Pixel Scroll 10/11/18 My Pixels Touched Dog Pixels! Agh!

(1) F&SF. Gordon Van Gelder shared F&SF’s Nov/Dec 2018 issue cover:

(2) ISS CREW OKAY AFTER FAILED TAKEOFF. Astronauts bound for the ISS safely returned when their rocket failed soon after launch — “Space crew survives plunge to Earth after Russian rocket fails”.

A Russian cosmonaut and a U.S. astronaut were safe on Thursday after a Soyuz rocket bound for the International Space Station failed in mid-air two minutes after liftoff in Kazakhstan, leading to a dramatic emergency landing.

The two-man crew, Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and American Nick Hague, landed unharmed on the Kazakh desert steppe as rescue crews raced to reach them, according to the U.S. space agency NASA and Russia’s space agency Roscosmos.

The mishap occurred as the first and second stages of a Russian booster rocket separated shortly after the launch from Kazakhstan’s Soviet-era cosmodrome of Baikonur.

(3) WHALE OF A TALE. L.A. Smith has a fascinating writeup about this 8th century artifact — “The Franks Casket” – carved from whalebone.

…So, the pictures and inscriptions on the casket are a great source of scholarly discussion. To top it all off, there seems to also be some numerological significance to the number of runes on the casket. There are 72 runes on the front and left panels, and a total of 288 runes in total. The 72 could correspond to the 72 disciples mentioned in the Latin Vulgate Bible familiar to the Anglo-Saxons. The number 288 is a multiple of 24, which is the number of runes in an early continental Anglo-Saxon runic alphabet, which had magical significance for the Anglo-Saxons.

Phew! No wonder many scholars have devoted so much time and effort on trying to decipher the runes and pictures on this little box. The more you look at it, the more you discover.

This beautiful box has so much to tell us about this fascinating period in England’s history….

(4) ANIME TRIAGE. Petréa Mitchell reviews 15 anime series and approves many as the title of her Amazing Stories post hints — “Anime roundup 10/11/2018: Sturgeon Takes a Holiday”. For example —

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime premiere – Satoru Mikami is a single geek who suddenly gets stabbed to death on a Tokyo street, only to find himself in a fantasy world, granted fabulous powers, and hobnobbing with a mighty dragon. Typical light-novel power fantasy, right? Well, there are a couple of catches. One is that he’s been reborn as the weakest creature possible. The other concerns the visual presentation of the show itself.

When adapting a popular property, a show is expected to make a predictable amount of money off selling Blu-Rays and merchandise to hardcore fans. Since those fans will buy it no matter what, most shows like this have a look about them that the only minimum necessary effort was made. In this case, a similar calculation seems to have been made, only the conclusion was that those fans will still mindlessly purchase it if it turns into an art film.

This premiere is one visual treat after another, from the careful attention to detail in the movement and posture of people in modern Tokyo, to the trippy mixed-media imagery as Satoru falls into another reality, to the wild expressiveness wrung from a ball of goo. This still has some of the usual problems of light-novel adaptations— the protagonist is already ridiculously overpowered, too much game terminology, and a lot of time spent sitting around and talking— but between the unique twist and the look of this episode, it’s actually enjoyable.

(5) FIRST MAN REVIEW. NPR’s Linda Holmes reports that “‘First Man’ Considers Glory, Grief And A Famous Walk On The Moon”:

…We encounter Armstrong at three points: 1961, leading up to the start of his training as an astronaut; 1965, just before his first space flight; and 1968, as he prepares to be the first person to walk on the moon. His family life progresses alongside his much more famous professional one: the loss of his two-year-old daughter from brain cancer, the grief that nearly consumes him after, the sacrifices that his service demands from his wife, Janet (Claire Foy), and his relationship with his two boys, to whom he hesitates to explain the dangers of space travel….

(6) WHAT WE LEARNED FROM WAR GAMES. The answer is: absolutely nothing. BBC reports “US weapons systems can be ‘easily hacked'”.

…The committee’s members expressed concerns about how protected weapon systems were against cyber-attacks.

The report’s main findings were:

  • the Pentagon did not change the default passwords on multiple weapons systems – and one changed password was guessed in nine seconds…

So, does the United States use its birthday as a password? – July41776….

(7) RIVERDALE RECAP. A public service message from Martin Morse Wooster:

For people who are wondering how much Riverdale is like Archie Comics, I offer the folllowing recap of last night’s show.

Archie Andrews was found guilty of murder, but he was framed by Veronica’s father.  The underground offers to sneak him into Quebec but he decides to stay in Riverdale and take his punishment.

Veronica finds out where the jury in Archie’s trial is sequestered and sneaks into the hotel in a maid’s outfit but is thrown out before she can engage in jury tampering.

Betty is an Adderall addict and is stopped before she can fill a forged prescription.

But the gang still relaxes at Pop’s Malt Shop!

Also, I learned that fans who want Betty and Jughead to have a relationship are known as “Bugheads.”

(8) GLASS. M. Night Shyamalan’s next picture, about tortured people with superpowers, will be released in the U.S. on January 18, 2019.

M. Night Shyamalan brings together the narratives of two of his standout originals—2000’s Unbreakable, from Touchstone, and 2016’s Split, from Universal—in one explosive, all-new comic-book thriller: Glass. From Unbreakable, Bruce Willis returns as David Dunn as does Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price, known also by his pseudonym Mr. Glass. Joining from Split are James McAvoy, reprising his role as Kevin Wendell Crumb and the multiple identities who reside within, and Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke, the only captive to survive an encounter with The Beast. Following the conclusion of Split, Glass finds Dunn pursuing Crumb’s superhuman figure of The Beast in a series of escalating encounters, while the shadowy presence of Price emerges as an orchestrator who holds secrets critical to both men.

 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 11, 1922 – G.C. Edmondson (José Mario Garry Ordoñez Edmondson y Cotton), Author from Mexico who mostly wrote Westerns under several pen names – and, being fluent in six languages, he also did translations – but produced a number of science fiction works, many involving time travel and Latin America, including the Nebula Award-nominated The Ship That Sailed the Time Stream and its sequel, the trilogy The Cunningham Equations (co-written with C. M. Kotlan), and numerous short works in his Mad Friend universe.
  • Born October 11, 1928 – Doris Piserchia, 90, Author of more than a dozen of what multiple sources call “darkly comic novels”, including her penultimate novel, I, Zombie which she published under the pseudonym Curt Selby, and a somewhat larger number of short fiction works. Because she had a story in The Last Dangerous Visions, she has been labelled New Wave by some who didn’t do their research properly. Like most genre writers of the 70s and 80s, she has greatly benefited from digital publishing, with all of her backlist now republished in that format.
  • Born October 11, 1944 – Patrick Parrinder, 74, Writer and Critic from England who is one of the foremost experts on H. G. Wells, having written works specializing on that author subtitled Shadows of the Future, Science Fiction and Prophecy, and The Critical Heritage. Not to be mistaken as a one-trick pony, he’s also penned Science Fiction: Its Criticism and Teaching and Utopian Literature and Science.
  • Born October 11, 1944 – Julek Heller, 74, Artist and Illustrator from Jerusalem who emigrated to England, who did cover art for around 80 novels and more than 50 works of interior art, mostly in the 80s and 90s, including covers for works by Norton, Moorcock, Silverberg’s Majipoor series, and several Mammoth Books. He also provided artwork for the 1978 TV series Pinocchio.
  • Born October 11, 1945 – Gay Haldeman, 73, Writer, Translator, and Member of First Fandom who has Masters degrees in Linguistics and Spanish. A fan and con-goer since 1963, she has contributed many letters, essays, and convention reports to genre and fannish publications, a fair number of them written in Spanish. She and her author husband Joe have been Guests of Honor at numerous conventions – including a relaxacon in Sydney, Australia named Haldecon – and she has been much in demand as a con Toastmaster. She and Joe were given the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award (NESFA’s Skylark Award) in 1996.
  • Born October 11, 1950 – William R. Forstchen, 68, Writer and Historian, whose early novel series included Ice Prophet, Wars of Heaven, Gamestar Wars, and The Lost Regiment, and more recently the One Second After post-apocalyptic novels. Has also contributed novels to the Star Trek, Riftwar, and Wing Commander universes. He was Guest of Honor at InConJunction XIX.
  • Born October 11, 1953 – David Morse, 65, Actor, Writer, Singer, and Director, who has had main roles in the Hugo-nominated Twelve Monkeys, The Green Mile, The Boy, Double Vision, the Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge-inspired Passengers, and the Hugo-winning film adaptation of Carl Sagan’s Locus-winning Contact, as well as parts in World War Z, Joe Hill’s Horns, TV series Friday the 13th: The Series, Tales from the Crypt, SeaQuest DSV, Medium, and Blindspot, and the Stephen King miniseries The Langoliers.
  • Born October 11, 1962 – Joan Cusack, 56, Actor and Writer especially known for comedic roles, who had main parts in the Hugo-nominated Addams Family Values (for which she received a Saturn nomination), the film adaptation of David Gerrold’s Hugo- and Nebula-winning The Martian Child, It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, and a plethora of voice roles in animated features including the Hugo-nominated Toy Story movies and TV specials, Chicken Little, and Mars Needs Moms.
  • Born October 11, 1965 – Lennie James, 53, Actor, Screenwriter, and Playwright from England who has had main roles in the genre TV series The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, and Jericho, and movie roles in Blade Runner 2049, Sahara, Lockout, and the (in JJ’s opinion) vastly-underrated Lost in Space.
  • Born October 11, 1965 – Sean Patrick Flanery, 53, Actor who starred in the TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and also had lead roles in the genre films Powder, Demon Hunter, The Insatiable, Veritas, Prince of Truth, InSight, The Devil’s Carnival, and The Evil Within, and guest roles on Stargate: SG-1, The Twilight Zone, The Dead Zone, The Outer Limits, Charmed, and Touched by an Angel.
  • Born October 11, 1972 – Claudia Black, 46, Actor from Australia best known for her roles as Aeryn Sun on Farscape (for which she won a Saturn Award) and Vala Mal Doran on Stargate SG-1 (for which she won a Constellation Award, Canada’s counterpart to the Saturn Award), who also appeared in the films Pitch Black and Queen of the Damned. Her first genre role was as Cassandra on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, followed by episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess, Beastmaster, The Dresden Files and Haven, a recurring role on The Originals, and a main role on Containment. She has also provided character voices to animated films and TV series, and a very large number of videogames, including Uncharted, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and Final Fantasy.
  • Born October 11, 1972 – Nir Yaniv, 46, Writer, Editor, Musician, and Fan from Israel who in 2000 founded the webzine of the Israeli Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy and was its chief editor for seven years. He later edited several issues of Chalomot Be’aspamia, Israel’s only professional printed science fiction and fantasy magazine. He co-authored with Lavie Tidhar the short novel The Tel Aviv Dossier, and has published a collection of his short fiction, The Love Machine and Other Contraptions; several of his stories have been translated into English by Tidhar. As a musician, he created the first Hebrew-language SF music-themed album, The Universe in a Pita, and more recently has begun writing and directing short films of strong genre interest.
  • Born October 11, 1974 – Ian Mond, 44, Writer, Critic, and Podcaster from Australia who has published a dozen of his own stories, plus a few Doctor Who stories. He was Tuckerized by fellow Australian and Doctor Who writer Kate Orman in the tie-in novel Blue Box. For eight years, he co-hosted with Kirstyn McDermott the Hugo-nominated and Ditmar-winning book podcast, The Writer and the Critic, and his reviews of genre fiction have garnered him two Atheling nominations. He started reviewing for Locus Online in June this year.
  • Born October 11, 1978 – Wes Chatham, 40, Actor best known for a main role in the Hugo-winning TV series The Expanse, as well as a role in the two-movie Hunger Games installment Mockinjay.
  • Born October 11, 1974 – Doona Bae, 34, Actor from South Korea whose most notable genre role has been as a lead in the TV series Sense8 but has also had roles in Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending, as well as several South Korean science fiction and horror films including The Ring Virus and The Host and the manga adaptation Air Doll.
  • Born October 11, 1985 – Michelle Trachtenberg, 33, Actor and Producer who started early in genre roles with a guest role on Space Cases at the age of 11 and a main role on Meego at the age of 12. At 14, she took on a main role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for which she received 3 Saturn nominations. Her other appearances include the films Inspector Gadget, Can’t Be Heaven, Richie Rich’s Christmas Wish, Black Christmas, 17 Again, and The Scribbler, and guest spots on the live-action and animated TV series Sleepy Hollow, Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Robot Chicken, The Super Hero Squad Show, SuperMansion, and Superman/Shazam. She currently has a starring voice role in the animated SF series Human Kind Of.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) FRANKENSTEIN. Sean O’Hara talks about how Mary Shelley’s preface to the book was an attempt to whitewash her life — “The History of Frankenstein Part I: Lies, Damned Lies, and Mary Shelley’s Preface to Frankenstein”

Most of us are familiar with the tale of how Mary Shelley came to write Frankenstein — how she and her husband Percy were on vacation in Switzerland and happened to be staying near Lord Byron, and on a dark and stormy night, after reading some German horror stories, they decided to have a contest to see who could write the scariest story. It all sounds so genteel. Something you’d see on Masterpiece Theater.

It’s also pure BS.

Mary and her step-sister Claire were the Kardashians of the early 19th Century. And I don’t mean they were wild by the standards of their day. They did things that would still make the front page of TMZ. If they were alive today, they’d be feuding with Beyonce and Taylor Swift, I guarantee it.

So where did the sanitized version of the story come from?

Why Mary Shelley herself….

— Then steps back to look at her mother, the feminist philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft: “The History of Frankenstein Part II: That Time the World’s First Feminist Married the World’s First Libertarian”.

But their happiness was short lived. Wollstonecraft became pregnant at the end of 1796, and she and Godwin decided, despite their mutual misgivings about marriage, to wed so their child would be legitimate. But Wollstonecraft was by now thirty-eight, an age at which child birth became dangerous. Her daughter Mary was born safely, but Wollstonecraft contracted a postpartum infection and died a mere two weeks later, leaving her two daughters in the care of a forty year old man who had spent his entire life as a bachelor.

There are several more posts in this series at O’Hara’s blog, Yes, We Have No Culottes.

(12) KIRBY YOUR ENTHUSIASM. Scott Bradfield recommends “Reading irresponsibly with Jack Kirby” at the LA Times.

Probably what I miss most in our perilous, terrifying and end-of-times-like historical era is the ability to read irresponsibly. There’s just too much responsible reading around; it can drive you to drink. Everything we’re supposed to read keeps looming up out of the darkness, bristling with portents, economic data, apocalyptic planetary crises and an endless urgent blizzard of news bulletins about tweets, personal liberties, gun violence and conflagrations both natural and metaphorical — all of which require more sober attention than most of us can muster. Increasingly (and understandably), reading has become a duty to be performed by conscientious citizens and students. And I’m sorry, but jeez, that just isn’t right.

When I was young, reading irresponsibly was easy. I did it all the time. In fact, well into my late teens and early 20s I could easily lose myself in books and comics; it just came with the territory.

(13) WFA CONTENDER. Lela E. Buis sings the praises of a World Fantasy Award nominee: “Review of City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty”.

…So, counter to the depressive trend in the WFA finalists this year, this is a romance and an intrigue. All these people are lying to each other, and political groups are plotting right and left. Daevabad is exotic, the details of the city life, the temples and the palace very well assembled. I didn’t have any problems visualizing the people, the creatures or the scenery–the author has done a lot of research. The characters are slightly flat, but the story is more focused on the action and intrigue than on revealing their deepest inner thoughts. The reader is left to deduce a lot of what’s going on from their actions….

(14) MURDER MOST ‘BOT. And Buis gives five stars to the conclusion of the Murderbot series, but says it is not flawless – “Review of Exit Strategy by Martha Wells”.

On the not so great side, I’ve got some nits to pick with the whole story arc at this point. I suspect the series was written fairly quickly, as Wells has said it’s a short story that got out of control, and after the huge success of the first novella, she quickly got in gear to produce the rest. Tor was also in a hurry to follow up on the initial success, and went light on the editing. That means there are some inconsistencies in the content.

(15) CHIBNALL ON WHO. Showrunner Chris Chibnall discusses his new vision for Doctor Who.

(16) WHO PANEL AT NYCC. Here’s the full Doctor Who panel from New York Comic-Con 2018, with Jodie Whittaker, Chris Chibnall and Matt Strevens.

(17) THE NOSE KNOWS. io9’s Germain Lussier is thrilled to hear that “The Most Disgusting Scenes in Star Wars Are Now Scented Candles”.

Scents like “Trash Compactor,” “Inside of a Tauntaun,” “Rancor,” and “Sarlacc Pit” are just some of the scents available in these new, officially licensed candles. There are some more pleasant sounding ones, too, like “Bantha Milk,” “X-Wing Cockpit” and “Yoda’s Cooking Pot”—as well as just plain weird ones like “Death Star Destroyed,” “Millennium Falcon,” “Han Solo Carbonite” and “Lightsaber Duel.”

(18) AND SMALLER FLEAS TO BITE ‘EM. Science Alert is sure “You’ll Never Guess What Scientists Want to Call The Moon of a Moon”.

Stars have planets, and planets have satellites we call moons; but can a moon have its own satellite? And if it did, what would we call it?

In a paper currently up on pre-print resource arXiv, astronomers Juna Kollmeier of the Carnegie Institution for Science and Sean Raymond of the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Bordeaux have called them submoons.

But other scientists are using the far more delightful term moonmoon, so that’s what we’re going to go for.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In La Futur Sera Chauve (The Bald Future) on Vimeo, Paul Cabon imagines how limited his life will be when he loses his hair.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/4/18 Your Pixeled Pal Who’s Fun To Scroll With!

(1) AMERICA HELD HOSTAGE, DAY FOUR. Crusading investigative fanwriter Camestros Felapton has been trying to find out why the Dragon Awards ballot wasn’t released August 1, the date posted on the site, and when it will come out. Here’s what he’s been told:

The latest report is this. I got an email saying that the finalists will be announced this upcoming Tuesday (presumably US time). Don’t all get too excited at once.

(2) COME BACK, JEAN-LUC. “Patrick Stewart to star in new Star Trek TV series”Entertainment Weekly has the story.

Stewart will reprise his iconic character, Jean-Luc Picard, for a CBS All Access series that “will tell the story of the next chapter of Picard’s life.”

Stewart himself just announced the news in a surprise appearance at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention.

“I will always be very proud to have been a part of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but when we wrapped that final movie in the spring of 2002, I truly felt my time with Star Trek had run its natural course,” Stewart said. “It is, therefore, an unexpected but delightful surprise to find myself excited and invigorated to be returning to Jean-Luc Picard and to explore new dimensions within him. Seeking out new life for him, when I thought that life was over.”

And Michael Chabon will be one of the executive producers reports Variety.

The untitled series hails from Alex Kurtzman, James Duff, Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, and Kirsten Beyer. Kurtzman, Duff, Goldsman, and Chabon will also serve as executive producers on the series along with Stewart, Trevor Roth, Heather Kadin, and Rod Roddenberry. CBS Television Studios will produce. The new series does not currently have a premiere date

(3) BOREANAZ ON BUFFY. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo Entertainment story “David Boreanaz has no plans to be in controversial ‘Buffy’ reboot: ‘I just let it be and lend my support from afar'” says that Boreanaz is too busy with SEAL Team to worry about the forthcoming Buffy reboot (which is controversial because showrunner Monica Owusu-Breen might find a new actor to play Buffy) but he doesn’t have any objections to it.

 “I think it’s great,” says David Boreanaz, who played the ensouled vampire Angel on Buffy for three seasons before graduating to his own self-titled spin-off. “I’m sure they’ll find the right storylines and the right people to fill shoes of whatever characters they want to portray. It was great to be a part of it when it first started, and now to see it being revived is just another testimony to the hard work that we did. I congratulate that, and applaud that.”

(4) KRESS REQUEST. Nancy Kress announced on Facebook:

A few people have asked if I will autograph their books at Worldcn San Jose. However, I was disappointed that Programming Reboot has given me no panels, no autographing session, and no kaffeklatch. I do have one reading, at 4:30 on Sunday, which I cannot linger afterwards because of a Hugo dinner. So if anyone wants anything autographed, I will hang around the Hyatt lobby at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday.

(5) REACHING OUT TO HUGHART. Mike Berro, who runs the Barry Hughart Bibliography website is asking for help:

If anyone knows how to contact Barry Hughart, please let me know. I run a fan page, and would constantly get emails from people wanting to contact him, mostly about doing a movie or theatrical adaptation of Bridge of Birds. I would forward them to him, and he would always politely reply (with “no thanks”). I haven’t had a reply now for over a year, and just got an email from someone who reported that even his publishers cannot contact him. I fear something unfortunate has happened.

Berro says neither SFWA nor Subterranean Press have been able to offer any help.

Mike Berro’s contact email address is — hughart@collector.org

(6) PRO ADVICE. Not certain who Mary Robinette Kowal had in mind, although JDA was sure it was about him. (Of course, he thinks everything is.)

(7) CLOUDS OF WITNESSES. Crisis Magazine recalls “When C.S. Lewis Befriended a Living Catholic Saint”.

When Luigi Calabria, a shoemaker married to a housemaid, died in Verona, Italy in 1882, the youngest of his seven sons, Giovanni, nine years old, had to quit school and take a job as an apprentice. A local parish priest, Don Pietro Scapini, privately tutored him for the minor seminary, from which he took a leave to serve two years in the army. During that time, he established a remarkable reputation for edifying his fellow soldiers and converting some of them. Even before ordination, he established a charitable institution for the care of poor sick people and, as a parish priest, in 1907 he founded the Poor Servants of Divine Providence. The society grew, receiving diocesan approval in 1932. The women’s branch he started in 1910 would become a refuge for Jewish women during the Second World War. To his own surprise, since he was a rather private person, his order spread from Italy to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, India, Kenya, Romania, and the Philippines.

With remarkable economy of time, he was a keen reader, and in 1947 he came across a book translated as Le lettere di Berlicche by a professor at the University of Milan, Alberto Castelli, who later became a titular archbishop as Vice President of the Pontifical Council of the Laity. Berlicche was Screwtape and “Malacode” served for Wormwood. The original, of course, had been published in 1943 as The Screwtape Letters and Calabria was so taken with it that he sent a letter of appreciation to the author in England. Lacking English, he wrote it in the Latin with which he had become proficient since his juvenile tutorials with Don Pietro.

… Lewis’s correspondence with Calabria went on for about seven years, and after the holy priest died, Lewis wrote at least seven letters to another member of Calabria’s religious community, Don Luigi Castelli, who died in 1986 at the age of 96. Learning of Calabria’s death, Lewis referred to him in a message to Castelli with what I suspect was a deliberate invocation of the phrase about “the dearly departed” that Horace used to console Virgil on the death of Quintilius Varo: tam carum caput. It appears as well in Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley Novels. It was an unfortunate habit of Lewis to throw out letters he received when he thought he might otherwise betray confidences. So what we have are only what he sent. The letters are a radiant model of philia friendship that he described in his 1958 radio talks:

(8) WHO’S THE HERO? John Dilillo claims “Amazon’s Proposed ‘Lord of the Rings’ Series Misses the Point of Middle-Earth” at Film School Rejects.

…Every conventionally heroic duty performed by Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings is performed in service of a greater act of heroism by Hobbits, characters who choose their own destiny instead of following the path their bloodline lays out for them. Without Hobbits, Middle-earth is just another cliched fantasy tapestry, painting with the same old tired strokes. What makes Aragorn special is not his heritage or his backstory; it is that he recognizes that he is not the hero of this story. Aragorn is the king who bows to the Hobbits. Stripped of that identity, he is indistinguishable from any other gruff sword-wielding badass.

On top of all this, we’ve already seen the type of story that results from a Tolkien adaptation that loses sight of true heroism in favor of grand tales of redeemed sons and doomed kings. The great failing of the Hobbit trilogy is that it abandons its titular character all too often in favor of the gloomy angst of Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield. Armitage does a fine job projecting gloomy wounded pride, and whoever assumes the lead role in Amazon’s series will doubtless give just as effective a performance. But all of that is ultimately wasted when the real appeal of a Middle-earth story comes from the Shire, not the Lonely Mountain. A Hobbit story that isn’t about Bilbo Baggins is a failure, and it’s a failure that should be learned from….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 4 — Richard Belzer, 74. The Third Rock fromThe Sun series as himself, also the Species II film and an awful adaption of Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, along with series work too in The X-Files, The Invaders, Human Target, and acrecurring role in the original Flash series to name a few of his genre roles.
  • Born August 4 — Daniel Dae Kim, 50. First genre role was in the NightMan series, other roles include the Brave New World tv film, the second Fantasy Island series, recurring roles on LostAngel and Crusade, the Babylon 5 spinoff series, Star Trek: Voyager, Charmed and voice work on Justice League Unlimited.
  • Born August 4 — Abigail Spencer, 37. First genre role was in the Campfire horror anthology series, other roles include Ghost Whisperer, Jekyll, a film that’s an sf riff off that meme, Cowboys & Aliens, the Oz the Great and Powerful film and Timeless, the sf series recently allowed a proper ending
  • Born August 4 — Meaghan Markle, 37. Yes, Her Royalness. Appeared in Fringe and the newer Knight Rider. Also the near future legal drama Century City.

(10) INSTAPOLL. Survey says –

(11) KEN LIU TO TV. Andrew Liptak says an animated show is on the way: “AMC is developing a sci-fi show based on Ken Liu’s short stories”.

Ken Liu is one of science fiction’s most celebrated writers working today. In addition to translating Cixin Liu’s acclaimed Three Body Problem and Death’s End, he’s also earned numerous awards, most significantly for his short story, “The Paper Menagerie”. Now, it looks as though his works could reach a new audience: AMC is developing series based on his works called Pantheon, according to Deadline.

If it’s produced, Pantheon will be an animated show “based on a series of short stories by [Liu] about uploaded intelligence,” reports Deadline. Craig Silverstein, who created and produced AMC’s American revolution drama Turn, will serve as showrunner, producer, and writer.

(12) SOLO. Lela E. Buis points out the casting problems: “Review of Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

…The worst problem with this film, of course, was Alden Ehrenreich trying to step into Harrison Ford’s shoes. Ehrenreich did a workmanlike job with the character, but workmanlike just isn’t Han Solo. Donald Glover as Calrissian got glowing reviews, but it was really the charismatic Woody Harrelson as Beckett who lights up the film—an understated, low key performance notwithstanding. Also prominent was Lando’s co-pilot L3-37, an animated character fighting against the slavery of droids.

This brings up another question. Why isn’t Disney investing in flashier talent for these movies?

(13) BAEN CHALLENGE COINS. Baen Books is taking orders for the first pressing of its new Challenge  Coins commemorating iconic names or events in the books of Ringo, Williamson, Kratman and probably whoever else you’d expect to fill out a list that starts with those three names.

Each coin is $15. Buy all 13 author coins, and the “I Read Baen’d Books” coin comes free. Shipping and handling is a flat rate of $15, $45 international, for up to 13 coins. Write to info@baen.com for rates on bulk orders.

These coins were designed by Jack Wylder with the active participation of the authors. Here’s an example —

Front: I Read Baen’d Books

Reverse: RIP Joe Buckley

All profits from this coin will go to support two charities founded, supported, and run by Baen readers: Operation Baen Bulk, which provides care packages for deployed service members, and Read Assist, a 501c3 company that serves our disabled readers. http://www.readassist.org/ Each coin is $15. Buy all 13 author coins, and the “I Read Baen’d Books” coin comes free. “I read Baened Books” was first used by Chris French. “Joe Buckley” used courtesy of Joe Buckley. Don’t forget to duck

(14) A CENTURY OF STURGEON. Scott Bradfield tries to jumpstart the party — “Celebrating Theodore Sturgeon’s centenary – so should we all” in the LA Times. (Unfortunately, the Times initially failed to get David Gerrold’s permission to run his photo of Sturgeon with the post…)

I’ve always been a bit confused by these various centenary and multi-centenary celebrations that punctuate our discussions of literature, such as Thoreau’s recent 200th birthday (2017), or the centenary of James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” (first published in 1917), or even the fourth centenary of the death of Cervantes (d. 1616), etc. (By the way, celebrating the anniversary of someone’s death strikes me as pretty grisly.) But while some writers seem to continually receive such posthumous honors, others suffer unfairly in silence. No cake, no candles, no old friends leaping out of closets, no nothing. And this year, that seems to be the case for one of America’s greatest and most original short story writers, Theodore Sturgeon, who was born on Feb. 26, 1918. From what I can tell, nobody has yet to pitch in and even buy him a decent card.

…Take, for example, the opening of his brilliant (and often poorly imitated) 1941 novelette, “Microcosmic God”: “Here is a story about a man who had too much power, and a man who took too much, but don’t worry; I’m not going political on you. The man who had the power was named James Kidder, and the other was his banker.”

Or this, from the aforementioned “The Dreaming Jewels” (1950): “They caught the kid doing something disgusting under the bleachers at the high-school stadium, and he was sent home from the grammar school across the street.”

Or even this, from his haunting and beautiful story, “The Man Who Lost the Sea” (1959): “Say you’re a kid, and one dark night you’re running along the cold sand with this helicopter in your hand, saying very fast witchy-witchy-witchy.”

Every opening plops you down bang in the middle of a story that is already happening and in the life of a character it is already happening to. And while many of his stories were collected in “horror” or “suspense” anthologies, they are rarely shocking or violent or grotesque. Instead, they begin by introducing you to a slightly strange world and a slightly strange character who lives there; then, before the story is over, you both feel at home in the world and compassion for the character who now lives there with you.

The greatness of Sturgeon’s stories reside in their almost inflexible, relentless unfolding of strangely logical events and relationships; each sentence is as beautiful and convincing as the last; and the science-fictional inventions never rely on tricks or deus ex machinas to reach a satisfying resolution; instead, a Sturgeon story always resolves itself at the level of the all-too-human.

(15) ACCESS. At io9 Ace Ratcliff asks “Staircases in Space: Why Are Places in Science Fiction Not Wheelchair-Accessible?”

I never used to notice stairs. They were simply a way for me to get from one place to another. Occasionally they were tiresome, but they never actually stymied or stopped me entirely. Eventually, I managed to get where I needed to go.

Then I started using a wheelchair. Suddenly, stairs became a barrier that prevented me from getting from here to there. One step was often enough to stop me in my tracks. It turns out that when you start using a wheelchair, you quickly realize that there are a lot of staircases and steps in our world—and a lot of broken (or nonexistent) elevators and ramps….

Once you start realizing how many stairs there are stopping you in real life, it becomes impossible not to notice them existing in the sci-fi you adore. Turns out they’re everywhere, in all of our sci-fi. Whether it’s decades-old or shiny and brand-new, our sci-fi imitates a real-world reliance on steps and stairs in our architecture.

When we think of sci-fi that’s run the test of time, Doctor Who immediately springs to mind. The inside of the TARDIS is littered with steps—from Christopher Eccleston to Peter Capaldi, there’s no way a wheelchair using companion would be able to navigate that beautiful blue time machine. Prior to the 2005 reboot, previous embodiments of the spaceship were no less inaccessible. You’d think that a spaceship that is regularly re-decorated could easily manage ramps in at least one iteration, but no set designers seem bothered enough to make it happen. I was pleased to learn that a quick finger snap seems to occasionally unlock the TARDIS doors—a quirky replacement for the buttons that exist in real-life, usually installed near closed doors and pressed by disabled people to assist with automatically opening them—but trying to scootch through the narrow opening of that British police box with an accessibility device looks nigh impossible, even without the need for a key.

(16) KERMODE ON SF FILMS. On August 7, BBC 4 airs an episode of Mark Kermode’s Secrets of the Cinema about science fiction.

SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie says —

This is an excellent series for film aficionados but the August 7th edition will also appeal to SF fans as this episode will be on science fiction film.

Also the series is co-written by the genre critic Kim Newman whom,  some Worldcon fans will recall, with SF author Paul McAuley,  co-presented the last CalHab (formerly known as Glasgow) Worldcon Hugo Award ceremony (2005). So be assured this episode has a solid grounding.

Mark Kemode’s Secrets of the Cinema SF film episode should be available on BBC iPlayer for a few weeks after broadcast.

BBC 4’s intro reads —

Mark Kermode continues his fresh and very personal look at the art of cinema by examining the techniques and conventions behind classic film genres, uncovering the ingredients that keep audiences coming back for more.

This time Mark explores the most visionary of all genres – science fiction, and shows how film-makers have risen to the challenge of making the unbelievable believable. Always at the forefront of cinema technology, science fiction films have used cutting-edge visual effects to transport us to other worlds or into the far future. But as Mark shows, it’s not just about the effects. Films as diverse as 2001, the Back to the Future trilogy and Blade Runner have used product placement and commercial brand references to make their future worlds seem more credible. The recent hit Arrival proved that the art of film editing can play with our sense of past and future as well as any time machine. Meanwhile, films such as Silent Running and WALL-E have drawn on silent era acting techniques to help robot characters convey emotion. And District 9 reached back to Orson Welles by using news reporting techniques to render an alien visitation credible.

Mark argues that for all their spectacle, science fiction films ultimately derive their power from being about us. They take us to other worlds and eras, and introduce us to alien and artificial beings, in order to help us better understand our own humanity.

(17) GETTING BACK IN BUSINESS. “NASA Announces Crew For First Commercial Space Flights”NPR has the story.

NASA has announced the names of the astronauts who will be the first people in history to ride to orbit in private space taxis next year, if all goes as planned.

In 2019, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner are both scheduled to blast off on test flights with NASA astronauts on board. “For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Friday, standing in front of a giant American flag at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Since NASA retired its space shuttles, the agency has had to buy seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get its crews to the International Space Station.

(18) MUNG DYNASTY. FastCompany predicts “Plant-based eggs are coming for your breakfast sandwiches”.

When you order a breakfast sandwich or a scramble at New Seasons Market, a local chain in Portland, Seattle, and Northern California, you’ll bite into a yellow, fluffy food that tastes just like an egg, but did not, in fact, come from an animal. Instead, what you’re eating is a mung bean, a legume that people have been eating for thousands of years that, when ground into a liquid, happens to scramble and gel just like an egg.

Mung beans are the key ingredient in Just Egg, the latest product from Just, Inc.–the company formerly known as Hampton Creek, which manufactures plant-based alternatives to products like mayonnaise, cookie dough, and salad dressing. Just Egg, a liquid that scrambles in a way that’s eerily similar to an egg when cooked in a pan, is derived from mung bean protein, and colored with turmeric to mimic the light yellow of an egg. It’s slowly rolling out in stores and restaurants across the U.S., and New Seasons Market has gone as far as to entirely replace its regular eggs with the mung bean mixture.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Berro, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and David Langford for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 1/26/18 The Pixel Scroll Shadow Jury

(1) HE INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM. Marissa Lingen praises the ConFusion committee’s handling of her report about a highly contentious audience member who tried to commandeer more than one panel at the con — “It’s not your turn, sir.” Here are a few excerpts from her step-by-step summary of what happened and thorough analysis of the issues involved.

…So let’s talk about my second panel, Disaster Response in SFF. I was moderating. A gentleman in the audience had enough of the free-flowing discussion provided by the panelists, apparently. He did not wait for Q&A or even raise his hand. He just jumped right in, interrupting the panel to lecture us with a long, hostile, rambling comment on his own theories of where this panel should go and how wrong we all were for not going there….

…Okay. So. I talked to some friends, some of whom were involved with the concom/staff, and given what I was saying and what they were hearing about his behavior, they encouraged me to file an incident report. ConFusion’s ops team did everything right here. Everything. They made sure that I was seated comfortably, offered water, offered my choice of report formats (written or out loud), that I had a person with whom I was comfortable with me for the whole time, that I could discuss my statement rather than just turning it in and not knowing whether it was getting any attention. They asked after my safety and comfort and what would make me feel safe and comfortable going forward at the con.

Here’s what felt like a sea change to me. Here’s what makes me write about this: they did not minimize OR maximize response. They were proactively interested in an incident of someone being rude and disruptive. At that point I was hoping that just having the incident report on file would be enough, that not having further confrontation would allow this person to go on with his con and simmer down, focus on time with friends, other panels, etc….

… 2. This was not sexual harassment. But it was gendered.

The person he approached to complain about me on Sunday was, like me, wearing some of the trappings of traditional femininity. The people who laughed in his face Friday afternoon with no complaints, no consequences to themselves? All male. All male and all masculine. And yes, I was the moderator on my panel–but he didn’t say a word about Patrick cheerfully saying, “Bye!” to him as he departed, or about Patrick backing up my moderating. There was no complaint about Patrick. It was all me.

I’ll cope with it. That’s fine. But see it for what it is.

Dealing with sexual harassment in convention spaces is hugely important. It has been hugely important for me personally. But don’t for a moment make the mistake of thinking that it is the only gendered interaction that matters. And don’t think for a moment that the dynamic would be the same if he’d decided to turn up glaring with Patrick or treat a male concom member the way he did the person on Sunday. It’s no accident he didn’t try–and so conventions need to be equally deliberate in their handling of this sort of thing. ConFusion was, and I thank them for it.

(2) GROWING EFFORT. John Picacio announced other pros have joined him and John Scalzi to fund Worldcon 76 attending memberships for Mexicanx creators and fans.

Ty Franck — one-half of the blockbuster literary team James S. A. Corey — has kindly joined my effort to improve #Mexicanx representation in sf/f. He’s now sponsoring one attending membership to Worldcon 76 in San Jose, while ace photographer Ctein is sponsoring two more attending memberships.

(3) NO-LONGER-SECRET AGENT. Scott Edelman lets you sink your teeth into Sicilian with Barry Goldblatt in Episode 58 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Barry Goldblatt

At the suggestion of Barry Goldblatt, who founded the eponymous Barry Goldblatt Literary Agency in September 2000, we met at Bella Gioia, a Sicilian restaurant in Park Slope. A wonderful choice! But that’s to be expected when you get together with Barry, for he and I have eaten the fantastic many times before at such restaurants as Alinea in Chicago and Olo in Helsinki—though this is the first time you’re being invited to eavesdrop.

Barry’s clients including such writers as previous guest of the show Fran Wilde, Christopher Barzak, Libba Bray, Charles Vess, Nisi Shawl, and many others.

We discussed why he ended up as an agent rather than an astronaut, the happy accident that led to him being taught by the legendary science fiction writer James Gunn, the time Lloyd Alexander caused him to burst into squee-filled tears, J. K. Rowling’s first U.S. book signing and how she changed children’s publishing forever, what everyone thinks they know about agents that’s totally wrong, the sorts of things he’s told authors to help take their work to the next level, why it sometimes makes sense for him to submit a less than perfect book, whether the YA market is doing a better job with diversity than adult fiction, what he’s been looking for that he hasn’t been getting, and much more.

(4) FUN MUSEUM. The Interactive Museum of Gaming and Puzzlery near Portland, Oregon has these events coming soon:

  • 1-28 Sunday Noon – Introduction to Dungeons & Dragons
    Learn the basics of Role Playing with paper; how to create a character, roll dice, join an adventure, and more.
  • 2-1 Thursday 7 pm – Games Talk with Kyle Engen
    Our Steward of Research Kyle will be talking about graphic design in games, using selected items from the collection.

(5) STORIES OF FUTURE PAST. Rocket Stack Rank adds another way to find the good stuff – from 2016. Greg Hullender explains:

Not everyone uses Rocket Stack Rank to find things to nominate; some people just use it to find stories to read. Toward that end, we put together a look back at the best stories of 2016, combining results from all the different reviewers, anthologies, and awards that we follow to produce a comprehensive ranked list.

“2016 Best SF/F Short Fiction”

In the future, we’ll try to do this by August (so the 2017 version should be available in just six months). We’ll have a few follow-up pieces that play with the statistics in this data.ef

(6) MORE LE GUIN TRIBUTES. In the Paris Review

The thing about Ursula K. Le Guin was that she didn’t actually look like a rabble-rousing, bomb-throwing, dangerous woman. She had a gentle smile, as if she was either enjoying herself or enjoying what the people around her were doing. She was kind but firm. She was petite and gray haired, and she appeared, at least on first inspection, harmless.

The illusion of harmlessness ended the moment you began to read her words, or, if you were so lucky, the moment you listened to her speak.

She was opinionated, but the opinions were informed and educated. She did not suffer fools or knaves gladly, or, actually, at all. She knew what she liked and what she wanted, and she didn’t let that change. She was sharp until the end. She once reviewed a book of mine and was not altogether kind about all of it, and I discovered as I read her review that I would rather have been chided by Ursula K. Le Guin than effusively praised by any other living author.

  1. There is no reason a book of ideas can’t also be deeply moving, gorgeously written, and inhabited by people who take rooms in your heart and never move out.

(7) LE GUIN FAMILY NOTES A SUGGESTED CHARITY. Ursula Le Guin’s family has stated that the charity closest to her heart is the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

(8) REAL SPACE OPERA. Atlas Obscura lets you “Listen to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Little-Known Space Opera”, Rigel 9. Recording at the link.

If you’re an Ursula K. Le Guin fan, you’ve likely spent a lot of time in Earthsea, home to endless archipelagos and magical beings. You might have ventured to Gethen, with its glaciers and androgynes.

But you may not yet have made it to Rigel 9, a world that offers small red aliens, two-toned shadows from its double sun, and—depending on who you believe—a beautiful golden city. The planet is the setting of the little-known space opera, also called Rigel 9, released in 1985. The opera features music by avant-garde classical composer David Bedford, and a libretto written by Le Guin.

(9) JOHN CREASEY OBIT. Filker John Creasey died January 25. His wife, Mary, made the announcement on Facebook:

My husband, John Creasey, passed away this morning around 0915 or so. I hadn’t gotten there by then (he WOULD pick the day when I DIDN’T make my morning visit!). He was still on a ventilator until a doctor officially pronounces him. He had been going downhill for quite a while (multiple systemic infection organ failures), and hadn’t really recovered from the last septic shock crash. He had been non-verbal and non-communicative for at least the last two weeks. I will post later about funeral plans and such. I’m not going to collapse yet; he’s been effectively mostly out of our lives for over a year, and barely aware for much of the last six months, and that only occasionally, so this isn’t really much of a shock. I’m just glad he’s finally not hurting any more.

 

Joe Bethancourt (hat), Richard Creasey (young man in tie-dye) and John Creasey (larger adult man) perform Bethancourt’s filk song “Fishin’ for Chickens” at ConChord in 2005.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 26, 1964:  Hammer’s Kiss of the Vampire opens in its native United Kingdom
  • January 26, 1995:  Peter Weller stars in Philip K. Dick adaptation Screamers.

(11) TWO DAYS AGO’S BIRTHDAY BOY (SORRY WE MISSED IT!)

  • Born January 24, 1944 – David Gerrold

(12) THE SECONDS BLEED AWAY. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists says it’s 2018 and time is running out:

IT IS 2 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT

2018: The failure of world leaders to address the largest threats to humanity’s future is lamentable—but that failure can be reversed. It is two minutes to midnight, but the Doomsday Clock has ticked away from midnight in the past, and during the next year, the world can again move it further from apocalypse. The warning the Science and Security Board now sends is clear, the danger obvious and imminent. The opportunity to reduce the danger is equally clear. The world has seen the threat posed by the misuse of information technology and witnessed the vulnerability of democracies to disinformation. But there is a flip side to the abuse of social media. Leaders react when citizens insist they do so, and citizens around the world can use the power of the internet to improve the long-term prospects of their children and grandchildren. They can insist on facts, and discount nonsense. They can demand action to reduce the existential threat of nuclear war and unchecked climate change. They can seize the opportunity to make a safer and saner world.

(13) FREE COMIC ONLINE. Marvel is giving you the chance to dive into THANOS from rising stars Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw, the series that IGN is calling “one of Marvel’s most exciting titles” – for free.  THANOS #13, the first Marvel Legacy issue and the kick-off to Thanos Wins, is available now as a free digital comic for a limited time.

Head to www.marvel.com/redeem, enter the code THANOSWINS by Tuesday 1/30, and start reading now! Don’t miss the series that Comic Watch has raved is “the Mad Titan in all his power hungry glory.”

(14) WINTER WONDERS. Heavy Tokyo snowfall leads to snow-minions, snow-Jabba: “Japan’s amazing snowmen will blow your mind”. Photos at the link.

(15) INDIE PUBLISHER FOLDING. When Evil Girlfriend Media closes, it’s taking JDA’s Dragon Award-nominated novel with it  [link to Internet Archive]. Says JDA, “[it] will most likely not be available 30 days from now.” The publisher announced on Facebook they are ending the business:

Dear Readers,

I have notified our authors and editors that I am pulling their books from distribution. Their books will begin to drop from Kindle Select over the next 90 days with some as early as January 31. You can no longer purchase their books as an ebook but may borrow until the end of the 90 day period.

EGM went on hiatus last year for many reasons including that I took a new position with my employer. The commitments of this position make it impossible for me to continue in the publishing business. I hope you all support other indie publishers out there. It takes a lot of money, time, and dedication to create great books.

It has been a fast-paced and enjoyable couple of years. I look forward to the future and enjoying the great works the authors and editors I’ve worked with create.

Respectfully,

Katie Cord

(16) AN INDIE PUBLISHER STILL WITH US. The Kraken Collective is celebrating its anniversary this week — #KrakenFriends2018 Is Here!

The Kraken Collective is an alliance of indie authors of LGBTQIAP+ speculative fiction,  committed to building a publishing space that is inclusive, positive, and brings fascinating stories to readers.

 

(17) SHARKE REFLECTIONS. Shadow Clarke juror Nina Allan’s “Afterwards: thinking about the Sharke”, posted last September, may not have been mentioned here before:

The Sharke has changed me in multiple ways, most obviously as a critic and as a reader. Looking back on the self that first conceived the project, I now believe I had become as entrenched within a certain comfort zone as any hardcore space opera fan, accustomed to looking in the same places for what I deemed noteworthy, places that accorded comfortably with my expectations, which in their turn had mostly to do with style. How much more interesting to strip away one’s assumptions and see what happens. To come at things from a different angle. To stop feeling the need to fight a particular corner in terms of what is good and what is best. Personally, I’m still not a fan of The Underground Railroad. To my mind, it is possibly the most ‘commercial’ novel on the Clarke Award shortlist and its bland surface texture renders it ultimately forgettable to me as a reading experience. I find some of the sentence structure, not to mention the use of science fiction in Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me to be far more interesting. I have found the abstruse weirdness and raw vitality of Ninefox Gambit hanging around in my mind far longer than, for example, the sensitively rendered but ultimately predictable dystopian role-playing of Clare Morrall’s When the Floods Came. Viewed from this new perspective, the landscape of science fiction looks much more exciting to me than it did even before the Sharke was launched.

(18) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY. Lela E. Buis shares her “Review of Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff”.

The year is 1954, and African American war veteran Atticus Turner is traveling north to Chicago. His dad Montrose has disappeared somewhere in New England, and with his Uncle George and his friend Letitia, Atticus sets out to find him…..

This is an entertaining read, as the characters are all resourceful and end up accomplishing what they need to do through the application of determination and common sense. Regardless of the Jim Crow setting, the characters feel contemporary, as if Ruff has set characters with modern sensibilities into the Lovecraft milieu.

I’ve read some other reviews that promote this book by saying racism is the real horror in the story. I didn’t really see that. If you’re unfamiliar with the facts of Jim Crow segregation and the kind of discrimination African Americans faced in the 1950s, then I suppose this could be a surprise. Presumably Ruff set his story in this period at least partly to display the racial issues, but actually he skims over it as fairly matter-of-fact. Everybody deals and nobody gets lynched.

What really stood out for me instead was the message that these black characters read and treasure the SFF classics of the day by Lovecraft, Burroughs, Bradbury, Asimov, etc., without any disconnect because of their race. Is that so? Currently these writers are all considered to be both racist and sexist because they reflect the attitudes of their era….

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Rambo, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Jay Byrd, Michael Toman, ULTRAGOTHA, Karl-Johan Norén and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 11/3/17 Third Pixel To The Right And Scroll On ‘Til Morning

(1) DISCLAIMERS. Daniel Dern noticed this disclaimer on latest 30-second Justice League trailer (at the very end): “Sequences of Sci-Fi Action and Violence”

“Accurate. Intriguingly specific,” he says. “Makes me wonder what other disclaimers might be.” And he suggests —

  • For THE MAGICIANS

“Cussing, pouting, and attitude. Do not attempt these magic experiments without proper protective gear and spells.”

  • For THE EXPANSE

“Warning: If you’ve read the rest of the books, you know things keep getting worse.”

  • For A GAME OF THRONES:

“Warning: It’s not Bob who’s your uncle.”

(2) KINGS OF THE PUBLISHING WORLD. The family that sells together rings cash register bells together…. “Stephen and Owen King and Joe Hill are all on the New York Times bestseller list right now”.

In what’s a first for the Kings, three out of five members of the family are all on the New York Times bestseller list as of this week.

Stephen King and his youngest son, Owen, collaborated on the highly entertaining horror yarn “Sleeping Beauties,” about a mysterious mystical occurrence that puts all the women of the world to sleep — and if they wake up, well, watch out. That book came out on Sept. 26 and immediately shot to the top of the hardcover fiction list; it still remains at number four, five weeks in.

Meanwhile, Joe Hill, the eldest of the King kids, last week released “Strange Weather,” a collection of four novellas about the supernatural and horrific. It debuted this week at number nine on the hardcover fiction charts.

(3) GRIPE SESSION. ComicsBeat’s Heidi MacDonald covers the complaints about the Central Canada Comic Con held in Winnipeg: “When a con goes badly: Area man claims C4 Winnipeg was ‘The Worst Convention I Have Ever Attended’”. According to webcomics creator Michael McAdam —

Blanket statement that remained true for the entire weekend: No volunteer anywhere could answer any questions. They were confused, lost, disjointed, or had incorrect information. In fact, a Facebook friend of mine tried to attend on Saturday- and was given so many incorrect directions to registration that he gave up and left without entering the con! Think about that: a paying attendee, who wants to come in and spend his money, can’t even get directed to the proper entrance due to absolute incompetence and ignorance. How many people do you think gave up? How much in terms of potential earnings was lost due to stupidity?

Followed by lots more like that.

(4) THIS JUST IN. Meanwhile, back at World Wombat HQ….

(5) BINTI MEETS TED. Tor.com tells how “Nnedi Okorafor’s TED Talk Explains Afrofuturism vs. Science Fiction Using the Octopus Analogy”, including this quote from Okorafor:

This idea of leaving but bringing and then becoming more is at one of the hearts of Afrofuturism, or you can simply call it a different type of science fiction. I can best explain the difference between classic science fiction and Afrofuturism if I used the octopus analogy. Like humans, octopuses are some of the most intelligent creatures on earth. However, octopus intelligence evolved from a different evolutionary line, separate from that of human beings, so the foundation is different. The same can be said about the foundations of various forms of science fiction.

(6) ORIGINAL CUT DISCOVERED. Bradbury scholar Phil Nichols made a discovery:

In the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies today I discovered the original release version of SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, previously considered lost. The film previewed badly in 1982, and the Disney studios panicked and decided to rework the film. The lost version has never been released, and is believed never to have been screened since that preview.

(7) PARK PLACE. There was a summer groundswell of public support to name a Tacoma park after Dune author Frank Herbert. Metro Parks Tacoma Public Information Officer Michael Thompson answered Andrew Porter’s request for an update with this statement:

Still under consideration, still no decision. Our planning department is dealing with several construction projects, so the decision probably will be pushed back to later in the year instead of “fall.”

Herbert was born in Tacoma in 1920 and lived there as an adult. The idea to name a newly developed park for him was first suggested in 2013.

(8) RUSSELL OBIT. Pioneering television director Paddy Russell (1928-2017) has died at the age of 89. Doctor Who News paid tribute:

Patricia Russell, known to all as Paddy, had a long and distinguished career as one of the first female Directors in British television….

In the 1950’s Television was crying out for theatre staff to work in the new medium and Russell was recruited as a production assistant, working with the famed director Rudolph Cartier. Acting as the director’s eyes and ears on the studio floor, Russell worked on some of the most innovative and pioneering dramas of the day including the Quatermass science-fiction serials as well as the 1954 adaptation of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four starring Peter Cushing.  …Her first encounter with Doctor Who came in 1966 when she became the first female Director to work on the show. She helmed the First Doctor story The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve.

…It was eight years later that Russell returned to the show working on the six-part Jon Pertwee story Invasion of the Dinosaurs. It was a story fraught with technical difficulties in the attempt to bring dinosaurs to London using the primitive methods available in the early 1970’s. While not always successful it was a story Russell was very proud of.

…Two more stories followed, both staring the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker. In 1975 she directed the fan favourite Pyramids of Mars, followed in 1977 by the Horror of Fang Rock. She had a prickly relationship with the lead actor whom she found increasingly difficult to work with….

(9) TODAY’S DAY

International Speculative Poetry Day

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association persuaded the State of Minnesota to declare November 3 to be International Speculative Poetry Day.

International Speculative Poetry Day seeks to highlight the vibrant legacy and extraordinary achievement of speculative poets. It seeks to introduce communities to the delights and benefits of reading and writing speculative poetry as well as make speculative poetry an important and innovative part of our cultural life.  Speculative poetry has produced some of the nation’s leading creative artists and influential books, performances, and exhibitions, inspiring other artists, educators, and community builders around the world.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 3, 1957 – Laika becomes the first dog in space.

And the bards of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association have put up a page of verse honoring the pioneer, “Remembering Laika”.

This year, November 3rd coincides with the 60th anniversary of Laika’s historic mission into outer space. (That’s 420 in space dog years!) She advanced Earth’s knowledge and paved the way for space exploration and much of our modern world today.  Several of our SFPA members recently shared poems inspired by Laika and our canine companions to mark the day. A special thanks to them and Dr. Suzie GeeForce for illustrating the occasion! You can also find additional poems by our members in our list-serv.

  • November 3, 1976 — The original Carrie debuted

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY KAIJU

  • Born November 3, 1954 Godzilla. (I think this means it’s the day the film was released.)

(12) WAVES. Lela E. Buis questions whether some TV participants are “Asking for contradictory things?”

I’m probably going to get into serious trouble with this post, as it touches on third wave feminism. Various people have urged me to address the topic before and I’ve just not gotten to it. Up front, let me say I’m a second wave feminist, and I have opinions that sometimes diverge sharply from the current platform.

Here’s the issue: A while back I watched a panel discussion on the Weinstein scandal, and I was struck with some contradictions. This show was Friday, Oct. 13, Third Rail with Ozy asks: Is sexual harassment inevitable in the workplace? Along with Colorado College Professor Tomi-Ann Roberts, the panel included three younger women.

Roberts related her personal experience with Weinstein as a 20-year-old and her subsequent decision that she wasn’t cut out for work in Hollywood. The panel then went on to define sexual harassment in the workplace to include compliments on appearance and beauty. Hm. Okay, second wave question here: Roberts looks professional. She’s got on a boxy jacket and restrained hair and makeup, but the other women look like they’ve spent hours on their appearance, plus a big chunk of change. They have on form-fitting clothing, heavy make-up and trendy hair styling. Why?

If we assume appearance is expression and therefore a type of speech, what are they saying?…

And she continues from there with her analysis.

(13) ANOTHER ATWOOD IN DEVELOPMENT. This one is based on a historical novel: “Margaret Atwood’s ‘Alias Grace’ adapted as Netflix series”.

Another Margaret Atwood novel is getting the Hollywood treatment, this time on Netflix.

In “Alias Grace,” a six-episode Netflix miniseries starring Sarah Gadon, an Irish immigrant working as a maid in Canada in the 1840s is accused of murdering her boss and his mistress. Her case is covered with breathless scrutiny, making the young woman infamous.

Based on Atwood’s historical novel, Gadon plays Grace, who recounts her life story to a young psychiatrist trying to help jog her memory.

(14) IT IS TO BLUSH. Slate’s Sam Adams declares “Stranger Things’ “Punk” Episode Is Unbelievably Awful”

The second season of Stranger Things—or, if we must, Stranger Things 2—effectively recaptures the meme-spawning magic of its first. But for a season that mostly follows the template of “What if that thing you liked, but more?” the new episodes make a pronounced departure in splitting Millie Bobbie Brown’s Eleven off from her group of demogorgon-fighting pals, most of whom think she’s disappeared or dead. As the series’ breakout character, played by its strongest young actor, Eleven is a natural candidate to carry her own largely self-contained storyline, but the strain of building a new world for her to inhabit taxes the Duffer brothers’ self-mimicking skills to the limit, and finally exhausts them altogether in its seventh episode, “The Lost Sister.” The result is an unmitigated embarrassment…

(15) BRINGS THE HAMMER. NPR’s Chris Klimek says “‘Thor: Ragnarok’ Is Hela Good”:

Ragnarok, an incontrovertibly bitchin’ word that refers in Norse myth to the final, winner-take-all smackdown between good and evil, is an awfully heavy subtitle for a movie as affably insubstantial as The Mighty Thor’s mighty third.

Catching us up on what your friendly neighborhood Thunder-God (and your friendly neighborhood Incredible Hulk) were doing while they were absent from last year’s Captain America: Civil War, the movie earns the backhanded compliment of being the best Thor picture by an Asgardian mile, and the more sincere one of being not in the least a chore to sit through. It’s funnier and prettier than most of the other Marvel movies, having figured out that adopting the visual palette of Frank Frazetta’s glossy swords n’ monsters n’ muscles fantasy paintings — rather than trying to cross that uncanny valley into photorealism — is a good way to make the wall-to-wall CGI less fatiguing. Half the frames in this film would look right at home airbrushed on the side of a 1978 Ford Econoline “shaggin’ wagon” van, which would almost certainly be blasting Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” a vintage headbanger that the Thor 3 soundtrack Ragna-rocks twice. (I am getting choked up thinking about all the 10-year-olds who will see this thing and shortly thereafter download their very first Led Zep.)

(16) GOURD EMERGENCY. Or, why they call it “felonious abandonment of zucchini”: German man believes 11-pounder is unexploded bomb, calls police: “German police find ‘WW2 bomb’ was big courgette”.

The 5kg (11-pound) courgette had probably been thrown over a hedge into the 81 year old’s garden, police said.

Luckily no evacuation was required in Bretten, a town near Karlsruhe in south-west Germany.

The last part is by no means a joke — On 3 September 65,000 people were evacuated from their homes in Frankfurt, so that a 1.4-tonne British bomb could be defused. It was the biggest evacuation in post-war German history for an unexploded bomb alert.

(17) THIRSTING FOR ACTION. SyFy Wire looks forward to seeing “Beer-loving giant ants terrorize teens in trailer for It Came from the Desert

New levels, man — new levels. In the never-ending quest to escalate campiness to heights that beggar irony, here comes a movie. A movie, based on a Commodore Amiga video game from the late 1980s, about giant ants; ants that live in the desert; ants who enjoy beer straight from the keg and can only be vanquished — at great personal cost — by a mostly-expendable cast of libidinous teens.

You know how these things make us feel.

If you gamed in the ‘80s, you may remember It Came from the Desert, an Amiga title that drew heavy inspiration from Them! and other B-horror flicks from the 1950s. As the game’s protagonist, Dr. Greg Bradley traversed the Nevada desert landscape, staging desperate battles against radioactively-mutated ants in a variety of interesting locations.

Now Cinemaware, the game’s original developer, is teaming with Finnish VFX effects studio Roger! Pictures to revive the goofy premise in a live-action format. The trailer for the eponymous movie seems to lie somewhere between a proof of concept and an enticing synopsis of what we’re (admittedly) hoping will end up as a finished product.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Pixel Scroll 8/2/17 What Rough Pixel, Its Hour Tick-Boxed At Last, Scrolls Towards Bethlehem To Be Born?

(1) SOUNDS LEGIT. Newsweek’s Hannah Osborn reports “Nasa Is Hiring a Planetary Protection Officer to Save Earth from Aliens”. If you want to protect earth from space aliens and have the qualifications, NASA is hiring, on a three-year contract with pay from $124,000 to $187,000.

The headline is a little grandiose – here’s what the job is really about:

The role involves stopping astronauts and robots from getting contaminated with any organic and biological material during space travel.

“NASA maintains policies for planetary protection applicable to all space flight missions that may intentionally or unintentionally carry Earth organisms and organic constituents to the planets or other solar system bodies, and any mission employing spacecraft, which are intended to return to Earth and its biosphere with samples from extraterrestrial targets of exploration” the job advert reads. “This policy is based on federal requirements and international treaties and agreements.”

Still want to apply? The USAJOBS listing is here.

(2) STATS. A snapshot of Worldcon 75 membership, with the convention a week away:

(3) HARVEST OF STORIES. Cora Buhlert went into overdrive last month: “The July Short Story Challenge 2017 – 32 Short Stories in 31 Days” . And this is the third consecutive year she’s written a story a day in July!

So let’s talk about inspiration: Where on Earth do you get inspiration for 32 stories, one for every single day? As in previous years, I used writing prompts (Chuck Wendig’s are always good), random generators (particularly name generators are a godsend, because you’ll have to come up with a lot of names for 32 stories) and images – mainly SFF concept art, but also vintage magazine covers – to spark story ideas. By now I have a whole folder on my harddrive which contains inspirational images – basically my own catalogue of concept art writing prompts. Other sources for inspiration were a call for submissions for a themed anthology, a Pet Shop Boys song I heard on the radio, 1980s cartoons that were basically glorified toy commercials, an article about dead and deserted shopping malls in the US, a news report about a new system to prevent the theft of cargo from truckbeds, a trailer for a (pretty crappy by the looks of it) horror film, the abominably bad Latin used during a satanic ritual in an episode of a TV crime drama, a short mystery where I found the killer (the least likely person, of course) a lot more interesting than the investigation. In one case, googling a research question for one story, namely whether there it’s actually legal to shoot looters after a massive disaster (it’s not, though there have been cases where law enforcement personnel was given carte blanche, with predictably terrible results) led me to the story of a man who bragged that he had shot more than thirty alleged looters after Hurricane Katrina (thankfully, it seems he was lying or at least massively exaggerating) and who amazingly was not arrested as a serial killer. This made me actively angry, so I wrote a post-apocalyptic story where a shooter of looters gets his comeuppance.

(4) CRIME BLOTTER. Alison Flood and Sian Cain of The Guardian, in “Beatrix Potter-pinching and Žižekian swipes: the strange world of book thefts”, look at who is stealing books from British bookstores. The sf connection is that at Blackwell’s in Oxford, Tolkien, Pratchett, Jordan, and Martin are among the top authors stolen, Also, “an 80-year-old woman with a Zimmer frame” heisted Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind from Drake the Bookshop in Stockton-on-Tees.

Paul Sweetman of City Books in Hove believes shoplifters appear to have dumbed down over the years. “In the 1980s, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Sylvia Plath and Jack Kerouac were the most likely to go missing, The Bell Jar and On the Road competing for being the least profitable books in the shop. We are now forced to keep Asterix, Tintin, Beatrix Potter and Dr Seuss behind the counter.”

(5) ALEX, I’LL TAKE LA ARCHITECTURE FOR $100. The answer is: Ray Bradbury. The question is: “Why Does Los Angeles Have a Mall Based on the Babylon Set From the 1916 Film Intolerance?”.

If you’ve been to the Hollywood & Highland Center and have a working knowledge of silent film history, you may have noticed that the hulking mall’s design has been lifted with mixed success from the Babylon set in DW Griffith’s 1916 epic Intolerance. (An influential and ruinously expensive feat of filmmaking in which Griffith calls out critics of his previous film, The Birth of a Nation, as the real racists; it interweaves tales of intolerance from ancient Babylon, the life of Christ, Renaissance France, and then-modern America). That’s pretty weird, right? What kind of mind came up with that? In a posthumous essay just published at the Paris Review, late science fiction author Ray Bradbury says it was his idea….

Intolerance flopped. There was no money left to dismantle the set, and for a few years it became an actual ruin in the middle of Los Angeles. It was finally torn down in 1919….

In his essay at the Paris Review, Bradbury—who led a campaign in the early 1960s to build a monorail system in Los Angeles—writes about his career as an “accidental architect,” influencing designs for the 1964 World’s Fair, EPCOT, and, strangely enough, the Glendale Galleria…..

Eventually, a group came to him “looking at ways to rebuilt Hollywood”:

I told them that somewhere in the city, they had to build the set from the 1916 film Intolerance by D. W. Griffith. The set, with its massive, wonderful pillars and beautiful white elephants on top, now stands at the corner of Hollywood and Highland avenues. People from all over the world come to visit, all because I told them to build it. I hope at some time in the future, they will call it the Bradbury Pavilion.

The Hollywood & Highland Center opened in late 2001, at the beginning of what has become a wildly successful rebirth for Hollywood. EE&K designed the complex, with a grand stairway leading up to a “Babylon Court” with a replica Intolerance gate (which frames the Hollywood Sign in the distance) and, of course, a few elephants…

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 2, 1971 — Zombies in sunglasses: The Omega Man (Charlton Heston’s version) premiered.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • August 2, 1939 — Freddy Krueger creator Wes Craven born.

(8) POTTER CAST TRANSPLANTS. Variety’s Gordon Cox, in “Meet the Wizards of Broadway’s ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”, reports seven members of the London cast are going to be in the Broadway production, scheduled to open in April.

Seven members of the West End company of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” will open the Broadway production in the spring, including Olivier winners Jamie Parker, Noma Dumezweni and Anthony Boyle.

That trio and four other British actors will lead the cast of one of the most hotly anticipated productions of the Broadway season. The newest chapter in J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” saga wowed both audiences and critics when it opened last summer, and went on to win a record nine Oliviers, including the trophies for Parker (as a grown-up Harry), Dumezwani (as Hermione) and Boyle, who plays Scorpius, the son of Harry’s old nemesis, Draco Malfoy.

On Broadway, Sam Clemmett will reprise his role as Harry and Ginny’s son, Albus, alongside Paul Thornley (Ron), Poppy Miller (Ginny), and Alex Price (Draco). Byron Jennings, Kathryn Meisle and David Abeles are among the new actors joining the hefty cast of 28.

(9) X NEXT. Yahoo! says “There’s A Reason You Should Care About The Next X-Men Movie, And That Reason Is Jessica Chastain”.

On her Instagram page, the actress shared an image of her and James McAvoy – who plays Professor Charles Xavier in the films – and writes that she’s off to join the cast in Montreal.

The actress also captioned the photo “I’m gonna make you cry so hard”, which could give us a hint as to who she’s playing.

Rumours have stated that the filmmakers were looking to cast Chastain as Princess Lilandra of the Shi’ar Empire, and while she hasn’t confirmed this, it’s looking likely.

In the comics (and nineties animated series) Charles and Lilandra are in love, but their duties and very long distance gets in the way of their relationship – hence her comment about making Charles cry.

(10) COMPILATION. Lela E. Buis announces her “Review Project: Greater Inclusion of SFF Worldviews”.

During a recent discussion here at the blog, I was asked to provide examples of underrepresented minority views. I’m now starting a project to review works like this from 2017. I have several candidates lined up, but I’d also be happy to have suggestions on likely candidates. I’m especially looking for Native American and LatinX worldviews, as this group has been pretty scarce in the recent SFF awards cycles, even though Native American and LatinX persons make up about 1/5 of the US population. I’m also interested in other underrepresented worldviews within the SFF community, and I may ask a few people to do guest reviews or articles as the project goes along.

I should probably define what I mean by “worldview.” I’m not looking for just diversity of race, religion, creed, gender, sexual orientation, disability status or national origin in the authors here; I’m looking for authors writing from within their own authentic worldview instead of just replaying Western stereotypes.

(11) ART CORNUCOPIA. Digital Arts Online tells where to find the motherlode: “The British Library offers over a million free vintage images for download”.

The British Library’s collection of images on Flickr are taken from books it has its collection from the 17th, 18th and 19th Century – so well out of copyright – and are vaguely arranged by theme: such as book covers, cycling, illustrated lettering, comic art, ships or children’s book illustration. There’s also a collection of ‘Highlights‘ that’s a good place to start if you just want a general browse.

(12) I’M MELTING! Riffing on a fannish enthusiasm: is vanilla ice cream on its way out? “Is time up for plain vanilla flavour ice creams?”

But for many years, flavours from the big international brands remained stubbornly conservative, dominated by chocolate, strawberry and vanilla.

Now though, thanks to migration, long-haul travel, and the internet, consumers are becoming more adventurous and manufacturers are taking note.

Parlours have sprung up across the US offering Persian-style saffron, orange blossom, and rosewater ice cream, sprinkled with nuts and drizzled with honey; and Indian-inspired flavours such as masala chai, pineapple, and kulfi.

(13) NOT EXACTLY WESTWORLD. Film fans recreated the final set of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (technically not sf-related, but this is a story of fan-level enthusiasm): “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly location reborn in Spain”.

But in 2014, a group of local people decided to restore the site to its former glory. They called themselves the Sad Hill Cultural Association and after locating the exact cemetery spot, with the help of photographs from the film’s final scene, in 2015 they set about the painstaking process of excavating the site.

“At the start it seemed like it was going to be impossible, but bit by bit people from other provinces of Spain, other towns, and even other countries, came to help us rebuild the cemetery and it snowballed,” says David Alba, the 35-year-old president of the association. Aficionados could help finance the project by paying €15 (£13; $18) to have their name painted onto one of the wooden crosses.

Mr Alba remembers a key moment early in the excavation.

“We were digging in the ground and we saw that underneath the earth were the original stones of the central circle of the site, the place where all the actors, the director and all the technicians had walked across during the filming,” he says. “It was like digging in the ground and finding treasure.”

(14) THE BUZZER. Fun for conspiracy theorists: “The ghostly radio station that no one claims to run” (and several other strange radio stations)

In the middle of a Russian swampland, not far from the city of St Petersburg, is a rectangular iron gate. Beyond its rusted bars is a collection of radio towers, abandoned buildings and power lines bordered by a dry-stone wall. This sinister location is the focus of a mystery which stretches back to the height of the Cold War.

It is thought to be the headquarters of a radio station, “MDZhB”, that no-one has ever claimed to run. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the last three-and-a-half decades, it’s been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it’s joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues.

Once or twice a week, a man or woman will read out some words in Russian, such as “dinghy” or “farming specialist”. And that’s it. Anyone, anywhere in the world can listen in, simply by tuning a radio to the frequency 4625 kHz.

It’s so enigmatic, it’s as if it was designed with conspiracy theorists in mind. Today the station has an online following numbering in the tens of thousands, who know it affectionately as “the Buzzer”. It joins two similar mystery stations, “the Pip” and the “Squeaky Wheel”. As their fans readily admit themselves, they have absolutely no idea what they are listening to.

(15) ANOTHER HACKING OPPORTUNITY. More on implantable microchips: one has already been used to infect the system that read it.

Hacking and security concerns, however, are less easily hand-waved away. RFID chips can only carry a minuscule 1 kilobyte or so of data, but one researcher at Reading University’s School of Systems Engineering, Mark Gasson, demonstrated that they are vulnerable to malware.

Gasson had an RFID tag implanted in his left hand in 2009, and tweaked it a year later so that it would pass on a computer virus. The experiment uploaded a web address to the computer connected to the reader, which would cause it to download some malware if it was online.

“It was actually a surprisingly violating experience,” says Gasson. “I became a danger to the building’s systems.”

(16) DEPT. OF WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG? A “Chicago Library Seeks Help Transcribing Magical Manuscripts”  —

The Newberry Library in Chicago is home to some 80,000 documents pertaining to religion during the early modern period, a time of sweeping social, political, and cultural change spanning the late Middle Ages to the start of the Industrial Revolution. Among the library’s collection of rare Bibles and Christian devotional texts are a series of manuscripts that would have scandalized the religious establishment. These texts deal with magic—from casting charms to conjuring spirits—and the Newberry is asking for help translating and transcribing them.

As Tatiana Walk-Morris reports for Atlas Obscura, digital scans of three magical manuscripts are accessible through Transcribing Faith, an online portal that functions much like Wikipedia. Anyone with a working knowledge of Latin or English is invited to peruse the documents and contribute translations, transcriptions, and corrections to other users’ work.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Lex Berman, Chip Hitchcock, Lurkertype, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes  to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 7/3/17 Hokey Tickboxes And Ancient Pixels Are No Match For A Good Filer At Your Side, Kid

(1) STAR WARS CARTOONS. In a Yahoo! Movies piece called “New ‘Star Wars’ Cartoon Shorts Debut Online, Bringing Female Heroes in Full Force”, Marcus Errico says that Disney is releasing sixteen three-minute cartoons online featuring female Star Wars heroes,  The first, “Sands of Jakku” is online and has Daisy Ridley in it.

Lucasfilm Animation has produced an initial run of 16 shorts. New shorts will arrive daily at YouTube.com/Disney ahead of their broadcast premiere on the Disney Channel on July 9. Future episodes will center on Princess Leia, Padmé Amidala, Rogue One‘s Jyn Erso, The Clone Wars fan favorite Ahsoka Tano, and Sabine Wren from Star Wars Rebels, with each installment narrated by Maz Kanata and featuring John Williams’s seminal soundtrack.

In addition to Ridley, film stars John Boyega (Finn), Felicity Jones (Jyn) and Lupita Nyong’o (Maz) will reprise their roles, as will key talent from the TV series Clone Wars and Rebels, including Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka), Tiya Sicar (Sabine), and Vanessa Marshall (Hera Syndulla).

“The movies tell these epic heroes’ journeys, big pieces of mythology,” Carrie Beck, VP of Lucasfilm Story and Animation and a producer of Forces of Destiny, told Yahoo Movies earlier this year. “For this, we thought these stories could tell those moments of everyday heroism… the kind of stories that would be appropriate over two to three minutes.”

(2) UNHOLY ROAD TRIP. The LA Times questions “Neil Gaiman on the ‘American Gods’ season finale and what’s on tap for Season 2”.

The first season of Starz’s ambitious “American Gods” ended on the brink of a godly brawl. But Neil Gaiman, an executive producer of the series and author of the book from which it is adapted, teases that his divine road trip across the secret supernatural back roads of the United States is just beginning…

Did you have an emotional reaction to the end of the first season of “American Gods?”

I have all sorts of emotions.…I’m fascinated by how involved people are. How grumpy they are about the fact that, now they got their eight episodes, they have to wait for another season. I love watching the joy of having faces that plug into these characters who were names and descriptions in the book. I’m loving seeing how people argue online. There are people out there who think Laura [Moon, played by Emily Browning] is the best female character that they’ve ever seen on television.And there are people who would pay good money to make sure that she never appears on their screen ever again, but they love the whole series apart from her.

(3) GUESS WHO JOINED GAB. GAB is the new message platform popular with Vox Day, Jon Del Arroz, and others who find Twitter hasn’t always appreciated the way they exercise their freedom of speech.

And, unexpectedly, it now is someplace you can find Brianna Wu:

Why did I join Gab? Well, joining App.net early (another Twitter competitior) was amazing for my career. It was a networking goldmine. The other part is, I’m running for congress in a part of Massachusetts with many conservatives. Listening to the other side helps me be a better candidate.

(4) SOCIETY OF ILLUSTRATORS. Top fantastic illustrators Wayne Barlowe, Donato Giancola, Greg Manchess will demonstrate their skills and techniques in an open forum at the Society of Illustrators in New York on July 8 from Noon to 4 p.m.

Plus! Have your portfolios reviewed by renowned art directors Irene Gallo (Associate Publisher, Tor.com/ Creative Director, Tor Books) and Lauren Panepinto (Creative Director, Orbit Books/ Yen Press). 15 minutes reviews. Reservations required

Admission: $50 Non-members | $40 Members | $20 Students/ seniors (Undergrad with valid ID) Price includes the catalog from The Korshak Collection: Illustrations of Imaginative Literature.

(5) SPACE SALVATION. Sylvia Engdahl revives a philosophical debate in “Space colonization, faith, and Pascal’s Wager” at The Space Review.

In his essay “Escaping Earth: Human Spaceflight as Religion” published in the journal Astropolitics, historian Roger Launius argues that enthusiasm for space can be viewed as a religion. He focuses mainly on comparisons with the outer trappings of religion, many of which are apt, but in one place he reaches the heart of the issue. “Like those espousing the immortality of the human soul among the world’s great religions… statements of humanity’s salvation through spaceflight are fundamentally statements of faith predicated on no knowledge whatsoever.”

I think Launius may be somewhat too pessimistic in his assertion that we have no knowledge whatsoever about our ability to develop technology that will enable humans live in the hostile environment of space, but that is beside the point. It’s true that we have no assurance that the colonization of space will ensure the long-term survival of humankind. “Absent the discovery of an Earthlike habitable exoplanet to which humanity might migrate,” Launius continues, “this salvation ideology seems problematic, a statement of faith rather than knowledge or reason.” And the accessibility of such an exoplanet is questionable, since by current knowledge it will not be possible to cross interstellar space rapidly enough to achieve much migration.

It is indeed faith that underlies the conviction that traveling beyond our home world will prevent the extinction of the human race. But Launius’ presentation of this fact seems to imply that it lessens the significance of such a conviction, as if beliefs supported by mere faith were not to be taken seriously. That is far from the case, as the history of human civilization clearly shows. Most major advances have been made by people who had faith in what they envisioned before they were able to produce evidence; that was what made them keep working toward it. Having faith in the future, whether a personal future or that of one’s successors, has always been what inspires human action.

On what grounds can faith without evidence be justified? This issue was addressed by the 17th century philosopher Blaise Pascal in what is known as Pascal’s Wager, now considered the first formal use of decision theory. Pascal was considering whether is rational to believe in God, but the principle he formulated has been applied to many other questions. In his words, “Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.” If on the other hand, you bet on it being false and it turns out to be true, you lose everything; thus to do so would be stupid if the stakes are high.

(6) NEXT AT KGB. “Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series” hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Karen Neuler and Genevieve Valentine on July 19 at the KGB Bar. The event starts at 7 p.m.

Karen Heuler

Karen Heuler’s stories have appeared in over 100 literary and speculative magazines and anthologies, from Conjunctions to Clarkesworld to Weird Tales, as well as a number of Best Of anthologies. She has received an O. Henry award, been a finalist for the Iowa short fiction award, the Bellwether award, the Shirley Jackson award for short fiction (twice), and a bunch of other near-misses. She has published four novels and three story collections, and this month Aqueduct Press released her novella, In Search of Lost Time, about a woman who can steal time.

Genevieve Valentine

Genevieve Valentine is an author and critic. Her most recent book is the near-future spy novel ICON; her short fiction has appeared in over a dozen Best of the Year anthologies. Her comics work includes Catwoman for DC Comics and the Attack on Titan anthology from Kodansha. Her criticism and reviews have appeared in several venues including the AV Club, the Atlantic, and The New York Times. Please ask her about the new King Arthur movie.

(7) AMBIENT TRIBUTE TO DUNE SERIES. April Larson, a Louisiana ambient/drone/noise musician, has released a tribute album to the original Dune trilogy and the other Dune-related novels on Bandcamp.

It is titled “You Stand in a Valley Between Dunes” and the album features tracks with names such as “The Fall of Ix (Core Instability Mix),” “Lady Jessica,” and “Guild Navigator (Junction).”

April Larson is the representative of a tribe of naga located along the coast of Louisiana. She translates music into sense- data… through a collection of three interlaced brains. She continues her research in oneironautic listening and regularly delivers lectures on relevant tone-clusters to beehives and ghosts.

(8) RYAN OBIT. YouTuber Stevie Ryan (1984-2017): American comedian, actress and writer; found dead by apparent suicide on 3 July, aged 33. She appeared as a version of herself in the experimental thriller John Doe: Diary of a Serial Killer (2015, but apparently never released).

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 3, 1985 Back to the Future released, features 1981 DeLorean DMC-12.
  • July 3, 1985 — George Romero’s Day of the Dead is seen for the first time.
  • July 3, 1996 Independence Day was released.

(10) FACE IN A DUFF CROWD. Paul Weimer took this picture on his trip Down Under. I’ve interacted with Ian Mond online but I’ve never seen him before.

(11) SKIFFY AND FANTY POLL. Man, this is a hard one!

(12) BEWARE DOCTOR WHO SPOILER NEWS. You’ve been warned. Tariq Kyle, in “’Doctor Who’ season 10 finale explained: Yes, that is who you think it is” on Hypable, says that the mysterious guy in the end of the Season 10 finale of Doctor Who is in fact William Hartnell (played by David Bradley) and that Hartnell and Peter Capaldi will survive until this year’s Doctor Who Christmas special, at which time Capaldi will regenerate.

Doctor Who season 10 just ended with a cliffhanger that none of us saw coming, and if you’re wondering who the mysterious new character is and where they are in the Doctor’s timeline, then check out our explanation!

Obviously, if you haven’t seen the season 10 finale of Doctor Who yet, beware of huge spoilers. If you continue on and you don’t want to be spoiled, then ¯\_(?)_/¯.

(13) CHILL FACTOR. Reason TV has put out a video called “Mark Hamill v. Autographed Memorabilia:  The Revenge of the Dark Side,” which is mostly about Bill Petrocelli of the San Francisco-based chain Book Passage and how his company will be affected by the California autograph law. The impetus for the law was Mark Hamill’s complaining about fake Hamill autographs, which caught the ear of the legislator who had the law introduced.

(14) WHAT AUNT MAY HAS TO SAY. This is not your uncle’s Aunt May: “WATCH: Marisa Tomei on making Aunt May cooler than Peter in Spider-Man: Homecoming”.

What is different is Aunt May herself. Let’s face it, Tiger: May has never been cooler than she is now, as portrayed by Oscar-winning actress Marisa Tomei. She’s much younger than she’s ever been portrayed in the comics or any of the previous Spider-Man feature films. The fact that the age difference between Peter and May is much less adds a new dynamic to their relationship … but, thankfully, not even a hint of sexual tension. (Hey, the actress brought it up, not me!)

SYFY WIRE talked with Tomei about how her Aunt May still worries about Peter, primarily about the fact that he doesn’t seem to have a social life. We also talked about whether May trusts Tony Stark as Peter’s mentor and what she wants to see in an Aunt May action figure.

 

(15) WHAT’S MY LINE? Meanwhile, back in the Sunday funnies: “Spider-Man and His Inker: Wrists Still Going Strong a Half-Century Later”. Joe Sinnott in his studio; several photos.

Joe Sinnott says spider webs drive him crazy, even though he has been drawing them for over 50 years for one of the world’s most famous superheroes.

“They’ve got to be so accurate, and they’ve got to be the same all the time,’’ he said. “It takes me about three days to do two pages.”

At 90, Mr. Sinnott still brings to life the action tales spun by Stan Lee, the co-creator of Spider-Man, continuing a collaboration begun in 1950 when Mr. Sinnott first went to work for Mr. Lee at what later became Marvel Comics. “Imagine having the same boss for 67 years,” Mr. Sinnott said. He added that they should be in the Guinness World Records book.

With pen and brush, he keeps Spider-Man flying over New York City, soaring from skyscraper to skyscraper, in a never-ending battle against supervillains. “It just takes time putting all those lines, and the tiny spider on Spider-Man’s chest, in such a small space,” Mr. Sinnott said.

(16) WEB REVIEW. The BBC says the new Spider-Man is “fun”.

The makers of Spider-Man: Homecoming have remembered something that the makers of almost every other recent superhero film have forgotten. They’ve remembered that if you’re going to tell a story about someone in a skin-tight costume who can throw cars around like frisbees, then it should probably be fun for all the family. That’s not to say that superhero movies can’t be used to lecture us on the international arms trade, or to examine why allies fall out and turn against each other. But sometimes they should return to their comic-book roots, and offer snazzy, buoyant entertainment for children as well as for their parents – and that’s what the latest Spider-Man film does.

Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a comment: “The story complains that the ‘gauche, geekily enthusiastic youngster with a pubescent squeak of a voice’ isn’t true to the comics; does anyone remember what Parker was like in the very early comics, when he was still in high school (as in the movie)?”

(17) SUNK COST. A first-class ticket to see the Titanic: “The ‘merman’ facing a Titanic mission”

Next year he will be taking dozens of paying passengers down about 12,500ft (nearly 2.4 miles or 3.8km) to the wreck of the Titanic, 370 miles south-southeast of Newfoundland.

OceanGate, the US firm behind the dives, says more people have been into space or climbed Mount Everest than have visited the Titanic’s final resting place.

The firm stresses that it is a survey expedition and not a tourist trip.

Over six weeks from next May, David will make repeated dives in a new carbon fibre submersible called Cyclops 2, designed to withstand depths of up to 4,000m.

On each trip to the bottom of the ocean, he will take three “mission specialists” – passengers who are underwriting the expedition – and a “content expert” with a good working knowledge of the wreck

The expedition doesn’t come cheap. Each one of the 54 people who have signed up for the deep dive is paying $105,129 for the privilege.

(18) LINEUP, SIGN UP, AND RE-ENLIST TODAY. The Washington Post’s Steve Hendrix asks “There are already four-hour lines at Walt Disney World’s new ‘Avatar’-themed attraction. Does Pandora live up to the hype?” And he answers that the Avatar-based “Pandora” section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a “trippy, tropical” and “an authentically immersive land that soothes even as it dazzles,” but prepared to wait four hours to get on the two rides in the section.

The Disney iteration, though, takes place generations after the miners have been driven out (hopefully with ample job-retraining for these victims of the War on Unobtanium) and the peacefully gigantic blue Na’vi of Pandora are busy restoring it to space-age splendor. That ingenious conceit allowed planners to combine dystopian ruins (the colossal exo-armor battle suit from the movie’s climax sits rusting outside the gift shop) with lush streambeds and flowering vines.

(19) SUBTRACTION BY DIVISION. Lela E. Buis, in “Does the Hugo really represent fandom?”, totes up the racial and sexual minorities among this year’s Hugo-nominated fiction authors only to find a problem with this diversity. And what is that problem?

So, what are the chances that SFF fandom as a whole would elect this ballot? Remember that taste is never random, but with equal participation I’d expect the SFF readership demographics should roughly match the ballot for a popular award. Assuming that everyone participates, of course.

What does that mean? If the right people were voting for the Hugos the list of winners would look like the Dragon Awards? Is that what this is code for?

(20) APPROPRIATION V. EXCHANGE. K. Tempest Bradford wrote a commentary NPR that declares “Cultural Appropriation Is, In Fact, Indefensible”.

…Cultural appropriation can feel hard to get a handle on, because boiling it down to a two-sentence dictionary definition does no one any favors. Writer Maisha Z. Johnson offers an excellent starting point by describing it not only as the act of an individual, but an individual working within a “power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.”

That’s why appropriation and exchange are two different things, Johnson says — there’s no power imbalance involved in an exchange. And when artists appropriate, they can profit from what they take, while the oppressed group gets nothing.

I teach classes and seminars alongside author and editor Nisi Shawl on Writing the Other, and the foundation of our work is that authors should create characters from many different races, cultures, class backgrounds, physical abilities, and genders, even if — especially if — these don’t match their own. We are not alone in this. You won’t find many people advising authors to only create characters similar to themselves. You will find many who say: Don’t write characters from minority or marginalized identities if you are not going to put in the hard work to do it well and avoid cultural appropriation and other harmful outcomes. These are different messages. But writers often see or hear the latter and imagine that it means the former….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for some of these stories and the fried chicken. Other story thanks goes to Rob Thornton, Dann, Steve Green, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, and Cat Eldridge. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 5/26/17 Hey Mr. Tatooine Man, Use The Force For Me

(1) PHOENIX COMICON SUSPECT NAMED. Phoenix’s 12News, in “Phoenix Comicon suspect said things would get bloody, according to court papers”, reports the suspect’s name is Mathew Sterling.

The man Phoenix police arrested Thursday for carrying four loaded guns inside the Phoenix Convention Center during Phoenix Comicon has been booked for attempted murder and several more charges. A judge set his bond at $1 million on Friday.

Police said 31-year-old Mathew Sterling made threats to harm a performer at the event. Police also believe he intended to attack officers as well.

According to court documents, Phoenix police received a call from the Hawthorne Police Department in California. Hawthorne police said a witness reported reading Facebook messages from Sterling who was posting pictures of Phoenix officers and threatening to shoot them.

Sterling resisted when approached by police at Phoenix Comicon and even ripped off an officer’s police patch on his uniform, according to court paperwork. He was eventually overpowered and taken into custody.

Police say Sterling was armed with a shotgun and three handguns that were all fully loaded. He was also carrying a combat knife, pepper spray and throwing stars. Police said he was wearing body armor.

Signs posted throughout the Phoenix Convention Center prohibit these kind of items at the event. Sterling avoided the stations where prop weapons are secured and marked, according to court records.

He later told police in an interview that he believed the signs and law prohibiting weapons at the venue did not apply to him, according to court paperwork.

Court documents show Sterling admitted to carrying the weapons into the venue and told police he was the Punisher — a popular Marvel comic book character. Sterling said if he deemed the officers to be what he called “Aphrodite officers” or “bad” officers, he would shoot them. He said these types of officers can hide behind kind faces and police badges.

According to court documents, Sterling purchased a four-day pass to the event and told police he believed with the person dead, the person’s wife and child would be happy.

Sterling appeared in court for his initial appearance Friday. He did not say a word and is being held on a $1 million bond.

Sterling was also booked for three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, wearing body armor during the commission of a felony, resisting arrest and carrying a weapon in a prohibited place.

After yesterday’s incident, Phoenix Comicon Director Matthew Solberg announced radical changes to attendee screening at the entrances to the event.

In light of recent events, Phoenix Comicon, in cooperation with the Phoenix Convention Center and the Phoenix Police Department, will be implementing enhanced screening to ensure the safety of all our attendees. This screening includes three dedicated access points, no longer allowing costume props within our convention or the Convention Center, and other methods as determined in conjunction with the Convention Center and Phoenix Police Department. We anticipate some delays as you are entering the building and we encourage you to carry as little as possible to make the process easier. …Costume props will no longer be allowed on-site. All costume props should be left at home, in your car, or in your hotel room. This includes costume props for staff, crew, costuming groups, panelists, and participants in the masquerade ball…. Convention staff is also trying to bring some relief to those stuck in line.

(2) CHEESECAKE UPDATE. The crowdfunding appeal to raise $500K for charity as an inducement for Neil Gaiman to do a reading of the Cheesecake Factory menu, reported in May 22’s Scroll, has raised $59,017 in the first four days.

(3) ENOUGH ABOUT YOU. Felicity Harley is catching heat for her narcissistic “interview” with N.K. Jemisin, “Science Fiction Author Felicity Harley talks to Hugo Award Winning Author NK Jemisin” (links to Internet Archive), where Harley spends half the time talking about herself.

…Jemisin says that she writes not to educate or convey her political views but to entertain. I questioned her on her social and political views, and since her books are speculative, I wouldn’t say she deliberately addresses these head on. Rather I think she tends to use allegory and metaphor to introduce them into her stories.

I’m a different kind of writer — I come out of a strong background of political and social activism. For instance, my current book deals specifically with corporate plutocrats and how they are exacerbating climate change, and also some of the moral and ethical dilemmas that we face as we develop highly intelligent, human forms of artificial intelligence. I’m also more of a hard core science writer — I have a three or four page glossary of scientific terms at the back of my book. I’m like an Andy Weir if you like, who I’ll be chatting with later on in this series.

I would say however, after reading her work, that Jemisin is by far the superior artist of the two of us. She writes from her colorful imagination and her Jungian dreams, weaving her political ideas like subtle silver threads throughout her narrative….

Jemisin let loose a hail of tweets about the interview and how it will reshape her policy for dealing with interview requests henceforth. (Her complete comments are available at Storify.)

(4) NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME POSTER. Tommy Lee Edwards tells The Verge: “What went wrong with the Spider-Man Homecoming poster: a veteran film artist explains”.

Not long after a pair of excellent new trailers for Spider-Man: Homecoming landed online, Sony and Marvel unveiled a poster for the film, showcasing nearly everyone in the principal cast. It is, to say the least, crowded. Peter Parker, Tony Stark, and the Vulture appear twice; poor Marisa Tomei is a tiny floating head at the bottom right; and the background features fireworks, lasers, the Manhattan skyline and the Washington Monument.

It didn’t take long for fans and critics to roast the poster on Twitter…

(5) A SHORE THING. Scott Edelman invites everyone to gobble glass noodles with the legendary William F. Nolan in Episode 38 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Welcome to the permanently moored Queen Mary, which sailed the seas from 1936 to 1967, but which is now a retired ocean liner turned hotel in Long Beach, California — and last month the home of the second annual StokerCon. My guest for this episode snuck away with me from the con for some peace and quiet in my room — and to share take-out food delivered from nearby Thai Silk….

 

William F. Nolan. Photo by Scott Edelman.

We discussed how Ray Bradbury helped him sell his first short story in 1954, the way a slush pile sale to Playboy convinced him to abandon a successful career as a commercial artist, why his Twilight Zone episode was never filmed, the difference between the real truth and Charles Beaumont’s “greater truth,” why he only acted in only one movie (and got punched by William Shatner), how Stan Freberg pranked diners aboard the Queen Mary and made them think the ship was sinking, which novel he thinks is his best (and it’s not Logan’s Run), and more.

(6) OXYGEN. On behalf of writers everywhere, Dawn Witzke pleads for your Amazon reviews: “Review the KISS Way”.

Imagine walking blindfolded into a room. You tell a story and at the end there is silence.

Feeling a bit worried? Well, that is what it’s like for authors.

We know you have our books. We know some of you have even read them. But, without reviews, it’s like that silent room.

Don’t write reviews because:

“I would, but I don’t know what to say.”

“I don’t like doing reviews, it takes so much time.”

“I didn’t like the book. I don’t want to be mean.”

I’ll admit it, I have said those things before.

However, writers depend on reviews. Reviews not only lets the author know how they’re doing their job, it helps others decide whether to buy the book or move along to another book….

(7) SUSTAINABLE SPACE. Authors argue a new vision for economically-viable space stations: “Towards an Economically Viable roadmap to large scale space colonization”.

Al Globus and Joe Strout have an analysis that space settlements in low (~500 km) Earth equatorial orbits may not require any radiation shielding at all. This is based on a careful analysis of requirements and extensive simulation of radiation effects. This radically reduces system mass and has profound implications for space settlement, as extraterrestrial mining and manufacturing are no longer on the critical path to the first settlements, although they will be essential in later stages. It also means the first settlements can evolve from space stations, hotels, and retirement communities in relatively small steps.

(8) TEMPORARY GRAFITTI. Last night stfnal creatures were illuminated on the outside of the Sydney Opera House. Here are two examples — more on Twitter.

(9) SPIT TAKE. Another unexpected consequence of tech (or maybe it was to be expected, given lawyers): Ancestry.com‘s license-in-perpetuity. The BBC has the story: “The company’s terms and conditions have stated that users grant the company a “perpetual, royalty-free, worldwide, sublicensable, transferable license’ to their DNA data, for purposes including ‘personalised products and services'”

A leading genealogy service, Ancestry.com, has denied exploiting users’ DNA following criticism of its terms and conditions.

The US company’s DNA testing service has included a right to grant Ancestry a “perpetual” licence to use customers’ genetic material.

A New York data protection lawyer spotted the clause and published a blog warning about privacy implications.

Ancestry told BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours its terms were being changed.

Headquartered in Utah, Ancestry is among the world’s largest for-profit genealogy firms, with a DNA testing service available in more than 30 countries.

The company, which uses customers’ saliva samples to predict their genetic ethnicity and find new family connections, claims to have more than 4 million DNA profiles in its database.

Ancestry also stores the profiles forever, unless users ask for them to be destroyed.

The company’s terms and conditions have stated that users grant the company a “perpetual, royalty-free, worldwide, sublicensable, transferable license” to their DNA data, for purposes including “personalised products and services”.

In a statement to You and Yours, an Ancestry spokesperson said the company “never takes ownership of a customer’s data” and would “remove the perpetuity clause”.

(10) STACEY BERG PROFILE. Here is Carl Slaughter’s overview of Stacey Berg.

ECHO HUNTER 367 SERIES
by Stacey Berg
Harper Voyager Impulse

DISSENSION

For four hundred years, the Church has led the remnants of humanity as they struggle for survival in the last inhabited city. Echo Hunter 367 is exactly what the Church created her to be: loyal, obedient, lethal. A clone who shouldn’t care about anything but her duty. Who shouldn’t be able to.

When rebellious citizens challenge the Church’s authority, it is Echo’s duty to hunt them down before civil war can tumble the city back into the dark. But Echo hides a deadly secret: doubt. And when Echo’s mission leads her to Lia, a rebel leader who has a secret of her own, Echo is forced to face that doubt. For Lia holds the key to the city’s survival, and Echo must choose between the woman she loves and the purpose she was born to fulfill.

REGENERATION

Protected by the Church for four hundred years, the people of the City are the last of humanity — or so they thought. Echo Hunter 367, made to be faithful to the Church and its Saint at all costs, embarks on what she’s sure is a suicide mission into the harsh desert beyond the City. Then, at the end of all hope, she stumbles on a miracle: another enclave of survivors, a lush, peaceful sanctuary completely opposite of anything Echo has ever known.

But the Preserve has dark secrets of its own, and uncovering them may cost Echo more than just her life. She fears her discoveries will trigger a final, disastrous war. But if Echo can stop the Church and Preservers from destroying each other, she might have a chance to achieve her most impossible dream — saving the woman she loves.

PRAISE FOR REGENERATION

  • Echo Hunter 367 may be a clone and callous killer, but she’s one with true heart and soul. Regeneration is a thrilling conclusion to Berg’s dystopia duology.” — Beth Cato, author of The Clockwork Dagger series
  • “Regeneration by Stacey Berg is a paean to resistance, hope, and love, a Canticle for Leibowitz that passes the Bechdel Test and then some. This post-apocalyptic clash of values and technology demonstrates beautifully that physical bravery can only take you so far; real change only happens when we have the courage to listen.” – Nicola Griffith, author of Hild

STACEY BERG BIO

Stacey Berg is a medical researcher who writes speculative fiction. Her work as a physician-scientist provides the inspiration for many of her stories. She lives in Houston and is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas. When she’s not writing, she practices kung fu and runs half marathons.

(11) FOLLOW THE MONEY. Lela E. Buis ponders “Why Are Literary Awards so Popular?”

A recent article by Deborah Cohen cites James English The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value. According to English, the number of literary awards has more than doubled in the UK since 1988 and tripled in the US since 1976. Not all these are for SFF, of course. Some of them are big competitions for national recognition and some are only small prizes for local authors. Still, there’s been that explosion. So why are awards so popular?

The answer appears to be economics, which is the answer to a lot of questions about human behavior, i.e. there’s money tied up in the awards process. First of all, many of the prizes charge an entry fee, which means it’s a money-making proposition for the organization offering the award. The Newbery is free. The Pulitzer charges $50. But other smaller contests often have higher fees. The Florida Authors and Publishers Association, for example, charges $75 for members and $85 for non-members to enter their contest. These small organizations tend to cater to independent publishers and authors who hope to gain some of the advantages a literary award can offer, meaning you can add “prize-winning author” to your bio.

(12) DIETARY LAWS OF THE AMAZONS. Speaking of following the money, here’s another entry in the Wonder Woman nutrition sweepstakes.

(13) GREATCOATS. At Fantasy Literature, Bill Capossere does a mock dialog involving Sebastien De Castell and his characters as a salute to “Tyrant’s Throne: A near-perfect close to a great series”.

De Castell turned to Kest. “How would you rate our chances?”

Kest rifled through the manuscript. “We’ll get four and five-star reviews and show up on a dozen Best of the Year lists, after which you’ll get one, no two, major nominations. People will be very sad it’s over and will repeatedly beg you for more. Falcio will appear on five or six €˜Best Characters in a Series’ lists, which won’t do much for his humility, I hate to say.”

“I’ll have you know I have the best humility of anyone.”

“My point exactly. I’ll get a Top 10 mention on a list of Best Swordsperson in a fantasy work, but poor Brasti will almost certainly be forgotten, unless someone makes a list of €˜Characters Who You Only Remember as €˜That Other Guy.’”

Brasti glanced up from polishing his bow.

Falcio raised a finger before Brasti could speak. “Please tell me that isn’t a euphemism. I really€”“

De Castell interrupted. “Don’t break perspective, Falcio. And yes, we all hope it isn’t a euphemism.” …

(14) HISTORY OF FINLAND. Here’s an artistic byproduct of DNA-community research: “Genomes tell their story in a stamp celebrating the 100th anniversary of Finland”.

This year, in Finland, we are celebrating the first one hundred years as an independent country. Our history books tell many details of the past decades that have shaped the present day Finland. With modern technology we can complement the written history by another readable source that has literally travelled with our ancestors throughout millenia. This readable source is, of course, the human genome that we are studying at the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) of University of Helsinki. A figure of our population genetic analysis based on the FINRISK study of the National Institute for Health and Welfare ended up in a special stamp designed by Pekka Piippo to celebrate Finland’s 100th anniversary. It is a bit fancy stamp with a price tag of 10 euros and you can see our contribution in it only in UV-light!

(15) HONORING THOSE WHO DIED IN WW2. Robert Kennedy suggests that as we begin Memorial Day Weekend in the U.S. we increase our appreciation of the cost of war by viewing The Fallen.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, Robert Kennedy, Mark-kitteh, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 4/8/2017 Fly Me To The Moon And Let Me Pixel To The Stars

(1) SCENERY WILL BE CHEWED. Nerd & Tie says we can look forward to multiple Masters in Season 10 of Doctor Who: “John Simm Will Reprise His Role as The Master in ‘Doctor Who’ Series 10”.

In a turn of events I’m sure most of us didn’t expect, John Simm will be stepping back into the role of The Master this upcoming series of Doctor Who. Simm last played the character in 2010, during David Tennant’s final story as The Doctor.

Michelle Gomez took over the part a couple of series ago, and will also appear this series….

(2) CLARKE CENTER CLARION BENEFIT. On May 2, the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination will present an evening on the craft of writing science fiction and fantasy with George R. R. Martin (“A Song of Ice and Fire,” adapted for television as Game of Thrones, the Wild Card series) in conversation with Kim Stanley Robinson (New York 2140, the Mars trilogy). Shelley Streeby, faculty director of the Clarion Workshop, will moderate.

All proceeds will support the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop at UC San Diego, “the oldest and most highly regarded training ground for new science fiction and fantasy authors.”

Note – Martin will not be doing a signing.

(3) UNITED. In “A Personal Note”, Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories wishes his wife, Karen, a happy birthday, and talks about her medical struggles over the past year.

I can not express the degree of my admiration for this woman who has suffered more than most but who continues to fight, each and every day.  She (and I) get frustrated with the pace, we have our down days (the weather around here certainly doesn’t help)…but we still manage to have our laughs;  we still discuss world affairs, are involved with family matters….

(4) MISSED THIS ONE. This was an insurance company’s April Fool –

(5) AND THIS ONE. Fly SJW-Credential Airlines! Cheapflights posted this on April 1.

Book a flight and have a furry friend waiting for you when you board.

As part of our goal to make flight search super simple and provide travelers with the most options, Cheapflights is launching our new Catflights filters. With the rising popularity of cat cafes, cat bars and cat-friendly flights around the world, it’s easier than ever to enjoy a little kitten companionship while traveling.

And the benefits are pretty purrsuasive….

 

(6) WORSE THAN ALLIGATORS IN THE SEWERS. Where better to watch Them! than a place practically on top of where the giant ants entered the Los Angeles River? It will happen, at one of several special showings at Union Station.

Next up in the series, on May 12, is the 1954 Them! The campy flick about enormous man-eating ants is considered the first big hit in the “nuclear monster” sub-genre of Cold War-era science fiction. Several scenes were filmed at Union Station and others were shot along the banks of the L.A. River.

Sci-Fi at Union Station wraps up on June 9 with the most contemporary film in the slate, Her, from 2013. The film was selected for the series in part because of the vision it includes of what riding the Metro in L.A. might be like in the near future. Subway to the beach? Well, we’re pretty much there. Operating systems that we fall in love with might still be a little further off, though not if Elon Musk has anything to say about it.

Sci-Fi at Union Station takes place at 8:30pm on April 5, May 12 and June 9. Entry is free with seating on a first-come, first-serve basis. Films are shown indoors in the main ticketing hall.

(7) SF AT ANOTHER ICONIC THEATER. ‘Superman: The Movie’ is being shown at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood on Sunday, April 16th at 7:30pm as part of a double bill with 1951 ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’.

(8) ZIEGLER OBIT. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna has an appreciation of Jack Ziegler, the great New Yorker cartoonist who passed away on March 29 at the age of 74 – “How Jack Ziegler became ‘the godfather’ of the New Yorker’s modern wave of cartoonists”.

It was February 1974, and young Jack Ziegler had just sold his first drawing to the New Yorker. Yet in the months that followed, even as his cartoons continued to sell, he was having trouble actually getting published. The roadblock, it turned out, was a lone layout man who, having been at the magazine a half-century, saw himself as the bulwark against the institution’s would-be ruin.

“He didn’t like my work, apparently,” Ziegler once said of this one-man bottleneck — a makeup editor named Carmine Peppe who aimed to exercise control over which cartoons to hold. But what Peppe didn’t realize was that Ziegler represented a new wave of New Yorker cartoonists, and that this tide would not be denied.

“It turned out that Carmine thought that if they printed my stuff, it would be the end of the magazine and that it would just destroy The New Yorker as we know it. Which it did, apparently,” Ziegler said with a laugh in Richard Gehr’s 2014 book of profiles, “I Only Read It for the Cartoons: The New Yorker’s Most Brilliantly Twisted Artists.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 8, 1961 — Stan Laurel received his honorary Oscar.

John King Tarpinian adds, “My all-time favorite short story of Ray Bradbury’s is ‘The Laurel & Hardy Love Affair’ which can be found in the anthology The Toynbee Convector.”

  • April 8, 1990  — Twin Peaks premieres.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • April 8, 1980 – Katee Sackhoff, best known for playing Lieutenant Kara “Starbuck” Thrace on the Sci Fi Channel’s television program Battlestar Galactica (2003–2009).

(11) GAME AMPLIFIES A POSITIVE TREND. Pokemon Go may be reducing Japanese suicides, at least in one location.

Most people who choose to take their own lives do so in a private place, often their own home, she says. Since the game came out there have been many media reports of crowds of gamers at Tojinbo, suggesting it may no longer hold the same appeal for those seeking isolation.

With media attention a major factor in drawing people to suicide hotspots, it is not impossible that different coverage of the area is also helping change its reputation.

Tell’s director also says the Tojinbo story comes at the same time as a very welcome decline in suicide across Japan, from about 33,000 a year at its peak a decade ago to about 21,000 now.

(12) ADDITIONS TO MOUNT TBR. Hot off the virtual press – Strange Horizons April 2017 issue.

(13) PATHFINDER. Lela E. Buis reviews Rabid Puppy Hugo nominee “Alien Stripper Bones From Behind By The T-Rex”. Unsurprisingly, there’s not much to say about porn.

(14) AUTHOR WRITES BOOK ON SMARTPHONE. A man from the Borders area of Scotland has written a 100,000-word novel over three years on his 90-minute daily train commute. Billy Twigg and the Storm of Shadows by Ninian Carter is a “genre-blurring” young adult SF novel.

(15) REALLY. Wasn’t that long ago people complained if anything looked like normalizing the current state of affairs.

(16) CLEAN SWEEPDOWN FORE AND AFT. Working to clean up space trash: the BBC reports on “The race to destroy space garbage”.

Chip Hitchcock adds, “I can remember only one story, by the lesser-known British writer Hugh Walters, that mentioned cleaning up space — and he talked about a tug that would bring down entire satellites in one piece. Nobody thought we’d pollute space, even when writers were starting to talk about pollution on Earth.”

(17) KEEPING WRITERS OFF THE STREETS. Atlas Obscura has heard “The Mall of America Is Looking for a Writer-in-Residence”.

The job: Spend five days “deeply immersed in the Mall atmosphere” and write “on-the-fly impressions” of the place. The position is open to all sorts of writers (journalists, poets, musical comedy writers, etc.) of various levels of experience. The initial application involves writing a short pitch about “how you would approach this assignment.”

The compensation: The Mall will put the writer up in the on-site hotel, give them $400 for food and drink, and a “generous honorarium…

Apply here.

(18) LOST ITS CARBONATION. At The Verge, Kwame Opam says “Legion’s first season fizzled into a conventional superhero story”.

Right until the end, it’s a tight, quirky, well-acted, visually arresting series that’s unlike just about anything on television, including its superhero show kin.

So why am I left wanting?

By the end of its run, Legion reminded me a great deal of the first season of HBO’s True Detective. Even though Legion never becomes the water-cooler show Detective became, Hawley’s series is similarly ambitious, sprawling, atmospheric, and frustrating. It rewarded weekly viewing by changing the stakes, raising new questions, and dangling the possibility of a mind-bending mystery. But in its final act, that hoped-for mystery gets cast aside in favor of a smaller, more straightforward conclusion. In the end, Legion is auteur television at its strongest and weakest. It’s a well-told, even innovative story, but in spite of the gorgeous window dressing, it’s still deeply conventional.

[Thanks to rcade, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John King Tarpinian.]

Pixel Scroll 3/23/17 I Fifth The Pixel Electric

(1) SACRIFICIAL FIRST. Camestros Felapton, who has been “Reading ‘Corrosion’so you don’t have to”, files this after-action report:

So with the tune of ‘Don’t You Want Me Baby’, running in my head I descend into ‘Corrosion: The Corroding Empire Part by Johan Kalsi and/or Harry Seldon Edited by Vox Day’.

Servo is a robot working in a cocktail bar, when we meet him. Again, if only this book was a pastiche of new-romantic pop lyrics but it isn’t – I mean how would it have been to have included a cocktail bar in the story?

Instead, we get a bunch of connected not-exactly awful stories set in a technological society run by ‘algorithms’. The style is one I shall now christen ‘Puppy Clunk’. If you read some of the less appalling slated works in 2015, you’ll recognise the style. It’s not illiterate or wholly unreadable but it just sort of goes ‘clunk’ in every sentence.

(2) FLAME ON. Entertainment Weekly’s James Hibbard assures everyone that the “’Game of Thrones’ dragaons are ‘the size of 747s’ in season 7”. Is there a word in Dothraki for “bodacious”?

The dragons are bigger this season. Okay, we say that every year. But this time, they are a lot bigger.

For Game of Thrones season 7, which has Daenerys’ trio of beasts headed to Westeros as part of the dragon queen’s invading fleet, the creatures are more fearsome than ever before.

“The dragons this year are the size of 747s,” director Matt Shakman tells EW. “Drogon is the biggest of the bunch – his flame is 30-feet in diameter!”

Shakman is one of four directors helming next season (the others are GoT vets Alan Taylor, Jeremy Podeswa, and Mark Mylod). He was probably being at least somewhat approximate when comparing the dragons to the venerable Boeing airliner. But for reference, a 747 is about 230 feet long with a 210 feet wingspan. So, really big.

(3) BLIND DATE. I’ve used up my quota of free articles in the Washington Post this month, however, Daniel Dern recommends this article about The Expanse. If you are still on the free side of the paywall, treat yourself to “The best show about international relations on television right now is on – wait for it – Syfy”.

(4) OCTAVIA BUTLER. Fortunately this Boston Globe article hasn’t gone behind the paywall just yet — “Science fiction, black music meet in Toshi Reagon’s opera-in-progress”.

In the parable of the sower in the Gospels, Jesus tells his followers about different outcomes from scattering seeds. Some are cast to the side and eaten by birds, some are planted in rocky soil or among thorns and fail to grow, but the seeds sown on “good ground” will take root and provide a bounty.

Science-fiction author Octavia E. Butler called back to that allegory about the word of God with her 1993 book “Parable of the Sower,” about a young woman in an apocalyptic future America who wanders a drought-stricken landscape, planting the seeds of a new religion fueled by empathy.

Now Butler’s book is adapted into an opera that synthesizes a wide range of musical styles culled from its creators’ deep reservoir of knowledge about black music in America.

(5) TODAY’S DAYS

You get your choice:

Commemorates March 23rd, 1989, when a large asteroid missed the Earth by a mere 500,000 miles – a very near miss indeed! What would you do if an asteroid was about to hit the Earth – how would you spend your last hours, and would you even want to know?

(6) FISHER MEMORIAL. The public memorial service for mother and daughter will take place March 25.

Fans will be able to pay their respects to Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher during a public memorial Saturday at Forest Lawn Memorial Park-Hollywood Hills, where the late stars were buried together in January.

The joint service — described as a “celebration of life” — will begin at 1 p.m., Todd Fisher said in an announcement about the tribute for his mother and sister on his website.

“We will be celebrating their lives with friends, family members, and the people who loved them, you,” he wrote in the announcement.

The memorial will take place inside the cemetery’s Hall of Liberty, which, according to the Forest Lawn website, seats more than 1,000.

(7) GRAVE CONCERNS. Patrick Stewart is among the people campaigning to preserve a piece of Brooklyn history — “Patrick Stewart: Revolutionary War heroes are buried under empty Gowanus lot!”

Starship Enterprise captain and Park Slope resident Sir Patrick Stewart is throwing his weight behind a controversial theory that the bodies of hundreds of Revolutionary War heroes are buried beneath an vacant lot in Gowanus — and he wants a memorial placed there so that history never forgets the name “Maryland 400.”

Stewart claimed in a recent Gentleman’s Quarterly interview that the empty Ninth Street site is the final resting place of the famed band of soldiers — who died saving General Washington’s rebel army from annihilation during the Battle of Brooklyn — and said he has personally petitioned Mayor DeBlasio to install a monument to them there, to which Hizzoner replied, “I’m on it.”

(8) NEAGLE OBIT. Long-time New Orleans-area fan Robert Neagle (1955-2017) passed away March 22 from a massive heart attack. He was active in many local and regional fan groups, and a veteran conrunner. I first met him at Nolacon II 1988), where he was wearing his Porno Patrol t-shirt. Neagle was the Captain of the Porno Patrol and I remember asking for an explanation of what they did, and vaguely remember an explanation involving the French Quarter. I remember much more clearly being grateful that he and his friends were volunteering at the con which needed all the help it could get.

Neagle was chairman of Crescent City Con throughout its 20-year history, ending in 2005. He was one of the founders of the Companions of Doctor Who, chaired DeepSouthCon 37 (1999), and worked on Vulcon, CoastCon and NOSFF, the New Orleans Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival. He was a member of Area 504 and the Amalgamation of Non-Aligned Lifeforms Starfleet.

He was the first Fan GoH of the (relatively new) Gulf Coast convention CONtraflow. He was honored for his contributions to Southern fandom with the Rebel Award in 2001.

Neagle is being cremated and there are no services planned at this time.

(9) COMIC SECTION. Pearls Before Swine has a real groaner today.

(10) STIFLED DISCOURSE. Lela E. Buis, in “Intimidating People Into Silence”, comments on a political trend to threaten and bully people:

In the last blog, I reported on a group (wisely anonymous) who advanced an article challenging Cecily Kane’s 2016 Fireside article that used a statistical analysis to show anti-black bias among SFF editors. Although the anonymous authors agreed there was a bias against black authors, they disagreed on the cause. After threats, they withdrew the article. Fireside then posted the article on their site.

So, what was the problem here? Why were these authors threatened? Was it because they challenged Kane’s specific conclusions about editorial bias? Or was it because they challenged possible gains that might have been made because of Kane’s article? Is this a political issue? Are the anonymous authors misguided statisticians? Or are they really racists trying to undermine black progress?

The interesting thing is that this isn’t an isolated case of attacking and bullying people, not just for their social/political views, but also for research that might contradict the opposition’s conclusions. It’s actually a fairly common theme in US society right now….

(11) KSR H2O NYC. From Scientific American “Q&A: Kim Stanley Robinson Explains How He Flooded Manhattan”

His new book, New York 2140, explores the interplay of climate change and global finance on a warmer, wetter future world

What would you say this book is really about? It’s about climate change and sea level rise, but it’s also about the way that our economic system doesn’t allow us to afford a decent future. As one of the characters says early in the book, “We’ve got good tech, we’ve got a nice planet, but we’re fucking it up by way of stupid laws.”

Finance, globalization—this current moment of capitalism—has a stranglehold on the world by way of all our treaties and laws, but it adds up to a multigenerational Ponzi scheme, an agreement on the part of everybody to screw the future generations for the sake of present profits. By the logic of our current system we have to mess up the Earth, and that is crazy. My new novel explores this problem and how we might get out of it.

(12) WHO OF WHOVILLE. At the end of Daily Beast’s post about coverage of yesterday’s terror incident, “Londoners Reject British ‘Traitors’ Peddling Terror Dystopia on Fox News”, comes a genre reference —

James Moran, a screenwriter who worked on shows including Doctor Who and Torchwood, said the unique nature of London could never be altered.

“The only things that shut down London: (a) leaves, (b) 3 flakes of snow, (c) when you try to get on trains without letting people off first,” he wrote “Now let’s carry on being Londoners. Rude, always in a hurry, and completely ignoring each other, LIKE GOD INTENDED.”

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Stephen Burridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Raymond Boudreau, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]