Pixel Scroll 3/24/18 It Would Be The Last Pixel In The World That Scrolled By Molly Grue

(1) START AN INVESTIGATION. “Why the Hell Are These Books Out of Print?” demands James Davis Nicoll in a post at Tor.com. Here are a few of his examples:

Chester Anderson’s 1967 The Butterfly Kid is the first volume in the Greenwich Trilogy. It is without a doubt the finest SF novel in which a collection of futuristic hippies band together to save the world from drugs, blue space lobsters, and the nefarious Laszlo Scott. Anderson and his friend Michael Kurland feature as protagonists. It’s a delightful, light-hearted romp—although apparently not delightful enough, because it has been out of print for decades. The Butterfly Kid was followed in 1969 by Michael Kurland’s The Unicorn Girl and in 1970 by T. A. Waters’ The Probability Pad, both of which are in print.

(2) JOHN TRIMBLE HEART SURGERY. The Trimbles announced on Facebook:

John is getting heart surgery this coming Monday, and the doctor doesn’t want him to do anything strenuous for several months. So a very busy 2018 is going to be seriously curtailed. As for the cruise, we took out insurance, so didn’t lose all the money paid for it. If things go well, we will go next Spring.

John is in good health; in fact the doctor said he was as healthy as the average 60-year-old. The operation is a bit sudden, but when John’s heart checked out to be in the process of clogging, the doctor said he’d as soon operate before doing it during a cardiac arrest. Good thinking!

Good wishes are all John needs. Don’t send flowers, please. But if so moved, please make a donation to the Heart Fund. Any Heart Fund. Research helped to find John’s problem. We’d like to know that others can be helped, too.

(3) NOT READY FOR MORE LIKE THIS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club blog takes an iconoclastic look at Ready Player One in “Tomorrow isn’t about yesterday”, criticizing what they believe is nostalgia’s undermining effect on science fiction.

There is a subtle – but significant – difference between genuine appreciation for works from those who wrote before us and an ugly, toxic nostalgia that displaces the creation and appreciation of new works.

Which brings us to Ready Player One, a book that has become emblematic of the notion that the works of the past are somehow superior to those of the present or perhaps even the future.

… [I] will be forever grateful that Hugo voters did not include it on the ballot in 2012, despite the massive hype it received when published.

(4) WHAT’S THAT SMELL? Whatever you think about the games, this movie based on a famous old game sucked. The Guardian remembers: “‘The stench of it stays with everybody’: inside the Super Mario Bros movie”.

“We’re in the bedroom of King Koopa’s skyscraper; it’s a big set,” recalls actor and co-star Richard Edson. “Dennis [Hopper] comes in and he’s looking pissed off. He’s mumbling to himself, he won’t look at anyone. So the directors ask, ‘What’s up Dennis?’”

Something was about to go horribly wrong.

The incendiary actor-director, who had unapologetically told everyone he had taken the role for money alone, stood amid the grandeur of his character’s penthouse suite and exploded. “He just starts screaming at Annabel and Rocky,” recalls Edson. “He’s telling them they’re completely unprofessional, that he’s never seen anything like this. Rocky says ‘Dennis, what is it?’ And he yells: ‘You rewrote my lines! You call this writing? This is shit! It’s shit! And the fact you’d do it without asking me?’ He went on and on. He couldn’t control himself.

“This went on for 45 minutes. The producers were looking at their watches, Rocky and Annabel were looking at each other, like, what the fuck can we do? The actors were like, oh my God, this is amazing, this is better than the movie. Finally, they say: let’s go to lunch – but lunch turns out to be another two hours of Dennis screaming at the directors and producers about the state of movie making. Meanwhile, there are 300 extras waiting for the next scene. Rocky and Annabel start begging him – they’re like, Dennis, please tell us what you want, we’ll do anything.

“But he wasn’t through yelling at them. People were knocking at the door, producers were going out trying to tell people what the fuck was going on. Finally, Rocky and Annabel said, ‘Look, you rewrite the scene, or we’ll go back to the original, whatever you want.’ And finally he goes: ‘OK, we’ll do the scene the way it’s written now.’ Everyone sighs, we go back three and a half hours after it was meant to be done, we do the scene exactly the way it was written when he started.”

(5) THE CASE FOR CASH. Whether these creators’ games look to the past or future, they look like money says the BBC: “How video games turn teenagers into millionaires”.

Alex Balfanz is an 18-year-old student at Duke University in North Carolina. Every day he has lectures or seminars, followed by assignments. Like many students his age, he devotes a couple of hours per day, and many more at weekends, to video games.

But he’s not just playing them – he’s making them. And making a lot of money doing it.

“In the 10 months that Jailbreak has been released, it has already yielded seven figure profits,” Balfanz says of his cops-and-robbers adventure game released last year. A few weeks ago, it was played for the billionth time.

Balfanz is just one of thousands of young gaming entrepreneurs in their teens or twenties making money in an industry that made $36 billion last year.

(6) ENDANGERED SPECIES. Nobody was more shocked than the dino: “T-Rex goes up in flames at Colorado dinosaur park”.

The owners of a dinosaur theme park in Colorado said an “electrical issue” was behind the demise of a life-sized animatronic T-Rex.

Zach and Carman Reynolds, owners of the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience in Canon City, said in a Facebook post that the Tyrannosaurus Rex statue went “extinct” Thursday.

Mike Kennedy joked, “Are the humans fighting back against the coming robot revolution? But the dino park owners say they plan to replace the bot, so the resistance may need to strike again.”

(7) DOG STAR. NPR’s Chris Klimek says Wes Anderson’s Isle Of Dogs takes Best in Show: “The Fast And The Furry Us: Wes Anderson’s Masterful ‘Isle Of Dogs'”.

You have an opinion, probably, on which of the two most common species of household pet you deem superior — and an opinion, possibly, on the fastidious filmography of Wes Anderson. But this much, at least, is fact: Nobody ever made a good movie about the nobility of cats.

Not even Anderson, who certainly seems like he might be a cat person, with his velvet-and-tweed blazers and his indoor scarves and his arched-eyebrow worldview. But no one will question his right-thinking canine-supremacy bone-a-fides after Isle of Dogs. (Go on, say the title out loud.) His dizzying new stop-motion epic is so visually rich, so narratively ambitious and so openhearted in its admiration for Japanese culture and the unshakable loyalty of doggos that it’ll likely roll right over the familiar cries that Anderson is too fussy or whatnot like a Corgi rolling over for a belly rub.

(8) ROTHFUSS AT WONDERCON. Comics Beat is covering a bunch of panels at this weekend’s WonderCon, such as “WonderCon ’18: Patrick Rothfuss Speaks of ‘What If’ at ‘Gather ‘Round the Campfire: Telling Tales'”.

Novels like J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods are all considered literary masterpieces, but fantasy novels didn’t always get the recognition they do today. Even still there are those who see fantasy as pale comparisons to the likes of Hemingway, Buck, and Steinbeck. If this is the case, why do authors still choose to write in the fantasy genre?

At this year’s WonderCon, this question and others were heavily discussed at the “Gather ‘Round the Campfire: Telling Tales” panel. In attendance were authors Jenna Rhodes, Tina LeCount Myers, R.A. Salvatore, and WonderCon guest of honor Patrick Rothfuss.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 24, 1930 — Steve “The Blob” McQueen

(10) NICE BEANIE. John Scalzi gets more fannish all the time.

(11) CATS AND BOOKS. This image reportedly has gone viral even though the cat is wide awake!

Cats Are Seriously Unimpressed At Being Awakened From Their Nap To Pose Next To Related Works

(12) YOUR NEXT PARTY. Who wouldn’t like this?

(13) THE SCORE. Steve Vertlieb hopes you’ll read his post about the composer for “Max And Me”:

Composer Mark McKenzie has written a superb score for the upcoming animated Mexican film production of “Max And Me”, concerning the life and martyred death of Franciscan priest Maximillian Kolbe, who gave his life so that others may live, in the Auschwitz concentration camp.  Here is my critique of this brilliant original motion picture score.

A note from composer Mark McKenzie regarding the release of his newest, most powerful film score…

One hundred thirty-five of London’s finest musicians gathered at Abbey Road Studios to record MAX AND ME including one of the most expressive solo artists of our generation, concert violinist Joshua Bell. Polish priest Maximillian Kolbe, tortured at Auschwitz asked those around him to not be overcome with hatred but to love for “Only love is creative.” His compassion lead him to sacrificially die in Auschwitz’s starvation bunker to help a man with children survive. The film makers, musicians and I hope this message of hope, love, and beauty amidst great darkness will be enjoyed by many and spread widely. A portion of each sale goes to the Shoah Foundation, Word Vision and Catholic Relief Services.

(14) BACK TO THE PAST. Even when there’s not a Mercury launch, science is smokin’ in 1962 says Galactic Journey: “[March 24, 1963] Bumper Crop (A bounty of exciting space results)”.

February and March have been virtually barren of space shots, and if Gordo Cooper’s Mercury flight gets postponed into May, April will be more of the same.  It’s a terrible week to be a reporter on the space beat, right?

Wrong!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Rocket launches may make for good television, what with the fire, the smoke, and the stately ascent of an overgrown pencil into orbit…but the real excitement lies in the scientific results.  And this month has seen a tremendous harvest, expanding our knowledge of the heavens to new (pardon the pun) heights.  Enjoy this suite of stories, and tell me if I’m not right…

(15) THE COURTS BE WITH YOU. Lucasfilm’s legion of lawyers couldn’t win this one: “Star Wars firm Lucasfilm must pay ‘failed’ Darth Vader film damages”.

A film-maker who sued Stars Wars producers Lucasfilm for blocking plans to make a film about Darth Vader has won almost £39,500 in damages.

Marc John, 46, of Buckinghamshire, claimed he was stopped from beaming a live interview with actor David Prowse to 1,200 cinemas.

He claims the film would have made about £3m, with his share worth £1.35m.

A High Court judge ruled Mr John could have made the film but for Lucasfilm’s interference.

Mr John, of Thornley Close, Aylesbury, claimed the Darth Vader interview and other scenes from the “For the Love of the Force” Star Wars convention in Manchester would have netted him a seven-figure sum.

It would have been broadcast in December 2015, just prior to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, when anticipation and hype for the franchise was “sky high”, his legal team said.

(16) PRE-INTERNET ANTIQUE. Motherboard spreads the word that “You Can Now Play the First LGBTQ Computer Game, For the First Time”.

Caper in the Castro is a legendary video game, not because legions of die-hard fans continue to play it, but because it was thought to be lost forever. Now, what is largely considered to be the first LGBTQ-focused video game (it was released in 1989) is on the Internet Archive for anybody to play.

The game is a noir point-and-click that puts the player in the (gum)shoes of a private detective named Tracker McDyke who is, in case you couldn’t guess by the name, a lesbian. McDyke must unravel the mystery behind the disappearance of Tessy LaFemme, a transgender woman, in San Francisco’s Castro district, an historically gay neighbourhood.

Caper in the Castro was coded by a developer who goes by CM Ralph and spread through early message board systems, known as BBS boards. The game was originally released as “CharityWare,” and came with a short message from Ralph asking the player to donate to an AIDS charity. Since those early days, though, the game was thought to be lost and unpreserved for future generations to enjoy or appreciate. Until now.

(17) BOUNCEHENGE. This 2012 item is still news to me! “English Artist Creates Life-Sized Stonehenge Bounce House”

Stonehenge is one of the most famous monuments in the world, but if you go to visit it you have to enjoy it from a distance. In order to protect the historical site, tourists must stick to a path that surrounds the stones and can’t actually walk among them. Recently, the Turner Prize winning artist, Jeremy Deller, created a monument of his own that visitors are more than welcome to walk through; in fact, visitors to this version of Stonehenge are encouraged to jump and flail about to their hearts content. There’s no need to worry about damaging this Stonehenge, for as visitors will quickly find out as they approach the structure, it is actually a bounce house.

 

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

Wesley Crusher: Naming Calls

ST:TNG had just started its second season when Rick Foss and I organized the 1988 Loscon program. Every fan I knew watched the show and had opinions about the assorted minor controversies involving its creator Gene Roddenberry and how the characters were scripted. We expected a panel about Wesley Crusher, the precocious teenaged boy who all too often saved the Enterprise, to be a good draw, and we had excellent writers to use on it.

We also had the prospect of springing a celebrity guest on the panelists – just not the one who actually showed up. Here’s what happened. (From File 770 #78, recently uploaded to Fanac.org)

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The Star Trek-oriented “Solving the Wesley Problem” filled every seat and had fans lining the walls They got a bonus when the actor who plays Wesley unexpectedly dropped in.

The panel began with D.C. Fontana, Joe Straczynski (then known as story editor for the new The Twilight Zone), Sonni Cooper (a Trek novelist), Mel Gilden and Jane Mailander (local writers) and a hoped-for surprise guest – but not the one we got.

As the program began, Bjo Trimble was stationed at the front of the Pasadena Hilton, and John Trimble at the back door, waiting for the arrival of Patrick Stewart, whom a contact at Paramount had supposedly sent our way seeking some word-of-mouth publicity for his Charles Dickens reading scheduled in December.

While I was shuttling between John and Bjo for news of Patrick Stewart, Wil Wheaton, who plays Wesley, materialized in the “Solving the Wesley Problem” audience and virtually took over the panel. As I learned from him the next day, he simply came to Loscon because he likes sf conventions. But Guy Vardaman, his stand-in, looked in the pocket program and told him, “Hey, there’s an ‘I Hate Wesley’ panel; I think you should check it out.”

Wheaton’s gesture to explain the panelists’ changing tone when he arrived was one of extracting foot from mouth. (Actually, the panelists had criticized the series, rather than Wheaton’s acting.) They didn’t know he hadn’t been there for most of it.

Patrick Stewart never did show up, but I like to think of the alternate world where he walked in on the panel after Wil Wheaton had already joined it. What pandemonium!

Before Wheaton’s unexpected appearance, our biggest “star” was going to be Paul Marco, joining the “Plan 9 From Outer Space 30th Anniversary” panel. He played Kelton the cop, and ever since the film came out he’s been working very hard to turn himself into a cult figure, despite the movie’s reputation as the worst film ever made.

Trimbles Walk the Red Carpet at Star Trek: Discovery Screening

Nichelle Nichols and Sonequa Martin-Green

The first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery were feted in a Hollywood premiere at ArcLight Cinemas on September 19. CBS has posted a gallery of photos of the cast and celebrities in attendance — “Red Alert! All The Red Carpet Arrivals At The Star Trek: Discovery Premiere”. (Pay no mind that the carpet seems to have been blue — let’s consider it a term of art.)

CBS’ photo gallery includes Bjo and John Trimble, recognized for leading the letter-writing campaign that saved The Original Series in the Sixties.

In addition to the stars of Star Trek: Discovery, present at the premiere were William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols, Nana Visitor, Terry Farrell, Adam Nimoy, Jonathan Frakes, Bill Nye, Greg Jein, Rick Sternbach, and Mike and Denise Okuda. (Not all those named here are in the photos.)

Bjo and John Trimble at Star Trek: Discovery premiere.

Westercon 70 Completes Its Guest of Honor Slate

Westercon 70, happening in Tempe, AZ from July 1-4, has announced their final five Guests of Honor.

Science GoH Henry Vanderbilt

Henry founded Space Access Society in 1992 and ran the quietly influential annual Space Access Conferences in most of the years since. He is not a rocket scientist, but he can translate reasonably well between rocket scientist and English. (He did manage a bunch of rocket engineers once, but that’s another story.) He first started working for radically cheaper space transportation via fast-turnaround fuel-and-go reusable rockets back in 1986, when that was all strictly SF. He’s a lifelong Fan but he’s nevertheless pleased as hell to see this plot device now doing a genre jump to current-day technothriller. He looks forward to it soon settling down as just another taken-for-granted background element in mainstream contemporary literature.

Fan GoHs Val & Ron Ontell

Val’s 43 years in fandom include chairing the 2011 World Fantasy Convention, the 1986 and 1989 Lunacons in New York and the 2010 Conjecture in San Diego. She’s currently Guest Liaison for many San Diego cons. Ron has served as the President of the New York Science Fiction Society (the Lunarians) and Val was a board member in the 1980s. Both have held committee positions at a variety of local cons, Westercons and Worldcons and are Senior Assistants in the Autograph Area at San Diego Comic-Con. They’ve also run tours in connection with overseas Worldcons since 1987, including Britain (twice), Ireland, Japan, Australia (twice) and, of course, Helsinki in 2017.

Special Media GoHs Bjo and John Trimble, sponsored in part by the United Federation of Phoenix.

John and Bjo met in science fiction fandom and married in 1960. They originated Art Shows at Worldcon and San Diego Comic-Con and Futuristic Fashion Shows at CostumeCon. They chaired Westercon in 1970 and John co-chaired in 1965. They worked together on the original Save Star Trek letter-writing campaign, which is generally credited with allowing a third season to happen. They’re still active in the SCA and wider fandom. They enjoy unusual cheeses, home-brewed dark beer, intelligent conversation and travel anywhere at any time.

[Thanks to Kate Hatcher for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 9/21/16 “Repent, Pixels”, Said The Box-Tick Man

(1) STATHOPOULOS WINS MAJOR ART PRIZE. Although the critics gave their prize to Louise Herman’s portrait of Barry Humphries, the people have voted the 2016 Archibald Prize People’s Choice award  to a fine artist with fannish roots.

ault-and-stathopoulos

In Nick Stathopoulos’s commanding portrait which won the 2016 Archibald Prize People’s Choice award on Wednesday, its sitter, Deng Adut, sees himself exposed and vulnerable.

A monster, thought the former Sudanese refugee and lawyer when he first saw the finished portrait….

Of the eight artists who approached him, Adut selected Stathopoulos, who grew up not far from where Adut practices as a lawyer, to paint his portrait for this year’s Archibald Prize.

It took three sittings, one of nearly six hours, and four-and-a-half months – the longest time Stathopoulos has taken for an Archibald entry – for the artist to be satisfied he had captured the essence and likeness of his subject.

The portrait, titled Deng, is Stathopoulos’ first public choice winner and his fifth entry to be selected as an Archibald finalist. A “clear winner” among the pool, it comes with a $3,500 cash prize.

The Guardian calls it “vindication”:

The win is something of a vindication for Stathopoulos. In 2014, the artist was “astonished and disappointed” when his portrait of the author Robert Hoge, titled Ugly, did not make the finals of the Archibald or the Doug Moran prizes; it went on to win the people’s choice at Salon des Refuses, which features work that did not make the Archibald’s finalists exhibition.

…The Art Gallery of New South Wales director, Michael Brand, said: “This vote of appreciation by visitors to the Archibald recognises both the meticulous skill of artist Nick Stathopoulos and the wonderful contribution Deng Adut has made – and is making – to Australian life.”

The Archibald exhibition is at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until 9 October.

(2) THE TRIMBLES: The title of GQ’s article – “This Is How Star Trek Invented Fandom” – is bound to rub some who remember earlier fanhistory the wrong way, but the article itself has accurate information about the start of Star Trek fandom. Especially the part that comes from two impeccable sources:

“We’re pretty sure that the Trek community you see today would not have existed but for us,” Bjo Trimble says. “Not bragging.” Special guests at Star Trek Las Vegas (and a host of other 50th anniversary events), Bjo (pronounced “Bee-joe”) and her husband John are Star Trek’s ur-fans, the determined couple who saved the franchise.

They’re both in their eighties now: John wears red cap with a blue Vulcan salute on the front, Bjo has a streak of brilliant pink hair floating in her cloud of white. She’s the more loquacious of the two, but, she insists, “the whole Save Star Trek campaign was John’s fault.” They had heard the show was being cancelled in 1968, after its second season, during a visit to the studio lot. At John’s suggestion, the two launched a letter-writing campaign—all mimeographs and postal mail. It was the first ever to save a TV show, and the first time any fan community had flexed its collective muscle.

“NBC came on, in primetime, and made a voice-over announcement that Star Trek was not canceled, so please stop writing letters,” Bjo adds with pride.

TOS’s third and final season premiered with “Spock’s Brain,” commonly held to be one of the worst episodes of all time. (“We’re responsible for there being a third season,” John admits, “we’re not responsible for the third season.”) But by the run’s end, with a grand total of 79 episodes—barely making the minimum threshold—Star Trek could enter syndication. It had earned a second life.

(3) KINSELLA OBIT. Canadian author W. P. Kinsella (1935-2016) died September 16. Much of his fiction was devoted to depicting First Nations people of Canada, or baseball – and he is particularly well known as the author of Shoeless Joe, which was made into one of my favorite movies, Field of Dreams.

Kinsella’s first published book, Dance Me Outside (1977), was a collection of short stories narrated by a young Cree, Silas Ermineskin, who describes life on a First Nations reserve in Kinsella’s native Alberta. A later collection of similar stories, The Fencepost Chronicles, earned Kinsella the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. Kinsella was criticized for engaging in “cultural appropriation” by writing from the point of view of Native people, while he rejected the criticism on the grounds that a writer has the license to create anything he chooses.

These stories use the ineptness of the white bureaucrats on reservations as background, and Kinsella defended them, saying, “It’s the oppressed and the oppressor that I write about. The way that oppressed people survive is by making fun of the people who oppress them. That is essentially what my Indian stories are all about.”

Kinsella wrote nearly 40 short stories and three novels involving baseball. Shoeless Joe (1982) was his first novel, and the second, Iowa Baseball Confederacy (1986), was written as an epic spiritual conflict in the form of a game between a minor league team and the 1908 World’s Champion Chicago Cubs which threatened to go on to the ending of the world.

(4) BESIDES THE FICTION. Abigail Nussbaum says don’t overlook another reason to respond to Strange Horizons’ fund drive:

But beyond my relationship with it as a writer, what makes Strange Horizons special and important to me is the material it’s put before me as a reader.  A lot of the testimonials you’re going to see around the internet in the next few weeks are going to talk about Strange Horizons‘s fiction department, which has and continues to give platforms to new writers, many of whom have gone on to great things.  That’s worth recognizing and celebrating, but to me Strange Horizons will always be special as one of the finest, most interesting, most fearless sources for criticism and reviews.  There is, quite simply, no other online source of genre reviews that covers the breadth of material that Strange Horizons does, with the depth of engagement and the multiplicity of perspectives that it offers.  The editorial team that took over from me in 2015, under the leadership of Maureen Kincaid Speller, has excelled at finding new voices, such as Samira Nadkarni, Vajra Chandrasekera, and Keguro Macharia, to offer their vital points of view, while maintaining the presence of reviewers like Nina Allan and Erin Horáková, whose writing is essential to anyone interested in the state of our field.

(5) ASPIRING TO GREATNESS. Kameron Hurley identifies another of her writing problems in “The Madhatter Teaparty: Rescuing Your Characters from Endless Cups of Tea”. I have wondered if she didn’t struggle, would she still have such a rich source of examples to use in teaching about the writing profession? (She probably would!)

Plot kicks my ass. It kicks my ass up one end of a story and down another, because honestly, all my characters want to do is snark at each other over tea. Or whisky. Or coffee. Or bug juice. Whatever. Any excuse for them to sit around flinging zingers at each other and discussing what they are going to do next works for me.

This over reliance on tea-and-conversation scenes is a hallmark of discovery or gardener writers like me. When we get stuck on what happens next, we just sit the characters down for a chat and let them figure it out. Needless to say, this is a time consuming bit of lazy writing, because while it may get us where we’re going eventually, we can spend literally thousands upon thousands of words over the course of a novel having the characters explain the plot to each other, and then we have to go back and remove all those scenes or make them more interesting in their final form (I spent a lot of time in Empire Ascendant in particular going back and making talking scenes more interesting. For real: in the first draft, the first 150 pages of that book was just people talking)….

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 21, 1897 — The New York Sun’s Frank Church replied, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
  • September 21, 1937 — J.R.R. Tolkien published The Hobbit.

(7) COMICS MAKING. NPR tells about “A Comics Convention For The Unconventional: The Small Press Expo”.

In theory, SPX seems a lot like many of the other comic-cons that have been popping up across the country over the last few years. There’s the vast exhibit floor, there’s a packed schedule of panels and spotlights featuring interviews of, and discussions between, various comics creators. People mill about, lugging bags loaded down with stuff they’ve bought, or find an empty patch of carpeted hallway on which to plop themselves and rest while perusing their purchases.

If you close your eyes, its sounds a lot like any other con: the low, steady murmur of voices punctuated by the occasional exclamation of delight or surprise from someone who’s stumbling across an old friend — or a new passion.

But the moment you open your eyes, you’re reminded that SPX isn’t like most other cons.

It’s smaller, for one thing — the big shows in San Diego and New York attract upwards of 130,000 people, and SPX’s attendance is closer to 3,000. It fills the huge ballroom at a hotel in North Bethesda, Maryland, but unlike other comic-cons, where companies build massive booths that tower over you with video screens, loudly hawking all manner of comics-adjacent stuff like toys, games, statues and t-shirts, everything at SPX is at eye-level.

(8) CAN THOSE EDITORS. A piece on wired.com by Susanne Althoff called “Algorithims Could Save Book Publlshing – But Ruin Novels”  looks at ways publishers are using data to determine which books they buy, including a summary of The Bestseller Code.

The result of their work—detailed in The Bestseller Code, out this month—is an algorithm built to predict, with 80 percent accuracy, which novels will become mega-bestsellers. What does it like? Young, strong heroines who are also misfits (the type found in The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). No sex, just “human closeness.” Frequent use of the verb “need.” Lots of contractions. Not a lot of exclamation marks. Dogs, yes; cats, meh. In all, the “bestseller-ometer” has identified 2,799 features strongly associated with bestsellers.

Later, Althoff discusses a company called Inkitt which invites everyone to submit their novels for everyone to read, and offers to act as agent for the books that are the best-performing. Inkitt sold YA novel Bright Star by Erin Swan to Tor, which will publish it next year.

The ability to know who reads what and how fast is also driving Berlin-based startup Inkitt. Founded by Ali Albazaz, who started coding at age 10, the English-language website invites writers to post their novels for all to see. Inkitt’s algorithms examine reading patterns and engagement levels. For the best performers, Inkitt offers to act as literary agent, pitching the works to traditional publishers and keeping the standard 15 percent commission if a deal results. The site went public in January 2015 and now has 80,000 stories and more than half a million readers around the world.

(9) KAREN GILLAN IN JUMANJI REBOOT. The Hollywood Reporter has “9 Theories as to Why ‘Jumanji’ Has Actress Karen Gillan So Scantily Clad”.

The first image of the upcoming Jumanji cast was released Tuesday, and one notable cast member looked like she got lost on the way to a Lara Croft Halloween party and ended up in the jungle instead.

Karen Gillan plays Ruby Roundhouse alongside Dwayne Johnson as Smolder Bravestone, Kevin Hart as Moose Finbar, and Jack Black as Shelly Oberon. Johnson promises there’s a plot-driven reason for Ruby’s seemingly sexist and totally nonsensical costume in the reboot.

“Her jungle wardrobe will make sense when you know the plot,” Johnson said. “Trust me.”

(Some fans are guessing that Gillan’s character is a trope. The original Jumanji from 1995 featured purposefully stereotypical characters who were part of the game — so perhaps that’s the plot device Johnson is referencing.)

(10) VOTE FOR FEMINIST AND QUEER COMICS AWARD. Autostraddle is holding is third annual comic award contest, for both excellence in the art form, and excellence in representation: “It’s Time to Vote in the 3rd Annual Autostraddle Comic And Sequential  Art Awards”.

This month is the three year anniversary of this column, which seeks to highlight and celebrate comics by, for and about queer women. So, that means that it’s once again time for the Autostraddle Comic and Sequential Art Awards, the only comic award that focuses on feminist themes and queer women’s representation in comics. Starting last year, these awards are voted on by you, the fans and readers of these comics and these books, and we’re doing that again this year, but now there are even more categories for you to vote in! This way, even more comics and creators get the recognition they so rightfully deserve.

(11) LANSBURY HELPS CELEBRATE BEAUTY & THE BEAST’S 25th. She can still carry a tune at the age of 90 – click through to watch as “Angela Lansbury sings ‘Beauty and the Beast’ theme in honor of anniversary”.

Twenty five years later, Angela Lansbury is ever just the same enchanting actress for Beauty and the Beast fans.

The actress, 90, reprised her role as Mrs. Potts during a special screening for the 25th anniversary of the animated classic. Lansbury, accompanied by composer Alan Menken, sang the title song, “Beauty and the Beast,” during the celebration in New York on Sunday. At the end, she even spoke her line to her character’s son: “Run along and get in the cupboard, Chip!” much to the delight of the crowd.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Rose Embolism, Martin Morse Wooster, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce Baugh.]

Niven, Pournelle at San Diego Comic Fest

Some of the people who put together the San Diego Comic Fest, being held this weekend, October 4-6, are Comic-Con co-founders or past committee members who wanted to create an event more limited in scale. Their con is not affiliated with Comic-Con International.

Their GoH, Larry Niven, also isn’t an obvious choice to launch a comics-themed weekend although he’s done work in the medium, including a Green Lantern story.

But they sure know how to show him off to good effect. Here’s one example –

The Draco Tavern Enjoy Comic Fest’s creation of The Draco Tavern, based on a series of short stories about Earth’s only multispecies bar that were written by our 2013 Guest of Honor, Larry Niven. Fresh from her great success in recreating the look of Café Frankenstein for the first Fest, Wendy All will be directing the design of The Draco Tavern, which will feature an array of reasonably-priced and delicious food, coffee, and other beverages.

And they’ve also convinced Jerry Pournelle to participate on the program. As he explained on Chaos Manor

Precisely why I am involved is a long story: I don’t usually go to comic related conventions, and I don’t recall doing anything for comics that ever got published.

Periodically I try to work on an episode for Chrissie Claus, a not very widely circulated comic I happen to like a lot, but even with the help of Marv Wolfman on fundamentals of writing for comics I find it’s not easy for me. I sort of wish I had started a few years ago when I could work really intensely for a couple of days on something. In any event nothing has ever come of this other than that I continue to like Chrissie when she infrequently appears in a new edition.

However, a long time ago in the earlier days of my science fiction career, my son Alex, then at UC San Diego, fell in with a group of science fiction fans who were involved in starting ComicCon, and I was invited as one of the guests in an early rendition of ComicCon before it became so large.I had a great time, but about the only other guest I met who had read anything of mine was Adam West. I didn’t know Marv Wolfman then. Anyway, as a Result I got a “Gold Card” which entitled me to attend any future ComicCon, but it wasn’t really my cup of tea. Recently some of the fans involved in putting on the first ComicCon decided they wanted a comic convention limited in size. They got Larry Niven as GOH, and remembered that I’d been part of the early ComicCon, and somehow I ended up agreeing to come although I can’t remember doing it. I’m sure I’ll have a great time. I may even meet a fellow Chrissie Claus fan.

The con also features Comics Fan Guest of Honor Richard Kyle, once owner of a well-known bookstore, and Science Fiction Fan Guests of Honor John and Bjo Trimble. More guests and program participants listed here.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Trimbles Are Westercon 66 Special Guests

Bjo and John Trimble will be attending Westercon 66 as Special Costume guests. This is a great move —

They were there at the beginning of the Society for Creative Anachronism, and helped bring the arts to sf cons…

Bjo introduced art shows to science fiction conventions, and put on some of the earliest costume shows, which evolved into today’s masquerades. She and John were key players in Star Trek fandom, helping keep the original series on the air when it was first under threat of cancellation. They have been active in fandom ever since.

Bjo Comments on Final Flight of Enterprise

Leonard Nimoy welcomed the shuttle Enterprise to Kennedy Airport in New York last month, symbolizing Star Trek’s shared history with America’s first space shuttle.

He and the rest of the cast had attended the shuttle’s roll-out 35 years earlier — because a letter-writing campaign spearheaded by Bjo Trimble influenced President Gerald Ford to name the first shuttle after the starship on Star Trek (itself named by Roddenberry after the famous U.S. Navy carrier).

Bjo and John Trimble went to the 1976 roll-out, too, so I naturally wondered what they were thinking as everything came full-circle. Bjo answers —  

It does seem like a blink since we worked on it, though revisionist history now says we had nothing to do with it, and several others are claiming they did it all alone. Yeah….

It was with a sort of nostalgic sigh that John and I sat down to watch the Enterprise being delivered to New York. We could wish that it had been brought out here, but at least it didn’t end up in a space junk-pile, as so many of our past space vehicles have done.

Well, maybe not a junk-pile, but it’s heart-rending to see that big ol’ Saturn 5 laying on the Johnson Space Center’s lawn, just being a big bird’s nest!

At least the Enterprise will be set up for people to wonder at it, and enjoy it. That is important to us.

LASFS Cuts the Birthday Cake

The Los Angeles chapter of the Science Fiction League (No. 4) began meeting in 14-year-old Roy Test Jr.’s family garage in 1934. On October 28, the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society celebrated 70 years of friendship and fanac. Founding member Forrest J Ackerman performed the duty of gaveling the 3,507th meeting to order with President Van Wagner’s pink plastic lobster.

For Ackerman, Len and June Moffatt, this was their second consecutive day of celebration. A group of eofans gathered on October 27, the real anniversary, at their old stomping grounds, Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown LA. Local TV news covered the get-together because it also included those teenaged fans who grew up to have stars in the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Ray Bradbury and Ray Harryhausen.

The October 28 club meeting drew around a hundred fans, about evenly divided between the usual crowd of active members and old-timers from bygone decades. The more widely-known regulars included John Hertz, Joe Minne (who introduced me to LASFS), Rick Foss, Matthew Tepper, Elayne Pelz, Drew Sanders, Charles Lee Jackson 2, Marc Schirmeister, Marty Massoglia, Christian McGuire (L.A.con IV chair), Francis Hamit, Leigh Strother-Vien, Ed Green, Liz Mortensen, John DeChancie, Marty Cantor, Tadao Tomomatsu (“Mr. Shake Hands Man”) and Mike Donahue. Some of the graybeards present were notables in national fandom back in the day, like Arthur J. Cox, and others remain well-known, like Fred Patten, John Trimble, William Ellern, Dwain Kaiser and Don Fitch.