Pixel Scroll 10/31/18 Niels Pixel’s Underground Scrolls

(1) REALLY AND SINCERELY DEAD. [Item by Bill.] Harry Houdini died 92 years ago today:

The Official Houdini Seance will be held this year in Baltimore at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. The event will feature talks by Houdini experts and performances by magicians. The museum is currently home to the exhibition Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini. Note: This event is SOLD OUT.

Although his fame was based on his magic and escapes, he was genre-adjacent:

  • His movie serial Master Mystery (1919) featured Q the Mechanical Man, one of the first robots on film.

  • In his film The Man from Beyond (1922), he plays a man frozen in ice in 1820 and revived in 1922.

  • He had a couple of pieces of fiction published in Weird Tales (ghost-written by H. P. Lovecraft).

(2) WEAR YOUR HALLOWEEN COSTUME TO WORK. This won the Internet today:

(3) CANDY CONVERTER. Here’s what you all are going to be looking for later tonight – from Adweek, “Reese’s Halloween Vending Machine Lets You Exchange Trash Candy for the Good Stuff”.

According to the Food Network, the machines had their maiden voyage on October 27 in Tarrytown, New York, birthplace of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, at the town’s big annual Halloween parade. And on Halloween, October 31, Reese’s will set up a Candy Exchange Vending Machine in New York City, so New Yorkers can ditch whatever candy they’re not that into for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

(4) SERIOUS SCIENTIFIC CANDY TALK. From LAist, “LAist’s Ultra Scientific Halloween Candy Ranker Proves Reese’s Is The Best Candy Bar Ever”.

(5) BLACK PANTHER ON HALLOWEEN. Michael Cavna and David Betancourt in the Washington Post ask if it’s all right for white kids to dress as characters from Black Panther for Halloween, with many white parents bothered by this but African-Americans such as director Reg Hudlin and Black Panther costume director Ruth E. Carter told him, “Yes, any kid can wear a Black Panther costume, say creators who helped shape the character”.

SINCE FEBRUARY, when Disney/Marvel’s smash “Black Panther” first captured not only audience attention but also the cultural zeitgeist, reporters have been asking the question: Which kids are permitted to don the superhero costume from the fictional African nation of Wakanda?

Or as Joshua David Stein wondered in a column at the time for Fatherly: “Should I allow my white son to dress as a black superhero?”

Jen Juneau wrote on People.com this month: “Parents of white children may want to think twice before purchasing a Black Panther Halloween costume this year.” And Steph Montgomery, writing this month for the online publication Romper, said: “I don’t think it’s appropriate for my white children to dress up as main characters T’Challa and Shuri, or the members of Dora Milaje — the badass women special forces of Wakanda.

…But in interviews with The Washington Post, several creators who have helped shape the Black Panther character, along with other prominent authors who have written characters of color, are adamant: Any kid can dress as Black Panther.

“The idea that only black kids would wear Black Panther costumes is insane to me,” said Reg Hudlin, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker who has worked on Wakanda-set projects for both the page and screen, including the animated TV miniseries “Black Panther.” “Why would anyone say that?”

…Ruth E. Carter, the Oscar-nominated costume designer (“Malcolm X,” “Amistad”), created the beautifully intricate attire for Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther,” drawing inspiration from not only the comics but also from real-world designs in Africa.

She says the point in creating such Afrofuturistic art is to build not barriers but, rather, cultural bridges — and so fans should embrace that the world of Black Panther is “taking its royal place in the vast Comic-Con and cosplayer universe.”

So why are people posing this question over T’Challa now, Carter says rhetorically.

“The only reason we’re asking that question now is because the Black Panther is a black man. And I think that’s what’s wrong with people — that’s what’s wrong with parents,” Carter said. “Because I see kids far and wide embracing the concept of a superhero. I believe they see him as someone who is majestic and powerful and doing good, and has a kingdom and a legacy and is pretty cool. I don’t think they see a black guy — I think they see the image of a superhero,” she added, and “it happens to be the Black Panther just as it happens to be Superman.”

(6) FUTURE TENSE. Each month in 2018, Future Tense Fiction—a series of short stories from Future Tense and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives— is publishing a story on a theme.

This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is: “Burned-Over Territory” by Lee Konstantinou.

I’m halfway through a plate of soggy risotto, giving my opinion about the Project Approval Framework, when my phone buzzes. I thought I’d muted notifications. I’m tempted to check the alert, but 30 faces are watching me, all Members, some from Zardoz House, the rest from other Houses around Rochester. We’re at a table made from reclaimed wood, which is covered with food and drink. It’s freezing. Everyone’s wearing sweaters, hats, coats, scarves, mittens; I’m in a blue blazer over a T-shirt, jeans, and leather boots. My hair is buzzed into a crew cut, and even though it makes me feel like an ass clown, I’m wearing makeup….

It was published along with a response essay, “What Problem Is Universal Basic Income Really Trying to Solve?”, by UBI advocate Sebastian Johnson.

…Many policy advocates and technologists have promoted universal basic income, or UBI, as one way to cope with the specter of joblessness wrought by advances in artificial intelligence. UBI would provide each individual with a no-strings-attached payment each month to cover basic needs and prevent individuals from falling below the poverty line. The benefits of UBI, according to proponents, would include the elimination of poverty, the fairer distribution of technologically generated wealth, and human flourishing. Critics are less sanguine, variously seeing in UBI a Trojan horse for dismantling the welfare state, an ill-considered policy that will sap humans of the self-actualization and pride derived from work, and a wholly inadequate response to the structural problems with late capitalism….

(7) WATCH THE WATCH. Deadline reports “Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ Adaptation ‘The Watch’ Lands At BBC America”.

The U.S. cable network describes the show as a “punk rock thriller” inspired by the City Watch subset of Discworld novels. The character-driven series centers on Terry Pratchett’s misfit cops as they fight to save a ramshackle city of normalized wrongness, from both the past and future in a perilous quest.

The Watch features many Discworld creations including City Watch Captain Sam Vimes, the last scion of nobility Lady Sybil Ramkin, the naïve but heroic Carrot Ironfoundersson, the mysterious Angua and the ingenious forensics expert Cheri together with Terry Pratchett’s iconic characterization of Death…

(8) KEPLER OBIT. Phys.org bids farewell to an exoplanet pioneer: “Kepler telescope dead after finding thousands of worlds”.

NASA’s elite planet-hunting spacecraft has been declared dead, just a few months shy of its 10th anniversary.

Officials announced the Kepler Space Telescope’s demise Tuesday.

Already well past its expected lifetime, the 9 1/2-year-old Kepler had been running low on fuel for months. Its ability to point at distant stars and identify possible alien worlds worsened dramatically at the beginning of October, but flight controllers still managed to retrieve its latest observations. The telescope has now gone silent, its fuel tank empty.

“Kepler opened the gate for mankind’s exploration of the cosmos,” said retired NASA scientist William Borucki, who led the original Kepler science team.

Kepler discovered 2,681 planets outside our solar system and even more potential candidates.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

They were out there on Halloween 1936 to try what few people at the time had tried: lighting a liquid rocket engine. It took them four attempts to get a rocket to fire for a glorious three seconds — though an oxygen hose also broke loose and sent them scampering for safety as it thrashed around.

  • October 31, 1962The First Spaceship On Venus premiered at your local drive-in.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 31, 1923 – Art Saha, Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Member of First Fandom who is credited with coining the term “Trekkies”. After becoming an editor at DAW books, he edited 8 volumes of The Year’s Best Fantasy, and, with Donald Wollheim, 19 volumes of The Annual World’s Best SF. He also edited the souvenir program book for the 1977 Worldcon and was a co-editor of the fanzine Parnassus. He was president of First Fandom and the NY Science Fiction Society (the Lunarians), chaired a number of Lunacons, and was named to the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1992.
  • Born October 31, 1930 – Michael Collins, 88, Astronaut and Test Pilot who was the Command Module pilot for Apollo 11 while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to become the first astronauts on the moon. He later served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, then went on to be director of the National Air and Space Museum, before becoming undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
  • Born October 31, 1937 – Jael, 81, Artist, Illustrator, and Fan whose work has appeared in books, magazines, and calendars. She became interested in producing speculative art after attending a symposium on contact with aliens and meeting writers C J Cherryh, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle. In her 50-year career, she has created more than 38,000 paintings and images, many of which are housed in public and private collections. She has received eight Chesley Award nominations, and has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions.
  • October 31, 1941 – Dan Alderson, Rocket Scientist and Fan who worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he wrote the navigation software for Voyagers 1 and 2, as well as trajectory monitoring software for low-thrust craft which was used for decades. He was a member of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, an Official Editor of the comic book APA CAPA-alpha, and an early member of gaming fandom. He died of complications of diabetes at the far-too-young age of 47, but has been immortalized as “Dan Forrester” in Niven and Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer.
  • Born October 31, 1950 – John Franklin Candy, Actor and Comedian from Canada best known in genre circles for playing Barf in Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs, as well as appearing in Frank Oz’s Little Shop of Horrors, Splash, Heavy Metal, Boris and Natasha, and the hilarious alt-history Canadian Bacon (one of JJ’s favorites). He was the narrator of “Blumpoe the Grumpoe Meets Arnold the Cat/Millions of Cats” for Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories. His talents were lost to the world far too early when he passed away in his sleep at the age of 43.
  • Born October 31, 1959 – Neal Stephenson, 59, Writer and Game Designer who is well known for doorstopper-length, award-nominated science fiction novels, including The Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon, Anathem, the Baroque Cycle trilogy, Snow Crash, and the hotly-debated Seveneves. His works have been translated into numerous languages and have won Hugo, Clarke, Prometheus, Premio Ignotus, Kurd Laßwitz, and Prix Imaginaire Awards. This year he was recognized with the Robert A. Heinlein Award, which recognizes authors who produce exceptional works promoting space exploration.
  • Born October 31, 1961 – Peter Jackson, 57, Writer, Director, and Producer from New Zealand whose most famous genre works are the spectacular Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, as well as The Frighteners, King Kong, The Lovely Bones, and the upcoming Mortal Engines. His use of the NZ-based Weta Workshop for his films has helped turn that firm into a computer graphics and special-effects powerhouse now known for their work on many Hollywood blockbusters.
  • Born October 31, 1982 – Justin Chatwin, 36, Actor from Canada who was the principal guest star in the rather delightful 2016 Doctor Who Christmas special “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”. He’s also been in War of The Worlds, Dragonball Evolution, and The Invisible; had recurring roles in the Orphan Black and American Gothic series; and appeared in episodes of The Listener, Lost, Smallville, Mysterious Ways, and Night Visions.
  • Born October 31, 1979 – Erica Cerra, 39, Actor from Canada who is best known for her portrayal of Deputy Jo Lupo on the Eureka series, but has extensive genre credentials which include recurring roles on Battlestar Galactica and The 100, and guest parts in episodes of Supernatural, The 4400, Smallville, The Dead Zone, Warehouse 13, iZombie, Reaper, Dead Like Me, Special Unit 2, and Sanctuary. You get to guess how many were filmed in Vancouver, BC…
  • Born October 31, 1994 – Letitia Michelle Wright, 24, Guyanese-born British Actor who, in just 8 short years, has built a substantial genre resume including a recurring role in the TV series Humans and guest parts in the Doctor Who episode “Face the Raven” and the Black Mirror episode “Black Museum”, for which she received an Emmy Award nomination. Her genre film credits include a Saturn-nominated role as Shuri in Black Panther (a character which will be the subject of a new comic book series by Hugo winner Nnedi Okorafor), Ready Player One, Avengers: Infinity War, and the upgoming Avengers sequel.

(11) WIMPY BOOK TOUR. Christina Barron in the Washington Post says that Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney, rather than a traditional book tour, is having “Wimpy Kid Live: The Meltdown Show,” with “costumes, cartooning, and the chance to stump the author on Wimpy Kid trivia: “Jeff Kinney puts on a show to launch new ‘Wimpy Kid’ book”.

Considering “The Meltdown” is Number 13 in the series, you might expect Kinney’s next book to be “Diary of a Weary Writer.” But instead of slowing down, the author is changing up what he does when he meets his many fans. He’s doing a few typical talks and book signings, but Kinney is also putting on a show.

“We thought it would be really fun to change the idea of what a book signing is,” Kinney said in a recent phone conversation.

(12) AGITPROP. The Hollywood Reporter takes note when a “’Rehire James Gunn’ Billboard Appears Near Disneyland”:

On Monday, a digital billboard popped up in Garden Grove, California, at an intersection just over four miles away from Disneyland in Anaheim. The billboard, which reads “Save the Galaxy: James Gunn for Vol. 3,” was paid for via a GoFundMe campaign that has raised nearly $5,000 since launching last month. The campaign sprang from the minds of a group of fans who organized online soon after Disney fired Gunn as director of Guardians 3 on July 20, after conservative personalities resurfaced old tweets in which the filmmaker joked about rape and pedophilia.

(13) SUMMER SCARES. The Horror Writers Association announced its “Summer Scares Reading Program”.

The Horror Writers Association (HWA), in partnership with United for Libraries, Book Riot, and Library Journal/School Library Journal, has launched a reading program that provides libraries and schools with an annual list of recommended horror titles for adult, young adult (teen), and middle grade readers. The goal is to introduce new authors and help librarians start conversations with readers that will extend beyond the books from each list and promote reading for years to come.

Each year, a special guest author and a committee of four librarians will select 3 recommended fiction titles in each of 3 reading levels (Middle Grade, Teen, and Adult), for a total of 9 Summer Scares selections. The goal of the program is to encourage a national conversation about the entire horror genre, across all age levels, at libraries all over the country and ultimately get more adults, teens, and children interested in reading. Official Summer Scares designated authors will also be available to appear, either virtually or in person, at public and school libraries all over the country, for free.

The committee’s final selections will be announced on February 14— National Library Lover’s Day. Some or all of the authors of those titles will appear on kickoff panels during Librarian’s Day at StokerCon each year.

(14) CIXIN LIU ADAPTATION. At The Verge, Weekend Editor Andrew Liptak seems to be taken with the teaser trailer for the Chinese film The Wandering Earth, an adaptation of a Cixin Liu story. (“The Wandering Earth could be China’s breakout sci-fi blockbuster film”) The movie appears to be the first in a proposed six-film franchise.

China isn’t typically known for its science fiction blockbusters, but a new trailer for an upcoming film called The Wandering Earth has all the hallmarks of a big, Hollywood-style genre movie: it features a dramatic story of the Earth in peril, complete with eye-popping scenes of spaceships escaping Earth.

The Wandering Earth is based on a story by Cixin Liu, the author best known for The Three-Body Problem, and, more recently, Ball Lightning. In the original story, scientists discovered that the sun is on the verge of turning into a red giant, and when it does, it’ll expand beyond the orbit of Mars, incinerating all of the solar system’s potentially habitable planets. They concoct a desperate plan to move Earth out of the solar system to a new star, Proxima Centauri.

 

(15) NOT GOING AT NIGHT. Popular Science raised a cheer because “NASA’s Parker Solar Probe just smashed two all-time records on its way to the sun”. The Parker Solar Probe has broken records as the fastest moving manmade object (relative to the Sun) and the closest manmade object to the Sun. Over a series of orbits, the perihelion will get progressively closer to the Sun, until the PSP dips into the solar corona.

The corona paradoxically burns millions of degrees hotter than the surface of the star itself, despite extending millions of miles into space. NASA expects that Parker will directly sample this unexplored zone on its 22nd orbit, which will take place in about six years.

Until then it will continue to best its own speed and closest approach records, which McDowell says is a fitting update to the largely overlooked legacy of Helios 1 and 2. “The great 1970s space probes, the really ambitious ones, there were three pairs: Viking, Voyager, and Helios. You’ve heard of Viking and Voyager, but you’ve never heard of Helios,” [astrophysicist Jonathon] McDowell says. Its measurements of the solar wind and magnetic field didn’t capture the public’s imagination in the same way as its camera-bearing cousins did, he suggests, but its speed record stood for nearly 42 years nonetheless.

(16) THE OLD EQUATIONS. Geek Tyrant can’t wait: “Anna Kendrick Heads To Mars in a New Sci-Fi Film Called STOWAWAY”.

Anna Kendrick is set to star in a new sci-fi thriller from XYZ Films called Stowaway. We’ve never really seen Kendrick in a sci-fi film before, so it’s cool to see her try something new.

Stowaway follows “the crew of a spaceship headed to Mars that discovers an accidental stowaway shortly after takeoff. Too far from Earth to turn back and with resources quickly dwindling, the ship’s medical researcher (Kendrick) emerges as the only dissenting voice against the group consensus that has already decided in favor of a grim outcome.”

(17) WOMEN OF THE GALAXY. A new book shows off badass female characters from the Star Wars universe (Polygon: “New art showcases the badassest women in the Star Wars universe”). The hardcover is a 30 October release from Chronicle Books and features a foreword by producer Kathleen Kennedy. It lists for $29.95.

Women of the Galaxy, a new art book examining female characters from every corner of the Star Wars universe, is exactly the kind of thing I would have read cover to cover twice in one sitting if you’d given it to me when I was nine.

From Jedi Master Aayla Secura to bounty hunter Zam Wesell, each alphabetical entry features art from a group of 18 women illustrators, as well as an explanation of the character’s history from Nerdist and StarWars.com writer Amy Ratcliffe. And with more than 70 characters in the book, there’s bound to be someone in here you’ve never heard of, but wish you had.

(18) DINO SUIT. Here’s our chance to test who are the most ferocious predators, Jurassic Park dinos or Hollywood lawyers: “‘Jurassic World’ Campaign to “Save the Dinos” Sparks $10M Lawsuit”

The Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom campaign to “Save the Dinos” has sparked a $10 million trademark infringement and breach of contract lawsuit against producers.

Frederick Zaccheo of The Dinosaur Project claims filmmakers breached their contract with him by using the slogan on merchandise.

According to the complaint filed Tuesday in New York federal court, lawyers for Universal and Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment contacted Zaccheo requesting his consent to use his trademarked phrase. They paid him $50,000 for the right to use it in advertising for the film and promised not to use it in connection with clothing or to promote any charity, specifically animal rights, endangered species and environmental causes. They also agreed that the slogan must always be used with Jurassic Park franchise branding.

“In the months leading up to the release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Defendants launched a multi-faceted advertising and marketing campaign centered around the theme of saving the fictional dinosaurs on the fictional island from the fictional volcano,” writes attorney Hillel Parness in the complaint. “To that end, Defendants created the ‘Dinosaur Protection Group,’ a fictional organization run by the character of Claire Dearing from the first Jurassic World film and portrayed by Bryce Dallas Howard.”

The campaign included a Dinosaur Protection Group website and social media sites and featured an Adopt-A-Dinosaur contest which offered Save the Dinos merchandise as prizes. (See the complaint below for screenshots.)

(19) ORLY? Camestros Felapton was surprised to hear the founder of Infogalactic touting it as a success: “Voxopedia Again”.

…What had caught my interest was that much of the content was actually about Voxopedia, the vanity Wikipedia project that’s just like Wikipedia but out of date and with nonsense attached. I was curious because manifestly as a project it has failed and clearly at some point it will be abandoned. I had assumed that it had already slipped into a zone of lack-of-interest as newer, shinier projects competed for attention*. But it seems not. rather Vox was holding up Voxopedia as a shining example of how he has all the experience he needs to run a social network.

Now note, currently Voxopedia has about 6-10 active editors or whom only two really are doing any work, two of whom are just feuding conspiracy theories maintaining their own separate (and incompatible) conspiracy pages, one of whom is engaged  in a personal campaign to document all things about Englebert Humperdinck (and nothing else) and one of whom is doing nothing but write hate pieces about transgender people….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Halloween: John Locke vs. The Zombies” on YouTube, American Enterprise Institute fellow Jonah Goldberg explains why political philosopher John Locke would support killing zombies during a zombie apocalypse.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/19/18 And Then There Were 770

(1) DRAGON AWARDS. July 20 is the deadline to nominate for Dragon Con’s Dragon Awards. If you’re ever going to do it now would be a good time…. If you’re not, no hurry!

(2) “JUST WEAR CLOTHES, HONEY.” That’s the advice I got the time I called Arthur Bryant’s ribs place to ask if they had a dress code. I follow the same advice when I go to the Hugos.

(3) TOR TAKES LIBRARIANS BY SURPRISE. And not in a good way: “Tor Scales Back Library E-book Lending as Part of Test”Publishers Weekly has the story.

After years of relatively little change in the library e-book market, there has finally been some movement—unfortunately, librarians say, it is movement in the wrong direction. Leading Sci-Fi publisher Tor Books, a division of Macmillan, has announced that, beginning with July 2018 titles, newly released e-books, will be no longer be available to libraries for lending until four months after their retail on sale date.

In a statement to libraries through their vendors, Macmillan officials said the new embargo was part of “a test program” (although an “open ended” test, the release states) to assess the impact of library e-book lending on retail sales. But the statement goes on to say that the publisher’s “current analysis on eLending indicates that it is having a direct and adverse impact on retail eBook sales,” and that Tor will work with library vendors to “develop ongoing terms that will best support Tor’s authors, their agents, and Tor’s channel partners.”

…On July 19, American Library Association president Loida Garcia-Febo issued the following statement:

“The American Library Association and our members have worked diligently to increase access to and exposure for the widest range of e-books and authors. Over years, ALA made great strides in working with publishers and distributors to better serve readers with increasingly robust digital collections. We remain committed to a vibrant and accessible reading ecosystem for all.

I am dismayed now to see Tor bring forward a tired and unproven claim of library lending adversely affecting sales. This move undermines our shared commitment to readers and writers—particularly with no advance notice or discussion with libraries. In fact, Macmillan references its involvement with the Panorama Project, which is a large-scale, data-driven research project focused on understanding the impact of library holdings on book discovery, author brand development, and sales. For this reason, this change by Tor—literally on the heels of Panorama’s launch—is particularly unexpected and unwelcome.

“The ALA calls for Macmillan to move just as quickly to reverse its course and immediately lift the embargo while the Panorama Project does its work.”

(4) BIG REBOOTS TO FILL. Somebody thought this would be a good idea: “‘In Search Of’: Zachary Quinto Follows in Leonard Nimoy’s Footsteps… Again”.

We’re all very used to revivals and reboots these days but with the return of iconic sci-fi/mystery series In Search Of , one big reason to celebrate (besides its launch on the History Channel) is that actor Zachary Quinto is a part of this project.

Quinto, who first became known to TV fans for his role as the villainous Sylar on the original run of NBC’s Heroes, leapt to greater heights of fame in 2009 when he took over the role of the most famous Vulcan in the galaxy, Spock, in the updated Star Trek big-screen franchise. Of course, Spock was first played by Leonard Nimoy in the 1960s television series and, yes, Nimoy later hosted In Search Of.

 

(5) DROPPED IN POTTER’S FIELD. There’s an open question about why this happened: “London erects 25-foot Jeff Goldblum statue to commemorate ‘Jurassic Park’s 25th anniversary”.

They were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should build a 25-foot replica of Jeff Goldblum.

Londoners and tourists alike were puzzled Wednesday morning to find a statue of Goldblum, his shirt unbuttoned in a recreation of his famous “Jurassic Park” pose, staring seductively at them from the banks of the River Thames near Tower Bridge.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 19 – Benedict Cumberbatch, 42. Some of his sort-of genre and definitely genre roles include Stephen Hawking in HawkingThe Hobbit films as a certain cranky dragon, Star Trek into DarknessDoctor Strange, Sherlock, and possibly my fav role potentially by him as the voice of the title character in the forthcoming animated The Grinch film.
  • Born July 19 – Jared Padalecki, 36. Best known for his role as Sam Winchester on Supernatural, and not surprisingly, Supernatural: The Animation.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) OKAY. Mad Genius Club columnist Kate Paulk makes everything as clear as she usually does in “Eschew Claytons Diversity”.

…Take the Mad Geniuses. We’re Odds. We don’t fit in. But every last one of us fails to fit in in a different way than every other one of us….

(9) UNDER NEWTON’S TREE. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler is getting to dislike F&SF’s 1963 incarnation almost as much as he loathes Analog“[July 18, 1963] Several bad apples (August Fantasy and Science Fiction)”.  

I’ve discussed recently how this appears to be a revival period for science fiction what with two new magazines having been launched and the paperback industry on the rise.  I’ve also noted that, with the advent of Avram Davidson at the helm of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, the editorial course of that digest has…changed.  That venerable outlet has definitely doubled down on its commitment to the esoteric and the literary.

Has Davidson determined that success relies on making his magazine as distinct from all the others as possible?  Or do I have things backwards?  Perhaps the profusion of new magazines is a reaction to F&SF’s new tack, sticking more closely to the mainstream of our genre.

All I can tell you is that the latest edition ain’t that great, though, to be fair, a lot of that is due to the absolutely awful Heinlein dross that fills half of the August 1963 Fantasy and Science Fiction.  See for yourself…

“Heinlein dross” turns out to be code for an installment of the novel Glory Road.

(10) SPACE SAILS. [Item by Mike Kennedy] An exploratory project at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville AL is examining metamaterials as the basis for a solar sail for CubeSat propulsion. The Near-Earth Asteroid Scout (NEA Scout) is being developed by Marshall and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a candidate secondary payload to launch with EM-1 the first uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System.

NEA Scout would be a robotic mission to fly by an NEA and return data “from an asteroid representative of NEAs that may one day be human destinations.” The asteroid chosen will depend on the launch date; the current target is  1991 VG. Though this is still only a candidate mission (and thus may never happen), NASA explains the mission like this:

Catching a ride on EM-1, NEA Scout will deploy from SLS after the Orion spacecraft is separated from the upper stage. Once it reaches the lunar vicinity, it will perform imaging for instrument calibration. Cold gas will provide the initial propulsive maneuvers, but the NEA Scout’s hallmark solar sail will leverage the CubeSat’s continual solar exposure for efficient transit to the target asteroid during an approximate two-year cruise.

Once it reaches its destination, NEA Scout will capture a series of low (50 cm/pixels) and high resolution (10 cm/pixels) images to determine global shape, spin rate, pole position, regional morphology, regolith properties, spectral class, and for local environment characterization.

Popular Science article looks a little closer at the use of metamaterials for the sail, talking with Dr. Grover Swartzlander (Rochester Institute of Technology) who is the lead for the project.

The metamaterial Swartzlander is proposing would have several advantages over the reflective materials of the past. Swartzlander’s sails would have lower heat absorption rates due to their diffractive nature which would scatter solar rays, and the ability to re-use what Swartzlander told NASA was “the abundant untapped momentum of solar photons” to fly through the cosmos.

Swartzlander is leading an exploratory study through NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program. With nine months and $125,000, his research team will work on a NASA satellite called the Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, or NEA Scout for short. A robotic reconnaissance mission, NEA Scout is a CubeSat meant to explore asteroids. NEA Scout would be NASA’s first craft to be powered by sails.

(11) THEY SWORE A MIGHTY OATH. No “Second Variety”? “AI Innovators Take Pledge Against Autonomous Killer Weapons”.

The Terminator‘s killer robots may seem like a thing of science fiction. But leading scientists and tech innovators have signaled that such autonomous killers could materialize in the real world in frighteningly real ways.

During the annual International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Stockholm on Wednesday, some of the world’s top scientific minds came together to sign a pledge that calls for “laws against lethal autonomous weapons.”

“… we the undersigned agree that the decision to take a human life should never be delegated to a machine,” the pledge says. It goes on to say, “… we will neither participate in nor support the development, manufacture, trade, or use of lethal autonomous weapons.”

The moniker “autonomous weapons” doesn’t draw the same fear or wonder as a killer robot, but weapons that can function without human oversight are a real concern.

(12) NOT THE SIZE OF A PLANET. No one will ever be wondering this about sff fans. Gizmodo’s article “Did Neanderthals Go Extinct Because of the Size of Their Brains?” follows up a paper in Scientific Reports and a theory that Homo neanderthalensis may have gone extinct because their brains — though larger than that of Homo sapiens — had a cerebellum that was proportionately underdeveloped relative to H. sapiens.

Indeed, though scientists have many Neanderthal skulls to work with, none of them contain actual brains, making it difficult to know what the inside of their heads actually looked like. The next best option, therefore, is to look at their fossilized skulls and try to figure out the shape, size, and orientation of the Neanderthal brain.

To do this, Ogihara’s team created virtual three-dimensional “casts” of brains using data derived from the skulls of four Neanderthals and four early modern humans (the skulls used in the study dated from between 135,000 and 32,000 years ago). This allowed the researchers to reconstruct and visualize the 3D structure of the brain’s grey and white matter regions, along with the cerebrospinal fluid regions. Then, using a large dataset from the Human Connectome Project, specifically MRI brain scans taken of more than 1,180 individuals, the researchers modeled the “average” human brain to provide a kind of baseline for the study and allow for the comparative analysis.

Using this method, the researchers uncovered “significant” differences in brain morphology. Even though Neanderthals had larger skulls, and thus larger brain volume overall, H. sapiens had a proportionately larger cerebellum, the part of brain involved in higher levels of thinking and action. Modern humans also featured a smaller occipital region in the cerebrum, which is tied to vision. Looking at these differences, the researchers inferred such abilities as cognitive flexibility (i.e. learning, adaptability, and out-of-the-box thinking), attention, language processing, and short-term and long-term memory. Homo sapiens, the researchers concluded, had better cognitive and social abilities than Neanderthals, and a greater capacity for long-term memory and language processing.

(13) FORTNITE. Brian Feldman, in “The Most Important Video Game on the Planet” in New York Magazine, looks at how Fortnite. since its introduction in July 2017, “has risen to become the most important video game currently in existence…obsessed over by rappers and athletes, hotly debated in high school cafeterias, and played by 125 million people.”

Since it launched in July of last year, Fortnite has risen to become the most important video game currently in existence. The 100-player, last-man-standing video-game shooter is obsessed over by rappers and athletes, hotly debated in high-school cafeterias, and played by 125 million people. All this, not because of a major technical or graphical breakthrough, or for a groundbreaking work of narrative depth, but for, essentially, a simple, endlessly playable cartoon. On a colorful island peppered with abandoned houses, towns, soccer fields, food trucks, and missile silos, players don colorful costumes, drop out of a floating school bus, and begin constructing ramshackle forts that look like they’ve popped straight out of a storybook, before blowing each other to smithereens.

(14) TITANS. Official trailer —

TITANS follows young heroes from across the DC Universe as they come of age and find belonging in a gritty take on the classic Teen Titans franchise.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 6/24/18 To File Where We Scrolled And Know The Pixel For The Fifth Time

(1) THUNDER LIZARDS MAKE BOX OFFICE NOISE. They tipped plenty of gold onto the scales this weekend: “‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ Feasts on $150 Million Opening”.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdomtopped estimates to devour $150 million from 4,475 locations in North America this weekend. While it fell short of its predecessors’ record-shattering $208.8 million launch, the dinosaur sequel is off to a mighty start. The Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard-led tentpole has already amassed $711.5 million worldwide, including $561.5 million overseas.

“Fallen Kingdom” easily led the weekend as the lone wide release, though “Incredibles 2” enjoyed a heroic second weekend. The Disney Pixar sequel picked up another $80 million, bringing its domestic total to $350.3 million. The superhero blockbuster, directed by Brad Bird, launched with $182.7 million, making it the best opening for an animated feature and the eighth-biggest debut of all time.

(2) ROANHORSE INTERVIEW. AzCentral profiled Nebula-winning Rebecca Roanhorse: “Navajo legends come to life in Rebecca Roanhorse’s debut novel ‘Trail of Lightning'”

She also has a more personal inspiration. Born of Ohkay Owingeh (Pueblo) and African-American heritage, Roanhorse was adopted by an Anglo family and grew up in Texas. As an adult, she reunited with her indigenous birth mother in New Mexico and began to immerse herself in the culture. She picked up a law degree at the University of New Mexico and ended up marrying a Navajo man.

“I’ve been very lucky and very honored that so many Navajo folks have invited me into their families and shared with me, but I don’t presume to speak for the culture,” Roanhorse says. “I’m a fantasy writer, and this was the culture that I wanted to set my world in, because I love this culture. It’s something that I wanted to share and something that really spoke to me.” …

Q: There’s been some pushback against emerging voices in science fiction, especially women of color, particularly with the campaign a few years ago to vote against those authors for the Hugo Awards. How do you respond to that?

A: Science fiction, as Ursula LeGuin would probably tell you, is always about social issues. It’s never not been about social issues. Even if you’re writing rocket men going to space, you’re writing from a certain perspective. Whatever it is that defines your place in society, that’s where your voice comes from. So actually it makes a lot of sense that if science fiction is telling us what the future is supposed to look like, or fantasy is letting us play out our dream ideas of what society might be, that they would take up these issues of identity. I think it’s kind of exciting that you’re seeing the science-fiction and fantasy community push back against people like the Sad Puppies, the organizations that were trying to push out the voices, some of the underrepresented voices, from women of color, disabled voices, queer voices.

And the stories are great.

(3) BEWARE SPOILERS. Cinema Blend has a window into the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s future: “James Gunn Confirms When Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 Will Take Place”. BEWARE AVENGERS SPOILAGE.

And just like that, one of the biggest mysteries surrounding the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise has been put to bed. Guardians 3 will indeed be set after the events of Infinity War. This seems to hint that the fallen Guardians might return, although it’s currently unclear exactly how that might occur.

James Gunn’s tweet reveals that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will be affected by the tragic events of the Russo Brothers’ Avengers movies. This is likely a relief for the fans, who wanted the story to continue moving forward, rather than backwards. And considering the insane fates of the Guardians’ members, simply ignoring their near-annihilation at the hands of Thanos would have felt disingenuous.

(4) COMING EXHIBIT. “‘Black Panther’ Is Coming To The Smithsonian’s African American Museum”. Artifacts from the movie will be displayed during the Smithsonian’s inaugural African American Film Festival in October.

After “Black Panther” basically broke the box office back in February, fans of the Marvel superhero movie have been clamoring for a sequel. But if you can’t wait for Hollywood to get its act together, the Smithsonian African American Museum of History and Culture has your back.

The museum announced Wednesday that it has acquired several objects from the film, including the Black Panther superhero costume. That is, the actual outfit that star Chadwick Boseman wore. On his body. While fighting to save Wakanda from evil.

…Curators are still in the process of figuring out plans for a permanent exhibit.

(5) DESTINATION MOON. And also on the way, a bit farther into the future, is the National Air and Space Museum’s exhibit “Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission”. It’s on the road now, and will come home to a permenant exhibit in 2021.

Building on centuries of imagination and scientific discovery, and on the Smithsonian’s unequaled collection of space artifacts, Destination Moon will show those who remember the 1960s as well as generations born afterward how an extraordinary combination of motivations, resources, technologies, and teamwork made it possible to send people and robots to the Moon. The new gallery will help visitors discover the scope of lunar exploration from ancient dreams to contemporary spacecraft missions. The entrance will feature a gigantic 1957 Moon mural by Chesley Bonestell, under which it presents lunar flight mythology, Jules Verne, early Moon movies, and 1950s spaceflight advocacy. Two of the Museum’s most treasured Apollo 11 artifacts will be on display: the Command Module Columbia and Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit. The gallery’s last section exhibits the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and a Space Launch System/Orion model and information about what has gone on at the Moon since the 1990s and what is happening now. A more focused touring version of the exhibition, called Destination Moon; The Apollo 11 Mission, features the Columbia. It is currently at the St. Louis Science Center and will continue to Pittsburgh and Seattle before returning to the Museum.

 

(6) CHABON COMIC REALIZED. NPR tells how “A Cornucopia Of Comic Artists Pay Homage To Michael Chabon’s Escapist”.

It’s got to be a bit daunting for a comics creator to contribute to an anthology revolving around Michael Chabon’s Escapist. Chabon created the Escapist in his 2000 novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which won a Pulitzer Prize and set a new standard for highbrow treatment of comics. He’s an author who’s always expected great things from the form; in the keynote speech at the 2004 Eisner Awards (included in this volume), Chabon called for writers and artists “to … increase the sophistication of [comics’] language and visual grammar, to probe and explode the limits of the sequential panel, to give free reign to irony and tragedy and other grown-up-type modes of expression.”

It’s a hefty agenda, and the creators assembled here clearly feel its weight. For some, the pressure has proven to be a valuable impetus. Several of the most successful stories, inspired by the anti-Fascist politics of the Escapist in the novel, find contemporary relevance in his message of liberation. In “The Death of the Escapist” by Kevin McCarthy and Shawn Martinbrough, the Escapist’s skills inspire the citizens of a North Korea-like dictatorship to contemplate rebellion: “for the first time in their lives, they allow themselves to entertain the idea that escape … may be possible.”

(7) UNDER THE HAMMER. The original Star Wars’ Oscar-nominated art director finally cashed in this relic: “Han Solo ‘blaster’ fetches $550,000 in New York”.

A “blaster” used by Harrison Ford’s character Han Solo in the film Return of the Jedi has sold at auction in New York for $550,000 (£415,000).

The weapon, made mostly of wood, had previously spent more than 30 years in the possession of the film’s art director James Schoppe.

It sold for more than a lightsaber used by Mark Hamill in the first two Star Wars films, which fetched $450,000.

Despite being a much less sophisticated weapon, this Star Wars prop also brought in a heap of money:

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 24, 1983Twilight Zone – The Movie debuted.
  • June 24, 1987Spaceballs premiered theatrically.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Kathryn Sullivan learned from Breaking Cat News why books make the best cat beds.
  • Daniel Dern promises Get Fuzzy has “SFish refs.” And you know what that means. (Don’t you?)

(10) HOLY REPO, BATMAN! Hampus Eckerman wonders if Wayne Enterprises went broke. “The Batmobile has been taken into custody and is being auctioned off by the Swedish bailiffs,” according to this Swedish-language auction listing.

The following statistics have not been verified.

Length: 6 meters
Weight: 1750 kg
Max speed: 260 km/h
Chassis Lincoln Continental 1973
Motor 460 Ford big block V8. 550 hk
Chassis bulletproof carbonfiber

(11) DIVIDING THE BABY. Crazy Eddie’s Motie News looks ahead to the Saturn Awards and the Retro Hugos in “‘Get Out’ wins Bradbury Award plus my take on the Retro Hugo nominees”. The author makes a Solomonic decision about two Retro Hugo categories:

My picks would be between Forrest J Ackerman and his fanzine Voice of the Imagi-Nation and Donald A. Wollheim and The Phantagraph.  Ackerman was a bigger name in fandom while Wollheim eventually became a professional writer.  If I were a Hugo voter, which I’m not, I’d split the difference by voting Wollheim as the better writer and Ackerman’s fanzine as the better publication.

(12) BEGINNING OF THE ENDS. How It Ends is a new Netflix sff series.

As a mysterious apocalypse causes the spread of misinformation and violence, a man and his estranged father-in-law race across a chaotic and fractured country to save his pregnant wife. Starring Theo James, Forest Whitaker and Kat Graham, How It Ends premieres July 13 only on Netflix.

 

(13) SHOPPING FOR YOUR EDITOR. Amanda J. Spedding advises on “Finding the right editor, and when to run like hell” — what an editor is for, and how to assess prospective editors.

This post is brought to you by a Twitter thread I came across yesterday about the importance of editors. I recently wrote a post on just such a thing. If you’re disinclined to read that, I’ll break it down quickly: YOU NEED AN EDITOR.

Right then. Within this Twitter thread, I came across some information that needs to be addressed, so I’m chucking on my ranty-pants (they’re fabulous, by the way), and I’m going to give you some insights into what to look for in a good editor, and how to help find the right editor for you. Yes, not all editors will be the right fit. (I had a whole thing about editors being like pants, but it just got… weird.)

Aaaanywho, what had me don my ranty-pants was a writer explaining they’d been quoted $10,000 for an edit. I’ll just let that sink in. Ten grand. For an edit. Of one book. Oh, hell no. HELL NO. I don’t know who the so-called “editor” was who thought this was a reasonable quote. If I did, I would call them out on their bullshit. Because bullshit it is. I can’t even fathom an instance where quoting or even charging someone this amount is even within the realm of possibility. That, folks, is a scam. Run far. Run fast.

On the flipside, if you’re quoted say, $200 for a full edit of a novel – run far, run fast. No editor worth their salt would charge this little for a full edit. There’s a lot of skill that goes into editing, and most editors study to gain qualifications, to understand the nuances of English and its building blocks that go into great storytelling. Their qualifications and experience are worth more than two hundred bucks.

(14) THE PANIC OF 2942. Camestros Felapton worries about economic justice in Middle-Earth in “Dragons and wealth inequality”.

Dragons of the Smaug-Tolkien variety must have some interesting economic impacts. Smaug hoards gold and jewels in vast quantities. Notably, Smaug (and presumably other gold obsessed dragons) know specifically what they have hoarded. When Bilbo steals one of Smaug’s treasures, the dragon notices that it is gone. So Smaug’s lair isn’t like Scrooge McDuck’s vault full of coins – the dragon is hoarding possessions rather than coinage or more abstract tokens of wealth. That’s not to say some of a dragon’s gold isn’t in the form of coins but clearly, the dragon wants the coins for their own sake and not as a unit of currency. Each piece of the dragon’s hoard is uninterchangeable. Furthermore, a dragon has nothing to spend his wealth on – there aren’t dragon shops and the dragon’s interaction with other species is one of eating them or burning them to a crisp.

So when a dragon hoards gold, the gold is removed from the economy….

(15) DIGITAL GASLIGHTING. Cory Doctorow discusses “The Internet of Shit: a godsend for abusers and stalkers” at Boing Boing.

People who help domestic abuse survivors say that they are facing an epidemic of women whose abusers are torturing them by breaking into their home smart devices, gaslighting them by changing their thermostat settings, locking them out of their homes, spying on them through their cameras.

The abusers are often ex-partners who retain authentication passwords that allow them to access the IoT devices after a breakup.

Many of the women facing this abuse are wealthy and well-off (domestic abuse affects people of all incomes, but wealthier people are more likely to own these gadgets). In interviews with the NYT, survivors called it “jungle warfare” and “asymmetric warfare,” likening their ex-partners to guerrilla fighters attacking in secret….

The New York Times source article is here: “Thermostats, Locks and Lights: Digital Tools of Domestic Abuse”.

The people who called into the help hotlines and domestic violence shelters said they felt as if they were going crazy.

One woman had turned on her air-conditioner, but said it then switched off without her touching it. Another said the code numbers of the digital lock at her front door changed every day and she could not figure out why. Still another told an abuse help line that she kept hearing the doorbell ring, but no one was there.

Their stories are part of a new pattern of behavior in domestic abuse cases tied to the rise of smart home technology. Internet-connected locks, speakers, thermostats, lights and cameras that have been marketed as the newest conveniences are now also being used as a means for harassment, monitoring, revenge and control.

In more than 30 interviews with The New York Times, domestic abuse victims, their lawyers, shelter workers and emergency responders described how the technology was becoming an alarming new tool.

(16) THE LAST BITE. The Biology of Sharks and Rays investigates “The Extinction of Megalodon”.

To a greater or lesser extent, all living lamnids – including the White Shark – have a modified circulatory system that enables them to retain metabolic heat and extend their range into chilly waters. With the exception of the Shortfin Mako (Isurus oxyrinchus), which makes a good living even in tropical waters, all extant lamnids are primarily cold-water animals. Although some lamnids – like the White Shark – occasionally visit warmer waters, very few actually live there. Like the primates slathered in coconut oil on tropical beaches, warm water lamnids are generally tourists. And, like their human counterparts, they eventually go home. In contrast, megalodon does not seem to have extended its range into cool temperate waters. Despite its enormous body mass, megalodon may not have shared the lamnids’ ability to retain significant metabolic heat. This shortcoming may have effectively trapped Megalodon in discrete, ever-decreasing puddles of warm coastal waters. If, as Robert Purdy’s paleoecological study suggests, Megalodon was limited to warm waters and relied on coastal areas as pupping grounds – no matter from whence it descended or what it looked like – it had a very sandtiger-like life history. And this may have led to Megalodon’s ultimate undoing.

(17) WALK A MILE IN HER SHOES. April Wolfe in the Washington Post explores the issue of “women wearing unreasonable shoes in action films” with a discussion of Bryce Dallas Howard’s high heels in Jurassic World and interviews with costume designers Ellen Mirojnick and Black Panther costume designer Ruth Carter: “The tortured history of action-film heroines and their high heels. (‘Jurassic World,’ anyone?)”

…What became clear is that movie audiences are more attuned than ever to on-screen footwear, amid our culture’s greater scrutiny of gender norms in film. But a look back at the history of heroines in heels shows that the issue is more complex than it seems.

For instance, one reason “Jurassic World” caught flak is not just that Howard was wearing heels but also that Trevorrow didn’t hide them. Veteran costume designer Ellen Mirojnick (“Cliffhanger,” “Speed,” “Strange Days”) explained that it’s typical for characters dressed in heels to be shot in a way that their shoes are not visible during any of the action. Try finding a single frame of “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” in which you can clearly make out Gemma Arterton’s shoes in a fight.

“We do substitutes, where we might put a wedge [heel] on her, because you won’t be actually seeing her feet,” Mirojnick said. “So we build a .?.?. shoe that will have the right height for the scene, but the audience is never to assume she’s wearing anything but the heel we saw her in before.”

It’s often just too difficult to perform any stunts, even running, in a heel. Some films, such as “True Lies” or “Red,” show a heroine in heels and then make it a point to show her removing them, to represent her shedding that more feminine identity, which also makes the action sequences easier to perform….

(18) A MONSTER “KID” REMEMBERS. Movie fan Steve Vertlieb shares the story of his life in “A Monster Kid Remembers” at The Thunderchild.

Cosmic dreams (and provocative nightmares) of tantalizing journeys through time and space … infinite, conceptual exploration of the stars … alien creatures … Hammer Films … Universal Pictures … “King Kong” … Harryhausen dinosaurs … and Famous “Monsters” of all shapes, sizes, and creeds, both conceived and lovingly chronicled in books, magazines, journals, tabloids, and on line for half a century, inspired this affectionate, deeply personal, if slightly Monstrous, remembrance of a life in “horror” by a gray haired, unabashedly child like, Monster “Kid.”

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

Pixel Scroll 6/22/18 Couldn’t Understand A Thing He Said But The Crazy Pixels Just Knocked Me Dead!

(1) OUT OF TIME.  Unlike some others that have been scooped up by Amazon and Netflix, no rescue is in sight for this series. “NBC cancels Timeless, but a wrap-up movie may happen” reports Sci-Fi Storm.

Sorry Timeless fans, but NBC has officially passed on a third season of the show. Now, we’ve been here before, when they announced that the show was canceled after the first season but fan uproar managed to convince NBC brass to reconsider. Unfortunately this time there doesn’t appear to be any hope for a second such resuscitation with the second season ratings failing to hit targets. However, we understand that NBC and Sony have been talking about a possible 2-hour wrap-up movie – but nothing has come of it so far.

(2) JURASSIC OR GOTHIC? NPR critic Chris Klimek’s “Dino Vs. The Volcano: ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ Generates Intermittent Heat” deserves its introductory subhead: “In this derivative but fitfully inventive fifth installment of the Jurassic franchise, our heroes try to rescue Isla Nublar’s dinosaurs from extinction-by-lava, only to get their ash handed to them.”

Children are plagued by the occasional certainty that there’s a monster in their basement, if not right under their bed, and they’re almost always wrong. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the follow-up to 2015’s mediocre but hugely successful revival of the Jurassic franchise, is the exception that proves the rule.

This fifth installment is so desperate to recombine the strands of the 25-year-old series in a novel way that halfway through its ruuuuuuuun! time, it takes a bizarre but not unwelcome left turn, evolving from yet another sweaty Central American dino-safari into a Gothic haunted house flick.

Monsters in the basement. Monsters in the bedroom. Monsters on the auction block, with creepy Toby Jones holding the gavel! Oh, and a little girl (Isabella Sermon) whose stern-but-loving governess (Geraldine Chaplin) scolds her when her enunciation sounds too American. Jurassic World raked in the fifth-highest box-office take in film history, grossing a paltry $1.7 billion, so you can see why the filmmakers felt compelled to tweak the formula into something a little closer to Jurassic Wuthering Heights.

(3) CARRIE FISHER. This ceremony took place in May: “Carrie Fisher honored with commemorative plaque outside TCL Chinese Theatre”.

A permanent memorial to Carrie Fisher is now in place outside the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

The commemorative stone plaque was originally unveiled in December prior to the release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” but it is now affixed in cement in front of the famed theater’s entrance.

Fisher’s brother Todd was on hand for the unveiling of the plaque at the theater’s forecourt….

(4) REMAKE. The history of the future in one tweet:

(5) ROGER AND OUT. In honor of the 30th anniversary of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, SYFY Wire’s Josh Weiss has interviewed Charles Fleischer, who voiced Roger. The interview includes several anecdotes from filming the movie — Fleischer was actually on-set with Bob Hoskins (who played human private eye Eddie Valiant), et al., doing lines off camera: “Who Framed Roger Rabbit at 30: How Roger’s iconic voice made the cut”.

Before 1988, Hollywood had already come up with the idea of mixing live action with animation in the same space; it wasn’t a novel idea, although the execution was rudimentary and ultimately less immersive than distracting. One had to suspend their disbelief far beyond the normal limit in order to feel like Gene Kelly was dancing with Jerry Mouse or Julie Andrews was being served by penguin waiters.

Mary PoppinsAnchors Aweigh, and Pete’s Dragon might have done it first, but Who Framed Roger Rabbit perfected the art of mixing live action with animation, taking it to a place no one had ever imagined.

Roger Rabbit (an adaptation of Gary K. Wolf’s 1981 novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit?) changed all the rules…

Quoting the first and last Q&A’s:

Q: How did you end up getting the role of Roger Rabbit?
A: Bob Zemeckis had seen me do my stand-up. And he asked me to come in and help them audition actors for the Eddie Valiant role to read the character [of Roger] off camera, so someone could react to it. After doing several of those, he offered me the job….

Q: If you were to be approached for a sequel all these years later, what would be your response?

A: When do we start?

(6) NOT WHAT YOU’D EXPECT FROM A JPL FOUNDER. Glenn Garvin reviews Strange Angel in “CBS Dabbles in America’s Unusual Occult History in Strange Angel at Reason.com.

In an epoch when we’ve already had television shows about heroic motorcycle gangs and cuddly-puppy serial-killers-next-door, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised when a devil-worshiping aerospace engineer takes center stage. Yet the effects of the digital age on television diversity continue to amaze me.

It was not so long ago that any American who turned on his television at 8 p.m. on a Friday had a choice of Family Matters, Uncle Buck, America’s Most Wanted, Quantum Leap, or putting a gun in his mouth. And now the digital arm of what used to be known as The Tiffany Network has a series with a hero, or at least protagonist, who regularly masturbates on magic tablets in an attempt to summon the Whore of Babylon.

To be fair, neither the Whore of Babylon nor any of her precursor acts has appeared in the first three episodes of Strange Angel. But it should be just a matter of time. The series is based on a biography of Jack Parsons, a real-life pioneer of American rocketry and one of the founders of NASA’S Jet Propulsion Lab. More interestingly, he was also a follower of Aleister Crowley, the wandering, omnisexual occultist, practitioner of black magic and, at the very least, Luciferian fellow traveler. (Crowley always denied being a Satanist, but rather undercut his claim by referring to himself as “the Beast 666” and mailing out “Antichristmas cards.”)

(7) MARTIAN NIGHTFALL. The lights are going out all over Mars and may not be relit in this rover’s lifetime: “Mars Dust Storm Now ‘Planet-Encircling,’ Dimming Hopes For NASA Rover”.

NASA scientists are still holding out hope they will hear from the surprisingly long-lived Mars rover. It went into snooze mode earlier this month, thanks to a gargantuan dust storm on the Red Planet that’s blocking beams from reaching the solar panels that recharge the rover’s batteries.

But like light on Mars, hopes of hearing from Opportunity anytime soon have dimmed.

NASA says the two-week-old storm doubled in size over the weekend, and is now officially a “planet encircling” or “global” event.

Opportunity’s science operations have been suspended, but it is happily not the lone Mars rover.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock saw Frankenstein admiring a new tattoo at Bizarro.

(9) OCTAVIA BUTLER. Steven H Silver covers Octavia Butler’s birthday for Black Gate in “Birthday Reviews: Octavia E. Butler’s ‘The Book of Martha’”.

Octavia E. Butler was born on June 22, 1947 and died February 24, 2006.

Butler earned a Hugo Award in 1984 for her short story “Speech Sounds.”  In 1985, her novelette “Bloodchild” received both the Hugo and the Nebula Award.  She received a second Nebula Award in 2000 for the novel Parable of the Talents.  In 2010, she was posthumously inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.  She received the SFWA’s Solstice Award in 2012.  Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, based on her 1979 novel Kindred, earned her and Damian Duffy a Bram Stoker Award in 2018.  She had several other award nominations as well.

(10) MONKEYING AROUND IN COMICS. Walmart — the proverbial 800 lb. gorilla of retail shopping in the US — is so powerful a force that it can reportedly get Bowdlerized editions of music and the like produced just for its stores. Well, this isn’t that… but it may be reminiscent. DC Comics is issuing series of 100-page compilations to be sold just at Wally World. The first 4 to go on sale (1 July) will be  Batman GiantSuperman GiantJustice League of America Giant, and Teen Titans Giant. Syfy Wire has the story — “DC Comics announces Walmart exclusive 100-page Giant anthology comics featuring Bendis, King, and more”.

DC Comics is making an ambitious new publishing push aimed directly at Walmart shoppers.

The publisher announced Friday that it has partnered with the massive retail chain for a series of “100-page Giant” anthology titles that will feature both exclusive new stories and reprints of classic tales from various eras in DC Comics history. The inaugural titles in the line will go on sale July 1, and will ultimately feature serialized stories from top DC creators including Brian Michael Bendis, Tom King, Dan Jurgens, Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Tim Seeley.

“We are extraordinarily excited about working with Walmart to expand the reach of our books,” DC Publisher Dan DiDio said in a press release. “These new monthly books combine new and accessible stories with reprints of classic comic series. It’s a great way for new readers to get into comics and follow the characters they’ve grown to love in TV and film.”

(11) REVIEWING TOLKIEN. Book Marks at Literary Hub shares the original opinions of “C. S. Lewis, W. H. Auden, & Edmund Wilson on The Lord of the Rings”. For example, here’s what Auden told readers of the New York Times in 1954:

The first thing that one asks is that the adventure should be various and exciting; in this respect Mr. Tolkien’s invention is unflagging, and, on the primitive level of wanting to know what happens next, The Fellowship of the Ring is at least as good as The Thirty-Nine Steps.

(12) NEITHER A BURROWER NOR A LENDER BE. J.C. Kang gives a rundown on “Orconomics: A Satire by J. Zachary Pike” at Fantasy-Faction.

When I’d finished laughing and the dust had cleared, I came up with this easy way to characterize Orconomics:

  1. An unabashed celebration of D&D character classes, races, magic, and terminology.
  2. Subversion of common fantasy tropes.
  3. A metaphorical lesson in Mortgage Backed Securities and other derivatives.
  4. Hilariously witty prose.
  5. One hell of a wonderfully crafted, insidious plot worthy of the Koch Brothers’ undermining of democracy.

(13) ADVANCE PEEK. Scott Meslow, in a GQ story called “EXCLUSIVE: Your First Look at the 100% Real* Script for the Fan-Made Star Wars: The Last Jedi Remake, Which is Definitely Happening”, writes what he says is the script for the film, which he says is written by “Real Mature Adults who love Star Wars so much they spend at least seven hours a day complaining about it online.”

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI REMAKE opens where STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS left off, with REY handing LUKE SKYWALKER his lightsaber.

LUKE: Hey, that’s my lightsaber! Thanks! [Luke takes lightsaber] Now it’s time for me, the Last Jedi, to go kill Snoke and save the galaxy!

REY applauds. Finally, her life’s work as the galaxy’s greatest lightsaber courier is complete. [Note: Rey is never seen again.]…

(14) YOUR MOVIE MAY VARY. Meantime, Timothy the Talking Cat is trying to fund his own scam — “Tim’s Last Jedi Remake Update: aka ‘Porgzooka’”. The “leaked” production photo cracked me up.

(15) SCALY MODEL. In “What makes people deeply dippy for dinosaurs?” the BBC quotes several opinions given in connection with a tour of a diplodocus skeleton. One academic suggests:

Here’s how he thinks the everywhere – “dinosaurs are on cereal boxes; they’re on children’s clothes” – and the nowhere – they’re dead – work on us: “The fact dinosaurs are extinct makes them ours.

“A dinosaur can’t object to our interpretation.

“They’re malleable – inaccessible but right next to us; a success and failure; scary and reassuring. The ambivalence is a real part of it. They bring together these concepts – mystery and reality with enough space in between to do what we like.

“There’s a distance but a close distance – and it’s a distance we control.”

Meanwhile, the author of Jurassic Park says he has no idea why….

(16) SUPER SOUTH CAROLINIANS. On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Mike Colter and Stephen reenact the first issue of the comic book Luke Cage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Doctor Science

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

  • nickpheas

Sadly I also have a loss to report.

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

  • Anne Sheller

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

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

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Pixel Scroll 6/10/18 Ascroll Just Off The Pixels Of Langerhans

(1) LICENSE TO THRILL. Steven H Silver spotted an unusual collectible in traffic the other day —

I was unaware that Illinois issued such event specific license plate until I saw this one today (June 6).  The text around Superman indicates it is for the 40th Annual Superman Festival in Metropolis, Illinois from June 7-10.  On the right you can see that the plate expires on June 10, 2018.

(2) SATISFYING SPACE OPERA. Abigail Nussbaum delivers insightful and fascinating sff analysis in “A Political History of the Future: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente”, at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

To which the answer is, because talking about Space Opera gives me an opportunity to point out a glaring lacuna in almost all the works we’ve discussed so far—the way that nearly every one of them leaves out the centrality of culture, and particularly popular culture, in shaping a society and reflecting its preoccupations.

When I say “culture”, I’m talking about several different things, each integral to the believability of any invented world. Culture can mean shared cultural touchstones, classic and modern, that give people a common frame of reference, like humming a pop song or quoting the Simpsons. It can mean characters who are artists, professional or amateur. It could refer to the way that culture can become a political battleground, as we were discussing just a few days ago in response to the news that conservatives want their own version of SNL. Or it could be a discussion of material culture—fashion, design, architecture—and how it allows people to express themselves in even the most mundane aspects of their lives.

It’s very rare, however, to see science fiction try to engage with any of these aspects of culture. Even as it strives to create fully-realized worlds, art—high and low, functional and abstract, popular and obscure, ridiculous and serious—tends to be absent from them. So are artists—try to remember the last time you encountered a character in a science fiction or fantasy story who had an artistic side, even just as a hobby. Even worse, few characters in SFF stories have any kind of cultural touchstones.

(3) KILL YOUR DARLINGS. Delilah S. Dawson tells what she thinks is the real meaning of that traditional writerly advice “kill your darlings.” The thread starts here —

(4) IN THE BEGINNING. The International Costuming Guild presents its research into what fans wore to the masquerade at the Second Worldcon (1940) — “Convention Costuming History: The Pre-WWII Years – Pt. III”.

The earliest Worldcon masquerades were more like informal costume contests, with several well known authors of the time participating. The costumes worn were a mix of original designs, interpretations of literary characters and what would come to be known as media recreations. 1940 – Chicon I

Following the novelty of Ackerman’s and Douglas’ costumed appearance the previous year, a “Science Fiction Masquerade Party” was featured as part of the convention programming.(1) By Forrest Ackerman’s count, there were 25 people in costume there. The co-host masters of ceremonies were fans and writers Jack Speer and Milton Rothman. Judging from the accounts of the party, the occasion was informal – there was no stage, but there were one or two skits, including one by Ackerman and “Morojo” (Douglas) wearing their outfits from the previous year.

There were several reports of who was there for the first official costumed event. Among that first group of convention costuming contestants were…

(5) ICG IN PASSING. The International Costuming Guild’s in memoriam video, presented at Costume-Con 36 (2018) to recognize those in the community lost in the previous year, is posted on YouTube.

(6) WITH CAT IN HAND. Yoon Ha Lee will be doing an Ask Me Anything on June 12.

(7) THIEVES LIKE US. A recent movie premiere inspires B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog’s listicle “12 Fantasy Heist Novels”.

There are genre tropes, and then there are those archetypes that are mainstays of not just science fiction and fantasy, but of popular culture in general. One of the best examples is the character of the Gentleman Thief (who doesn’t always have to be a gentleman). These rogues are witty, engaging, and will rob you blind with a rakish wink and a smile. You can’t help but be charmed by them. From Robin Hood to Danny Ocean, the character is a permanent favorite in books and on film….

The Holver Alley Crew, by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Maresca’s interconnected Maradaine books (multiple series examining life in the same fantasy city) are a real treat. The latest series is about the Holver Alley crew, a ragtag group of formerly retired thieves are forced to return to a life of crime when their new, respectable shop burns down. When they learn the fire was no accident, they are forced to take desperate measures. All of the Maradaine books are a treat, but this one really stands out because of the especially strong characters. In fine Oceans tradition, Asti and Verci are both brothers and ringleaders, and must assemble a skilled crew to pull of a job to rob a gambling house that took everything from them.

(8) HAWKING OBSEQUIES. Are any of you trying to get in? “Stephen Hawking: Ballot opens for Westminster Abbey service”.

The public is being offered the chance to attend a service of thanksgiving for Professor Stephen Hawking, who died in March aged 76.

It will take place in Westminster Abbey on 15 June and up to 1,000 tickets are available in a ballot.

During the service, the scientist’s ashes will be interred between Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

His daughter, Lucy Hawking, said she wanted to give some of her father’s admirers the chance to remember him.

(9) LAST DAYS. Christopher Stasheff’s son, Edward posted the following to his Facebook page on June 9:

My father, Christopher Stasheff, is currently in hospice and expected to die from Parkinson’s Disease within the next two weeks, quite possibly this week. If anyone would like to say goodbye to him, post it as a response here, and I’ll read it to him the next time I see him (I visit him in the nursing home daily). Thanks.

The most recent reports are suggesting that he may only have a day or so left.

Update:  His son reports Stasheff died this evening.

My father Christopher Stasheff died at 6:45 PM on June 10th, 2018, surrounded by his wife and two of his children. The other two were able to phone in and say goodbye before he passed. He is survived by hundreds of his students and uncountable fans, and his legacy will live on in all the lives he touched.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born June 10, 1952 – Kage Baker

(11) VOLLEYED AND THUNDERED. Edmonton’s Hugo Book Club just put out a new blog post, “Is that The Canon in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”, in which they muse about literary awards and their relation to posterity and questions of enduring value. Is science fiction the new Western Canon?

It is worth noting that Harold Bloom’s 1993 list of The Western Canon included only two works that are traditionally categorized as science fiction: Ursula Le Guin’s Hugo Award winner The Left Hand of Darkness and George Orwell’s 1984.

But of Bloom’s list, I would argue the majority of the works cited are less relevant to the broad public – and to a concept of cultural literacy – than the recent Hugo Award winners and popular works of science fiction.

For example, references and allusions to Wolfram von Eschenbach’s 13th century poem Parzival are lost on the broader public, while Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One protagonist Parzival is familiar to many.

(12) ICE NINE. Galactic Journey’s Victoria Lucas has just read the new Vonnegut release – in 1963: “[June 10, 1963] Foma: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Cat’s Cradle)”

When a friend lent Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s newest novel, Cat’s Cradle to me, I thought, “Oh, I know this book!” because I saw, as I flipped through it, the “ice-nine” and “Bokonon” I’d heard people buzzing so much about.  So I was glad to read it and understand the phenomenon.

But that’s where my joy ended.  Vonnegut is a fine writer.  His style is idiosyncratic, askew; this is a novel novel.  But no one would accuse him of being optimistic or hopeful about the human future.  No Pollyanna he….

(13) BBC RADIO STAR TREK DOCUMENTARY. BBC Radio 4 has just re-broadcast “Star Trek – The Undiscovered Future”, first aired December 2017. It’s available to listen to online right now.

How far have we voyaged towards Star Trek’s vision of the future and what of it is likely to be fulfilled or remain undiscovered in the next 50 years?

Kevin Fong presents archive material of the likes of Leonard Nimoy (Spock) and Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura) talking about the inception and filming of the original Star Trek series, and their thoughts about Roddenberry’s vision of the future and its impact in the United States at the time.

For example, Nichols relates how she had a chance encounter with Martin Luther King the day after she had told Roddenberry that she intended to leave Star Trek after the first series. King told her he was her number fan and almost demanded that she didn’t give up the role of Uhura, because she was an uniquely empowering role model on American television at the time.

For a perspective from today, Kevin also talks to George Takei who played Mr Sulu. Takei laments the ethnically divisive politics of the United States in 2016.

He meets Charles Bolden – the first African American to both command a shuttle mission and lead NASA as its chief administrator. In the age of the International Space Station, he compares himself to the ‘Admiral of Star Fleet’. But the former astronaut also talks about the anger he first felt in 1994 when he was asked to fly the first Russian cosmonaut ever to board an American space shuttle.

Kevin also talk to cultural broadcaster and Star Trek fan Samira Ahmed about the sexual and racial politics of the Original series.

(14) ST:D SEASON TWO. Comedian and new Star Trek: Discovery cast member Tig Notaro opened her set on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert poking fun at her inability to understand any of the tech talk from her Trek dialog. See “‘Star Trek: Discovery’: Tig Notaro Talks Technobabble” at Comicbook.com.

Tig Notaro is one of the new additions to the cast of Star Trek: Discovery in the show’s second season and while she’s excited to be a part of the Star Trek universe she doesn’t exactly speak the language.

Notaro was a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to promote her new comedy special Happy to be Here. She greeted Colbert by saying his theater was “like a room full of pleasant subspace particles wrapped in a tachyon field of good vibes.”
The comment is obviously a reference to her role on Discovery, though she admits “I have no idea what I’m saying on that show…I can’t even picture what I’m talking about.”
She revealed that her character is human and that she plays Commander Jet Reno, a name she got to choose for herself. As for how she got the job, “They just asked if I wanted to do it” she says.

 

(15) BAD WITH NUMBERS? Deadline interviewed the president of Marvel Studios: “Kevin Feige Talks Marvel’s Success, Female Directors, ‘Infinity War II’ & How He’s ‘Bad With Numbers’”.

More female directors on Marvel pics: Captain Marvel is the first Marvel title to have a female director at the helm Anna Boden (who is co-helming with Ryan Fleck. And having more female directors behind his superhero pics is a trend he plans to maintain, “I cannot promise that (the next) 20 Marvel movies will have female directors but a heck of a lot of them will,” he said in response to an audience member’s question. The Marvel boss mentioned that agencies are sending more female directors than men for Marvel directing jobs.

On the $1.3 billion success of Black PantherFeige said that Marvel “wanted to destroy the myth that black movies don’t work well around the world,” and being at Disney with its platinum marketing department allowed the comic book studio to swing for the fences.

“The budget for Black Panther was bigger than Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, and you can’t do that without the support and encouragement from the leaders of the company,” he said.

Feige also applauded Black Panther director Ryan Coogler’s championing his diverse below-the-line team in Hannah Beachler as production designer, Ruth Carter’s costumes, and DP Rachel Morrison. Their resumes, like Marvel’s directors, didn’t scream tentpole experience, but Feige is grateful he heard them pitch rather than rely on his regular team.

“We can’t imagine the movie without them, and the future movies we hope to make with them,” he said.

(16) JURASSIC LARK. In Parade, “Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard Talk Dinosaurs, Parenting and Friendship”.

After their wildly successful first dino film in 2015, the pair reunited last year to film much of Fallen Kingdom on the Kualoa Ranch in Oahu, Hawaii. But even surrounded by tropical paradise, they faced more than a few challenges on camera, from filming in a chlorinated pool that fried Pratt’s hair and skin to riding in a zero-gravity gyrosphere that made Howard nauseous. And Pratt had to do some awkward face-offs with a velociraptor that wasn’t really there—until the special-effects department created it. He acts out how he’d say to the air in front of him, “Get back, get back . . .” and then “Whoa!” as he’d throw himself on the ground. The camera crew, watching on monitors nearby, “didn’t want to say how stupid it looked!”

(17) SCARIEST MOVIE. The Washington Post’s Monica Castillo, in “The story behind ‘Hereditary,’ the Toni Collette horror movie that scared the bejesus out of Sundance”, interviews Hereditary director Ari Aster who, “in his first feature, marries the horror and melodrama genres into an unnerving movie about grief.”

Aster said he deliberately amped up the drama in the film slowly. “I’m not affected by anything in a film unless I’m invested in the people at the center of it,” he said. “I wanted to take my time and immerse people in this family’s life and their dynamic, which is quite complicated. I just wanted to make a film in the tradition of the horror films I grew up loving, like ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ ‘Don’t Look Now’ and ‘The Innocents.’ Films that take their time are very much rooted in character.”

Setting also plays an important role in the creepiness in “Hereditary.” The family’s luxury cabin in the woods has the right dark corners and haunted attics to make it feel like a trap where its inhabitants are left to slowly die. Annie’s miniature houses become a motif. “The miniatures just struck me as a potent metaphor for the family’s situation,” Aster said. “They have no agency, and they’re revealed over the course of the movie to be like dolls in a dollhouse, being manipulated by these outside forces.”

(18) SPONGEBOB TONY. In “How ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ invaded our brains”, Washington Post writer Sonia Rao interviews the cast and creators of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical, which is up for 12 Tonys as best musical tonight and is making a lot of Millennials very happy.

Tom Kenny never thought SpongeBob SquarePants, a character he originated on the children’s program almost 20 years ago, would one day end up on Broadway. Why would he have? Parents clamp their hands over their ears whenever they hear SpongeBob’s helium voice, let alone his nasal laugh. The anthropomorphized sponge is no Hugh Jackman.

And yet, “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” is up for 12 Tonys on Sunday, tied with “Mean Girls” for the most nominations. Its resonance with serious theatergoers is surprising until you consider that even as adults, those of us who watched the series can’t shake its omnipresent songs, references and memes. Somehow, it became a cultural earworm.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/5/18 Scroll Is A Pixel, And I Want My Money Back

Brian Keene. Photo by Scott Edelman.

(1) BRIAN KEENE BURN INJURY. Horror author and podcaster Brian Keene is hospitalized, reports Stephen Kozeniewski, who has started a “Brian Keene Burn Fund” at GoFundMe:

On June 5, 2018, author, podcaster, philanthropist, and father Brian Keene was badly burned in an accident.  At this time he is conscious and in good spirits but has first degree burns on his face and second degree burns on his body.

As a freelance author, Brian does not have health insurance.  We’re not sure at this time how long he’ll be in treatment, or how much the bill will be, but any visit to the hospital is expensive, and will only be compounded by lost wages from not being able to work.

We’re asking the community of writers, horror fans, and just decent human beings in general to chip in a few dollars to help get Brian back on his feet and spending time with his loving girlfriend and sons.  We’d be very grateful for anything you can afford to contribute.

The appeal has raised $14,415 of its $15,000 goal in the first four hours online.

Keene co-hosts of The Horror Show with Brian Keene. Last May, they held that 24-hour telethon and raised roughly $21,000 in support of Scares That Care.

Kozeniewski added in an update, “What we know right now is that the wind shifted while Brian was burning brush.”

(2) ALL YOUR COMIC CONVENTION ARE BELONG TO US. Those lovable knuckleheads who run San Diego Comic-Con International would like a federal judge to award them several million dollars in attorney fees after winning their lawsuit against the Salt Lake Comic Con. Courthouse News has the story: “San Diego Comic-Con: ‘Comic Convention’ Is Ours”.

…U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia heard a host of posttrial motions Thursday, including San Diego Comic-Con’s request for over $4.5 million in attorney fees which have already been paid in full.

San Diego Comic-Con attorney Callie Bjurstrom with Pillsbury Law told Battaglia Thursday he should find the case is “exceptional” so that attorney fees and costs can be awarded.

“This was a very expensive case; the reason this case was so expensive was because of defendants and their counsel and the way they litigated this case,” Bjurstrom said.

She pointed out Brandenburg testified at trial he knew about San Diego Comic-Con’s trademarks but still used “Comic Con” to name his Utah convention. Bjurstrom said the Salt Lake owners engaged in a “public intimidation campaign” once San Diego Comic-Con sent them a cease-and-desist letter to stop infringing the trademark and that Salt Lake’s attorneys filed meritless motions, “flip-flopped” on legal theories and violated court orders throughout the three-year litigation.

“If this case isn’t exceptional, I don’t know what is,” Bjurstrom said.

San Diego Comic-Con also asked Battaglia to permanently bar the Salt Lake convention from using its trademarks, arguing its reputation has been irreparably harmed by the confusion to consumers.

During the trial, San Diego Comic-Con presented evidence its attendees had contacted its employees about the Salt Lake convention, believing the two events were associated.

But San Diego Comic-Con’s request went a step further than simply asking Battaglia to enjoin the Salt Lake convention operators from infringing its trademarks: it asked the judge to bar the Salt Lake convention from using the words “comic convention” or phonetic equivalents to “Comic Con” or “comic convention.”

Bjurstrom said the injunction should include any spelling variation on “Comic Con” which is pronounced the same as the San Diego trademark, including spelling it with a “K” or “Kahn.”

“Whether you spell Comic Con with a ‘C’ or a ‘K’, it’s pronounced the same. It is exactly the same when you say it,” Bjurstrom said.

San Diego Comic-Con also asked the judge to order the Salt Lake operators to destroy marketing and advertising materials which make reference to “Comic Con” and to cease operating websites and social media accounts which reference the trademark.

Battaglia took the motions under submission and will issue a written order.

(3) WIKIPEDIA. Juliet McKenna asks “What can SFF fandom do about the inherent bias of Wikipedia?”. The author looked into the question because the Wikipedia entry about her was flagged for deletion, on grounds that she is not sufficiently notable:

It seems Wikipedia is aware of its systemic bias, as detailed in this article. Read this, and related pieces, and I imagine many of you will note, with the weary contempt of familiarity, the repeated insistence that it’s up to women themselves, and other under-represented groups to do all the hard work here. Though I haven’t found anything addressing the issue I raise above, explaining what we’re expected to do when sufficient acceptable citations simply do not exist, and those references that do exist are not deemed acceptable. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

On the plus side, I have learned that there are dedicated groups of female and other special-interest Wikipedians spending considerable time and effort updating and expanding pages, intent on correcting this bias. Mind you, I also learned their work is frequently challenged and even undone by other Wikipedians applying the all too prevalent and far too often white western male logic of ‘not of interest to me personally = not of interest to anyone’. And of course, such challenges can very easily be a thinly veiled cover for actively discriminatory behaviour. Having read the Wikipedia page on handling tendentious editing, I am not in the least reassured that this is in any way satisfactorily addressed.

(4) LUCRATIVE SFF AUCTION. Fine Books & Collections was standing by the cash register: “Sci-fi from the Stanley Simon Estate Breaks Records in Swann Literature Auction”.

Science fiction ruled on May 15 at Swann Galleries’ auction of 19th & 20th Century Literature. Selections from the Estate of Stanley Simon, featuring 84 rare and first editions of cornerstones of the genre, boasted a 98% sell-through rate. All of the offered titles by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick and Stephen King sold, with many achieving auction records.

Leading the pack was a signed first edition of Dick’s dystopian novel The Man in the High Castle, 1962, which was purchased by a collector for $10,400, above a high estimate of $6,000, a record for the work. Another record was achieved by a signed first edition of Ubik, 1969, at $5,500, while the auction debut of the rare galley proofs for Valis, 1981, reached $5,000.

Simon had acquired several uncorrected proofs of important works, none of which had previously appeared at auction. While not strictly science-fiction, material by Stephen King outperformed in this category. The highlight was the presentation copy of an uncorrected proof of The Stand, 1978, which sold to a collector for $9,100. Also available were one of apparently 28 copies of proofs of King’s The Shining, 1977, inscribed, which sold for five times its high estimate for $6,250, and the complete six-volume set of uncorrected proofs of King’s The Green Mile, 1996, exceeded its $1,200 high estimate to sell for $5,200.

Another highlight from the Simon estate was the complete Foundation trilogy, 1951-53, by Isaac Asimov. Together, the three signed first editions achieved an auction record of $9,750. Also by Asimov, a signed first edition of I, Robot, 1950, reached $6,250, above a high estimate of $3,500. Important editions of Ray Bradbury’s magnum opus Fahrenheit 451, 1953, were led by the limited author’s edition personally inscribed to Simon ($7,500). The popular asbestos-bound edition reached $5,200. All six editions offered were purchased….

(5) LE GUIN’S LAST EARTHSEA STORY. The Paris Review has a story by Ursula K. Le Guin. And not just any story, but a final Earthsea tale, written a year before her death. (So I’m guessing it’s the last one.)

He was thinking of Lookfar, abandoned long ago, beached on the sands of Selidor. Little of her would be left by now, a plank or two down in the sand maybe, a bit of driftwood on the western sea. As he drifted near sleep he began to remember sailing that little boat with Vetch, not on the western sea but eastward, past Far Toly, right out of the Archipelago. It was not a clear memory, because his mind had not been clear when he made that voyage, possessed by fear and blind determination, seeing nothing ahead of him but the shadow that had hunted him and that he pursued, the empty sea over which it had fled.

(6) BUMBLEE TRAILER. This movie will be in theaters at Christmas.

Every adventure has a beginning. Watch the official teaser trailer for Bumblebee, starring Hailee Steinfeld and John Cena.

 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY PRODUCER

  • Born June 5, 1953 – Kathleen Kennedy

(8) IT’S A JUNGLE OUT THERE. Of possible interest to Sarah Gailey fans (because of a hippo reference) is this segment from the June 3 episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, on the subject of guardianship for the elderly. The relevant portion starts at about the 13:20 mark. That’s where John Oliver introduces a new PSA on the subject, starring several celebrities – including William Shatner.

(9) DOG DAYS. This perfect poem inspired a thread of deep appreciation for the artist…

(10) DINO APPRECIATION SUMMIT. Chuck Tingle and Jeff Goldblum had an internet encounter —

(11) WALL POLITICS. And they’ll make the schwein pay for it. (Oh, wait, that’s something else….) “Denmark backs fence on German border to keep out wild boar”.

Denmark’s parliament has voted to build a 68-km (42-mile) fence along the border with Germany in a bid to protect the pork industry from the spread of African swine fever.

The vote aimed at keeping out wild boar is controversial for several reasons.

Environmental campaigners doubt it will stop the animals entering Denmark, while others say Germany has no trace of the virus.

Some in Germany have condemned the move as gesture politics.

Work on constructing the fence is unlikely to start until autumn, after an assessment by Denmark’s environmental protection agency.

(12) MORE WALL POLITICS. Security décor from another era: “The 12 best posters from the very odd NSA archive”.

Long before it was at the centre of a huge spying scandal, the US National Security Agency had the communist threat to deal with – and wanted to make sure its staff did not spill secrets.

A vast archive of posters, apparently for display at the spy agency’s offices, has been posted online thanks to a freedom of information request from governmentattic.org.

The website asked for “a digital/electronic copy of the NSA old security posters from the 1950s and 1960s”, although confusingly it also got one featuring John Travolta.

Here are some of our favourites. The full, 139-page document, can be found here.

(13) CASTLE COCKY. More trademark hoo-hah: “Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your trademark restrictions”.

Rapunzel, the long-haired maiden locked in a tower by an evil witch, has been immortalized in countless bedtime stories and adaptations, from the Brothers Grimm to Disney. There is even a teenage rapper who goes by the name RapUnzel.

Now, a private company wants to lock the princess’s name in a castle fortified by United States trademark law.

But this attempt to register the trademark for the name Rapunzel has unleashed fervent opposition, not from Hasbro or Mattel, but from an impassioned group of Suffolk University Law School professors and students.

(14) DINO DUBIOSITY. The BBC asks “Does Jurassic Park make scientific sense?” Can you guess the answer? I knew you could…

In 1993, Steven Spielberg’s film Jurassic Park defined dinosaurs for an entire generation.

It has been credited with inspiring a new era of palaeontology research.

But how much science was built into Jurassic Park, and do we now know more about its dinosaurs?

As its 25th anniversary approaches, visual effects specialist Phil Tippett and palaeontologist Steve Brusatte look back at the making of the film, and what we’ve learned since.

So, first of all, what did Jurassic Park get wrong? It started off by inheriting some complications from Michael Crichton’s novel, on which the film was based.

“I guess Cretaceous Park never had that same ring to it,” laughs Brusatte.

“Most of the dinosaurs are Cretaceous in age, that’s true.”

(15) SWEET WRITING. Cat Rambo tasted these chocolate bars for Green Man Review: “Chuao Chocolatier’s Chocolate Bars with All the Add-ins”.

Here in America we like our add-ins, ice cream and candy full of other candy, nuts, random sweets, and sometimes savories. Chuao (pronounced Chew-WOW) has a shelf-load of such, chocolate bars with all the goodies, created by Venezuelan chef Michael Antonorsi.

Most of the bars I tried were terrific but some are more successful than others. Idiosyncrasies of taste may make a difference; when I tweeted about the one I really disliked, someone mentioned that was their favorite, and bemoaned not being able to find it. And it’s not entirely fair to stack dark chocolate up against milk, particularly given that my sweet tooth resembles that of a six-year-old’s. Still, I present them in order of how much I liked them, from most to least.

First up, the “Baconluxious”. Described as “delicate maple sweetness, a sprinkle of bonfire smoked sea salt and crispy, uncured bacon in milk chocolate.” This had a nice aroma and when tasted, an immediate smoothness to its mouth feel, followed by a wash of saltiness and not-unpleasant grittiness before the final bacon note, leaving just a few salt crystals to be crunched between the tooth and savored. This was delicious to the point where I thought I would and then did readily pick one of these up again. And probably will again and again….

(16) A BOY AND HIS ROBO DOG. The AXL Official Trailer came out recently.

In the vein of classic ‘80s family movies SHORT CIRCUIT and FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR, A.X.L. is a new adventure about a down-on-his luck teenage bike rider, Miles (Alex Neustaedter), who stumbles upon an advanced, robotic, military dog named A.X.L. Endowed with next-generation artificial intelligence but with the heart of a dog, A.X.L. forms an emotional bond with Miles, much to the chagrin of the rogue military scientists who created A.X.L. and would do anything to retrieve him. Knowing what is at stake if A.X.L. gets captured, Miles teams up with his smart, resourceful crush, Sara (Becky G), to protect his new best friend on a timeless, epic adventure for the whole family.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Robin Reid, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Jonathan Cowie, Martin More Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, K.M.  Alexander, Rev. Bob, Dann, Mike Kennedy, Michael D. Toman, Carl Slaughter, Steve Johnson, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Stoic Cynic.]

Pixel Scroll 5/30/18 Pixels, Scrolls…I’m The Guy With The Book

(1) TAKEDOWN. The New York Post tells how “Accountant embezzled $3.4M from famed literary agency”.

A Manhattan accountant cooked the books at a prestigious literary agency that represents top writers, including “Fight Club” author Chuck Palahniuk, bilking its clients of millions and leaving the company on the brink of bankruptcy, according to legal papers.

Darin Webb, 47, faces 20 years in jail on wire-fraud charges for embezzling $3.4 million from storied Manhattan agency Donadio & Olson, according to a recently unsealed federal criminal complaint.

Although the agency, which also represents the estates of “Godfather” writer Mario Puzo and radio legend Studs Terkel, was not named in court papers, a lawyer representing the firm confirmed to The Post that Donadio & Olson was the subject of the alleged theft.

…The stolen money — allegedly lifted between January 2011 and March of this year — was earmarked for author royalties and advances, the complaint says.

But the theft could be exponentially more, a source told The Post, noting that a forensic accountant is combing through Donadio & Olson’s books all the way back to 2001, Webb’s first year at the agency.

He allegedly fessed up to the theft in March in a videotaped interview with company executives and their attorneys at the agency’s Chelsea office, saying he filed monthly financial reports that “contained false and fraudulent representations in order to accomplish the theft and evade detection,” the complaint states.

Webb was arrested May 15 by the FBI and is out on $200,000 bail.

The Guardian reports on a celebrity victim: “Chuck Palahniuk ‘close to broke’ as agent’s accountant faces fraud charges”.

Palahniuk – one of many starry authors represented by the firm, including the estates of Mario Puzo and Studs Terkel – said his income had dwindled for several years. He had blamed multiple factors, including piracy and problems at his publisher, for the decline in earnings.

More recently, Palahniuk said, “the trickle of my income stopped” and payments for titles including Fight Club 2 “never seemed to arrive”. He wondered if the money had been stolen, but told himself he “had to be crazy” – until the news broke.

“All the royalties and advance monies and film-option payments that had accumulated in my author’s account in New York, or had been delayed somewhere in the banking pipeline, [were] gone. Poof. I can’t even guess how much income. Someone confessed on video he’d been stealing. I wasn’t crazy,” wrote Palahniuk in a statement on his website.

The novelist said that “this chain of events leaves me close to broke”, but that he had found himself to be “rich … with friends and readers who’ve rushed to my rescue”.

“On the minus side, the legal process will be long and offers an iffy reward. On the plus side, I’m not crazy. Nor am I alone,” added the author.

(2) WISCON. Sophygurl, a Tumblr blogger, was present at a controversial WisCon panel and has written an account of what she heard: “WisCon 42 panel The Desire for Killable Bodies in SFF”. The post begins –

This is going to serve as my panel write-up for this panel, but it also a copy of what I wrote as a report to the Safety team about the panel. I am posting this on DreamWidth and Tumblr and will be linking to Twitter and Facebook. Please feel free to link elsewhere. This should all be public knowledge, imo.

For anyone who doesn’t know – this panel included a panelist who ended up talking about the importance of sympathizing with Nazis. This is obviously not the kind of thing you expect to find at an intersectional feminist convention. It was upsetting and disturbing. Most of the panel was actually very interesting and even funny, and I appreciated what the other two panelists had to say. I even appreciated *some* of what the panelist in question had to say. All of this was overshadowed by the awful things she said, however.

(3) BRANDON SANDERSON WARNS FANX. Utah author Brandon Sanderson has raised his voice against “Harassment at FanX”. (For background, see “FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention Sharply Criticized for Handling of Anti-harassment Complaint”.)

I don’t normally discuss charged issues on my social media, but I do find harassment at science fiction conventions a topic that is very important to discuss. It is also very relevant to my fans, as conventions are often how they interact with me.

Recently, Salt Lake City’s biggest media convention (FanX, formerly called Salt Lake Comic Con) has made some troubling missteps. First, it grossly mishandled harassment claims—then it doubled down on its mistakes, bungling interactions with voices that have called for reform.

Some authors I respect deeply have composed an open letter to FanX, calling for them to do better—and I have co-signed it. Many of these authors have spoken better about this specific issue than I can, and I encourage you all to read what they have said. I believe that conventions like these (alongside the smaller literary conventions that were so instrumental in my road to publication) are important parts of our community—and it is essential that they provide a place where victims are not silenced and harassment is not tolerated.

For now, I am still scheduled to appear at FanX this fall. My team and I have been evaluating whether or not this is a position we can still take—and it will greatly depend on how FanX responds to this letter in the next few weeks. I will keep you informed of our decision—and if I do decide to bow out of FanX, I will try to schedule some replacement signings instead.

(4) OPEN LETTER. The “Open Letter to FanX” that Sanderson refers to calls on the convention to do the following thigs:

One: In a public statement, and without disclosing her name, apologize to the victim who filed the sexual harassment report for disclosing their private report to the media without their knowledge or consent. Admit that the victim’s trust was violated, and promise future attendees who may report incidents that they will never undergo the same scrutiny or mishandling. Assure everyone that all reports will be heard, evaluated, and confidential. Keep the victims’ names confidential at all times.

Two: Hire a professional with experience writing, implementing, and upholding sexual harassment policies. Clarify the consequences for breaking the policy and reiterate that those consequences will be upheld. Removal and banishment from the conference should be among those ramifications.

Three: Address harassment complaints quickly. The past complaint was filed in October, and the complaint was not investigated until January. This shows a lack of concern and a reluctance to address the situation, as well as disregard for the seriousness of the issue.

Four: Recognize that trust is earned not through words, policies, and statements, but by a proven track record of implementation and action over time.

It’s signed by Robison Wells, Shannon Hale, Bree Despain, Emily R. King, Ally Condie, and Dean Hale, and co-signed by Brandon Sanderson, Maureen Johnson, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, Annette Lyon, Mette Harrison, J. R. Johansson, Jessica Day George, Courtney Alameda, Lindsey Leavitt, and Sarah M. Eden.

(5) BOMB DISPOSAL. The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik, in “How Disney could get Star Wars back on track”, says the relative failure of Solo at the box office shows that Disney will have to take steps to make Star Wars films more appealing, including spacing them out more, making them edgier, and not releasing Star Wars films in May or June.

Fewer movies. Five months is not a long time for Star Wars to be away. Certainly it’s not the year that stretched between the previous three movies, or the 10 years between the last of the George Lucas movies and “The Force Awakens” in 2015. With Marvel that seems to help — releases in quick succession enhance one another. But with Star Wars, seen less as the rapid-fire sequel, novelty and absence may be the key to the game. Disney could do better by going back to the 12-month spacing — or even longer.

Why it’s tricky: This sounds good to fans. The problem is it doesn’t sound good to Wall Street or Disney financial executives. Star Wars movies are such juggernauts that Disney wants to cash in whenever it can. Waiting that long doesn’t help in that bid. Disney and Lucasfilm are encountering a major paradox here. Modern Hollywood says when you have successes you should replicate them early and often. But making Star Wars movies early and often may make them less successful.

(6) SOLO ACT. Guess who’s writing the tie-in? “’Solo: A Star Wars Story’ Novelization Coming In September 4th, Written By Mur Lafferty”.

The Solo novelization is continuing the trend that The Last Jedi novelization started of being released several months after the film.  Previously the novelizations have been released closer to the films theatrical releases.  The original and prequel novelizations were released before the films, while The Force Awakens and Rogue One adaptations were released as e-books the same day as the film and as hardcovers shortly thereafter.

(7) SFWA STUFF. Security protocols may have been breached….

(8) BIG BOX STORE. Adweek reports “Amazon Is Driving Around a Jurassic-Sized Box, and You Can Ask Alexa What’s Inside”. (Registration required to read full article.)

The last time we noticed Amazon driving around a giant box, the mysterious delivery turned out to be a Nissan Versa. But this time, perhaps it’s something a bit more … carnivorous?

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock thinks those penguin prognosticators might be right about what’s coming: Arctic Circle Cartoons.
  • Not sure whether I should thank Chip for also making sure I didn’t miss a horrible pop-culture pun at Bliss.

(10) THE DIRECTOR VANISHES. Comics shop owner Cliff Biggers showed this photo to his Facebook friends.

UPS employees like Alfred Hitchcock so much that they opened our package, tore open the action figure packaging, stole the figure, and then re-taped the box and sent it to us.

(11) LISTEN UP. The Parsec Awards Steering Committee is accepting nominations for the 2018 Parsec Awards through June 15 – submit nominations here.

Any material released between May 1, 2017 and April 30, 2018 is eligible for the 2018 awards. Material released needs to be free for download and released via a mechanism that allows for subscriptions. Thus, YouTube, Facebook, etc.. series are eligible.

If you are a podcaster or author, please feel free to nominate your own podcast or story. It is one way we know that your contact information filled is correct.

(12) KEEPING SCORE AT HOME. Seanan McGuire, in the area for ConCarolinas this weekend, took time to rate Ursula Vernon’s cats. Start the thread here —

(13) THE LAW & ANN LECKIE. A little known fact (in some quarters).

(14) SPEAKING OF WHOM. Joe Sherry launches his Nerds of a Feather post series with “Reading the Hugos: Novel”:

Provenance: This is a novel which took a while to settle out from under the weight of unfair expectations that I placed on it. Once it did, I was able to engage more fully with Leckie’s story of truth, lies, and cultural identity. Provenance is a strong novel in its own right, and in the end, I appreciated Leckie’s light touch in how she connected it to the larger Ancillary universe.

It’s just that when we look back on Leckie’s career in twenty years, I suspect Provenance will be viewed as minor Leckie. It’s good, please don’t take this the wrong way, but the Ancillary trilogy was a major accomplishment and Provenance is “just” a very good book. I appreciated how Provenance pushed me to think about historical documents and relics, how their perception of importance could override the truth they should represent. There’s great stuff to chew on here

(15) SOLO REVIEW. And Nerds of a Feather contributor Dean E. S. Richard sounds relieved as much as anything in “Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

The good news: it doesn’t suck! I mean, there’s some forgettable stuff, and Han Solo isn’t, like, Han Solo, but if you’re willing to watch it for the sake of itself and not expect Harrison Ford, it’s fine. It tries a little too hard for quips, and his against-odds/I-don’t-actually-have-a-plan moments come across a little forced, but, again, we’re measuring this against complete disaster, so I’ll take it.

(16) SIPS OF CEASELESS. Charles Payseur comments in “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #252”

Competition can bring out the worst in people, but as this issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies proves, it can also bring out the best. Both stories this issue are about races, and magical ones at that, featuring women who find themselves squaring off against their lovers (former or current) for the chance to win a great prize. In both stories, though, the actual prize might not matter as much as the competition itself, as the thrill of the race. Because when these characters are faced with what they’d do if they won, the results are…interesting. It’s a wonderfully fun pair of stories, expertly paired, and I’ll stop yammering on in introduction and just get to the reviews!

(17) THE ORIGINS DEBACLE GOES ANOTHER ROUND. According to Larry Correia, who was dropped as a GoH of Origins Game Fair two weeks ago, “Origins sent out yet ANOTHER message about me, and my response” [Internet Archive link].

At Monster Hunter Nation he cites this as the text of Origins’ Executive Director John Ward’s message to educate vendors about the social media uproar following the “disinvitation.”

Good afternoon Exhibitors,

We are a few weeks away from Origins and the anticipation is building!

Things are looking great for this year’s show. The Exhibit Hall is officially sold out and badges are currently trending 15% above pre-registration numbers from 2017.

We have taken a brief hiatus from social media but are fully prepared to continue promoting the show and its exhibitors starting this week. Before we begin communicating through social, there are a few things we wanted to bring to your attention.

Some individuals have rallied online with plans to harass companies exhibiting at the show—this is in response to the disinviting of Larry Correia as a guest at Origins.

To provide you with some background: our original decision to invite Larry as a guest at Origins was simple—he’s a successful author, has been a guest at other conventions in previous years, and any one that knows him knows that he is big into gaming.

Unfortunately, we were not aware of Mr. Correia’s online presence and following. Upon further research we found an abundance of confrontational discourse and polarizing behavior online.

We have nothing against Larry as a person or as a professional, but we have seen the drama that follows him, and we do not want that at Origins.

As an exhibitor at Origins, we wanted you to be aware of the general MO of the group we are explaining:

Company pages are inundated with comments and negative rankings
Employers and publishers are contacted
Messages with keywords regarding to the show are targeted

Time has passed, and things have calmed down, but we should all still be aware of these potential behaviors. If you receive any threats or libel regarding you or your company, please send them to John Ward.

Thank you for your support. Good luck with the final preparations for the show!

Correia explains that he actually believes vendors should be left alone. Except for the ones that deserve what’s happening to them, that is.

My only comments during this entire debacle concerning the vendors was that they should be left alone. The vendors are just small businessmen trying to have a good sales weekend, and they have nothing to do with the incompetence of John Ward.  I’ve specifically gone out of my way to say that to my fans on multiple occasions.

The only vendors I’ve seen animosity directed at were the ones who specifically went out of their way to virtue signal on Twitter about how booting me for having the wrong opinions was So Brave. And that’s a short and very specific list who did that usual social media thing where they decided to throw punches, and then cry about getting punched back afterwards.

But hey, toss that out there. The important thing is that everyone knows Origins is the real victim here.

(18) GAME LOSES STEAM. Who thought this was a good idea? “School shooting game Active Shooter pulled by Steam”.

A game pitched as a “school shooting simulation” has been ditched from Steam’s online store ahead of release.

The title had been criticised by parents of real-life school shooting victims, and an online petition opposing its launch had attracted more than 180,000 signatures.

Steam’s owner, Valve, said it had dropped the game because its developer had a history of bad behaviour.

But the individual named has denied involvement.

Active Shooter came to prominence after the BBC revealed that an anti-gun violence charity had described it as “appalling” last week.

CNN subsequently reported that the families of two students killed in February’s high school attack in Parkland, Florida had described the game as being “despicable” and “horrific”.

(19) LE GUIN FILM. I’ve linked to the trailer before, but here’s a new Bustle post about the project: “This Ursula K. Le Guin Documentary Reveals How Much The Author Struggled To Write Women In Sci-Fi”.

Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, a new documentary by Arwen Curry about the life and legacy of the late author, explores Le Guin’s long career as a pioneer in speculative fiction, including the role of feminism in her work and the struggles she faced teaching herself how to write women into her novels. In the film, which Curry worked on with the author for 10 years, Le Guin admits that “from my own cultural upbringing, I couldn’t go down deep and come up with a woman wizard.” According to the author, she had been “a woman pretending to think like a man,” a behavior she had to unlearn before she could create some of her best work.

As Le Guin tells Curry in the film:

“I had to rethink my entire approach to writing fiction … it was important to think about privilege and power and domination, in terms of gender, which was something science fiction and fantasy had not done. All I changed is the point of view. All of a sudden we are seeing Earthsea … from the point of view of the powerless.”

 

(20) BIG HERO 6 THE SERIES. Coming to a Disney Channel near you. (Which means not very close to me, but maybe to you.)

Hiro, Baymax and the Big Hero 6 team are back and ready to save San Fransokyo! Big Hero 6 The Series premieres Saturday, June 9 at 9A on Disney Channel. The adventure continues for 14-year-old tech genius Hiro and his compassionate, cutting-edge robot Baymax. If dealing with the academic pressure of being the new kid at the prestigious San Fransokyo Institute of Technology weren’t enough, it’s off campus where things really get tricky. Hiro and Baymax, along with their friends Wasabi, Honey Lemon, Go Go and Fred, unite to form the legendary superhero team Big Hero 6, protecting their city from a colorful array of scientifically-enhanced villains intent on creating chaos and mayhem!

 

(21) EXPANSE. Already linked in comments, but let the Scroll Record reflect: “It’s official: Amazon has saved The Expanse”. The Verge story says —

It’s official: The Expanse has been saved. After the Syfy Channel canceled The Expanse earlier this month, Alcon Entertainment has confirmed that Amazon will pick up the show for a fourth season, after after outcry from the show’s fans.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/16/18 Ringworlds For Sale or Rent, Moons To Let Fifty Cents

(1) PLANE SPEAKING. CollegeHumor shows what happens when a ticket agent has to deal with the argument that “My Dinosaur Is a Service Animal” (features Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard).

(2) EARLY RETURNS ON 451. Phil Nichols of BradburyMedia saw a preview screener of “HBO’s new Fahrenheit 451” and weighed in on his blog:

…The new Fahrenheit does take many liberties with Bradbury’s story (what, no Millie? Clarisse as a police informant?), but it knows what it’s doing. Specifically, it knows what Guy Montag has to learn, and what he has to become; and it knows what Beatty is in relation to Montag. Most importantly, it knows how to show the relevance of Fahrenheit to today’s world of sound bites, clickbait headlines and fake news. Bradbury said that you don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture; you just have to get people to stop reading. And that’s exactly the world Bahrani has created here….

(3) MORE WORK FOR HOLLYWOOD LAWYERS. “Stan Lee Files $1B Lawsuit Against POW! Entertainment for “Stealing” His Name and Likeness” says The Hollywood Reporter.

The epic battles in Stan Lee’s comics may be nothing compared to the array of legal fights he’s waging — which now includes a billion-dollar lawsuit against the company he co-founded.

Lee is suing POW! Entertainment for fraud and conversion, claiming the company and two of its officers conspired to steal his identity, name and likeness in a “nefarious scheme” involving a “sham” sale to a Chinese company.

POW! was acquired in 2017 by Hong Kong-based Camsing International, and Lee says POW! CEO Shane Duffy and co-founder Gill Champion didn’t disclose the terms of the deal to him before it closed. At the time, Lee claims, he was devastated because his wife was on her deathbed and they took advantage of his despair — and his macular degeneration, which rendered him legally blind in 2015.

Lee says last year Duffy and Champion, along with his ex-business manager Jerardo Olivarez, whom he’s currently suing for fraud, asked him to sign a non-exclusive license with POW! for the use of his name and likeness in connection with creative works owned by the company. Instead, what he purportedly signed was a “fraudulent” intellectual property assignment agreement that granted POW! “the exclusive right to use Lee’s name, identity, image and likeness on a worldwide basis in perpetuity.”

According to the complaint filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Lee has been selective about licensing his name and likeness and will only authorize the use on a non-exclusive basis.

(4) AWARD NOMINEE. Congratulations to Cora Buhlert! Her story “’Baptism of Fire’ is a nominee for the 2018 eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Award”.

The nominations for the 2018 eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Awards, which are run by the small press Bards & Sages, were announced today.

I was going to put the link to the announcement into the weekly link round-ups at the Speculative Fiction Showcase and the Indie Crime Scene respectively, but first I took a gander at the list of nominees and all but fell from my chair, because there, a bit down the page, was my name. For it turns out that “Baptism of Fire”, my contribution to the science fiction anthology The Guardian, edited by Alasdair Shaw, has been nominated in the “Best short story” category. I had absolutely no idea about this, until I saw the nominee list.

(5) BLABBAGE. Derek Stauffer, in “Star Wars Comic May Hint At Leia’s Episode 9 Fate” in ScreenRant, says that Marvel’s Poe Dameron comic may have clues about what will happen to Leia Organa in Episode 9.

Given Leia’s weakened state in the comic, it seems even more obvious that she will end up passing the torch to Poe as leader of The Resistance at some point in the near future. The only real question is if that passing will come with Leia’s retirement, or her death.

(6) ARTISTS TO BE INDUCTED. The Society of Illustrators will honor the following artists at its Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony on June 21.

2018 Hall of Fame Laureates
Robert Crumb
Hilary Knight
Jim McMullan
CF Payne
Kate Greenaway
Rene Gruau
Jack Kirby
Heinrich Kley
Kay Nielsen

(7) NEW TO SHORT FICTION? Lady Business offers a “Short & Sweet Roundtable Discussion: Short Fiction Reading Habits” with A.C. Wise, Bogi Takács, Brandon O’Brien, Vanessa Fogg, and Bridget McKinney.

One thing I’ve learned from talking to people about short fiction is that there are many different styles of reading short fiction. There are people like me who read one story (generally online) and then stop and do something else. There are people who sit down with a print or ebook magazine and read the whole thing cover to cover. There are people who only listen to short fiction in podcast form. So I was thinking about the different ways people read short SFF, and I wanted to find out more about these differences. I also thought that since lots of people have different short fiction reading habits, people who want to try short fiction might find that different pieces of advice are helpful to different people. So I’ve invited several guests to the column to talk about their short fiction reading habits and to share advice for people new to short fiction.

This roundtable features prolific short fiction readers, so they have a lot of great ideas for where to find short fiction, but I know it can be a little intimidating when there’s so much to choose from and people who read so much! I hope this roundtable gives readers a taste of how many ways there are to read short fiction and how many entry points there are, and that there’s no wrong way to read, including how much you read or at what point in life you start reading short fiction.

(8) LEND ME YOUR EARS. From Tested in 2013, “ILM Modelmakers Share Star Wars Stories and Secrets”. News to me — the crowds of the pod races in Star Wars Episode I were half a million painted q-tips.

Don Bies: One of the cool things, whenever we’re working together, is people thinking outside the box, and trying to come up with practical solutions. And in the early days, certainly it was ‘let’s see if we can beat the CG guys at their own game.’ Michael Lynch, one of the modelmakers–he was always really good at looking at things this way–he was looking at the crowds. And when you see a crowd in a stadium you’re really just seeing shapes and colors, you’re not really seeing people or individual faces.

So he came up with the idea…of using q-tips, cotton swabs, colored, in the stands of the Mos Espa arena. So there were something like 450,000 q-tips painted multiple colors, and he even researched it to find out how many reds versus yellows and blues and greens that should be in there.

And it was a process of just days of painting. Think about 450,000 cotton swabs, how you paint them, and then how you put them in. Everyone took turns at one point sticking them into the stands. And by blowing a fan underneath they kind of twinkled, like people moving around. Ultimately they did put some CG people on top of it, but I always thoght it would be funny if they caught to a close-up of the stands and you saw a cotton swab sitting in the stands next to the aliens…

(9) ALFRED THE GREAT. Hollywood Reporter headline: “’Gotham’ Boss Sets New Batman Prequel Series at Epix (Exclusive)”. Premium cable network Epix will air Pennyworth. The series has some behind-the-camera personnel ties to Gotham, but is not a prequel of that Fox series. No cast has been announced.

Epix is getting into the DC Comics business.

The MGM-owned premium cable network has handed out a 10-episode, straight-to-series order for Pennyworth, a drama set in the Batman universe from Gotham showrunner Bruno Heller.

The series will revolve around Alfred Pennyworth, the best friend and butler to Bruce Wayne (aka Batman). The series is not a Gotham spinoff but rather an entirely new story exploring Alfred’s origins as a former British SAS soldier who forms a secret company and goes to work with Thomas Wayne — Bruce’s billionaire father — in 1960s London. Sean Pertwee, who plays Alfred Pennyworth on Fox’s recently renewed Gotham, is not involved. Casting has not yet begun and the series is set in a completely different universe despite hailing from Heller and producers Warner Horizon. (Others who have played the Alfred role include Jeremy Irons, Michael Gough, Michael Caine, Alan Napier and William Austin, among others.)

(10) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Hershey Kisses were named after the “kissing” sound made by the nozzle that drops the chocolate onto a cooled conveyor belt during their production. Hershey started making its version in 1907 but “kiss” was commonly used as a generic term for candies wrapped with a twist as early as the 1820s. Hershey managed to trademark the term in 2000 after arguing that consumers almost exclusively associated the word “kiss” with their brand versus other candies.

Source: Time

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SCALZI FREE READ. The Electronic Frontier Foundation enlisted John Scalzi to help make their point: “EFF Presents John Scalzi’s Science Fiction Story About Our Right to Repair Petition to the Copyright Office”.

A small bit of good news: Congress designed a largely ornamental escape valve into this system: every three years, the Librarian of Congress can grant exemptions to the law for certain activities. These exemptions make those uses temporarily legal, but (here’s the hilarious part), it’s still not legal to make a tool to enable that use. It’s as though Congress expected you to gnaw open your devices and manually change the software with the sensitive tips of your nimble fingers or something. That said, in many cases it’s easy to download the tools you need anyway. We’re suing the U.S. government to invalidate DMCA 1201, which would eliminate the whole farce. It’s 2018, and that means it’s exemptions time again! EFF and many of our allies have filed for a raft of exemptions to DMCA 1201 this year, and in this series, we’re teaming up with some amazing science fiction writers to explain what’s at stake in these requests.

This week, we’re discussing our right to repair exemption. Did you know the innards of your car are copyrighted?

… The use of DRM to threaten the independent repair sector is a bad deal all-around. Repair is an onshore industry that creates middle-class jobs in local communities, where service technicians help Americans get more value out of the devices they buy. It’s not just cars: everything from tractors to printers, from toys to thermostats have been designed with DRM that stands in the way of your ability to decide who fixes your stuff, or whether it can be fixed at all. That’s why we’ve asked the Copyright Office to create a broad exemption to permit repair technicians to bypass any DRM that gets in the way of their ability to fix your stuff for you.

Our friend John Scalzi was kind enough to write us a science fiction story that illustrates the stakes involved.

(13) HOUSE OF REPUTE. Real estate news site 6sqft profiles a celebrity abode which once housed sf author Robert Silverberg: “Former home of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia lists for $3.5M in Fieldston section of Riverdale”. Numerous photos of the inside and outside.

A stately English Tudor mansion in the historic Fieldston neighborhood of Riverdale, considered one of the city’s best preserved early 20th century suburbs, has just hit the market for $3.5 million, and it’s oozing history filled ghosts, science fiction, New York master politicians, and urban planners. Former Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia moved to 5020 Goodridge Avenue after serving three consecutive terms as mayor and living in Gracie Mansion….

In 1961, Robert Silverberg, a well-known science fiction author – and not as well-known as the prolific writer of erotica novels for quick cash – bought the house. In his 1972 novel, The Book of Skulls, Silverberg mentioned the neighborhood, writing, “How unreal the whole immortality thing seemed to me now, with the jeweled cables of the George Washington Bridge gleaming far to the southwest, and the soaring bourgeois towers of Riverdale hemming us on to the right, and the garlicky realities of Manhattan straight ahead.”

(14) PROBLEM FIXER. Michael Z. Williamson’s advice is to ban the people who complain about a convention GoH.

…Your only rational, immediate response to avoid “controversy” is just to ban the person making the public scene. They’ve already told you by this action that they intend to cause trouble for at least one of your guests and that guest’s followers.

“I wouldn’t feel safe with this person at the con!”
“We’re sorry you feel that way.  Here’s a full refund.* We hope to see you at a future event.”

Then stop responding. You’ll only give attention to an attention whore.

Having seen this happen to guests at least three times, any future guest invitations I accept will involve a signed cancellation clause and a cash penalty for doing so, because once a guest has made arrangements for your event, they can’t schedule something else, and you’re eating up their writing/art/production time. They are there for YOUR benefit, not you for theirs. In my case, I currently have three novels, a collection, an anthology, all contracted, another novel offer, three on spec, an article request, three short stories and a lengthy stack of products to test and review, and an entire summer of professional bookings. I have a not-quite four year old and a teenager. Don’t waste my time then roll over for some worthless whiner….

(15) MAKING PLANS. John Ringo, in a public Facebook post, advises writers —

…With every other convention, assume you’re being set-up at this point and don’t be played for a sucker.

Oh, yeah, and as fans and lovers of liberty, never, ever attend Origins again if you ever have. Or ConCarolinas. (Sorry, Jada.) Or ArchCon. Or WorldCon.

We need a list. They never will be missed. No they never will be missed.

(16) ALTERNATE SPORTS HISTORY. Counterfactual: “Blimps Full Of Money And 30 Other Sports Fantasias In ‘Upon Further Review'”. What if football had stayed boring, or the US had boycotted the Berlin Olympics, or …?

Mike Pesca assembled the new book titled Upon Further Review: The Greatest What-Ifs In Sports History and a companion podcast. In an interview, he explained some of the book’s 31 different scenarios written by 31 sportswriters.

(17) SYMBOLISM. “Henrietta Lacks’ Lasting Impact Detailed In New Portrait” — shoutouts to unwitting donor of a cell line that has been used all over biomedicine.

When Henrietta Lacks was dying of cancer in 1951, her cells were harvested without her knowledge. They became crucial to scientific research and her story became a best-seller. Since then, Lacks has become one of the most powerful symbols for informed consent in the history of science.

On Monday, when the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., honored Lacks by installing a painting of her just inside one of its main entrances, three of Lacks’ grandchildren were there.

(18) BIRD IS THE WORD. “Dinosaur parenting: How the ‘chickens from hell’ nested”. “How do you sit on your nest of eggs when you weigh over 1,500kg?”

Dinosaur parenting has been difficult to study, due to the relatively small number of fossils, but the incubating behaviour of oviraptorosaurs has now been outlined for the first time.

Scientists believe the largest of these dinosaurs arranged their eggs around a central gap in the nest.

This bore the parent’s weight, while allowing them to potentially provide body heat or protection to their developing young, without crushing the delicate eggs.

The feathered ancient relatives of modern birds, oviraptorosaurs lived in the Late Cretaceous period, at least 67 million years ago.

(19) SF TV ARCHEOLOGY. Echo Ishii’s tour of old sf TV leads this time to “SF Obscure: Cosmic Slop.

Cosmic Slop was a 1994 TV anthology series on HBO featuring three short black science fiction movies. (I have also seen the broadcast date listed as 1995.) It features three short “Space Traders” based on the Derrick Bell short story; “The First Commandment” and “Tang”. It’s kind of a Twilight Zone vibe with George Clinton of Parliament Funkadelic during the intros. (It’s as bizarre in the way only George Clinton can be.)

(20) TREK MEDICINE TODAY. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination hosts “Star Trek, the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE & the Future of Medicine” on June 2, with Qualcomm XPRIZE Tricorder Prize winner Basil Harris, Robert Picardo (actor, Emergency Medical Hologram, Star Trek: Voyager), and Dr. Rusty Kallenberg, Chairman of Family Medicine and Director of the UCSD XPRIZE Test Program.

June 2, 2018
5:00-7:00pm
Liebow Auditorium
UC San Diego

Artificial intelligence is already impacting healthcare is numerous ways. Are we far from the future portrayed in Star Trek: Voyager, of an AI holographic doctor with encyclopedic medical knowledge? What are the pathways that will yield the most profound results for AI in medicine? And what are the ethical and regulatory issues we need to consider as we develop these technologies?

Hosted by Erik Viirre, associate director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and Medical Director of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, The Future of Medicine is an exploration of these questions and more, as they impact the UC San Diego innovation ecosystem and beyond. Our master of ceremonies is Robert Picardo, actor and star of Star Trek: Voyager, where he left a cultural impact as the face of AI medicine as the Emergency Medical Hologram, known as “The Doctor.” Basil Harris, founder of Basil Leaf Technologies and winner of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE to develop a real-world Tricorder-like medical device, will share his experience developing DextER, an autonomous medical diagnostic device, and the future of this pathway for innovation. And leaders from UC San Diego will join a panel on artificial agents in medical technology development.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/11/18 The Seventh Sealion

(1) SHELDON AND AMY. Some say it’s a bigger wedding than the one coming up across the pond: Yahoo! Entertainment has video — “‘The Big Bang Theory’ wedding gives Mark Hamill the feels”.

Wil Wheaton was originally going to officiate the wedding. But after Howard called in a favor, Mark Hamill replaced him. It was the least Mark could do after Howard found his dog, Bark Hamill.

…Mark Hamill was so taken aback by the touching vows that he was almost too emotional to continue, but he did. Choking back tears, he said, “Then by the power vested in me by evenyoucanperformweddings.com, I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

(2) EXPANSE GETS AXED. Syfy has cancelled The Expanse, however, it may be picked up by another network: “‘The Expanse’ To End On Syfy With Season 3, Will Be Shopped Elsewhere By Alcon”.

The current third season of The Expanse will be the space drama’s last one on Syfy. The cable network has decided not to renew the show for a fourth season, with the last episode slated to air in early July. Alcon Television Group, which fully finances and produces the critically praised series, plans to shop it to other buyers.

The Expanse transported us across the solar system for three brilliant seasons of television,” said Chris McCumber, President, Entertainment Networks for NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment. “Everyone at Syfy is a massive fan of the series, and this was an incredibly difficult decision. We want to sincerely thank The Expanse’s amazing cast, crew and all the dedicated creatives who helped bring James S.A. Corey’s story to life. And to the series’ loyal fans, we thank you most of all.”

(3) DINO DAZE. Universal’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ‘A Look Inside’ Featurette” explains the new movie’s connection to the series.

It’s been four years since theme park and luxury resort Jurassic World was destroyed by dinosaurs out of containment. Isla Nublar now sits abandoned by humans while the surviving dinosaurs fend for themselves in the jungles. When the island’s dormant volcano begins roaring to life, Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) mount a campaign to rescue the remaining dinosaurs from this extinction-level event. Owen is driven to find Blue, his lead raptor who’s still missing in the wild, and Claire has grown a respect for these creatures she now makes her mission. Arriving on the unstable island as lava begins raining down, their expedition uncovers a conspiracy that could return our entire planet to a perilous order not seen since prehistoric times.

 

(4) THIS POISON COMES RECOMMENDED. NPR’s Glen Weldon says: “New ‘Rocky And Bullwinkle’ Is Something We Hope You’ll Really Like”.

Nostalgia is a paralytic toxin.

It’s killing us slowly, steadily: Every time an old, smarmy sitcom, or a pallid network drama, or a toy ad that masqueraded as a cringeworthy children’s cartoon gets dredged from the feculent muck of history’s lake bed and rebooted for a contemporary audience, our cultural blood pressure incrementally drops, our collective pulse grows that much threadier, our soft tissues go just a scosh more necrotic. That’s because these properties exude nostalgia’s deadly poison — they’re sticky with it — and there is no antidote….

Nostalgia is no longer a part of our culture. It has become our culture. And the toxin it carries has leached into the groundwater. It riddles the food chain. It’s airborne. We are lost.

Now: All of the above is true. (Resolutely so. Fundamentally so. Incontrovertibly so.)

And here is another thing that is equally true: This new Rocky and Bullwinkle is pretty good!

(5) SOLO EARLY REACTIONS. The BBC says “Solo: A Star Wars Story praised by first to see it”.

The first reactions to the new Star Wars film Solo have come out, after its premiere in the US.

And the verdict? While some said it was clunky in parts, most loved it – describing the movie as fun, epic and “a blast”.

There was particular praise for Fleabag star Phoebe Waller-Bridge, in her role as droid L3-37.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. The first time a hologram was filmed in a movie was in the 1976 theatrical release of Logan’s Run.  Because of this achievement it won a Special Achievement Academy Award Oscar.

Wikipedia:  “For the scene where Logan is interrogated by the Deep Sleep central computer, it was decided genuine holograms would be most convincing, with Saul David advocating a new hologram effect be created.”

 

For more history, see the American Cinematographer article “The Use of Holograms in ‘Logan’s Run’”.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lise Andreasen learned from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal that Smaug isn’t very smart.

(8) A HEAP OF WATER. Hilbert Schenck should have seen this, says Chip Hitchcock: “Massive wave is southern hemisphere record, scientists believe”.

Scientists in New Zealand have documented what they believe is the largest wave ever recorded in the southern hemisphere.

The 23.8m (78ft) wave was measured by a buoy on New Zealand’s Campbell Island in the Southern Ocean on Tuesday, the country’s weather authority said.

It eclipses a 22.03m wave that was identified south of the Australian state of Tasmania in 2012.

Larger waves have been recorded in the northern hemisphere.

The Meteorological Service of New Zealand (MetService) installed its solar-powered buoy in March. The area is known for big storm activity, but waves had been previously difficult to measure.

(9) PROGRESS REPORT. The Ray Bradbury Experience Museum in Waukegan has a website. They plan to open in 2020.

(10) JDA AND FOGCON. Jon Del Arroz’ version of his experience attending Bay Area convention FogCon (see March 13 Pixel Scroll (item #8)) did not suggest the impression he made would lead to this —

JDA responded in a new blog post [Internet Archive link] by reminding everyone he is already suing the Worldcon:

“It can’t happen to our team, we control the cons,” they might think. Or perhaps they may not think at all. But this is what happens when the path of silencing dissenting ideas is taken. In California, I’ll remind, that there are civil rights laws to address this kind of behavior by organizations. It’s called the Unruh Act, and FogCon, in their attempt to appease a few bullies trying to hate popular conservatives out of fandom, would be good to remember that not applying standards equally to all is very illegal in this state.

(11) GAS LIGHT. Science headline: “Trump White House quietly cancels NASA research verifying greenhouse gas cuts”.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. The adage is especially relevant for climate-warming greenhouse gases, which are crucial to manage—and challenging to measure. In recent years, though, satellite and aircraft instruments have begun monitoring carbon dioxide and methane remotely, and NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), a $10-million-a-year research line, has helped stitch together observations of sources and sinks into high-resolution models of the planet’s flows of carbon. Now, President Donald Trump’s administration has quietly killed the CMS, Science has learned.

…The agency declined to provide a reason for the cancellation beyond “budget constraints and higher priorities within the science budget.” But the CMS is an obvious target for the Trump administration because of its association with climate treaties and its work to help foreign nations understand their emissions, says Phil Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts. And, unlike the satellites that provide the data, the research line had no private contractor to lobby for it.

The cancelation saves only $10 million/year; which seems well below the rounding error; NASA’s budget is about $20 billion/year.

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