Pixel Scroll 11/18/18 Concentrate And Scroll Again

(1) PETER BEAGLE’S UNICORN. The Atlantic celebrates 50 years in print for The Last Unicorn, “One of the Best Fantasy Novels Ever Is Nothing Like The Lord of the Rings.

Beagle frequently subverts fantasy tropes. Prince Lir tries to win the unicorn’s heart by deeds of derring-do, but she is unimpressed. In fact, Lir does not end up with the unicorn. And in the novel, mortality is preferable to immortality; Haggard, who quests after immortality, is defeated. Schmendrick’s greatest wish is to end the curse of immortality placed on him by his mentor. The unicorn, in a brief brush with mortality, gains the ability to regret, and she is better off for it. In The Last Unicorn, it’s the earthly things, the things that make one human, that are the things worth having.

(2) KOBE’S HOLLYWOOD. In “The Revisionist”, the Washington Post’s Kent Babb reports that Kobe Bryant is hiring a staff to develop his fantasy world, known as “Granity.”  A podcast about the fantasy world, “The Punies,” currently exists and YA novels and an animated series are in development.

In Bryant’s office, “affixed to panels are renderings of maps and terms from ‘Granity,’ Bryant’s imaginary world that’s not unlike the Marvel Universe or George R.R. Martin’s Westeros.  There are sketches and meticulously designed artifacts that seem to make sense only in Bryant’s mind:gods of emotions, stories that blend fantasy and sports, that eternal battle not between good and evil but between love and fear.”

Also, “inside the safe in the closet (in his house) are his three most prized possessions:  a first-edition Harry Potter signed by J.K. Rowling, a series of autographed books by George R.R. Martin, the ‘Dear Basketball’ score signed by John Williams.”

“If you look at all the potential stories — how the home is constructed, the family that lives there — there are infinite possibilities,” he says, and the notion struck him so profoundly, so personally, that in that moment he began imagining a fictional world in which his ideas could take shape. He would call that world “Granity,” and existing there would be characters who — like some of Bryant’s favorites: Darth Vader, Severus Snape, Jaime Lannister — are horrifying at times, charming at others.

As this flight begins its descent, he suggests no compelling character is entirely good or bad; that a storyteller’s duty is to draw out the full story and take every belief, emotion and motivation into account.

“You have things within you that are festering,” he says. “We all do.”

(3) MORE OLD PEOPLE. James Davis Nicoll turns the geezer panel loose on “The Limitless Perspective of Master Peek, or, the Luminescence of Debauchery by Catherynne M. Valente”. Can they dig it?

And so we reach the end of the first half of this project with The Limitless Perspective of Master Peek, or, the Luminescence of Debauchery by Catherynne M. Valente. First published in issue #200 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Master Peek was a finalist for the 2017 Eugie Foster Memorial Award. This, in fact, is why I selected it. But will my readers agree with the taste of the Foster jury?

The Limitless Perspective of Master Peek, or, the Luminescence of Debauchery can be read here.

(4) THE FUTURE KING IN YELLOW. In “Some Achieve Greatness” at Doctor Strangemind, Kim Huett revisits the youth of a well-known sff author. Can you guess who it is before he tells you?

Let me quote from a speech made at the 1983 Disclave by one of the authors attending that con (for the record the text of this speech was reprinted in Bill Bower’s fanzine, Outworlds #34). Our mystery author begins thus:

I have been to Disclave before. Once. That was why I was so pleased when Alan Huff asked me to come east. Because it so happens that I attended the 1971 Disclave, and it so happens that it was my very first SF convention.

Interesting… Go on mystery author:

Maybe a few of you were here in ’71 too. If so, maybe you remember me. I looked a little different back then. My hair was shoulder length, just like everyone else’s, but I was still clean-shaven, I didn’t stop shaving until 1974. Even then, I was a snappy dresser. In fact, I was a hell of a lot snappier. As I recall, I wore my Psychedelic Hippie Pimp outfit to the con: ankle boots with zippers, burgundy bell-bottoms, a bright solid green tapered body shirt, a black satin scarf, and — the piece de resistance — my famous double-breasted pin-striped mustard-yellow sports jacket. Perhaps now you veterans recall me. I was the one wandering around the con suite doing permanent retinal damage

(5) EXOPLANET HUNTER. Engadget keeps watch as “NASA bids Kepler ‘goodnight’ with last set of commands”:

(6) FLOGGING IT TO THE FINISH LINE. There’s a theory that “George R.R. Martin Is Now ‘In Hiding’ To Finish ‘Winds Of Winter’”.

The Winds of Winter has turned into a real pickle — an ambitious monster that he says is “not so much a novel as a dozen novels, each with a different protagonist, each having a different cast of supporting players, antagonists, allies and lovers around them, and all of these weaving together against the march of time in an extremely complex fashion. So it’s very, very challenging.”

But he’s really hunkering down now, and that fact should chill his legions of impatient fans. After all, he’s said that he finished A Dance with Dragons by disappearing “in a bunker,” so this may simply be business as usual.

(7) JUST LIKE THE HUGOS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In something of a first, ranked choice voting (which should be familiar to Hugo voters) has made a difference in a US House election. (CNN: “Democrats flip another House seat after ranked-choice runoff in Maine”). Current Representative Bruce Poliquin received a small plurality over challenger Jared Golden in Maine’s 2nd District—46.2% to 45.6%, with the remaining 8.2% split between two other candidates.

However, since no candidate had achieved a majority, Maine’s new ranked choice voting system kicked in. After progressively eliminating the fourth and third place candidates and redistributing their votes to each voter’s second choices, Golden pulled ahead and ended up winning by about one percentage point (50.5% to 49.5%).

Poliquin had sought a temporary restraining order to prevent counting the ranked-choice votes, calling into question the constitutionality of this sort of voting system. The process was put in place in Maine when voters approved a referendum in 2016, and this appears to be its first big test. Poliquin has pledged to continue his legal challenge of the constitutionality of ranked choice voting.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 18, 1923 – Alan Shepard, Pilot and Astronaut who became the first American to travel into space in 1961, in the Project Mercury flight spacecraft Freedom 7. He commanded the Apollo 14 mission, and at age 47, was the oldest person to have walked on the Moon (where he teed up and hit two golf balls). He received the Navy Distinguished Service Medal and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. Together with the other surviving Mercury astronauts, and Betty Grissom, Gus Grissom’s widow, in 1984 he founded the Mercury Seven Foundation (now the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation), which raises money to provide college scholarships to science and engineering students. He and fellow astronaut Deke Slayton collaborated with two journalists on the book Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America’s Race to the Moon, which was made into a TV miniseries. (Died 1998.)
  • Born November 18, 1936 – Suzette Haden Elgin, Linguist, Writer and Poet who, for creating the engineered language Láadan for her Native Tongue science fiction series, is considered an important early contributor to constructed languages in the field of science fiction. Her other notable series are the Ozark Trilogy and the Coyote Jones series; themes in her works include feminism and peaceful coexistence with nature. In 1978 she founded the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) to promote and recognize speculative poetry; the organization continues to this day, and gives out the annual Rhysling and Dwarf Stars Awards for long, short, and micro poems, as well as the Elgin Awards named for her, which recognize poetry collections. (Died 2015.)
  • Born November 18, 1939 – Margaret Atwood, 79, Writer, Teacher, Poet, and Critic from Canada whose most famous genre works are undoubtedly the dystopian Clarke Award-winning The Handmaid’s Tale, which has been made into a Saturn-nominated TV series, and the post-apocalyptic MaddAddam trilogy. Her works straddle numerous literary boundaries, include various themes such as feminism and environmentalism, and have received a multitude of awards, including the Booker Prize.
  • Born November 18, 1950 – Michael Swanwick, 68, Writer and Critic whose career started with such a bang in 1980 that he was a finalist for Campbell for Best New Writer. He has written a number of novels and hundreds of short fiction works, winning numerous Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Sturgeon, and Prix Imaginaire Awards. He has also produced several nonfiction critical works, including the Hugo nominees Being Gardner Dozois and Hope-in-the-Mist: The Extraordinary Career and Mysterious Life of Hope Mirrlees. He has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including the 2016 Worldcon.
  • Born November 18, 1950 – Eric Pierpoint, 68, Actor who has the distinction of appearing in guest roles on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise (CBS, get on that!). Other genre appearances include a recurring role on Alien Nation, and guest parts on Babylon 5, Sliders, Time Trax, Seven Days, Medium, and Surface, and the films Invaders from Mars, Forever Young, Liar Liar, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
  • Born November 18, 1952 – Doug Fratz, Scientist, Writer, Editor, Critic, and Fan, who was a prolific reviewer, and editor of the fanzine Crifanac and the semiprozine Thrust (later renamed Quantum), which was a 5-time Hugo finalist. Mike Glyer’s tribute to him is here. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 18, 1953 – Alan Moore, 65, Writer and Graphic Novelist who is famous for his comic book work, including the renowned series Watchmen (for which he won a Hugo in 1988), the Prometheus Award-winning V for Vendetta, the Stoker Award winners The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Neonomicon, the World Fantasy Award-winning A Hypothetical Lizard, and the International Horror Guild Award-winning From Hell. He has received innumerable Eisner Awards, was named to the Eisner Award Hall of Fame, and was given a Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement.
  • Born November 18, 1961 – Steven Moffat, 57, Writer, Director, and Producer of Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes. His first Doctor Who script was for The Curse of Fatal Death, a Comic Relief charity production that you can find on Youtube and which I suggest you go watch right now. He also co-wrote The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, a most excellent animated film. His Doctor Who episodes have deservedly won three Hugo Awards and another 12 nominations, and the Sherlock series won a British Fantasy Award.
  • Born November 18, 1967 – Lyda Morehouse, 51, Writer, Critic and Fan who has written the Archangel Protocol cyberpunk series (the fourth book of which received a Philip K. Dick Special Citation) under her own name, and several fantasy mystery series under the pen name Tate Hallaway. In 2002, Archangel Protocol was the first science fiction/fantasy novel ever to win a major mystery award – a Shamus Award, given by the Private Eye Writers of America. She is a member of The Wyrdsmiths, a Minneapolis writer’s group, and was Guest of Honor at Minicon 53.
  • Born November 18, 1970 – Peta Wilson, 48, Actor from Australia who played Wilhelmina “Mina” Harker in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen film, and had roles in Superman Returns and an episode of the Highlander series. Though The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was not well-received, she received a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role.
  • Born November 18, 1981 – Maggie Stiefvater, 37, Writer of YA fiction, she currently has two series, The Wolves of Mercy Falls and The Raven Cycle. With her sister, Kate Hummel, she writes and records a piece of music for each novel she publishes, which are released in the form of animated book trailers. Her works have earned numerous Mythopoeic nominations, a Stoker nomination, and a Prix Imaginaire.

(9) WORDS MATTER. Never thought of it that way.

(10) UNDERSTANDING CAMPBELL. It’s the LA Times’ turn to review Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction by Alec Nevala-Lee. Scott Bradfield does the honors in “John W. Campbell, a chief architect of science fiction’s Golden Age, was as brilliant as he was problematic”.

These stories were written, or published and conceived into existence, by the undoubtedly great and incomprehensibly peculiar John W. Campbell Jr., who single-handedly designed many of the ways we saw the future then and continue to see it now. Born in Newark, N.J., in 1910, he was raised by combative parents who embodied the extremes of their son’s divided personality: his father, an engineer with Bell Telephone, stressed rationality, planning and control over emotions, while his mother was a wild, tantrum-prone woman who couldn’t be controlled so much as fought “to a draw.” After their divorce, Campbell grew up, like many writers, unhappy, lonely and distressed; he often felt like a disappointment to his father, and his mother’s unpredictable cruelties instilled in him a deep sense of panic about a world that couldn’t be adequately rationalized or controlled.

…Despite an aimless early life, Campbell eventually stumbled onto the job he was born to do — long before anybody realized it was a job worth doing. Until Campbell came along, the pulps were edited by company men who felt little if any personal affection for the stories they published. But in 1937, when Campbell accepted the editor’s chair at Astounding Stories (which he quickly renamed Astounding Science Fiction), he became the first SF fan to shape the genre he loved; and almost immediately he discovered that exploring futuristic ideas for his stories was not nearly so pleasurable as passing those ideas onto others. “When I was a writer,” he told his youthful discovery, Isaac Asimov, “I could only write one story at a time. Now I can write fifty stories at a time.”

(11) ORIGIN EPISODES AVAILABLE. YouTube’s Origin follows a group of passengers lost in space— each of them desperate to escape their past. In the first episode —

The passengers wake up on board the Origin, abandoned in space. They search for other survivors, but find something else entirely.

In the second episode —

A tense showdown prompts a difficult decision. Shun and Lana realise that the threat could be nearer than any of them thought.

(12) IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS. Some sff goodies available now on eBay –

(13) BIG-TICKET ITEM. Or you may need to save your spare change for this iconic outfit: “Skimpy Star Trek costume worn by Captain James T. Kirk for the first inter-racial kiss on TV is set to sell for £46k”.

A Star Trek costume worn by captain James T. Kirk for the first inter-racial kiss on TV goes under the hammer with an estimate of £46,000 in California next month.

The Grecian robe, right, was worn when actor William Shatner embraced Lieutenant Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols, in the 1968 episode Plato’s Stepchildren.

(14) FROZEN GAME ON THE HORIZON. “Disney deepens its footprint in mobile gaming, teams up with game publisher Jam City”CNBC has the story.

Walt Disney entered a multi-year games development partnership with leading mobile gaming company Jam City, continuing the Mouse House’s foray into gaming and heightening expectations over the booming sector.

Under the terms of a deal announced last week, Jam City will be taking over the Glendale, California-based mobile game studio in charge of Disney’s “Emoji Blitz” – a hugely popular mobile game Disney released in July 2016.

The deal also means that Jam City now holds the rights to develop new games based on elements from Disney’s Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studio brands. The first planned collaboration between the two companies is expected to be a game based on Disney’s “Frozen” sequel.

(15) BORN UNDER LEO. Low Earth Orbit could be about to get a lot more crowded. SpaceX has an ambitious plan to put a very large constellation of LEO satellites to handle internet traffic. They’d already gotten approval to emplace thousands of them, and have recently gotten FCC approval for the remainder (The Verge: “FCC approves SpaceX’s plan to launch more than 7,000 internet-beaming satellites”). Several hurdles remain, of course.

The Federal Communications Commission has approved SpaceX’s request to launch a constellation of 7,518 satellites into orbit, a major regulatory hurdle the company needed to clear in its plans to provide internet coverage from space. The approval is in addition to one that SpaceX received from the FCC in March for a constellation of 4,425 satellites. That means the company now has permission to launch its full satellite internet constellation called Starlink, which adds up to nearly 12,000 spacecraft.

[…] SpaceX’s approvals are conditional, though. In order to bring each mega-constellation into full use, the company needs to launch half of the satellites within the next six years. That means the clock is ticking to get nearly 6,000 satellites into orbit by 2024. SpaceX says it will launch its first batch of Starlink satellites in 2019.

So far, SpaceX has only launched two test satellites for the constellation — TinTin A and B. […]

Above all, it’s clear that the satellites in these large constellations will need to be taken out of orbit — reliably and on time — in order to keep the space environment a safe place for spacecraft to operate. In a recent study, NASA estimated that 99 percent of these satellites will need to be taken out of orbit within five years of launch. Otherwise the risk of in-space collisions will increase dramatically.

(16) THINK OF THE CHILDREN. Saturday Night Live proves you can hear laughter in space.

An unexpected chain of events occurs while Captain Ed McGovern (Steve Carell) live streams from the International Space Station to children’s classrooms across America.

 

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

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 7/23

Six stories, a French rant and a video adorn today’s Scroll.

(1) “Cap’n, it’s a Class M planet.”

“Any lifeform readings?”

Described in media reports as an “earthlike planet” is the Kepler space mission’s first discovery of a world smaller than Neptune in the middle of its star’s habitable zone.

Also called the Goldilocks zone, the habitable zone is the region around a star where a planet’s surface is not too hot and not too cold for liquid water—and thus life as we know it—to exist.

(2) Atlas Obscura has posted its “Obsessively Detailed Map of American Literature’s Most Epic Road Trips”. I’ll bet there are some fan fund reports crying out for the same treatment.

The above map is the result of a painstaking and admittedly quixotic effort to catalog the country as it has been described in the American road-tripping literature. It includes every place-name reference in 12 books about cross-country travel, from Mark Twain’s Roughing It (1872) to Cheryl Strayed’s Wild (2012), and maps the authors’ routes on top of one another. You can track an individual writer’s descriptions of the landscape as they traveled across it, or you can zoom in to see how different authors have written about the same place at different times.

(3) Thunderbirds fans are very enthusiastic about the plan to combine old-fashioned “Supermarionation” with audio lifted from three original 21-minute mini-albums released in the 1960s (each was a 7″ single, but played at 33-1/3 rpm). The Kickstarter appeal to fund production, with a goal of $115,789, has already gathered $206,325 in pledges from over 2,000 contributors. The original goal would have paid for one – the current total should pay for all three.

[Director] Stephen La Rivière says: “We have shot new sequences with the puppets using the old-fashioned techniques. Whilst many of the methods used seem a little archaic and time-consuming by today’s standards, we thought that it would be very special to do a one-off project bringing Thunderbirds back to life 1960s style. Sadly, many of the original voice cast have passed away since 1965. However, thanks to the original audio footage we’ve rediscovered, we have new, authentic stories that have never been adapted for screen.”

 

(4) Being a critic is a higher calling for Jonathan McCalmont than most sf bloggers who spend a lot of energy churning other people’s advertising in return for pageviews. (Pay no attention to the man behind the file…) McCalmont inquires “What Price, Your Critical Agency?” on Ruthless Culture.

These days, few cultural ecosystems operate independently of commercial interests. The ability to artificially engineer an interest bubble means that commercial interests will always have some control over the agenda of an enthusiast press. Reviewers will request DVD screeners and ARCs of books they have been encouraged to look forward to and editors will always be happy to slipstream a wave of hype by providing content that satisfies the readership’s artificially-engineered interest in a particular subject. Money and effort devoted to creating buzz translates into traffic and so anyone who is interested in getting more traffic will always go out of their way to chase the hype.

While traffic is a significant carrot to offer in return for collaborating with commercial interests, review copies are another great way of controlling the agenda. At an institutional level, it is difficult to run a reviews department without review copies you can pass on to your reviewers and so the output of a reviews department will always be dependent upon the nature of the screeners and ARCs provided. At an individual level, a commitment to operate any kind of reviews platform means an open-ended commitment to media consumption and while you may very well be willing to pay for the media you choose to consume, the volume of reviews required to build an audience realistically means deep pockets, a relationship with publicists, or a willingness to obtain review materials for free by either borrowing or stealing.

One of my favourite recent discoveries has been S.C. Flynn’s Scy-Fy, a blog that features no fewer than 100 different interviews with book bloggers, magazine editors, podcasters and something he somewhat alarmingly refers to as ‘booktubers’. One thing that struck me about these interviews is that despite many of them warning about the dangers of writing only about new books and how setting your own critical agenda is the best way to stay productive and stave off burnout, most of the interviewees operate platforms that lavish their attention on new releases. In other words, they know that allowing commercial forces to influence their critical output is dangerous and yet they continue to let it happen.

(5) But at the very tip of the cultural pyramid is the blogosphere’s most highly evolved parasite, with an enviable track record of breaking stories before the studios’ own PR staffs ever hear about them. Alex Pappademas on Grantland tells how El Mayimbe creates those leaks.

El Mayimbe’s real name is Umberto Gonzalez, born 41 years ago in Queens, New York, of Dominican and Colombian descent, and as a self-proclaimed “fanboy journalist” and “ace scooper,” he lives for moments like these. If a studio’s measuring an actor for an iconic leotard or cowl or enchanted helm or loincloth, if a director signs up to reboot a trilogy based on an action figure, Gonzalez wants to be the first to know, and the first to trumpet that information on the Internet, via a fistful of social-media accounts and a new website called Heroic Hollywood, which went live in June. In an era when the movie business sometimes appears to be rebooting itself as a machine that cranks out nothing but superhero movies, Gonzalez is far from the only reporter whose beat includes stories like these, but no one follows it as closely or as aggressively. Gonzalez broke that Brandon Routh would play Superman, that Heath Ledger would play the Joker. He knew that Bradley Cooper would be supplying the voice of Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy, he says, before Cooper’s own publicist did.

(7) You don’t need to know French to catch the drift of this Telerama article about the Puppies, titled “Hugo Awards : le plus grand prix de SF menacé par des groupes d’extrême droite.”

Fervent défenseur des armes à feu

Cette année, le débat est autre. Un groupe de fans extrêmement conservateurs, les sad puppies (« chiots tristes »), dirigés par un fervent défenseur des armes à feu, Larry Correia, s’était déjà fait attaquer pour ses choix. En 2014, il avait mis de l’eau dans son vin, proposant aussi sur ses listes des auteurs progressistes. Trop, au goût de certains de ses membres, qui ont formé un groupe dissident, les rabid puppies (« chiots enragés »), l’ont débordé sur sa droite et ont réussi, en faisant voter en masse leurs soutiens, à faire inclure dans toutes les listes de nominés la plupart de leurs candidats. Démarche parfaitement en accord avec les règles du prix. Mais les livres ainsi proposés deviennent les fers de lance d’une percée idéologique forte. Et le prix est aujourd’hui au bord de l’implosion.

[Thanks to Steve Green and John King Tarpinian for some of these links.]