Pixel Scroll 10/31/19 The World of Scroll-A

(1) CUTTING CAPERS. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures picked a highly suitable day to announce they have added an important item to their collection.

(2) KNIVES OUT AT JPL. No gourd is safe when “NASA-JPL Holds Its Annual Pumpkin-Carving Contest”.

In a dark conference room, a pumpkin gently landed on the Moon, its retrorockets smoldering, while across the room, a flying saucer pumpkin hovered above Area 51 as a pumpkin alien wreaked havoc.

Suffice to say that when the scientists and engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, compete in a pumpkin-carving contest, the solar system’s the limit. Now in its ninth year, the contest gives teams only one hour to carve (off the clock, on their lunch break), though they can prepare non-pumpkin materials – like backgrounds, sound effects and motorized parts – ahead of time….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to devour Cthulhu with World Horror Grandmaster Ramsey Campbell – serving is in progress in Episode 108 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Ramsey published his H. P. Lovecraft-inspired first book of stories The Inhabitant of the Lake and Less Welcome Tenants in 1964 when he was only 18, and hasn’t stopped since. He’s a two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, a four-time winner of the World Fantasy Award, and a TWELVE-time winner of the British Fantasy Award. He’s also received lifetime achievement World Fantasy and Bram Stoker Awards, and was named a World Horror Grandmaster. Previous guest of the podcast T. E. D. Klein called his collection Demons by Daylight “perhaps the most important book of horror fiction since Lovecraft’s The Outsider and Others.” High praise indeed!

We got together on the final day of Worldcon, long after the 4:30 p.m. closing ceremonies had ended. So instead of traipsing around to the usual dead dog parties, we had dinner at Rosa Madre, which I found via Eater’s list of the 38 Essential Dublin restaurants — where at one point as I looked across the table, it seemed as if he was nibbling on Cthulhu! (And sure, I know it was only baby octopus, and not the the Great Old One … but we horror writers like to dream.)

We discussed his early relationship with Arkham House editor and publisher August Derleth, who he might have been had he never discovered H. P. Lovecraft, how this master of unease is able to keep the sense of dread going for the length of a novel (hint: he’s not entirely sure himself), why he loves The Blair Witch Project, what it was like writing novels in the Universal monsters universe, how he felt when The Times listed The Doll That Ate its Mother as one of the silliest titles of 1987, how Twilight Zone editor T. E. D. Klein changed his life, our shared memories of the 1979 World Fantasy Convention, why he feels his attempts to write science fiction have been “clumsy,” the way he was made speechless on his first meeting with J. G. Ballard, why he admires Vladimir Nabokov, and much more.

(4) DO THE POSTER MASH. Space.com points to some free downloads: “‘Galaxy of Horrors!’ NASA Posters Highlight Spooky Alien Planets”.

This Halloween season, NASA wants to open your eyes to the glorious spookiness all around us in the Milky Way galaxy.

The space agency has just released two new “Galaxy of Horrors” posters, which highlight a few of the most bizarre and inhospitable alien planets that scientists have discovered. And NASA created a fun 2-minute video, styled like a trailer for a 1950s horror movie, to promote the posters. 

You can download the posters for free here.

(5) PAST TOMORROWS. Barbara Kiser’s book reviews for Nature touch on Sarah Cole’s study of H.G. Wells, Inventing Tomorrow.

H. G. Wells was, asserts scholar Sarah Cole, a pioneer adept at “rescaling the cosmos and humanity’s place in it”. He straddled the border between science and literature, but not all his complexities were benign: he both repudiated racism and for some time shamefully ascribed to ideas on eugenics. Cole adroitly captures Wells, from his mould-breaking books (such as the 1895 science-fiction classic The Time Machine and 1920 Outline of History) to his unlikely intellectual kinship with subtle modernists such as Virginia Woolf.

(6) GRADE INFLATION. Morning Consult attempts to answer the question: “Rotten Tomatoes Scores Continue to Freshen. What Does This Mean for Movies?”

In recent years, Rotten Tomatoes has been ripe for the picking by movie marketers that want to tout a film’s high critics score from the website in their advertising. But as the Tomatometer’s average score continues to increase, experts are divided on why this is happening and how the industry will harvest Rotten Tomatoes’ ratings going forward.

David A. Gross, a movie consultant that runs Franchise Entertainment Research Inc., found that scores for wide-release films have been fluctuating since 1998’s recorded average of 46. However, averages have been increasing every year since 2014, with this year’s average coming in at 59.3, as of Oct. 28, 1.4 points higher than 2018’s 57.9.

(7) MORE REACTIONS TO SCORSESE, COPPOLA. Michael Ordoña asks “If comic-book movies aren’t emotional and psychological cinema, why are we crying?” in the Los Angeles Times.

… The director of “The Godfather” and “Captain EO” added: “Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”

Andrea Letamendi, associate director of mental health training, intervention and response at UCLA, sees more in the best of these films than these giants of cinema do.

“Superhero films are giving us a way to practice and explore really important emotional processes that we may not be able to examine in our everyday lives. In ‘Endgame,’ the more fantastical, the better, because that gives us the supportive safety net to be open and vulnerable and curious about these things,” she says.

“Not to pat ourselves on the back,” says Christopher Markus, co-writer (with Stephen McFeely) of six MCU movies including the three-hour “Endgame,” “but we snuck an hourlong movie about loss and grief into the [start of the] biggest movie of all time. That’s a lot of people who sat with that issue in their heads for an hour.”

He says of villain Thanos’ cataclysmic action, “We wanted the Snap to be as profound as we could make it. The way to do that was to have all the characters sit with the impact, the unfixability of it, rather than scrambling around. We were interested in seeing what happens to these people whose sole purpose in life is solving problems, faced with a problem they did not solve.”

… Clinical psychologist Letamendi agrees. ”It’s a truly sophisticated portrayal. … How different characters cope with that loss really matters in terms of how we relate to them and how we might relate to our own losses.

“The term for that is ‘parasocial relationships’ — non-delusional emotional connections with fictional characters. I know Tony Stark isn’t real, but I’ve formed a long-lasting relationship with his character, so when we see him go through these difficult changes: the adversity, his self-doubt and, ultimately, his death, this is, in our world, difficult to deal with. The grief, the confusion, sometimes the anger — those feelings are real. I think there’s some value to that.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 31, 1962 First Spaceship On Venus premiered In the Eastern Bloc. It’s a 1960 East German/Polish film based on the 1951 Stanis?aw Lem novel The Astronauts. Lem did not like it at all and ask his name to be removed as he hated the strident politicization of the story. IMDB still lists him as the story source. Mystery Science Theater 3000 would lampoon it in 2008. 
  • October 31, 1964 Doctor Who returned to BBC with the premiere of its second season.  The first arc was titled “Planet of Giants.” William Hartnell Was the First Doctor with three companions present: Carole Ann Ford (Susan Foreman), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright) and William Russell (Ian Chesterton). Episodes 3 and 4 are for the most part missing in the Great BBC Purge. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 31, 1923 Arthur W. Saha. A member of the Futurians and First Fandom who was an editor at Wollheim’s DAW Books including editing the Annual World’s Best SF from 1972 to 1990 and Year’s Best Fantasy Stories from 1975 to 1988. And he’s credited with coming up with the term “Trekkie” in 1967. (Died 1999.)
  • Born October 31, 1936 Michael Landon. Tony Rivers inI Was a Teenage Werewolf. (That film made two million on an eighty thousand dollar budget. Nice.) That and playing the lead as Jonathan Smith in Highway to Heaven are I think his only genre roles. (Died 1991.)
  • Born October 31, 1946 Stephen Rea, 73. An extensive genre history including V for Vendetta, Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, Underworld Waking, The Werewolf Among Us and Counterpart.
  • Born October 31, 1950 John Candy. Best known in genre circles for playing Barf in Mel Brook’s Spaceballs but he also played Wink Wilkinson in Frank Oz’s  Little Shop of Horrors, Kalishak in Boris and Natasha: The Movie, and was the narrator of the “Blumpoe the Grumpoe Meets Arnold the Cat/Millions of Cats” of Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories. (Died 1994.)
  • Born October 31, 1959 Neal Stephenson, 60. Some years back, one of the local bookstores had an sf book reading group. One of the staff who was a member of that group (as was I) took extreme dislike to The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer. I don’t remember now why but it made re-read that (which was good) and Snow Crash (equally good). My favorite novel by him is The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. 
  • Born October 31, 1961 Peter Jackson, 58. I’m going to confess that I watched and liked the first of the Lord of The Rings films but got no further than that. I was never fond of The Two Towers as a novel so it wasn’t something I wanted to see as a film, and I like The Hobbit just fine as a novel thank you much. Now the Adventures of Tintin is quite nice indeed. 
  • Born October 31, 1979 Erica Cerra, 40. Best known as Deputy Jo Lupo on Eureka, certainly one of the best SF series ever done. She had a brief recurring role as Maya in Battlestar Galactica, plus one-offs in pretty much anything you’d care to mention in roles such as Pretty Girl. 
  • Born October 31, 1993 Letitia Wright,  26. She co-starred in Black Panther playing Shuri, King T’Challa’s sister and princess of Wakanda.  (Yes, she is in both Avengers films.) Before that, she was Anahson in “Face the Raven”, a Twelfth Doctor story, and was in the Black Mirror’s “Black Museum” episode. 
  • Born October 31, 1999 Danielle Russell, 20. She played Hope Mikaelson in The Originals, a spin-off of The Vampire Dairies. In something I’ve never seen before, she went on to portray that character in Legacies, a spin-off of The Originals which makes it a spin-off of a spin-off!  

(10) FAN FICTION BLOSSOMS. The Washington Post’s Avi Selk profiles the horror fan fiction site Nosleep, whose alumni have sold novels and gotten writing gigs on the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House: “Inside the horror website that’s freaking out millions of people”.

…Druga is the top administrator on Nosleep, whose indistinguishable mixture of the real and merely realistic (weighed heavily toward the latter, most likely) has helped it grow into the Internet’s main source of amateur horror stories — with more than 13 million subscribers and hundreds of thousands of posts along the lines of “My neighbor has been mowing his lawn for 12 hours straight” and “My granddad used to come to my room at night wearing a mask. Now I know why.”

(11) MORE JEOPARDY! WRONGNESS. Andrew Porter would hate for you to miss another fabulously bad guess by a Jeopardy! contestant.

Category: Fictional Flags Flying.

Answer: After arriving by submarine, this character claims the South Pole with a black flag baring a gold “N”.

Wrong question: “Who is Bugs Bunny?”

Right question: “Who is Nemo?”

(12) THE DEATH OF FRANCHISES? [Item by Olav Rokne.] Dueling articles in today’s Guardian offer arguments against two major franchises, as Ben Child argues that it’s no longer possible to make a ‘good’ Star Wars movie, and Stuart Heritage proclaims bluntly that Game of Thrones should die. While each of them makes some good points about the flaws that seem to be plaguing the subjects of their respective ire, they might go a little far. 

Ben Child challenges: “Spent force: why is making a good Star Wars film so hard?”  

Star Wars’s directors must feel like the Hollywood equivalent of all those unfortunate Imperial admirals in the original trilogy. One misplaced Rebel fleet and it’s instant death by studio chokehold.

Stuart Heritage says “It’s time for the Game of Thrones universe to die”.  

Television is littered with the corpses of unnecessary spinoffs, from Caprica to AfterMASH, Baywatch Nights to Joey. … At this point, with a tainted brand, an irritated fanbase and a pilot that’s proved a colossal waste of effort,perhaps the sensible thing would be for HBO to ditch Game of Thrones altogether.

Overall, the articles do beg the question: under what circumstances should a franchise be left to die, or at least be abandoned to lie fallow before they can be rediscovered by a new generation? It’s a question that’s worth discussing in an era of nonstop franchise maintenance. 

(13) ION STORM AHEAD CAPTAIN. Nature tells of “A 100-kiloparsec wind feeding the circumgalactic medium of a massive compact galaxy”. From the abstract —

…Theory points to galactic winds as the primary source of the enriched and massive circumgalactic medium3,4,5,6. Winds from compact starbursts have been observed to flow to distances somewhat greater than ten kiloparsecs7,8,9,10, but the circumgalactic medium typically extends beyond a hundred kiloparsecs3,4. Here are observations of the massive but compact galaxy SDSS J211824.06+001729.4 of a 100-kiloparsec wind.

(14) JAVA IN WESTEROS. BBC delves into “Game of Thrones’ coffee cup and 6 other TV and film bloopers”.

Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke has revealed who was responsible for the show’s infamous coffee cup scene.

In one episode of the eighth season, eagle-eyed viewers spotted a coffee cup on the table in the great hall, as Mother of Dragons Daenerys Targaryen sat, more appropriately, with goblet in hand.

Now, Clarke has revealed her co-star Conleth Hill, who portrayed master of spies Lord Varys, admitted to being responsible for the error during a pre-awards show party in September.

(15) DEAD PERFECT. Google Nest was holding auditions for its Nest doorbell, you see….

She was born to die to play this role. Obvi. It wasn’t easy, but we found an actual ghost to record spooky, Halloween sounds for the Nest Hello doorbell.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/22/19 All I Said To My Wife Was That That Pixel Scroll Was Good Enough For Jehovah

(1) EARLY RETURNS ON STAR WARS FINAL TRAILER. Jeff VanderMeer is a tough audience:

I’m crying over the new Star Wars trailer. I’m bawling and overcome. I’m shaking like a performative baby over this trailer.

Finally. Finally it will be over and I will never have to encounter this mediocre piece of crap franchise again…until the next time.

While Chuck Tingle tries to exert a calming influence:

(2) FLEET OF REFERENCES. Io9 is hyping “The First Big Cameo of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Has Been Revealed”. Here’s what they spotted —

…Now, that’s almost certainly the Ghost. Not a Force Ghost, THE Ghost. What’s the Ghost?

It’s the customized VCX-100 light freighter flown by Captain Hera Syndulla, which was kind of the Millennium Falcon of Star Wars Rebels. Later, it appeared in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and, thanks to the epilogue of Rebels, we knew it survived until the timeline of the sequel trilogy. Now, it seems the Ghost, and probably even Hera herself, are standing with the Falcon in what we can only assume is the Resistance’s final stand against the First Order.

And they saw even more ships in that brief scene that you’ll probably need to look up in the Wookieepedia.

(3) BETTER CAPERS. Galactic Journey’s Jason Sacks says a well-known comic has turned the corner – in 1964 – thanks to the editorial direction of Julius Schwartz: “[October 22, 1964] Introducing a “New Look” for Batman”.  

I have some good news for those of you who haven’t been paying close attention to comic books: Batman comics are finally readable!

That’s a major change from the puerile adventures which editor Jack Schiff has been presenting in the pages of Batman and Detective Comics. For all too many years, Schiff and his team of seemingly subpar creators have delivered a never-ending stream of absurdly juvenile tales of the Caped Crusader and his steadfast sidekick. He gave us ridiculous and dumb tales in which Batman gallivanted in outer space, Robin was romantically pursued by the pre-teen Bat-Girl, and the absurdly awful Bat-Mite showed up at random times to add chaos to Batman’s life. Even adventures which featured classic Batman villains (such as last fall’s Batman #159, “the Great Clayface-Joker Feud,”) fell far short of even the most basic standards of quality. Great they were not.

(4) FILER Q&A. Today Speculative Fiction Showcase’s Jessica Rydill interviewed “Heather Rose Jones, author of Floodtide, a novel of Alpennia”.

Have there been any particular books or writers who influenced you, whether in or outside the genre? [I’m a Jane Austen fan and live in Bath, which has featured in many dramatizations of her work]

As I mentioned previously, one of the inspirations for Daughter of Mystery was wanting to write a Georgette Heyer novel with lesbians. But the other major inspiration–if maddening frustration can be a form of inspiration–was Ellen Kushner’s novel The Privilege of the Sword. That book came so close to being the perfect novel of my heart…and then turned out to be a different novel. A perfectly wonderful novel, but not the book I desperately wanted. So that was another influence, not so much in writing style, but in the “feel” of the story–a story about brave and clever girls who love and rescue each other.

Jane Austen is something of an underlayer, if only in providing examples of the world of women in early 19th century Europe. One of the historical realities that modern readers aren’t always aware of is how strictly gender-segregated 19th century life was. Women–especially unmarried women–spent most of their lives socializing with other women and living with them in intimate proximity. It makes setting up same-sex relationships much easier! It’s been very important to me to center the series on women and their connections and community with each other. Too many historical stories allow women only as isolated characters, always interacting with men. In reality, if a woman had a problem or a puzzle or a project, the first people she’d turn to would be other women. I wanted the series to reflect that.

(5) MORE ON DALLAS TORNADO. Fanartist Brad Foster and his wife Cindy also escaped injury, however, they were almost right in the tornado’s path and their home suffered roof damage, while in the yard trees and fences took a hit.

(6) HEARING FROM OKORAFOR. AudioFile’s article “Author Nnedi Okorafor on Personal Experiences & Fantastic Worlds” hears from the author of Akata Witch and many other fantasy titles about narrating the audiobook of her autobiography Broken Places & Outer Spaces.  

Narrating her memoir was more difficult than revisiting her words in the editing process. “There’s something to the art of reading it out loud, and it being an oral telling as opposed to written, that brings [those experiences] even more to the forefront. Reading it out loud in the booth, it was just even more intense. I was reliving it that much more.” The memoir details how she became a writer, showing “the idea that those things we think will break us can actually be the things that make us. All of these experiences that we have are useful, even the terrible ones. It’s just a matter of how you choose to use them. Because they are going to be there regardless. Do you want to just let them fester there, or do you want to make something out of them?”

(7) ROYALTY STATEMENT. James Davis Nicoll provides Tor.com readers with introductions to “Science Fictional Rulers, from Undying Emperors to Starlike Sovereigns”

Science Fiction is famous for the bewildering variety of worlds it imagines. This is particularly true for its political systems. A newcomer to SF might well be astounded by the diverse range of governmental arrangements on display. Let me provide some examples…

(8) HARI PLOTTER. Io9 promises“Apple’s Long-Anticipated Adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Casts Some Familiar Faces”.

It’s been a long road from page to screen for Isaac Asimov’s iconic Foundation series, with the first real foothold coming last year when Apple announced it had snagged the rights for the streaming service now known as Apple TV+. Today, more news: Jared Harris (Chernobyl) and Lee Pace (Captain Marvel) have joined the cast.

And even better, we know who they’ll be playing, per Deadline: “Pace plays Brother Day, the current Emperor of the Galaxy. Harris plays Hari Seldon, a mathematical genius who predicts the demise of the Empire.”

(9) MORE MARVEL PRO AND CON. Rosy Cordero, in “Here’s What Marvel Directors And Stars Are Saying About Martin Scorsese’s MCU Criticism,” in Entertainment Weekly, rounds up comments, including ones from Robert Downey Jr., Joss Whedon, and Jon Favreau.

Avengers and Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon singled out [James] Gunn’s work when responding to Scorsese earlier this month. He tweeted, “I first think of @JamesGunn, how his heart & guts are packed into GOTG. I revere Marty, & I do see his point, but… Well there’s a reason why ‘I’m always angry’” (the latter quote being a Hulk reference).

Meanwhile, a British director joins the dogpile — “Ken Loach Says Marvel Films Are ‘Made as Commodities Like Hamburgers’” at The Hollywood Reporter.

Speaking to Sky News, the two-time Palme d’Or-winning Brit described Marvel’s output as “boring” and cynically produced.

“They’re made as commodities like hamburgers, and it’s not about communicating, and it’s not about sharing our imagination,” he said. “It’s about making a commodity which will make a profit for a big corporation – they’re a cynical exercise. They’re a market exercise, and it has nothing to do with the art of cinema. William Blake said, ‘When money is discussed, art is impossible.'”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 22, 1936 — According to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, today is the day, “Fandom gathering at Milton A. Rothman’s home in Philadelphia, 1936, declares itself to be the first sf Convention. Some fans accept this; others consider the following year’s Leeds UK event a more significant landmark since it was organized in advance as a convention and used public meeting facilities.”
  • October 22, 2006Torchwood, a companion to Doctor Who, premiered on BBC Three.  Starring John Barrowman and Eve Myles, it ran for forty one episodes over five years. And Big Finish Productions has produced some thirty audio-stories so far.  
  • October 22, 2016  — On this day in the U.K. and Canada, Class, a spin-off series of Doctor Who, premiered. Starring Greg Austin, Fady Elsayed and Sophie Hopkins, the series would last just a single season of eight episodes due to really poor ratings though Big Finish Audio continued the series as an audiowork. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 22, 1919 Doris Lessing. The five novels collectively known as Canopus in Argos: Archives certainly established her genre creds. I personally would add her Cat Tales, three volumes of stories and nonfiction (Particularly Cats, Rufus the Survivor and The Old Age of El Magnifico) to your reading list. (Died 2013.)
  • Born October 22, 1922 Lee Jacobs. LA fan in the last years of his life. I’m mentioning him here because he’s credited with the word filk which was his entirely unintentional creation. He typoed folk in a contribution to the Spectator Amateur Press Society in the 1950s: “The Influence of Science Fiction on Modern American Filk Music.” Yes I know that its first documented intentional use was by Karen Anderson in Die Zeitschrift für vollständigen Unsinn (The Journal for Utter Nonsense) #774 (June 1953), for a song written by her husband Poul. (Died 1968.)
  • Born October 22, 1938 Christopher Lloyd, 81. He has starred as Commander Kruge in The Search for Spock, Emmett “Doc” Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy, Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Uncle Fester in The Addams Family and the Addams Family Values. (Huh. I didn’t spot him in those.) Let’s not forget that he was in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as John Bigbooté, and he played Dr. Cletus Poffenberger in a recurring role on Tremors.
  • Born October 22, 1938 Derek Jacobi, 81. He played a rather nicely nasty Master in “Utopia”, a Tenth Doctor story. He’s currently Metatron on Good Omens. And he was Magisterial Emissary in The Golden Compass.
  • Born October 22, 1939 Suzy McKee Charnas, 80. I’d say The Holdfast Chronicles are her best work to date. Certainly they’re the most honored, winning Gaylactic Spectrum, James Tiptree Jr. and Lambda Literary Awards. Any of you read her Sorcery Hall series?
  • Born October 22, 1943 Jim Baen. Editor of Galaxy and If. Considered to be the first profitable Ebooks publisher. Founder of Baen Books. (Died 2006.)
  • Born October 22, 1952 Jeff Goldblum, 67. The Wiki page gushes over him for being in Jurassic Park and Independence Day (as well as their sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) and Independence Day: Resurgence, but neglects my favorite film with him in it, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, not to mention the Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake he was in. 
  • Born October 22, 1954 Graham Joyce. Selecting his best novel is a futile exercise as everything is fantastically good but I’ll single out Some Kind of Fairy Tale and The Tooth Fairy as the ones I found the most interesting reads. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 22, 1956 Gretchen Roper, 63. Long-time member of fandom, filker and con-runner. She co-founded Dodeka Records with her husband, Bill Roper. She received with her husband the Pegasus Award for Best Original Humorous Song, “My Husband The Filker”, and was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 2008. She runs The Secret Empire, a business selling filk and other things at cons.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • XKCD has a Narnia joke. (And remember, these cartoons have a second joke in a rollover– rest your cursor on the pictures and you see more text.)
  • Tom Gauld tries to help out New Scientist’s AI readers.

(13) THE CON GAME. S.M. Carrière offers sound advice in “How I Survive Conventions” at Black Gate.

6. Engage. It can be a scary thing to approach folks at conventions. There isn’t really any way around it, but practice does make it easier. Start, if you like, by asking questions at panels that permit it. You can then use that to speak to any of the panelists afterwards, asking for clarification or even pointers. Also, try the dealer’s room if the convention has one. It’s a great place to practice conversational skills, and most of the vendors are quite happy to chat. I know I am.

(14) ENCOUNTERING PANGBORN. Cora Buhlert’s review of Davy is part of this review column at Galactic Journey (scroll down): “[October 18, 1964] Out in Space and Down to Earth (October’s Galactoscope #1)”.

Edgar Pangborn has been writing science fiction under his own name for thirteen years at this point and was apparently writing under other names before that. However, none of his stories have been translated into German and the availability of English language science fiction magazines is spotty at best. Therefore, I had never encountered Pangborn’s work before, when I came across his latest novel Davy in my local import bookstore.

(15) WATCH THIS. Entertainment Weekly shares a video clip: Black Lightning gives Jefferson a suit upgrade in sneak peek: ‘Well, damn'”

…We’ve known for a while now that Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is getting a new suit this season, but now we finally know how he receives it. In this exclusive clip from tonight’s episode, Agent Odell (Bill Duke) gives the imprisoned superhero a gift: a watch. Jefferson is initially skeptical because it looks like a normal timepiece and he’s probably suspicious of anything the shady ASA spook gives him. But Odell continues to gently push Jefferson until he actually tests it out and discovers the watch’s real purpose: It’s basically a morpher that contains Black Lightning’s sleek new super-suit.

“This is the reason we have you have here, why we’re testing you, why we’re putting you through so much pain and struggle,” says Odell as the suit begins to cover a Jefferson’s body. “It’s so we can create tech that will help all metas to live better. The Markovians are planning on killing or capturing all of the metas in Freeland. I cannot stop them without your help.”

“Well, damn,” Jefferson simply says as he checks out his new threads. (This is essentially the equivalent of Kara’s “Pants!” exclamation from the Supergirl season 5 premiere when she tried out her new panted super-suit for the first time.)

(16) CRISPER THAN CRISPR? BBC sees promise: “Prime editing: DNA tool could correct 89% of genetic defects”.

A new way of editing the code of life could correct 89% of the errors in DNA that cause disease, say US scientists.

The technology, called prime editing, has been described as a “genetic word processor” able to accurately re-write the genetic code.

It has been used to correct damaging mutations in the lab, including those that cause sickle cell anaemia

The team at the Broad Institute say it is “very versatile and precise”, but stress the research is only starting.

…Much of the excitement has centred on a technology called Crispr-Cas9, which was developed just seven years ago.

It scans DNA for the right spot and then, like a microscopic pair of scissors, cuts it in two.

This creates the opportunity to edit the DNA.

However, the edits are not always perfect and the cuts can end up in the wrong place. Both issues are a problem for using the technology in medicine.

The promise of prime editing is precision.

(17) NO DUMMY. They knew the importance of sticking to it — “Neanderthal ‘glue’ points to complex thinking”.

Traces of ancient “glue” on a stone tool from 50,000 years ago points to complex thinking by Neanderthals, experts say.

The glue was made from birch tar in a process that required forward planning and involved several different steps.

It adds to mounting evidence that we have underestimated the capabilities of our evolutionary cousins.

Only a handful of Neanderthal tools bear signs of adhesive, but experts say the process could have been widespread.

The tool, found in the Netherlands, has spent the last 50,000 years under the North Sea. This may have helped preserve the tar adhesive.

Co-author Marcel Niekus, from the Stichting STONE/Foundation for Stone Age Research in Groningen, said the simple stone flake was probably used either for cutting plant fibres or for scraping animal skins.

While birch tar may have been used by Neanderthals to attach stone tools to wooden handles in some cases, this particular tool probably had a grip made only of tar. Dr Niekus said there was no imprint from a wood or bone shaft in the tar.

It would have enabled the user to apply more pressure to the stone flake without cutting their hands – turning the edge into a precision cutting tool.

(18) GALILEO PROBE GETS A MOVIE. The “‘Saving Galileo’ Documentary Screens This Weekend” at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium in Pasadena, CA on Saturday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. PDT. Free admission; first come, first served.

…Produced by JPL Fellow and national Emmy Award-winner Blaine Baggett, the hour-long film tells the story of how the mission stayed alive despite a multitude of technical challenges, including a years-long launch delay and the devastating failure of its main antenna to open properly in space. It is also the story of a team of scientists and engineers transformed through adversity into what many came to regard as a tight-knit family.

“Saving Galileo” picks up from Baggett’s previous documentary “To the Rescue,” which focuses on the mission’s tortuous path to the launch pad. Together the films capture how, despite its many challenges and limitations, Galileo proved a resounding success, leading to profound scientific insights that continue to draw NASA and JPL back to Jupiter for new adventures.

(19) PLACEBO. NPR contends: “The Placebo Effect Works And You Can Catch It From Your Doctor”.

If there’s one thing you do want to catch from a trip to your doctor, it’s her optimism.

A new study, published Monday in the journal Nature Human Behavior, finds that patients can pick up on subtle facial cues from doctors that reveal the doctor’s belief in how effective a treatment will be. And that can have a real impact on the patient’s treatment outcome.

Scientists have known since at least the 1930s that a doctor’s expectations and personal characteristics can significantly influence a patient’s symptom relief. Within research contexts, avoiding these placebo effects is one reason for double blind studies — to keep experimenters from accidentally biasing their results by telegraphing to test subjects what they expect the results of a study to be.

The new study both demonstrates that the placebo effect is transmitted from doctor to patient, and shows how it might work.

(20) OWN LE GUIN DOCUMENTARY. The latest Kickstarter backer update for the documentary Worlds of Ursula Le Guin contains information on how to view a digital copy and buy a DVD:

We know many of you haven’t yet had a chance to watch the film – we’re trying to bring it to you as quickly as we can. Online streaming, DVD, and broadcast opportunities vary by country, and continue to evolve, but here’s our latest update:

  • In the United States and English-speaking Canada, the film is now available to rent and buy via iTunes. For residents whose reward package didn’t include a DVD, you can also pre-order the DVD through our US distributor Grasshopper Films.
  • In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the film will be available to stream on BBC iPlayer after our broadcast date, expected to be announced soon. DVDs will be available in September 2021. 
  • If you live in Israel, streaming and DVDs will be available in March 2020.
  • For everyone else, you can pre-order the DVD internationally through Grasshopper Films. We’re also planning a worldwide Video-on-Demand (VOD) release in December for participating countries (excluding those listed above, and some others). 

Note that our DVD release date has shifted – we now expect to have DVDs ready to send out by mid-November. All DVDs will include closed captions in English for the hearing impaired, subtitles in several languages, and special extras we rescued from the cutting room floor. DVDs won’t be region-specific, so viewers around the world should be able to watch them.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. in “Bicycle” on Vimeo, Cool 3D World shows what happens when five green men decide to ride a bicycle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Shmoo from the Lil’ Abner Comics

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

Roast Porg from The Last Jedi

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

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

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

Horseback riding? How does that keep you fit?

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

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

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

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

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

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

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

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

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

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

This one’s my favorite –

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

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

  • John Scalzi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 8/26/18 Pixels Of Unusual Size? I Don’t Think They Exist

(1) ALL SYSTEMS WIN. Martha Wells posted a Worldcon 76 report including her experiences at the Hugo Awards ceremony —

Then we got to novella, and I was extremely nervous. I felt like I had a strong chance and was hopeful, but it was still awesome to win. I managed to get up the stairs to the stage, give my speech without crying (After the Nebula Awards I didn’t want to be the author who cries all the time.) (I saved it all up for Monday, when every time anyone said anything nice to me, I would start crying.) Managed to get down the Stairs of Doom backstage with the help of about four people, got stopped to get a photo outside the auditorium in the reception area, went back in the wrong door and could not get it open and had to thump on it until the backstage people heard me, and then got back to my seat in time to see Nnedi Okorafor win for Best YA novel and N.K. Jemisin win for Best Novel!

And she has some Worldcon photos on her Tumblr.

(2) DIGBY IN ONE PLACE. The Golds reminded readers today about the extended electronic edition of Tom Digby’s amazing fanwriting that’s available online, “Along Fantasy Way”. Originally produced for the 1993 Worldcon where Tom was a guest of honor, the collection was expanded in its 2014 digital version. What a treasure trove of wonderfully creative idea-tripping. Delightful poetry, too – for example:

…OR MINERAL(2/07/76)

Pet rocks are OK, but some people prefer more variety.
The guy upstairs from me
Has a 1947 Chevrolet engine block.
I think his apartment is too small for it,
But there it is.
And the family down the street
With the goldfish pond in the yard
Has an old ship’s anchor
To keep the fish company.

But of all the inorganic pets in the neighborhood,
The happiest is an old beer can
Belonging to a small boy.
It would never win a prize at a show:
Too many dents
And spots of rust
And paint flaking off.
And besides, it’s a brand of beer
Most people don’t like.
But that doesn’t really matter.
What matters is FUN
Like afternoons when they go for a walk:
The can leaps joyously ahead
CLATTERDY RATTLEDY CLANG BANG!
Then lies quietly waiting for its master to catch up
Before leaping ahead again.
I may get a beer can myself some day.

But I still don’t think it’s right
To keep a 1947 Chevrolet engine block
Cooped up in such a small apartment.

The collection is illustrated by Phil and Kaja Foglio.

(3) ALL BRADBURY ALL THE TIME. A very nice set of Bradbury quotes at Blackwing666: “Ray Bradbury – Born August 22, 1920”

(4) GUNNED DOWN. You could see this coming. The Hollywood Reporter says “‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ Production Put on Hold”. The studio still expects to make the movie later on.

Sources say that crewmembers, which is, at this stage, a small group that was prepping for preproduction, are being dismissed and are free to look for new work.

The Marvel project was originally to have been directed by James Gunn and was to have begun principal photography in the winter, either in January or February. The project was crewing up and was to have gone into full preproduction mode in the fall.

But Gunn was let go as the director in July when old tweets were resurfaced in response to his vocal political posts. While some held out hope that the director would be given a reprieve by Disney, a mid-August meeting with Disney chairman Alan Horn closed the door on that.

(5) LAST DAYS OF BANG ON EARTH. Big Bang Theory has started production of its final season.

Let What Culture tell you Why The Big Bang Theory Just Got Cancelled.

(6) HUGO STATISTIC. I don’t have time to check. Could be….

(7) HOW THEY STACK UP. Rocket Stack Rank’s Eric Wong writes:

With the recent release of the TOC for the Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2018 (BASFF), I’ve updated RSR’s 2017 Best SF/F Anthologies article with the 20 stories in that anthology plus their honorable mentions.

The grand total from five 2017 “year’s best” SF/F anthologies is 114 stories by 91 authors, from which we can make the following observations:

o   Magazines: Asimov’s (12), Clarkesworld (9), Lightspeed (9)

o   Anthologies: Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities (3/7), Extrasolar(5/14), Infinity Wars (5/15)

o   Nancy Kress (3), Rich Larson (3), Robert Reed (3), Alastair Reynolds(3)

To see other outstanding stories that didn’t make it into the five “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, go to RSR’s 2017 Best SF/F article, which has also been updated with the BASFF stories for a total of 256 stories by 201 authors.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 26, 1953The War of the Worlds premiered. (“Welcome to California!”)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge]

  • Born August 26 — Katherine Johnson, 100. NASA mathematician and physicist awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom by Obama in 2015. Her work made space travel possible. And yes she’s African-American as well! (Makers has a post celebrating her birthday.)
  • Born August 26 — Barbara Ehrenreich, 77. Social activist and author of one genre novel, Kipper’s Game which gets compared to the works of Connie Willis.
  • Born August 26 — Stephen Fry, 61. Narrator, all of the Harry Potter audiobook recordings, Col. K. In the animated Dangermouse series and any number of other delightfully interesting genre related undertakings.
  • Born August 26 — Wanda De Jesus, 60. Genre work includes Robocop 2, SeaQuest 2032, Tales from The DarksideBabylon 5, and Ghosts of Mars
  • Born August 26 — Melissa McCarthy, 48. Now starring in The Happytime Murders which apparently is the first film from the adult division of Jim Henson Productions. Also Ghostbusters: Answer the Call.
  • Born August 26 — Chris Pine, 38. James T. Kirk in the current Trek film franchise; also Steve Trevor in the Wonder Woman film franchise as well as A Wrinkle in Time and Rise Of The Guardians.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brevity shows some movie dinosaurs who keep comic back.

(11) SPACE ANNIVERSARY. JPL celebrates “15 Years in Space for NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope”, an instrument that has far outlasted its predicted useful life.

Launched into a solar orbit on Aug. 25, 2003, Spitzer was the final of NASA’s four Great Observatories to reach space. The space telescope has illuminated some of the oldest galaxies in the universe, revealed a new ring around Saturn, and peered through shrouds of dust to study newborn stars and black holes. Spitzer assisted in the discovery of planets beyond our solar system, including the detection of seven Earth-size planets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1, among other accomplishments.

 

(12) OH NO, WHERE CAN THE MATTER BE. Gizmodo reports “Scientists Will Soon Drop Antimatter to See How It Behaves in Gravity”.

In a new study, physicists attempted to find differences between matter and antimatter—confusingly, also a kind of matter, but with the opposite charge and other differences. It’s like an evil twin. Confusingly, the universe has way more matter than antimatter, for no clear reason. Physicists haven’t found the specific differences they were looking for when studying the antimatter version of hydrogen, called antihydrogen, but they have demonstrated a way to study antimatter better than ever before.

Mike Kennedy forwarded the link with the note, “It’s a complicated story, and mostly about recent measurements of the Lyman-? emission lines of anti-hydrogen… in particular it being the same wavelength as for hydrogen <http://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0435-1>. The bit about laser cooling anti-hydrogen and dropping it to observe how it reacts to gravity is IIUC speculative at this point.”

(13) MORE ON NEXT SHATNER RECORD. SYFY Wire brings us news that William Shatner is releasing a holiday album (“William Shatner teases Christmas cover record: Shatner Claus”):

Set phasers to jolly.

The legendary actor and musician William Shatner is giving us another reason to be excited about the holiday season. Shatner tweeted the Amazon link to pre-order his first upcoming record: Shatner Claus The Christmas Album. You can add the self-described godfather of dramatic musical interpretation’s album digital audio, CD, or vinyl in your letter to the North Pole. With vinyl record sales on the constant rise, it’s exciting to see if this will find Shatner Claus’ sleigh riding its way to the top of the Billboard charts.

(14) JURASSIC BLETCHLEY PARK. In “Dinosaur DNA clues unpicked by researchers at University of Kent”, scientists are theorizing-from-clues that dinosaur DNA, like birds’, had many chromosomes, making mix-and-match easier.

Researchers at the University of Kent say their work uncovers the genetic secret behind why dinosaurs came in such a variety of shapes and sizes.

This variation helped the creatures evolve quickly in response to a changing environment – helping them to dominate Earth for 180 million years.

But the researchers behind the DNA work say they have no plans to recreate dinosaurs, Jurassic Park style.

(15) FLAME OFF. BBC assures us, “Yes, Antarctica has a fire department”.

But fighting fires in freezing temperatures also calls for some specialist equipment.

Surprisingly, water is still an option. McMurdo’s fire engine has a pump, which cycles water constantly through the vehicle to prevent it from freezing.

Remembering to set the pump going is, says Branson, a lesson quickly learned.

“You do not want to be the person who freezes all the water in the fire engine. Then you’re stuck with a 500 gallon engine with an ice block in it… and nobody on base is going to like you.”

(16) BEARLY VISIBLE. BBC has video: “Bear roams ‘The Shining’ hotel in Colorado”. It’s a good thing Jack Nicholson didn’t try swinging an axe at this guest….

A bear was filmed going through the lobby of the hotel that inspired Stephen King’s classic horror novel in Colorado.

(17) YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. While excavating on YouTube, Carl Slaughter found Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965): “Frankenstein, ie, Frank the android, does battle with a Martian beast to prevent a Martian princess from replenishing Mars with voluptuous and sometimes bikini-clad Earth women.  The Pentagon monitors the situation and tries to lend Frank a hand.  Turns out Frank wears an Air Force uniform and holds military rank  – like Data.  This is in the so bad it’s good category.”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/13/18 The Man Who Scrolled Christopher Columbus Ashore

(1) THE FIRE THIS TIME. The Paris Review tells about “Staging Octavia Butler in Abu Dhabi”. This really is the best article about the opera I’ve seen so far.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by Jean Nouvel, opened in November after years of delay and a cost rumored to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The same weekend as LAD’s grand opening, the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center hosted the world premiere of Parable of the Sower, an opera composed by the singer/songwriter Toshi Reagon, a queer Brooklyn-based activist, and based on the prophetic novel by Octavia Butler. At first glance, it seems unlikely that a “starchitect” museum in Abu Dhabi, where gas is cheap and water is expensive, would stage an opera about a fiery, drought-ridden apocalypse. And yet, taken together, the museum and the opera initiate a set of conversations—about art and culture and change—that upend stereotypes about the Gulf.

The book Parable of the Sower (1993) was intended as the first of a trilogy. It’s set in a world where California is burning, rivers have dried up, and the president sells entire towns to the highest corporate bidder. Violence is everywhere, and not even houses of worship are safe. In the second book, Parable of the Talents (1998), a president is elected who promises to “make America great again.” The third book was never published. Given Butler’s prescience about America’s worst impulses, perhaps it’s best that the third book never came out: Do any of us really want to know how bad things might become?

The teenage heroine of the story, Lauren Olamina, flees her town on the outskirts of Los Angeles after the neighborhood is burned and looted by “pyros,” people addicted to a drug that makes fires better than sex. Along with two other survivors from the neighborhood massacre, Lauren decides to walk north, perhaps to Canada or to anywhere where “water doesn’t cost more than food.”

(2) COSMOS RENEWED. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak told readers that “Fox has renewed Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos for a second season”.

The networks made the announcement today during the Television Critics Association winter press tour, and deGrasse Tyson and producer Seth McFarland confirmed the news on Twitter, saying that the season will air in Spring 2019 on Fox and the National Geographic channel.

(3) SHARPENING CRITICS. Britain’s Science Fiction Foundation is taking applications for the “2018 Masterclass in Science Fiction Criticism”.

Applications are now open for the 2018 Science Fiction Foundation Masterclass in Science Fiction Criticism. The 2018 Masterclass, the Eleventh, will take place from Friday 29 June to Sunday 1 July. This year we will be at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge. Three days of extremely enjoyable discussion and exchange of ideas in the delightful environment of the city of Cambridge, the Masterclass is highly valued by past students.

The 2018 Class Leaders are:

Nick Hubble (Brunel University) – Nick is co-editor of the Science Fiction Handbook (2013) and London in Contemporary British Fiction (2016)

John J. Johnston (Egypt Exploration Society) – John is co-editor of the mummy anthology Unearthed, his introduction for which was shortlisted for the BSFA Award for Non-Fiction.

Stephanie Saulter (author) – Stephanie is the author of Gemsigns and its sequels

(4) PKD SERIES CALLED WEAK. James Poniewozik of the New York Times finds the new series disappointing: “Review: In ‘Electric Dreams,’ the Future Seems Outdated”.

I can’t blame the weaknesses of “Electric Dreams,” whose first season arrives on Amazon on Friday, on the source material: The episodes’ writers had great leeway to stray from the originals. (The same happened with Amazon’s Dick adaptation “The Man in the High Castle.”)

Nor is a lack of star power at fault. The credits of the 10 self-contained episodes include Greg Kinnear, Anna Paquin, Bryan Cranston (one of 14 — 14! — executive producers) and Janelle Monáe (the actress-singer who recorded “The ArchAndroid” plays an arch android).

But this license and talent, plus the lavish scale of production, add up to little that feels freshly imagined or newly provocative.

(5) BUT CONTRARIWISE. The Daily Beast’s Karen Han takes the opposite view: “Philip K. Dick’s ‘Electric Dreams’ Showcases the Best of What Sci-Fi Can Offer”.

…That said, if Black Mirror is a nightmare, then Electric Dreams is… well, a gorgeous dream.

There’s plenty of darkness in Amazon’s new series, but it’s fundamentally geared toward the light. Like every anthology series, it’s a bit of a grab bag, but there’s something special to be found in each episode, and the heights reached by the best installments are more than worth the patience required to get through the less coherent entries.

(6) SMUGGLERS TREASURE. The Book Smugglers have a new volume out: “Announcing Gods and Monsters: The Anthology (and a Giveaway)”. They’re giving away three copies – see the post for details.

From a thief and a stolen goddess, to twin sisters more different than their fathers ever could have imagined. From a priestess fighting gods incarnate, to a cursed artifact and journal concealing a great evil. From a young boy discovering his godly lineage and power, to two trans boys falling in love and summoning demons. Gods and Monsters collects six tales of great and terrible powers, including:

  • “Beauty, Glory, Thrift” by Alison Tam
  • “The Waters and Wild of Winter Street” by Jessi Cole Jackson
  • “A Question of Faith” by Tonya Liburd
  • “It Came Back” by Samantha Lienhard
  • “Duck Duck God” by José Iriarte
  • “Avi Cantor Has Six Months To Live” by Sacha Lamb

All stories originally edited and published by The Book Smugglers.

(7) HAPPY FAIL SAFE DAY. This was a push-notice to every cellphone in Hawaii. It took them 38 minutes to push a notice of false alarm. No matter what they said, today will not be the day before the Day After after all.

(8) NATAL DAY. Steven H Silver continues his Black Gate series — “Birthday Reviews: Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Maze of Maal Dweb”.

Clark Ashton Smith was born on January 13, 1893 and died on August 14, 1961. Along with H.P. Lovecraft, he was one of the major authors at Weird Tales, writing stories which were similar to the dark fantasies Lovecraft wrote.

Smith maintained a correspondence with Lovecraft for the last 15 years of Lovecraft’s life. While Lovecraft wrote about Cthulhu, Smith wrote about the far future Zothique. Smith was named the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award winner in 2015.

(9) WEIRDER STILL. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett sent the link to this anecdote about E. Hoffman Price with the note: “Today we explore one of the more unexpected consequences of smoking. If this had happened to Kipling it’s possible that line about a good cigar being a Smoke might not have been written.” — Smoking, more dangerous than you ever knew..

So. Everybody has heard of Howard Philips Lovecraft I presume? Well of course you have, even Xbox playing preteens can tell you that Lovecraft is Cthulhu’s agent. How about Robert E. Howard then? Well of course you have, even Netflix watching preteens can tell you Howard is Conan’s agent. (Though you can confuse them by asking which Conan does he represent?)

So what about E. Hoffman Price? Hah, got you there, you thought I was going to ask about Clarke Ashton Smith next, didn’t you? No, Smith is for another day when I’m feeling a little more eldritch. Not that E. Hoffman Price couldn’t write a pretty effective weird story when he was in the mood. He started selling weird shorts back in the 1920s and didn’t stop until not long before he passed away in the 1980s. I doubt anybody keeps selling that long if they don’t have the knack for it….

(10) CHECK IT OUT. The ACME Corporation has an admirer:

(11) EMBERG OBIT. Bella Emberg (1937-2018): British actress, died 12 January, aged 80. Television work includes Doomwatch (two episodes, 1970-71), Doctor Who (three episodes, in 1970, 1974 and 2006), The Tomorrow People (one episode, 1977).

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 13, 1888 — National Geographic Society founded.
  • January 13, 1930 — Mickey Mouse comic strip debuted in newspapers.
  • January 13, 1957 — The Wham-O Company developed the first frisbee
  • January 13, 2008 — The Terminator franchise premiered Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock calls it “misapplying the supernatural” in this installment of Bizarro.
  • John King Tarpinian notes in Close to Home that one person’s sci-fi is another’s biography.

(14) BEWARE THE PEAR. Here’s a tweet of some RedWombat-inspired cosplay –

Know Your Meme’s explanation of “LOLWUT” includes this RedWombat reference —

The surrealist painting of the laughing fruit, titled The Biting Pear of Salamanca[1], was posted to deviantART on February 27th, 2006 by Ursula Vernon. Inspired by pop surrealism, she wrote that the pear “lives off low-flying birds, hand-outs, and the occasional unwary sightseer.”

(15) COMING TO VIDEO. The Hellraiser series continues on video:

Experience a terrifying new chapter in the legendary Hellraiser series when Hellraiser: Judgment arrives on Blu-ray (plus Digital), DVD, Digital, and On Demand February 13 from Lionsgate. The tenth film in the classic horror series tells the story of three detectives as they struggle to solve a horrifying murder, but instead find themselves thrust into the depths of Pinhead’s hellacious landscape. Including horror icon Heather Langenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare), it was written and directed by Gary J. Tunnicliffe (Hansel & Gretel).

 

(16) SUPER BLUE BLOOD MOON. Apparently, January 31 brings four lunar events for the price of one. The Crescenta Valley Weekly covers that, JPL’s 60th anniversary, and tells about a forthcoming mission, in “Inspired by Past, JPL Looks to the Future”.

On Jan. 31, there are several things happening. That night will see a full moon, a super moon (when the Moon is full at its closest approach to earth in its elliptical orbit), a blue moon (the second full moon in a month), and a lunar eclipse blood moon (when the earth passes between the sun and moon, blocking out all of the light for a short while and giving the moon a reddish hue before and after). It’s a super blue blood moon. In addition, it is the 60th anniversary of the veritable birth of JPL.

“After Sputnik in 1957, the U.S. was just completely freaking out because the Soviets were the first into space. You’ve got this thing flying a couple hundred miles overhead beeping and it is a symbol of Soviet space technology and dominance. What people don’t realize is the U.S. response to Sputnik came from Caltech.

“The first satellite was Explorer I. So this Jan. 31 will be the 60th anniversary of the launch of Explorer I. It was designed, built and operated by Caltech and what would become JPL,” Gallagher said. “Our most iconic photo [at JPL] is of William Pickering, who ended up being the first director of JPL, James Van Allen, who discovered the Van Allen radiation belt that was named after him, and Wernher Von Braun. [The three] are standing at the National Academy of Science holding Explorer I over their heads. It is an amazing picture. And that is the birth of JPL, and how we got started. We are very excited about that.”

Moving further into the year there are missions that will look to explore space, but also those meant to look back at our home planet, to better understand our world’s behavior and our relationship to it.

“In spring 2018, there is something called GRACE Follow-On, or GFO, that will launch as an Earth Science mission. GRACE stands for Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment, so it is a follow-on to the first GRACE and it is going to continue that work,” Gallagher said.

GRACE operated for 15 years and eventually died long past its expected lifetime. It consisted of two spacecraft that made highly accurate measurements of the variation of Earth’s gravity. This provided all types of information about what was going on under the Earth’s surface in drought areas or big areas of subsidence that opened up. GRACE tracks changes caused by additional water in the ocean, because this all affects gravity.

“It’s something that has a lot of practical benefits to society,” said Gallagher. “There is also a smaller instrument that is going to be launched called Eco Stress in June 2018. That’s also an Earth Science mission.”

(17) EVEN OLDER. The “Rocket Research Institute, founded in Glendale, celebrates 75 years”.

When the Glendale Rocket Society was founded by students at Clark Junior High— the current site of Crescenta Valley High — the Battle of Stalingrad during World War II had just commenced and Dwight D. Eisenhower had not yet taken command of the Allied Forces in Europe.

The organization’s leader, George James, 14 years old at the time, brought the society to Glendale High, where it gained a small but devoted membership of students interested in the study of rockets.

“We have carefully avoided inviting those who have no other interest in the subject beyond idle curiosity,” James told the Glendale News-Press in 1946. “All of our members contribute something to the project.”

Now, 75 years later, the group has survived as the Rocket Research Institute, a nonprofit educational group staffed by engineering, space and safety professionals who contribute toward space- and rocket-education advocacy.

Originally inspired by a Buck Rodgers comic strip, James’ interest in rocketry during high school secured him a job at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an assistant testing mechanic when the facility employed about 300 people.

(18) FIRSTS. Syfy Wire digs into the history of The Twilight Zone: “Firsts: The first episode of The Twilight Zone premiered in 1959”.

Syracuse, New York native and World War II combat veteran Rod Serling had been working as a freelance scriptwriter in radio and television for years, scoring his big breakthrough in 1955 with “Patterns,” broadcast live on Kraft Television Theatre. That led to more work and a string of acclaimed teleplays such as “Requiem for a Heavyweight” (1956), “The Comedian” (1957) and “A Town Has Turned to Dust” (1958).

But Serling, an activist at heart who dealt with many of his social and political concerns in his writing, had been increasingly frustrated with corporate censorship by small screen sponsors that continually forced him to change his scripts. He reckoned that a series in which he could hide commentary on the contemporary world inside science fiction and fantasy tales would get the censors off his back.

CBS gave Serling the green light to move forward with his idea for a half-hour science fiction anthology series, which he dubbed The Twilight Zone, after the success of “The Time Element,” a sci-fi script he sold to CBS for The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse in 1958. “The Time Element” was originally conceived as a pilot script for the program.

(19) BE THE ART. Good Show, Sir reports Lee Moyer, artist, designer and illustrator, has created a gallery of sci-fi cover recreations on his website. For example –

(20)  DUCK TECH. Cat Eldridge sent the link with the warning, “This is heart-wrenching.”

My Special Aflac DuckTM, part of Aflac’s ongoing Aflac Childhood Cancer CampaignTM and developed by Sproutel, is an innovative, smart robotic companion that features naturalistic movements, joyful play and interactive technology to help comfort children coping with cancer. With a year of child-centered research behind it, My Special Aflac Duck is a part of Aflac’s 22-year commitment to providing care and support for children who have cancer. Aflac’s goal is to distribute this smart companion to the nearly 16,000 children in the U.S. who are newly diagnosed with cancers each year, free of charge.

 

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Einstein-Rosen —

Summer of 1982. Teo claims he has found a wormhole. His brother Óscar does not believe him – at least not for now.

[Thanks to JJ, Steve Green, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Will R., David K.M. Klaus, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, Mark Hepworth, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 2018-01-02 The Scroll Awakens the Last Pixel

By JJ:

(1) INSPIRING THE RIGHT STUFF.  Space.com reports that American Girl’s latest entry in their doll line is an aspiring astronaut created with advice from NASA.

An 11-year-old aspiring astronaut who dreams of being the first person to go to Mars is blasting off as American Girl’s 2018 Girl of the Year.

Described as a champion of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), Luciana Vega is styled with brown eyes, medium skin and dark brown hair with a “distinctive purple streak to show off her creative side.” She comes packaged with a nebula-patterned dress and silver iridescent shoes.

American Girl will also offer a spacesuit outfit modeled after NASA’s Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) used on the International Space Station. Other accessories in the Luciana Vega collection include a blue Space Camp flight suit, a Maker Station and a Mars Habitat “loaded with science and research essentials for hours of pretend play.”

In addition to the doll and accessories, Luciana’s story is explored in a new book series authored by Erin Teagan and published by Scholastic… [and] “Blast Off to Discovery,” an educational program focused on helping third though fifth-grade students explore the wonder of space through Luciana-inspired content, including lesson plans, classroom activities, videos and a game.

(2) RECRUITING THE RIGHT STUFF.  In honor of Nichelle Nichols’ birthday on December 28, NASA engineer Bobak Ferdowsi told a story of a past encounter with her: (click on the tweet’s date/time stamp to read the whole thread)

(3) BOOK SUBMISSIONS OPEN.  Apex has announced that it is currently accepting submissions of Novels and Novellas.

Apex Book Company will be holding open novel and novella submissions from January 1st to January 31st, 2018. Anything sent outside of this time period will be deleted unread.

We will consider novellas in length of 30,000 to 40,000 words and novels in length up to 120,000 words, and are particularly looking for novels that fit within the dark sci-fi category. Dark fantasy and horror submissions are also welcome.

A literary agent is not required for submission. We may take up to three months or more to review your manuscript. Simultaneous submissions are okay. We will only accept one submission per author.

We only accept email submissions to apex.submission@gmail.com.

Additional details on the submission process can be found at the link.

(4) SHORT FICTION SUBMISSIONS OPEN.  Kaleidotrope Magazine has announced that it is currently open to submissions of Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, and Artwork until April 1, 2018.

Kaleidotrope tends very heavily towards the speculative – towards science fiction, fantasy, and horror – but we like an eclectic mix and are therefore interested to read compelling work that blurs these lines, falls outside of neat genre categories. Man does not live on space ships, elves, and ghostly ax murderers alone, after all. We’d suggest looking through the archives to familiarize yourself with the zine, and/or checking out other work by our past contributors, to get a sense of what we’re looking for and what we like.

In the end, what we want is interesting, sometimes unconventional work, well-written stories and poems that surprise and amuse us, shock and disturb us, that tell us things we didn’t know or reveal old truths in brand new ways. We want strange visions of distant shores, of imaginary countries and ordinary people, and work that doesn’t lose sight of entertainment and the joy of good writing.

We are also interested in publishing diverse writers. Kaleidotrope welcome writers of color and other groups, as well as work that represents the diversity of characters we want to see more of.

(5) SPOILER WARNING.  Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn has Taken a hard-line on spoilers for The Last Jedi:

The following items have been carefully curated to provide interesting non-spoilery information on the movie, but click judiciously if you haven’t seen it yet.

(6) PLUS ÇA CHANGE.  In a piece at Critical Hit, Kate Willaert engages in some cultural archaeology to find out how fans reacted to The Empire Strikes Back in 1980: [WARNING: Spoilers for The Last Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back at the link]

Today the general consensus is that Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars movie. It has an audience score of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.8/10 on IMDb, compared to A New Hope’s 96% and 8.7/10, respectively. These user scores weren’t generated until decades after the original trilogy was released, but it’s not like fan opinion could have shifted that much, right?

Thankfully, Archive.org has a collection of Starlog, so let’s take a look at issues #39-41. What were the fans saying?

As with The Last Jedi, fan reaction was mixed to say the least. Some felt it was better than the first one, some enjoyed it but had complaints, and some were disappointed. But what’s most interesting is how specific comments or criticisms mirror those of The Last Jedi…

(7) IT’S NOT WHAT YOU WERE EXPECTING.  Star Wars: Aftermath author Chuck Wendig has some thoughts about fan expectations in relation to The Last Jedi. (The below excerpt is non-spoilery, but there are SPOILERS at the linked blog post.)

I fucking loved it.

That’s it. That’s my review. It’s mostly just a series of excitable sounds with the occasional twirling around until I’m dizzy. But I’d rather look past my gibbon-like hoots and my strange, erotic dances and see what lies within. What lurks deeper. What do I see when I enter the DARK SIDE CAVE to have the truth revealed to me?

Your Expectations Will Not Be Met

Fandom is a tricky bear to wrestle. We love a thing so deeply, we entwine ourselves within it. We thread a little bit – sometimes a lot – of our identity into the thing. And we come to believe we own that thing, and further, we join a tribe of fellow owners who all have threaded themselves into it both intellectually and emotionally. We feel excited by what this thing can bring us. We develop pet theories. We craft and conjure the path we would take if we were ever handed the keys to the Thing We Love. We become excited and obsessive, a little bit. Sometimes a lotta bit.

But here’s the thing:

Stories can never be written for the fans.

Fan service isn’t a bad thing, per se, but it is sometimes a fairly lazy thing – it’s a comfortable signal, a soft chair, it’s Norm from Cheers where everybody knows his name. It’s to say, “You’re lost here, but look, here is a familiar friend to help you through. It’s to let you know that despite all the strange flora and the eyes glowing in the dark, you’re still a known quantity in a known land. This is a safe place.” When done overmuch, fan service does more than just introduce a few friendly faces. It burns down the trees. It lights up the dark. It slides a jukebox over and slams the top of it like it’s fucking Fonzie and suddenly, the Greatest Hits begin to play, just as you love them. Maybe in an order you don’t know, but still the songs you know and you adore.

The Last Jedi will not meet your expectations.

Oh, it knows them.

It is well-aware of them, in fact, and is well-aware that you have them. And it willfully… I don’t want to say disregards them, precisely, but in a sense, it has weaponized them against you. It knows you’ve seen all the movies. It knows you know the narrative beats, the tropes, the rhyming couplets of George Lucas, and then it gently puts them all in a magician’s hat, and then it reaches into the hat, and instead of pulling them back out, it pulls out a porg.

And then the movie hits you with the porg.

Whap.

That metaphor may have gotten a little out of hand, but I think you grok me.

The Last Jedi cares very much about your expectations.

It’s just not going to meet them.

(8) IT’S A THEORY.  On Twitter, Amelia Rose explains why she thinks that the much-maligned Star Wars prequels contain a very nuanced story told very, very incompetently. (Click on the tweet’s date/time stamp to read the whole thread; there are no spoilers for The Last Jedi in the main thread, but after the “FIN” there may be some SPOILERS in commenters’ tweets.)

(9) PAYBACKS ARE SWELL.  The Hollywood Reporter says that gross revenues on the new editions of the Star Wars franchise have exceeded $4 Billion, eclipsing Disney’s price to acquire Lucasfilm.

Combined, Disney and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Stars Wars: The Force Awakens have surpassed $4.06 billion in ticket sales at the worldwide box office. While an interesting benchmark, it doesn’t, of course, account for the hundreds of millions spent to produce and market the trio of films, or the fact that Disney splits box-office grosses with theater owners. Conversely, Disney has minted additional money from lucrative ancillary revenue streams, merchandising sales and theme park attractions.

Opening in North America on Dec. 15, The Last Jedi zoomed past the $900 million mark on Thursday, finishing the day with $934.2 million globally, including $464.6 million domestically and $469.6 internationally (it doesn’t land in China until Jan. 5).

(10) EDITORIAL LICENSE.  On Facebook, Amanda Downs Champlin has taken artistic liberties with the newest character in the Star Wars franchise. [WARNING: NO SPOILERS, JUST TERMINAL CUTENESS]

(11) WITHERING HEIGHTS.  The Last Jedi has sparked widely-varying opinions on the appeal of Kylo Ren.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born January 2, 1920 – Isaac Asimov, Author and Damon Knight Grand Master of Science Fiction
  • Born January 2, 1959 – Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Editor (Tor Books)
  • Born January 2, 1973 – Lucy Davis, Actor (Etta Candy in 2017’s Wonder Woman)
  • Born January 2, 1980 – David Gyasi, Actor (Interstellar, Cloud Atlas, and The Dark Knight Rises)

(13) CAUGHT IN THE ACT.  SFF author Jason Sanford reports on a newly-revealed case of genre plagiarism:

Jake Bible, author of the Roak: Galactic Bounty Hunter series, claimed on Facebook and Twitter that Balogun Ojetade plagiarized his writing in Ojetade’s novel Scorpion Wine (Qiq, the Bounty Hunter). Bible released the image above showing extreme similarities between a section of Ojetade’s book (at left) and his own novel.

Bible said on Facebook that Ojetade’s novel “changed character names and the setting, but it is an almost word for word ripoff.”

Bible requested Amazon take down Ojetade’s novel, which it did. However, an entry for Scorpion Wine was still on Amazon as of this writing.

In a personal message Bible told me that because “bounty hunter is such a niche sub-genre that one of my readers found (the plagiarism) right away.” But Bible suggested other authors may want to examine Ojetade’s works for other possible cases of plagiarism.

(14) SHOPPING WHILE INTOXICATED.  SFF author Cherie Priest got a surprise delivery:

(15) TAKE THAT, COMCAST.  Motherboard explains how someone used wet string to get a broadband internet connection:

As the FCC prepares to the destroy the US internet by rolling back net neutrality protections, it’s no surprise that Americans are looking for alternatives to their corporate internet service providers (ISPs). These ISPs own all the cable that routes information through the internet, and trying to replace these networks with community-owned cable is a costly and challenging process.

Fortunately, a UK techie with a sense of humor may have found an alternative to expensive corporate broadband cables: some wet string.

It’s an old joke among network technicians that it’s possible to get a broadband connection with anything, even if it’s just two cans connected with some wet string. As detailed in a blog post by Adrian Kennard, who runs an ISP called Andrews & Arnold in the UK, one of his colleagues took the joke literally and actually established a broadband connection using some wet string…

Usually, broadband connections rely on wires made of a conductive substances like copper. In the case of the Andrews & Arnold technician, however, they used about 6 feet of twine soaked in salt water (better conductivity than fresh water) that was connected to alligator clips to establish the connection.

(16) DON’T LET THE CAT DOOR HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT.  Never underestimate the power of an SJW credential, especially if it’s a reader. KRLD reports that a White Settlement, Texas, City Councilman lost his showdown with the library’s beloved cat.

Elzie Clements’ final meeting as a member of the city council was Tuesday night. Clements tried to have Browser, the city’s docile grey tabby library cat, fired this past summer.

Browser got his job at the library when he was just a kitten. He was recruited from a local animal shelter as an inexpensive, effective method of pest control at the library.

In July, a city worker apparently demanded Browser’s removal after the worker was not allowed to bring a puppy to work at City Hall. Two-legged library workers were outraged, and many people who use the library often said that they were unhappy with Bowser’s dismissal.

The White Settlement City Council took up the issue of what to do with Browser, with Clements being the lone vote to get rid of the favorable feline.

Browser got a reprieve following a world-wide backlash, and reports say there were still some hard feelings among council members after the cat fight.

Councilman Clements eventually ran out of his 9-lives after he was defeated in a landslide in November’s election.

(17) NEXT WEEK, SKYNET.  Artificial learning algorithms are developing in unexpected directions:


https://twitter.com/AllisonCalhoun1/status/945354733899931648

(18) ARCHIVE THIS.  A digital museum is seeking a DMCA exemption for “abandoned Online games”, to preserve defunct gaming titles from being lost.

Every three years the US Copyright Office reviews and renews the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions at which time it considers exemptions to the law. It is currently looking at a proposal for allowing museums, libraries and archives to circumvent the DRM on abandoned online games such as FIFA World Cup, Nascar and The Sims.

The proposal was initiated by The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (The MADE). The Made is a 501c3 non-profit organization with a physical museum located in Oakland, California. The gallery claims to be “the only all-playable video game museum in the world, [and] houses over 5,300 playable games.”

The Made is concerned that certain multiplayer and single-player games that require a server to run will be lost if exemptions are not made to the DMCA. It is not looking to circumvent current games but instead is looking to preserve titles that have already been shut down by the producer – City of Heroes (and Villains) would be a good example…

Supporters of the proposal had until December 18, 2017, to submit comments or evidence to the US Copyright Office. Opponents to the request now have until February 12, 2018, to present written arguments against it. Supporters will then be allowed a rebuttal period until March 14. The USCO will make its decision soon after the final rebuttals are read.

(19) IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK, REALLY.  SFF author Catherynne M. Valente, explaining the contents of boxes of fannish detritus to her fiance as they unpack in their new home:

(20) DEEP IMPACT.  Geologists from the Birkbeck University of London have discovered mineral forms never before reported on Earth on the Isle of Skye:

Geologists exploring the Isle of Skye got more than they bargained for when examining volcanic rocks on the Scottish site, finding mineral forms from a pre-historic meteorite impact that have never before been found on Earth.

The team, including members of Birkbeck’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Dr Simon Drake, Dr Andy Beard, Professor Hilary Downes and Jergus Baca, discovered evidence of a previously unknown, 60 million-year-old meteorite impact.

They had been examining a thick layer at the base of a 60 million-year-old lava flow, which they at first thought was a volcanic flow deposit called ignimbrite. After putting it under an electron microprobe, they discovered that it, in fact, contained rare minerals from outer-space…

These mineral forms – vanadium-rich and niobium-rich osbornite – have never before been reported on Earth, only collected in space dust on a prior NASA mission.

The Isle of Skye has been well explored by geologists, and the scientists were surprised that the ejecta layer had not been identified before. The first site of discovery, Drake explained, was steep, rough and very boggy, which may have deterred previous researchers from exploring the layer.

(21) QUICK THINKING.  A DungeonMaster recounts a player’s narrow escape on his “Shit My Players Say” Tumblr blog:

(22) HELPFUL RESOURCE.  To assist award nominators, SFF Author A. C. Wise is maintaining an aggregated list of eligibility post links, which is being updated on an ongoing basis.

(23) GALACTIC POSITIONING SYSTEM.  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has installed a new kinetic sculpture to assist spacefarers in their travels:

[Thanks to Substitute Editor of the Day JJ for pilfering all of these stories from friends, acquaintances, and randos on blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Credit for spelling and grammar goes to Copyeditor of the Day JJ. Blame for spelling and grammar mistakes goes to Scapegoat of the Day Camestros Felapton. Title credit goes to File 770 Contributing Editor of the Day JJ. Any complaints should be directed to – oh, who are we kidding? complaints will be ignored.]

Pixel Scroll 1/30/17 There Are Studies Underway To Fluoridate Pixels. Children’s Pixels!

(1) CAPALDI MAKES IT OFFICIAL. Not unexpectedly, the Twelfth Doctor is leaving Doctor Who as new showrunner Chris Chibnall gets ready to take the reins.

“Doctor Who” star Peter Capaldi has announced he’ll step down from the role at the end of the year.

Capaldi has starred in the long-running sci-fi series as the titular Twelfth Doctor since 2013, following the departure of Matt Smith.

“One of the greatest privileges of being Doctor Who is to see the world at its best. From our brilliant crew and creative team working for the best broadcaster on the planet, to the viewers and fans whose endless creativity, generosity and inclusiveness points to a brighter future ahead,” Capaldi said in a statement. “I can’t thank everyone enough. It’s been cosmic.”

Capaldi will conclude his time as the Doctor with the 2017 Christmas special.

The actor’s departure will correspond with the exit of executive producer Steven Moffat, who previously announced his intention to leave his post.

(2) BURN OF THE DAY. J. K. Rowling knows how to deal with fantastical creatures, like frogs that tweet.

(3) DECOLONIZING SF. Strange Horizons has posted an Indigenous SF special issue.

It’s our second special of the month, and showcases fiction, poetry, and non-fiction by native and indigenous writers.

We have Drew Hayden Taylor’s story “Take Us To Your Chief” (from his collection of the same name); we have three poems apiece by poets Halee Kirkwood and Tanaya Winder; we have a round-table moderated by Rebecca Roanhorse; and of course reviews, including a double-feature look at Moana.

(4) THE HARP THAT ONCE OR TWICE. R. Graeme Cameron wrote a superlative column based on Walt Willis’ 1952 U.S. Trip report for Amazing Stories that combines his analysis with the old master’s storytelling.

Walt actually had a good time aboard ship. When asked what he did for a living he said he was a pulp fiction author going to America to pick up his earnings. The “Greenwich Village” pseudo-intellectuals on board coming back from bumming around Europe stood in awe of this creative type who actually earned money. Late in the voyage he was asked if anyone was meeting him in New York and he replied (more or less honestly) “Just a few fans.” This only increased his reputation. Sometimes fannish ploys work very well on Mundanes.

QUOTE

At last we docked, and hordes of officials swarmed on board … I had a whole stack of documents in an old Galaxy envelope and every time I came to an official I would shuffle them and deal him a hand. If I’d won I’d be allowed to go on to the next table, like a bridge tournament. I’d had some practice in this game already and at last I won the first prize, a clear view of the gangway. I found to my shocked surprise that suddenly there was absolutely nothing to stop me walking ashore. I promptly walked ashore.

Someone in a blue suit came up and shook my hand … It was Dave Kyle … Joe Gibson came along in a few seconds. After a few minutes chat the two revealed conspiratorially that Will Sykora and his henchman Calvin Thomas Beck were lurking outside to meet me. They suggested a cloak and dagger scheme by which they would go out and wait for me a couple of hundred yards outside the shed, while I strolled out by myself past Sykora and Beck, who wouldn’t recognise me.

I was thrilled. Nobody could have arranged a more fannish welcome. Not two minutes in the country and already I was up to my neck in New York fan feuds. However I temporized; I had nothing personally against Sykora … I had never been able to sort out New York fandom anyway … and I rather wanted to meet such a legendary figure. Besides, I knew Shelby had in his innocence asked Beck to meet me …

Outside, in the fresh clean smog of Hoboken … I had my first hamburger, closely followed by my second. As far as I was concerned, the food problem in America was now solved …

END QUOTE

(5) RECOMMENDATIONS. There are a bunch of sites whose Hugo picks I’m interested in hearing, and Nerds of a Feather is high on that list — “2017 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Award Longlist, Part 1: Fiction Categories”.

Given the vast number of Hugo categories, we’ve also made the decision to split the longlist up into multiple posts. Today we look at the fiction categories (Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette and Best Short Story). For fiction that is available free of charge, we’ve embedded a direct link to the story. For novels and works of short fiction that are not available for free, the embedded link redirects to a review.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 30, 1933The Lone Ranger made its radio debut.

(7) GAME WRITING. “Guest Post: On Representation in RPGs, from Monica Valentinelli” on Jim C. Hines’ blog.

Why does representation in RPGs matter? The answer is simple: players play games so they can be the hero in their own stories. The characters they choose (or build) allow players to perform heroic acts with their group, and they’re crucial to a player’s ability to have fun. There’s even a joke told about this at conventions. What’s the best way to get a player excited to talk about their game? Ask them about their beloved character!

Characters are important, and I feel it’s a game designer’s job to acknowledge different styles of play to offer a broad range for players to choose from; the other side of that coin, however, is to remember that players also possess different identities. In order to consider both in the games we make, developers, designers, writers, and artists address inclusivity through the lens of representation.

(8) MOVIN’ ON. I had forgotten that James Cameron did Aliens, but that explains why someone asked his opinion about Ridley Scott’s upcoming trilogy that begins with Alien: Covenant “James Cameron On The ‘Alien’ Franchise: ‘I Don’t Think It’s Worked Out Terribly Well. I Think We’ve Moved On’” at ScienceFiction.com.

“The franchise has kind of wandered all over the map. Ridley [Scott] did the first film, and he inspired an entire generation of filmmakers and science-fiction fans with that one movie and there have been so many films that stylistically have derived from it, including my own Aliens, which was the legitimate sequel and, I think, the proper heir to his film. I sort of did it as a fanboy. I wanted to honor his film, but also say what I needed to say. After that, I don’t take any responsibility.

I don’t think it’s worked out terribly well. I think we’ve moved on beyond it. It’s like, okay, we’ve got it, we’ve got the whole Freudian biomechanoid meme. I’ve seen it in 100 horror films since. I think both of those films stand at a certain point in time, as a reference point. But is there any validity to doing another one now? I don’t know. Maybe. Let’s see, jury’s out. Let’s see what Ridley comes up with. Let me just add to that — and don’t cut this part off, please — I will stand in line for any Ridley Scott movie, even a not-so-great one, because he is such an artist, he’s such a filmmaker. I always learn from him.

(9) CASSINI ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. Dr. Linda Spilker, Cassini Project Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who was recently interviewed by Starship Sofa, appeared on Cassini’s Ring-Grazing Orbits Facebook Live today. You can view the half-hour video recording at the link.

NASA’s Cassini Mission to Saturn Project Scientist Linda Spilker and mission planner Molly Bittner are taking questions about these exciting orbits, the closest look ever at Saturn’s moons and ring particles — what we’ve learned so far and what we can expect to see as they continue.

(10) OPEN THE PILL BAY DOORS HAL. In our future, robots as care companions: “Robots could help solve social care crisis, say academics” at the BBC.

Humanoid robots, with cultural awareness and a good bedside manner, could help solve the crisis over care for the elderly, academics say.

An international team is working on a £2m project to develop versatile robots to help look after older people in care homes or sheltered accommodation.

The robots will offer support with everyday tasks, like taking tablets, as well as offering companionship.

(11) A BLACK AND WHITE ANSWER. Opus would be proud: penguins used as models for better software: “Hungry penguins keep car code safe”.

The communal, co-ordinated action helps the penguins get the most out of a hunting expedition. Groups of birds are regularly reconfigured to match the shoals of fish and squid they find. It helps the colony as a whole optimise the amount of energy they have to expend to catch food.

“This solution has generic elements which can be abstracted and be used to solve other problems,” he said, “such as determining the integrity of software components needed to reach the high safety requirements of a modern car.”

Integrity in this sense means ensuring the software does what is intended, handles data well, and does not introduce errors or crash.

By mimicking penguin behaviour in a testing system which seeks the safest ways to arrange code instead of shoals of fish, it becomes possible to slowly zero in on the best way for that software to be structured.

(12) THE RIVALS OF 1984. The BBC has hard data on dystopia sales surge.

It Can’t Happen Here – Sinclair Lewis

Sales: As of Friday, the eighth best-selling book on Amazon. It was out of print in the UK but publishers Penguin launched a new edition following the inauguration – promoting it as the book that predicted Trump – and has so far ordered three print runs, totalling 11,000 copies, a spokeswoman said.

Plot: A charismatic demagogue, Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, runs for president on a promise to restore American greatness, dragging the country into fascism.

The Trump factor: Sales of this relatively obscure 1935 satirical novel took off when critics began claiming it was essentially the Donald Trump story. Sally Parry, of the Sinclair Lewis Society, claims there are parallels with Trump in the way that Windrip targets his message at disaffected white working class males – The League of Forgotten Men in the book – sweeping to victory on a wave of anti-immigrant, nationalistic sentiment.

But she adds: “Some of his satire is not necessarily towards Buzz Windrip, the fascist character, but towards the lazy intellectuals, the lazy liberals who say ‘well, things will go along’ and the constant refrain of ‘it can’t happen here’, this is America, we are exceptional.”

(13) MAKING LEMONADE. Someone has a plan for putting a contaminated area to use: “How solar may save Ukraine’s nuclear wasteland”.

Earlier this year Ostap Semerak, the minister for ecology and natural resources in Ukraine, announced plans to build a large-scale solar farm in Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone. “The first phase will install solar panels with a total capacity of one gigawatt,” says a ministry spokesperson. “In the future [there] are plans for capacity increase.”

A large field of 25 acres, filled with solar panels, generates approximately 5MW. To put this into perspective, the football pitch at Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground is 1.75 acres and would only generate 0.35MW. So, for a solar farm to generate a gigawatt of power, it will need an area of 5,000 acres, which is nearly eight square miles. There is, fortunately, a lot of available land in the Exclusion Zone.

(14) BRUCE WAYNE’S ROOMMATE. Lego Batman explains why his movie is awesome.

Lego Batman hypes up his own upcoming Lego Batman Movie in a new behind-the-bricks featurette that breaks the fourth wall.

“Obviously after I made The Lego Movie, a monster hit $468 million worldwide, not that I’m counting of course, it seemed clear to everyone that the world needed more of me,” Will Arnett says as Lego Batman in the clip released Thursday.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve “Dr. Strangelove” Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 1/29/17 Have Space Suit, Would Travel, But Ain’t Got No Visa

(1) SLOWER THAN EMPIRES AND HALF VAST. It all seems to obvious now. CheatSheet explains: “’Star Wars’: Why Delaying ‘Episode VIII: The Last Jedi’ Was the Right Call”.

From there, the plan was to release Episode VIII  (now officially titled The Last Jedi) a quick five months later, with each subsequent sequel and spinoff releasing in May of their respective years. Recent events though have put that schedule in jeopardy, culminating in a massive seven-month delayOur first hint at this possibility came courtesy of Meet the Movie Press, with host Jeff Sneider reporting on rewrites for Rian Johnson’s script that pushed the beginning of production out to February (initial plans had production scheduled to begin in September 2015). Already under the gun with the minuscule five-month gap between Rogue One and Episode VIII, the call was made official by Lucasfilm: The sequel to The Force Awakens will now release December 17, 2017.

…More than anything, the May release of Episode VIII would have been a nightmare from the marketing side. The Force Awakens released its first teaser almost exactly a year before its premiere. To follow a similar plan, Episode VIII would need a teaser by May of this year, all while Rogue One tries to get itself heard above the din of the main trilogy ahead of its own December release. The end result would have drowned out Rogue One and kept everyone’s eyes fixed on May 2017. With a year of spacing now between the two films, Lucasfilm no longer runs the risk of making people feel inundated by a revived franchise that’s already permeating every facet of our pop culture.

(2) KICKSTARTER SUCCESSS. Matt Godwin’s crowdfunded Latin@ Rising gets favorable notice from a San Antonio news outlet — “Anthology gathers best Latino sci-fi stories” in MySA.com.

Matt Goodwin compares “Latin@ Rising,” the new anthology of science fiction from San Antonio’s Wings Press, to an eclectic literary mix tape or playlist “in which there is an ebb and flow as you move through the loud and the brash, the quiet and the thoughtful.”

The latter might be Carmen Maria Machado’s “Difficult at Parties,” a first-person, present-tense story told as if through a camera lens about a woman struggling to return to some semblance of normal life after a sexual assault. As tension builds, she discovers she has developed a disturbing new psychic power.

On the other hand, Giannina Braschi’s “Death of a Businessman” is the cacophonous opening to a novel titled “The United States of Banana,” which is the author’s response to 9/11: “I saw the wife of the businessman enter the shop of Stanley, the cobbler, with a pink ticket in her hand. The wife had come to claim the shoes of the businessman. After all, they had found the feet, and she wanted to bury the feet with the shoes.”

(3) BOYCOTT WHEN CONVENIENT. Charles Stross says he’s canceling GoH appearance at Fencon XIV and won’t be making any other US appearances after that — “Policy change: future US visits”. However, he’s not cancelling a business trip to New York or attendance at Boskone because that would cost him money.

…Consequently I’m revising my plans for future visits to the United States.

I’ll be in New York and Boston for business meetings and Boskone in mid-February (I unwisely booked non-refundable flights and hotel nights before the election), but I am cancelling all subsequent visits for now. In particular, this means that I will no longer be appearing as guest of honor at Fencon XIV in Texas in September.

…As for why I’m cancelling this appearance … I have two fears.

Firstly, at this point it is clear that things are going to get worse. The Muslim ban is only the start; in view of the Administration’s actions on Holocaust Memorial Day and the anti-semitism of his base, I think it highly likely that Jews and Lefists will be in his sights as well. (As a foreign national of Jewish extraction and a member of a left wing political party, that’s me in that corner.)

Secondly, I don’t want to do anything that might be appear to be an endorsement of any actions the Trump administration might take between now and September. While it’s possible that there won’t be any more bad things between now and then (in which case I will apologize again to the Fencon committee), I find that hard to believe; equally possibly, there might well be a fresh outrage of even larger dimensions right before my trip, in which case my presence would be seen by onlookers as tacit acceptance or even collaboration.

As for my worst case nightmare scenario? Given the reshuffle on the National Security Council and the prominence of white supremacists and neo-nazis in this Administration I can’t help wondering if the ground isn’t being laid for a Reichstag Fire by way of something like Operation Northwoods. In which case, for me to continue to plan to travel to the United States in eight months time would be as unwise as it would have been to plan in February 1933 to travel to Germany in September of that year: it might be survivable, but it would nevertheless be hazardous….

(4) DICKINSON OBIT. Andrew Porter reports —

Originally from Leeds, England, fan Mike Dickinson, 69, died from cancer on January 20th. He had been in poor health for a year since being hit by a car, and then was diagnosed with lung cancer.

With David Pringle, he co-chaired Yorcon, the 1979 Eastercon, in Leeds, and was toastmaster of Yorcon II in 1981..

Among fanzines he published were the one-off fanzine Adsum in 1978; with Alan Dorey the one-off Sirius; three issues of Bar Trek with Lee Montgomerie; in 1979, the 95-97th issue of Vector for the British SF Association; and, in 1984, Spaghetti Junction.

David Pringle writes, “He was a mainstay of the Leeds SF group which met every Friday evening from some time in 1974 onwards, initially in a pub called The Victoria and later in one called the West Riding. That petered out in the 1980s — after I’d left Leeds in 1982, and after Mike and his partner Jackie went abroad for a couple of years, teaching English as a foreign language in Italy.”

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 29, 1845 — Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem “The Raven,” beginning “Once upon a midnight dreary,” is published on this day in the New York Evening Mirror.
  • January 29, 1924 — Carl Taylor’s ice cream cone-rolling machine patented.
  • January 29, 1964 Stanley Kubrck’s timeless Dr. Strangelove opens simultaneously in the UK and USA. It was James Earl Jones’ first movie role.

(6) QUOTE OF THE DAY

“The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” ~ George Orwell

(7) ALL THE ROAD RAGE. My daughter liked playing on Wii, but I drove off the road so many times in one of those Mario Bros. games I would never be the kind of customer for this platform that this collector is — “Guy completes entire Wii library, and it’s massive”

Your stack of old Wii games pales in comparison to this guy’s collection. Nintendo Age forum user Aaron Norton, who goes by Nintendo Twizer, has posted pictures of his entire Wii library collection, and it’s ridiculous.

According to Norton, the Wii had 1,262 game releases in North America. His collection doesn’t include variants, like different cover arts, collector’s editions, or Nintendo Selects, which were discounted re-releases of popular games. It also doesn’t include demo discs or games that were released in two-packs later on, like the Wheel of Fortune/Jeopardy bundle.

(8) JUST DROPPING IN. What would it be like to actually land on Pluto? NASA’s video “A Colorful ‘Landing’ on Pluto” simulates the ride down.

This movie was made from more than 100 images taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft over six weeks of approach and close flyby in the summer of 2015. The video offers a trip down onto the surface of Pluto — starting with a distant view of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon — and leading up to an eventual ride in for a “landing” on the shoreline of Pluto’s informally named Sputnik Planitia.

To create a movie that makes viewers feel as if they’re diving into Pluto, mission scientists had to interpolate some of the panchromatic (black and white) frames based on what they know Pluto looks like to make it as smooth and seamless as possible. Low-resolution color from the Ralph color camera aboard New Horizons was then draped over the frames to give the best available, actual color simulation of what it would look like to descend from high altitude to Pluto’s surface.

After a 9.5-year voyage covering more than three billion miles, New Horizons flew through the Pluto system on July 14, 2015, coming within 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) of Pluto. Carrying powerful telescopic cameras that could spot features smaller than a football field, New Horizons sent back hundreds of images of Pluto and its moons that show how dynamic and fascinating their surfaces are.

 

(9) RHYME AND REASON. The Science Fiction Poetry Association has started a blog, SPECPO, with a flurry of interesting posts. SFPA President Bryan Thao Worra introduced it on Facebook:

Some of you may have noticed we had a soft-launch of the new blog for the Science Fiction Poetry Association, SPECPO. This will be where we hope to share and archive more member news, interviews, reviews, readings, announcements, and shareable items with one another in a more timely and entertaining way.

To keep it clear: From an organization standpoint, SPECPO does NOT replace Star*Line as the official newsletter of the SFPA for more formal matters that require members atte…ntion, such as voting or other issues outlined in our bylaws and constitution. But SPECPO can serve as a space to post reminders and clarifying commentary and frequently unofficial viewpoints, particularly from guest posters (which will be clearly marked as such when appropriate).

The hope is that this will facilitate conversations on speculative poetry for those who aren’t actively on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media, and to provide diverse content that’s reasonably easy to search back for, given the often overwhelming flurry of items that can come up on our list-serv and other forums. This is a work in progress, but I hope you enjoy what we’re putting together and that many of you will volunteer to be guest contributors! 🙂

Keep inspired and keep creating!

(10) DEFINE SPECULATIVE. Just like defining science fiction gives rise to controversies, so does the effort to define speculative poetry. SFPA’s Shannon Connor Winward asked people what is and isn’t “speculative” in a poll on her website. Now the results are in.

In November 2016, the SFPA officers published an informal online survey entitled “What Is Speculative Poetry”. The main purpose of this survey was to determine whether there is an overall consensus among the membership regarding what genres or sub-genres of poetry belong under the heading “speculative”, assuming no other genre elements are present. The results are posted below.

Survey Results

As indicated in the graph and table below, the results of the “What Is Speculative Poetry” survey represent a wide spectrum of opinion regarding what counts as “speculative”.  On the upper end of consensus, we find categories that are understood across the literary landscape as falling within the speculative umbrella, including Science Fiction, Space science & exploration, Fantasy, Magic, Supernatural Horror, Myth and Folklore, Fairy Tales, Alternative History, SF&F pop culture, Superheroes, Surrealism, Slipstream, Fabulism, and Weird and “What If”.

Genres that fell more towards the middle of the spectrum—that is, those receiving support by 40-65%  of responders, included Science (physics, chemistry, biology, etc), Domestic Fabulism, Dinosaurs, “Interstitial” works, biographies of speculative poets, and poems in which traditional SF&F tropes as literary device (analogy, simile).

On the lower end of the spectrum—those genres that are most controversial, according to responders—we find Bizzaro, SF&F tropes as metaphor (bit of inconsistency there), biographies of scientists and (non-speculative) poets, Mundane Horror, Nature, Religion, Gender, Real history, Cowboy & Western, and Romance.

… Based on the results, the answer to that question is clear as mud–yes, there is consensus, and no, there really isn’t.  Are we surprised? Not really!

Nevertheless, it is the consensus of the SFPA executive committee that this survey was, at least, an interesting experiment.  We feel that you, our members and colleagues, will also find it interesting, and that, in regards to eligibility for our awards and publications, this survey can also be a useful tool to future SFPA editors and award Chairs, who are tasked with answering the practical question, “What is speculative poetry?

(11) HOUSE DIVIDED. Shannon Connor Winward has also released the results of a poll about a more specific question – “SFPA ‘Rhysling Maximum Length’ Survey Report” . Despite the narrower question, there was even sharper division.

One such discussion pertained to the Rhysling award “Long Poem” category – specifically, what, if anything, should be done with especially long poems that are nominated for the award.  Several members voiced concerns that poems above a certain length might strain the budget for the Rhysling anthology by adding in extra pages and printing costs.  Others expressed the idea that particularly long poems might be better considered as a distinct genre, rather than competing against poems of a more easily-consumed length.

In response to these concerns, the SFPA officers published an online survey entitled “Rhysling Maximum Length”, in November 2016.

Question #1: Should there be an upper line limit to long length Rhysling nominated poems?

While not every participant responded to all six questions; this fundamental question received exactly 100 responses, revealing a pure 50/50 split in member opinion:

No – 50 (50%)

Yes – 50 (50%)

Question #2: If yes, what should the upper limit be?

Assuming the membership voted in favor of an upper line limit for poems in the “Long Poem” Rhysling category, it would be necessary to define said limit.

The first option, “9 pages / 5K words / 500 lines” was designed to dovetail upper length limit for Rhysling “Long Poems” with the minimum length requirements for the SFPA’s Elgin Award for book-length works.  Out of 51 responses, this option received a majority vote.

9 pages / 5K words / 500 lines – 30 (59%)

Other – 21 (41%)

(12) TRADING PRICES. If you already ordered this Gauntlet Press at the original $150 price you saved $50. Maybe more

When we priced the lettered edition of John Russo’s Night of the Living Dead we were told that George Romero would not be signing the lettered edition (even though we had a preface he wrote). Now Romero has agreed to sign that edition. His signing makes this an event book, therefore we are increasing the price of the lettered edition to $200. The only reason we would increase the price of a book is if we had someone sign our lettered edition we hadn’t expected; someone truly collectible. The good news is that anyone who has already purchased the lettered edition for $150 won’t have to pay a penny more. We don’t believe we should make those who pre-ordered a book pay more if we increase its price. Those who pre-ordered get the same lettered edition, signed by Russo and Romero, as anyone who orders now. And, a word to the wise…we are trying to get other major names to sign the book so the price might increase again. Order now and you get the book for $200 regardless whomever else we get to sign.

(13) MARTIAN CHRONICLER. In 2009, Ray Bradbury made his last visit to JPL to celebrate the success of the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andew Porter, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/3/17 Scrolling, Scrolling, Scrolling – Rawhide!

(1) SPACE FLOWING PAST THE PORTS LIKE WINE FROM A PITCHER. Here’s a video excerpt from the class “To Space Opera and Beyond with Ann Leckie”, part of the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, in which Leckie discusses the basics of space opera and the definition of it provided by Brian Aldiss.

(2) BEARS DISCOVER MCGUIRE. Reading Omni’s “Best Emerging Fantasy Authors of 2016”, James Davis Nicoll snorted at one of the selections:

They’ve discovered Guy Gavriel Kay! Who they think is an emerging author. But it is not their fault.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia brought the problem to the attention Omni and was given the brushoff.

Moreno-Garcia persisted – since this is just pixels on the internet and not carved in granite, Omni could do something about it even now.

JJ adds about another of Omni’s choices, “Given her 8-year career, 25 novels and 4 collections, 9 Hugo finalists plus 2 wins, and a Tiptree finalist, I don’t think Seanan McGuire can be considered “emerging”, either.”

(3) NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION YESTERDAY. Mayim Bialik celebrated #NationalScienceFictionDay on January 2 by showing her readers this historic tome –

Here’s me with the book that inspired GrokNation, Heinlein’s Sci Fi classic Stranger in a Strange Land! For more info on what “grok” means, check this out: http://groknation.com/faq/

 

mayim-bialik-nat-sf-day

(4) BIOLOGY LESSON. An educational graphic the young’uns can study.

(5) BEFORE PALPATINECARE. Motherboard’s Sarah Jeong asks “Did Inadequate Women’s Healthcare Destroy Star Wars’ Old Republic?”

Padme Never Goes to a OB/GYN

Prenatal visits never happen in Episode III, not even offscreen. Despite Anakin’s spiraling paranoia about Padme’s health, doctors or hospitals are bizarrely never mentioned. And the evidence says that Padme never got an ultrasound.

When she confronts Anakin towards the end of the movie—shortly before giving birth—she refers to “our child,” rather than “our children.” It doesn’t make sense for her to be hiding the ball here, she’s making one last emotional appeal to the father of her children, to try to bring him back to the light side. Rather, Padme simply doesn’t know that she’s about to give birth to twins.

(6) DISSENTING VOICE. “Vera Rubin Didn’t Discover Dark Matter” avers Richard Panek at Scientific American.

Vera Rubin didn’t discover dark matter.

Rubin died last weekend, at the age of 88. Headlines have repeatedly identified her as having “discovered” dark matter or having “proved” the existence of dark matter. Even the Carnegie Institution’s press release announcing her death—she had worked as a staff astronomer at Carnegie’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, D.C., for half a century before her recent retirement—said that she “confirmed the existence of dark matter.” Rubin would have said she did no such thing. I know, because she did say that, to me, on several occasions.

One could make the argument that the correct formulation of her achievement is that she discovered evidence for the existence of dark matter, and while Rubin likely would have acquiesced to that construction, she would have found it incomplete, perhaps even misleading. She would have said that while she discovered evidence for the existence of dark matter, you shouldn’t infer from that statement that dark matter actually exists.

The distinction wasn’t merely a matter of semantics. It was, to her, a matter of philosophy, of integrity—a matter of how science works.

(7) JPL ANNIVERSARY. Thanks to SciFi4me we know “Jet Propulsion Laboratory Celebrates 80 Years With Free 2017 Calendar”.

As part of their 80th anniversary, JPL has released a free 2017 calendar you can download, filled with photos from both JPL and NASA, and including anniversaries and events. They also have an interactive timeline of JPL’s biggest moments. You can access both of these, as well as more history of JPL, over on the JPL website. JPL has regular open houses, and I hope to attend one myself one day now that I’m in Los Angeles.

Download calendar (PDF 28 MB)

(8) GETTING THE WORD OUT. A Tom Gauld strip —

(9) NEW PODCAST. The Blastoff Podcast has been launched this week by Jud Meyers and Scott Tipton, creators of Blastoff Comics in North Hollywood.

In the premiere episode, Scott explains the difference between the golden and silver ages of comic books. Then, Jud muses on the child-like wonder of stepping inside a brick and mortar comic shop.

blastoff-podcast-825x383

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 3, 1924 – King Tut’s sarcophagus was uncovered.
  • January 3, 2004 — Spirit rover landed on Mars.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 3, 1892 – J. R. R. Tolkien

(12)ESCAPING THE SHADOW. Simon Tolkien, grandson of J.R.R., tells how WWI inspired Lord of the Rings (and his own very modest career).

My grandfather, JRR Tolkien, died when I was 14. He remains vivid to me but through child-like impressions – velvet waistcoats and pipe smoke; word games played on rainy afternoons in the lounge of a seaside hotel or standing on the windy beach down below, skipping flat black pebbles out across the grey waves; a box of matches that he had thrown up in the air to amuse me, rising and falling as if in slow motion through the branches of a horse chestnut tree.

These memories did nothing to illuminate who my grandfather was or how he thought beyond a sense of wise benevolence arching over me like that tree. Nothing except for his religion: I remember the emotion in his voice when he recited prayers with me in the evening – not just the Hail Mary and the Our Father but others too – and the embarrassment I felt at church on Sundays when he insisted on kneeling while everyone else stood, and loudly uttering responses in Latin when everyone else spoke in English.

(13) GOOD FAKES. Timothy Anderson’s online gallery includes a set of clever faux vintage Star Wars paperback covers. They start with The Purloined Plans, second row down, toward the right.

(14) SHUTTERED. Crawford Doyle Booksellers on Manhattan’s Upper East Side is closing. Andrew Porter remembers —

The store, at 1082 Madison Ave, New York (between 81st and 82nd), was a bookstore long before 21 years ago. I used to live above it, at 24 East 82nd Street, and when I was a teenager in the early 1960s, and delivered Womrath Library books to subscribers in the neighborhood.

Downstairs, reached by a staircase from the store, there was an antique toy store. At one time, they sold military miniatures, including soldier figures from Donald A. Wollheim’s collection. An occasional visitor, I was told, was a collector by the name of George R.R. Martin. Another small part of my history disappearing into oblivion…

(15) CLIPPING SERVICE. Some of you might like this assortment of topical clips more than Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green did.

Next up, we have yet another call to have a year of publishing nothing but women. Yep, you read that right. Kamila Shamshie has called for 2018 to be the year of publishing only women. Now, I know what you’re going to say. Look at the source of the article. It’s the Guardian. I know. I know. Another bastion of, well, drivel. However, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen such calls, or something similar. Have you forgotten the calls for readers to give up on reading books by men — or non-people of color or other so-called marginalized groups — for a year?

One of the best responses I’ve seen to the Shamshie article comes from Dacry Conroy. These three paragraphs completely dismantle Shamshie’s argument:

Yes! I thought. We do need to take example from the suffragettes, we do need to stop being so polite and seize our own power, raise our voices and… That’s when she lost me. Because what Shamsie suggested we raise our voices to say to the publishing industry was, essentially, “Please let us in. You’re being unfair. Just for one year without any boys in the way and see if the readers like us. It doesn’t have to be right away, 2018 is fine, but give us a go? Please?”

I don’t see the spirit of the independent presses of the 70s and 80s in that. What I see is a spirit of dependence on an industry that infantilizes writers, making them grateful for any morsel of approval and attention, convincing them that a publishing house is the only way to ‘real’ publication. This seems to be particularly so of literary writers (a group to which I do not pretend to belong) who appear to have been convinced that even though they are the keepers of the “artistic flame,” they would not have an audience at all without the festivals, the reviewers and the awards the publishing houses so carefully close to all but their own.

Surely the lesson from the independent presses of the 70s isn’t to plead for someone else to start a press and offer better opportunities, it’s to stand up, use the technology available and become our own publishers. Many of us are already doing that.

(16) THE YEAR IN RPG. Shannon Appelcline, respected RPG industry watcher, delivers a big gaming roundup in “Advanced Designers & Dragons #10: 2016: The Year in Review”.

The Continued Rise of Indies. For several years now, I’ve been talking about the rise of indie games, as several once-indie companies have become major players in the industry. In 2016 a few of them started collecting together other games, turning themselves into publishing houses that go beyond just the particular ideas of their owners.

Evil Hat* was the most notable, with their expansion occurring thanks to the success of the Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game (2017?)*. They’ve hired a few people on as full-time employees, which is a luxury in today’s roleplaying industry, let alone the indie industry. Meanwhile, they’re printing and distributing a few successful Kickstarters: Blades in the Dark (2017?)* and Karthun: Lands of Conflict (2017?).

Burning Wheel strikes me as a smaller, more casual organization, but they similarly picked up the publishing and distribution of a few indie games: Dungeon World (2012) and Jared Sorsensen’s Parsely games (2009-2010). This also seems like a more casual partnership, mainly amounting to Burning Wheel HQ, Sage Kobold, and Memento Mori combining forces, like in the Gen Con Forge booth of days gone by, but between Burning Wheel (2002), Torchbearer (2013), and Dungeon World (2012), you have three of the most notable indie fantasy RPGs, all under one roof!

Last year also offered one more example of the indie movement growing and maturing: the blockbuster Apocalypse World (2010) got a second edition (2016).

The Inevitable Kickstarter Report. As in recent years, I’m going to end this review with a look at Kickstarter. And, I think the only description of Kickstarter this year is: wow. I mean, it’s been good for the industry for years, but in 2016 it notched up a higher level of success than ever before.

To start with, we suddenly had 26 pure RPG Kickstarters that raised more than $100,000 in 2016, after years of hovering below 20. Most notably, 7th Sea raised $1.3 million! That’s almost double the previous high, which was Deluxe Exalted 3e, which raised $684,755 in 2013. 7th Sea’s 11,483 backers also beat out the 10,103 backers for Evil Hat’s Fate Core from 2012-2013, a number that I thought might be unassailable.

(17) BEST NEW WRITERS. Rocket Stack Rank has put together a list of stories from Campbell-eligible authors. Greg Hullender explains:

As usual, the entry for each story has a spoiler-free blurb plus a link to a more detailed review. People who have already done their reading for the year and just need to be reminded of which story was which will probably find both of those useful. For people still looking for things to read, we’ve indicated which stories were recommended by us or any of the reviewers we track, and there are links to places to read stories for free (where possible) and otherwise there’s info on how to buy or borrow them.

The graph shows that Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies were the most friendly venues for new authors. Original anthologies are the least.

(18) GROOVY, MAN. @70sscifiart on Twitter shares retro sf covers and art.

(19) SUPERFINE. Melville House has a story about a very overdue library book.

Gillett came across the 1,000-page tome when, after her husband’s death, she was sorting through a collection of 6,000 books. Finding the HCS library stamp on the inside cover, she realized the extraordinary truth, and decided to return the book to the school along with a note reading: “I am sorry to inform you that one of your former pupils, Prof AE Boycott FRS, appears to have stolen the enclosed. I can’t imagine how the school has managed without it!”

Perhaps this book helped inspire the Professor’s future career. The little boy once obsessed with snails now has his own portrait hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Based on the rate at Hereford library, the fine could have been charged at 17 pence a day, over 120 years, totalling around £7,446.

(20) ROTSLER AWARD EXHIBIT AT LOSCON. Courtesy of Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink we have a photo of the Rotsler Award Exhibit from Loscon 2016 featuring the art of Ditmar.

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(21) SCAVENGERS. This is an animated short film about astronauts who were stranded on a planet a long time ago, long enough that they’ve learned a great deal about the planet’s biological organisms and the interactions between the native flora and fauna.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Rambo, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Bruce Baugh, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mark-kitteh.]

Pixel Scroll 10/31/16 The Scroll Has Already Started. It’s Too Late For The Pixels To Vote

(1) HARTWELL LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD. Kathryn Cramer posted the speech she prepared for Gordon Van Gelder to deliver accepting David G. Hartwell’s posthumous World Fantasy Life Achievement Award.

First of all, to the board, we are sorry David missed the meeting this morning. Almost nothing could stop him from showing up bright and early on the Sunday morning of World Fantasy to preside over the board meeting.

Not late nights, high fevers, the birth of his children.

This convention—and these awards—were very important to David. For him they were about the conversations we have about our genre and what the genre can do for the world. It makes us proud to think of you all in this room thinking about and talking about the fantasy and horror genres and what excites you about them.

Take a moment, in his honor, and look around the room at the people you have connected with here.

This is what he wanted for you.

This Life Achievement award honors a life well-lived. Thank you all.

(2) ROBERTA POURNELLE SUFFERS STROKE. Jerry Pournelle announced some “Bad News at Chaos Manor”.

Sunday morning – this morning although it’s after midnight now so maybe I mean yesterday morning – I discovered that Roberta had suffered a stroke during the night. I called 911. The firemen responded almost instantly.

We spent the day first at the St. Joseph’s Emergency Room (where the firemen took me after my stroke), then at the Kaiser Emergency Room where she was taken by ambulance arranged by Kaiser, then finally in the Kaiser main hospital. Alex was with me for essentially the entire time. My second son, Frank, who lives in Palm Springs, drove up as soon as he could. Our youngest son, Richard, flew in from DC and just got here.

Roberta appears to be about where I was after my stroke. She can’t really talk yet, but she’s aware of what’s going on around her. We’re trying to arrange rehab at Holy Cross where I was retaught how to swallow, walk, and do all the other things people do.

I’m trying to be calm, but I’m scared stiff.

(3) MARATHON WOMAN. Pat Cadigan’s window isn’t closing this year but she remembers when that was the medical prediction — “Late 2016 Already – Where Does The Time Go”.

…This is not silly wish-fulfilment fantasy optimism on my part. At the worldcon in Kansas City, a few of us fellow-travellers in Cancerland did a panel about living with cancer. One beautiful lady has stage-four lung cancer. You’d never know it, though, because she’s doing great––clinical trials pay off. In fact, over thirty years ago, my Aunt Loretta (one of my mothers) agreed to be in a clinical trial for a breast cancer drug. That drug is Tamoxifen. On her behalf, you’re welcome.

Rational optimism notwithstanding, however, I still remember how the last months of 2016 were projected to be the last months of my life and…well, I can’t help gloating. Who am I gloating at? Cancer, of course. Who else?

These days, I’m thinking not so much in terms of a singing horse as I am the story about the two people in the forest being chased by a bear. One of them stops and puts on fancy running shoes. The other person says, ‘Do you really think you can outrun a bear?’ And the first person says, ‘No, I only have to outrun you.’

I picture me and cancer being chased by a bear called Annihilation. It’s going to get one of us first, and I’m hoping thanks to current clinical trials and the latest developments in immunotherapy, that will be cancer, not me. All I have to do is last long enough. All I have to do is outrun cancer.

(4) TOLKIEN GETS AWARD. The Tolkien Society reports Christopher Tolkien has been awarded the Bodley Medal, given by the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to literature, culture, science, and communication.

Tolkien Society chair Shaun Gunner said: “Christopher Tolkien is a very worthy recipient of the Bodley Medal not only for his own work but for the decades of tireless dedication he has shown in editing his father’s texts. From The Silmarillion to next year’s Beren and Lúthien, Christopher has opened up new vistas of Middle-earth that otherwise might never have seen the light of day. This award is a testament to Christopher’s quiet scholarship as an editor, and a symbol of the continuing significance of J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium.”

Christopher Tolkien said: “Although I have never looked for anything remotely of such a kind, I find it especially welcome to receive the Bodley Medal in that it affirms the unique significance of my father’s creation and accords a worthy place in the Republic of Letters to Tolkien scholarship. It gives me particular pleasure that the award comes from and is conceived by the Bodleian, where a great part of my father’s manuscripts lie and where I have happy memories of the great library itself.”

(5) HARASSMENT AT WFC. Jason Sanford revealed the committee was called upon to handle a harassment issue at this weekend’s World Fantasy Con.

Lucy A. Snyder also wrote a public Facebook post.

So I just returned from WFC, where some women experienced harassment: street harassment from rando men that convention organizers had no control over, and at-con harassment courtesy of a local fan who has a documented history of bad behavior (the convention organizers appeared to take the harassment report seriously and appeared to handle it as per their policy, but I question why they’d sell a membership to someone who is known to be a problem.)…

Snyder added in a comment:

I know he harassed at least one woman, because she told me and I escorted her to con ops so she could make the report. In the instance I know about, he did it in front of a male witness (who filed a corroborating report), so I strongly suspect there were other instances that I don’t know about and/or didn’t get reported.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY FANDOM

  • Born October 31 1930 – British fandom. That is fanhistorian Rob Hansen’s pick for the date it all began. Click to see the newspaper report of the meeting from the Ilford Recorder.

On Monday October 27th, 1930, the Ilford Science Literary Circle held its inaugural meeting at 32 Thorold Road (which a check of contemporary electoral rolls shows to have been the home of George & Mary Dew), the first ever meeting of our first ever SF fan group. If British fandom has a birthday, this is it. Here is Gillings’ report on the outcome of the event. More details of how many were present and the like would have been useful, but Gillings’ primary intent is to proselytise:…

(7) ESFS AWARDS NOMINEES. At Europa SF, Nina Horvath has listed the 2016 nominees for 14 annual awards presented by the European Science Fiction Society.

I’m not excerpting any of the information here because a lot of the names include special characters that just turn into question marks on WordPress.  Boo!

(8) SERIES OF INTEREST. Ed Zitron profiles the late, lamented show beloved by many fans: “Person Of Interest Was Anti-Prestige TV And Too Smart For Primetime”.

First, let me tell you what Person of Interest is. Person of Interest is the inverse of Game of Thrones. For every shock death from the HBO’s version of George R.R. Martin’s book series, it had Kevin Chapman getting maced by a model and beaten up with a handbag. For every Game of Thrones setpiece that sent 49 bloggers into an ejaculatory frenzy over the ambiguous motives and bloodlines of royals, Person of Interest had a scene where Jim Caviezel kicks seven shades of shit out of the cardboard archetype of a bad person. It’s weird watching Jesus throttle people, but you know what, we’re all going to Hell anyway.

[Warning, reading this may spoil the show. But really, you could read an entire synopsis and the show would still be fantastic.]

Caviezel’s John Reese is a former CIA agent that you’re introduced to as a piss-stained, beardy hooch-swigging hobo sitting on a subway train. In one of the most satisfying scenes in TV history, a group of rich dickheads yell at him on the train and attempt to take his booze, which he clings to with an iron grip. He then proceeds to beat them up with his somehow-not-atrophied CIA skills before grabbing one around the throat and giving him the deep, angry stare of a man who uses his pants as a toilet and just wanted to enjoy his train booze in peace.

It’s a great introduction to the show in its purest sense. Peel back the layers of intrigue, spywork and social commentary, and you’ll still find a TV show that brings back the pure joy of seeing people you don’t like getting beaten up. There are no pretenses to prestige here.

(9) HE SCORES, HE WINS! James Davis Nicoll has the numbers to prove a point.

The following review sources managed to review as many works by persons of colour in 2015 as I did in Oct 2016.

Interzone 7
LARB 7

The following review sources failed to review as many works by persons of colour in 2015 as I did in Oct 2016. Note that the Big Three are listed.

NYRSF 6
F&SF 5
Analog 3
Asimov’s 3
SFS 2
Foundation 1
Rising Shadows 1

(10) SAY CHEESE! NPR reports “NASA’S New ‘Intruder Alert’ System Spots An Incoming Asteroid”.

NASA pays for several telescopes around the planet to scan the skies on a nightly basis, looking for these objects. “The NASA surveys are finding something like at least five asteroids every night,” says astronomer Paul Chodas of JPL.

But then the trick is to figure out which new objects might hit Earth.

“When a telescope first finds a moving object, all you know is it’s just a dot, moving on the sky,” says Chodas. “You have no information about how far away it is. “The more telescopes you get pointed at an object, the more data you get, and the more you’re sure you are how big it is and which way it’s headed. But sometimes you don’t have a lot of time to make those observations.

“Objects can come close to the Earth shortly after discovery, sometimes one day, two days, even hours in some cases,” says JPL’s Davide Farnocchia. “The main goal of Scout is to speed up the confirmation process.”

(11) WHEN GENIUSES PLAY WITH SHARP OBJECTS. Here what NASA’s JPL brings to jack o’lantern design:

Carving pumpkins may not be rocket science – but that hasn’t stopped Nasa engineers.

Scientists at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Lab held their annual contest to create the best pumpkin this week.

Entries included a gourd inspired by Star Wars villain Darth Vader, and two pumpkins dressed as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton being hit by a meteor.

Motors, robotics and lights all featured heavily.

(12) COSTUMES FOR WHEELCHAIRS. About half a dozen photos here illustrating how wheelchairs are converted to vehicles of kids’ dreams.

Halloween is big business and when you use a wheelchair you want your outfit to pack a punch when you go trick-or-treating.

In America, Ryan Weimer and his wife Lana, have tapped into that market by providing children with the 3D costumes of their imaginations.

Costing between $2,000 and $4,000 each, a team of volunteers spend about 120 hours building the costumes which range from aeroplanes to dragons.

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(13) HALLOWEEN TREE. Ray Bradbury tells how the “Halloween Tree” novel and animated film came about.

(14) RAY’S FAVORITE HOLIDAY. John King Tarpinian visited Ray Bradbury’s grave today, bringing some gifts and decorations.

Every Halloween I pay a visit to the Westwood Cemetery where Ray Bradbury is at rest.  I had the custom trick or treat bag made and filled it with Clark Bars, Ray’s favorite.  The little pumpkin shaped stone I luckily found yesterday from a bead shop I was dragged to by a visiting out of town friend.  The pumpkins were brought by one of Ray’s theatrical actors, Robert Kerr.

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(15) BOO PLATE SPECIAL. Someone’s Cthulhu license plate attracted a crowd at World Fantasy Con.

(16) SILLY SYMPHONY. And here’s your musical accompaniment of the day:

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, James Davis Nicoll, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]