Pixel Scroll 10/13/19 And Where’s Charles Laughton, Anyway?

(1) WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN. David Harbour’s opening monologue on Saturday Night Live made Stranger Things jokes.

Also terrifically funny is the “Grouch (Joker Parody)” which began with the premise, “What if the people behind Joker did a dark origin story for Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch?”

(2) PNH HEALTH UPDATE. Yesterday, Patrick Nielsen Hayden was hospitalized while attending a convention in Montreal. The symptoms sounded quite alarming to begin with, fortunately the diagnosis is not as bad as first feared.

(3) FIFTY-FIVE YEARS AGO. John Boston reviews the latest (in 1964) issue of Amazing at Galactic Journey: “[October 12, 1964] Slow Cruising (November 1964 Amazing)”

The November 1964 Amazing is distinguished by being the second consecutive issue with a cover depicting a guy in a flying chair, calling to mind the observation of the Hon. Jimmy Walker, erstwhile Mayor of New York City, before fleeing the country to avoid a corruption prosecution: “Never follow a banjo act with another banjo act.” Alex Schomburg’s rather static and solemn depiction of the device contrasts amusingly with Virgil Finlay’s interior illustration, which attempts to imbue the same gadget with all the energy and drama that the cover picture lacks.  Can we say Apollonian versus Dionysian?  I thought not.  Forget I mentioned it.

(4) SFF IN ENGLISH. Enjoy Robert Quaglia’s video of the “Writing in English as a foreign language” panel at the 2010 Eastercon in the UK.

(5) IMAGINED LANDS. Scott Bradfield’s first Oz book came as a Christmas present, and by now these tales have merged with his family DNA: “The End of Oz: Reflections on the Centenary of L. Frank Baum’s Death” at the LA Review of Books.

… I found myself immersed in a panoply of voices, and as they chattered, they carried me into fantastically believable landscapes. First, there was the colorful young Munchkin, Ojo the Unlucky, and his soon-to-be-turned-to-stone Unc Nunkie. Or the Crooked (in body, not in mind) Magician, Dr. Pipt, and his devoted wife, Margolotte. Or the magically animated glass cat, Bungle, who constantly alerted everyone to the fact that her brains were remarkably pink — “you can see them work.” But best of all was the optimist of all optimists, the Patchwork Girl herself, who adopted the name Scraps, since she was sewn together from remnants like a mad quilt, and never tired of admiring her own beauty and cleverness. “I hate dignity,” Scraps liked to say. And giving yourself over to a discordant, undignified mess of landscapes and personalities is a large part of what reading the Oz books is all about.

…For me, the most significant aspect of every Oz book I ever read as a child — or later reread to my son several decades later — was never simply the stories and characters they conveyed. Rather, they resounded with visions of my mother’s childhood in San Francisco, a landscape as far away and interesting to my youthful imagination as the color-coordinated kingdoms of the Winkies, Quadlings, Gillikins, and Munchkins.

(6) IT’S OFFICIAL? Interesting NZ Official Information Act request.

New Zealand publication Stuff inquires: “Is the Department of Internal Affairs being trolled, or do ghosts roam its halls?”

Scientific study, or a troll of Wellington’s halls of power? Either way, one government department is being grilled over its connection to the paranormal. 

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) has been tasked with helping investigators discover if its Wellington headquarters is haunted. This request under the Official Information Act includes two years of air conditioning sensor readings, “in absolute detail”. It was also asked whether it had plans in place to alleviate paranormal incidents.

The department says its OIA response will cover many of these questions.

(7) ATTEMPTED HUMOR. NPR’s Andrew Lapin finds that “‘Jexi’ Is Siri-Ously Bad”:

In Jexi, Adam DeVine’s life partner calls him an idiot, a “little bitch,” and many other, less printable things. The abuse is near-constant. The person heaping it on him is his phone.

A would-be satire of millenial tech obsession, Jexi is like if the AI in Her were raised on Don Rickles. The phone (voiced by Rose Byrne in a weary-sounding Siri imitation) belittles DeVine’s Phil for being an antisocial loner, too quick to give up on his professional dreams, too cowardly to make friends or ask a girl on a date. Because this is an R-rated comedy made by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, the guys behind the Hangover and Bad Moms movies, Jexi also makes fun of Phil’s penis.

It seems likely, based on the laziness of the concept and this film’s generic male-ness, that Lucas and Moore didn’t put a lot of thought into the specific nature of Jexi’s behavior. But funny enough, they’ve hit on something real here. Our devices do abuse us, a little more every day, barking out instructions on where to go, what food to eat, and what music to listen to, all while siphoning away more of our attention and making money off our data. We insist we are competent, independent adults, and yet we’d be lost without them, so we take whatever they dish out, even when they invade our privacy or laugh at us….

(8) OH, SNAP. NPR’s Danny Hensen is underwhelmed: “‘The Addams Family’ Isn’t Sufficiently Creepy, Kooky, Mysterious Or Spooky”.

Do you feel that chill? It’s the beginning of October, when store shelves are lined with Halloween products branded with the latest theatrically bound IP. This year, a cotton-candy funhouse animated version of The Addams Family hits theaters, returning the long-running franchise to something closer to its original form — cartoons in The New Yorker.

In this newest version, which often feels de-clawed, we see the marriage between Gomez and Morticia Addams, voiced by a maniacal Oscar Isaac and a quietly authoritative Charlize Theron, and their subsequent move to New Jersey, having been driven out of town by an angry mob none too pleased with their sundry differences in appearances and behavior….

Meanwhile, in what feels like 21st century homage to Edward Scissorhands, a pastel-tinted planned community develops in the valley adjacent to the mansion, and the town leader, Margaux Needler, the host of a home & garden reality television show, attempts to remodel the mansion and rid the town of the family. Voiced by Allison Janney, Needler looks like a boardwalk caricature drawing of Farrah Fawcett.

Fortunately, the film offers more than just a retread of its forebears, the Tim Burton movie included. Though at times clumsy, the film’s firm placement in the present allows for an only slightly exaggerated Nextdoor parody: Needler spies on her neighbors using an app. While intriguing in theory, the execution offers only vague, toothless commentary.

(9) MOORE OBIT. The unforgettable voice belonged to actor Stephen Moore, who died October 4:

Stephen Moore – known as the voice of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’s Marvin the Paranoid Android – has died aged 81.

He also played Adrian Mole’s father on TV, and the dad to Harry Enfield’s grumpy teenager Kevin.

Hitchhiker’s producer and director Dirk Maggs said Moore was the “most sweet, charming and affable of men”….

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 13, 1966  — The Trek episode of “Mudd’s Women” first aired. Starring Roger C. Carmel as Harry Mudd and  his ‘cargo’ as played by Eve McHuron, Magda Kovacs, and Ruth Bonaventure. Memory Alpha notes that Roddenberry had planned for this to possibly be the pilot at one point.
  • October 13, 2016  — Zapped premiered in the United Kingdom. It lasted for three series and fifteen episodes. Set in two universes, most stories. are mostly set in and around the town pub.  You can see the first episode here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 13, 1906 Joseph Samachson. In 1955, he co-created with artist Joe Certa the Martian Manhunter in the pages of Detective Comics #225. Earlier he penned a couple of Captain Future pulp novels around 1940 under a house name. (House names often blur who did what.) He also wrote scripts for Captain Video and His Video Rangers, a late Forties to mid Fifties series. (Died 1980.)
  • Born October 13, 1914 Walter Brooke. You know him for muttering a certain word in The Graduate but he’s earlier noteworthy for being General T. Merrit in Conquest of Space, a Fifties SF film, one of many genre roles he did including The Wonderful World of the Brothers GrimmThe MunstersMaroonedThe Return of Count Yorga and The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart). (Died 1986.)
  • Born October 13, 1923 Cyril Shaps. He appears in a number of  Doctor Who stories,  to wit The Tomb of the CybermenThe Ambassadors of DeathPlanet of the Spiders and The Androids of Tara which means he’s appeared with the Second, Third and Fourth Doctors. He was also Mr. Pinkus in The Spy Who Loved Me, and he was in Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady as Emperor Franz Josef. The latter stars Christopher Lee and Patrick Macnee as Holmes and Watson. (Died 2003.)
  • Born October 13, 1952 John Lone, 67. He played the villainous Shiwan Khan in The Shadow, and he was the revived ice man Charlie in the Iceman. His first film role ever was Andy the Cook in the Seventies King Kong.
  • Born October 13, 1956 Chris Carter, 63. Best known for the X-Files and Millennium but also responsible for Harsh Realm which lasted three episodes before being cancelled.
  • Born October 13, 1959 Wayne Pygram, 60. His most SFish role was as Scorpius on Farscape and he has a cameo as Grand Moff Tarkin in Revenge of the Sith because he’s a close facial resemblance to Peter Cushing. He’s likely best recognized as himself for his appearance on Lost as a faith healer named Isaac of Uluru.
  • Born October 13, 1969 Tushka Bergen, 50. She first shows in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome as The Guardian at the age of sixteen. She’s got one-offs in the Fantasy IslandAngelFreakyLinks and The Others series, and an appearance in the Journey to the Center of the Earth series. The FreakyLinks episode is titled “Subject: Edith Keeler Must Die”.
  • Born October 13, 1976 Jennifer Sky, 43. Lead character conveniently named Cleopatra in Sam Raimi’s Cleopatra 2525 series. (Opening theme “In the Year 2525” is performed by Gina Torres who’s also a cast member.) She’s had guest roles on Seaquest DSVXenaCharmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And she was Lola in The Helix…Loaded, a parody of The Matrix which scored 14% at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • Born October 13, 1983 Katia Winter, 36. She’s best known for being Katrina Crane on Sleepy Hollow, and Freydis Eriksdottir on Legends of Tomorrow. She also was Swede in Malice in Wonderland which is very loosely based off its source material. She’s currently Gwen Karlsson in Blood & Treasure which might be genre.

(12) FUTURE WAR. Australian sff writer Russell Blackford’s post “Science Fiction as a Lens into Future War” is the written version of his panel presentation “Science Fiction and Futurism – Philosophy and Ethics for a Global Era” at the Australian Defence College’s Profession of Arms seminar held in Canberra on October e.

There are limits to what we should expect of these narratives. Generally speaking, they cannot replace ethical and philosophical argument about the traditional questions of jus ad bellum and jus in bello, and that is not their purpose. There are some clearly pacifist science fiction novels, such as Joan Slonczewsk’s A Door into Ocean (1987). Overall, however, it is not the job of novelists to teach ethical theories.

Consider The War in the Air again. If we knew nothing else about Wells, we’d see that he despises naïve ideas of war that make it seem like an adventure, and likewise he has no time for the idea of military glory. But we’d not be able to tell whether he is against these things from, say, a pacifist perspective, a just war perspective, or a perspective based on realism in international relations. All of these schools of thought emphasise the cost and tragedy of war.

Nor can a book like The War in the Air predict the detail of what it warns about. In 1908, Wells portrayed large-scale aerial bombardment, capturing much of its power and terror, but not exactly what it would be like in practice. The same applies to other works by Wells, such as The World Set Free (1914), which memorably describes atomic bombs, although real ones turned out to be rather different. A more recent novel, such as Ghost Fleet, by P.W. Singer and August Cole (2015), depicts what high-tech non-nuclear warfare between great powers – including cyberwarfare, advanced stealth technology, and operations in space – might be like, but the reality would probably look rather different if such a war actually happened.

(13) BREAKTHROUGH. In the Washington City Paper, Kayla Randall profiles Elizabeth Montague, who at 23 is probably the first African-American woman to sell a cartoon to The New Yorker: “How Local Cartoonist Elizabeth Montague Creates Accessible, Reflective Art”.

Every morning, after waking up at 6:30 a.m., Elizabeth Montague creates a cartoon. They’re rough pencil drawings which take less than five minutes to complete at her Kalorama apartment work desk—little meditations that help keep her skills sharp and open up her day. 

For her day job, digital storyteller and design associate for the Aga Khan Foundation, she visually depicts various global issues, focusing on underrepresented narratives. Recently she visited Tajikistan for work, seeing firsthand how a community adapts to climate change.

But her own work is more personal. Aside from early morning sketches, she creates fully formed cartoons for her “Liz at Large” series, which is available on her Instagram and website….

 (14) TIME’S UP. Countdown on YouTube is a trailer for a horror movie released next week about an app that allegedly can predict the exact time when a person will die. In theaters October 25.

In COUNTDOWN, when a young nurse (Elizabeth Lail) downloads an app that claims to predict exactly when a person is going to die, it tells her she only has three days to live. With time ticking away and death closing in, she must find a way to save her life before time runs out.

(15) IRON VET. [Item by Daniel Dern.] io9 invites you to “Watch the Trailer for Robert Downey, Jr.’s Next Big Role, Which for Some Reason Is Doolittle. Like the musical, this movie is based on the original book(s) rather than simply moving the gimmick (“talk with the animals”) to contemporary times, like other DL books over the past decade or 3.

Live action (though no doubt lots of the critters aren’t). Lots of other big names. And looks like it’s being done largely as an “action flick.”

(Would I have preferred Hugh Jackson in the title role? I guess that depends on whether there’s any singing…)

(16) OLD GOLD. At Black Gate, Steven H Silver avails himself of Fanac.org’s online fanzine library to find the subject for his latest column:  “Golden Age of Science Fiction: Scientifriction #11, edited by Mike Glyer” (a 1979 issue.)

…Glyer also published his own article on the game Hell is High, which he would later rework for the second issue of my own fanzine, Argentus, published 23 years later. Glyer’s description of the game mechanics, camaraderie, and rivalry make the evenings spent playing Hell Is High sound like a wonderful place and time to have been able to experience….

(17) WILD ABOUT HARRY. Alexandra Pecci in the Washington Post has a travel piece comparing “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” at Universal Orlando with The Warner Bros. Studio Experience in London which includes tours of Harry Potter sets.  She finds that the Wizarding World has really cool things (when you buy a wand there and point it at objects, special things happen) but is really expensive particularly if you buy a pass for the two Harry Potter worlds at two Universal theme parks.  She thinks the London experience is a much better value — “Whether in Orlando or London, Harry Potter tourist attractions cast a magical spell”

…“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” the first installment in J.K. Rowling’s seven-book juggernaut, might be more than two decades old, but in many ways, the world of Harry Potter fandom seems more fevered than ever before.

One word helps explain why: immersion.

Fans (which, remember, is short for fanatic) want to do more than passively watch movies or read books. Instead, Potterheads long to taste Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, ride a broomstick, cast magic spells and get sorted into their Hogwarts house (I’m a Hufflepuff; Chloe is a Gryffindor).

(18) RECENTLY ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter witnessed this misplay not long ago —

The category: 20th Century Novels.

Answer: Nadsat, the fictional language in this book, is from the Russian suffix that means “teen.”

Wrong question: “What is 1984?”

Correct question: What is “A Clockwork Orange?”

(19) REALITY IS WORSE. Chris Yogerst argues “Why We Shouldn’t Fear Joker at the LA Review of Books blog.

At an early age most of us are taught not to judge a book by its cover. That’s exactly what happened this summer, when the Universal/Blumhouse release of The Hunt was shut down following political pushback. The film is based on an updated version of The Most Dangerous Game that gave some, including President Trump, discomfort with its political implications without having watched the movie. It has become far too common for people to jump to conclusions based on a film’s synopsis or advertising. The most recent controversy follows Joker, a film based in the Gotham City universe, that has led some to feel the story will inspire real-world killers. The problem, of course, is that a film about an unhinged murderer isn’t any more likely to provoke imposters than the news coverage of the same events in real life.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Jeff Jones, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Errolwi, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek, with an assist from Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 6/13/19 And What Rough Pixel, Its Hour Come Round At Last, Crowdfunds Towards Dublin, To Be Scrolled?

(1) SKIPPING OVER THE SAND. Judith Tarr tells why she’ll be passing on a Bene Gesserit tv series with an all-male creative team. Thread starts here.

(2) KAIJU-CON. On Saturday June 14, the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles is holding a one-day “Kaiju-Con”.

In conjunction with Kaiju vs Heroes, JANM is hosting a day-long Kaiju-Con that will include a vendor hall, workshops, panel discussions, and demonstrations all related to kaiju and Japanese toys. The day will culminate in a special free outdoor screening at 8:30 p.m., on JANM’s plaza of Mothra vs. Godzilla from 1964.

The museum’s exhibit “Kaiju vs Heroes: Mark Nagata’s Journey through the World of Japanese Toys” continues through July 7.

… After the war, the United States closely monitored the types of industries allowed to revive in Japan. The toy industry was one of the first to be enabled to reinvent itself, and the kaiju films and television shows helped fuel it. Additionally, the toy industry helped stimulate Japan’s economy during the early postwar reconstruction period. These new artistic and economic factors fused with kaiju and hero characters to set the stage for a golden age of Japanese popular culture—one that Nagata first became enamored with as a nine-year-old boy.

Nagata’s pursuit of these Japanese toys took him on an unexpected journey that brought new realizations about his cultural identity as an American of Japanese ancestry….

(3) DRAW YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS. Gizmodo assures us that “Half the DNA on the NYC Subway Matches No Known Organism”.

The results of a massive new DNA sequencing project on the New York City subway have just been published. And yup, there’s a lot of bacteria on the subway—though we know most of it is harmless. What’s really important, though, is what we don’t know about it.

The PathoMap project, which involved sampling turnstiles, benches, and keypads at 466 stations, found 15,152 life-forms in total, half of which were bacterial. The Wall Street Journal has created a fun, interactive microbial map of the subway out of the data, showing where on the lines the bacteria “associated with” everything from mozzarella cheese to staph infections was found.

(4) GUNN RETROSPECTIVE. Dark Matter Zine is revisiting the work of the late Hugo-winning fanartist Ian Gunn: “Giant man-baby. A silly illo by Ian Gunn”.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be seeing some movie cliches that Ian Gunn drew. Today’s, obviously, is the giant man-baby walking in slow motion. Although the drawing is at least 20 years old but did Gunn foresee the Trump Baby resistance balloons, banners etc? I wonder if the giant Trump Baby acts in slow motion too?

(5) JUST A LITTLE SMACK. John Boston doesn’t pull his punches when he’s slugging the prozines of 1964 for Galactic Journey: “[June 12, 1964] RISING THROUGH THE MURK (the July 1964 Amazing)”.

Can it be . . . drifting up through the murk, like a forgotten suitcase floating up from an old shipwreck . . . a worthwhile issue of Amazing?

You certainly can’t tell by the cover, which is one of the ugliest jobs ever perpetrated by the usually talented Ed Emshwiller—misconceived, crudely executed, and it doesn’t help that the reproduction is just a bit off register.

(6) CLONE ARRANGER. ComicsBeat brings music to fans’ ears — “ORPHAN BLACK returns in new serialized novel and audio adaptation”.

The Clone Club is reconvening. Variety reports that Orphan Black, the hit BBC America sci-fi series that ended in 2017, is set to return as a serialized novel, with accompany audio narration, later this year. The new story is produced by publishing startup Serial Box, and will feature original series star Tatiana Maslany providing the audio narration.

(7) FLIP THE SCRIPT. Eater says the promotion is really quite simple: “Burger King’s New ‘Stranger Things’ Special Is Literally an Upside-Down Whopper”.

With the premiere of Stranger Things Season 3 just a few weeks away, Netflix and Burger King are teaming up for a fast food stunt that seems aimed at the die-hard fans, only: At 11 locations across the country, the chain is adding an “Upside Down Whopper” to the menu, which is literally just a Whopper served upside down. No special Demagorgon sauce, Eggo bun, or Hopper’s bacon crumbles. It’s just an inverted hamburger in Stranger Things-branded packaging.

The YouTube caption assures viewers —

pro tip: you can’t get eaten by something in the upside down if you’ve already eaten the upside down whopper. served upside down at select bk locations on June 21:

(8) MILES OBIT. Actress Sylvia Miles has died at the age of 94 reports the New York Times.

Sylvia Miles, who earned two Academy Award nominations (for “Midnight Cowboy” and “Farewell, My Lovely”) and decades of glowing reviews for her acting, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. She was 94.

Ms. Miles began her career as a stage actress; [she] was a witch in “A Chekhov Sketchbook” (1962). She described her character in the 1977 horror film “The Sentinel” as “a mad dead crazed German zombie lesbian ballet dancer.” Her other film roles included … Meryl Streep’s mother in “She-Devil” (1989).

Her final TV appearance was in 2008, on the series “Life on Mars.” Her last screen appearance was in “Old Monster,” a 2013 short based on the epic “Beowulf.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 13, 1892 Basil Rathbone. He’s best remembered for being Sherlock Holmes in fourteen films made between 1939 and 1946 and in a radio series of the same period. For films other than these, I’ll single out The Adventures of Robin Hood (all Robin Hood is fantasy), Son of Frankenstein and Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet. (Died 1967.)
  • Born June 13, 1893 Dorothy Sayers. ISFDB often surprises me and having her listed as writing four stories in the genre did it again. All of them were written in the Thirties and here they are: “The Cyprian Cat”, “The Cave of Ali Baba”, “Bitter Almonds” and “The Leopard Lady”. So, who here has read them and can comment on them being genre or not? (Died 1957.)
  • Born June 13, 1929 Ralph McQuarrie. Conceptual designer and illustrator. He worked on the original Star Wars trilogy, the first Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars Holiday Special, Cocoon, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Nightbreed, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home andE.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 13, 1943 Malcolm McDowell, 76. My favorite role for him was Mr. Roarke on the rebooted Fantasy Island. Of course, his most infamous role was Alex in A Clockwork Orange. Scary film, that. His characterization of H. G. Wells in Time After Time was I thought rather spot on. And I’d like to single out his voicing Arcady Duvall in the “Showdown” episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Remember the Will Smith starred Wild Wild West film? Here is the same premise with John Hex instead. 
  • Born June 13, 1945 Whitley Strieber, 74. I’ve decidedly mixed feelings about him. He’s written two rather good horror novels, The Wolfen which made a fantastic horror film and The Hunger. But I’m convinced that his book Communion about his encounter with aliens is an absolute crock. 
  • Born June 13, 1949 Simon Callow, 70. English actor, musician, writer, and theatre director. So what’s he doing here? Well, he got to be Charles Dickens twice on Doctor Who, the first being in “The Unquiet Dead” during the time of the Ninth Doctor and then later during “The Wedding of River Song”. He’d also appear, though not as Dickens, on The Sarah Jane Adventures as the voice of Tree Blathereen in “The Gift” episode. I’ve not watched the latter. How are they? He was The Duke of Sandringham in the first season of Outlander
  • Born June 13, 1953 Tim Allen, 66. Jason Nesmith in the beloved Galaxy Quest, winning a much deserved Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. (What was running against it that year?) it actually had a big hit several years previously voicing Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story which would be the first in that film franchise.
  • Born June 13, 1963 Audrey Niffenegger, 56. Her first novel was The Time Traveler’s Wife. She has stated in interviews that she will not see the film as only the characters in the novels are hers. Good for her. Raven Girl, her third novel about a couple whose child is a raven trapped in a human body, was turned into performed at the Royal Opera House. 
  • Born June 13, 1981 Chris Evans, 38. Captain America in the Marvel film franchise. He had an earlier role as the Human Torch in the non-MCU Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. I think this makes him the only performer to play two major characters in either the DC or Marvel Universes. 

(10) ROBOCOMICS. The New York Times looks at a marketing solution: “Like Comic Books? This Platform Picks Titles for You”.

Comic book fans have multiple digital options to choose from these days, with apps for independents, manga and political cartoons as well as libraries from giants like DC and Marvel. But the fractured nature of the business means readers have to visit several platforms to fill their needs.

Enter Graphite, a free digital service from Graphic Comics that begins Tuesday and hopes to put them all under one roof.

The impetus for the company was a simple one, said Michael Eng, Graphite’s chief executive: “There is no solution right now that serves comics in all its forms.”

The goal of the service is to offer digital comics from all formats, including the work of independent creators as well as major publishers, and make it all free. The content will include ads, but an ad-free service is available for a $4.99 monthly fee. Graphite also hopes to expand the audience of comics readers by offering material in 61 languages. But its biggest bet is on artificial intelligence, which will suggest content to readers based on their taste.

(11) HIDDEN NO MORE. BBC: “Hidden Figures: Nasa renames street after black female mathematicians”.

The street outside Nasa’s headquarters has been named “Hidden Figures Way”, in honour of three African-American women whose work helped pave the way for future generations at the space agency.

(12) A LARK IN THE VACUUM. The Atlantic’s Rebecca Boyle has her own estimate of “The True Price of Privatizing Space Travel”.

…NASA’s decision to open up the space station is in some ways a natural next step for space exploration. Earlier, earthbound vessels all experienced a similar transformation. Transoceanic ships, railroads, and airplanes spawned cottage industries to enable their spread and wide adoption, and each eventually reached the masses. And in widening access to space, NASA is actually behind the Russians, whose space agency has transported a few space tourists through a company called Space Adventures.

But space is different. Space, as they say, is hard. To get there, you have to strap yourself to a bomb, and sometimes those bombs malfunction.

Personal space exploration is also hard to justify….

…Handing tourists the keys to the ISS reflects a much broader shift in space exploration, one that prioritizes resource extraction and commercial profit over pure research and collective scientific efforts. It’s a step toward making space more mundane, a travel destination defined by money and vacations, rather than discovery and glory.

(13) ONE OF EVERYTHING. Joe Sherry does a fine job of tackling these finalists in “Reading the Hugos: Related Work” at Nerds of a Feather.

Related Work is a bit of a catch-all category. It’s for work that is primarily non fiction and that is related to science fiction and fantasy, and which is not otherwise eligible elsewhere on the ballot. This is how you can have an encyclopedia compete against a folk album against a podcast against a collection of essays about movies (this was in 2012 when the Fancast category had not yet been created. That particular lineup of finalists can’t happen today. You may also note that albums and songs have been included in Dramatic Presentation – because the two Clipping albums in question are narrative driven whereas Seanan McGuire’s Wicked Girls was not.). There may also be a single blog post competing and winning in the category. Or a series of blog posts focusing on the women of Harry Potter. In the case of this year there is a four way biography, a series of interviews, a three part documentary, a collected essay series about the Hugo Awards, a recognition of the work done by a website, and the experience of bringing together Mexicanx fans and creators to Worldcon. Related Work is an interesting cross section of another side of the genre and another side of fandom.

(14) HUGO NOVELLAS. James Reid continues his “Hugo Awards Extravaganza 2019 – Novella”.

I feel like this category has undergone a bit of a renaissance with digital publishing: when I was growing up, I thought of Novellas as either the anchor of a short story collection, 1 or works that flesh out a larger series.2  Without the pressure of meeting mass market paperback length however, novellas can be sold as free standing works, which then can lead to series of novellas.  Fully half the slate fall into this category,3 and not only are they sequels, but they are sequels to previous nominated works.

In all three of these series, I liked the original novella,4 but the two sequels that were in the ballot last year, Binti: Home and Down Among the Sticks and Bones were both marked by precipitous drops in quality.  Given this, my big questions going into the ballot this year are can Artificial Condition avoid this sophomore slump, and can either of the threequels pull out of their series nosedives?

(15) CANNED. “Star Wars’ Mark Hamill Reveals He Got Fired From Jack in the Box for Doing a Clown Voice”Comicbook.com has the story.

Star Wars icon Mark Hamill is still full of stories that will surprise and delight fans – as he recently proved during an appearance on The Late Show with James Corden. Corden and Hamill were talking about the road to fame (and all the detours it an take); when they got to the topic of Hamill having worked as a waiter (like so many struggling actors), we got this great anecdote:

“I tried. I always was trying to find the theatrical aspect of it. You know, I worked right down the street at Jack in the Box. And I was in the back all the time, making shakes and minding the grill, and I always aspired to work the window… The one chance I had at it, it never occurred to me not to be in character as the clown, as the Jack in the Box clown! Who would want to hear [Robot voice] ‘What is your order?’ I wanted to hear [Clown voice] ‘Whats your orderrrrrrrrrr?” My manager didn’t think it was very funny: He told me to go home and never come back. I got fired! Fired for being in character! Why you… [Shakes fist] I’ll show you: One day I will be The Joker and then you’ll be sorry!”

(16) BIG FAMILY IS WATCHING. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Nature notes some past fiction has become science fact with the rise of the surveillance state — “Eyed up: the state of surveillance”

In the 1998 Hollywood thriller Enemy of the State, an innocent man (played by Will Smith) is pursued by a rogue spy agency that uses the advanced satellite “Big Daddy” to monitor his every move. The film — released 15 years before Edward Snowden blew the whistle on a global surveillance complex — has achieved a cult following. It was, however, much more than just prescient: it was also an inspiration, even a blueprint, for one of the most powerful surveillance technologies ever created…

This is the basis for the new book Eyes in the Sky: The Secret Rise of Gorgon Stare and How It Will Watch Us All by Arthur Holland Michel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019).

(17) A SEMI-MOVING PICTURE. Mike Kennedy sent the link with an observation – “I was not aware we needed this”: “‘Playmobil: The Movie’: Film Review” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Once they’re transformed into animated characters, Charlie soon winds up prisoner in a Gladiator-like kingdom ruled by the evil Emperor Maximums (Adam Lambert), prompting Marla to team up with a hipster food truck driver (Jim Gaffigan, providing vague comic relief) and a ridiculous secret agent (Daniel Radcliffe) to get her bro back. Along the way, she runs into tons of other merchandise, although it’s uncertain at this point whether the figure of Glinara (Maddie Taylor) — basically a female Jabba the Hut decked out in a sleeveless leather dress — was something already made by Playmobil or a creature the filmmakers invented for the hell of it.

Otherwise, everything goes exactly where you expect, from the live-action scenes bookending the cartoon to the nonstop chases and thundering soundtrack to all the attempts at humor that mostly miss their mark. To the director’s credit, the animated sequences are richly rendered, making the most of the rather stiff and plain-looking originals (though, if you want to get nitpicky, an early gag poking fun at the fact that Playmobil legs are unbendable is soon forgotten) and offering up a plethora of settings that help compensate for the lack of good writing.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/5/19 Endgamesters Of TriPixelion

(1) CALL FOR CLEANUP ON CHANNEL 3. TechCrunch has an eye-opening story — “Walmart’s Vudu shows off original content and shoppable ads, hints at interactive shows”.

…[Vudu Senior Director Julian] Franco had more details to share when it came to Vudu’s plans for non-interactive, original content. He announced that the service is producing (in partnership with eOne and Bell Canada) “Albedo,” a science fiction detective series from “Rampage” director Brad Peyton that will premiere next year, and will mark “Lost” star Evangeline Lilly’s return to TV. In addition, the first three episodes of Nickelodeon’s remake “Blues Clues & You” will premiere on Vudu before they air on linear TV.

Also in the works are unscripted shows like “Turning Point with Randy Jackson” and “Friends in Strange Places,” a travel show with Queen Latifah.

In total, the service will be premiering around a dozen original movies and TV shows later this year, Franco said.

As for those shoppable ads, Vudu Chief Operating Officer and Head of Product Scott Blanksteen said the service is already testing them. These are ads that allow you to purchase the featured products through a pop-up window. He added that these ads are dynamic, changing based on viewer preferences.

(2) WESTEROS SPINOFFS. Although Game of Thrones writer Bryan Cogman told The Hollywood Reporter in April that his time with the franchise is over for now—because the spinoff series he was attached to is officially scrubbed, George R.R.Martin had this to say on his blog

Oh, and speaking of television, don’t believe everything you read.   Internet reports are notoriously unreliable.  We have had five different GAME OF THRONES successor shows in development (I mislike the term “spinoffs”) at HBO, and three of them are still moving forward nicely.   The one I am not supposed to call THE LONG NIGHT will be shooting later this year, and two other shows remain in the script stage, but are edging closer.   What are they about?  I cannot say.   But maybe some of you should pick up a copy of FIRE & BLOOD and come up with your own theories.

(3) WILDE MOVES INTO ACADEME. Western Colorado University’s “Graduate Program in Creative Writing” has appointed writer Fran Wilde as Director of their Genre Fiction MA / MFA Program.

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We have one more piece of exciting news to share this week. We're thrilled to announce the appointment of acclaimed writer Fran Wilde as Director of our Genre Fiction MA / MFA Program! Fran is an award-winning author of books for adults and children – including Riverland (Abrams, 2019), The Bone Universe series (Tor 2015-2017), The Gemworld series (Tor.com 2016-2019) – and numerous short stories and poems that have appeared in publications including Asimov’s, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Shimmer, Uncanny Magazine, Tor.com, Fireside, multiple anthologies and The Best Dark Fantasy of 2017. Her work has won the Nebula Award, the Eugie Foster Memorial Award, and the Compton-Crook Award, and has been a finalist for three additional Nebulas, two Hugo Awards, two Locus Awards, a Rhysling Award, and the World Fantasy Award. Her non-fiction appears in publications including The Washington Post, Tor.com, iO9.com, and Clarkesworld. Fran succeeds outgoing Genre Fiction Concentration Director Russell Davis. Russell guided the Genre Fiction program for 9 years and has decided to step down to pursue other projects. Of Fran, Russell says "As I step away, I'm very excited for the future of the program, knowing that it's in Fran Wilde's more-than-capable hands, and that she'll bring a new energy and excitement to the role." Fran will work with Russell in the coming months and into the first half of the summer residency to ensure a smooth transition. We're excited to welcome Fran to the program and agree with Russell: "She's going to be amazing!" Please join us in welcoming Fran! To learn more about Fran and her groundbreaking work, visit her website: http://www.franwilde.net/. To learn more about our program and to apply, visit our website.

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(4) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 5, 1908 Pat Frank. Author of Alas, Babylon. also wrote a 160-page non-fiction book, How To Survive the H Bomb And Why (1962). (Insert irony here.) Forbidden Area, another novel, he wrote, was adapted by Rod Serling for the 1957 debut episode of Playhouse 90. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 5, 1926 Richard Cowper, penname of John Middleton Murry Jr. Christopher Priest in his obit says ‘His best SF is found in the novel The Twilight of Briareus and the books in the White Bird of Kinship series, but most of his short stories were also remarkable. His work always stood out in the SF genre: he was anachronistic, but he dazzled with his elegant, precise, bountiful prose.’ (Died 2002.)
  • Born May 5, 1942 Marc Alaimo, 77. Best known for his role as recurring villain Gul Dukat on Deep Space Nine. He was also a security officer in Total Recall named Captain Everett, and the human form of an alien in The Last Starfighter
  • Born May 5, 1942 Lee Killough, 77. Author of two series, the Brill and Maxwell series which I read a very long time ago and remember enjoying, and the Bloodwalk series which doesn’t ring even a faint bell. I see she’s written a number of stand-alone novels as well – who’s read deeply of her? 
  • Born May 5, 1943 Michael Palin, 76. Monty Python of course. I’ll single him out for writing Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life and co-writing Time Bandits with Terry Gilliam. Though decidedly not genre, I going to single him out for being in A Fish Called Wanda for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
  • Born May 5, 1944 John Rhys-Davies, 75. Known for his portrayal of Gimli and the voice of Treebeard in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, General Leonid Pushkin in The Living Daylights, King Richard I in Robin of Sherwood,  Professor Maximillian Arturo in Sliders, Macbeth in Gargoyles, Hades in Justice League and Sallah in the Indiana Jones films. 
  • Born May 5, 1979 Catherynne M. Valente, 40. The list thing I read by her was The Refrigerator Monologues which is a lot of fun. Space Opera is in by TBR pile and I’d like to know what y’all thought of it. My favorite work by her? Oh, by far that’d be the two volumes of The Orphan’s Tales which I go back to fairly often — stunning writing. If you’ve not read them yet, here’s her telling “The Tea Maid And The Tailor” as excerpted from In the Night Garden which is from Green Man
  • Born May 5, 1983 Henry Cavill, 46. Best known portraying Superman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice  and Justice League. He appears next in Mission: Impossible – Fallout. He did early in his career as Mike in Hellraiser: Hellworld and was The Hunter In Red Riding Hood, an interesting musical. 

(5) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range tells a story about Noah that was left out of Genesis.
  • Frank and Ernest have questionable advice for scientists searching for extraterrestrial life.

(6) STARFLEET CREDENTIALS. SYFY Wire introduces the new recruits: “Felines join Starfleet in Chronicle Collectibles’ cool new line of Star Trek Cats”.

“To Boldly Go Where No Cat Has Gone Before” is a motto that Texas-based Chronicle Collectibles has taken to heart with its wonderfully whiskered new line, the Star Trek Cats Collection, which is based on the whimsical feline artwork of Jenny Parks.

(7) YODA, HOW YOU’VE GROWN! Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia dressed up as Yoda on Star Wars Day and helped give out bobbleheads at the park before the game.

(8) FAN MAIL FROM A FLOUNDER? Galactic Journey has reached the publication date of a fan letter by one of its contributors — [May 2, 1964] The Big Time (May 1964 Analog).

Many people harbor a desire for fame — their face on the screen, their star on a boulevard, their name in print.  That’s why it’s been so gratifying to have been given plaudits by no less a personage than Rod Serling, as well as the folks who vote for the Hugos. 

But it wasn’t until this month that one of us finally made the big time.  Check out this month’s issue of Analog, for in the very back is a letter whose sardonic commentary makes the author evident even before one gets to the byline.  Yes, it’s our very own John Boston, Traveler extraordinaire.

Bravo, Mr. Boston.  You’ve got a bright future.

As for Analog… there the outlook isn’t so clear….

(9) WHEN THE TRAINS RUN ON TIME. John Scalzi weighs in with his (spoiler free) “Review: Avengers: Endgame”.

With that said, “watchable” and “entertaining in the moment” are not precisely the same thing to me as “fun” and “enjoyable.” Watching Endgame to me felt like being on a forced march through a checklist of plot points and character moments, and after a (very short) time I began to be rather conscious of all the scenes that existed not to be an organic moment of story but to be fanservice for a particular character (or set of characters), or to make sure some barely-remembered loose end was tucked in. By the third act and its climactic and overstuffed battle scene, it stopped being clever and started being exhausting. I felt like a kid on vacation being dragged to all the sights on a tour, with no time to really enjoy any of them because look, we’re on a schedule here.

(10) HEAVY METAL. Camestros Felapton returns from his mountaintop experience with a series of Hugo nominee reviews, such as — “Hugo 2019 Novels: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik”.

Spinning Silver is not “Uprooted 2” but it shares common features: based on folk tale tropes and using a (sort of) Eastern European setting to tell an original story with familiar aspects. Instead, we get a story of multiple characters navigating a world of promises, oaths and bargains and the consequences of ambiguous terms.

(11) GETTING READY TO LAUNCH. Astronaut Scott Kelly advised a New York Times reporter about “How to Prepare Yourself for Space”.

“You’ve been trying not to pee in your pants your whole life,” says the retired astronaut Scott Kelly, who wore a diaper for liftoff and landing on all four of his space missions. Going into orbit will require you to confront your body in ways you don’t have to on Earth. Get over decades of conditioning by rehearsing basic bodily functions on land: Put on a diaper, lie on the floor with your legs up on the couch, and practice urinating without shame or gravity’s assistance. (Don’t, and you’ll risk damaging your bladder when your body won’t relieve itself in space.)

Leaving Earth is dangerous; you might die, and you should acknowledge and grapple with that before you go. Kelly has spent a total of 520 days in space. Before departing, he always wrote letters to his loved ones to be opened only in the case of his death. Seek help beforehand. Don’t step foot in a spacecraft without some counseling….

(12) AN APPEAL FOR MORE MASSIVE MEDIA. The opening of BBC’s article “Why David Cameron set Tina Fey a secret mission to change British TV” is followed by interesting nitty-gritty discussion of differences in approach and economics.

It’s not unusual for TV fans to wish that their favourite shows would carry on (Fleabag anyone?). But it seems viewers who long for more have an unlikely ally – former UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

Speaking on David Tennant’s podcast, US writer and actress Tina Fey revealed that, while leader, Mr Cameron implored her to lobby the British TV industry to churn out as many episodes as US shows do.

“Come and convince our showrunners that they can’t just make six episodes of things. Like you guys, they should make 200 episodes,” she recalled him saying.

Fey rejected the request, however, explaining that US writers were, in fact, jealous of the less-is-more British approach.

(13) FUSSIN’ & FEUDIN’. The cold opening of last night’s Saturday Night Live is a Family Feud episode pitting the Game of Thrones against the Avengers.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/13/18 If We Had Pixels We Could Have A Pixel Scroll, If We Had Scrolls

(1) NOIR WITH EXTRA MUSTARD. Here’s the first trailer for POKÉMON Detective Pikachu, coming to theaters May 10.

The story begins when ace private eye Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, prompting his 21-year-old son Tim to find out what happened. Aiding in the investigation is Harry’s former Pokémon partner, Detective Pikachu: a hilariously wise-cracking, adorable super-sleuth who is a puzzlement even to himself. Finding that they are uniquely equipped to communicate with one another, Tim and Pikachu join forces on a thrilling adventure to unravel the tangled mystery. Chasing clues together through the neon-lit streets of Ryme City—a sprawling, modern metropolis where humans and Pokémon live side by side in a hyper-realistic live-action world—they encounter a diverse cast of Pokémon characters and uncover a shocking plot that could destroy this peaceful co-existence and threaten the whole Pokémon universe.

 

(2) CRITICS RECOGNIZE HAWKE. Author Sam Hawke won a Canberra Circle Critics Award for her novel City of Lies.

(3) FEED INTERRUPTED. Cory Doctorow’s Unauthorized Bread is being adapted for TV: “Topic Studios Buys Cory Doctorow’s Sci-Fi Novella ‘Unauthorized Bread’”.

Topic Studios (who were behind mainstream hits including Spotlight and Leave No Trace) have begun work on an adaptation of Cory Doctorow’s upcoming novella Unauthorized Bread. The planned TV series takes aim at the ‘Internet of Things’ by imagining a world in which corporations have put user locks on all kitchen appliances so that they only work with brand-name food — to the point that even a toaster won’t work on Unauthorized Bread. Doctorow’s novella comes out next January.

(4) OOPS. A New Zealand newspaper’s mistake inspired an epically funny Twitter thread.

(5) DATA POINTS. Trekspertise considers “Androids vs Holograms: Personhood In Star Trek.”

Star Trek’s defense of personhood is both loud & obvious, like Picard’s defense of Androids. But, what if there was a more subtle way? Enter the Holograms.

 

(6) LIBERTYCON 2019.  The LibertyCon 32 Guests of Honor will be:

(7) FURRIES ON CNN. The next episode of Lisa Ling’s CNN series This Is Life is “Furry Nation” – and the trailer shows it is, indeed, about fursuited fans. Airs this Sunday.

(8) RED PLANET TOUCHDOWN. Cnet says “NASA set to broadcast its first Mars landing in six years” and tells where to watch.

It’s been a while since we’ve sat down in front of the TV to watch a good ol’ Mars landing.

But clear your calendar because NASA said Tuesday it will broadcast its InSight Mars Lander touching down on the Red Planet on Nov. 26 on NASA Television and its website, as well as Twitter and Facebook.

The last time NASA broadcast a landing was six years ago, and it made for exciting viewing: The Curiosity rover executed a dramatic plunge to the surface.

InSight was launched May 5, and if it’s successful, it will be NASA’s first spacecraft to land on Mars since Curiosity in 2012. NASA says its mission is to study the “deep interior” of Mars. It’s data will “help scientists understand the formation of all rocky worlds, including our own,” the space agency said.

(9) BEST OF 2018. Do I want to make James Davis Nicoll yell that 2018 isn’t over again? Yeah, why not? Here’s a link to “Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2018”. Ten folks make selections, including Paul Weimer. Here are Mahvesh Murad’s picks.

I’m a fangirl of Megan Abbott’s lean, mean writing, so of course I was going to enjoy her latest novel, Give Me Your Hand. I didn’t know just how much of an impact it would have though, because it did, with its taut, intense narrative about two young women scientists working on premenstrual dysphoric disorder research. Abbott is so deft at turning a thriller narrative inwards, forcing us to dip our fingers into the bloody souls of female friendships.

There have been a few revamps of ancient epics this year, and Madeline Miller’s Circe is one of the two I loved. It’s a gorgeous book ostensibly based on The Odyssey, but told from the perspective of the witch Circe, and is a glorious exploration of femininity and feminism, divinity and motherhood.

The second book based on an epic that will stay with me for a long while is Maria Dahvana Headley’s The Mere Wife, a sharp,visceral feminist take on Beowulf. Headley’s writing has rhythms I’ve always been fascinated by, and The Mere Wife is no exception to her unabashed no holds barred approach to any narrative. If Beowulf was a story about aggressive masculinity, The Mere Wife is one of femininity, where the female characters are more than just monster, hag, trophy—they are also in turn hero, saviour, leader.

(10) BUCK BUCK BOOK. Gabriel Iglesias, in “The 10 Weirdest Crime Novels You Probably Haven’t Read” on Crimereads, recommends such “crime/bizarro hybrids” as Repo Shark by Cory Goodfellow, in which “ancient entities turn into sharks” and Embry by Michael Allen Rose, in which all the characters are chickens.

Sometimes weirdness doesn’t affect the core of the narrative, and this is a perfect example. Embry is an extremely strange tribute to 1950s sleuth pulp. There are fistfights, a mysterious murder, a lot of running and hiding, and a femme fatale that helps the antihero. In fact, the only difference between this and a Dashiell Hammett novel is that the characters are all chickens. Yes, poultry. Rose is obviously a fan of pulp, and the fun he had writing this is palpable in every page, every cracked shell, and every bloody feather.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 13, 1933 The Invisible Man debuted in theaters.
  • November 13, 1940 – Disney’s Fantasia premiered.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 13, 1887A.R. Tilburne. Pulp artist who by 1938 was selling illustrations to Short Stories and Weird Tales, and  the 1940s he also drew many interior story illustrations for Weird Tales. In 1947 he painted the cover for H. P. Lovecraft’s The Lurking Fear which was published by Avon. (Died 1965.)
  • Born November 13, 1888 – Philip Francis Nowlan. He’s best known as the creator of Buck Rogers. While working in Philadelphia, he created and wrote the Buck Rogers comic strip, illustrated by Dick Calkins. Nowlan and the syndicate John F. Dille Company, later known as the National Newspaper Service syndicate, were contracted to adapt the story into a comic strip. The strip made its first newspaper appearance on January 7, 1929. (Died 1940.)
  • Born November 13, 1955 Whoopi Goldberg, 63. Best known for her role as Guinan the Barkeep in Ten Forward on Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation which she reprised in Star Trek Generations and Star Trek: Nemesis. Other genre appearances include It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas MoviePinocchio 3000Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle  to name but a few of her appearances as she’s very busy performer!
  • Born November 13, 1957Stephen Baxter, 61. Ok I’m going to confess that the only thing I’ve read that he’s written is the Long Earth series with Terry Pratchett which produced five books, The Long Earth, The Long War, The Long Mars, The Long Utopia and The Long Cosmos. I’ve only read the first three but they are quite stellar SF! I really, really need your help to figure out what else of his that I should consider reading. To say he’s been a prolific writer is somewhat of an understatement and he’s gotten a bonnie bunch of literary awards as well.  It’s worth noting that Baxter’s story “Last Contact” was nominated for the 2008 Hugo Award for best short story.
  • Born November 13, 1969 Gerard Butler, 49. He’s done Tomb Raider, Reign of Fire, the 300 films (for which he received a Saturn nomination), the How to Train Your Dragon films, Beowulf & Grendel, Dracula 2000, Tale of the Mummy, Gamer, and Timeline.

(13) STAN LEE TRIBUTES. Michael Cavna has an appreciation of Stan Lee in the Washington Post that includes an interview with Neil Gaiman. It starts with a strong lede: “There was a lot more to comics’ greatest showman than just showing up, convention after convention, show after show. And to the man who long wore that mantle, with great power came great adaptability.” “Stan Lee became one of pop culture’s greatest showmen — by making fans feel like part of the club”.

Lee told me that the key to all this success was that he began to listen to himself — to what fascinated him about fairy tales and classic novels alike, from Grimm to “Great Expectations.” Lee was drawn to the strength we find in ourselves at the height of human frailty.

That universal appeal to our vulnerabilities — at the height of tumultuous times and generational change in the United States in the 1960s — helped Marvel’s creations become embraced and embedded in mainstream culture. And as their popularity grew, Lee grew from his duties as writer-editor to his role as promoter and ringmaster.

“He was the huckster that comics needed — he was the showman,” novelist and “Sandman” writer Neil Gaiman told me Monday. “He was also an effective writer. When you look at the [Marvel] comics by other people who weren’t Stan, you realized how efficient and effective he was.”

(14) VINTAGE LEE. Marcus Errico, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “The Lost Stan Lee Interview:  From Making Modern Fairy Tales To The Hero He Most Identified With”, reprints an interview from 2015.

Yahoo Entertainment: You’ve created so many universes of superheroes in your career — do you have a philosophy of superheroism?
Stan Lee: 
I hate to make it sound un-intellectual, but to me, I think of these superheroes the way young people read fairy tales. When you’re 3, 4, 5 years old, you read about giants and witches and monsters and things like that. And they’re colorful and bigger than life, and you’re a little kid and you’re impressed with them. [But when] you get a little older, you can’t read fairy tales anymore. Suddenly, along come these superhero stories and to me they’re like fairy tales for grown-ups because they’re all bigger than life, they’re about characters that really have abilities that no human beings possess. … You’re recapturing the enjoyment you had when you were a kid reading fairy tales. So I don’t think there’s anything thing very much deeper to it than that.

(15) WHEN WOLVERINE PLAYED SECOND BANANA. Hugh Jackman told this Stan Lee anecdote to Stephen Colbert:

‘The Front Runner’ star Hugh Jackman remembers thinking his portrayal of Wolverine would make him the center of attention on the red carpet at Comic Con. That was until the paparazzi abandoned him for Stan Lee.

Jackman also admitted that when he was cast he’d never heard of wolverines, thought it was a made up name, because they don’t have any in Australian zoos. Instead, he spent lots of time studying wolves and their mannerisms. On the first day of filming Wolverine the director told him he’d got it totally wrong.

(16) JUNO SNAP. Smithsonian proves “Juno’s Latest Photo of Jupiter Is Breathtaking”.

On October 29, the Juno spacecraft that has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016, swooped above the planet’s North Temperate Belt and snapped what may be its most mesmerizing image of the gas giant’s clouds yet. The image, taken 4,400 miles above the planet and enhanced by citizen-scientists and artists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran, includes white pop-up clouds and an anticyclonic storm that appears as a white oval.

(17) THINKING OF A BOOK WILL KEEP YOU WARM. It is the time of year for a reading blanket. Litograph has all kinds of thematic graphics. Here is a link to their sci-fi/fantasy genre designs.

(18) PAST LIVES. Filers consumed by the discussion of Barbie in comments may be interested to see that Galactic Journey’s John Boston coincidentally uncovered a Philip K. Dick story inspired by the doll in a 1963 Amazing“[November 13, 1963] Good Cop (the November 1963 Amazing)”

…The adult humans are completely preoccupied with Perky Pat, a blonde plastic doll that comes with various accessories including boyfriend, which the flukers have supplemented with various improvised objects in their “layouts,” which seem to be sort of like a Monopoly board and sort of like a particularly elaborate model train setup.  On these layouts, they obsessively play a competitive game, running Perky Pat and her boyfriend through the routines of life before the war, while their kids run around unsupervised on the dust- and rock-covered surface chasing down mutant animals with knives.

Obviously the author has had an encounter with a Barbie doll complete with accessories, and didn’t much care for it….

(19) RIVERS OF LONDON. Fantasy Literature’s Rachael “Ray” McKenzie fills readers in about Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch:

Peter Grant, our favourite semi-competent detective cum wizard-in-training, returns in Lies Sleeping (2018), the seventh book in Ben Aaronovitch’s RIVERS OF LONDON series. The Faceless Man has been unmasked and is on the run, and it is now up to Peter and the inimitable Detective Chief Inspector Nightingale (slash last officially sanctioned English Melvin the Wizard) to apprehend him.

(20) ONE OF LIFE’S MYSTERIES. Adam-Troy Castro can’t understand it. Who can?

If I live to be a thousand, I will never ever understand this impulse possessed by the dull, the cornball, the second-rate, to think they can take on the quick, in battles of wits.

…And yet they try. Oh, how they try.

When I see the dullards taking on Jim Wright, or David Gerrold, or John Scalzi, or J.K. Rowling — all masters at such responses — I am not astonished at how cleverly these misguided ripostes are returned. I am astonished that the barely equipped aggressors took them on, virtually unarmed, and thought that it would end well….

(21) CASE OF THE HIVES. BBC asks “Can listening to bees help save them – and us?”

Can artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning help save the world’s bees? That’s the hope of scientists who are scrambling to reverse the dramatic declines in bee populations.

Bees are in trouble, but we’re not quite sure why.

It could be the overuse of insecticides; air pollution; warming temperatures; the varroa destructor mite; or even interference from electromagnetic radiation.

Or it could be a combination of all these factors. But until we have more data, we won’t know for sure.

So the World Bee Project and IT firm Oracle are creating a global network of AI “smart hives” to give scientists real-time data into the relationships between bees and their environments./CHip

(22) QUEEN FOR A KING. “Queen of New York” featuring Christiani Pitts and members of the cast is a video based on a song from King Kong, which has just opened on Broadway

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Mark Hepworth, John King Tarpinian, Paul Weimer, JJ, Cat Eldridge, ULTRAGOTHA, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Pixel Scroll 8/12/18 Let My Pixels Go

(1) NINE WORLDS. London’s Nine Worlds wrapped today, and the leadership has announced plans to move on:

Nine Worlds is beginning a process of reconstitution. This means that the current ownership will be dissolved, and the assets, liabilities and necessary data transferred to a new entity. The purpose of this is to a) ensure that its continued existence is sustainable and rewarding for those involved in it, and b) allow me (Dan) and the other shareholders to step away from the company and our responsibilities to it….

Why is this happening, and why now?

The current organising model is not sustainable for those on the organising side of it. A lot of people gain a lot from the event, but certain roles reliably cause harm to the people performing them or exploit them, and there’s a treadmill effect that leads to organisers carrying on until they burn out and / or do something that can’t be reconciled with continued involvement. I include myself in that: I’ve been working without choice and without pay for over two years now.

Additionally, the mix of cultures and people involved has embedded tensions that may benefit from a more concretely agreed purpose and identity. This has been causing issues from the event’s beginning, and while the intent to create a big platform that still kept high expectations of behaviour and support was positive, I’m not sure that the event will be able to meet a standard that’s acceptable to all those who attend and take part in organising, without being clearer who it’s for, what it stands for, and what people should expect, and letting people choose whether to engage in that knowledge.

And finally, I’ve invested a huge amount of time, money and my heart in Nine Worlds, but I’ve done so as a job, often working all the time for months at a time. My ’employer’ hasn’t paid me in years and imposes working conditions that would be illegal in any volunteering or employment context, and I’ve been wanting to move on for some time.

The reason I’m doing it right now is that I couldn’t do it two years ago, as an attempt to change the organisation in a different way three years ago failed hard, and necessitated an intervening two years of steady steering.

2016 put Nine Worlds Ltd far enough in debt that I couldn’t guarantee the end result of any process to reconstitute. We were reliant on future sales to cover the running cost of the current convention, and failure to transition (or attempting to close down) would result in the business failing and being unable to repay the future event sales to ticket holders.

I now have enough money to cover the shortfall without opening future ticket sales, and the event’s financial position has also improved, so I can start this process without trying to sell tickets for an undetermined event with unknown leadership to cover the gap.

(2) SPIDER TRACKS. Worldcon 76 is running a travel blog about one of the guests of honor — “The Worldcon 76 – Bound Peregrinations of Spider Robinson.” But the first entry sounds pretty disturbing.

Day 1: Victoria to Port Angeles

The trip began with a 4 AM call.

“Steph. I don’t think I’m gonna make it”

The Worldcon 76 Guest of Honour was white as a sheet and barely able to stand. It was my job to get him from Canada to San Jose in one piece and it was looking like the trip was going to be over before it began.

After six hours in the emergency room, we got the all clear and Spider finally got some needed sleep. Luckily so did I.

The spirit of Fandom and SF must have been watching over us, because when he woke up he was his old self and willing to try to make the trip after all. (I on the other hand was about ready to pass out from stress and worry).

(3) MCMOVIE. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story, “‘Mac and Me’ at 30: ‘Ronald McDonald’ remembers his infamous 1988 movie” notes that this is the 30th anniversary of Mac and Me, a cheesy ripoff of E.T. in which Ronald MacDonald teams up with alien “MAC” (or “Mysterious Alien Creature”.)  Squire Fridell, who played Ronald MacDonald at the time, tells stories about the production and wishes that the Razzies had mailed him his award for Worst New Actor.  Paul Rudd has a long-running gag on Conan where he promises an “exclusive new clip” from whatever movie he is promoting and then shows something from Mac and Me.

The trailer turned out to be a bit of a bait-and-switch, and not just because it made the movie look halfway entertaining. While Ronald presents himself as an equal co-star with the titular bug-eyed alien, his actual role in the Stewart Raffill-directed movie is little more than a glorified cameo.

 

(4) ASK THE PRIMATES. BBC profiles “Primate speech: How some species are ‘wired’ for talk” — since we don’t have soft tissues from our own ancestors, looking at evolution of speech by studying vocalization in existing species.

A new study has compared different primate species’ brains.

It revealed that primates with wider “vocal repertoires” had more of their brain dedicated to controlling their vocal apparatus.

That suggests that our own speaking skills may have evolved as our brains gradually rewired to control that apparatus, rather than purely because we’re smarter than non-human apes.

Humans and other primates have very similar vocal anatomy – in terms of their tongues and larynx. That’s the physical machinery in the throat which allows us to turn air into sound.

So, as lead researcher Dr Jacob Dunn from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge explained, it remains a mystery that only human primates can actually talk.

(5) SOMEHOW STILL HERE. In “Coral reefs ‘weathered dinosaur extinction'”, new studies say that corals go back 160Myrs, not just 60.

Corals may have teamed up with the microscopic algae which live inside them as much as 160 million years ago, according to new research.

The two organisms have a symbiotic relationship, meaning they need each other to survive.

But this partnership was previously thought to have developed about 60 million years ago.

The new findings suggest that reef algae may have weathered significant environmental changes over time.

This includes the mass extinction that wiped out most of the dinosaurs.

Algae’s resilience to temperature changes has been of concern to scientists recently, as warming events on the Great Barrier Reef have seen the coral “bleached” of its algae.

(6) TALK TO THE ANIMALS. How hot was it, Johnny? “Cows allowed to visit Swedish nudist beaches in heatwave”.

The government in southern Sweden have granted permission for cows to visit nudist beaches during the prolonged summer heatwave, despite complaints from locals, it’s reported.

According to The Local news website, nudists have been complaining to officials in provincial Smaland about livestock visiting their beaches, saying that their presence is “unhygienic and could pose a health risk”.

It says the roasting summer heat affecting much of continental Europe has led to drought throughout the country, and has meant that farmers have been struggling to feed their animals.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 12, 1939The Wizard of Oz receives its world premiere in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, on this day.
  • August 12, 1941 – Premiering this day, Dr.  Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with Spencer Tracy.
  • August 12, 1943 – Universal’s Phantom of the Opera debuts. At one point in pre-production it was planned for Bud Abbott and Lou Costello to star.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 12, 1881. Cecil B. DeMille. Yes he did some genre work as Producer: When Worlds Collide, The Ghost Breaker (a silent horror film now lost) and the 1953 War Of The Worlds which he’s not credited for as Executive Producer.
  • Born August 12 — William Goldman, 87. Writer and / or screenwriter of The Princess Bride, The Stepford WivesMemoirs of an Invisible Man, Dreamcatcher (horror film) and a short video based on The Princess Bride with apparently none of the original cast.
  • Born August 12 — Sam J. Jones, 64. Flash Gordon in the 1980 film of that name, Krebb in the later Flash Gordon series.
  • Born August 12 — Bruce Greenwood, 62. Lead in the Nowhere Man series, the Sleepwalkers series, I, Robot, voice work in animated Class of the Titans series, Christopher Pike in Star Trek and voices Batman in Batman: Gotham by Gaslight and Young Justice. Not the same Batman mind you
  • Born August 12 — Claudia Christian, 53. Babylon 5 of course, and genre roles also in the possibly forthcoming Space Diner Tales in which the year is 2075 and an alien race is set on conquering Earth, the Upworld detective series complete with a talking gnome, Space Rangers, Relic Hunter and Starhyke, a truly awful sounding series.

(9) THE ICING ON THE CAKE.

(10) NOTCONJOSE II. George R.R. Martin will be there: “Worldcon Time!”

I have cut way down on the number of cons I attend, due to the press of work, but there’s no way I’d miss a worldcon, by any name.   I’ve only missed one in the last thirty years.   Dragoncon and San Diego Comicon and GenCon and many other cons are now much bigger, but worldcon remains the original, and the best, the heart of the fannish community.   Worldcon is like a family reunion.   And yes, like any large family, we have our share of drunken uncles, loony cousins, and snot-nosed kids… but still, family is family.   I’ll be there for the whole con.  I hope to see many of you in SanJose.  Worldcon is great time for getting together with old friends and making new ones.

(11) JUST ONE THING MISSING. Andrea discusses “Nexhuman by Francesco Verso” at Little Red Reviewer.

#sorrynotsorry, I’m going to give you a spoiler right out of the gate:

Nexhuman will offer you enough ideas and discussion topics and thought experiments to keep you busy for the next ten years. In fact, an entire Convention programming track could be built just around the questions and ideas in this book.

What Nexhuman does not offer is concrete answers to any of the questions that are brought up.

(12) FRESH OFF THE 1963 NEWSSTANDS. Galactic Journey’s John Boston finds a little gold-dust among the grit in the new issue of Amazing: “[August 12, 1963] WET BLANKET (the September 1963 Amazing)”.

But the issue opens with Poul Anderson’s Homo Aquaticus, illustrated on the cover by a swimmer with a menacing look and a more menacing trident, next to a nicely-rendered fish, in one of artist Lloyd Birmingham’s better moments.  This is one of Anderson’s atmospheric stories, its mood dominated by Anglo-Saxon monosyllables.  No, not those—I mean fate, guilt, doom, that sort of thing.  The story’s tone is set in the first paragraph, in which the protagonist “thought he heard the distant blowing of a horn.  It would begin low, with a pulse that quickened as the notes waxed, until the snarl broke in a brazen scream and sank sobbing away.”

This is rationalized as the wind in the cliffs, but we know better.  The good (space)ship Golden Flyer and its crew have been sentenced to roam the galactic hinterlands after some of their number betrayed other ships of the Kith, a starfaring culture separated from planetary cultures by relativistic time dilation.  Right now they’re looking at what used to be a colony planet, but all they see is ruins, until their encounter with the colony’s descendants, as given away by the title.  In the end, doom and fate are tempered with rationality and mercy.  Three stars, but towards the top of Anderson’s middling range.

(13) LECKIE LIKES THESE. Ann Leckie recommends three books in “Some things I’ve read recently” beginning with —

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

Look, you should just read this. Rivers is nominated for the Campbell (Not a Hugo) this year on the strength of this book. It would have been an entirely worthy Best Novel finalist, quite frankly. I was late to it partly because I have lots of things to read and very little time to do it in, and also because I was aware that it would be a difficult read–as in, full of violence and death and heartbreak. That’s all true. This is a fabulous book.

(14) A CONVERT. Ethan Mills of Examined Worlds says he now understands what the Stephenson hype was about: “Philoso-monks Save Some Worlds: Anathem by Neal Stephenson”.

A few times while reading this book, I tried to explain the basic premise to friends. The best I could do is something like this: weird monks on an alien planet or maybe another dimension talk about philosophy, science, and math. This does not in any way do it justice, of course, but it’s really hard to explain this novel.

Of course, for hard core Stephenson fans, the name on the cover is enough. And for philosophers such as myself, those weird alien philosophical monks are irresistible (which is why this novel made a lot of the lists of philosophers’ picks for best philosophical SF compiled by Eric Schwitzgebel). I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some other lovers of this book who sometimes dream about a life as a monastic entirely dedicated to intellectual pursuits, or who maybe just liked Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. Others who might love this: people who love immersive world building and massive tomes that come with with a glossary (no maps here, but there are a few calcas – explanatory appendices for those who need even more nerdish detail).  As I am at least an occasional member of all of the above groups, my love for this book is present in all nearby possible worlds.

(15) SAVED. Much truth in this.

(16) BATWOMAN LEAVES TWITTER. Yahoo! Lifestyle reports “Ruby Rose Apparently Left Twitter Following Harassment over Her “Batwoman” Role”.

Ruby Rose has apparently removed her Twitter account after continued social media harassment that centered on her upcoming role as Batwoman.

As noted by SyFy, the Orange is the New Black star’s absence from Twitter was spotted by fans on August 11. Ruby also appeared to allude to a potential leave of the platform on Friday, August 10, tweeting: “Where on earth did ‘Ruby is not a lesbian therefore she can’t be Batwoman’ come from — has to be the funniest most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read. I came out at 12? And have for the past 5 years had to deal with ‘she’s too gay’ how do y’all flip it like that? I didn’t change.” Her account appears to have been removed soon after the tweet was made.

Ruby’s Instagram remains active, but SyFy reports that she seems to have limited what comments appear. Her last Instagram post was shared on August 10.

(17) DIOP TURNS OFF COMMENTING. Another actress facing toxic social media: “‘Titans’ Star Anna Diop Disables Instagram Comments”ComicBook.com has the story.

The first trailer for Titans brought its cast into the spotlight this week, and it looks like that has had some major effects.

Anna Diop, who is set to play Koriand’r/Starfire on the DC Universe series, recently disabled comments on the vast majority of her Instagram posts. Her Instagram, which you can check out here, features only six photos that have been posted since May 11th. The latest post, where Diop announces that she has a role in Jordan Peele’s Us, is the only one that currently allows comments.

While it’s unknown exactly why Diop essentially cleaned house on her Instagram, some have speculated that it is due to the negative backlash from the first Titans trailer. The trailer, which debuted on Thursday, features several brief glimpses of Starfire using her powers, which have appeared to only continue the racist and sexist remarks surrounding Diop’s casting.

Earlier this year, a series of leaked set photos provided the first look at Diop and her co-stars in costume, which earned backlash for not being “comic accurate”. At the time, Diop actually used Instagram to fire back at the negativity, posting a passionate response to her followers.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In The New York Public Library’s Collections of Weird Objects on Vimeo, The New Yorker shows viewers some weird things that have ended up in the library’s collections, including a paw from one of Charles Dickens’s cats!

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

Pixel Scroll 2/26/17 That Hideous Scroll

(1) EUROFANDOM. Fandom Rover launched today, a new blog focused on Polish sf conventions.

Hello, I’m Marcin, but my fandom nickname is Alqua. I created this blog to write about conventions and fandom in different countries. I live in Poland, so you will probably find a lot of posts about Polish conventions here, but you can expect some information about European fandom, too, as I try to attend cons in other countries as well.

The first post is “Understanding Polish conventions”

We have a lot of conventions. Depending on what events one will count, they may get numbers reaching even 100 per year. If you will be more picky about what you may call a convention, you will still have around 40 or 60 events every year. This means that there should be at least 1 convention per week (maximum 2 weeks). This is partially true, however, most of the conventions take place around summer months, and winter is much less popular for conrunners. Of course not all of the events are SF conventions – some are devoted to SF/F or to manga & anime, some are big LARPs, some are furry conventions and others are devoted to specific franchises (like Doctor Who or Star Wars).

(2) THE WATER WE SWIM IN. The Washington Post’s Zachary Pincus-Roth, in “Aliens as immigrants: How ‘Arrival’ became the latest political sci-fi film”, interviews Arrival producer Shawn Levy, District 9 screenwriter Terri Tatchell, and Tufts University political scientist Daniel Drezner, author of Theories of International Politics and Zombies, about the role politics plays in science fiction films.

“It’s turned out to be loaded with political commentary,” “Arrival” producer Shawn Levy says of the movie’s reflection of the immigration issue, “something our filmmaking team doesn’t regret, but this was largely unanticipated.”

The film’s political themes were intended to be more timeless. “The movie was always a commentary on a world that is often prone to fracturing,” Levy says. “It invests in the faith that cooperation among nations beyond borders can lead to global benefits.”

(3) GENERAL SEMANTICS AND SF. A panel on “Science Fiction, Language and General Semantics” will be hosted by the New York Society for General Semantics on March 1. Free to the public, but registration is required.

Science fiction has long been associated with spaceships, alien beings, futuristic technologies, and the like. But the genre has also provided an opportunity to speculate about the future of human consciousness, about modes of perception and communication, and about language and symbols.

Not surprisingly, general semantics, as a discipline based on applying a scientific approach to thought and action, has influenced science fiction in a number of ways. Science fiction writers such as A.E. van Vogt, Robert Heinlein, and Frank Herbert were familiar with general semantics and incorporated concepts learned from Alfred Korzybski and S.I. Hayakawa into their novels and short stories. Through them, the influence of general semantics spread to the fiction of Philip K. Dick, and the films of George Lucas. Moreover, novelists William S. Burroughs and L. Ron Hubbard were students of general semantics, while a fictional (and less than flattering) version of the Institute of General Semantics appears in the Jean Luc-Godard film, Alphaville.

More generally, questions concerning language, meaning, and consciousness have been incorporated into science fiction narratives, for example the presence of Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation in The Matrix, references to Julian Jaynes in HBO’s remake of Westworld, and in the problematic nature of translation in stories such as Samuel R. Delaney’s Babel-17, Stanslaw Lem’s His Master’s Voice, and the recent film, Arrival.

Clearly, this is a topic for discussion that is, in many ways, out of this world. so come join us for a panel featuring:

  • Marleen S. Barr, Science Fiction Critic and Novelist
  • Paul Levinson, Past President of the SFFWA and Novelist
  • Lance Strate, NYSGS President and Professor of Communication and Media Studies, Fordham University
  • Ed Tywoniak, Editor of ETC: A Review of General Semantics and Professor of Communication, Saint Mary’s College of California

(4) HOLE IN THEIR POCKETS. Jim C. Hines continues slicing and dicing his data in “2016 Novelist Income Results, Part 5: Miscellaneous Data”.

Who Lost Money in 2016?

One thing I found interesting — of the 371 people who provided gross income and expenses data, 63 ended up with a net loss in 2016. In other words, roughly one out of six published novelists lost money last year.

17 of these identified as full-time writers, with the other 46 being part-time. Looking at the overall number of full- and part-time respondents, the part-time authors were disproportionately more likely to end up in the red.

(5) BEEN THERE. An Apollo 11 Space-Flown U.S. Flag went for $25,623 (including buyer’s premium) in an auction by the Nate D. Sanders firm this week.

(6) USING THE OLD BEAN. Baseball’s Hall of Fame is honoring “Homer at the Bat” and ‘inducting’ Homer Simpson into Cooperstown. Cut4.com has the story.

The Hall will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the episode on May 27 during Hall of Fame Classic Weekend. Festivities will include appearances by Wade Boggs and Ozzie Smith — both of whom guest-starred in the episode — at a discussion featuring members of The Simpsons team who put the episode together.

 

(7) PAXTON OBIT. Actor Bill Paxton died suddenly today due to complications of surgery. He was 61. Although better known for his non-genre performances in Titanic and Twister, his resume is studded with roles in high-profile sf movie and TV productions such as The Terminator, Aliens, Weird Science, Predator 2, Future Shock, Apollo 13 (as astronaut Fred Haise), Mighty Joe Young, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, Thunderbirds, The Colony, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (as John Garrett), and Edge of Tomorrow.

(8) FINGLETON OBIT. Game of Thrones star Neil Fingleton has died at the age of 36. The story in The Guardian says —

Once named as Britain’s tallest man, the 7ft 7in star played Mag the Mighty in the fantasy series and also took on roles in X-Men: First Class and Jupiter Ascending. According to reports, he passed away following heart failure on Saturday.

(9) WAPNER OBIT. Judge Joseph Wapner died February 26 reports the Washington Post. I was going to run this item anyway, but a check of IMDB revealed he actually has a genre credit. Wapner appeared in the pilot episode of Sliders in 1995.

Joseph A. Wapner, a retired California judge whose flinty-folksy style of resolving disputes on the show “The People’s Court” helped spawn an entire genre of courtroom-based reality television with no-nonsense jurists and often clueless litigants, died Feb. 26 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 97….

Within a few years of its debut, the program regularly attracted 20 million viewers. One measure of its success was a Washington Post survey in 1989 that showed that 54 percent of Americans could identify Judge Wapner compared with 9 percent who could name the chief justice of the United States, William H. Rehnquist….

Disputes centered on nonpayment for goods and services, unwise lending of money to shady friends and family members, purchases in which the buyer did not beware and altercations between people and their neighbors’ animals.

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Tell A Fairy Tale Day is all about exploring myths and stories, old and new. From grim(m) tales to urban legends, tap the dark corners of your subconscious.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 26, 1963 — NASA announced that Venus is about 800 degrees F.
  • February 26, 2005 — The Razzies held their 25th annual ceremony at Hollywood’s historic Ivar Theatre. Making a surprise appearance was Halle Berry, an Oscar winner for Best Actress in Monster’s Ball (2001), who showed up to accept that year’s Razzie for Worst Actress for the title role in the poorly received action extravaganza Catwoman.

(12) NEATNESS COUNTS.

(13) PUB QUIZ. The Sci-Fi London Pub Quiz will happen Tuesday, May 2. The Clarke Award’s Tom Hunter explains —

[W]e’re again joining forces with the team at the SCI-FI-LONDON film festival, and we’re aim to celebrate Sir Arthur’s centenary year and raise some money for two excellent causes in the best way we know how, with an EPIC PUB QUIZ.

Tickets are on sale now and already selling well, but we’ve plenty of tables left and we’re looking for teams to compete.

Tickets cost £5 per head (in a team of 6, that’s £30 a table!) and all proceeds go to two amazing charities.

Science Fiction fans, authors, artists, agents, publishers and enthused newbies, we want you all!

GET TICKETS >>

Here are the two great organisations we’re aiming to support with this year’s quiz:

STEMettes, who inspire the next generation of females into Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) fields by showing them the amazing women already in STEM via a series of panel events, hackathons, exhibitions, and mentoring schemes. http://www.stemettes.org

Rebuilding Sri Lanka. The Asian tsunami on the 26th December 2004 killed over 40,000 people in Sri Lanka.Over a million people were left homeless. Thousands were destitute. Rebuilding Sri Lanka has been active since the day of the disaster and continues to provide support, rehabilitation, nutrition, education and shelter to those affected by the disaster. http://www.rebuildingsrilanka.org.uk

(14) LOOKING FOR IDEAS. Black Gate has compiled Rich Horton’s recent blog posts in “Hugo Nomination Thoughts, 2017”, including numerous recommendations in the fan categories which few people discuss.

Best Fan Writer

The first thing I’ll do here is mention myself. I am a fan writer (at least my blog writing and my stuff for Black Gate qualifies, if perhaps not my work for Locus, which I guess is now officially professional). I would note in particular my reviews of old magazines at Black Gate, particularly Amazing and Fantastic in the Cele Goldsmith Lalli era, and my various reviews of Ace Doubles (and other SF) at Strange at Ecbatan (and often linked from Black Gate.) I would be greatly honored if anyone thought my work worthy of a Best Fan Writer nomination.

But of course there are many wonderful fan writers out there. For years I have been nominating Abigail Nussbaum, especially for her blog Asking the Wrong Questions, and I see no reason not to do so again this year. I will note in particular her review of Arrival, which captured beautifully the ways in which the movie falls short of the original story, but still acknowledges the movie’s strengths.

Another fan writer who has attracted my notice with some interesting posts is Camestros Felapton. Some of the most interesting work there regarded (alas) the Puppy Kerfuffles, and I was quite amused by this Map of the Puppy Kerfuffle. But the blog is much more than Puppy commentary – indeed, it’s much more than SF commentary. In the more traditional fanwriting area, I can point to the most recent entry (as I write), a well-done review of Greg Egan’s Diaspora.

Another possibility is Greg Hullender at Rocket Stack Rank. The site is run by Greg along with his partner Eric Wong, and both deserve a lot of credit – I mention Greg in particular because of articles like his analysis of the effect of slate voting on the 2016 Hugos.

One of my favorite fan writers does a lot of his stuff in a place relatively few people see, but he has begun to review Amazing Stories for Galactic Journey. This is John Boston, and his work can be found here. The conceit at Galactic Journey is that magazines from 55 years ago are reviewed, with an attempt to make the reviews reflect only knowledge up to the point of publication of the magazine. (It will be obvious to anyone who reads my stuff at Black Gate that this sort of thing is right up my alley, and in particular that reviews of Amazing from the early ‘60s are of special interest, as I am (in a somewhat less disciplined fashion) trying to look at and write about as many issues of Amazing and Fantastic edited by Cele Goldsmith Lalli as I can.)) A couple of years ago John (along with Damien Broderick) published a series of books reviewing every issue of New Worlds and Science Fantasy from the Carnell era, which gives another look at his credentials as a fan writer.

And finally I think there are a number of people at Black Gate worthy of a look. Too many to mention, perhaps, but one who definitely deserves recognition is the editor, John O’Neill, who also does a great deal of writing for the site.

(15) BACK TO MIDAMERICON II. Melanie Marttila continues her series of posts about programs at MidAmeriCon II with “WorldCon 2016: The dark side of fairy tales”.

Panellists: Ellen Datlow, Brooke Johnson, Erin Wilcox (moderator), Sandee Rodriguez, Dana Cameron

Joined in progress …

DC: Fairy tales are the intersection between the known and the unknown in a way that other stories aren’t.

BJ: Tone is the defining quality. It’s a sense of magic realism or normalized magic. I’m currently reading the Turnip Princess. It’s meant to be read. Oral storytelling. Fairy tales are mythic, grand and meaningful, larger-than-life, and yet the things that happen are everyday occurrences to the characters of the story.

SR: Folk tales have the element of reality. Fairy tales have no sense of history.

DC: Domesticity is addressed in fairy tales….

Find the rest of her series here.

(16) MARTIAN SCIENCE. At NPR, Jacqueline Miller and Thomas Max Roberts discuss “Science Is Cool In ‘The Martian.’ Can It Be Compelling In The Classroom, Too?”

Can learning science be as compelling as applying science is in the movie? Yes. Giving our science students frequent and ongoing opportunities to investigative and problem-solve in the classroom is a start. Students thrive when they are allowed to focus on a problem in depth, apply their learning to real-world situations, and experiment, transferring new knowledge to address a challenge or answer a question.

Reviewers have called “The Martian” a “love letter to science.” It should be required viewing for all middle and high school students, and it should serve as a call to action for improving science education.

How exciting would it be to hear your student, when confronted with a challenge in science, exclaim, “We’re going to have to science the s— out of this!”

(17) FELGERCARB! But in a new edition of The Martian nobody is sciencing the “s—“ out of anything. Bad language has been modified to make the book usable in schools: “Andy Weir’s Best Seller ‘The Martian’ Gets a Classroom-Friendly Makeover”.

After getting dozens of inquiries from teachers, Mr. Weir, who describes himself as “a lifelong space nerd,” asked his publisher, Crown, if they could release a cleaned-up edition of the book.

The novel was pretty easy to amend, by simply replacing the foul language with tamer words like “screwed,” “jerk” and “crap” (Mr. Weir said there were “occasional squabbles” when he tried to lobby the censors to keep some of the less offensive swear words in.) A kid-friendly version came out last year, and it is now being used to help teach science in classrooms around the country.

At Synergy Quantum Academy, a public charter high school in South Los Angeles, students are conducting experiments based on the novel. In physics class, students will build miniature solar-powered cars, and during astronomy next month, they will try to grow potatoes as Watney did, using a chamber modeled on NASA’s Lunar Plant Growth Chamber.

(18) FUTURE SCIENCE. David Winnick looks ahead to technological predictions that haven’t happened yet at Quirk Books.

Penfield Wave Transmitter – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Depression and loneliness can be tough sometimes, even for Rick and Iran Deckard. While most people know Rick from Blade Runner, the famous Ridley Scott film adaption of the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the original Rick Deckard is quite different. Deckard wakes up in the morning and dials in the emotion he wants for the day on his Penfield Wave Transmitter, a device which controls feelings. Unfortunately for Deckard, he and his wife, Iran, have different ideas about how he should be feeling.

As countless speculative fiction works have shown us, controlling emotions almost always gets people into sticky territory (we’re thinking of The Stepford Wives and shuddering). As useful as the Penfield Wave Transmitter could be, maybe it’s best to leave that tech idea on the shelf.

(19) STONE AGE MUSIC. “The Flintstones Variations for Piano Solo” performed by Ilan Rechtman.

(20) SPACE AGE MUSIC. The LA experimental hip-hop group Clipping is suggesting that their sci-fi oriented album Splendor & Misery be submitted for a Hugo:

Even if voters take their subtle hint, Clipping would not be the first group to have a nominated music album. That was Jefferson Starship with Blows Against the Empire (1970). True, not many musical performances have made the Hugo ballot – the most recent was Rachel Bloom’s music video, F*** Me, Ray Bradbury (2010). And I don’t remember any in between.

According to the Wikipedia, Splendor & Misery

…follows the story of a person in outer space referred to as Cargo #2331. The musical instrumentations being a mix of futuristic and classical, tells the story of a slave in the future in outer space.

(21) FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION. George R.R. Martin is also beating a drum for some candidates in “Hugo Thoughts: Best Professional Editor, Long Form”.

JANE JOHNSON

Jane is the editor and publisher of HarperCollins Voyager, one of the leading publishers of SF and fantasy in the United Kingdom. British editors are eligible for the Hugo, just like their American counterparts, but they are NEVER nominated, no matter how great their accomplishments… and that’s bollocks, as the Brits might say. Jane is one of the towering figures in our field across the pond, yet she’s never been recognized, and it is bloody well time that she was.

It would be useful if Martin went back and added the titles of the 2016 books these editors worked on, as this is not a lifetime achievement award.

[Thanks to Rob Thornton, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Andrew Porter, JJ, John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]