Facts”.

To date, Oreo has over 42 million Facebooks followers. In comparison, The New York Times has 13 million.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 14, 1975 The Rocky Horror Picture Show premieres.

Let’s do the Time Warp again!

  • August 14, 2009 District 9 premiered on this day.

(10) COMIC SECTION.

(11) W75’S CANCELLED LARP. Jaakko Stenros and Markus Montola tell the LARP community’s side of the story in “How Worldcon Banned a Larp”.

On Friday the discussion on the topic continued in social media, where misunderstandings spread fast. For example, one tweeter wrote that the “scenario is ‘you are in an old folks home, have Alzheimer’s, and think you’re one of your RPG characters, hilarity ensues’.” Afterwards some were under the impression that “hilarity ensues” was a quote from the program description when in fact it was an interpretation of a tweeter.

However, now there were people also defending A Home for the Old on Facebook and Twitter and criticizing the actions of Worldcon. Many Nordic role-players found the statement’s tone condescending and rife with cultural imperialism — of Anglo-Americans trying to ‘civilize the natives’ by instilling their moral conventions on a subculture they clearly failed to understand.

No benefit of the doubt was given, and there was an aura of assuming that the Nordic creators had obviously not thought about the implications of their little games — simply because the usual phrases relating to identity politics were not foregrounded in the blurb. The idea that a creative work can just be cast aside, censored, with no debate, based on rather flimsy basis, was found appalling by many Nordic people deeply invested in the role-playing culture. A Home for the Old, and by extension the Nordic role-playing culture, was cast as not worthy of debate.

(Finland has the highest incidence of Alzheimer’s in the world.)

All of this is in stark contrast with the Nordic and Finnish cultural context, where larps, role-playing games, and games in general, are considered valuable works worthy of analysis, criticism, respect, and debate. Role-playing is a form of artistic expression that continues to gain momentum and respect.

(12) CRITIC. Frans Mäyrä, Professor of Information Studies and Interactive Media, esp. Digital Culture and Game Studies in the University of Tampere, Finland, took offense at the decision: “LARP: Art not worthy?”

There will be no doubt multiple reactions coming in to this from experts of this field in the future. My short comment: this is an unfortunate case of censorship, based on cultural perception of play and games as inherently trivializing or “fun-based” form of low culture. It seems that for some people, there still are strict cultural hierarchies even within the popular culture, with games at the very bottom – and that handling something sensitive with the form of role-play, for example, can be an insult. Such position completely ignores the work that has been done for decades in Nordic LARP and in digital indie “art games” (and also within the academic traditions of game studies) to expand the range of games and play for cultural expression, and to remove expectation or stigma of automatic trivialism from the interactive forms of art and culture. The organisers have obviously been pressurised by some vocal individuals, but the outcome in this case was a failure to stand up, explain the value and potential of role-playing games, and Nordic LARP in particular to an international audience, and make a difference. A sad day.

(13) REMEMBER THAT MONEY YOU SAVED FOR A RAINY DAY? Here’s the outfit to spend it on – a bargain at only $20,000 — the “SPIDER~MAN 2 Original Movie Prop Signed by Stan Lee ~Trenchcoat Worn by Stan”. Rush right over to eBay!

This incredible SPIDER~MAN original movie prop features the trenchcoat that Stan Lee wore during the scene in which he saves a life. This is the ONLY time that Stan makes an appearance where he gets involved to save someone! Best of all it comes signed by Stan Lee. It comes with a COA from Sony/Columbia Pictures and Hollywood Vault who were the official auctioneer a few years ago

(14) HARDWARE FOR THE LONG HAUL. Marketplace explains why “NASA is testing supercomputers to send to Mars”.

Scientists in space have computers, but they don’t exactly look like the one you might be reading this on. Computers in space have highly specific functions. There is no consumer-grade Mac or PC up in space. A lot of that has the do with the fact that laptops in space degrade quickly out there.

But NASA wants to fix that problem by creating new supercomputers, developed in partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The technology is being tested on the International Space Station in hopes that the computer can withstand trips to Mars.

(15) YOUTUBE MUSICAL. Hamilton’s opening number — with the words changed to be about Game of Thrones.

(16) WEIRD AL. Last week’s crisis, this week’s filk: “Watch ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic Beg North Korea Not To Nuke Us On Last Week Tonight”.

After highlighting the accordion skills of North Koreans earlier in the show, Oliver introduced Yankovic to play a whole new polka song about all the reasons that North Korea should not nuke us. Tom Hanks figured heavily. Sample lyric: “Please don’t nuke us, North Korea / Right now, we’re all a little tense / Believe me, we don’t hate you / In fact, we really don’t even think all that much about you, no offense.”

 

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

Pixel Scroll 1/13/16 Scrollilas in the Mist

(1) MIND MELD. SF Signal’s latest Mind Meld asks —

Q: What Speculative Fiction titles are you most looking forward to consuming in 2016?

The answers this time come from Rachel Cotterill, Fran Wilde, Lisa Taylor, Paul Weimer, Foz Meadows, Rachel Cordasco, Lynn Williams, Amanda Rutter, Robert Davis, Sally Ember, Ed.D., Nick Mamatas, Delilah S. Dawson, and Sunil Patel.

(2) ARE THE GUNS BIG ENOUGH? Camestros Felapton has added Sad Larry to his line of Hugo figure trading cards. Looks like he’s holding a pair of .32 Lego Specials. Hmm. May need to rethink that. Larry was shooting a .44 Magnum when he was eight years old, and later in life was a licensed machine gun dealer.

Camestros will post additional figure cards posted over the next few days. He says they are all male, and that he is worried about the gender balance of the collection.

So 9 figures only one of which *looks* female (by the crude standards of lego), only one of which is referred to as female and some which could be female. That’s a pretty bad showing. I really want to add some more but avoid anything that looks like I’m mocking somebody’s appearance.

Funny that someone who’s messing with Sad Larry thinks that is what he should be worrying about…

(3) GOING TO THE FRONT OF THE LINE. George R.R. Martin’s update on the progress of The Winds of Winter indicated if the manuscript had been turned in by year-end it could have been out by March. Chris Lough at Tor.com explains how a book could be produced at warp speed in “How Could The Winds of Winter Be Published In Only Three Months?”

…The production process is broken into six steps below, with an overall explanation of how the process typically works, coupled with speculation on how that process could be condensed into a span of three months. It should be noted that some of the terminology used may be publisher-specific, even though the terminology describes a universal process within the industry….

(4) LITIGATION. The Last Unicorn Film Tour investors have filed a lawsuit against Connor Cochran. Support Peter Beagle’s summary is:

They’re suing Cochran for $450,000, based on the original investment, not to mention punitive damages for fraud and all legal costs incurred by them. You can read the sordid details here in Sandbox-Complaint-for-Damages.

(5) MARGULIES OBIT. Character actor David Margulies died January 11 of cancer at the age of 78. He was best known for playing the mayor in Ghostbusters and Tony Soprano’s sleazy lawyer. The New York Times recalled:

In “Ghostbusters” (1984) and “Ghostbusters II” (1989), he played the mayor, Lenny Clotch, who evoked the incumbent New York mayor at the time, Edward I. Koch. In the sequel, Mr. Margulies invokes a former mayor (“I spent an hour last night in my bedroom talking to Fiorello La Guardia, and he’s been dead for 40 years”) and expresses skepticism that the citizenry’s obnoxious behavior is to blame for the river of pink slime that is inundating the city.

“What am I supposed to do?” he asks the Ghostbusters team (including Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd). “Go on television and tell 10 million people they have to be nice to each other? Being miserable and treating other people like dirt is every New Yorker’s God-given right.”

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 13, 1128 — Pope Honorius II grants a papal sanction to the military order known as the Knights Templar, declaring it to be an army of God.
  • January 13, 1930Mickey Mouse comic strip debuted in newspapers.
  • January 13, 1957 – The Wham-O Company developed the first Frisbee.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born January 13, 1893 — Clark Ashton Smith
  • Born January 13, 1933 — Ron Goulart

(8) CAMPBELL AWARD PARAPHERNALIA. Okay, we’ll definitely be watching for this to show up.

(9) NO SANITY CLAUS. Steve Davidson at Amazing Stories proves he’s as tired as anyone of writers who don’t finish in “F**K YOU, Dead Writers”.

The other day I was reading some commentary on George R.R. Martin’s FAILURE to meet his latest installment’s deadline and about how concerned he was regarding fan reaction.

Then, this morning, I was reading the comments to David Gerrold’s latest analysis of the CBS vs Axanar lawsuit and was reminded of David’s FAILURE to get the latest War with the Chtorr novel out – for 23 years,

And THAT reminded me of Harlan Ellison’s FAILURE to finish up a certain anthology I don’t dare mention by name for fear of invoking the wrath of Elcin, the wind god.

And THEN I was reminded of the fact that these living icons of science fictional disappointment are pikers compared to some.

You can not imagine how absolutely apoplectic I am about Robert A Heinlein.  Or Arthur C. Clarke.  Not to mention Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Eric Frank Russell, Fred Pohl, A. Bertram Chandler, Leigh Brackett, Joanna Russ, Octavia Butler, Henry Kuttner, Judith Merrill, C.L Moore, Doc Smith, Hamilton, Campbell, Bester, Chalker, Zelazny, Henderson, McCaffrey, Farmer, ….

You’re all dead and now you’ll NEVER finish ANYTHING! …

(10) CRITICAL MORASS. Lou Antonelli’s “On constructive criticism” manages to thread Lois Tilton, criticism, last year’s Hugos, and Catholic theology together on one string.

Most of the reviews of my short story “On a Spiritual Plain” boiled down to “The premise sucks, and it’s a weak story, and it’s badly written, and Lou Antonelli is a miserable human being, anyhow.”

Occasionally I was surprised by some genuinely thoughtful reviews. Any author worth his salt will recognize VALID criticisms. For example, saying a story of mine relies too much on dialogue and first person narration is valid; I lean on that a lot, and it indicates a weakness in my writing skills.

But IMHO, overall most so-called constructive criticism I hear simply reminds me (having been raised a Catholic) of original sin. Deep down, we’re all sinners, and it’s something we all have to fight constantly – to do good and help people, and improve the world.

Constructive criticism is usually just a justification for hatefulness.

(11) KNOW NOTHINGS. ScreenRant learned nothing about the next Star Trek series from an interview with the head of CBS Entertainment – because he doesn’t know anything either.

Despite being the launchpad for the new Star Trek series, CBS Entertainment’s new president Glen Geller revealed to Slashfilm that the show has been developed exclusively by and for the All Access streaming division.

“I’m not sure about the plans creatively for new characters. I don’t have anything to do with it. It really is for All Access. While the network will be broadcasting the pilot, I actually can’t answer any creative questions about it. I’m looking forward to seeing the new Star Trek. I think it’s going to be an exciting project.”

…While Geller says the new TV show will have no connection to the upcoming film, it may be inspired tonally by that franchise. Alex Kurtzman, who co-wrote and produced the J.J. Abrams-directed Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), will executive produce the 2017 series. He’ll be joined by Heather Kadin, with whom he also produces CBS series Limitless and Scorpion.

The first episode of the sixth Star Trek series will have to be impressive enough to convince viewers to sign up for a subscription service to see the rest. Netflix has set a precedent for getting new fans to sign up in order to watch episodes of series like Orange is the New Black and Daredevil, and CBS will be hoping longtime Trek fans will be extra motivated. For $5.99 a month, viewers can watch the new Star Trek series, plus every episode of its five predecessors. The service also includes on-demand viewing and live streaming of many of CBS’s other shows.

Star Trek Beyond opens in U.S. theaters on July 22, 2016. The new Star Trek TV show will debut on CBS in January 2017.

(12) TOUGH TO BE TOLKIEN. Sarah Monette/Katherine Addison’s “Doing Tolkien Wrong” is a reprint of a 2005 article.

I was given The Hobbit for my sixth birthday, The Lord of the Rings for my ninth. I’ve read The Silmarillion. I own the extended edition DVDs of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King–even though I don’t own a DVD player. In other words, I love Tolkien as much as the next really geeky person.

So when I say that Tolkien is an affliction and a curse, you understand that I’m saying it for a reason.

Specifically, Tolkien is an affliction and a curse to fantasy writers. This is a horribly ungrateful thing to say, when it’s largely thanks to Tolkien that fantasy writers can exist as a sub-species today at all. Certainly it’s thanks to Tolkien that so many fantasy novels, especially series of novels, can get published. But, nevertheless, the genre has reached a point where Tolkien causes more problems than he solves.

The reason for this is that, while Tolkien was a genius and a godsend to readers prepared to love secondary-world fantasy, he is a terrible model for writers. And that for a number of reasons, ranging from, on the macro level, his use of the quest plot to, on the micro level, the nature of his prose style. Imitating Tolkien – in and of itself, not a bad idea – has become mired down in slavish adherence to his product, rather than careful attention to his process.

(13) DICK AWARD. Joel Cunningham’s post “This Year’s Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Take SF in Strange New Directions” at B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog gives the Hugos a little bump en route to praising his favorite sf award.

Sorry Hugos, but for my money, there’s no more interesting award in sci-fi than the ones named for Philip K. Dick. In the tradition of everyone’s favorite gonzo pulpist, the “PKD Award” honors innovative genre works that debuted in paperback, offering a nice reminder that you don’t need the prestige of a hardcover release to write a mind-blowing book (just ask William Gibson, whose seminal cyberpunk classic Neuromancer claimed the title in 1984), and in fact, if past winners are any evidence, the format might be seem as a license to take greater risks.

 [Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Will R., for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day  Soon Lee.]