Pixel Scroll 8/11/18 Pixel of Steel, Scroll of Kleenex

(1) BOURDAIN IN NARNIA. The New Yorker Recommends’ Helen Rosner links to “‘No Reservations: Narnia,’ a Triumph of Anthony Bourdain Fan Fiction”.

Of all the billions of pages that make up the Internet, one of my very favorites contains “No Reservations: Narnia,” a work of fan fiction, from 2010, by Edonohana, a pseudonym of the young-adult and fantasy author Rachel Manija Brown. The story is exactly what it sounds like: a pastiche of Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” and C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. Channelling the casual charisma of Bourdain’s first-person writing, Brown finds him visiting the stick-wattled burrow of sentient moles, where he dines on pavender (a saltwater fish of Lewis’s invention) and is drunk under the table by a talking mouse. He slurps down eel stew and contemplates the void with mud-dwelling depressives. Later, he bails on an appointment at Cair Paravel, the royal seat of Narnia, to bloody his teeth at a secretive werewolf feast.

“No Reservations: Narnia” (2010) begins —

I’m crammed into a burrow so small that my knees are up around my ears and the boom mike keeps slamming into my head, inhaling the potent scent of toffee-apple brandy and trying to drink a talking mouse under the table. But is it really the boom mike that’s making my head pound? I know for sure that my camera man doesn’t usually have two heads. I have to face facts. The mouse is winning.

Yesterday, I thought I knew what to expect from Narnia: good solid English cooking spiced up with the odd unusual ingredient, and good solid English people spiced up with the odd faun. And centaur. And talking animal. I’d longed to visit Narnia when I was a kid, but every time the notoriously capricious entry requirements, such as the bizarre and arbitrary lifetime limit on visits, relaxed the slightest bit, it would get invaded, get conquered, get re-conquered by the original rulers, or get hit by some natural disaster….

Cat Eldridge sent the links with a note: “Weirdly enough Rachel Manija Brown was once a reviewer for Green Man Review.

(2) TUNE IN THE HUGOS. Kevin Standlee outlined the “2018 Hugo Ceremony Coverage Plans” on the award’s official website.

The 2018 Hugo Awards Ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, August 19, 2018 at 8:00 PM North American Pacific Daylight Time (UTC-7) in the McEnery Convention Center Grand Ballroom in San Jose, California. The ceremony is open to all attending members of Worldcon 76, with additional seating available in “Callahan’s Place” in the convention center Exhibit Hall.

The Hugo Awards web site will once again offer text-based coverage of the Hugo Awards ceremony via CoverItLive, suitable for people with bandwidth restrictions. For those with the bandwidth for it, Worldcon 76 San Jose plans to offer live video streaming of the Hugo Awards ceremony. Details of the live-streaming coverage will be available at the 2018 Worldcon web site.

The Hugo Awards web site coverage team of Kevin Standlee, Susan de Guardiola, and Cheryl Morgan plan to be “on the air” approximately fifteen minutes before the ceremony. You can sign up at the CoverItLive event site for an e-mail notification before the event starts. Remember that the CoverItLive text coverage is text-only, and is likely to not be in synch with the video streaming. Also, the CoverItLive team here at TheHugoAwards.org is not responsible for the video streaming coverage and cannot answer any questions about it.

(3) VISA PROBLEMS. Another example of security screening that interferes with cultural exchanges. The Guardian reports some authors are having exceptional difficulty getting visas to attend a book festival in Scotland: “Home Office refuses visas for authors invited to Edinburgh book festival”.

According to Barley, the dozen authors were asked to provide three years’ worth of bank statements to demonstrate financial independence, despite being paid to participate in the Edinburgh book festival, and having publishers and the festival guaranteeing to cover their costs while in the UK. Barley said any deposits that could not be easily explained were used as grounds to deny the authors’ visas; one had to reapply three times due to her bank statements.

“It is Kafkaesque. One was told he had too much money and it looked suspicious for a short trip. Another was told she didn’t have enough, so she transferred £500 into the account – and then was told that £500 looked suspicious. It shouldn’t be the case that thousands of pounds should be spent to fulfil a legitimate visa request. I believe this is happening to many arts organisations around the country, and we need to find a way around it.”

Barley called the situation humiliating, adding: “One author had to give his birth certificate, marriage certificate, his daughter’s birth certificate and then go for biometric testing. He wanted to back out at that point because he couldn’t bear it, but we asked him to continue. Our relationship with authors is being damaged because the system is completely unfit for purpose. They’ve jumped through hoops – to have their applications refused.”

The Scottish first minister called on the government to fix the problem: “Authors’ visa struggles undermine book festival, says Sturgeon”

Nicola Sturgeon has accused the UK government of undermining the Edinburgh international book festival by failing to resolve authors’ difficulties in obtaining visas.

The festival’s director, Nick Barley, has said some of the invited writers have been “humiliated” by the process they had to endure to get into the UK.

Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, who will take part in the event, tweeted on Thursday that the difficulties were “not acceptable” and the government “needs to get it sorted”.

Barley said about a dozen people had gone through an extremely difficult process to obtain a visa this year and several applications remained outstanding. The festival starts on Saturday and will feature appearances by 900 authors and illustrators from 55 countries.

Festival organisers provide assistance with visa applications and they have reported an increase in refusals over the past few years. Barley said one author had to supply his birth certificate, marriage certificate and his daughter’s birth certificate and go for biometric testing in order to get his visa.

He said the UK’s reputation as a global arts venue could be seriously hindered if problems in obtaining visas worsened after Brexit.

(4) DISCRIMINATION. David Farland (pseudonym of Dave Wolverton, currently the Coordinating Judge, Editor and First Reader for the Writers of the Future Contest), blogged about his view of “Discrimination in the Writing World”.

A few days ago, I saw a Facebook post from a woman who complained that she didn’t want to see panels by “boring, old, white, cisgender men” at the upcoming World Science Fiction Convention. Now, I’ve always fought against discrimination based on age, race, sexual orientation, and gender, so I was kind of surprised that this person managed to offend me at every single level. I can’t help it if I was born sixty years ago, male, white, and cisgender.

There is a concerted effort by some special interest groups to push certain agendas. More than twenty years ago, just before the Nebula awards, I remember hearing a woman talking to others, pointing out that if they all voted for a certain story by a woman, then she’d certainly win. Apparently the ethics of judging stories based upon the gender of the author eluded her, but it worked. The story written by the woman won.

With the Hugos, white men in particular are not even getting on the ballots, much less winning.

The question is, if you’re a writer, what do you do? What if you write a book, and you don’t fit in the neat little category that publishers want?

For example, what if you’re male and you want to write a romance novel? What are your chances of getting published? How well will you be welcomed into the writing community? Isn’t a good story a good story no matter who wrote it?

Apparently not. I had a friend recently who created a bundle of romance novels and put them up for sale. She had ten novels, nine by women and one by a man, and it sold terribly. Why? Because the nine female romance writers refused to even tell their fans about the bundle because there was a male author in the bundle. So instead of selling tens of thousands of bundles, as she expected, she sold only a few hundred.

Of course, discrimination is pretty well institutionalized in the publishing industry. By saying that it is institutionalized, what I mean is that in certain genres, your chances of getting published are based upon your gender.

(5) NICHOLS HAS DEMENTIA. Hope Schreiber, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Nichelle Nichols, actress who portrayed the iconic Lieutenant Uhura in ‘Star Trek,’ diagnosed with dementia”,  cites a TMZ report that Nichols is under the care of a conservator.

Nichelle Nichols, the actress who brought Lieutenant Uhura in Star Trek to life, has been diagnosed with dementia, according to conservatorship documents obtained by TMZ. She is 85 years old.

TMZ says that Dr. Meena Makhijani, a specialist in osteopathic medicine, has been treating Nichols for the last two to three years. According to Makhijani, the disease has progressed. Nichols has significant impairment of her short-term memory and “moderate impairment of understanding abstract concepts, sense of time, place, and immediate recall,” according to TMZ.

However, the actress’s long-term memory does not seem to be affected at this time, nor are her body orientation, concentration, verbal communication, comprehension, recognition of familiar people, or ability to plan and to reason logically.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 11 – Ian McDiarmid, 74. Star Wars film franchise including an uncredited appearance in The Empire Strikes Back, other genre appearances in DragonslayerThe Awakening (a mummies horror film with Charlton Heston), The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles series and reprising his SW role in the animated Star Wars Rebels series.
  • Born August 11 – Brian Azzarello, 56. Comic book writer. First known crime series 100 Bullets, published by Vertigo. Writer of DC’s relaunched Wonder Woman series several years back. One of the writers in the Before Watchmen limited series. Co-writer with Frank Miller of the sequel to The Dark Knight Returns,  The Dark Knight III: The Master Race.
  • Born August 11 – Viola Davis, 53. Amanda ‘The Wall’ Waller in the first Suicide Squad film; also appeared in The Andromeda Strain, Threshold and Century City series, and the Solaris film.
  • Born August 11 – Jim Lee, 44. Korean American comic-book artist, writer, editor, and publisher.  Co-founder of Images Comics, now senior management at DC though he started at Marvel. Known for work on Uncanny X-Men, Punisher, Batman, Superman and WildC.A.T.s.
  • Born August 11 – Will Friedle, 44. Largely known as w actor with extensive genre work: Terry McGinnis aka the new Batman in Batman Beyond which Warner Animation now calls Batman of the Future, Peter Quill in The Guardians Of The Galaxy, Kid Flash in Teen Titans Go!, and Thundercats! to name but a few of his roles.
  • Born August 11 – Chris Hemsworth, 35. Thor in the MCU film franchise, George Kirk in the current Trek film franchise, and King Arthur in the Guinevere Jones series;  also roles in Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, Snow White and the Huntsman and its sequel The Huntsman: Winter’s War,

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) SAWYER’S SCHEDULE. Robert J. Sawyer clarified on Facebook his plans for Worldcon 76 in San Jose next week:

I’ll be there. However, many months ago I made a decision not to apply to be on programming. I don’t have a new book this year, and I figured there are lots of younger/newer/diverse writers who could use the panel slots I would have taken up.

This was meant to be a quiet, private choice, but since then, there’s been a big blowup about this year’s Worldcon programming (see http://file770.com/worldcon-76-program-troubles/), with people withdrawing from the program or complaining about not being put on it in the first place. My situation is neither of those (and the Worldcon programming has been redone to most people’s satisfaction now).

However, I will be making two public and one private appearances at the Worldcon, for those who want to see me or get books signed:

* On Friday, August 17, at noon, in room 210E at the Convention Center, I will be attending the unveiling of the new batch of Walter Day’s Science Fiction Historical Trading Cards, introducing the new authors being added to the set (I’m already on a card, as you can see); Walter Day will be giving away some of these collectible cards (including my own) to those who attend.

* Also on Friday, August 17, at 4:00 p.m., in the Dealers’ Room in the Convention Center, I will be autographing at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) table.

* And on Saturday, August 18, at 2:00 p.m., I’ll be hosting a meet-and-greet for my Patreon patrons; you can become a patron here, and get other cool perks, too: https://www.patreon.com/robertjsawyer

(9) AUSTRALIAN FANZINE ARCHIVE. Kim Huett reports, “The National Library of Australia not only has a significant fanzine collection, some of the librarians take an active interest in the fanzines in their care. Take for example this recent post which talks from an outsiders perspective about all sorts of Australian fanzines, some of which are actually about science fiction: “Fanzines For fans, by Fans”.

Fans of the TV shows, Star Trek and Doctor Who, have perhaps the best known examples of fandom in the mainstream but this isn’t where fanzines start. The fanzine Futurian observer was talking about a well-established Australian science fiction fan community back in 1940.

In a year in which the inescapable realities of war were everywhere, this little publication denounced ‘the threatening ban on magazines’, reported on Government ‘restrictions on pulp imports’ and referenced meetings in which quizzes and scientific discussions were star attractions.

One of the first lines in Issue #1 is a dire warning that Australian fans needed to be more engaged. In contrast, issue #35 talks about a parody newsletter from a convention that never happened and the author ‘hibernating’ from the ‘Sydney scene’ to avoid the ‘fighting, scratching and squabbling’.

You can read digitised copies of Futurian observer here.

Fanzines are a fascinating insight into the volatility of fan communities and how they operated at the time of publication.

(10) DOCTOR STRANGEMIND. Huett also sent a link to his own site with this introduction: “Anybody who is a fan of David Langford’s ‘As Others See Us’ segment in Ansible is going to really enjoy the latest installment of Doctor Strangemind. Have you ever wondered what the official Soviet line was in regards to science fiction? Well now you can read ‘The World Of Nightmare Fantasies’ and wonder no more: ’To Pervert & Stultify’. Really, I spoil you people,”

…I’ve reproduced the entire condensed version of The World Of Nightmare Fantasies here so you might enjoy the authors attempt to crush various butterflies of fiction with their rhetorical sledgehammer….

…The American Raymond F. Jones, experienced writer of “scientific” fantasies, attempts to lift the curtain of the future for the reader. He uses all his flaming imagination in describing a machine which analyses the inclinations , talents, character and other potentialities of a new-born infant. If it finds the child normal, it returns it to the arms of the waiting mother. If it finds a future “superman,” the mother will never see him again; he will be sent to a world “parallel” to ours where he will be raised without the help of parents. But woe to the baby the machine finds defective – it will be immediately destroyed. According to the “scientific” forecast of author Jones, a network of such machines will cover the world of the future.

This tale, monstrous in its openly fascistic tendency, appears in the American magazine Astounding, under the optimistic title of Renaissance. Jones’ fascist revelations are not an isolated instance in American science fiction literature. There are numerous such examples under the brightly colourful covers which enterprising publishers throw on the market in millions of copies. From their pages glares a fearful world, apparently conceived in the sick mind of an insane, a world of nightmare fantasies. Miasma, mental decay, fear of to-day and horror of the future: all these innumerable ills of capitalism are clearly reflected.

(11) WOTF. Past winner J.W. Alden says in his experience the Writers of the Future Contest was a tool of the Church of Scientology, no matter the public relations effort to portray them as separate: “Going Clearwater: The Illusory ‘Firewall’ of the Writers of the Future Contest”.

In 2016, I won Writers of the Future. At the time, I counted it as one of my proudest moments. A story I’d written, The Sun Falls Apart, took first place in a contest judged by some of the biggest names in the genre. I’m still proud of that part. Unfortunately, that sense of accomplishment was undermined by a negative experience which forced me to confront the actual nature of the contest: Writers of the Future is a Church of Scientology endeavor. I now believe its primary purpose is not to help emerging writers, but to further the aims of the church, primarily by promoting the name of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. I make no judgments on any individual’s religious beliefs, but since I won the contest, I have come to believe it exploits writers in pursuit of this goal….

The Firewall, many claim, exists to prevent the contest from becoming a platform for the church and to ensure there’s no proselytizing of winners–though one of the first things you learn when you go asking about the Firewall, is that it seems to mean different things to different people. It’s the Firewall that keeps the contest’s panel of judges onboard. The judges of this contest include big names in the genre–names like Brandon Sanderson, Orson Scott Card, Robert J. Sawyer, Larry Niven, and many more. Hence, it’s the Firewall that ultimately lends the contest legitimacy. In my opinion, the Firewall does not exist. Or at the very least, it doesn’t exist for everyone.

It didn’t exist for me.

After winning the contest he was asked to come to Clearwater, Florida and do a signing. Clearwater is home to the church’s Flag Service Organization.

And so, I’m not that surprised one afternoon when I receive a text message from Kate*, one of the employees of Author Services Inc., the (Church of Scientology-owned) organization that runs the contest. They ask if I’d be willing to take part in an event they describe as a “massive Barnes & Noble book signing” in Clearwater, FL in a few days. The last minute nature of this invitation seems odd, but not out of step with the general disorganization that winners grow used to when dealing with ASI. At first, I turn down this request. At the time, I live in the West Palm Beach area, and I’m not willing to drive across the state on such short notice. They respond by offering to fly me out and put me up in a hotel. At that point, I say, “Sure. Why not?” I mean, it’s just Barnes & Noble, right? Book signings are fun.

However, Alden says this is what really happened:

…After that, it’s finally time for the book signing . . . which is not taking place at a Barnes & Noble. It turns out the “Barnes & Noble signing event” is actually taking place here at the Fort Harrison Hotel, during a Scientology ceremony called “Flag Graduation.” Scientologists who underwent training at the Flag Building are having some kind of graduation ceremony. Part of the ceremonies will involve announcing my presence, then directing the congregation to my signing table for an autograph. After the day I’ve had, I am not shocked by this revelation. My belief in the Firewall has long since abandoned me. I am not happy about the bait and switch. But I’m not surprised, either.

I’m led into a huge conference room with a stage and hundreds of chairs. By the time we get there, it’s already packed full of Scientologists finding their seats. Tori leads me straight to the front row. At this point, I become genuinely worried about the possible public repercussions of this little trip. Just like in L.A., there are photographers and videographers everywhere. The thought of photos and video of me at an actual Church of Scientology event floating around somewhere is (at the time) concerning. What happens next tempers this concern somewhat, if only because it grants me the conviction that this is not the first Scientology event I’ve been photographed at. Before their graduation ceremony, they play a video of the Writers of the Future gala. A Church of Scientology official talks it up beforehand, citing it as part of L. Ron Hubbard’s legacy, with the underlying message that it’s one of the many Good Things the CoS is doing in the world. In other words, Writers of the Future (and not just the name–the video of the gala, the anthology, the words and likenesses of the winners) is used as internal propaganda at an official Church of Scientology event. That’s certainly how I interpreted it, anyway….

I first started telling the story above in private circles within the SFF writing community. Over the past two years, I’ve told it to fellow WotF winners, to friends at conventions, and in private online discussion groups. Most recently, I posted about it on Codex after Nick Mamatas and Keffy R.M. Kehrli spurred the aforementioned conversation on social media about the questionable aspects of the contest back in April. I also posted a couple of twitter threads around that time, in which I voiced frustrations about the contest and rage-faced over the revelation that unattributed quotations from Dianetics were included in Writers of the Future workshop materials. Since the tweetstorm, I’ve also been in discussion with former winners and even a few contest judges who reached out to me about it.

Since all of that started happening, I’ve also had run-ins with supporters of the contest who have accused me (and others) of trying to destroy it. Let me make one thing clear: I’m not trying to destroy Writers of the Future. For one, I don’t believe that is within my (or anyone’s) power, so even if that were my goal, I wouldn’t waste the effort. My goal is merely to inform emerging writers about the troublesome aspects of this contest, because I don’t think they’re talked about enough. That includes relating my own experience that bizarre weekend in Clearwater. If anyone sees that as an effort to delegitimize or destroy the contest, all I can say is this: if spreading the truth about something delegitimizes it, was it really legitimate in the first place? …

(12) MAIN AND OTHER STREAMS. Penguin Random House would be happy to sell you these “21 Books You’ve Been Meaning To Read”, a list with a surprising amount of sff. Not this first title, though. This one has been picked for its clever misspelling —

War and Peace

A legendary masterpiece, this book is synonymous with difficult reading, so why not challenge yourshelf.

(13) WRECK-IT RALPH RETURNS. Ralph Breaks the Internet – sneak peek.The movie comes to theaters November 21.

“Ralph Breaks the Internet” leaves Litwak’s video arcade behind, venturing into the uncharted, expansive and thrilling world of the internet—which may or may not survive Ralph’s wrecking. Video game bad guy Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) and fellow misfit Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman) must risk it all by traveling to the world wide web in search of a replacement part to save Vanellope’s video game, Sugar Rush. In way over their heads, Ralph and Vanellope rely on the citizens of the internet—the Netizens—to help navigate their way, including Yesss (voice of Taraji P. Henson), who is the head algorithm and the heart and soul of the trend-making site “BuzzzTube,” and Shank (voice of Gal Gadot), a tough-as-nails driver from a gritty online auto-racing game called Slaughter Race.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 8/10/18 This Pixel Scroll Title Has Been Used Before

(1) TARDIS MAKEOVER. Doctor Who Today has this leaked photo of a new TARDIS design.

(2) ANOTHER BIG $ALE. The Hipsters of the Coast report that the “Art for Chandra, Torch of Defiance SDCC Promo Sells for $35,000”.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance, the third of the five San Diego Comic Con promotional planeswalker paintings by Terese Nielsen, has sold for $35,000. The final bid all but doubled in the closing minutes of the auction that ended on eBay Sunday evening.

…Chandra, Torch of Defiance blew past the final prices of Liliana, Untouched by Death ($22,950) and Nissa, Vital Force ($25,600), eclipsing the highest total by almost $10,000. I did not expect Chandra to surpass these two, and I’m not sure that anyone, even Terese herself, might have guessed she would either.

(3) CHICAGO 8. The Book Smugglers feature an Uncanny Kickstarter promo about Chicago by the hosts-in-waiting of Uncanny TV: “Eight Nerdy Chicago People and Organizations We Love By Matt Peters and Michi Trota (Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter shout out)”

Our home nerd community in Chicago has countless examples of nerdy groups and individuals using their own geeky passions to inspire and shape incredibly diverse and wide-ranging projects. Their work reminds us why stories matter, and wanting to talk with creators like them and hear their own stories is a primary reason we’re so excited for the potential of Uncanny TV. Chicago is one home among many to geeky creators from all walks of life, and our hope is that Uncanny TV will have a chance to visit as many of those communities as possible. We couldn’t possibly name all of the nerds and geeks we know whose art and activism are fueled by their geeky loves, but here are eight based in Chicago who provide a snapshot of the inspiring work being created in fandom.

Acrobatica Infiniti Circus

“Cosplay” and “circus” aren’t two things we would have thought of putting together before but thankfully someone did! Acrobatica Infiniti Circus, also known as “the Nerd Circus,” was created several years ago by Tana “Tank” Karo, who had a background in dance and design but had wanted to create something that allowed her to merge her love for circus and geekery. The resulting collaboration among extraordinarily talented and undeniably nerdy jugglers, acrobats, aerial artists, contortionists, and object manipulators is delightful and surprising each time: Leeloo performing mind-boggling contortionist poses, Totoro juggling sootballs, Harley Quinn on a trapeze. The fact that the group has a rotating cast allows the performers to stay fresh and provides continuous opportunities for new performers to come in and join the show. And rather than approaching the performance scene as a competition, AIC often works in collaboration with similar performance groups to encourage more artistic development and positive ties within the community….

(4) LITTLE-KNOWN WORLDCON BUSINESS. I must have missed this on my first read-through of the agenda. The thread starts here.

(5) 2007 BUSINESS MEETING. Kevin Standlee has uploaded four videos of the 2007 WSFS Business Meeting in Yokohama.

It took him awhile to do it. Kevin says, “My upload bandwidth at home is so poor that I could only upload one file per night overnight.”

(6) SIMULATING MARS. NBC News posts a video (“The human factor: What it will take to build the perfect team for traveling to Mars”) about a simulated mission to Mars that didn’t turn out as planned.

Hi-SEAS in Mauna Loa, Hawaii is a simulated Mars habitat that’s meant to facilitate the study of human behavior. A group of four-to-six participants is selected from a pool of hundreds of astronaut aspirants to make up the crew for each mission. So far five missions have been conducted successfully. Mission VI began earlier this year but things didn’t go exactly as planned.

The Atlantic thoroughly reviews what happened in the article “When a Mars Simulation Goes Wrong”.

… In February of this year, the latest batch of pioneers, a crew of four, made the journey up the mountain. They settled in for an eight-month stay. Four days later, one of them was taken away on a stretcher and hospitalized….

(7) ACROSS THE WALL. Cora Buhlert writes from the divided Germany of 1963 at Galactic Journey“[August 10, 1963] The Future in a Divided Land, Part 3 (An Overview of Science Fiction in East and West Germany)”.

In the last two entries in this series, I gave you an extensive overview of West German science fiction. Now let’s take a look across the iron curtain at what is going on in East Germany. For while the inner German border may be nigh insurmountable for human beings, mail does pass through. A lot of us have family in the East, including myself, and are in regular contact with them via letters and parcels. Parcels from West to East Germany usually contain coffee, nylons, soap, canned pineapple and all sorts of other consumer goods that are hard to come by in Communist East Germany.

Unfortunately, we cannot send books and magazines, cause they will probably be seized at the border for fear of “dangerous” ideas spreading. East Germans, on the other hand, are free to send books and magazines to relatives and friends in the West. And since my love for reading in general and for “space books” in particular is well known to my aunts in East Germany, the occasional science fiction novel from beyond the iron curtain has found its way into my hands.

…However, the most exciting of those voice from beyond the iron curtain is not German at all, but a Polish writer, Stanislaw Lem, whose work I encountered via East German translations. I particularly enjoy Lem’s humorous stories about the adventures of a space traveller named Ijon Tichy, which have been collected as Die Sterntagebücher des Raumfahrers Ijon Tichy (The Star Diaries of the Spaceman Ijon Tichy).

Lem’s more serious works include the novels Eden with its fascinating portrayal of a truly alien society, Planet des Todes (Planet of Death), which was even filmed in 1960, and the generation ship story Gast im Weltraum (Guest in Space), which is currently being filmed in Czechoslovakia.

(8) MASSIVE ROUNDUP. Todd Mason has an ambitious collection of more than three dozen links to recent reviews and essays in “Friday’s ‘Forgotten’ Books and more: the links to the reviews” at Sweet Freedom.

(9) STEAMIN’ WORLDCON. Included in The Steampunk Explorer’s “Steampunk Digest – August 10, 2018”:

Worldcon, the World Science Fiction Convention, will be held August 16-20 in San Jose, within shouting distance of The Steampunk Explorer’s International Headquarters. The program lists several steampunk-themed panels, including “Carriger & Adina Talk Steampunk (tea and silliness optional)” with authors Gail Carriger and Shelley Adina; “The Victorian & Edwardian Tech Tree” with Steve Frankel; and “Defining Steampunk” with Elektra Hammond, Anastasia Hunter, William C. Tracy, Diana M. Pho, and Jaymee Goh. We plan to be there, and for the benefit of attendees, we’ll be posting stories about steampunk-related attractions in San Jose and elsewhere in Silicon Valley.

(10) LOOKING FOR BOOKS. Donations needed –

(11) WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN AT WAR WITH EAST BAYSIA. The Digital Antiquarian remembers the big brawl between Apple and Microsoft in “Doing Windows, Part 8: The Outsiders”.

…Having chosen to declare war on Microsoft in 1988, Apple seemed to have a very difficult road indeed in front of them — and that was before Xerox unexpectedly reentered the picture. On December 14, 1989, the latter shocked everyone by filing a $150 million lawsuit of their own, accusing Apple of ripping off the user interface employed by the Xerox Star office system before Microsoft allegedly ripped the same thing off from Apple.

The many within the computer industry who had viewed the implications of Apple’s recent actions with such concern couldn’t help but see this latest development as the perfect comeuppance for their overweening position on “look and feel” and visual copyright. These people now piled on with glee. “Apple can’t have it both ways,” said John Shoch, a former Xerox PARC researcher, to the New York Times. “They can’t complain that Microsoft [Windows has] the look and feel of the Macintosh without acknowledging the Mac has the look and feel of the Star.” In his 1987 autobiography, John Sculley himself had written the awkward words that “the Mac, like the Lisa before it, was largely a conduit for technology” developed by Xerox. How exactly was it acceptable for Apple to become a conduit for Xerox’s technology but unacceptable for Microsoft to become a conduit for Apple’s? “Apple is running around persecuting Microsoft over things they borrowed from Xerox,” said one prominent Silicon Valley attorney. The Xerox lawsuit raised uncomfortable questions of the sort which Apple would have preferred not to deal with: questions about the nature of software as an evolutionary process — ideas building upon ideas — and what would happen to that process if everyone started suing everyone else every time somebody built a better mousetrap.

(12) NAVIGATING THE AMAZON. Peter Grant relates more “Lessons learned from a trilogy, Part 2: the impact on sales of rapid releases, and other factors” at Mad Genius Club. He discovered several benefits from releasing a trilogy of new novels in a short timeframe.

You can see at once that sales rose a little per volume after each launch, but not spectacularly so.  What did rise very strongly were KU [Kindle Unlimited] “borrows”.  The triple “bounce” is obvious to the naked eye, even without numbers.  It seems that, once they were aware of the series, KU readers jumped on it, and read each volume in turn (sometimes “binge-reading” all three within a week).  That drove the series’ sales ranks higher, and is still doing so, long after I’d have expected the earlier books’ ranks to drop by much more.  As I write these words, all three volumes are still ranked in the top three-tenths of one percent of all books in the Kindle Store.  Needless to say, I find that very satisfying.

(13) DID THEY GAME THE SYSTEM? Six writers who have been booted from Amazon say they can’t understand why: “Amazon self-published authors: Our books were banned for no reason” at Yahoo! Finance.

In recent weeks, Amazon (AMZN) has taken down e-books written by at least six self-published novelists who say they did nothing wrong and depend on the platform to make their living, those six novelists told Yahoo Finance.

The six authors published many of their books through Amazon’s online self-publishing platform Kindle Direct Publishing Select, and they expressed shock and frustration over losing their livelihoods without understanding why.

Amazon, for its part, has been cracking down on KDP Select authors who supposedly game the system in order to get paid more. But the authors Yahoo Finance spoke to insist they haven’t engaged in this kind of fraud, and that Amazon banned them without sufficient explanation of wrongdoing.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 10 — Rosanna Arquette, 59. Amazon Women on the Moon as well as voice work in Battle for Terra, appearances in Medium and Eastwick.
  • Born August 10 — Antonio Banderas, 58. Genre work in Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, the Spy Kids franchise, voice work in Puss in Boots and Shrek 2, appearances in the forthcoming The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle and The New Mutants.
  • Born August 10 — Suzanne Collins, 56. The Hunger Games trilogy which became a film series as well and The Underland Chronicles, a epic fantasy series.
  • Born August 10 — Angie Harmon, 46. Barbara Gordon in the animated Batman Beyond series and voice work in the current Voltron series, appeared on Chuck. 
  • Born August 10 — Joanna Garcia Swisher, 39. Quite a bit genre work including the From the Earth to The Moon miniseries, the animated The Penguins of MadagascarAre You Afraid Of The DarkThe Astronaut Wives Club,  Kevin (Probably) Saves the World and Once Upon a Time series. 

(15) SHORT FICTION REVIEWS. Charles Payseur sells Ceaseless Sips by the seashore: “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #257”.

I am sorely tempted to guess that the link between the two latest stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies is that their both authored by a Christopher. Because, at first glance, these two pieces are very different in terms of character, tone, and theme. Looking closer, though, and the stories seem paired not because of how well they work in harmony, but in how well they contrast, showing two sides of the same coin. On one, we get to see a man on a quest realize that he’s in danger of losing something of himself and pause, take stock, and find comfort and guidance in another person. In the other story, though, we find a man who has fully embraced his quest, regardless of who he needs to destroy or hurt. Both stories feature mostly conversations and philosophy, but in one a lesson is learned, and in the other it is utterly destroyed. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

(16) PICK SIX. Grow your TBR pile by reading “Six Books with Sam Hawke” at Nerds of a Feather.

  1. What upcoming book you are really excited about?Probably Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett is the one I’m looking forward to the most. He wrote one of my favourite fantasy trilogies of recent years (the Divine Cities) and Foundryside has the thieves and heists in city state, Locke Lamora kind of vibe that I dig. Special mention to The Monster Baru Cormorant (because the Traitor was amaaaaazing) though I am scared of how much it is going to hurt me.

(17) POWER ARRANGERS. Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams surprises with his deep interest in the meanings of Lord of the Rings: “Master of his universe: the warnings in JRR Tolkien’s novels” in New Statesman.

…Yes, Sam is an idealised version of a socially ambivalent and archaic stereotype. Forget this for a moment and look at his instinctive realisation that fantasies of high-octane power, celebrity and control are poisonous. He is anything but perfect: his stubborn parochialism and his taunting of Gollum are failings, with bad consequences. But he retains some fundamental instinct of moral realism. This helps him share Frodo’s burden without collapsing. Frodo’s empathy for Gollum (rooted in a shared understanding of the Ring’s terrible seduction), finally leads to a genuinely shocking denouement; but Gollum, furious, alienated by Sam, recklessly greedy for the Ring, saves Frodo from his self-inflicted catastrophe and dies as a result.

Somehow, the tangled web of interaction between these three ends in “salvation”. Some force overrules and rescues them – but only through the weaving together of a whole set of flawed agencies, mixed motives, compassion, prejudice, courage and craving. Tolkien is seeking to model the way in which the creator works not by intervening but by interweaving. It is this starkly unexpected conclusion to the quest and the journey that makes the book most clearly a Christian fiction.

But even for the non-religious reader, this diagnosis of power is a reason for treating Tolkien more seriously than many are inclined to. Look beyond the unquestionable flaws: the blandly patriarchal assumptions, the recurrent patronising of the less “elevated” characters, the awkwardness of the would-be High Style of narrative and dialogue, the pastiche of Scott or Stevenson at their worst; beyond even the fantastically elaborated histories and lores and languages of Middle Earth.

The work is ultimately a fiction about how desire for power – the kind of power that will make us safe, reverse injustices and avenge defeats – is a dream that can devour even the most decent. But it is also a fiction about how a bizarre tangle of confused human motivation, prosaic realism and unexpected solidarity and compassion can somehow contribute to fending off final disaster. Not quite a myth, but something of a mythic structure, and one that – in our current climate of political insanities and the resurgence of varieties of fascistic fantasy – we could do worse than think about.

(18) UP YOUR UPLOAD. BBC discovered “This rigged charger can hijack your new laptop”. “Who ran a sewer through a recreation area?” is joined by “Who put charging on a data line?”

A neat feature of many modern laptops is the ability to power them up through the USB port. Unlike the rectangular USB ports of old, the newer type – USB-C – can carry enough power to charge your machine.

That’s great news: it means you don’t need to add a separate port just for charging. And when the USB port isn’t being used for power, it can be used for something useful, like plugging in a hard drive, or your phone.

But while you and I may look at that as an improvement, hackers see an opportunity to exploit a new vulnerability.

One researcher, who goes by the name MG, showed me how a Macbook charger could be booby-trapped. Modified in such a way it was possible to hijack a user’s computer, without them having any idea it was happening.

(19) SENT BACK LIKE GANDALF? “Gladiator 2: The strangest sequel never made?” — Maximus resurrected by Jupiter to fight a rebel god, then sent time-travelling through wars of the ages.

At the time, [Nick] Cave had written just one produced screenplay, John Hillcoat’s Ghosts… of the Civil Dead, and he was concentrating on his music career. But he couldn’t resist when Crowe offered him the Gladiator 2 job, despite one obvious misgiving. “Didn’t you die in Gladiator 1?” he asked. “Yeah, you sort that out,” replied Crowe.

And that’s what he did. Cave’s Gladiator 2 screenplay opens with Maximus waking up in the afterlife. To his disappointment, it isn’t the sun-kissed Elysium he dreamt of in Gladiator, but an endless rain-sodden netherworld where wretched refugees huddle on the shores of a black ocean. With the help of a ghostly guide, Mordecai, Maximus treks to a ruined temple where he meets Jupiter, Mars and five other diseased and decrepit Roman deities. Jupiter explains that one of their number, Hephaestus, has betrayed them, and is now preaching the gospel of another god who is more powerful than all of them. Just to quibble for a moment, Hephaestus is a Greek god, not a Roman one, so Cave should really have named him Vulcan. But the screenplay compensates for this slip with some writing to relish….

(20) DO YOU REMEMBER WHO KILLED SUPERMAN? At SYFY Wire“An oral history of the original Death and Return of Superman, 25 years later”.

…Jurgens fittingly enough would be the artist who drew that final image of a battle-weary Superman finally succumbing to battle with Doomsday, cradled in Lois Lane’s arms, with Jimmy Olsen forlorn in the background.

Jurgens: As for that final double page splash, well… it first appeared as a triple page spread at the end of Superman #75. I don’t think it has ever been reprinted that way, with a double page spread that then folds out into a triple pager. We spent an extraordinary amount of time getting it to work properly and I think it really helped bring Superman #75 to an appropriate close.

Superman #75 would go on to sell millions copies over multiple printings, reaching sales figure that were bolstered in no small part by the mainstream attention the death of this international icon had attracted.

Ordway: Coincidentally, the public’s actual reaction mirrored what we did in the comics — they suddenly came out in numbers, professing their love for Superman. That was what we wanted all along, though of course none of us had any idea it would sell. We had hopes that people would respond, maybe comic shops might order more Superman comics.

Jurgens: There is no way we, DC or anyone was prepared for the reaction to our story. We were simply trying to tell a good, dramatic story that said something about the nature of a great character.

Carlin: I still can’t believe people believed Superman would be gone forever. Reporter after reporter came up to DC and asked “Why are you killing Superman?” and my standard answer was “When was the last time you bought a Superman comic? Hell, when was the last time you bought ANY comic?” And every reporter said they hadn’t bought a Superman comic since they were kids, to which my response was: “Then you’re the one who killed Superman!” And most of these reporters, men and women, said that they were reporters because of Clark and/or Lois’s inspiration!

For the creative team, the story they yearned to tell was not the slugfest that led up Superman’s death, but the stories of loss afterward.

Bogdanove: In what seemed like no time, we’d written most of “Funeral for a Friend,” which was where the real meat of the story was. I think we accomplished exactly what Louise spoke of. Through the eyes of Metropolis and the world, via the reactions of heroes, villains and the friends and family he knew, I think we got to say a lot about why Superman matters.

Certain scenes stand out in my memory: Bibbo (Bibowski, a supporting character who idolized the Man of Steel) saying, “It shoulda’ been me!” Ma and Pa Kent watching the funeral of their own son on television, all alone by themselves. Some of these scenes we talked about that day still make my eyes tear up just thinking about them.

(21) JOIN THE SPACE FORCE. Commander Fred Willard comes out of retirement to enlist in Trump’s Space Force.  “We’re going to build a big, beautiful wall and those filthy Neptunians are going to pay for it.”  “When there’s trouble in space, we’re on the case.” From the Jimmy Kimmel Show. Fast forward to 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Kevin Standlee, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, David Doering, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, and Hyman Rosen for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 8/9/18 I Was A Dream Scroller And I Had Pixels For You

(1) WHAT DO WHILE THE POWER IS OUT. Ursula Vernon’s ideas make scents.

(2) I PRAY FOR ONE LAST LANDING. Adweek covers a company’s creative message about sustainability: “An Astronaut Returns Home in This Gorgeous Film From Impossible Foods”.

“There’s life,” he begins, traversing the varied terrain, from bustling thoroughfares to nearly silent, sun-soaked forest glades, in full spacesuit. “Everything is here. The colors. The beauty. The motion. It looks like a living, breathing organism. It’s so beautiful here.”

That planet, of course, is Earth, and the film launches this week to coincide with the release of Impossible Foods’ first sustainability report. In that study, the creator of the plant-based Impossible Burger discusses its goal of eliminating the need for animals as a food source by 2035. Doing so will help cut greenhouse gas emissions while conserving natural resources.

 

(3) SOCIAL GRACES. Here’s a helpful reminder.

(4) NO BOX FITS THIS GRAPHIC NOVEL. NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky says “Spooky And Off-Kilter, ‘Come Again’ Shows Nate Powell’s Virtuosity”.

Earnest yet unpredictable, Nate Powell’s graphic novel Come Again is a perfect example of what’s possible when a creator roams outside of set conventions. Come Again fits no particular genre, though much of its style and tone resemble the slow-building, true-to-life narratives of Craig Thompson, Lucy Knisley and Mariko and Jillian Tamaki. But a touch of the mystical keeps this book off-kilter, raising the stakes on a story that might otherwise have seemed thin.

(5) 2017 #BLACKSPECFIC REPORT. Fireside Magazine has published its third annual report about the underrepresentation of black writers in sff magazines. There’s a Twitter thread that starts here. And a narrative version here — “The 2017 #BlackSpecFic Report”. The data is available in a spreadsheet here.

Some highlights:

2017

In 2017, the magazines in this dataset are, as with 2016’s report, professional-rate magazines (as defined by the SFWA) that have been in existence for at least two years and are currently open to submissions. They published 1,112 stories by 816 unique writers, 38 of whom are Black and who wrote 48 of the stories. The unique Black author ratio is 4.7%, and the story ratio is 4.3%. Compared with 2015 data, Black representation in this aspect of the field has essentially doubled.

… When we began this initiative, many worried that the majority of the few stories published would be by Black authors with household names; that still is not the case.

They are, however, generally published in the same set of magazines.

 … Most of the magazines portrayed in this image doubled, tripled, or quadrupled their Black representation from 2015-6 to 2017. When combined with 2 magazines that already performed relatively well in publishing stories by Black authors, but that hadn’t improved significantly — namely, Lightspeed and Nightmare — the magazines in this image published about one fourth of all stories in this dataset. Yet, they published close to 90% of this year’s stories by Black authors. In other words, as with 2016, one quarter of the field is publishing the vast majority of its Black work. Field-wide submission rates can’t explain that.

Furthermore, while these magazines’ representation varies individually, when taken as a combined unit, their Black representation approximates U.S. population distribution at 13%. Five of them published Black authors at rates approximating or exceeding it.

(6) SCOOP NEWS. BBC says the world’s largest ice cream parlor is officially Parque Coppelia, but Cubans call it la catedral de helado: “Cuba’s communist ice cream cathedral”.

We’re at Parque Coppelia, the world’s largest ice cream parlour and an iconic institution in Cuba. Taking up an entire block diagonally opposite the Hotel Habana Libre in the once-tony Vedado district, this state-run ‘people’s park’ offers a for-pennies indulgence for the masses and serves an average of 30,000 customers a day – and up to 600 at any one time.

When Havana sizzles, the entire city seems to descend seeking relief. The helado – served with taciturn efficiency by waitresses in 1950s plaid miniskirts – wins no awards. But no other experience speaks so sweetly to Cuba’s revolutionary idealism.

(7) CITY SECURITY. From the Black Hat cyber security conference, “Warning over ‘panic’ hacks on cities”. Chip Hitchcock observes, “Katherine MacLean’s ‘Missing Man’ spoke of ‘city chess,’ in which senior maintenance workers put up plausible point failures that usually ruin the city very quickly — and she was just talking about breakage, not about deliberate attacks.”

Security flaws have been found in major city infrastructure such as flood defences, radiation detection and traffic monitoring systems.

A team of researchers found 17 vulnerabilities, eight of which it described as “critical”.

The researchers warned of so-called “panic attacks”, where an attacker could manipulate emergency systems to create chaos in communities.

The specific flaws uncovered by the team have been patched.

“If someone, supervillain or not, were to abuse vulnerabilities like the ones we documented in smart city systems, the effects could range from inconvenient to catastrophic,” wrote Daniel Crowley, from IBM’s cyber research division, X-Force Red.

“While no evidence exists that such attacks have taken place, we have found vulnerable systems in major cities in the US, Europe and elsewhere.”

The team plans to explain the vulnerabilities at Black Hat – a cyber-security conference – on Thursday.

(8) 1994 HUGO CEREMONY VIDEO. Thanks to Kevin Standlee for the head’s up:

The 1994 Hugo Awards video is online, thanks to us finding a videotape of it among the files here in Fernley, Lisa digitizing it, and Linda Ross-Mansfield on behalf of the parent of ConAdian giving permission to publish it. The quality isn’t great, but that’s in the original on our tape.

 

(9) BAEN FANTASY ADVENTURE AWARD. In addition to the grand prize winner reported here, “Dragon’s Heart” by David VonAllmen, Baen today issued a press release naming the runners-up:

  • Second Place: “Deny the World with a Thought” by Benjamin Scott Farthing
  • Third Place: “The Lady of Pain” by Steve DuBois.

The press release says the winners were selected by Baen editorial staff.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 9, 1930 — Betty Boop premiered in the animated film Dizzy Dishes.
  • August 9, 2004 — Donald Duck received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 9 — Sam Elliot, 74. Genre roles include The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot, the Land of the Giants series, the 1999 Hulk film, Ghost Rider, The Golden Compass and The Good Dinosaur animated series.
  • Born August 9 — Melanie Griffith, 61. Hebron roles in Cherry 2000Alfred Hitchcock Presents series, voice work in the second Stuart Little animated film do likewise in the Back to the Jurassic film.
  • Born August 9 — Gillian Anderson, 50. The X-Files of course, roles also in the Harsh RealmHannibal and American Gods series.  Voice work in a number of animated series including Reboot as a character as a Data Nully.
  • Born August 9 — Thomas Lennon, 48. Appeared in Transformers: Age Of Extinction, but more commonly a voice actor with some of his credits being for Justice League Action (most excellent series), one of the computers in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy film, The Dark Knight Rises, ArcherRocky and Bullwinkle and Legend of the Three Caballeros.
  • Born August 9 — Rhona Mitra, 42. First genre role was in a sf update of Beowulf, later roles include Underworld: Rise of the LycansSGU Stargate Universe, The Gates, an urban fantasy set in a gated community where no one is human, The Last Ship post-apocalypse series and The Strain, a Guillermo del Toro vampire series.

(12) SLIGHT UPDATE. While his comments on what happened with Worldcon programming are apt, John Scalzi may not be reading the same sites I do. Thread starts here

Though I feel he’s overly optimistic about the silence of people hoping the Worldcon will eat itself alive — I could list three bloggers who are still writing about that.

(13) PICK THE ROCKET FROM THEIR POCKET. Here’s Russian retaliation for sanctions could include: “Russia targets the U.S. space program after latest round of ‘draconian’ sanctions”Vice News has the story.

…On Wednesday the White House announced it would be imposing fresh sanctions on Moscow over its role in the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the U.K. earlier this year.

The latest round of sanctions, due to take effect on August 22, will impose broad restrictions on technology exports to Russia, with further sanctions set to hit Russian airlines and banks. The latest round of sanctions could block hundreds of millions of dollars in exports.

The Kremlin has strenuously denied any involvement in the incident, and on Thursday morning Russian lawmakers fumed over the latest U.S. announcement, calling it “draconian” and “absurd.”

One high-ranking Russian lawmaker then suggested hitting back at the U.S. where it hurts.

Sergey Ryabukhin, a senior Russian senator who is chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Committee for International Affairs, said Moscow could restrict exports of RD-180 rocket engines to the U.S.

RD-180 engines power the Atlas V rocket, which is used for military satellite launches, interplanetary missions and cargo runs to the International Space Station. The Atlas V has completed more than 75 launches with no major failures to date, and is key to the U.S. space program.

This isn’t the first time RD-180s have been caught in the middle of strained U.S.-Russian relations. Back in 2014, U.S. lawmakers opted to exempt the rocket engine from a ban on Russian military technology due to it importance to the U.S. space program.

(14) GUESS AGAIN. Popular Mechanics shares the revelation: “Weird Prehistoric Plant Turns Out To Be Weird Prehistoric Animal”.

Algae? Fungi? Some other type of plant? The Ediacaran organisms, ancient life forms that were common on in the Earth’s oceans half a billion years ago, have puzzled scientists for decades. Now two paleontologists feel confident that the ancient species were something completely different: animals that were unlike any seen on Earth today.

Scientists have discovered nearly 200 different types of Ediacarans within ancient rocks around the globe since the first discovery in the 1940s. It’s easy to identify an Ediacaran through their unique bodies, which are branched fronds taking the shape of fractals. Looking like long tubes that could grow up to six feet, Ediacaran fronds also had sub-fronds which replicated these patterns.

It’s easy to mistake an Ediacaran for a plant. But Jennifer Hoyal Cuthill at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, along with Jian Han at Northwest University in Xi’an, China, has found evidence that says otherwise. They came to their conclusion through studying Stromatoveris psygmoglena, a marine species first discovered in 2006 that dates back to around 30 million years after Ediacarans supposedly died out.

(15) THE BATTLE FOR THE UR-QUAN HIERARCHY. Olav Rokne of Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club wanted to be sure I didn’t miss this gaming litigation story:

“Cult classic video game Star Control 2, beloved for its science fiction storylines and diverse cast of alien characters, is the subject of a bitter legal feud over who has the rights to release an official sequel. Original Star Control creators Paul Reich and Fred Ford maintain that their author contract’s rights-reversion clause was triggered more than a decade ago, while games company Stardock claim they bought the rights during Atari’s bankruptcy sale.

“It’s a feud that blazes more hotly than a Thraddash Torch, but is harder to understand than Orz dialogue. Thankfully, copyright lawyer Leonard French has created two excellent YouTube videos to explain it to the layperson.”

Video One:

Video Two: 

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

Pixel Scroll 7/31/18 There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvish

(1) BOOKS PEOPLE BOUNCED OFF. On Bustle.com, Charlotte Ahlin takes a look at “The 15 Most Frequently Unfinished Reads, According To Goodreads’ ‘Popular Abandoned Books’ Shelf” and encourages at least a subset of people to try again. The list includes many genre works, but genre or not, Ahlin gives you a paragraph about each laying out why you might (or might not) enjoy the book more than you thought.

We’ve all left a book unfinished in our time. And honestly, I get it. Forcing yourself to slog through a book you don’t like is a pretty pointless endeavor. Reading should be fun, not a joyless exercise in seeming smart/trendy/interesting. But if you have it in your heart, some of these oft-abandoned books are actually worth giving a second (or third) chance:

1             The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling
2             Catch-22, Joseph Heller
3             A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin
4             American Gods, Neil Gaiman
5             The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
6             Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James
7             Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
8             The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
9             Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke
10          Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
11          Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
12          Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Gregory Maguire
13          One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
14          Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
15          The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson

(2) LEADERS WHO READ SFF. POLITICO reports that two European Commissioners are science fiction fans. Valdis Dombrovskis (Latvia) is reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman, while Pierre Moscovici (France) recommends George Orwell’s 1984, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven“POLITICO Brussels Playbook: Death by a thousand cuts — What presidents are reading — Go full Orbán”.

(3) PUTTING A GOOD FACE ON IT. When Bill Oberst Jr. does his Bradbury show in 2019, this is the creator who will make the illusion convincing: “Jeff Farley Recreates Ray Bradbury for Touring Stage Portrayal of Sci-Fi Author”Broadway World has the story.

Jeff Farley‘s love letter to Ray Bradbury will soon be on Bill Oberst Jr.‘s face. Special effects makeup artist and Primetime Emmy Award Nominee Farley has just completed the sculpt for Oberst’s prosthetic transformation into Bradbury in the authorized stage portrayal of the beloved author, Ray Bradbury Live (forever.)

“This project is the culmination of four decades of professional experience, and the most exciting of my career,” Farley said. “I am proud to help my friend bring his vision to life. Bill says I’m his Dick Smith and he’s my Hal Holbrook. We laugh, but that really is the level of illusion we’re aiming for.” Smith’s prosthetics for Holbrook’s Mark Twain Tonight broke new SFX ground in 1967. For his part, Oberst says he’s “ecstatic” about what Farley (whose resume stretches from BABYLON 5, WOLF and Demolition Man to Quarry, Pod and Imitation Girl) is creating. “Jeff is a bit of a recluse and he’s very selective,” said Oberst “so I’m over the moon to have him crafting this illusion.”

(4) SF BOOK QUIZ. The Sporcle challenge: “Can you name the 100 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books to Read in a Lifetime, according to Amazon?” You’ve got 16 minutes. And it’s not enough to know a good book by the authors – you have to get the ones that made the list. Filers have been playing all day since Giant Panda dropped the link in comments.

(5) ONCE MORE INTO THE LIFEBOAT DEAR FRIENDS. Slightly better than cancelled, not nearly as good as rescued or renewed — “NBC Sets ‘Timeless’ Two-Part Series Finale” reports Variety.

NBC will bring back “Timeless” for a special two-part series finale, the network confirmed Tuesday.

“We’re excited to tell one final chapter to this incredible story,” said Lisa Katz, co-president, scripted programming, NBC Entertainment. “A huge thank you to all — our cast, crew, producers and partners at Sony – who have worked so very hard, and to the fans who kept us on our toes and made sure we did our very best week after week.”

In June, NBC canceled the time travel drama from Sony Pictures Television and executive producers Shawn Ryan and Eric Kripke after two seasons. It was the second cancellation for “Timeless.” NBC had canceled the series after its first season, only to bring it back a few days later after Sony agreed to hand over a 50% stake in the show to NBC’s sister studio Universal Television.

(6) CURE FOR THE SUMMERTIME BLUES. Or at least a treatment for the symptoms. Jason, at Featured Futures, has condensed the month’s offerings down to a short list of cool stories in “Summation: July 2018”.

Here are the fifteen noted stories (four recommended) from the 92 stories of 503 Kwds I read from the July issues along with links to all their reviews and the other July posts on Featured Futures. This month’s wombat was a remarkable number of mostly print SF honorable mentions while all the few other items (except an excellent F&SF dark fantasy) came from the web.

(7) 2019 WORLDCON PROGRAM. Dublin 2019 has a form online where people can “Request to be a Programme Participant”. There’s more than one good reason to fill it out.

Kevin Standlee pointed out on Facebook a few days ago:

European data protection rules severely restrict the amount of information that entities can share with others, even those that hosted the previous event. You should assume that the 2019 Worldcon is starting with zero information about program participants, even if you were on program in Helsinki in 2017 or will be on program in San Jose in 2018. Contact Dublin if you’re interested in being on programming, and don’t assume that “of course they’ll just start with last year’s list” or “with the last European Worldcon’s list,” because legally, they can’t do that.

(8) LOOK OUT BELOW! What happens to the International Space Station when it can’t be maintained in orbit any more? It crashes, just like every other piece of hardware in low Earth orbit. Popular Mechanics takes a look at the status of plans to do this safely (hint: the plans are not nearly as well-developed as they should be; “Death Star: The ISS Doesn’t Have a Way to Crash Safely”).

As the debate over what to do with the International Space Station heats up, with a new NASA report casting doubt over the plans to commercialize it by 2025, the ultimate outcome could be its intentional crash landing into the Earth. But even that contingency is lacking, according to NASA Inspector General.

“At some future date NASA will need to decommission and deorbit the ISS either in response to an emergency or at the end of its useful life,” the report says. “However, the Agency currently does not have the capability to ensure the ISS will reenter the Earth’s atmosphere and land in a targeted location in the South Pacific Ocean.”
NASA, to its credit, has started the work. However, even the most preliminary steps are snarled up in diplomacy with the Russian space agency. The Inspector General says that in January 2017, NASA completed a draft plan but “this plan has not been finalized and is pending review by Roscosmos.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born July 31 – France Nuyen, 79. In the original Outer Limits, Star Trek and Fantasy Island series, also Battle for the Planet of the Apes and The Six Million Dollar Man series.
  • Born July 31 – Geraldine Chaplin, 74. Dinotopia and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Gulliver’s Travels and a vampire series called  BloodRayne.
  • Born July 31 – Michael Biehn, 62. Best known in films directed by James Cameron; as Sgt. Kyle Reese in The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cpl. Dwayne Hicks in Aliens and Lt. Coffey in The Abyss; also in Logan’s Run, Timebomb, AsteroidClockstoppers and The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power. 
  • Born July 31 – Wesley Snipes, 56. Genre roles include Demolition Man, the original Blade films, as an alien abducting humans in The Recall film, and a Mayan God in The Chronicles of the Mayan Tunnel.
  • Born July 31 – J. K. Rowling, 53. Harry Potter books and films, some other decidedly not genre work
  • Born July 31 – Annie Parisse, 43. Regular cast on the Person Of Interest series, also The First, a Mars mission series and NYPD 2069.
  • Born July 31 – Zelda Williams, 29. Daughter of Robin Williams, she’s been in genre work such as the Dark/Web series, plus voice work in the current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Legend of Korra, also roles in Stitchers and Teen Wolf.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) TOLKIEN AND LUCAS ON A DIET. Actor Topher Grace has taken to the editing suite and has taken a scalpel (or dwarven ax?) to the Hobbit trilogy—trimming the whole thing to a svelte two hours (IndieWire: “Topher Grace Recut ‘The Hobbit’ Trilogy as a 2-Hour Movie to Clear His Head After Playing David Duke”). Grace speaks of his reaction to playing David Duke in the upcoming BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee) and having his wife give birth during the production of that movie:

“I was so depressed.[…]  I was probably a terrible husband at the time. It was so disturbing to go home and turn on the news to see how his ideology was affecting us at the moment.”

Some people might have sought catharsis in a long vacation. Grace found a more unconventional outlet: Reediting Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” trilogy into a single movie.

Grace had previously recut the three prequel Star Wars movies into a combined 85-minute version he called Star Wars: Episode III.5: The Editor Strikes Back that was “for industry insiders before it disappeared from the internet” (SYFY Wire: “The Hobbit trilogy gets a new two-hour cut thanks to actor Topher Grace”). The IndieWire story continues:

While hardly the first fan edit of “The Hobbit,” Grace’s version may be one of the most palatable. One widely circulated fan edit in 2015, “The Tolkien Edit,” ran four hours long. Grace said he managed to reduce the entire trilogy to two hours, and felt that it was “a lot tighter.” (A Reddit forum actually predicted that Grace would tackle this project years ago.) “I don’t know what other guys do. Go fishing? For me, this is just a great way to relax,” the actor said. “There’s something really zen about it.”

(12) OUT OF JOINT. An expert in the time travel industry has found his next job: “Steven Moffat Developing The Time Traveler’s Wife Television Series for HBO”Tor.com has the story.

HBO has won the bidding war for a TV adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, from former Doctor Who showrunner and Sherlock creator Steven Moffat. Other outlets, including Amazon Studios, were in the running to acquire the series about Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire’s nonlinear love story, according to Deadline.

The official logline from HBO is slightly tongue-in-cheek for a novel about Henry, a time traveler and librarian whose Chrono-Displacement Disorder drops him in and out of time, and artist Clare, who first meets Henry as a child and who spends the rest of her life encountering him at different ages as she progresses through time linearly…

“I read Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife many years ago, and I fell in love with it,” Moffat said in the official announcement. “In fact, I wrote a Doctor Who episode called ‘The Girl In The Fireplace’ as a direct response to it. When, in her next novel, Audrey had a character watching that very episode, I realised she was probably on to me. All these years later, the chance to adapt the novel itself, is a dream come true. The brave new world of long form television is now ready for this kind of depth and complexity. It’s a story of happy ever after?—?but not necessarily in that order.”

(13) OUTREACH. It’s not up to Gil Hamilton’s standard, but SingularityHub (“This Mind-Controlled Robotic Limb Lets You Multitask With Three Arms”) reports on a new brain-machine interface (BMI) that “only requires an electrode cap” and can control a third arm while you still use your biological two. The original paper (“BMI control of a third arm for multitasking”) is available at Science Robotics (a publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science) for AAAS members or those willing to pony up to get past their paywall. Meanwhile, at SingularityHub:

To crack the problem, [Shuichi] Nichio and colleague Christian Penaloza recruited 15 volunteers and outfitted them with a prosthetic arm and a brain-wave-reading cap.

…The participants were asked to sit in a chair mounted with a robotic arm, strategically placed in a location that makes them feel like it’s part of their body. To start off, each participant was asked to balance a ball on a board using their own arms while wearing an electrode cap, which picks up the electrical activity from the brain.
Next, the volunteers turned their attention to the robotic arm. Sitting in the same chair, they practiced imagining picking up a bottle using the prosthesis while having their brain activity patterns recorded. A nearby computer learned to decipher this intent, and instructed the robotic arm to act accordingly.

Then came the fun part: the volunteers were asked to perform both actions simultaneously: balancing the ball with natural arms, and grasping the bottle with the robotic one. Eight out of the 15 participants successfully performed both actions; overall, the group managed cyborg multitasking roughly three quarters of the time.

(14) TIME AFTER TIME. Time for The Traveler at Galactic Journey to give John W. Campbell Jr. his monthly rap on the knuckles: “[July 30, 1963] Inoffensive Pact (August 1963 Analog)”.

At last we come to what you all will probably (as I did) turn to first: the conclusion to the second novel in the Deathworld series.  When last we left Jason dinAlt, interstellar gambler and lately resident of the dangerous world of Pyrrus, he had been enslaved by the D’sertanoj of a nearby primitive planet.  These desert-dwellers know how to mine petroleum, which they trade to the people of the country, Appsala, in exchange for caroj — steam powered battle wagons.  When dinAlt reveals that he can produce caroj himself, he is promoted to “employee” status and given run of the place.  He eventually escapes with his native companion, Ijale, as well as the obnoxiously moralistic Micah, who kidnapped dinAlt in the first place.  Adventures ensue.

The original Deathworld was a minor masterpiece, a parable about letting go of destructive hatred, suffused with a message on the importance of environmentalism.  It was also a cracking good read.  This new piece is just a yarn, one almost as clunky as the caroj dinAlt works on.  The theme is that universal morality is anything but, and ethics must be tailored to the society for which they are developed.

(15) SOLAR PROBE. NPR studies how NASA’s probe will keep from being burnt to a crisp: “Building A Probe That Will Survive A Trip To The Sun” — lightweight video with little discussion of the topic, but cool pictures of the probe being fitted out.

This summer, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will embark on a mission to “touch the sun.”

“Touch” might be a bit of an overstatement — the probe will actually pass 3.8 million miles from the sun’s surface. Its primary job is to learn more about the outer atmosphere of the sun, called the corona. Many things about the corona remain a mystery. For example, scientists still aren’t sure why the corona of the sun is hotter than its surface. The probe will take a series of images and measurements to figure out how energy and heat move through the corona.

 

(16) CASE OF THE UNKNOWN CON. Trae Dorn at Nerd and Tie found the explanation is simple — “The Reason You Didn’t Hear About SBC Anime Festival Is Because Apparently No One Did”.

It’s been a week and a half since AVC Coventions‘s Bossier City, LA based SBC Anime Festival closed its doors for 2018, and you’d be forgiven for not even knowing it happened. The reason for this is that apparently no one knew it was.

Okay, so maybe that’s an exaggeration, but very few knew about it at least.

Needless to say, vendors and artists present weren’t exactly happy about spending their weekend in an empty hall. One of those vendors was artist K.F. Golden, who decided to detail their experience on Tumblr.

You should read the post in its entirety, but the gist of it is that very few people attended the convention. K.F. Golden took some pictures of the empty dealer hall, and it seems like no one knew the con was happening.

…The point is that when your event doesn’t do well, you still need to be able to talk to a vendor politely. This is basic customer service, and do not mistake me — when you are running a convention, vendors and artist are customers. If what K.F. Golden alleges is true, I would be hesitant to vend at any of AVC Conventions‘s other events.

(17) MY GENERATION. Phoebe Wagner delivers “Musings on The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang” at Nerds of a Feather.

While I love fantasy novels like The Poppy War, Kuang’s story has taken a special slot on my shelf because, as a millennial, I connected to the novel on a generational level. No, Kuang did not include avocado toast. From the voice to history to worldbuilding, the novel captured how I so often feel as a millennial. While the USA school testing systems are vastly different than Chinese systems, I remember the pressure of the SATs and GREs–and the relief at performing well. Like Rin, millennials grew up in the shadow of a terrorist attack and hearing the propaganda surrounding a war. Due to income inequality, those millennials that made it into “the good schools” found a cultural gap caused by wealth. Like Kuang’s worldbuilding around opium and other hallucinogens, so many millennials have watched their hometowns and families destroyed by opioids while simultaneously voting for the legalization of marijuana. These issues have marked the millennial generation, and Kuang captures them on the page.

(18) LET ROVER COME OVER. Here’s a curiosity: You can build your own open-source rover using JPL’s design.

(19) DISNEYLAND ICONS FOR SALE. Rachael Leone Shawfelt, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Rare Trove of Disneyland memorabilia Going Up For Auction–Here’s Your Sneak Peek” says RIchard Kraft is putting his collection of Disneyland memorabilia up for auction, including original rides from Dumbo the Flying Elephant  and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride as well as  a Swiss Family Treehouse organ.

Kraft’s treasures will be on display for the public in a free exhibition called “That’s From Disneyland!,” from Aug. 1 to Aug. 26, in Sherman Oaks, Calif. The items are arranged according to their former location in the park; for example, a piece of the Dumbo ride is close to rare Snow White dolls. Original maps of the park hang on the wall above a miniature re-creation of the park.

(20) MANIFEST. Trailer for the new series —

An airplane disappeared, and its passengers were presumed dead until they returned, unscathed, five years later. Manifest is coming to NBC on Mondays this fall.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 7/12/18 Pixels’ Red Glare, The Scrolls Bursting In Air

(1) SFPA HANDLES CODE OF CONDUCT ISSUE. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) notified members via Facebook that member Bruce Boston has been suspended for a Code of Conduct violation. SFPA President Bryan Thao Worra wrote:

Following a 7-day review and conferral with the SFPA Executive Committee, SFPA member Bruce Boston has been suspended for six months from commenting on the Facebook Group and Yahoo Groups listserv for violation of the SFPA Code of Conduct, regarding egregious remarks beginning on July 4th, 2018, and a failure to retract those remarks in a timely manner. He remains a member of the SFPA and retains all honors and titles. This suspension remains in effect until December 31st, 2018.

In light of this incident, we wish to share the Code of Conduct, which the Executive Committee created and implemented in July 2017. It was shared on the fora, to which it applies, but was not transmitted to every member and new members may be unaware.

Please click on the blue button below to read the document about our expectations of conduct on our forums, Facebook and Yahoo Groups. The rules as well as the consequences for not following them are detailed therein.

To read the SFPA Code of Conduct, click here. [Dropbox file]

SFPA Grand Master Bruce Boston, in comments on a SFPA Facebook group post about the Rhysling winners, publicly insinuated that 2018 short poem Rhysling winner, Mary Soon Lee, must have been the beneficiary of vote stuffing because in his view her poem was unworthy of the honor. As of this writing, Boston’s and others’ comments are still accessible by nonmembers of the group. Here is a screenshot from near the beginning of the exchange.

(2) W76 BUSINESS MEETING SCHEDULE. On his blog, Kevin Standlee previewed his Worldcon article – “Business Meeting & Site Selection Schedules at Worldcon 76”.

For those of you trying to arrange your schedule for Worldcon 76 around the WSFS Business Meeting and Site Selection (as I am rather forced to do by the nature of running the WSFS division), here’s the current state of our plans. For those of you who are veterans of the process, this may all sound boring, repetitive, and obvious, but based on the questions I’ve fielded, there are members — including people interested in WSFS Business — who do not know this stuff.

Linda Deneroff also has posted the start of the agenda for Worldcon 76. You can find it on the Business Meeting page. Click on the “Agenda” link.

(3) ROBOT HOTEL. Grant Imahara (perhaps best know for his former gig on Mythbusters) visits a robot hotel in this Popular Science article (“Mouser Electronics: Generation Robot”). No, not a hotel for robots, but one staffed by robots. It sounds like Henn Na Hotel is trying to avoid — at least in part — the Uncanny Valley. Quoting the article:

Imagine checking into a hotel and handing your luggage to a bellhop, but not seeing another human besides other guests. That’s the reality at Henn Na Hotel in Japan’s Nagasaki Prefecture, where robots have taken over. Robot enthusiast Grant Imaharavisits the hotel to see how the hospitality business can succeed without humans.

During his stay, Grant is surprised by the non-humanoid robot he meets at the check-in desk. Maybe he should have known—Henn Na Hotel loosely translates to “strange hotel” in Japanese. Naomi Tomita, the hotel’s Chief Technology Officer, says that using non-humanoid robots can make the interactions less awkward. The hotel encourages guests to chat with the robots while they work. A robot checks Grant’s coat, and a robotic trolley takes his luggage to his hotel room.

 

(4) MORE FROM BODLEIAN. Nicholas Whyte tweeted an image from the Bodleian’s Tolkien exhibition.

(5) MOVIE POSTER AUCTION. Heritage Auctions told subscribers that sf movie posters will be featured in its forthcoming Movie Posters Auction July 28-29 in Dallas. A Star Trek poster by illustrator Bob Peak is expected to compete for top-lot honors.


Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home by Bob Peak (Paramount, 1987) (est. $40,000-80,000) is the largest and arguably the most detailed of all Star Trek posters designed by Peak. A renowned commercial artist whose greatest acclaim comes from his developments in the design of modern movie posters, Peak’s artwork has appeared on the cover of numerous magazines, including Time, TV Guide and Sports Illustrated . The brilliant color used for the evening sky of San Francisco offers stark contrast to the Klingon Bird of Prey flying just over the Golden Gate Bridge. The 40-by-57-1/2-inch poster is done on illustration board mounted on foamcore, is signed by Peak and comes with a gold frame.

“Bob Peak was a popular and important movie poster artist who produced a number of posters for various Star Trek films, and this is as dramatic as any of them,” Heritage Auctions Vintage Posters Director Grey Smith said. “His subtle portraits of several of the film’s primary characters offer an extraordinary balance to the bold images of the sunset and the Bird of Prey. This poster is a large and striking image that would be a significant addition to any collection.”

Science fiction fans also will be drawn to The War of the Worlds (Paramount, 1953). Half Sheet (22″ X 28″) Style B (est. $20,000-40,000), a rare Style B half sheet that is one of the most iconic and elusive images in the genre. Featuring Martian warship imagery not included in many other posters for the original release of George Pal’s powerful adaptation of H.G. Wells’ science fiction novel.

…Widely considered to be among the greatest film posters of all time, a Things to Come (United Artists, 1936) one sheet (est. $15,000-30,000) was inspired by another science fiction film based on another H.G. Wells-inspired screenplay. The film is based on his 1933 novel The Shape of Things to Come and his 1931 non-fiction The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind. Among the always-rare posters for this early sci-fi epic, this one stands out in part because of the 1930s deco-designed version of the future.

(6) RECORD SETTING. Seattle’s Sub Pop Records is taking preorders on Bandcamp for The Rick And Morty Soundtrack, a 26-track collection of music from the animated series on Cartoon Network. Two vinyl LP packages (“Deluxe” and “Loser”) and a digital version are available.

This release is the first official collection of music from Rick and Morty. All formats feature 26 songs, 24 of which are from the first 3 seasons of the show, and 18 of which were composed by Ryan Elder specifically for the show. The album also includes songs by Mazzy Star, Chaos Chaos, Blonde Redhead, and Belly, all of which have been featured in the show, as well as two new tunes from Chad VanGaalen and Clipping inspired by the show. The box set includes a special bonus track on a 7”.

(7) JOHNSON OBIT. Somebody has to think these things up, you know — “Alan Johnson, 81, ‘Springtime for Hitler’ Choreographer, Dies”. Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times:

Alan Johnson, a choreographer renowned for his campy movie collaborations with Mel Brooks on the “Springtime for Hitler” goose-steppers-and-showgirls extravaganza in “The Producers” and the “Puttin’ On the Ritz” tap dance in “Young Frankenstein,” died on Saturday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 81.

Mr. Johnson had danced in the original Broadway production of “West Side Story” and begun his career as a choreographer when he started working with Mr. Brooks, whom he had already met through a friend, the lyricist Martin Charnin. Mr. Brooks, best known at the time for his work with Carl Reiner on the “2000 Year Old Man” records, was developing “The Producers,” about a producer who schemes with his accountant to create a certain Broadway flop and steal the money invested in it by unsuspecting old women.

…In his role as producer, Mr. Brooks gave Mr. Johnson the chance to direct two films. The first, “To Be or Not to Be” (1983), was a remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1942 comedy with Mr. Brooks and Ms. Bancroft in the roles played in the original by Jack Benny and Carole Lombard. Three years later Mr. Johnson directed “Solarbabies” (1986), a science-fiction story about roller-skating orphans fighting for a solution to a worldwide water shortage. It was widely panned.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • That’s some potion in Bizarro.
  • Frazz asks how a reader can like wildly disparate writers.
  • Bliss contains a space navigation tip.

(10) MOVIE AD ADAPTATIONS. These cat pictures may not display properly here, however, they are certainly worth clicking through to see.

(11) ANCIENT MONUMENT. Science journal Nature covers the “Mystery of buried children at German ‘Stonehenge’”.

Scientists scrutinize monumental complex of ditches and posts built more than 4,000 years ago.

As prehistoric Britons gathered at Stonehenge, people living in what is now Germany were erecting their own grand monument: a complex of nested circular ditches, pits and rows of posts, interspersed with the remains of women and children, who might have been human sacrifices…

(12) GRIST FOR THE MILL. Sean T. Collins argues “The only good online fandom left is Dune” at The Outline.

Beyond that, Dune is not a corporate cash cow, and being a fan doesn’t carry with it that icky feeling you’re doing an unpaid PR internship for Disney or AT&T Time Warner. You’re not being cultivated when you make a Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohaim Appreciation Thread, the way you are when you do something similar for, like, Harley Quinn or Groot. Nor are you helping billionaires whitewash their crimes if you point out politically positive aspects of the series, like its environmentalism or its bone-deep skepticism of leader cults. People who quite reasonably respond favorably to long-overdue representation of non-white-dudes in movies like The Last Jedi and Black Panther have to grapple with stuff like Marvel teaming up with defense contractors Northrop Grumman, or its CEO Ike Perlmutter being a noted Trump supporter.

(13) WHERE ROCKS WERE BANGED TOGETHER. BBC summarizes an item from Nature: “Earliest evidence of humans outside Africa”.

Scientists say they’ve found the earliest known evidence of a human presence outside Africa.

Stone tools discovered in China suggest primitive humans – or a close relative – were in the region as early as 2.12 million years ago.

They are about 270,000 years older than the previous earliest evidence, which consists of bones and tools from Dmanisi in Georgia.

The research, by a Chinese-British team, appears in the journal Nature.

The stone artefacts were discovered at Shangchen on a plateau in northern China.

(14) HOO-RAY. A Gizmodo writer is overwhelmed: “The World’s First Full-Color, 3D X-rays Are Freaking Me Out”.

A New Zealand company called Mars Bioimaging has developed a new type of medical imaging scanner that works in a similar fashion, but borrows technology developed for the Large Hadron Collider at CERN to produce far more detailed results. The Medipix3 chip works similar to the sensor in your digital camera, but it detects and counts the particles hitting each pixel when a shutter opens….

It will be years before the new Spectral CT scanner receives all the clearances and approvals it needs so that it can be used in hospitals and clinics. But it’s well past the research stages at this point, and clinical trials are expected to get underway in New Zealand in the coming months.

So (posits Daniel Dern), it’s no longer too dark inside a dog to read?

(15) ACTION FIGURE REVIVAL. SYFY Wire makes note of several new lines of action figures coming soon from a company known for them in the 70’s and 80’s (“Mego toys is staging a comeback with new line of action figures from DC, Star Trek, and more”). The figures will be exclusive to Target and are being debuted at San Diego Comic-Con. They’ll appear in stores a little later this year.

Quoting the SYFY Wire article:

One of the earliest pioneers in the world of action figures is prepping a nostalgic resurrection, promoting a new line of toys at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con […]

Mego Corp., the company that innovated some of the earliest cross-merchandising action figure toys for cartoon, comics, and pop culture fans throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, is launching a new line of figures based on characters from DC, Star Trek, Firefly, Charmed, The Wizard of Oz, and more […]

Quoting the Target website:

Ready for a blast from the past? Toymaker Mego and industry legend Marty Abrams, co-founder and CEO of Mego Corporation, are recreating the company’s famous action figure line, and Target will be the exclusive retailer. The new line of collectibles hits stores and Target.com July 29, but fans will get a first look next week during a panel at San Diego Comic-Con—one of the largest gatherings of comic, movie and science fiction fans in the world….

Target’s exclusive line of Mego collectibles will be available in stores and online July 29 at prices ranging from $14.99 to $29.99. Check out our full assortment of collectibles at Target stores nationwide and Target.com.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mark Hepworth, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

2018 Westercon Finishes Its Business

Kevin Standlee sent the link to a playlist of videos of today’s Westercon Business Meeting in Denver, along with an abbreviated report of the results:

  • SeaTac, Washington won their uncontested Westercon 73 bid (2020).
  • Proposal to expand Westercon’s coverage to all of North America was postponed indefinitely (killed without a direct vote).
  • Proposal to require that bids provide at least one person at the site selection voting table passed and will be up for ratification in Utah.
  • The other two proposals on the agenda failed: One would have more precisely defined the use of members’ membership numbers, and the other attempted to precisely define what was meant by the words “first full day” of Westercon as used in the Bylaws.

“The meeting managed to get all of this done in just under 50 minutes,” writes Kevin, “which meant that they did not have to go to an ‘overflow’ session in the afternoon, much to everyone’s relief.”

Pixel Scroll 7/5/18 Trigger Scrollfile – Pixelman

(1) AVENGERS REASSEMBLE. The Society of Illustrators in New York will display “The Art of The Avengers and Other Heroes” from July 5 through October 20.

The Museum of Illustration at the Society of Illustrators is pleased to present an exhibition of original artwork showcasing characters from the Marvel Universe featuring the Avengers and other heroes. Artists include John Buscema, John Cassaday, Don Heck, Joe Jusko, Jack Kirby, George Perez, John Romita, Marie Severin, Walt Simonson, Barry Windsor Smith, Jim Steranko, Herbe Trimpe, and others, on display from July 5th through October 20, 2018.

The exhibition includes vintage, original comic artwork from all years of Marvel Comics history. The selections illustrate how Marvel’s innovative creative teams initially led by legendary creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, kept the Marvel Universe evolving with the times.

(2) B&N EXEC GONE, BUT WHY? On July 3, Barnes and Noble announced it had fired CEO Demos Parneros for unspecified policy violations, adding that he would not receive any severance package. Publisher’s Weekly has the story.

In a brief statement released late Tuesday afternoon, the retailer said CEO Demos Parneros was terminated for “violations of the Company’s policies.” While not saying what policies Parneros violated, B&N said his termination “is not due to any disagreement with the Company regarding its financial reporting, policies, or practices or any potential fraud relating thereto.” In addition to being fired immediately, Parneros will not receive any severance, B&N said. B&N said Parneros’s removal was undertaken by its board of directors, who were advised by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.

(3) CAUTION, I BRAKE FOR SINGULARITIES. When Daniel P. Dern read that “SpaceX delivers AI robot, ice cream, mice to space station” he immediately thought, “Boy, that sounds like a ‘what could possibly go wrong?’ tv episode waiting to happen…”

The International Space Station got its first robot with artificial intelligence Monday, along with some berries, ice cream and identical brown mice.

SpaceX’s capsule reached the station three days after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Station astronaut Ricky Arnold used a large mechanical arm to grab the Dragon capsule as the spacecraft soared above Quebec, Canada.

The nearly 6,000-pound (2,700-kilogram) delivery includes the round robot Cimon, pronounced Simon. Slightly bigger than a basketball, the AI robot from the German Space Agency is meant to assist German astronaut Alexander Gerst with science experiments. Cimon’s brain will constantly be updated by IBM so its intelligence — and role — keep growing.

(4) SMOFS ON THE AIR.  Bids for future Westercons, Worldcons, and NASFiCs gave presentations and answered questions at Westercon 71 in Denver on July 5.

Kevin Standlee sent a link to the YouTube playlist of videos where you can watch the appearances of representatives from the SeaTac in 2020 Westercon, Utah in 2019 NASFiC, New Zealand in 2020 Worldcon, and DC in 2021 Worldcon bids.

(5) RHYSLING AWARD FOLLOW-UP. In the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association press release about the winners of the 2018 Rhysling Awards, SFPA President Bryan Thao Worra said:

My deep and personal congratulations to all of the winners and all of the nominees. The SFPA thanks everyone who nominated these poets and those who took the time to vote this year. Every year the awards are filled with great excitement, even as it is often deeply challenging to choose the best poem among so many styles and talented voices from around the world.

We’re looking forward to many more decades ahead of our members celebrating profound possibility, inquiry and imagination through verse.

First established in 1978, the Rhysling Award is now in its 40th year. Science Fiction fans may recognize the name. The Rhyslings were named for the blind poet Rhysling in Robert A. Heinlein’s short story “The Green Hills of Earth.” Rhysling’s skills were said to rival Rudyard Kipling’s. In real life, Apollo 15 astronauts named a crater near their landing site “Rhysling,” which has since become its official name.

The Rhysling Awards will be formally presented at DiversiCon 26 on Saturday, July 28th at 3:00pm in St. Paul (Bandana Square Best Western) by SFPA President, Bryan Thao Worra and other members of the SFPA executive committee. All members of the SF community are welcome to attend the ceremony. For scheduling at updates, visit www.diversicon.org.

(6) CALLING DESMOND MORRIS. How did Bambi’s distant ancestors bite the dust? Ars Technica turns to the professionals for an answer: “Archaeologists armed with spears demonstrate how Neanderthals hunted”.

Pleistocene CSI

At the Neumark-Nord site in Germany, Neanderthals 120,000 years ago hunted along the shores of a lake surrounded by dense forest. It’s a tough environment to make a living in, even for modern hunter-gatherers.  Here, archaeologists found two textbook examples of hunting-spear trauma. A fallow deer vertebra bore a circular wound from what Gaudzinski-Windheuser and her colleagues described as “a well-placed lethal injury” to the deer’s neck, not far from the trachea—probably from a spear thrust.

A pelvic bone from another fallow deer had a circular hole punched through the thinnest part of the bone, toward the front and close to the spine. The bone hadn’t begun to heal, so the injury, although likely not fatal in its own right, probably happened in the moments before death.

In micro-CT images, Gaudzinski-Windheuser and her colleagues could see that the wound had a tapered shape, wider on the outer face of the bone where the spear had entered. This pushed bone fragments inward, but things were narrower on the inner surface where the spear tip had come out the other side and pushed bone fragments outward. Such a clear injury is a rare find, and it offered Gaudzinski-Windheuser and her colleagues a chance to analyze Neanderthal hunting methods in detail.

(7) AND HAVING WRIT, MOVES ON. Someone corrected this blue plaque in Cambridge.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy learned from Basic Instructions (a rerun from 2011) how to bring science fiction characters back to life.

(9) FLIPSIDE. At Galactic Journey The Traveler fills in some missing info about his friend the Australian computer: “[July 4, 1963] Down Under to the Worlds of Men (Woomera, Part 2)”.

A few months ago I wrote about my friend Mary Whitehead, who works as an Experimental Officer in Australia. She recently wrote me back with some corrections, that I will pass on to you, in order not to mar the historical record.

For example, I said that Mary lived at Woomera, which was not the case. I was conflating the rocket testing range with the place where most of the computing work got done. She actually lives near the Weapons Research Establishment (WRE), which is located in Salisbury, a small town about 15 miles north of the big city of Adelaide. Woomera Rocket Range is in the isolated outback another 300 miles north of that.

In 1949, Mary, who studied mathematics in college, got a job in the Bomb Ballistics Section of the WRE. At that time, Mary was the only professional woman at Salisbury. Her first work was to lead a team of female Computers. At first, they used mechanical calculators like the noisy Friden’s and then Marchant’s like we used at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory.

(10) HE’S MAD. In “A new editor. A new home. But Mad magazine still takes sharp aim at Trump and Roseanne”, the Washington Post’s Michael Cavna interviews MAD editor Bill Morrison, formerly with Bongo Comics, about how he is keeping his magazine fresh and topical after it moved to Los Angeles last year.

“We wanted to come up with a ‘summer fun’ cover and looked to things like beach parties, county fairs and amusement arcades for inspiration,” Morrison says of the cover illustrated by Mark Fredrickson. “Art director Suzy Hutchinson thought an image of [Mad mascot] Alfred playing Whac-A-Mole would be fun, and mocked up a surreal cover of Alfred whacking mini-versions of himself.

“Then,” the editor says, “we turned on the news and decided that taking a whack at some notorious celebrities would be not only fun, but therapeutic.”

(11) LITIGATION. Don Quixote is feeling better. “Terry Gilliam: Legal Battle Over ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’ Won’t Stop Film’s Release”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Terry Gilliam says the legal battle over the rights to The Man Who Killed Don Quixote will not prevent the film’s long-awaited release.

Nearly a quarter of a century in the making, the film that premiered at Cannes and screened out of competition Wednesday at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic, has been dogged with challenges worthy of Cervante’s noble hero.

After false starts and many rewrites, ex-Monty Python member Gilliam finally completed the film only for a legal dispute with a now former Portuguese producer Paolo Branco to threaten to derail it.

Branco’s threats were sufficient for Amazon to pull out of a deal that would have ensured a 90-day cinematic release in the U.S. before it was available for streaming. Even Cannes chief Jerome Paillard was rumored to have had the jitters before its festival screening in May.

But that decision, Karlovy Vary’s screening and an upcoming competition screening at the Munich film festival appear to have strengthened the French distributors Kinology’s hand, despite a Paris court ruling last month granting the film’s rights to Branco.

“It is about to be released broadly in Holland and Belgium,” Gilliam told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday. “I think Cannes changed things. Paolo just went too far – ‘I will tell the festival not to show it’… It seems things are floating along nicely, although he did scare a lot of people away at one point.”

(12) NOT CANALS, BUT… From Nature: “Mars’s river valleys whisper of a rainy past”.

Fast-flowing waterways on ancient Mars carved river valleys much like those on modern Earth.

Although Mars is cold and dry today, channels on its surface look as if running water shaped them, leading researchers to think the planet was warm and wet in the past. But scientists have struggled to determine whether that water fell from the sky as rain or seeped upward from the ground.

To discern the water’s source, Hansjoerg Seybold at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich and his colleagues analysed the geometry of Martian valley channels. The channels branch off at relatively narrow angles, as do waterways in arid landscapes on Earth, such as the US Southwest. More-humid landscapes with a lot of groundwater — the Amazon rainforest, for example — host river channels that branch at wider angles.

(13) BELATED BIRTHDAY. Born on the Fourth of July – no, not George M. Cohan. ScreenRant celebrated with its post: “Today is MCU Captain America’s 100th Birthday”.

We know Cap’s exact date of birth thanks to a scene early on in Captain America: The First Avenger, when pre-serum Steve Rogers attempts (not for the first time) to sign up for the army. The doctor dismisses him due to his long list of ailments, and in the process gives the audience a look at his medical records, which include his date of birth. Naturally, he was born on Independence Day.

The comic book version of Captain America, meanwhile, is actually 101 years old, having been born on July 4, 1917. His birth date is often incorrectly cited as being July 4, 1920, since that’s the date given on his Wikipedia page. However, The Adventures of Captain America #1 (the source for Wikipedia’s claim) states that he was born in 1917.

(14) JULY 4TH LEFTOVERS. NPR’s astronomical salute to the holiday: “LOOK: Hot, Young Stars Form ‘Celestial Fireworks'”.

If you squint, the image above bears a pretty strong resemblance to what you might see at a July 4 fireworks display.

But it’s actually, dare we say, far cooler. Or hotter: The image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope is a cluster of “huge, hot” stars called NGC 3603, about 20,000 light years away in the constellation Carina.

The glittery image was captured in 2009, and NASA posted it on its website on the eve of today’s Independence Day celebrations. The swirling purple clouds of gas and dust, it says, are the “raw material for new star formation.”

(15) DISSERTATION DEFENDER. Congratulations to Shaun Duke, of Skiffy and Fanty, who earned his Doctorate today.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, ULTRAGOTHA, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchock, JJ, Daniel P. Dern, Steven H Silver, Eric Franklin, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 4/23/18 It Was Me Who Ate All The Cupcakes In The File770 Office IN SELF DEFENCE!

(1) 100 LOVED BOOKS. PBS series The Great American Read premieres May 22. One hundred books, one winner:

THE GREAT AMERICAN READ is an eight-part series that explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey).  It investigates how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience.

(2) AMAZING OPENS SUBMISSIONS WINDOW. Steve Davidson announced “General Submissions for Amazing Stories Opens Today”. See detailed guidelines at the link. Davidson had more to say on Facebook:

(3) COMPTON CROOK AWARD. Nicky Drayden announced on April 19 that her book Prey of Gods won the 2018 Compton Crook Award. [Via Locus Online.]

(4) RINGO’S WORLD. John Ringo’s April 16 Facebook post about his withdrawal as ConCarolinas special guest continues gathering moss, now with over 900 likes. Today Ringo showed everyone what they’ll be missing with a new comment that explains to his sycophants why ConCarolina’s Guest of Honor can’t compete with him.

No. Because nobody but people who pay close attention to the industry and awards has ever heard of her.

Her Amazon rankings are pretty low. Her bookscan ratings are low. That indicates she’s not particularly popular just heavily promoted and ‘popular’ with the ‘right crowd’. (Which is a very small crowd.)

James Patterson is a big name. JK Rowling is a big name. Hell, China Meville is a big name.

Seanan McGuire is not ‘a big name’.

I have no clue where we stand representationally in sales comparison to me but I suspect I sell more books. Just a suspicion, though, and it probably depends on the series.

Honestly, I suspect A Deeper Blue sold more books than all of hers combined.

(5) ENCHANTED MUSEUM. Atlas Obscura reveals the “Hidden Elves at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science”.

Back in the 1970s, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science hired artist Kent Pendleton to paint the backdrops for many of the museum’s wildlife dioramas. Little did it know that Pendleton’s penchant for hiding tiny mythical creatures in these paintings would add a whole new dimension to the museum experience.

It all began with eight elves—or gnomes, or leprechauns, depending who you ask—hidden in Pendleton’s wildlife dioramas. An elf hiding in the lowland river. An elf riding a dinosaur along a cretaceous creekbed. Another elf sat on a rock in the Great Smoky Mountains. And others, hard to spot but definitely there, in various backdrops throughout the museum.

In 2018, Pendleton told the Denverite: “It was just kind of my own little private joke. The first one was so small that hardly anyone could see it, but it sort of escalated over time, I guess. Some of the museum volunteers picked up on it and it developed a life of its own.”

(6) THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE. Kevin Standlee is running for office in his home town:

I’m Kevin Standlee, and I’m running for a seat on the Board of Directors of the North Lyon County Fire Protection District, which serves the city of Fernley, Nevada.

I grew up in a fire station. As the child of a US Forest Service officer, I lived a lot of my formative years on a series of fire outposts in the Sierra Nevada….

June 12 is Election Day.

(7) HISTORIC DUNES. ABC News tells about “Visiting the desert where ‘Star Wars’ was filmed”.

There’s a reason the original “Star Wars” movie was filmed in the deserts of southern Tunisia. This stark, remote landscape looks like another planet.

One of Tunisia’s vast desert regions is even called Tataouine (ta-TWEEN), like Luke Skywalker’s home planet, Tattoine.

And the underground home where Luke Skywalker first appeared living with his uncle and aunt is a real hotel in the town of Matmata, one of various desert locations used in the movies.

Masoud Berachad owns the Hotel Sidi Driss. He says visitors have dropped off since Tunisia’s democratic revolution in 2011 and attacks on tourists in 2015.

Still, devoted “Star Wars” fans keep the hotel in business….

(8) CURSED CHILD IN NEW YORK. David Rooney goes into great detail – perhaps too much – in his “‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’: Theater Review” for The Hollywood Reporter. Here’s a relatively spoiler-free excerpt:

…Pockets of racist outrage exploded online when it was first announced that a black actress had been cast as Hermione, which Rowling shot down in her no-nonsense style by pointing out that the character’s ethnicity was never mentioned in the books. In any case, only the most bigoted idiot could find fault with the brilliant Dumezweni’s performance, her haughtiness, quicksilver intellect and underlying warmth tracing a line way back to the precociously clever girl Harry first met on the train all those years ago.

Thornley’s Ron, too, is readily identifiable as the perennial joker of the trio. He’s acquired substance and a charming mellowness over the years, though a glimpse of him in a time-warped present tells a heartbreakingly different story. Miller takes the early indicators of Ginny’s strength and builds on them, shaping a smart, grounded woman capable of handling Harry’s complicated baggage. And Price’s Draco is still peevish and moody, his bitterness exploding in an entertaining clash of wands with Harry, but he’s found a softer side in maturity as well.

At the center of it all is Parker’s Harry, grown up and more confident but still pensive and troubled as ever, plagued by memories of the orphaned boy who slept under the stairs at his aunt and uncle’s home, and the reluctant hero he was forced to become. It’s a finely nuanced performance, with gravitas and heart, particularly as he wrestles with and eventually overcomes his struggles as a parent. Even with the sweet sentimentality of the closing scenes, what lingers most about Parker’s characterization is the stoical knowledge he carries with him that every moment of happiness contains the promise of more pain to come.

Of equal importance in the story are Albus and Scorpius, and while Clemmett is affecting in the more tortured role, at war with himself as much as his father, the discovery here is Boyle. His comic timing, nervous mannerisms and endearing awkwardness even in moments of triumph make him a quintessential Rowling character and a winning new addition. “My geekness is a-quivering,” he chirps at one point, probably echoing how half the audience is feeling. It’s stirring watching these two young outsiders conquer their self-doubt to find courage and fortitude….

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Daniel Dern doesn’t want Filers to miss xkcd’s cartoon “Misinterpretation.”
  • Lise Andreasen asks, “Things men weren’t meant to know?”

(10) GENESIS. In “How Stan Lee Became the Man Behind Marvel” Chris Yogerst of the LA Review of Books reviews Bob Batchelor’s biograpahy of the comics icon.

STAN LEE WAS FINISHED with comics. “We’re writing nonsense,” he once told his wife Joan. “It’s a stupid business for a grownup to be in.” After riding the early success of comic books, Lee was concerned about the future of the medium. He wanted to write more intelligent stories, something adults could connect to.

Following his wife’s advice, Lee decided to write one last story. With characters that were grounded in reality, stories that channeled Cold War tensions, and a narrative influenced by popular science fiction, Lee created the Fantastic Four. This was the type of story Lee would have wanted to read. If it was successful, maybe he would stick with comics a little longer.

Popular culture historian Bob Batchelor’s latest book turns a critical eye on the life of Lee, who ultimately became “the man behind Marvel.” Batchelor’s Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel focuses on where Lee came from, what influenced him, and how he became the immortal face of the comic book industry. In other words, to use the vernacular of the superhero genre, Batchelor gives us Lee’s origin story.

(11) AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #800.Here’s another variant cover for the upcoming milestone issue.

It’s all been building to this – the biggest Peter Parker and Norman Osborn story of all time, and the first Marvel comic EVER to hit 800 issues! In celebration of the 800th issue of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and the now historic run of Dan Slott, Marvel is excited to show a variant cover from legendary artist Frank Cho and colorist David Curiel!

Witness the culmination of the Red Goblin story as Slott is joined for his final issue by epic artists such as Stuart Immonen, Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Nick Bradshaw!

(12) SKYWATCH. Bill Gates among backers of proposed live-video-from-space satellite constellation called EarthNow:

EarthNow takes advantage of an upgraded version of the satellite platform, or “bus,” developed originally for the OneWeb communications service. Each satellite is equipped with an unprecedented amount of onboard processing power, including more CPU cores than all other commercial satellites combined. According to Greg Wyler, Founder and Executive Chairman of OneWeb, “We created the World’s first lowcost, high-performance satellites for mass-production to bridge the digital divide. These very same satellite features will enable EarthNow to help humanity understand and manage its impact on Earth.”

Use cases are said to include:

  • Catch illegal fishing ships in the act
  • Watch hurricanes and typhoons as they evolve
  • Detect forest fires the moment they start
  • Watch volcanoes the instant they start to erupt
  • Assist the media in telling stories from around the world
  • Track large whales as they migrate
  • Help “smart cities” become more efficient
  • Assess the health of crops on demand
  • Observe conflict zones and respond immediately when crises arise
  • Instantly create “living” 3D models of a town or city, even in remote locations
  • See your home as the astronauts see it—a stunning blue marble in space

(13) TODAY’S COPYEDITING TIP. From Cherie Priest:

(14) LOSING FACE. Motherboard says “This Is the Facial Recognition Tool at the Heart of a Class Action Suit Against Facebook”.

On Monday, a federal judge ruled that a class action lawsuit against Facebook can move forward, paving the way for what could turn out to be a costly legal battle for the company.

As Reuters reports, the lawsuit alleges that Facebook improperly collected and stored users’ biometric data. It was originally filed in 2015 by Facebook users in Illinois, which passed the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) in 2008. The law regulates the collection and storage of biometric data, and requires that a company receive an individual’s consent before it obtains their information.

According to the lawsuit, Facebook ran afoul of BIPA when it began using a tool called Tag Suggestions, which was originally rolled out in 2011. Like many Facebook features, it’s designed to make your user experience better while also providing the company with your data—in this case, very specific facial features.

(15) KNOT OF THIS WORLD. Gizmodo’s Kristen V. Brown advises “Forget the Double Helix—Scientists Discovered a New DNA Structure Inside Human Cells”.

The double helix, though, is not the only form in which DNA exists. For the first time ever, scientists have identified the existence of a new DNA structure that looks more like a twisted, four-stranded knot than the double helix we all know from high school biology.

The newly identified structure, detailed Monday in the journal Nature Chemistry, could play a crucial role in how DNA is expressed.

Some research had previously suggested the existence of DNA in this tangled form, dubbed an i-motif, but it had never before been detected in living cells outside of the test tube. Researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia, though, found that not only does the structure exist in living human cells, but it is even quite common.

(16) ROCKET MAN. In his book What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, author David Hofstede ranked William Shatner’s 1978 performance of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” at #17 on the list. Details from the Wikipedia —

At the 5th Saturn Awards Ceremony, which aired as the Science Fiction Film Awards in January 1978, Taupin introduced William Shatner’s spoken word[29] interpretation of the song. It used chroma key video techniques to simultaneously portray three different images of Shatner, representing the different facets of the Rocket Man’s character….

How can you not want to watch it after a build-up like that?

(17) MAKING A BIGGER BANG. Wil Wheaton has been having fun

Since last week, I’ve been working on the season finale of The Big Bang Theory, and today we shot Amy and Sheldon’s wedding.

It was an incredible day, and I am still in disbelief that I got to be in multiple scenes with Kathy Bates, Laurie Matcalf, Jerry O’Connell, Brian Posehn, Lauren Lapkus, Teller, Courtney Henggeler, and this guy, who is not only one of the kindest people I’ve ever worked with, but is also from a science fiction franchise, just like me!

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

Pixel Scroll 4/8/18 Do Not Go Pixel Out Of That Good Hive, Buzz, Buzz, Against The Flying Of The Five

(1) WALK / DON’T WALK. This not-quite-infinite series of variations on Le Guin’s famous story: “Once upon a time there was a city called Omelas, where everyone lived good and happy and fulfilling lives” is a hoot!

“…the best predictions of our scientists suggest that there will be a slight average decrease in various hard-to-measure kinds of happiness, which nevertheless in total adds up to more suffering than this child experiences.”
And Outis said to the elder, “I will have no part in this evil thing.” And he took the child and bathed him and cared for his wounds. And the average happiness increased in some ways and decreased in others, and the net effect might have been negative, but the best results on the matter had p > 0.05, so the scientists of Omelas could not rule out the null hypothesis.

(2) SUE ‘EM, DANNO. Dorothy Grant gives the rundown on a scam to inflate payments from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program in “Book stuffing, KU reads, and Amazon’s Doing Something” at Mad Genius Club.

While I would hope that everyone who reads this is interested in being a real author making up real stories that are your own, writing them down, and publishing them, we are all aware that there are scammers out there, and people who care more about the money, than acting ethically or the readers. We also know that Amazon has a habit of taking a wide swath of potential wrongdoers, then filtering out and restoring the innocent.

Yep, they’re doing it again.

  1. David Gaughran gave us the first heads-up on twitter that Amazon has filed suit against an author for book-stuffing.

Forbes article here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamrowe1/2018/04/07/amazon-has-filed-suit-to-stop-the-six-figure-book-stuffing-kindle-scam/#2af7a11b7344

Book stuffing is when authors take all their works and stuff them into the back of every other book to artificially inflate their page count. Some authors even stuff in newsletters: the goal is to inflate the page count as much as possible, and thus the payout on KU page reads.

(3) ATOMIC PILES OF LAUGHS. Scott Tobias profiles “artificial intelligence-assisted comedy” in “Can algorithms be funny? Veterans of Clickhole and the New Yorker team up to find out” at the Washington Post. What they do is put giant amounts of text into a computer and produce “interactive text collages.”  For example, they put all the Harry Potter novels into a computer and came up with a pastiche that said, “Ron’s ron shirt was just as bad as Ron itself.”  A lot of the weird pastiches they produce are sf.

Onstage at the Hideout, a small Chicago music club, two performers read passages from Civil War love letters. “Oh darling wife of the war,” one begins, “I shall always be a husband to you and the children and all the folks in our neighborhood.” He goes on to complain that “the boys from the army have taken my breakfast.” The news is worse back home. “Our horses are sadly on fire,” his wife laments. But they’re ever reunited, she promises, “I would kiss you as many times as there are stitches in the children.”

Rest assured, every word from these letters is authentic. It’s just that the words have been scrambled up by a computer algorithm and pieced back together, one by one, by writers with an ear for the absurd.

(4) WESTERCON BID NEWS. Seattle (SeaTac, using the same hotel as Norwescon) has formally filed what Kevin Standlee says is likely to be the only bid for the 2020 Westercon.

(5) REINCARNANIMATION. MovieWeb has learned that “Lucasfilm Has Digital Clones of Every Star Wars Actor”.

The digitally recreated Grand Moff Tarkin and Young Princess Leia in Rogue One were unsettling and creepy for some Star Wars fans. But that technology is almost two years old and only improving at an expedient rate. The next time an actor gets digitally inserted into a Star Wars movie, it’s gong to be a lot harder to tell the difference. And before long, the line will be completely burred. Soon, Lucasfilm and Disney could have the potential to create a whole Star Wars movie featuring an authentic young Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, which practical effects built around them. And this will be entirely possible, even for Carrie Fisher, as Lucasfilm has confirmed they have digital clones of all Star Wars actors both young and old.

Incredible, right? As of now, these digital clones are being used sparingly and are often mixed with live-action footage of the actor to create scenes that would be impossible to shoot or are deemed far to expensive to do practically. We’ve seen this with Tarkin and Leia in Rogue One, and we’ve also seen it in The Last Jedi, even if you didn’t know that’s what you were looking at.

(6) MCCANN OBIT. Chuck McCann died April 8 reports Mark Evanier. Much of his career revolved around children’s television, however, the Wikipedia recalls that he was in vogue as a TV/movie actor back in the Seventies —

In the 1970s, McCann’s life and career shifted west, and he relocated to Los Angeles. He made frequent guest appearances on network television shows including Little House on the Prairie, Bonanza, Columbo, The Rockford Files and The Bob Newhart Show. He appeared in the 1973 made-for-TV movie The Girl Most Likely to… and was a regular on Norman Lear’s All That Glitters.

In addition, he co-starred with Bob Denver in CBS’s Saturday-morning sitcom Far Out Space Nuts, which he co-created. The 1970s also brought him fame in a long-running series of commercials for Right Guard antiperspirant: he was the enthusiastic neighbor with the catch phrase “Hi, guy!” who appeared on the other side of a shared medicine cabinet, opposite actor Bill Fiore.

McCann impersonated Oliver Hardy in commercials for various products (teaming with Jim MacGeorge as Stan Laurel),

John King Tarpinian sent along a photo of McCann meeting Ray Bradbury.

Ray Bradbury and Chuck McCann

If you want to see his act, watch “Chuck McCann & Dick Van Dyke as Laurel & Hardy & The Honeymooners.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born April 8, 1974 – Nnedi Okorafor

(8) CANDLES ON THE CAKE. Steven H Silver celebrates Okorafor’s natal day at Black Gate in “Birthday Reviews: Nnedi Okorafor’s ‘Bakasi Man’”.

Nnedi Okorafor was born on April 8, 1974.

Okorafor won her first Carl Brandon Award for the novel The Shadow Speaker and she won the Carl Brandon Award and the World Fantasy Award for her novel Who Fears Death, which was also nominated for the Nebula Award. She won the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award for her novella Binti in 2016. Her fiction has also been nominated for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, the British Science Fiction Association Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Andre Norton Award. Okorafor has collaborated with Alan Dean Foster and Wanuri Kahiu on short diction. She co-edited the anthology Without a Map with Mary Anne Mohanraj.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Daniel Dern is right – Curtis knows how to throw a party.

(10) POISONING PIXELS IN THE SCROLL. Nature celebrates an April birthday boy: “Tom Lehrer at 90: a life of scientific satire”.

Much of Lehrer’s oeuvre — some 50 songs (or 37, by his own ruthless reckoning) composed over nearly three decades — played with tensions at the nexus of science and society. His biggest hit, That Was The Year That Was, covered a gamut of them. This 1965 album gathered together songs Lehrer had written for That Was The Week That Was, the US satirical television show spawned by the BBC original. ‘Who’s Next?’ exposes the dangers of nuclear proliferation. ‘Pollution’ highlights environmental crises building at the time, such as undrinkable water and unbreathable air.

The rousing ballad ‘Wernher von Braun’ undermines the former Nazi — who designed the V-2 ballistic missile in the Second World War and later became a key engineer in the US Apollo space programme. In Lehrer’s view, it was acceptable for NASA to hire von Braun, but making him into an American hero was grotesque. “‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?’/‘That’s not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun” — lines that still resonate in today’s big-tech ethical jungle.

(11) FINDING THE RETRO NOMINEES. Nicholas Whyte, with an assist from Carla, presents “How to get the 1943 Retro Hugo finalists” —

(12) CAST OF FAVORITES. And for your collecting pleasure, here is where you can get a copy of the Fifth Annual Science Fiction Film Awards (1978).

The 5th Annual (first televised) Science Fiction Film Awards. Hosted by Karen Black & William Shatner (who performs an absolutely jaw dropping rendition of Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s “Rocket Man”) Starring Buzz Aldrin, Richard Benjamin, Ray Bradbury, Mark Hamill, Charlton Heston, Wolfman Jack, Quincy Jones, Piper Laurie, Christopher Lee, Paula Prentiss, Ralph the Robot, Lord Darth Vader, and many more. Included are the original broadcast TV commercials from 1978!

(13) GOOD IS NOT BAD. Rich Horton is working his way through the Hugo nominees. Here are his comments on Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty.

…But even before the award nominations, Six Wakes was getting some good notice, and I bought it and read it after the Nebula nod. And, you know what – I liked it. It’s a good fun fast-moving read. I’m glad I read it.

But – well – you saw that coming, right? There had to be a but. The thing is, there are lots of enjoyable novels published any year, and I’m glad when I encounter those. But I can enjoy a novel and not think it worthy of an award. And, really, that’s the case with Six Wakes. It’s fun, it’s pretty darn pure hard SF (with the understanding that “hard SF” absolutely does NOT mean “SF that gets all the science right”), it’s exciting. But, it also has some annoying logic holes, and it doesn’t really engage with the central (and very worthwhile) moral issues it raises as rigorously as I wish it had, and the prose is just OK….

(14) ARISTOTLE. Nitsuh Abebe explores the question “Why Have We Soured on the ‘Devil’s Advocate’?” at the New York Times Magazine.

…That name dates back to the 17th century, when the Roman Catholic Church created an office popularly known as the advocatus diaboli — a person tasked with making the case against the canonization of new saints, scrutinizing every report of their miracles and virtue. How could a claim be trusted, the thinking went, if it hadn’t been rigorously tested? Plenty of educators will still tell you that devil’s advocacy isn’t just useful as a practical matter but also as an intellectual exercise: Imagining other perspectives and plumbing their workings is essential to critical thinking.

But on today’s internet, the devil’s advocate is less admired than ever, and it’s often the advocate’s own fault. The problem isn’t just debate-club tedium. Last year, on Slate, the writer Maya Rupert neatly outlined just how toxic devil’s advocates could be on a topic like race. She noted that they often seemed to be adopting the stance of a disinterested logician in order to air beliefs they knew were socially unacceptable to hold in earnest; the phrase “just to play devil’s advocate,” she wrote, had come to occupy the same role in her life as “not to sound racist, but. … ” A black person continually asked to consider — just hypothetically, just for a moment — whether she was possibly inferior to other humans would have to be masochistically broad-minded to entertain this challenge more than a few times before dismissing it, and the sort of people who presented it, forever.

A little more than a decade ago, around the same time online sentiment began to turn against the devil’s advocate, it also seized on a close cousin: the “concern troll.” If the devil’s advocate playacts disagreement with you for the sake of strengthening your argument, the concern troll is his mirror image, a person who pretends to agree with you in order to undermine you. The concern troll airs disingenuous worries, sows doubt, saps energy, has reservations, worries that things are going too far. At first, the term described purposeful double agents — people like the congressional staffer suspected, back in 2006, of posing as a Democrat to leave comments on liberal blogs suggesting everyone abandon the candidate vying for a Republican incumbent’s seat. But the term has evolved in such a way that, at this point, a person can very easily qualify as a concern troll without even knowing it.

A tidy summary on the “Geek Feminism” Wiki site explains why this is the case: Even earnest concern-airing can be pernicious, turning every discussion into a battle over basic premises. …

(15) UNEVENLY DISTRIBUTED. The BBC reports “The Swedes rebelling against a cashless society” where the elderly are especially likely to be left out.

However, while Sweden’s rush to embrace digital payments has received plenty of global hype, and is frequently flagged as an example of the Nordic nation’s innovation, there are growing concerns about the pace of change.

Some worry about the challenges it poses for vulnerable groups, especially the elderly.

“As long as there is the right to use cash in Sweden, we think people should have the option to use it and be able to put money in the bank,” says Ola Nilsson, a spokesperson for the Swedish National Pensioners’ Organisation, which is lobbying the government on behalf of its 350,000 members.

“We’re not against the cashless society, we just want to stop it from going too fast.”

(16) THE LIGHTS IN THE SKY ARE… What we can see from the ground is only part of what happens: “Hunting mystery giant lightning from space”.

The electrifying effects of storms are frequently observed from the space station.

Yet when lightning strikes downward, something very different is happening above the cloud tops.

Known as Transient Luminous Events (TLEs), these unusual features were first spotted by accident in 1989.

Minnesota professor John R Winckler was testing a television camera in advance of an upcoming rocket launch, when he realised that two frames showed bright columns of light above a distant storm cloud.

(17) SOLVING FOR 2001. The BBC Culture post “Why 2001 remains a mystery” actually dwells less on mystery, and more on interesting parallels with Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.

It’s been 50 years since the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and we’re still trying to make sense of it. Stanley Kubrick’s science-fiction masterpiece is regularly voted as one of the greatest films ever made: BBC Culture’s own critics’ poll of the best US cinema ranked it at number four. But 2001 is one of the most puzzling films ever made, too. What, for instance, is a shiny rectangular monolith doing in prehistoric Africa? Why does an astronaut hurtle through a psychedelic lightshow to another universe, before turning into a cosmic foetus? And considering that the opening section is set millions of years in the past, and the two central sections are set 18 months apart, how much of it actually takes place in 2001?

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Chadwick Boseman hosted Saturday Night Live last night, and appeared in a Black Jeopardy! sketch:

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Kevin Standlee, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Nicholas Whyte, ULTRAGOTHA, Carl Slaughter, Danny Sichel, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ky.]

Pixel Scroll 2/17/18 Scrolls of Mystery and Imagination

By JJ:

(1) THE RIGHT STUFF, WITH A NEW WRINKLE.

Most of you may remember that at just 9 years old I raised funds via GoFundMe to attend my first Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama and that one day I will be an astronaut, scientist and an engineer. Since then outlets like GoFundMe not only help my STEM dreams come true but others as well. Just this year through GoFundMe I raised over $20,000 to send over a 1000 girls to see the movie Hidden Figures because it was important to me that girls know that with drive, determination, and hard work you be anything, a scientist, a mathematician, an engineer, an astronaut or maybe the President of the United States even when the odds are against you!

I am 14 now and using my voice to not only bring girls of color to STEM/STEAM but all kids all over the U.S. and abroad.

I’m so excited about the upcoming movie A Wrinkle in Time, which is scheduled to come out spring 2018.

My goal is to send a 1000 girls to see this movie.

Why? I have a lot of reasons but the main ones are:

  1. It shows young, black girls deserving a chance to be a part of the scifi cultural canon.
  2. It has a female protagonist in a science fiction film. A brown girl front and center who looks like me in the role of Meg, a girl traveling to different planets and encountering beings and situations that I’d never seen a girl of color in.
  3. Most impressive and importantly, it’s a fantasy film that is not about some white boys fighting evil, but about a black girl overcoming it.

Thanks to donors, including a $10,000 gift from JJ Abrams and his wife Katie McGrath, the goal has been exceeded. Richardson says that any funds raised above what is needed for the movie event will go to projects, events, and scholarships to bring diversity and gender equality to the STEM field.

(2) ELIMINATING CONFUSION. The opening weekend of Marvel’s Black Panther film has unsurprisingly been marked by attacks and trolling. No sooner had the screenings started, says Lauren Rearick at Teen Vogue, than posts began appearing on social media claiming that white people who attended showings of the movie were being attacked by black people.

The social media posts in question have used images from previous acts of violence that have absolutely nothing to do with the film. Among the photos being used include a woman who was attacked at a bar in Sweden last month, and Colbie Holderness, ex-wife of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter who recently opened up about alleged domestic abuse.

People on social media are fighting back against the false claims by sharing links to Teen Vogue and other articles documenting the fake photos.

Trolls have also been targeting theatres showing the film, determined to set them straight about the fictional nature of the film:

Variety reported that Black Panther’s box office take after Thursday and Friday reached almost $76 million, marking the eighth-highest opening day ever, and third largest for Marvel, according to comScore.

(3) GIVE THE SHOGGOTH A TIME HUG. Dr. Janelle Shane, whose work with neural networks turned loose on generating Harry Potter fiction, Dungeons & Dragons game scripts, and Christmas Carols has previously featured on File 770, last week set her twisted brainchild to composing Candy Heart messages, using messages taken from real candy as input. The neural network not only uses words it is fed, but it creates what it thinks are similar words to use in its results as well. Some of the stranger romantic messages it generated:

ALL HOVER

OOG LOVE
TIME HUG
SWOOL MAT
BEAR WIG
TWEET UP BAT
LOVE 2000 HOGSYEA
YOU ARE BOA
SWEAT PEAR

Dr. Shane adds:

There was yet another category of message, a category you might be able to predict given the prevalence of four-letter words in the original dataset. The neural network thought of some nice new four-letter words to use. Unfortunately, some of those words already had other meanings. Let’s just say that the overall effect was surprisingly suggestive. Fill out the form here and I’ll send them to you.

(4) ORIGIN STORY. Oor Wombat has revealed the possible inspiration for her Hugo Whalefall speech:

(5) DELIBERATELY SCUTTLED. Barnes and Noble appears to be scaling back operations, as a prelude to a complete shutdown. But the ship didn’t sink on its own, says blogger audreyii_fic in “The entirely unnecessary demise of Barnes & Noble”:

On Monday morning, every single Barnes & Noble location – that’s 781 stores – told their full-time employees to pack up and leave. The eliminated positions were as follows: the head cashiers (those are the people responsible for handling the money), the receiving managers (the people responsible for bringing in product and making sure it goes where it should), the digital leads (the people responsible for solving Nook problems), the newsstand leads (the people responsible for distributing the magazines), and the bargain leads (the people responsible for keeping up the massive discount sections)…

We’re not talking post-holiday culling of seasonal workers. This was the Red Wedding. Every person laid off was a full-time employee. These were people for whom Barnes & Noble was a career. Most of them had given 5, 10, 20 years to the company. In most cases it was their sole source of income.

There was no warning.

But it gets worse…

The Barnes & Noble executives do not intend to rebuild.

How do I know this? Because every decision from the upper levels is being made solely to increase cash on hand.

(6) HOPES DASHED. Benjamin C. Kinney, whose essays on neuroscience have been featured on File 770 in the past, relates a tale of woe in “The Story that Never Was”:

I hit a writer milestone yesterday, though a sad one it is. You see, about a month ago, I had another short story accepted at a professional SFF magazine! I was just waiting on the contract to make it official, and then tell you all about my delightful Fairy Gentrification story. The eldritch diner with the portal between worlds was torn down for condos years ago – but there’s one last fairy chevalier stranded in this world, seeking out the owners’ son.

But, alas, it is not to be. Because the magazine has died, with my story in its casket.

The publication in question, PerVisions, has been defending a trademark suit against their original name, Persistent Visions, by an animation production company of the same name, and according to Publisher Christophe Pettus in a story on Locus Online:

The core reason for us having to stop accepting work is that our budget for acquisitions was largely consumed by a long and unpleasant dispute over the name of the publication. Although the other party was not in the publishing industry and we had no intention of causing any confusion with their services, ultimately, it became clear that no compromise except changing the name of the journal was possible.

Sadly, working through that legal issue was very expensive, and consumed our available capital. I would not ask to publish material that I could not pay a decent rate for, and keeping authors in suspense while the future of the journal is decided is not fair to them.

The website will remain live, so that stories they previously published will be preserved.

(7) BELIEVE IT OR NOT. Deadline reports that the 80s TV series The Greatest American Hero is getting a reboot:

With New Girl coming to an end, series’ co-star Hannah Simone has been tapped for the title role in ABC’s single-camera comedy pilot The Greatest American Hero, from the Fresh Off the Boat duo of Rachna Fruchbom and Nahnatchka Khan. In the reimagining with a gender switch of Steven J. Cannell’s 1981 cult classic, the unlikely (super)hero at the center, played by William Katt in the original, is being reconceived as an Indian-American woman.

 

(8) STANDLEE STILL, STAY SILENT. Kevin Standlee has announced that he will not be adding any Hugo recommendations to the Bay Area Science Fiction Association’s list this year:

I’m not making any Hugo Award recommendations this year. As one of the members of this year’s Hugo Awards Administration Subcommittee, I don’t want my own personal preferences being seen as trying to influence anything. But BASFA continues with its practice of meeting to discuss works/people they think are Award-worthy… if you go to BASFA’s web site, you should see a link to this year’s recommendations. Or you can just download the 2018 BASFA Hugo recommendations PDF directly.

(9) NO ROOM AT THE INN. GenCon attendees with accessibility needs report that this year’s hotel room reservation system is unable to allocate ADA accessible rooms online, and that fans have to wait up to 2 weeks to hear if they have an ADA room. Meanwhile, the hotel room blocks continue to be sold online to other members, and hotels which run out of regular rooms are apparently assigning their ADA rooms to online registrants instead of holding them back for accessibility applicants.

Maria Turner: IMPORTANT PSA:

Housing will no longer be allowed to be traded to avoid cancellation fees.

AND people requesting ADA rooms may not get confirmation they actually got an ADA room for TWO WEEKS!!! This is totally unacceptable. Totally. I am awaiting a response from Gen Con on this matter.

Todd Bunt: I am sad today. My friend a disabled veteran cannot get a room this year since there were no ADA room reserved. He has a hard time walking but the only room he can get is 10 miles away. Last years he got an ADA room in one of the hotels attached to the convention center. (t made it easy for him to go to the room to rest during the day. He was looking forward to going to GenCon this year but that was taken from him. Maybe next year they can hold some ADA rooms for those that need the help.

Daniel Lagos: Has anyone who needed an ADA room at any hotel in the Gencon block, who called and got the answering machine for the call center, actually gotten a call back yet?

I had an 8:44pm time for getting a room, and I left my information in my message. So far, I haven’t gotten a call yet. (more comments follow)

Doug Triplett: Arrrgh. I tried to call the ada line and they shut it off. Said it wasn’t working this weekend. Anyone else had an issue with that today. And in the portal the closest hotel is at least 10 miles away. This sucks!

Miriam Breslauer: NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!

Gencon set my housing request time to 10:28 pm. Because I need an ADA room I had to call them. There was no one there, because it was outside business hours! WTF! I am beyond pissed. Hopefully, they just call me back tomorrow and there are magically still some rooms left.

Not cool Gencon. Not cool at all.

Maria Turner: Does anyone know where one submits an ADA complaint re the hotel reservation process icw a major convention?…

What is wrong with the process is the way the search criteria is processed.

1) ADA requirement is not a component of the housing acquisition query screen

2) Hotels with all available rooms are returned as available

3) it is not until a person goes to a hotel returned from the initial query that one requests an ADA room with no idea if there is even one available at that hotel or not

4) No one will confirm for me if hotels are selling ADA rooms to non-ADA attendees as current law provides if there is demand that exceeds their supply of non-ADA rooms

5) ADA attendees wait up to two weeks to receive confirmation that their reservation for the room and/or hotel they requested is accepted

6) non-ADA attendees receive confirmation immediately their reservation was accepted.

7) ADA attendees may be moved to other hotels

I’ve been back and forth with Mike Boozer regarding the process, and he’s unresponsive citing supply and demand when that’s not the issue.

All the people I know who have obtained ADA rooms have had to do so out of block. I’m not paying $770/night at the JW, so we’ll likely be commuting if we don’t get a room via Authors/Artists housing block this weekend.

ADA Room checkbox needs to sit on that initial screen, the available hotels list returned should be only hotels with ADA room availability.

Thus far, there do not appear to be any posts on Gencon’s Facebook page which address the situation.

(10) ECLECTIC LADY. Janelle Monáe, who starred in the Hugo-nominated Hidden Figures as well as releasing Afrofuturist music albums The ArchAndroid, Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), and The Electric Lady (which was nominated for a Tiptree Award in 2014) has announced a new SFFnal album Dirty Computer:

Janelle Monáe has confirmed early details of her follow up to 2013 album The Electric Lady. Titled Dirty Computer, the album currently has no release date but a trailer starring Monáe alongside actress Tessa Thompson (Thor: Ragnarok and the upcoming Annihilation) can be seen below.

(11) BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born February 17, 1912 – Andre Norton, Author (Beastmaster, Witch World)
  • Born February 17, 1925 – Hal Holbrook, Actor (Capricorn One, Creepshow)
  • Born February 17, 1954 – Rene Russo, Actor (The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, Thor)
  • Born February 17, 1981 – Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Actor (Inception, Looper)
  • Born February 17, 1991 – Bonnie Wright, Actor (Harry Potter)

(12) WALKAWAY GONE WALKABOUT. Cory Doctorow, author of 2017’s Walkaway, will be doing a Down Under book tour for the novel starting next week, with stops in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide in Australia, and Wellington in New Zealand. Perhaps he’ll wave to Camestros as he passes through Aberdeen.

(13) MOUNT TSUNDOKU, IN 12 PARTS. Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics features a story which may sound familiar to many Filers: My Bookshelf

(14) A NOVEL WAY TO DEAL WITH MARKETING SPAM.

(15) RE-VISITING A… ER, CLASSIC? According to SyFy, a feature film version of the TV series “V” is in the works:

Desilu Studios has announced it’s going to bring V The Movie, based on the classic 1983 miniseries, to theaters in a big-budget film version that will be written and directed by Kenneth Johnson, creator of the original show.

The two-part miniseries aired on NBC in 1983 and chronicled an invasion of Earth by vicious reptilian aliens who disguised themselves as friendly humanoids, triggering a human resistance movement. A metaphor for revolution against a fascist government, V was hugely popular with audiences, spawning a 1984 sequel, V: The Final Battle, a short-lived 1985 show called V: The Series, and a 2009 reboot that lasted for two seasons on ABC.

Casting, production details, and a release date for V The Movie are all yet to be determined.

(16) MORE YOUNG PEOPLE READ OLD SFF. This time out, James Davis Nicoll has them reading Tanith Lee’s horror story “The Gorgon”, and the reactions cross the whole spectrum, from “intriguing and mysterious” to “annoying and racist”, with some bonus commentary on imprudent alcohol consumption.

(17) THE NO AWARD AWARD. In the February 2, 2018, issue of the Times Literary Supplement, J.C. says:

In early December, we stumbled on a blog at the Paris Review Daily site, written by Ursula K. Le Guin, on the subject of one of our most coveted awards, the Jean-Paul Sartre Prize for Prize Refusal. It is open to any writer who has refused a literary prize.

“I first learned about the Sartre Prize from NB”, Ms Le Guin wrote, “the last page of London’s Times Literary Supplement, signed by J.C. The fame of the award, named for the writer who refused the Nobel in 1964, is or anyhow should be growing fast.” Ms Le Guin flattered us further by quoting from a past NB: “So great is the status of the Jean-Paul Sartre Prize for Prize Refusal that writers all over Europe and America are turning down awards in the hope of being nominated for a Sartre”. As we noted at the time, and Ms Le Guin repeated it, “The Sartre Prize itself has never been refused”…

Ursula Le Guin died on January 22, aged eighty-eight. She left us with an idea, however: “I do hope you will recommend me to the Basement Labyrinth so that I can refuse to be even nominated, thus earning the Pre-Refusal of Awards Award, which has yet to be named”. It has a name now: The Ursula K. Le Guin Prize, for writers who refuse shortlisting, longlisting and any other form of nomination for literary prizes. The essay, “A Much Needed Literary Award”, is included in her final book, No Time To Spare: Thinking About What Matters, published in December last year.

(18) MARKET REPORT. David Steffen has compiled the “SFWA Market Report for February” for the SFWA Blog, listing those publications which are opening or closing for submissions.

(19) STROSS SHOUTS AT CLOUDS. Not every SF work needs to conform to strict worldbuilding standards, writes Cora Buhlert “In Defence of Wallpaper Science Fiction”:

A few days ago, Paul Weimer pointed me on Twitter to this post by Charles Stross in which Stross laments the current state of the science fiction genre, because a lot of SF writers these days focus more on plot, action, characters and their relationships than on worldbuilding, particularly on economics, which is the aspect of worldbuilding that is closest to Stross’ heart.

Whenever Stross posts a variation of this “other people are doing science fiction wrong” rant, it inevitably gets my hackles up…

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a kernel of truth in Stross’ post. Because all too often, things show up in science fiction, just because “that’s the way things are”, whether in genre or life, regardless if this makes sense in this particular setting. The prevalence of Galactic Empires vaguely modeled on the Roman or British Empire in science fiction is a result of tropes being imported from other genre works unexamined, as is the fact that every future military ever is either modelled on the US Marine Corps of the 20th/21st centuries or the British Royal Navy of the 18th and 19th centuries and that every starship is modelled on a modern aircraft carrier…

So if all that Stross’ post did was implore science fiction writers to interrogate their worldbuilding choices and ask themselves “Why did I choose this?” and “Does this even make sense for the world that I built and if not, how can I make it fit?”, I would probably have heartily applauded. However, that’s not all he does.

(20) THE PUNCH LINE. So an SFF writer, a zombie, and a cat walk into a bar…

(21) THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS.  A Kickstarter has gone live for Tiny Wastelands, a post-apocalyptic RPG, and it’s already blown way past its goal in the first few days, racking up $22,906 in pledges against its original goal of $6,000.

Tiny Wastelands is post-apocalyptic roleplaying in a minimalist package! Using the rules in this book, you’ll be able to play survivors of lost and destroyed civilizations, mutants rampaging the wastelands and so, so much more.

Stretch goals include additional micro-settings for the game written by various authors, including this one already achieved:

$14,000: Paul Weimer takes us to High Plains Drift!

“The High Plains of the Dakotas are wide, flat, and deadly. Between the mutant prairie dogs, what lurks in the minuteman silos, and the farmers turned bandits who have adapted farm tractors to war vehicles, survival on the plains is nasty, brutish and short.

What makes it unique? Farm Tractor war vehicles, mutant wildlife and endless horizons in a hardscrabble world.”

(22) WHICH CAME FIRST? Hampus Eckerman believes that Filers will enjoy this SFF film short from 2016:

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton, Cora Buhlert, Hampus Eckerman, lauowolf, PJ Evans, RedWombat, Standback for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 Contributing Editor of the Day JJ.]