Pixel Scroll 7/24/18 Interpixellary Loan Material: Do Not Remove This Scroll

(1) ASIA SF ASSOCIATION FOUNDED. The Asia Science Fiction Association held its first meeting on July 17 and chose these officers:

  • President: Liu Cixin (author Three-Body Problem)
  • Secretary: YK Yoon (Vice Chair, Korea SF Association)
  • Deputy Secretary: Regina Kanyu Wang  (Co-founder of Applecore), Feng Zhang (FAA), Dr. Arvind Mishra (secretary, Indian Science Fiction Writers Association)
  • Members: representatives of China, Egypt, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam etc.)

The Goals of the Society are:

a) to find ways and means of establishing contacts between the Science Fiction (SF) professionals and fans;

b) to ensure better mutual knowledge of SF literature and arts and of fandom activity in the Asian countries;

c) to propose the cognition of Asian SF in the rest of the world.

The first Asiacon will be held in Chengdu in 2019. Date and venue TBC.

More information about ASFA can be found on their website and Facebook.

(2) FUTURE TENSE. Joey Eschrich, Editor and Program Manager, Center for Science and the Imagination, and Assistant Director, Future Tense, sent the link to the latest story in the Future Tense Fiction series: “The Starfish Girl” by Maureen McHugh.

… LIAM CHAN (VOICE-OVER)
In 2017, Jinky was 11 years old, one of the top-ranked junior gymnasts in the U.S. Her family was contemplating an offer to train at the Iowa facility owned by gold-medal gymnast and coach, Gabby Douglas, when tragedy struck. During a routine vault in practice, Jinky overrotated, landed wrong, and fractured her spine, at the C5 vertebra.

She was paralyzed from the neck down. It seemed as if her gymnastics career, indeed, life as she knew it, was over.

CUT TO: Clip of J Mendoza in hospital bed, balloons.

LIAM CHAN (VOICE-OVER)
Then doctors proposed a radical new medical procedure. They would use starfish DNA to teach her body how to heal itself. The results were miraculous.

It was published along with a response essay by sports historian Victoria Jackson, “How Should Officials Decide When Cutting-Edge Medical Interventions for Athletes Cross the Line?”

Are elite athletes who undergo cutting-edge medical interventions after injuries benefiting from performance enhancement, and doing so to the degree that they should be barred from competition? What if the athlete suffered from an injury so traumatic that it made the medical intervention necessary? And anyway, if we expect these world-class athletes to strive to be the best—you know, whatever it takes—why should the organizations that govern competition have the power to force athletes out of certain treatments they deem to be on the bad side of “clean sports”?

(3) KHAN MAN. Theoden James, in “William Shatner explains why he refuses to watch ‘Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan’ again” in the Charlotte Observer, says that William Shatner will be in Charlotte this Sunday as part of a nationwide tour where people see Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan and then chat with Shat for an hour.  Shatner says that he’s still touring at 87 because “every time I wake up on a bad mattress, I know how heroic this is” and then plugs his two new albums, including his holiday album “Shatner Claus.”

What other projects have you got going on this year?

I’ve got two albums coming out, a country music album and a Christmas album. The country music album, called “Why Not Me?,” will be out in middle of the summer (Aug. 10), and then the Christmas album will be out in October. In between, there’s a book called “Live Long and …” We’re putting the final touches on it now, and I just keep thinking, “God, there’s something more I could have done there. I wish I’d done something here or something there.” There’s always this self-criticism, especially when you don’t have the ability to change anything anymore. And that’s frustrating. But you try and bring the lessons along for the next time.

And what’s the Christmas album called?

“Shatner Claus.”

That’s a great title. Did you come up with it?

No, I wish I had. I remember I was in a room somewhere with a few people, and somebody said, “What’ll we call it?” I said, “Gee, I don’t know.” Then somebody popped up with “Shatner Claus,” and we all laughed and said, “That’s it!” Just like you did. That settled it. There was no more discussion.

(4) QUACK AUDITION. Io9 has a rumor about DuckTales:

Don Cheadle—noted survivor of Thanos’ wrath—is the new voice of Donald Duck in a preview from Comic Con.

(5) THE YEAR OF THE EMERGENCY HOLOGRAPHIC TEXANS. Fanhistory resource Fanac.org has added videos of LoneStarCon 2’s 1997 Hugo Ceremony.

Part 1 (40 min.)

In this video, first Neal Barrett, Jr. delivers some comedic remarks. There are philosophy jokes, famous writer jokes, and even a National Republican Party Loyalty Test (which has nothing to do with politics). Next, there are presentations of several other awards, including the Seiun Awards and acceptance speech by Rob Sawyer, Forry Ackerman’s announcement of the Big Heart Award, and Stanley Schmidt’s presentation of the John Campbell award. Thanks to ALAMO (Alamo Literary Arts Maintenance Organization, Inc) for both these videos.

 

Part 2 (1:07 hr.)

In this video, the Hugos are awarded, interspersed with funny comments by Toastmaster Neal Barrett.

Presenters include Teddy Harvia, Pat Cadigan, Ellen Datlow, Guest of Honor Don Maitz, Robert Silverberg, Michael Moorcock and Algis Budrys.

Recipients include Martin Hoare, accepting for David Langford (with an unusual acceptance speech), Bob Eggleton (with much ado about hair), Gardner Dozois, Connie Willis and George R.R. Martin. George talks about his winning novella which is part of his novel, Game of Thrones. Stanley Kim Robinson won the Hugo for Best Novel at this event.

 

(6) RE-BUFFY. The Hollywood Reporter says “‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Inclusive Reboot in the Works With Joss Whedon”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is getting the reboot treatment.

20th Century Fox Television, who produced the original Joss Whedon drama, has offered a new take on the beloved Sarah Michelle Gellar drama in development. Writer Monica Owusu-Breen, who worked with Whedon on ABC’s Agents of SHIELD, has been hired to pen the adaptation and serve as showrunner on the reboot.

Whedon will be an executive producer on the series and has been working with Owusu-Breen on the script, which features a black actress stepping into the role of Buffy made famous by Gellar.

(7) UPC SCIENCE-FICTION AWARD. The Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) has announced there’ll be a new award for SF and fantastic literature in Spain. (English translation, edited.)

The UPC [Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya en Barcelona] Science-Fiction Award will be given at the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival

UPC, the Social Council of the University and the Sitges Foundation International Film Festival of Catalonia have signed, on July 20, an agreement through which the International Fantastic Film Festival of Sitges will host the award ceremony of the UPC Prize of Science-Fiction 2018, a prize that rewards unpublished stories in this literary genre.

The award ceremony of the UPC Science-Fiction Award will be held within the framework of the 51st International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia , which will take place in Sitges from October 4 to 14, 2018.

The awards ceremony will take place, In particular, during the Taboo’ks day , dedicated to fantastic literature and its connection to the audiovisual sector and whose goal is to be the seed of a future market for literary rights aimed at the audiovisual sector. Taboo’ks, which is supported by the Federation of Publishers’ Guild of Spain and the Saló Liber, will host the presentation of four works that can be adapted to the cinema and a project adapted to it.

The UPC Prize of Science-Fiction 2018 , organized by the Social Council of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) since 1991, was convened in January of this year and the deadline for submission of candidatures ended the past June 15 The jury of the prize will meet next September to decide the winning works.

The agreement signed with the International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia Foundation also provides for the exploration of other avenues of collaboration with the UPC in future editions of the Festival, such as the organization of a hackató to design 3D models of characters Fantastic or a test competition to be overcome from a smartphone with geolocation.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Nancy Lee Carlson won the Apollo 11 bag used by Neil Armstrong to collect moon dust for NASA in a lawsuit when the agency claimed it was their property. Carlson had purchased the bag for $995 at a government auction and sent it to NASA to be authenticated. The agency refused to return it so Carlson took them to court in Houston. Last year the judge awarded Carlson the bag, which she eventually sold for $1.8 million at Sotheby’s. [Source: Mental Floss]

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 24 – Lynda Carter, 67. Wonder Woman series, of course, but genre roles include the Supergirl and Smallville series, and Slayer, a vampire film. Rumoured to have role in the forthcoming Wonder Woman film but that’s very much unconfirmed even at the just held SDCC.
  • Born July 24 – Doug Liman, 53. Producer, Knight Rider reboot, and the Nightflyers series where a crew of space explorers are on a mission to find and explore a mysterious alien ship. Gee I’m sure this has been done before…
  • Born July 24 – Patty Jenkins, 47. Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman 1984, appears in Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics as herself in “The Truth About Wonder Woman” episode.
  • Born July 24 – Rose Byrne, 39. Roles in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and several X-Men films; also in Peter Rabbit.
  • Born July 24 – Anna Paquin, 36. Sookie Stackhouse in the True Blood series,  and Rogue in the X-Men film franchise.
  • Born July 24 – Elisabeth Moss, 36. Roles in The Handmaid’s Tale, the animated Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, Ghost Whisperer, Medium, The Animaniacs and Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Born July 24 – Emily Bett Rickards, 27. Felicity Smoak in the Arrowverse, live and animated alike, also Paranormal Solutions Inc., a ghost hunters series, and Soldiers of the Apocalypse.

(10) WORLDCON 76 – NEW PROGRESS REPORT. Worldcon 76 Progress Report 4 can be downloaded by anyone.

Progress Report 4 is now available online. Over the next week, if you opted in to paper copies, you should see it in the mail. Check inside for information about Traincon, Tours, more places to visit while you’re in SJ (including wine country!), a shopping guide, and more memories from fans.

(11) WORLDCON 76 CHILD CARE.

(12) WTF? Yahoo! Entertainment is reporting “Marvel Provided Grief Counseling Sessions at Comic-Con for People Still Devastated by ‘Infinity War’ Ending”.

Marvel fans attending San Diego Comic-Con 2018 didn’t get the chance to see any footage from “Captain Marvel” or the upcoming fourth “Avengers” movie, but they did get a chance to grieve together over the “Infinity War” ending that left Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Star Lord, Black Panther, and more superheroes dead. As reported by io9’s Germain Lussier, Marvel set up a booth near Petco Park in San Diego that offered grief counseling sessions for upset fans.

The booth featured posters with positive affirmation quotes like “We Are Groot” and “You are Stronger Than Vibranium.” Once inside, a group of 10-12 fans met with an actor posing as a counselor. The session included fans working their way through the following questions: What’s your first memory of the MCU? What was something it did that surprised you? What was it like when you saw the end of ‘Infinity War’? Who was the most shocking loss?

The final part of the process was the chance to take a group hug photo with a giant Hulk. While inside the booth, fans were treated to donuts and got the chance to watch a deleted scene from the movie. You can read more about the Marvel booth at io9.

(13) MAY WE PRAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A rare authenticated Lunar Landed microfilm copy of the Bible—this one from Apollo 14—is going up for auction (LiveScience: “Rare ‘Lunar Bible’ That Visited the Moon Is Up for Auction”).

During the height of the race to the Moon, the Apollo Prayer League sponsored microfilmed copies of the King James Bible to sent on various Apollo missions. There were reportedly 512 copies on Apollo 14 alone, though only 100 of them were put in the Lunar Module to make the trip all the way to the Lunar surface.

Hundreds of these so-called lunar Bibles — 512, to be exact — were bundled in packets and carried by Apollo 14 to the moon. The lunar module held 100 copies, 200 copies were officially stowed in the command module and an additional 212 copies were secretly hidden aboard by NASA microbiologist and [Apollo Prayer League (APL)] board member Harold Hill prior to launch, according to APL.

Of those, 100 Bibles reached the moon’s surface with Mitchell. Only 11 copies of the Apollo 14 lunar Bibles bear official letters of authenticity signed by both [Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell] and [APL director Rev. John M. Stout…]

The microfilm has been “mounted and framed in a gold-and-enamel setting” and the auction includes the Mitchell/Stout authenticity certification. Online bidding opens at $50,000 and runs through at least 5 PM PDT Thursday 26 July 2018. The auction is being handled by Nate D. Sanders Auctions.

(14) MORE POPULAR THAN JESUS? “Facebook angers Flanders with Rubens ban” – a classic painting is barred from FB due to underdressed corpse.

The Flanders Tourist Board has written an open letter protesting against Facebook’s “cultural censorship” of adverts showing paintings by Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens.

The removed ad featured the artist’s The Descent from the Cross, which shows a bare-chested Jesus.

Following the ban, the authority made a satirical video with fake investigators ushering visitors out of a museum after they looked at similar paintings.

Facebook has not yet responded.

(15) PRESENT AT THE CREATION. In “China fossil tells new supercontinent story”, BBC reports on evidence that Pangaea lasted longer than previously thought.

A newly discovered dinosaur may be re-writing China’s geological history, according to recent findings.

The latest addition to the family of giant, long-necked dinosaurs known as sauropods, Lingwulong shenqi lived in the north of the country about 174 million years ago.

At this time, East Asia was thought to have split from the supercontinent Pangaea.

But Lingwulong may be evidence that that was not the case.

(16) NOT THAT YOU ASKED. Ron Charles in the Washington Post reports that a paper by four Dartmouth professors, led by anthropologist Nathaniel J. Dominy and English professor Donald J. Pease, conclude that the Lorax is based on patas monkeys Theodore Geisel saw during a trip to Kenya in 1970: “Is Dr. Seuss’s Lorax real? These professors may have solved a 47-year-old mystery”.

Now, almost a half-century after the Lorax first popped out of a stump, his real identity can be revealed. Four scholars, led by Dominy, explain their method like this: “We used eigenface decomposition methods to calculate facial similarities and we generated the plot with t-distributed stochastic neighbor embedding (t-SNE), an iterative algorithm that down-projects multidimensional information into two dimensions for visualization.”

About now, you may be thinking, “I would not read that on a boat, I would not read that with a goat,” but hang on. That’s just a fancy way of saying that the scientists fed photos of monkeys and illustrations of the Lorax into a computer to determine the closest match

(17) COMIC (HOPEFULLY) RELIEF. I’ll probably wind up being sorry I laughed at this.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/10/18 A Tick In The Box Might Be Quite Pixellental But Comments Are A Scroll’s Best File

(1) SEUSS STRIKES OUT. The Seuss estate just lost its lawsuit against another parody, a play called “Who’s Holiday!” which sounds a lot darker than The Places You’ll Boldly Go. Kevin Underhill of Lowering the Bar has the story: “Second Circuit: Lewd “Grinch” Parody Doesn’t Infringe”.

The Second Circuit held on Friday that what Reuters called a “lewd and profane” stage version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” did not infringe on the original, affirming the district court’s decision in favor of playwright Matthew Lombardo and against Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

I was not previously aware of this work, but Reuters’ summary makes it clear that it departs in some significant ways from the Dr. Seuss classic:

The dispute began when Lombardo in 2016 was preparing to stage “Who’s Holiday!” a one-woman play featuring an adult version of Cindy Lou Who, the endearing girl who in Seuss’ story stops the Grinch from ending Christmas.

In contrast, the Cindy Lou Who in “Who’s Holiday!” has become a 45-year-old woman who spends her days in a trailer home while battling alcohol and substance abuse, following a stint in prison for murdering her husband, the Grinch.

(2) @%!$$!! SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, cybercaffing from the borough library, found he was unable to access his second- (third? one hundred fiftieth?) favorite blog, File 770. He told me via email —

Your site has just been blocked by all London libraries and schools for access apparently due to profanity.

Attached screenshot.

(Other screen filters elsewhere may similarly act????)

Thought you’d want to know.

I used to be blocked by the Great Firewall of China, but not anymore. How is it they can read me in China and not in a London library?

P.S. As you may know there is a workaround but you need to know you’re blocked to implement, hence my tipping you the nod.  — Hope this makes sense.

Absolutely. Rest assured, I never slip a rozzer the dropsy in snide.

(3) LEE DROPS SUIT. The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed: “Stan Lee Drops $1B Lawsuit Against POW! Entertainment for “Stealing” His Name and Likeness”.

Stan Lee has dismissed his $1 billion lawsuit against POW! Entertainment for fraud and conversion, less than two months after the suit was filed in his name.

“The whole thing has been confusing to everyone, including myself and the fans, but I am now happy to be surrounded by those who want the best for me,” Lee said in a statement. “I am thrilled to put the lawsuit behind me, get back to business with my friends and colleagues at POW! and launch the next wave of amazing characters and stories!”

POW! CEO Shane Duffy added, “We are ecstatic that this ill-founded lawsuit has been dismissed and we look forward to working with Stan again to develop and produce the great projects that were put on hold when the lawsuit was filed. We recently got together with Stan to discuss our path forward and we and [parent company] Camsing are pleased with his overwhelmingly enthusiastic reaction.”

Lee filed the complaint in May in Los Angeles County Superior Court, claiming the company and two of its officers conspired to steal his identity, name and likeness in a “nefarious scheme” involving a “sham” sale to a Chinese company….

Variety adds:

…The move comes as turmoil continues in Lee’s personal life. The lawsuit was filed in May, when the 95-year-old Lee was allegedly under the sway of memorabilia collector Keya Morgan. Morgan is now barred from contacting Lee or coming within 100 yards of him, under a restraining order granted on Friday.

A joint statement was issued Monday by Lee and by POW! Entertainment, now owned by Hong Kong’s Camsing International, announcing that the suit had been dismissed….

(4) IMPULSE. The first 3 episodes of YouTube series Impulse are free.  You have to be a premium user to watch the whole series. (Note warning about depiction of sexual violence.)

(5) WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS. Zack Morrissette tweeted this mashup:

(6) STEADMAN ON AMERICA. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna has an interview with Ralph Steadman, who has an exhibition of his work (originally prepared and curated by Britain’s Cartoon Museum) now on exhibit at American University through August 1: “Ralph Steadman’s D.C. retrospective often shines a ‘gonzo’ light on America”.

SOMETIMES IT takes a prominent visiting writer or artist — from de Tocqueville to, say, Bono — to serve up a storyteller’s view of the United States that is one shot of awed wonder and two shots of bracing honesty. Along that continuum of colorful outsider perspectives sits Ralph Steadman, that savage ink-slinging satirist from Kent who depicts the land of the free as a minefield of bullies and blowhards and presidents, not necessarily in that order and not without some redundancy.

Steadman is the British/Welsh illustrator best known to the American masses as the journalistic “gonzo” accomplice of Hunter S. Thompson….

(7) DREAMTIME. “Thandie Newton Wants to See More Diversity in Sci-Fi” – a New York Times Magazine interview.

Your character Maeve in HBO’s “Westworld” is an android or “host” in a theme park. What do you think it means to have characters of color in genre work? A lot of what’s in the mainstream doesn’t have people of color. What irritates me is that science fiction is the place where you could have us. Science fiction is a projection of a time that hasn’t even happened, so if you don’t populate that place with people of different skin tones, shame on you. What it actually is is the reflection of what those makers do in their daily lives, how little they hang out with people of different skin tones. These are the key people and it’s like, “Oops-a-daisy, I don’t have a lot of black friends,” and that’s a reality.

Some of the stars in the new “Star Wars” films who are black and brown have found themselves being harassed on social media. Kelly Marie Tran, who was in last year’s “Star Wars” movie, just quit social media altogether because of harassment. Where there’s greatest progress, there’s greatest resistance. It’s a sign of getting somewhere if people get pissed about it….

(8) JAR (NOT JAR JAR). Chuck Wendig immediately complies with a fan’s request.

(9) EPISODE NINE EPISODE NINE EPISODE NINE. Not the Beatles — A.V. News found out the original Lando is making a comeback: “Billy Dee Williams to finally class up the Star Wars sequels in Episode IX”.

Now that Snoke is dead and the mystery of Rey’s parentage has been definitively addressed in a way that was clever and interesting (even if it didn’t live up to the internet’s boring fan theories), there’s only one lingering question that has plagued Star Wars fans: Where the hell has Lando Calrissian been since Return Of The Jedi? Well, it looks like we’re finally going to find out in J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode IX, as The Hollywood Reporter’s sources have confirmed that Billy Dee Williams will be reprising his role as the galaxy’s smoothest gambler/smuggler/gas planet mayor in the next movie.

(10) NATIONAL MOURNING. Today’s Bristol Herald-Courier’s “News Quiz” features this question:

  1. U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes’ office confirmed that the White House initially declined to act on a request to lower the U.S. flag to half-staff after which event?
    1. The Fourth of July
    2. The deadly mass shooting at the Capital-Gazette office in Annapolis, Md.
    3. The death of science fiction writer Harlan Ellison
    4. The separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border

(11) FAREWELL, GARDNER. Michael Swanwick posted “Eight Pictures from the Gardner Dozois Memorial”: Christopher Casper, George R.R. Martin, Joe Haldeman, Samuel Delany, and others.

…All in all, a very sad event, laced with laughter.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 10, 1962 — Telstar satellite launched.

Trans-Atlantic television and other communications became a reality as the Telstar communications satellite was launched. A product of AT&T Bell Laboratories, the satellite was the first orbiting international communications satellite that sent information to tracking stations on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Initial enthusiasm for making phone calls via the satellite waned after users realized there was a half-second delay as a result of the 25,000-mile transmission path.

  • July 10, 1981 Escape From New York premiered
  • July 10, 1981 Time Bandits debuted in the UK.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 10, 1926 – Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster). (1926-1993)
  • Born July 10, 1929 – George Clayton Johnson (1929-2015)
  • Born July 10 – Chiwetel Ejiofor, 42. Roles in Serenity, Doctor Strange, the animated Sherlock Gnomes and The Martian. Yes Sherlock Gnomes voicing Watson.
  • Born July 10 — Peter Serafinowicz, 47. Lead role in The Tick and in the alien abduction series People of Earth, the voice of The Fisher King in Doctor Who, and a role in The Guardians Of The Galaxy 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

“Peter Pan” author J.M. Barrie played on a cricket team with Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the “Sherlock Holmes” series; “Winnie-the-Pooh” author A.A. Milne; novelist H.G Wells; and P.G. Wodehouse, author of the Jeeves and Wooster series; among other writers. They called themselves the Allahakbarries, a play on the Arabic “Allahu akbar,” which the men misinterpreted to mean “Heaven help us” but actually means “God is great.” The team was reportedly terrible.

(16) MAN OF BRONZE. MeTV invites you to “Check out the new James T. Kirk statue in the Iowa town sanctioned as the captain’s birthplace”.

During Trekfest XXXIV in Riverside, Iowa, a new statue was unveiled that pays tribute to Captain James T. Kirk. The statue is a life-sized bronze model of the Star Trek icon, and its the product of artist Jurek Jakowicz of Sioux Falls, S.D., and a slew of Trek fans in the Iowa community and beyond.

The idea for the statue, though, was sparked by a former Riverside councilman Steve Miller, who had a bigger vision for his town: to make it the properly sanctioned future birthplace of Captain Kirk. His efforts began in 1985 when he got in touch with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, to ask if he would sign off on Riverside as Kirk’s official hometown. Roddenberry called the idea “enterprising” and gave Miller the OK.

KCII radio covered the dedication on July 4.

Thirty-four years later Miller helped unveil the lifesize bronze statue of Kirk at this year’s Trekfest. At the unveiling Miller shared about his journey making Riverside the future birthplace of Kirk and getting a statue made, “The statue, like I said, has been a goal for years. I had two goals, get a statue of William Shatner’s Captain Kirk and to keep Paramount Studios from suing me, and so far we’ve succeeded in both of those!”

(17) SPINNING SILVER. The Book Smugglers’ Thea James and Ana Grilo do a “Joint Review: SPINNING SILVER by Naomi Novik”.

Thea says:

…This is a nuanced, intricate narrative that plays with the most powerful fairy tale tropes, written in a grace that Naomi Novik alone can achieve. There are patterns throughout the story, three daughters, three wives, three lives intertwined by fate and determination to rise above the “destiny” carved out for each of them by men in their lives. I love that our perception of these characters–and the men around them–also changes over the course of the story. There are monsters, to be sure–Wanda’s father for one, and the fire demon within Tsar Mirnatius, for another–but what I love so much about this story is how everyone is more than what they initially seem. Even the cruelest winter king is given depth and humility, if not humanity, as the novel unfolds….

Ana says:

…For us as readers, we can only see what they see, and I was flabbergasted at how the author was able to twists their stories, the stories of the men around them, and myself around her little finger. The journey was excellent – in the way that the real story slowly unveiled itself in minutia, in gestures, in the things hidden in silence….

(18) THE LARD BE WITH YOU. Lissa Townsend Rodgers of Extra Crispy confesses: “I Made the Strangest Recipe in Vincent Price’s Cookbook”.

Published in 1971, Cooking Price-Wise contains wisdom like, “In the thirteenth century cheese was used as a substitute for cement in England, when the cheese got stale, that is. I don’t advocate keeping your cheese that long just to find out if it works.” Chapters on bacon, potatoes, and fish contain recipes that seemed exotic at the time. “People always seem afraid of food from other countries,” Price writes. He attempts to shake them out of their comfort zone with Fish Fillets Nord Zee, Moroccan Tajine [sic], and Biffes de Lomo Rellenos.

As I was scanning Cooking Price-Wise for a recipe to make, I saw two magic words—words that have been in many of my favorite dishes, but have never been put together before. I’m talking about bacon and mousse. Here is Vincent price’s recipe for bacon mousse….

(19) CRIMES AGAINST THE OZONE. The mystery release of ozone-layer-depleting chemicals reported on in File 770 earlier (see the 2nd half of item 11 here) has apparently been tracked down. The NGO Environmental Investigations Agency (EIA) is reporting that the banned chemical CFC-11 is being used as a “blowing agent” in the production of cheap insulation in China’s home construction industry. Quoting the BBC article “Ozone hole mystery: China insulating chemical said to be source of rise”

Researchers from the EIA, a green campaign group, contacted foam manufacturing factories in 10 different provinces across China. From their detailed discussions with executives in 18 companies, the investigators concluded that the chemical is used in the majority of the polyurethane insulation the firms produce.

One seller of CFC-11 estimated that 70% of China’s domestic sales used the illegal gas. The reason is quite simple – CFC-11 is better quality and much cheaper than the alternatives.

“We were absolutely gobsmacked to find that companies very openly confirmed using CFC-11 while acknowledging it was illegal,” Avipsa Mahapatra from EIA told BBC News.

“The fact that they were so blasé about it, the fact that they told us very openly how pervasive it is in the market, these were shocking findings for us.”

(20) ASK THE MAN WHO OWNS ONE. Adrian Tchaikovsky, 2016 Clarke Award winner, gives his rundown of this year’s finalists: “At the Eleventh Hour: The Arthur C Clarke Award shortlist 2018”. For example:

Dreams Before the Start of Time – Anne Charnock, 47North

Anne Charnock is having a good year, frankly, having already picked up a BSFA Award at Easter (and a good career, having been shortlisted for a Kitchie and a Phillip K Dick award previously). She’s a thought-provoking and insightful writer and Dreams is a very different sort of book to the others on the list. It’s a gentle look at three generations of several interlinked families over the next hundred years or so, and its focus is very much speculation about the family structure and child-bearing, how these things may change (entirely believably) in the near future, and what knock-on effects those changes could have….

(21) DITKO. NPR’s Glen Weldon pays tribute to the late comics genius in “Remembering Steve Ditko: Forget Kirby Dots, Let’s Talk Ditko Sparkles”.

First, let’s tick off those facets of his work that left such an impression on people.

First, his faces.

Or, technically, his fondness for their absence, in whole or in part.

Consider: Here was a guy who put his hero — and not just any hero, but freaking Spider-Man, whose whole deal is just how achingly, embarrassingly relatable, and friendly, and (not to put too fine a point on it) downright neighborhoody he is, in a full-face mask.

Let’s agree: That was a gutsy move. Sure, Batman had been around for decades, and his cowl covered something like 5/6ths of his big ol’ melon’s surface area, but Bruce’s chin and mouth were exposed, so at least you could see him grimace, or gasp, or smile (it was 1962, Batman still smiled back then). Comics are a visual medium — readers need to see the characters’ facial expressions to stay emotionally engaged.

But Ditko loved drawing inscrutable faces — masked, half-masked, or sunk in shadows….

(22) BREAKTHROUGH DELAYED. Yin Yijun analyzes “The Three-Book Problem: Why Chinese Sci-Fi Still Struggles” at Sixth Tone.

Liu Cixin’s epic trilogy was expected to take Chinese science fiction into a new era, but the genre is still far from its lofty ambitions.

…The editors and Liu opted to serialize “The Three-Body Problem” in Science Fiction World, which at the time had a 200,000 nationwide circulation. They were worried that Chinese readers wouldn’t be especially interested in sci-fi compared to other literature genres, but hoped that “The Three-Body Problem” could open up a new chapter for Chinese sci-fi.

And it did — for a time.

In 2015, the first installment of “The Three-Body Problem” trilogy won the prestigious Hugo Award for best novel, triggering media coverage and large-scale public attention — including, famously, an endorsement by former U.S. President Barack Obama. It increased the profile of Chinese sci-fi both domestically and internationally, and raised the possibility that sci-fi could finally extend beyond the pages of novels. In 2014, after the English-language translation was published, Chinese movie production house Yoozoo Pictures announced that it would adapt the series into a six-part motion picture.

But the much-hyped movie never happened. Filming took place in the first half of 2015, and the first movie was scheduled to premiere in July 2016. Over the past three years, the schedule has been continuously pushed back, in part due to sky-high expectations for visual effects and an unexpected company restructure.

There’s been no news recent news about “The Three-Body Problem” movie, but after a report in March that Amazon’s on-demand service planned to create a television show of the series, Yoozoo reiterated that it was the franchise’s legal copyright holder for all types of adaption. At a group interview with Sixth Tone and other media outlets during the anniversary meeting, Liu — who is serving as the project’s chief consultant — directed all questions about the movies to Yoozoo. For now, “The Three-Body Problem” remains hamstrung by its lack of visual depictions; it can hardly monetize certain aspects of the stories like international franchise “Star Wars” has been able to do with lightsabers if there are no movie or game representations.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/4/18 We Read About Dinos And We Read About Space At Ten-Thousand Words A Go

(1) THUMB ON THE SCALES. The Fourth of July was the day Vicksburg fell and the day after the South lost the Battle of Gettysburg. On our timeline, anyway. The war had a different outcome at Dinosaur Kingdom II — a theme park in Virginia where dinosaurs and an assortment of other creatures helped the Confederates defeat the Union. Or so goes the pitch from Vice News: “Inside the weird dinosaur park where Confederates defeat the Union army”).

The owner claims not to be quite the Confederate apologist you might suppose: “That war had to have happened, because the fact that you and I can own somebody is just totally outrageous… and so that had to change.” And after watching a video tour of the park I was left wondering if Vice is selling the dino Lost Cause angle a lot harder than the attraction’s owner….

(2) BRAND NEW. Jeff VanderMeer has allowed the Last Exit To Nowhere company to make Southern Reach T-shirts. He told them that they needed to donate a portion of the profits to St. Mark’s Wildlife Refuge and notes that the zip code on the shirt is the zip code for the refuge.

An official T-shirt approved by the author, Jeff VanderMeer. The inspiration for the novel was a 14-mile hike through St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in northwestern Florida. Many of the animals and vegetation that VanderMeer has seen on this hike over the past 17 years appear in the novel. A proportion of the profits for this T-shirt goes to Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge. A single colour design, using a glow-in-the-dark ink hand screen printed on a regular fit 100% cotton military olive T-shirt.

(3) BOB MADLE RECOVERING FROM STROKE. Bob Madle, 98, one of the two remaining fans who attended the first Worldcon (1939) suffered a stroke last month reports Curt Phillips” “I’ve been given permission by his daughter Jane to report that First Fandom Founder, TAFF Delegate, SF Bookseller, long time SF fan and all-around good guy Bob Madle is back at home now and doing very well after a stroke suffered during the second week of June.”

According to Jane:

My Dad is home from rehab and doing very well. His speech, which was the main thing impacted, is improving every day. He’s continuing to get therapy at home. He said he’s fine with letting others know about the stroke.

Phillips filled in the timeframe:

I had gone to Rockville just over a week ago to do some preparatory work for a convention – Corflu 36 – and naturally had tried to call Bob to arrange a visit with my fellow First Fandom member and pulpfan. It was quite alarming when my several phone calls over multiple days failed to be answered, something which had never happened before when calling Bob. I left messages and while driving home to Abingdon the next day I received a phone call from Stephen Haffner who told me about Bob’s stroke and that he was still in the hospital. Subsequent emails with Jane filled in the picture and I learned that Bob was headed for rehab the following week, which has now been successfully completed. Bob is, at this hour, back at home, no doubt watching a baseball game on tv.

Stephen and I lacked permission from Bob or his family to share this news until now, probably for concerns of Bob being overtaxed with phone calls and so forth, but Jane now tells me that he’s improving steadily, to my great relief. Keep up the good progress, Bob! I’ll come to see you next time I’m in town to share a beer, watch a ball game with you, and maybe even buy a pulp magazine or two!

(4) A REAL THREE-BODY PROBLEM. In an article on Gizmodo (“Einstein’s Theory of Gravity Holds Up on Test of a Three-Star System”), Ryan F. Mandelbaum examines a new paper in Nature (“Universality of free fall from the orbital motion of a pulsar in a stellar triple system”) and makes some comparisons on the side to Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem. The Nature paper describes a test of general relativity using a 3-body system (PSR J0337+1715, about 4200 light years from Earth) which consists of a millisecond pulsar (neutron star) and a white dwarf co-orbiting each other very closely and another white dwarf less than 1 AU distant.

Quoting the Gizmodo article:

They used 800 observations of the system spanning over six years, using the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope in the Netherlands, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, and the William E. Gordon telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico….

The researchers [Ingrid Stairs and Anne Archibald] could measure this behavior based on the pulsing behavior of the spinning neutron star. The observations revealed that the white dwarf and the pulsar seemed to behave exactly the same way in response to the other white dwarf’s gravity. General relativity wins again….

[Mandelbaum] also asked Archibald and Stairs whether they’d read The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin. Stairs hadn’t, and Archibald is halfway through. “One of the themes of the book is fundamental physics… if you do the same experiment in two places, physics doesn’t depend on where. It’s this universal fundamental physics you can get at with careful experimentation. [Liu] asks, what happens if physics doesn’t work that way?” she said. “I’m testing that at a fundamental level.”

(5) A PERSISTENT VISITOR. JJ says be sure you read the thread down to the poem. The thread starts here.

(6) AI SPREADS HOAX DEATH REPORT. While io9 headlines “Siri Erroneously Told People That Stan Lee Was Dead” as a Siri/Apple story (and it certainly is that), the underlying story is that a troll changed a Wikidata.org page to falsely say Stan Lee was dead. (Wikidata is a sister project to the better-known Wikipedia, which latter is reportedly one of the sources used by Alexa ) Siri (and a number of other digital assistants) pull info from various sources — some of which can be edited by the public — when asked questions. In this case, Siri would be in error on Stan Lee until another Wikidata editor reverted the change less than an hour later. That window, though, was clearly enough to cause some alarm.

Quoting the article:

In a post on CinemaBlend, writer Sean O’Connell described a moment where he and his teenage son were driving home from an Ant-Man and the Wasp screening on Wednesday, to have his son ask Apple’s digital assistant Siri how old Stan Lee was. The response? “Stan Lee died on July 2, 2018.” They were concerned and checked the internet for news, but there was none… because it wasn’t true. But we were curious why Siri would share this specific information.

The io9 article concludes:

The troublesome user (“&beer&love”) who started the bad data cascade had been kicked off Wikidata before and reportedly has now been kicked off again. Sadly, as  long as there are trolls and as long as we collectively depend on data sources that can be corrupted by them, there will be such problems.

(7) MULLER OBIT. Robert Muller (1940-2018): Dutch cinematographer, died July 3, aged 78. Worked on Repo Man (1984) and Until the End of the World (1991).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY PLANET. Put another million candles on its birthday cake. “Scientists Capture First Birth Of A Planet” reports NPR.

An international team of scientists has discovered a young planet — just 5 or 6 million years old — forging its own path through space and likely growing along the way.

The scientists captured a photograph, which they say is the very first direct image of the birth of a planet still forming around a star.

It’s a major finding for those of us on Earth, a 4.5-billion-year-old planet.

The newly discovered planet may be young, but it’s huge: many times the size of Jupiter, which could fit 1,300 planet Earths inside.

The BBC adds:

Researchers have long been on the hunt for a baby planet, and this is the first confirmed discovery of its kind.

Young dwarf star PDS 70 is less than 10 million years old, and its planetary companion is thought to be between five and six million years old.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock learned from Bizarro that tech shall not release you.

(10) BOVINES WHO NEED BEANO. BBC science news — “Surf And Turf: To Reduce Gas Emissions From Cows, Scientists Look To The Ocean”. There’s much less methane being released than CO2 — but pound-for-pound it has a much worse effect on greenhousing.

Scientists think they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by tweaking the food that cows eat. A recent experiment from the University of California, Davis suggests that adding seaweed to cattle feed can dramatically decrease their emissions of the potent gas methane.

Livestock is a major source of greenhouse gases worldwide. About quarter of the methane emissions due to human activity in the U.S. can be chalked up to gas released from these animals, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

(11) HARD TO BE HUMBLE WHEN YOU’RE REALLY A GENIUS. Chuck Tingle proves love again.

(12) FUN WITH BUGS. Camestros Felapton tries but is unable to restrain his enthusiasm in “Review: Ant-man & The Wasp”.

I think it is fair to say that Ant-man & The Wasp is the most inconsequential Marvel movie for some time. No new superheroes are introduced, no new approaches to the genre are taken, there is little impact on the other MCU films, there are no big or deep themes to discuss. It is the first MCU film to have the name of a female Avenger in the title but that’s about it.

But it is a fun, often silly film….

(13) FLASH AND THEY’RE GONE. People who love LibertyCon really love it. Rev. Bob brings word that the con sold out its 2019 memberships today, the first day they were available online.

To be more precise, they opened online registration today and sold all 750 memberships in just under six hours. (“5 hours, 52 minutes, and 50 seconds!” per one source.) This is according to multiple Facebook posts by associated individuals, as well as the official convention Facebook page.

It is worth noting that, according to those same sources, no 2019 memberships were sold at the convention itself. In addition, hotel room reservations have not yet opened; that won’t happen until sometime in September.

(14) ALREADY SPOILED. Remember that spoiler-filled Batman news item I warned you about so strenuously in the July 1 Scroll? Well, genre news sites have splattered the spoiler everywhere and the comic issues in question have hit the stands. It’s up to you – skip the next paragraph if you want to preserve the surprise.

Two articles published today (SYFY Wire: “Batman and the X-Men wedding dramas are the latest in comics’ matrimonial insanity” and Comicbook.com: “‘Batman’ Writer Tom King Reveals What’s Next After the Wedding”) take separate looks at love and marriage in comic books.

As writer John Wenz says on SYFY Wire,

Superhero romance is … fraught. Marriage doubly so…

Wenz casually reels off nearly a dozen different ways that marriages have failed to happen or fallen apart in just the first few paragraphs of his article. The most recent Marvel and DC will-they/won’t-they/oh-Great-Gnu-what-just-happened stories are examined in how they fit into these patterns.

On Comicbook.com, Patrick Cavanaugh talks to Batman writer Tom King to get his view on What Just Happened. King point out that this issue (#50) is just halfway through a planned 100-issue arc so the readers don’t know how the overall story will end. King is quoted as saying,

We’re halfway through that journey. It’s a long story, a long journey. It could have a happy ending or a sad ending. You’re halfway through the movie now. You’re in the middle of Empire Strikes Back and Vader just showed up and took Han’s gun.

(15) A BUTTLOAD OF CATS. Martin Morse Wooster would hate for anyone to miss Rachel Bloom’s musical salute to SJW credentials, performed on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

This is the cleaned-up version, although to my ear “buttload” fits the meter better than “fuckton” anyway.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/23/18 And Now It’s Scrolling All Over the Land; I Still Can’t Seem to Understand

(1) COC ENFORCEMENT AT ORIGINS. Organizers of the Origins Game Fair have issued a statement telling how they will handle reported violations of their Code of Conduct at the 2018 convention, which ended June 17.

Tabletop Gaming overviewed the accusations: “Multiple reports of sexual harassment emerge from this year’s Origins Game Fair”.

Reports first surfaced during the weekend of the show, with one designer and senior member of a games publisher alleged to have asked multiple women to “play test his erect penis”.

In a separate incident, another woman was reportedly followed for multiple blocks back to her hotel.

Tabletop gaming personality Bebo used Twitter to raise awareness of the distressing events on behalf of the anonymous victims, adding: “Anyone who says harassment of women isn’t an issue in the industry can eat dirt.”

Both situations were reported to GAMA, the organiser of Origins, which is said to be taking appropriate action in response, although the company is yet to issue a public statement regarding the events.

Polygon’s story covers responses from the accused, and by Origins’ administering body, GAMA: “Accusations of sexual harassment rock the board gaming community”.

Origins Game Fair, which ran June 13-17 this year, is a tabletop gaming convention sponsored by the Game Manufacturer’s Association (GAMA). Its partner this year was Wizards of The Coast, known for Dungeons & Dragons and the Magic: The Gathering franchises. Other sponsors included a who’s who list of major publishers, including Rio Grande Games, Iello, Wizkids, Paizo and CMON.

Origins is an opportunity for fans to see the latest games, and for those in the industry to see each other and do some networking ahead of Gen Con, the nation’s largest tabletop gaming convention, which is held in Indianapolis each August. Many in the industry choose to mingle outside of the event, and that’s where at least one attendee says an exhibitor sexually harassed them. The allegations surfaced on a personal Facebook page and on Twitter, but were also sent to GAMA. The individual accused has denied the allegations….

GAMA’s official statement says in part:

An incident arose through social media at Origins this year pointing out some specific allegations of harassment. This illicit behavior is a clear violation of our show policies.

To ensure that a thorough review of any allegation is conducted, we must have statements from individuals with firsthand knowledge of the event. Unfortunately, that did not happen in this instance so gathering the information is taking more time. We understand that it can be difficult to come forward and share a statement after an incident occurs, but with the cooperation from individuals involved we can address these situations in a timely fashion.

As we demonstrated earlier this year, we take harassment very seriously and are committed to providing a safe, welcoming and fun environment for everyone at the show.

This serious allegation has not been taken lightly. We are committed to handling this in a thorough and professional manner. We are interviewing all parties involved and gathering statements from witnesses who viewed the incident firsthand. We owe all parties involved a fair process to gather the facts and discern as much as possible those confirmed elements before we act. The ramifications of an unjustified response are simply irreplaceably damaging….

The complete statement is at the Polygon link.

The accusations also prompted Katie Aidley, with several years of experience working for gaming companies and in booths at conventions, to release her post “The truth about sexual harrassment and boardgaming”.

(2) SPEAKING TO THE NEXT GENERATION. A passage from Liu Cixin’s The Micro-Age was utilized in the reading comprehension section of China’s national college entrance exam: “Excerpt of popular Chinese sci-fi writer Liu Cixin’s novel selected in gaokao”.

An excerpt of famous Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin’s novel was selected as reading comprehension material in the test paper for the Chinese gaokao exam, China’s National College Entrance Exam that took place on Thursday, which not only surprised many participants but also the writer. Liu later responded saying that science fiction meets the demand of people in this day and age.

After the exam in southwest China’s Sichuan Province ended, participants expressed their surprise at finding an excerpt of Liu’s novel “The Micro-Age” since this type of literature was rare in such a rigorous exam.

…Speaking about this year’s gaokao essay topics, Liu expressed that one of the topics was related to science fiction as it required students to write a letter to the generation of 2035 to elaborate on the big events that have occurred since the year 2000 in China.

He said that unlike previous essay topics which tended to focus on current affairs or the past, this year’s topics were more likely to focus on the future.

(3) DETECTIVE WORK. Carl Slaughter asks, “How can I resist a headline like this?” It absolutely belongs in the Scroll: “This insane golden chamber contains water so pure it can dissolve metal, and is helping scientists detect dying stars.” Business Insider has the story.

Hidden 1,000 metres under Mount Ikeno in Japan is a place that looks like a supervillain’s dream.

Super-Kamiokande (or “Super-K” as it’s sometimes referred to) is a neutrino detector. Neutrinos are sub-atomic particles which travel through space and pass through solid matter as though it were air.

Studying these particles is helping scientists detect dying stars and learn more about the universe. Business Insider spoke to three scientists about how the giant gold chamber works — and the dangers of conducting experiments inside it.

(4) HOW’S HE DOING? Eric Flint gave Facebook reader a health update.

I thought I’d bring everyone up to date on my medical condition, since I haven’t said anything about it for quite a while. That’s because it’s been… complicated.

On the positive side, there’s no indication that the lymphoma has come back. So, yay for homicide therapy, AKA chemotherapy.

On the down side, I started developing atrial fibrillation a year and a half ago, right around the same time the cancer was diagnosed. Whether there’s a causal relationship there or it’s just coincidence, nobody really knows….

Flint continues with full details.

(5) BABYLON FIFTH. In “‘Babylon 5’ is great, so why does it look so bad?”, Engadget’s Daniel Cooper describes in great technical detail the show’s digital origins and resulting challenges when aired using current technology.

Now that the series has made its way to Amazon Prime, it is ripe for a whole new generation of fans to discover it. Except that, if they do, they may find that the picture quality is highly variable, and some sequences are quite hard to watch. Now, it’s fair to say that the show is so good that it’s worth persisting with nevertheless. But how it ended up in this state is a tale of folks trying to plan for its future, only to be defeated by executive neglect…

How bad does it look?

We should probably begin by outlining how effects-heavy shows like Babylon 5 are made, albeit simplistically. There are three different types of shot that were put together to make an episode. You have live-action scenes, which are just actors talking in a room; composites, which have a mix of live-action and CGI; and pure-CGI scenes. In order to protect your suspension of disbelief, it’s important that you aren’t noticing the transitions between them.

A great sequence to explain Babylon 5’s problem is the monorail scene from the Season 2 finale, The Fall of Night, which originally aired on November 1st, 1995. We begin with an entirely live-action shot, where Captain Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) boards a monorail shuttle. And you can tell, because it’s framed properly and looks pretty good, even if the film is a little grainy because it hasn’t been restored or remastered….

(6) MURDERBOT’S ASPIRATIONS. Adri Joy delivers a fascinating character analysis in “A Robot Learns to Love Itself: Reflecting on the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells” at Nerds of a Feather.

There’s a moment near the start of Rogue Protocol, the third in Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries series (forthcoming August 7, 2018 from Tor.com Publishing), that quietly broke my heart. The self-proclaimed Murderbot, a rogue SecUnit (a human-robot hybrid “construct”) which hacked its own governor module after an unfortunate murder-based incident that was subsequently wiped from its memory, is trying to distract itself from the endless, stupid problems of humans by watching a new show. Unfortunately, the plot isn’t working out, and Murderbot is eager to get within range of a station so it can download something different. If only, it tells us, this terraforming horror series had a rogue SecUnit character who could stop the squishy humans from all getting horribly killed…

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. Murderbot watches rather a lot of shows – indeed, extensive media consumption is its most prominent character quirk – and it also does a lot of complaining, so the combination of the two is not exactly unusual. However, this is the first time it has articulated a desire to see itself represented positively in media.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock spotted a Library Comic about All Systems Red. Chip adds, “The author’s former strip used to recommend something (often genre) at least once a week, and most of them were good; nice to see him back at it.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 23, 1976 Logan’s Run debuted.
  • June 23, 1989 — Tim Burton’s Batman is released in theaters.
  • June 23, 1989 Honey, I Shrunk the Kids premiered.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 23 – Joss Whedon, 54. Known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, FireflyDr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Dollhouse, Avengers and Agents Of S.H.I..E.L.D. which is not a complete listing by any means.
  • Born June 23 – Selma Blair, 46. Scream 2 appears to be her first genre role, also Xena: Warrior Princess, Hellboy and Hellboy 2,  both of the Hellboy animated films, The Fog and most recently Lost in Space.
  • Born June 23 – Melissa Rauch, 38. Bernadette Rostenkowski in The Big Bang Theory, Harley Quinn in the animated Batman and Harley Quinn film, Summer in True Blood, and Wasp / Hope Pym  in the Ant Man animated shorts.

(10) FAITH OF THE FUTURE. Syfy Wire’s story “In modern science fiction, religion plays a vital, secular role” by Tricia Ennis examines how religion is treated on a handful of TV sf series — Battlestar Galactica—the reboot of the mid/late 2000’s; not the original, The 100, and Killjoys.

It’s easy to think that science fiction and religion are anathemas to each other. Science fiction is, after all, about imagining a scientifically advanced future where we have moved to the point of near magic, explaining through science things that modern understanding can only dream up. Religion, meanwhile, is about not explaining those things at all, instead choosing to rely on faith and parable and scripture to explain the mysteries of the universe and to comfort the minds of those who follow its teachings. Obviously, those two don’t really go together.

Perhaps science and faith don’t necessarily mesh—but if you’ve been keeping an eye on certain recent science fiction television series, you’ll notice a pattern. Sci-fi might still have trouble bridging the spiritual and the secular, but it certainly recognizes the importance of scripture to understanding our past — and protecting our future.

(11) REENACTORS. Nancy Kress introduced a highly amusing photo taken at Taos Toolbox:

George R. R. Martin and the Red Workshop. If a wedding, why not a writing seminar?

Walter Jon Williams identified the bodies:

Among the casualties were David DeGraff, Jo Miles, Brenda Kalt, Sarah Paige Hofrichter, Kevin O’Neill, Sherri Woosley, Gayle Schultz, Nancy Kress, Walter Jon Williams, Autumn Kalquist, Joey Yu, Liz Colter, Peri Fletcher, Amanda Helms, Carsten Schmitt, Gabrielle Harbowy, Harrison Lee, Kelli Fitzpatrick, Isabel Yap, and Elliotte Rusty Harold.

(12) MUSEUM VISITOR. Rick Riordan said the minerals on display reminded him of this —

(13) A HUGO VOTER IS HEARD FROM. Joe Sherry shares another section of his ballot in “Reading the Hugos: Novelette” at Nerds of A Feather. Ranked somewhere in the middle is this nominee —

A Series of Steaks: Since I’ve already written about the Short Story category, this is Vina Jie-Min Prasad’s second story on the Hugo ballot and it is a real standout. Besides everything, what I really enjoy about “A Series of Steaks” is the framing of forgery and what makes a good forger. Ultimately, that’s what “A Series of Steaks” is about. Helena semi-legally fabricates meat for restaurants that is otherwise undetectable for not being the real thing (ultimately, a forgery). She is offered a contract that she can’t refuse because it comes with a threat to expose her.

The rest of the story is a tense game of Helena (and her new assistant) trying to fulfill the order and somehow protect herself. Prasad’s writing is clear and pulled me right in. It’s a damn fine story and I’m going to be looking for much more from Vina Jie-Min Prasad.

(14) ON THE ROAD. John Scalzi has thrown the Theory of Evolution into doubt. Could this man’s primordial ancestors possibly have lived in trees without room service?

(15) TOON TOWN. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story, ”’Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ turns 30: How the toon-powered classic revolutionized Hollywood” interviews screenwriters Peter S. Seaman and Jeffrey price about the 30th anniversary of this film, first released on June 22, 1988.

According to the screenwriters, Zemeckis always had a grand vision for the Ink and Paint Club as a place where multiple cartoon characters — each of whom had its own bit of funny business — would fill the frame. A cursory glance around the nightclub reveals penguin waiters, an octopus bartender, and a vintage black-and-white cartoon heroine slinging drinks. “Bob wanted one of those almost Scorsese-like reveals, where you track in and all the stuff is happening,” Seaman remembers. “We did write gags for like the bartenders — he’s got eight arms, and he’s making these different cocktails. We’d write gags for the penguins, and everybody in there.”

(16) LUCKY PAIR. JSTOR Daily delves into “The Fairytale Language of the Brothers Grimm”.

There once were two brothers from Hanau whose family had fallen on hard times. Their father had died, leaving a wife and six children utterly penniless. Their poverty was so great that the family was reduced to eating but once a day.

So it was determined that the brothers must go out into the world to seek their fortune. They soon found their way to the university in Marburg to study law, but there they could not find luck from any quarter. Though they had been the sons of a state magistrate, it was the sons of the nobility that received state aid and stipends. The poor brothers met countless humiliations and obstacles scraping by an education, far from home.

Around this time, after Jacob had to abandon his studies to support his family, the entire German kingdom of Westphalia became part of the French Empire under Napoleon Bonaparte’s conquering rule. Finding refuge in the library, the brothers spent many hours studying and searching for stories, poems, and songs that told tales of the people they had left behind. Against the rumblings of war and political upheaval, somehow the nostalgia of stories from an earlier time, of people’s lives and language, in the little villages and towns, in the fields and forest, seemed more important than ever.

This then is the strange rags-to-riches tale of two mild-mannered librarians, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (affectionately known as the Brothers Grimm), who went hunting for fairytales and accidentally ended up changing the course of historical linguistics and kickstarting a whole new field of scholarship in folklore.

(17) LEND HER AN EAR. BBC invites you to “Meet Game of Thrones’ woman of weapons”.

It’s probably not a good idea to get into an argument with Natalia Lee.

The only female armourer working on Game of Thrones, she looks after all the show’s weapons, from flaming arrows to giant catapults.

She also played the fearsome Chella in season one, because they needed “a warrior who chops ears off” and then strings them around her neck.

But while she loves working with the actors, she gets worked up if anyone questions the fact that a woman is wielding swords and slingshots.

“I’m constantly told, ‘Women don’t want to see that, women don’t want to do that.’ It’s so frustrating,” says Australian-born Natalia, 35.

“We’re capable of handling weapons, I’ve proved I can carry all of them.

“My job’s a learned, technical skillset, so your gender has no bearing.”

(18) PANIC OR PATHOLOGY? Answering a pixel from 6/18: “WHO gaming disorder listing a ‘moral panic’, say experts”.

But biological psychology lecturer Dr Peter Etchells said the move risked “pathologising” a behaviour that was harmless for most people.

The WHO said it had reviewed available evidence before including it.

It added that the views reflected a “consensus of experts from different disciplines and geographical regions” and defined addiction as a pattern of persistent gaming behaviour so severe it “takes precedence over other life interests”.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge Carl Slaughter, Brian Z., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus, who took inspiration from yesterday’s lyric reference.]

Pixel Scroll 3/27/18 Godstalk It, Jake, It’s Pixel Scroll

(1) READ THE GAME. The Read it Forward site is celebrating Ready Player One’s theatrical debut this week with an interactive 8-bit-inspired excerpt that “gamifies” the prologue from Ernest Cline’s novel. [Click on the GIF to view.]

Read your way to the top of the Scoreboard as you earn points for discovering Easter eggs that bring the content to life. As readers learn of Parzival’s hunt for the keys to OASIS, they’ll maneuver their way around a maze, attend an ‘80s dance party, unlock footnotes, and more. Upon completion, readers can add their name to a Scoreboard and share their score with a link to the excerpt on social media. All of the excerpt’s hidden extras are unlocked once a reader earns the maximum score of 10,000 points.

(2) TV INTEREST IN THREE-BODY PROBLEM. From io9: “Report: Amazon May Pay $1 Billion to Adapt the Hugo-Winning Chinese Novel The Three-Body Problem”.

The Hugo-winning Chinese novel The Three-Body Problem could become Amazon’s Game of Thrones. A new report from Financial Times suggests Amazon is pursuing a deal to make a three-season television show based on the trilogy from Liu Cixin, and it may be willing to pay up to $1 billion to do so.

According to the Financial Times report, international investors say Amazon is negotiating for the rights to produce three seasons based on Remembrance of Earth’s Past, the scifi trilogy more commonly known by the title of its first book, The Three-Body Problem.

In a statement reported by Chinese news outlets, YooZoo Pictures stated that it remains the sole owners for the film and TV rights for The Three-Body Problem, though it didn’t comment on whether Amazon had approached the company or were in talks with them to collaborate on this reported streaming project. Cixin was also asked about this development by Chinese news outlet MTime.com, where he revealed he knew nothing about the project and doesn’t know if he’d be invited to work on it.

(3) DISSENTING VOICE. In contrast to those looking forward to the movie, Vox says “The Ready Player One book used to be considered a fun romp. Then Gamergate happened,” in “The Ready Player One backlash, explained”.

A time traveler from 2011 could be forgiven for being deeply confused by this response. In 2011, Ready Player One was beloved. It was “a guaranteed pleasure.” It was “witty.” It was not only “a simple bit of fun” but also “a rich and plausible picture of future friendships in a world not too distant from our own.”

What gives? How did the consensus on a single book go from “exuberant and meaningful fun!” to “everything that is wrong with the internet!” over the span of seven years?

… But the main thing Ready Player One is doing is telling those ’80s-boy-culture-obsessed gamers that they matter, that in fact they are the most important people in the universe. That knowing every single goddamn word of Monty Python and the Holy Grail can have life-or-death stakes, because why shouldn’t it? (Yes, that is a crucial step in Wade’s battle to save the OASIS.)

For readers in Cline’s target demographic in 2011, that message felt empowering. For readers who weren’t, it felt like a harmless piece of affirmation meant for someone else. Everyone deserves a silly escapist fantasy, right? And since Cline’s silly escapist fantasy wasn’t specifically meant for girls — unlike, say, Twilight, which was getting savaged in popular culture at the timeReady Player One was largely left alone by the people it wasn’t built for…

(4) ASHBY STORY. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series, “Domestic Violence” by Madeline Ashby, is a free read at Slate.

A partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University, Future Tense explores how emerging technologies will change the way we live. The latest consumer gadgets are intriguing, but we focus on the longer-term transformative power of robotics, information and communication technologies, synthetic biology, augmented reality, space exploration, and other technologies. Future Tense seeks to understand the latest technological and scientific breakthroughs, and what they mean for our environment, how we relate to one another, and what it means to be human. Future Tense also examines whether technology and its development can be governed democratically and ethically.

And there’s also a response essay from Ian Harris, who works on technology issues with the National Network to End Domestic Violence: “The Complicated Relationship Between Abuse and Tech”.

Violence against women is having something of a moment right now. Which is to say, portrayals of domestic violence in film and TV are gaining critical acclaim. Through shows like Big Little Lies and movies like I, Tonya, popular culture is grappling with more nuanced representations of domestic violence and the humanity of survivors of abuse. These are important conversations, and I hope that this is the start of a profound societal transformation, though time will tell. For me, the most disturbing part of these portrayals is not the brutality of the assaults, but how frequently physical violence is prioritized over other types of abusive behavior. It is what we don’t see that worries me.

We see this distorted prioritization in real life, too. I’ve been a domestic violence attorney for more than a decade. Despite the long list of clients who have struggled to get the justice system to live up to its name, I have found that survivors are much more likely to get help for physical assaults than for other kinds of abusive behavior such as stalking, surveillance, harassment, and intimate image disclosures, which frequently feel more harmful to the survivor.

(5) AVENGERS PLUG. A new TV spot for Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War.

The end is near. One month until Avengers: Infinity War.

 

(6) SEARCH FOR DIVERSE FICTION. Rocket Stack Rank has another new feature. Greg Hullender explains:

In response to readers who wanted a way to find good stories by diverse authors, we did an analysis of the most-recommended short speculative fiction stories written by people of color in 2015 and 2016 — “Best People of Color SF/F of 2015-2016”.

This only looks at stories that got some sort of recognition (e.g. solid recommendation from a prolific reviewer, inclusion in a years-best anthology, finalist for a major award), so just 481 stories across those two years. Of those, 112 were written by people of color.

The credit for this work goes to Eric Wong, who did the hard work of looking up information on all the authors as well as customizing the software to let readers group the data different ways.

(7) BLOWN UP, SIR. In “This teacher aims to get kids fired up about chemistry”, the Washington Post’s Kitson Jazynka profiles University of Texas chemistry instructor Kate Biberdorf, who “breathes fire and makes explosions that blast the eyes out of jack-o-lanterns.”

Or what about one who, with a quick pour of potassium iodide into a mix of hydrogen peroxide, dish soap and food coloring, makes bubbly foam that shoots toward the ceiling? Kate Biberdorf is no imaginary teacher. She’s real, and she’s coming to Washington next month, bringing along her blowtorch and cornstarch, her supplies of liquid nitrogen and dry ice, and a lot of enthusiasm for chemistry.

Bibersdorf’s website is http://katethechemist.com/.  How could Filers NOT be interested in a woman who says her goal in life is “to have an explosive science show in Vegas?”

(8) HELP BILL SPENCER. Paul Di Filippo urges readers to support a GoFundMe that will “Give Back to Bill Spencer”.

We all need a little help sometimes. This is one of those times for Bill. He has several different health issues going on right now and the medical expenses he is incurring that are not covered through Medicare are mounting and could get much worse.   As well, he’s facing some unforeseeable out of pocket expenses that could potentially end up being a serious problem.   Right now, Bill simply doesn’t have enough for monthly bills, day to day living expenses and numerous co-pays that keep coming his way for various medical necessities.

Many readers know Bill as the award-winning writer William Browning Spencer, author of novels like Zod Wallop, Resume with Monsters and short-story collections like his latest, The Unorthodox Dr. Draper and Other Stories.

But Bill has contributed to others in a very different way as well.  By freely and graciously donating endless amounts of his time over the years to sponsoring and supporting people who are facing their own daunting problems related to alcohol, drugs and living life.  It’s time to give back to Bill what he has so freely given.

This is something Bill would never ask for himself, but he is one of my best friends and I know he is important to folks like yourself, who may wish to help in his time of need.  Bill is truly one of the most amazing, caring and hilarious human beings I know and if you’re reading this you most likely feel the same.  I think we’d all love for Bill to have the peace of mind of knowing that, whatever happens, he need not be stressed out and worried each day about how he’s going to pay for medication or a test or procedure he needs on top of his modest monthly and day to day expenses.

(9) BISCHOFF OBIT. Writer David Bischoff, 66, of Eugene, OR died March 19. He was a contributor to Doug Fratz’ 1970s fanzine Thrust. His first professional successes included The Seeker, a novel published in 1976, and the Nebula-nominated story “Tin Woodman,” co-authored with Dnnis Bailey, later adapted into both a novel and TV episode for Star Trek: The Next Generation. He also wrote the Star Trek tie-in novel Grounded, which spent time on the bestseller list. His other TV work included Dinosaucers (with Ted Pedersen). Bischoff wrote 75 original novels, and tie-in novels for movies and TV series.

David Bischoff. Photo by and copyright Andrew Porter.

(10) A POLICEMAN’S LOT. Camestros Felapton reacted to Richard Paolinelli’s minor league prank of complaining to the Aussie cops about Felapton’s blog.

(11) MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCE. “The hidden history of the UK’s highest peak”: A tourist hiking trail once led to an early weather station whose records are now being used to trace climate change.

Back in Victorian Britain, science was still largely an amateur pastime conducted by bands of self-financed enthusiasts who formed scientific societies. One was the Scottish Meteorological Society, which set up and maintained a network of weather stations across Scotland between 1855 and 1920.

(12) WAVE GOODBYE. “Stephen Hawking’s final interview: A beautiful Universe” starts from LIGO discovery of grav waves.

Tell us how important is the detection of two colliding neutron stars?

It is a genuine milestone. It is the first ever detection of a gravitational wave source with an electromagnetic counterpart. It confirms that short gamma-ray bursts occur with neutron star mergers. It gives a new way of determining distances in cosmology. And it teaches us about the behaviour of matter with incredibly high density.

(13) MAY THE ODDS BE ALWAYS IN YOUR FAVOR. Don’t look up — “Tiangong-1: China space station may fall to Earth ‘in days'”.

Should I be worried?

No. Most of the 8.5-tonne station will disintegrate as it passes through the atmosphere.

Some very dense parts such as the fuel tanks or rocket engines might not burn up completely. However, even if parts do survive to the Earth’s surface, the chances of them hitting a person are incredibly slim.

“Our experience is that for such large objects typically between 20% and 40% of the original mass will survive re-entry and then could be found on the ground, theoretically,” the head of Esa’s space debris office, Holger Krag, told reporters at a recent briefing.

“However, to be injured by one of these fragments is extremely unlikely. My estimate is that the probability of being injured by one of these fragments is similar to the probability of being hit by lightning twice in the same year.”

(14) WEDDING BELLS. Page Six headline: “‘Star Trek’ star marries Leonard Nimoy’s son”:

Live long and prosper, you two.

Adam Nimoy, son of the late “Star Trek” icon Leonard Nimoy, and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” actress Terry Farrell married on Monday, on what would’ve been Leonard Nimoy’s 87th birthday.

The couple tied the knot in a civil ceremony at City Hall in San Francisco, according to film critic Scott Mantz, who tweeted a photo of the couple on their wedding day. Farrell retweeted Mantz’s photo and wrote, “Freakin AWESOME day!!!!!!! Love ya all! Aka: Mrs. Adam Nimoy.”

She also changed her Twitter bio to include “Mrs. Adam Nimoy.”

(15) COMPLAINTS ABOUT DATE OF HUGO ANNOUNCEMENT. The announcement of the 2018 Hugo finalists wouldn’t be on March 31/Passover/Easter weekend/a Saturday if it was up to these folks:

(16) VERTLIEB CANVASSES. Rondo Awards voting closes April 8 at midnight and Steve Vertlieb hopes people will consider his nominated article “Robert Bloch: The Clown at Midnight” for Best Article of the Year.

My published work about the author of “Psycho” … “Robert Bloch: The Clown At Midnight” … has been nominated for a Rondo Award for “Best Article of the Year.” Anyone can vote.  This year’s competition ends Sunday night, April 8th, at midnight. To vote for my remembrance of Robert, simply send your choice, along with your name, to taraco@aol.com

This is the story of my twenty five year friendship with acclaimed writer Robert Bloch, the author of Psycho. It is the newly published remembrance of a complex, remarkable man, and our affectionate relationship over a quarter century.

Robert Bloch was one of the founding fathers of classic horror, fantasy, and science fiction whose prolific prose thrilled and influenced the popular genre, its writers, and readers, for much of the twentieth century. An early member of “The Lovecraft Circle,” a group of both aspiring and established writers of “Weird Fiction” assembled by Howard Phillips Lovecraft during the early 1930’s, Bloch became one of the most celebrated authors of that popular literary genre during the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s, culminating in the publication of his controversial novel concerning a boy, his mother, and a particularly seedy motel. When Alfred Hitchcock purchased his novel and released “Psycho” with Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh in 1960, Bloch became one of the most sought after authors and screen writers in Hollywood. His numerous contributions to the acclaimed television anthology series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” are among the best of the director’s classic suspense series, while his legendary scripts, adaptations and teleplays for Boris Karloff’s “Thriller” series for NBC are among the most bone chilling, frightening, and horrifying screen presentations in television history. He also famously penned several classic episodes of NBC’s original “Star Trek” series for producer Gene Roddenberry. Writers Stephen King, Richard Matheson, and Harlan Ellison have written lovingly and profusely of their own literary debt to Robert Bloch. Bob was, for me, even more significantly, a profoundly singular mentor and cherished personal friend for a quarter century. This is the story of that unforgettable relationship.

(17) NUMBER PLEASE. A strange post at George R.R. Martin’s Not a Blog caught Greg Hullender’s eye: “I wonder if this is a coded announcement that Winds of Winter is coming?” “Yowza” consists of a series of pictures of hands with finger extended as though counting. But does the number 4534 really mean anything?

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Joey Eschrich, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Ghostbird, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Greg Hullender, Paul DiFilippo, and Mark Hepworth for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

2017 Premio Ignotus Winners

The winners of the Premio Ignotus 2017 (2017 Ignotus Awards) announced November 18 include Liu Cixin for the Spanish translation of Three-Body Problem, and Ken Liu for  “The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species”. And author Guillem López won the Best Novel category for the second consecutive year.

The awards, sponsored by Spain’s Asociación Española de Fantasía, Ciencia Ficción y Terror, were presented at HispaCon, the Spanish National SF convention.

The translation of category names and story titles comes from Ricardo Manzanaro’s article for Europa SF.

2017 Premios Ignotus Winners 

Novela / Best Novel

  • La polilla en la casa del humo, Guillem López

Novela Corta / Best Novella

  • En tierra extraña, Felicidad Martinez

Cuento / Best Short Story

  • La segunda muerte del padre, Cristina Jurado (Cuentos desde el otro lado)

Antologia / Best Anthology

  • La mirada extraña, de Felicidad Martínez, ed. Sportula

Libro de ensayo / Best related Book

  • En regiones extrañas, Lola Robles

Articulo / Best related work

  • Escritoras españolas de ciencia ficción, Lola Robles (SuperSonic 4 y 5)

Ilustración / Best Cover

  • Futuros perdidos, Enrique Corominas

Producción audiovisual / Audiovisual production

  • El ministerio del tiempo (Television)

Tebeo / Comics

  • Providence, Jacen Burrows y Alan Moore (ed. Panini)

Revista / Magazine

  • SuperSonic

Novela extranjera / Foreign Novel

  • El problema de los tres cuerpos (Three Body Problem), Liu Cixin

Cuento extranjera / Foreign story

  • Acerca de las costumbres de elaboración de libros en determinadas especies (“The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species”), Ken Liu

Sitio web / Web

[Via Sense of Wonder.]

Pixel Scroll 11/11/17 The Pixel, We’re Told, Never Gives Up Her Scroll

(1) 2017 GALAXY AWARDS. Here is a partial report of the winners of the 2017 Galaxy Awards, presented in China at the Chengdu International SF Conference.

Mike Resnick won for Most Popular Foreign Author.

Crystal Huff tweeted two other results:

(2) I SAY HELLO, YOU SAY GOODBYE. The Atlantic asks “What Happens If China Makes First Contact?” The author traveled to China to report on its SETI efforts, and had lengthy conversations with Liu Cixin whose Three-Body trilogy explores the hazards of such contacts.

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (seti) is often derided as a kind of religious mysticism, even within the scientific community. Nearly a quarter century ago, the United States Congress defunded America’s seti program with a budget amendment proposed by Senator Richard Bryan of Nevada, who said he hoped it would “be the end of Martian-hunting season at the taxpayer’s expense.” That’s one reason it is China, and not the United States, that has built the first world-class radio observatory with seti as a core scientific goal.

Seti does share some traits with religion. It is motivated by deep human desires for connection and transcendence. It concerns itself with questions about human origins, about the raw creative power of nature, and about our future in this universe—and it does all this at a time when traditional religions have become unpersuasive to many. Why these aspects of seti should count against it is unclear. Nor is it clear why Congress should find seti unworthy of funding, given that the government has previously been happy to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on ambitious searches for phenomena whose existence was still in question. The expensive, decades-long missions that found black holes and gravitational waves both commenced when their targets were mere speculative possibilities. That intelligent life can evolve on a planet is not a speculative possibility, as Darwin demonstrated. Indeed, seti might be the most intriguing scientific project suggested by Darwinism.

Even without federal funding in the United States, seti is now in the midst of a global renaissance. Today’s telescopes have brought the distant stars nearer, and in their orbits we can see planets. The next generation of observatories is now clicking on, and with them we will zoom into these planets’ atmospheres. seti researchers have been preparing for this moment. In their exile, they have become philosophers of the future. They have tried to imagine what technologies an advanced civilization might use, and what imprints those technologies would make on the observable universe. They have figured out how to spot the chemical traces of artificial pollutants from afar. They know how to scan dense star fields for giant structures designed to shield planets from a supernova’s shock waves.

… Liu Cixin told me he doubts the dish will find one. In a dark-forest cosmos like the one he imagines, no civilization would ever send a beacon unless it were a “death monument,” a powerful broadcast announcing the sender’s impending extinction. If a civilization were about to be invaded by another, or incinerated by a gamma-ray burst, or killed off by some other natural cause, it might use the last of its energy reserves to beam out a dying cry to the most life-friendly planets in its vicinity.

Newsweek has placed its wager: “Search for Aliens: Why China Will Find Them First”

(3) WHERE’S FALCO? Marcus Errico, in a Yahoo! Movies post called “Find the Falcon! How Lucasfilm and fans have been playing hide-and-seek with iconic ‘Star Wars’ ship”, says that Disney has gone to elaborate lengths to hide their full-scale Millennium Falcon model but fans have found out where it is by using aerial photography.

This week’s headlines came courtesy of one Kevin Beaumont, a Brit who, using Google Maps, was able to spot the disguised ship near Longcross Studios outside of London. Disney covered the Falcon with sheeting and tucked the beloved “hunk of junk” behind a ring of shipping containers, shielding it from fans and Imperial troops alike

(4) WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY. James Davis Nicoll faces his greatest challenge:

TFW I realize as a tor.com reviewer I am competing against myself as a jamesdavisnicoll reviewer and vice versa. No choice but to double down until I emerge victorious.

(5) G.I. JOE AND BARBIE, TOGETHER? Two toymakers could become one — “Hasbro reportedly makes a takeover bid for struggling rival Mattel”. The Los Angeles Times has the story.

Mattel has struggled with slumping sales despite hiring a new chief executive early this year, Margo Georgiadis, a former Google executive.

Mattel in late October reported a 14% drop in its third-quarter sales, excluding the effect of currency fluctuations, and suspended its quarterly dividend. It blamed some of the decline on the recent bankruptcy filing of retailer Toys R Us Inc.

That prompted S&P Global Ratings to lower its ratings on Mattel’s corporate debt, and led one analyst to say that Mattel might be better off as a takeover target.

“We believe its brands and manufacturing footprint could be worth more than $10 billion in their current state,” analyst Gerrick Johnson of BMO Capital Markets said in a note to clients. “Thus, the company could have value to a financial, industry or entertainment conglomerate buyer.”

Mattel’s market value is $5 billion after the stock plunged 47% so far this year. The stock jumped 5% Friday to close at $14.62 a share.

(6) FAAN AWARDS. Corflu 35 announced that Nic Farey will be the FAAn awards administrator for the 2018 awards, given for work published in 2017 and to be distributed at Corflu 35 in Toronto.

(7) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN. Andrew says, “This story is reminiscent of the ‘On/Off’ star in Vernor Vinge’s Deepness in the Sky.” From the BBC, “‘Zombie’ star survived going supernova”:

When most stars go supernova, they die in a single blast, but astronomers have found a star that survived not one, but five separate explosions.

The “zombie” star kept erupting for nearly two years – six times longer than the duration of a typical supernova.”

“Intriguingly, by combing through archived data, scientists discovered an explosion that occurred in 1954 in exactly the same location. This could suggest that the star somehow survived that explosion, only to detonate again in 2014.

The object may be the first known example of a Pulsational Pair Instability Supernova.

“According to this theory, it is possible that this was the result of a star so massive and hot that it generated antimatter in its core,” said co-author Daniel Kasen, from the University of California, Berkeley. “

(8) SUPERGIRL. A genre figure joins the list of the accused: “Warner Bros. Suspends ‘Supergirl,’ ‘Flash’ Showrunner in Wake of Sexual Harassment Claims”.

Andrew Kreisberg, executive producer of The CW DC Comics series including The Flash, Supergirl and Arrow, has been suspended by producers Warner Bros. TV Group over allegations of sexual harassment by multiple women.

Warner Bros. Television, the studio behind the Greg Berlanti-produced comic book shows, has launched an internal investigation into the claims leveled against Kreisberg.

“We have recently been made aware of allegations of misconduct against Andrew Kreisberg. We have suspended Mr. Kreisberg and are conducting an internal investigation,” Warners said in a statement late Friday. “We take all allegations of misconduct extremely seriously, and are committed to creating a safe working environment for our employees and everyone involved in our productions.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 11, 1994 Interview with the Vampire premieres.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS & GIRLS

  • Born November 11, 1922 — Kurt Vonnegut
  • Born November 11, 1960 — Stanley Tucci, actor (Transformers: Age of Extinction, Muppets Most Wanted, Jack the Giant Slayer, The Hunger Games series).
  • Born November 11, 1962 — Demi Moore, American actress (Ghost)
  • Born November 11, 1964 – Calista Flockhart (Supergirl)
  • Born November 11, 1966 – Alison Doody, actress (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)
  • Born November 11, 1974 – Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception)

(11) CALLING GITCHY GUMIE. Matthew Johnson’s offered these lyrics in comments to help File 770 compensate for failing to mention the anniversary of the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald as an item in “Today in History.”

The legend comes down from the APAs of old
Of the fanzine become a webjournal
The pixel, we’re told, never gives up its scrolls
In the winds of September eternal.

With a full load of links and a hold full of thinks
And Ray Bradbury stories remembered
With two fifths of scotch and a God that they’d stalked
Through the winds of eternal September.

(12) PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER. N.K. Jemisin tweeted:

(13) GOOD TASTE? Annalee Flower Horne questioned Windycon’s choice for a panel title.

(14) FOLKTALES. NPR interviewed Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Maria Tatar, two Harvard professors, about their anthology: “‘Annotated African American Folktales’ Reclaims Stories Passed Down From Slavery”.

On the complicated history of Joel Chandler Harris’ Uncle Remus stories

Gates: Joel Chandler Harris did an enormous service. We can debate the fact that, well, he certainly wasn’t a black man, and we could debate what his motivation was, and we can wonder, did African-Americans receive any percentage or share of the enormous profit that he made? The answer is absolutely not. But on the other hand, a lot of these tales would have been lost without Joel Chandler Harris.

Tatar: I was going to present the counter argument that is, did he kill African-American folklore? Because after all, if you look at the framed narrative, who is Uncle Remus telling the stories to? A little white boy, and so suddenly this entire tradition has been appropriated for white audiences, and made charming rather than subversive and perilous, dangerous — stories that could be told only at nighttime when the masters were not listening.

Gates: But think about it this way: It came into my parlor, it came into my bedroom, through the lips of a black man, my father, who would have us read the Uncle Remus tales but within a whole different context, and my father, can we say, re-breathed blackness into those folktales. So it’s a very complicated legacy.

(15) HOW LONG WAS IT? ScreenRant plays along with the ides this can be done: “Science Determines When Star Wars Movies Take Place”.

As reported by Wired, Johnson posits that based on the development of life, culture and approximate age of the planets in the universe, Star Wars takes place about roughly 9 billion years after the big bang that created the universe as it is now known. If true, this leaves at least 4.7 billion years between the stories of Star Wars and the present day world. In other words it is “a long time ago.”

The most interesting evidence Johnson gives to this theory is the planet of Mustafar; the site of Anakin and Obi-Wan’s climatic duel in Revenge of the Sith and later home to Darth Vader’s castle. Mustafar is a planet overflowing with lava and containing a nearly ridiculous amount of volcanoes but that climate isn’t all that different to what Earth was like in its early stages. Similarly, Hoth, the famous snowy planet from Empire Strikes Back, could be another Earth-like entity experiencing an ice age. Star Wars‘ motif of having “themed planets” is really nothing more than Earth-esque planets being in different stages of development.

(16) BEHIND THE IRON FILINGS. A BBC report ponders “Why Russia’s first attempt at the internet failed”. (Video at the link.)

In the 1960s, a Russian engineer proposed a civilian computer network to connect workers and farmers all across the Soviet Union, and the idea made it all the way to the highest authorities in Moscow.

What went wrong? Watch this video to find out, and read this in-depth piece for analysis on how this Soviet failure unfolded.

(17) LONGHAND. “The Feeling of Power” redux: “Do we need to teach children joined-up handwriting?”

The US state of Illinois has passed a law requiring school students to learn joined-up handwriting, or “cursive”, overriding the governor’s veto.

It is no longer a requirement in US schools, and some countries have dropped the skill from the curriculum or made it optional.

Why, then, do some – like the UK – still insist on it in a digital age? Shouldn’t children learn to type effectively instead?

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Evening Standard breaks down the “John Lewis Christmas advert 2017: Watch as snoring and farting Moz The Monster emerges from under the bed”.

John Lewis this morning unveiled its latest Christmas campaign advert that features a young boy who befriends a scruffy monster who is sleeping under his bed.

The two-minute advert, set to a cover of Beatles track Golden Slumbers by Elbow, tells the story of Joe – who realises a snoring and farting 7ft imaginary monster called Moz lives under his bed.

Joe – who is played by seven-year-old London twin brothers Tobias and Ethan – befriends Moz and the pair get up to mischief, playing in the boy’s bedroom in to the small hours.

After a number of sleepless nights, Joe keeps falling asleep during the day. So Moz decides to give him a night light, which when illuminated makes the monster vanish meaning Joe can sleep undisturbed.

But as the advert comes to an end with the tagline “For gifts that brighten up their world,” viewers soon realise when Joe turns off the night light, Moz returns – meaning they can remain friends.

…Much like the poor boy he keeps awake at night, Moz the Monster feels a bit tired. While undeniably sweet, Moz is a bumbling character that you can’t not love, we have seen it all before. The monster is – really – a hairier version of Monty the Penguin, the CGI star of a few years ago.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 6/26/17 Tyme Scrollfari, Inc. Scrollfaris Tu Any Pixel En The Fyle

(1) OFF THE TOP OF HER HEAD. In “Nattering Social Justice Cook: Celebrating Rainbow Hair”, Cat Rambo delves into the history and symbolism of the hairstyle.

A common adjective in many of the more conservative, alt-right, and other theater-of-outrage rants I’ve seen in the past couple of years is “rainbow-haired,” never in a positive sense. It’s usually paired with some form of “social justice warrior,” and often accompanied by an emotional catch-phrase or verbiage like “feels” or “drinking the tears.” There’s a lot of interesting stuff built into that particular fixation. So let’s dig around to find what’s contained in the phrase and its use in this pejorative sense….

Rainbow hair is grounded in a counter-cultural movement. It celebrates individuality and a certain DIY spirit (there is no shame in going to the salon for it, but I find it much more fun to do my own). It celebrates one’s appearance, draws the eye rather than shrinking away from it. It is something beautiful that those who don’t fit inside normal standards of beauty can have. It is playful, joyful, delightful at times.

Very recently it has spread like wildfire, and many of the people adopting it are millennials. This gives the anti-rainbow hair sentiment a double-whammy, providing an “oh these kids nowadays” moment while slamming anyone older for acting overly young. (Which implies that’s a bad thing, which isn’t a notion I agree with).

Here’s something that I think often makes conservative minds bristle: it confuses gender norms. In traditional thinking, men aren’t supposed to care about or celebrate their appearance in the way women are. But rainbow hair appears all over the gender spectrum. Pull in the strand of meaning associated with gay pride, and the objectionability quotient increases.

There’s a reason alt-right and other manifestations of conservative trollish rhetoric so often focuses on appearance, on fat-shaming or fuckability or even how a new Ken-doll wears their hair. It’s a reversion to the schoolyard insult, the way insecure children will be cruel to others in order to try to build their internal self-worth, a behavior many, but sadly not all, outgrow. Worthy of an essay in itself is the fact that it’s also behavior advantageous to advertisers: anxious consumers who want to fit in are willing to spend money in the effort.

(2) TURNOVER AT MAD. ComicsBeat knows the name of the next bullgoose loony: “Dept. of Funny Business: Bill Morrison is named new Executive Editor of Mad Magazine” .

Ending a suspenseful watch that lasted a few months, the white smoke has finally risen from DC Entertainment, signaling the election of a new pope of humor: Bill Morrison will be the new executive editor of Mad Magazine when it moves westward later this year.

…Well, every irreplaceable person seems irreplaceable until you find someone who will do the job differently but as well, and so it is with Morrison, an animation and comic veteran who has worked with the Bongo Comics line of Simpson Comics and many other hilarious things for years. He’s a great cartoonist himself and knows the score up and down and inside out.

(3) DORTMUND DOCKET. Detailed panel notes are the highlight of Tomas Cronholm’s report about “U-Con, Eurocon 2017”.

This was a fairly small Eurocon, with 375 attending members. The venue was some kind of school, with a big hall suitable for the main programme and some smaller rooms, a bar and a dealers’ area. Perfect for the size of the convention. Here are some reports from the programme items

(4) SPACE RELIC CONSERVATION. The Apollo XI spacecraft goes on the road: “Moonwalkers’ Apollo 11 Capsule Gets Needed Primping For Its Star Turn On Earth”

Until recently, the capsule sat in the main lobby of the National Air and Space Museum, where it had been since the museum opened in 1976. Conservator Lisa Young says that occasionally workers would open up its Plexiglas case to look it over or put in new lighting.

“But it never really went under a full examination or investigative analysis as to all of the certain materials on there, how stable they are,” says Young, who is working on the spacecraft now in a restoration hangar at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., outside of Washington, D.C.

“Our big job as conservators right now is to figure out, if we are going to put it back on display permanently, what could be happening to it in 50 years,” says Young, who wants to prevent future deterioration.

(5) SKYFULL. SpaceX non-fiction double feature: “SpaceX completes launch and landing double bill”

Late on Friday, [SpaceX] used one of its refurbished Falcon 9 vehicles to put up a Bulgarian satellite from Florida.

Then on Sunday, SpaceX lofted another 10 spacecraft for telecommunications company Iridium. This time, the rocket flew out of California.

Both missions saw the Falcon first-stages come back to Earth under control to drone ships that had been positioned out on the ocean.

(6) AUTHORIAL PALETTE. There’s an overview of Ben Blatt’s research in this PRI article: “A journalist uses statistics to uncover authors’ ‘cinnamon words'”.

In the book, Blatt refers to these patterns as an author’s “stylistic fingerprint.” In one line of inquiry, he dusts for prints by calculating famous authors’ favorite words — the terms they use “at an extreme ratio” compared to other writers. He calls them “cinnamon words,” after an anecdote about the novelist Ray Bradbury.

“The motivation for looking at this was, I had read this book that just asked authors their favorite words, and Ray Bradbury said, ‘My favorite word is cinnamon because it reminds me of my grandmother’s pantry,’” Blatt says.

Sure enough, Bradbury’s fans can find the word cinnamon sprinkled throughout his writing, from descriptions of dusty roads and red-brown hills to the dark Egyptian tomb that “breathed out a sick exhalation of paprika, cinnamon and powdered camel dung.”

“So, he’s using it all the time,” Blatt says. “And building on that, I wanted to look at hundreds of other authors to see, were there other similar words that were jumping out of a writer’s inner voice.”

(7) FLUXBUN WARNING. The new PhotonFlux bar in Wellington, New Zealand will celebrate World UFO Day on July 2.

Years in the making Anton and Nina imaged what the future would be like. Will it be a post-apocalyptic survival or, a future where everybody wears the same thing and live in peace with robots in a bubble city.

Either way we want to take photos of it, gather evidence and travel there.

Photonflux is the place where possible future will be planned, discussed and changed.

The headquarters offers the revolutionary fluxbun, a fried dough filled with various flavours in a casual setting. For World UFO Day your filling will be in the hands of our creative chef.

However if you do not wish to be pleasantly surprised you can pick from our menu.

Chris Barlow gave it a thumbs up review on Google Plus.

One of a kind, a sci-fi themed bar in Wellington! Like stepping into another dimension – as you enter you’re immediately surrounded by eye-popping visuals straight out of the film set. Delicious “Flux buns” are teleported care of the in-house “galactic food truck”, complemented by an eclectic range of tap beer. A must see in Wellington.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking once hosted a reception for time travelers — but only advertised the event after it had ended. [Source: Huffington Post.]

(9) TODAY’S ANNIVERSARY BOOK

(10) LATE ADOPTER. In honor of the anniversary, John Scalzi tells how he found his way to Platform 9-3/4: “Harry Potter and the Initially Dismissive But Ultimately Appreciative Fan”.

But as it turns out neither Harry Potter nor J.K. Rowling were done with me. First, of course, it turned out that Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley (and Rowling) weren’t Tears for Fears; they were the Beatles. And like the Beatles they weren’t just popular. They materially changed common culture — for a start, because they also changed the industry that they came out of, and the work of everyone in their field, who either responded to them or were influenced by them. Now, one may, like me, decide a phenomenon like that isn’t for you, but when literally(!) the world is changing to deal with and make room for that phenomenon, you still have to acknowledge that it’s there and work with it, or at least around it. Particularly when and if, like me, it comes out of the fields (in this case publishing and writing) you hope to be in, and in my case were eventually part of.

Second, I found another way in to Rowling’s wizarding world: through the movies, which were for me in a way that I, from that snippet of the second book, assumed the books were not. In retrospect this is not at all surprising — I was a professional film critic for several years, and I’ve written two books on film, and, as anyone who has ever read my novels can tell you, the storytelling structure of film is a huge influence on my storytelling in prose. My professional and creative interest in film helped that version of Harry Potter’s story speak to me.

(11) CIRCULAR REASONING SQUAD. In a post densely filled with animated GIFs, Sarah A. Hoyt responds to her critics on the right and what they had to say about her recent Sad Puppies-themed post for Mad Genius Club.

I did not feel guilty about a) not turning over Sad Puppies to someone else. Sad Puppies was Larry’s, then Brad’s, then Kate’s, and is now mine and next year will be mostly Amanda’s. We were in it from the beginning, and we have decided long ago that it would stay within the cabal, because none of us — all of us public figures to a degree or another — can afford to have something associated with our name taken down a crazy road without us having control over it. b) Not putting up a list for the Hugos — I was never going to put up a list. And I feel queasy about encouraging people to vote for an award that has been so thoroughly tainted. c) Not putting up a list for the Dragon. The Dragon is bigger than any of us. Some small names got in last year, but they were just because it was the first time. Right now I’m not big enough for the dragons, and I doubt any who covet it are either. d) I thought it was time to get out from between the fight of the Volksdeutshe expatriate and the guardians of chorfdom…

And she addresses specific criticisms about her latest Mad Genius Club post by saying she doesn’t understand why they’re down on her.

So, imagine my surprise when my post immediately attracted two commenters yelling at me for… well… actually I have no idea because most of it makes no sense. You guys can see the comments yourselves. There’s something about me looking down on people who don’t use the right oyster fork. You guys know my background and my question on this is… there’s a FORK? FOR OYSTERS? Why?

The other one apparently had something about me slandering other puppy-descended movements, which frankly… was news to me. First slander doesn’t mean what they think it means. Second, I’m fairly sure to slander them I’d have to mention them, and I don’t recall I have, except for Superversive, for whose anthology, Forbidden thoughts I wrote a short story. (It was as a press of that name needs to make it a rather more on-the-nose anthology than I’d have made it, but the point is I wasn’t the editor, the stories weren’t mine to choose, and it would be a funny world if my aesthetics were the only ones that counted, right? So, saying they have different tastes from me doesn’t count as a slander, right? particularly when I still wrote for them. Either that or I don’t know what slander means. Maybe I slandered them BY writing for them? I’m SOOOOOOO confused.)

(12) UNFRIENDLY FIRE. In addition to the comments there, Hoyt’s Mad Genius Club post about Sad Puppies also attracted some large bore artillery fire from Russell Newquist, “This Is What A Complete Leadership Failure Looks Like”, for the inactivity of SP5 in general, and her chastising Declan Finn for trying to jumpstart it last January.

Sarah Hoyt’s leadership of the Sad Puppies V campaign is a classic case study in leadership failure. If you ever want the absolute pitch perfect example of what not to do in a leadership position, look no further. This tale has everything: incompetence, insanity, bullying, harassment, technical difficulties, lack of vision, and just plain bitchiness. If I tried to create an example of bad leadership from scratch, I couldn’t make one this complete. If she were trying to destroy the Sad Puppies campaign and help the other side, she couldn’t have done a better job of it.

This, my friends, is a tail of abject, utter fail.

Sad Puppies V (SPV from here out) failed in literally every conceivable way, so this may take a bit. Bear with me….

(13) POLITICAL AUTOPSY. I spotted the Hoyt and Newquist links above in Camestros Felapton’s post “Sad Popcorn” where he tries to make sense of it all. If that’s possible.

(14) D&D HISTORY. Cecilia D’Anastasio tells Kotaku readers “Dungeons & Dragons Wouldn’t Be What It Is Today Without These Women”, though her very first illustration seems strangely out of synch with the rest of her case:

Almost every copy of the first Dungeons & Dragons adventure written by a woman is buried in a landfill in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Those copies, published in 1980, were the masterwork of a game designer named Jean Wells, who worked for D&D’s first publisher, TSR. Wells designed Palace of the Silver Princess to her tastes, and with no regard for TSR’s mandate to make the game more kid-friendly. At one point in the module, players encounter a beautiful young woman hanging from the ceiling, naked, by her own hair. “Nine ugly men can be seen poking their swords lightly into her flesh, all the while taunting her in an unknown language,” the module reads. In-game, this scene turns out to be a simple magical illusion—but the accompanying illustration included in the module that TSR shipped to hobby shops nationally was not.

“A little bit of bondage here, a little torture there, worked its way into the Palace of the Silver Princess module,” Stephen Sullivan, a close friend of Wells and the adventure’s editor, told me. After it was properly reviewed—post-production—TSR’s executives went ballistic. Seventy-two hours after Palace of the Silver Princess was released, it was retracted.

“It was what Jean wanted it to be,” Sullivan said of the module. (Wells passed away in 2012.) “It was her baby. And for another place and another time, it probably would have been just perfect,” Sullivan said. Those retracted modules, now dubbed the “orange versions,” are buried somewhere under Lake Geneva’s flat, Midwestern landscape. It was soon rewritten by D&D designer Tom Moldvay and redistributed with Wells’ name relegated to the second credit.

(15) TOP NOVELS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club has been burning the midnight oil: here’s their discussion of two more nominees.

Second-Book Syndrome

Perhaps the book suffers from being the second in a trilogy. As such, it can’t have the originality and vigor of a first book and also can’t have as epic a conclusion as a third book.

Jemisin’s strength as a writer and deft social commentary make this a worthwhile read. Questions of race, class and gender are explored thoughtfully and with nuance. The characters speak with their own voices, and grow.

Alabaster’s slow decline as he tries to pass along knowledge to Essun, and Essun’s growing control of her magic could have been nothing more than a Hero’s Journey ™ like that of Obi-Wan and Luke. But Jemisin’s more nuanced character building elevates this relationship to something more touching and poignant.  Again, she raises the readers’ expectations as they progress through the book.

 The End Is Nigh Again

One of the recurring themes in “big” science fiction is the impending end of the world. In Death’s End, the end of the world is nigh on no fewer than six occasions, only to be averted suddenly through deux et machina each time.  The frequency of these calamities within the book, and how precipitously they are forgotten devalues them, and left our book group struggling to care.

The character of Cheng Xin is one of the weakest parts of the book, as none of us were really able to understand her motivations or her personality. She’s faced with conflict after conflict throughout the book, and presented with a wide variety of moral dilemmas, but through it all she remains a cypher.

In the previous two books the author wrote from several points of view other than the main character.

Death’s End focuses almost solely on Cheng Xin, with just a brief portion from Tianming’s perspective. This leaves other interesting characters — like Luo Ji and Wade — on the sidelines. The omission of their perspectives is a missed opportunity that points to the lack of depth in the book.

(16) HUGO QUIP. No reviews in this post this post by Camestros Felapton, but there’s a lively bon mot:

Best Series – the category that somehow manages to combine elements of both the protestant work ethic and Catholic guilt in one package.

(17) DARK TOWER. A new featurette from The Dark Tower – The Legacy of the Gunslinger.

There are other worlds than these. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, the ambitious and expansive story from one of the world’s most celebrated authors, makes its launch to the big screen. The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Greg Hullender, Nigel, Cat Rambo, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 5/9/17 Help, I’m Floating And I Can’t Get Down

(1) D FRANKLIN AWARD PREMIERES. Nominations are open for a new award recognizing work in disability advocacy in SFF literature — “Announcing the D Franklin Defying Doomsday Award”.

This award is possible thanks to D Franklin, our wonderful Patron of Diversity who pledged the top pledge in our Pozible campaign!

The Defying Doomsday Award is an annual shortlist and prize. The award jury comprises Twelfth Planet Press publisher, Alisa Krasnostein, and Defying Doomsday editors, Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench. The award will grant one winner per year a cash prize of $200 in recognition of their work in disability advocacy in SFF literature.

Eligible works include non-fiction or related media exploring the subject of disability in SFF literature. Works must have been published in 2016.

We are now seeking nominations for the 2016 Defying Doomsday Award. Please submit your nominations to Tsana and Holly by filling in this form: https://goo.gl/forms/Kq8jGrXlAcdNumxy1

Submissions are open until July 31. The winner(s) will be announced in September.

(2) NOW ON SALE. It’s not exactly a Meredith moment, but until the end of May you can save $200 on The Virginia Edition of Robert A. Heinlein’s collected works. That lowers the price tag to $1,300 in the U.S., or $1,600 for an international destination.

(3) SCIENCE BOOM. You can watch a flock of “Science Movies on Netflix in May”. Two examples –

Available May 5

The Mars Generation (Netflix, 2017): Could humanity’s future include travel to Mars? Astrophysicists and astronauts weigh in on the challenges of long-distance spaceflight and the dream of missions that could transport people to the Red Planet. Meanwhile, teenage trainees at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center immerse themselves in work toward making that dream a reality.

Available May 15

Command and Control (PBS, 2017): Building a nuclear arsenal comes with incredible risks, and most Americans may be unaware that in 1980, an accident at a nuclear missile complex in Damascus, Arkansas, nearly resulted in the detonation of a warhead 600 times more powerful than the bomb that leveled Hiroshima. Based on recently declassified documents, this fascinating glimpse into the American nuclear weapons program tracks its history, and evaluates the human errors and accidents along the way that could have doomed us all.

(4) THE BEER THAT HITCHHIKERS MADE FAMOUS. Martin Morse Wooster knows: “Short’s Brewing is notorious among beer geeks for its crazy beers.  So of course they produce Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster!  (It’s a really cool Space Invaders-style label.)”

(5) ANONYMOUS LONGLIST. Here’s something you don’t see every day, Edgar. An anonymous longlist for the 2017 James White Award has been announced – the titles of 17 short stories listed without the authors’ names, because the entries are still undergoing an anonymous judging process.

The administrators say the shortlist will come out within two weeks, and the winner announced soon after that.

(6) ABOARD THE QUEEN MARY. Ellen Datlow has posted her photos from StokerCon 2017 on Flickr. Below: Elizabeth Hand and Nancy Holder.

Elizabeth Hand and Nancy Holder

(7) WIN WWII QUICKER. Gregory Benford shares “The Big Idea” that led to his novel The Berlin Project.

How many more concentration camp victims would have survived if the war had ended one year earlier?  For one, Anne Frank. Most CC victims succumbed eventually to the rugged conditions… The difference between 1944 and 1945 as the end of the war is probably quite significant in terms of lives.

The central context for this novel came from the protagonist I chose to follow through it, Karl Cohen. I also folded in my experience of living in the US occupation of Germany in 1955-57, where my father commanded combat units.

Karl’s words made me think, because in the last year of war, whole societies collapsed. A million died each month, the Soviet Union captured many countries into subjugation, and the devastation of the Axis powers took decades to repair.

Alternative histories are ways of thinking. The entire history of nuclear weapons is interlaced with scientists considering the future, often using science fiction as a prompt. The 1913 “atomic bombs” of H. G. Wells and the Robert Heinlein and Cleve Cartmill stories in Astounding Science Fiction were indeed broadly discussed at Los Alamos –as told to me in detail by Teller.

The wartime investigation into the Astounding stories, as I depict from documents I found, now seems odd indeed. The fiction writers had no classified information at all, just good guesses. Still, this possibility was viewed as very important by the security agencies, including the FBI. As Robert Silverberg has wryly remarked, “Turning war secrets into second-rate SF stories might seem, to the dispassionate eye, a very odd way indeed of betraying one’s country.”

Karl Cohen was my father in law. In 2000 he was voted to be among the 50 most prominent American chemists of the 20th Century. But he was haunted by what he felt was his personal failure to convince the U.S. government to pursue the centrifuge approach during the war. He died in 2012 at age 99. Alas, I had only begun on the novel.

(8) A GLOWING SMILE. Win WWII – and prevent tooth decay! Atlas Obscura tells how Manhattan Project experts got sidetracked in their pursuit of Nazi nuclear technology in “The Mysterious Case of the Radioactive Toothpaste”.

(9) SAVE YOUR MONEY. BookRiot’s Kay Taylor Rea advises which of the Best Novel Hugo finalists to buy, borrow, or bypass.

Death’s End by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

The final book in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, Death’s End really goes for broke in its attempts to be an epic tale. I struggled through it for much the same reason I struggled through the first two books: the depictions of women are by turns baffling and infuriating. If you were bothered by that in the first two novels, I warn you it’s still at issue here. The woman at the center of Death’s End, engineer Cheng Xin, is by turns patronized, deified, and vilified both by the male characters and the narrative itself. If you can ignore this, and the author’s tendency toward paragraph upon paragraph of info-dumping, there are certainly the bones of a very compelling tale of humanity’s future within these pages. The science involved is fascinating, and if you’re on the hunt for oldschool hard science fiction this might fit the bill.

Verdict: Bypass unless you’ve read the first two and have a hankering for more hard SF.

(10) WHO IS NUMBER ONE? MeTV offers “TV Aliens, Ranked”.

Mr. Spock, ‘Star Trek’

Was this really a competition? Mr. Spock is beloved by the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise and fans of Star Trek alike. Even though Williams Shatner tried to take the lead on the original series, Spock’s likability and Leonard Nimoy’s depiction made him the most popular character on one of the most popular series of all time.

(11) WESTON OBIT. G.I. Joe inventor Stan Weston died May 1. The Hollywood Reporter recalls:

When Mattel’s Barbie dolls were introduced in 1960, Weston realized boys were an untapped market for the doll industry after noting that many of them played with Ken dolls. He conceived of the idea of a military action figure and in 1963 sold what would become G.I. Joe to Hasbro. The runaway hit would go on to be one of the most enduring toy lines in history, spawning hit TV shows and films as well.

…In 1989, he was among the inaugural class for the Licensing Industry Hall of Fame, which includes notables Walt Disney, George Lucas and Jim Henson.

(12) TODAY’S DAY

Jerry Goldsmith Day

Today Oscar- and Emmy-winning composer Jerry Goldsmith posthumously received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He scored a vast number of movies, including many genre films. Director Joe Dante, for whom Goldsmith scored Gremlins, Explorers, and Innerspace, lent impetus to the award, saying he’d been “flabbergasted” to learn Goldsmith had not already received the honor. Dante told Variety, “Any film he scored was automatically improved tenfold.”

 

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 9, 1980 — Sean Cunningham’s Friday the 13th premieres in theatres.
  • May 9, 1997 The Fifth Element is released in the U.S.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 9, 1860 – J.M. Barrie

(15) COMPETITIVE LENGTHS. Greg Hullender says, “Inspired by a blog post from Rich Horton I did a quick analysis of the lengths of novellas overall vs. the lengths of the ones that are Hugo finalist.” — “Story Lengths and Awards: When Does Size Matter?” at Rocket Stack Rank.

It looks like (this year, at least), when it came to getting nominated for the Hugo, longer stories definitely did better than shorter ones in the Novella category and (less dramatically) in the Novelette category, but length had no effect on short stories.

In fact, the effect is so dramatic that the longest novella published by any print magazine is shorter than the shortest novella in the Hugo finalist list!

(16) DIAL 2140. Carl Slaughter did a mini-roundup on a popular new novel.

The New Yorker described Kim Stanley Robinson as “generally acknowledged as one of the greatest living science-fiction writers.”  The Atlantic described Robinson as “the gold-standard of realistic, and highly literary, science-fiction writing.” Robinson’s novels have won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Campbell awards.  His body of work won the Heinlein award.  He was an instructor at Clarion and the 68th World Science Fiction Convention guest of honor.  Major themes in his novels:  nature and culture, ecological sustainability, climate change and global warming, economic and social justice, and scientists as heroes.

“The environmental, economic, and social themes in Robinson’s oeuvre stand in marked contrast to the libertarian science fiction prevalent in much of science fiction (Robert A. Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle being prominent examples), and his work has been called the most successful attempt to reach a mass audience with a left wing and anti-capitalist utopian vision since Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1974 novel, The Dispossessed.”  –  Wiki

Robinson’s latest novel, NewYork 2140 , which came out in March from Orbit, is about residents of New York coping the the drastic affects of climate change, namely rising sea levels.

As the sea levels rose, every street became a canal. Every skyscraper an island. For the residents of one apartment building in Madison Square, however, New York in the year 2140 is far from a drowned city.

There is the market trader, who finds opportunities where others find trouble. There is the detective, whose work will never disappear — along with the lawyers, of course.

There is the internet star, beloved by millions for her airship adventures, and the building’s manager, quietly respected for his attention to detail. Then there are two boys who don’t live there, but have no other home– and who are more important to its future than anyone might imagine.

Lastly there are the coders, temporary residents on the roof, whose disappearance triggers a sequence of events that threatens the existence of all– and even the long-hidden foundations on which the city rests.

Praise for New York 2140:

“Science fiction is threaded everywhere through culture nowadays, and it would take an act of critical myopia to miss the fact that Robinson is one of the world’s finest working novelists, in any genre. NEW YORK 2140 is a towering novel about a genuinely grave threat to civilisation.”  ?  The Guardian

“An exploration of human resilience in the face of extreme pressure…starkly beautiful and fundamentally optimistic visions of technological and social change in the face of some of the worst devastation we might bring upon ourselves.”  ?  The Conversation

“As much a critique of contemporary capitalism, social mores and timeless human foibles, this energetic, multi-layered narrative is also a model of visionary worldbuilding.”  ?  RT Book Reviews (Top Pick!) on New York 214

“A thoroughly enjoyable exercise in worldbuilding, written with a cleareyed love for the city’s past, present, and future.”  ?  Kirkus

“The tale is one of adventure, intrigue, relationships, and market forces…. The individual threads weave together into a complex story well worth the read.”  ?  Booklist

(17) SPINRAD REVIEWED. Rob Latham shares his qualified enthusiasm for Norman Spinrad’s The People’s Police in “An Unkempt Jeremiad” at LA Review of Books.

I would affirm that The People’s Police is a continuous pleasure to read were it not for the poor production values that persistently hobble the story. While the physical book is well designed, including an arresting dust-jacket by Michael Graziolo, the text itself is littered with distracting typos, oddly repeated words (e.g., “his vehicle had come around again to where where Luke was standing”), and passages still showing the raw compositional process (e.g., “what the upstate Holy Rollers were calling called the People’s Police”). A better job of editing would have caught these various solecisms, as well as the embarrassing fact that some anecdotes — e.g., that Huey Long built “a half-assed half-scale replica of the White House” as his governor’s mansion — are recounted twice, thus compromising their effectiveness. Every time I began to fall under the spell of Spinrad’s kooky grandiloquence, some glaring error like this would throw me out of the story. This is particularly unfortunate given that, as noted above, The People’s Police marks the author’s dogged attempt to break back into the US market after a decade of frustrations.

All in all, though, I think the novel should be well received, as it manifests most of the strengths of Spinrad’s long career….

(18) APOCALYPSE OHIO. There were a few angsty moments at the Scalzi compound today.

(19) AT RISK COMICS. I scanned CosmicBookNews’ list of Marvel comics titles on the bubble, holding in mind the recent controversy about whether diversity sells.

Titles with an asterisk are already cancelled as of July.

CA: Sam Wilson – #21 – 18,650
Gwenpool – #14 – 17,972
Captain Marvel – #4 – 17,893
US Avengers – #5 – 17,880
Ultimates 2 – #6 -17,350
Dr. Strange & Sorcerers Supreme – #7 – 16,887
Man-Thing – #3 – 16,199 [Mini]
Hawkeye – #5 – 16,031
Totally Awesome Hulk – #18 – 16,009
Spider-Man 2099 – #22 – 15,273
Elektra – #3 – 15,113*
Silver Surfer – #10 – 15,041
World Of Wakanda – #6 – 14,547*
Nova – #5 – 14,525*
Silk – #19 – 13,524*
Thunderbolts – #12 – 13,780*
Kingpin – #3 – 13,765*
Rocket Raccoon #5 – 13,373*
Power Man & Iron Fist #15 – 13,055*
Bullseye – #3 – 12,912 [Mini]
Star lord – #6 – 12,278*
Squirrel Girl – #19 – 11,074
Occupy Avengers – #6 – 10,296
Unstoppable Wasp – #4 – 9,780
Great Lakes Avengers – #7 – 8,370
Moon Girl and Devil Dino – #18 – 7,966
Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat – #17 – 6,943*
Mosaic – #7 – 5,876*

On the fence:

Ms. Marvel – #17 – 20,881

(20) GUARDIANS INSIDE INFO. Don’t view this unless you are ready for SPOILERS. Looper picks out Small Details In Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 Only True Fans Understood.

After all the hype, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 proved itself a worthy successor to the first film. With another Awesome Mix Tape blasting and another round of adventures for Star-Lord and his gang of unlikely heroes, Vol. 2 offered up the same mix of action and comedy fans have come to love. And like the first installment, the newest Guardians is packed with Easter eggs. Here are all the small details only true fans noticed in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Major spoilers ahead!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Roger Silverstein, Cat Eldridge, Ellen Datlow, ,Andrew Porter, Kat, Kendall, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/16/17 I’m A Boxticker, Jim, Not A Pixel!

(1) DEDICATED TO MEREDITH. It’s ”Appreciate a Dragon Day”.  According to the Donita K. Paul website:

Appreciate a Dragon Day was started in 2004 by Mrs. Paul to celebrate the release of DragonSpell. We encourage you to join us as we celebrate literacy and have some fun!

appreciate-a-dragon-day-e1421395592126-808x380

(2) NEANDERTHALS. Jon Mooallem delivers a thoroughly fascinating account of paleoanthropological research in “Neanderthals Were People, Too” at the New York Times.

For millenniums, some scientists believe, before modern humans poured in from Africa, the climate in Europe was exceptionally unstable. The landscape kept flipping between temperate forest and cold, treeless steppe. The fauna that Neanderthals subsisted on kept migrating away, faster than they could. Though Neanderthals survived this turbulence, they were never able to build up their numbers. (Across all of Eurasia, at any point in history, says John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “there probably weren’t enough of them to fill an N.F.L. stadium.”) With the demographics so skewed, Stringer went on, even the slightest modern human advantage would be amplified tremendously: a single innovation, something like sewing needles, might protect just enough babies from the elements to lower the infant mortality rate and allow modern humans to conclusively overtake the Neanderthals. And yet Stringer is careful not to conflate innovation with superior intelligence. Innovation, too, can be a function of population size. “We live in an age where information, where good ideas, spread like wildfire, and we build on them,” Stringer told me. “But it wasn’t like that 50,000 years ago.” The more members your species has, the more likely one member will stumble on a useful new technology — and that, once stumbled upon, the innovation will spread; you need sufficient human tinder for those sparks of culture to catch.

I picked that paragraph because it reminds me of Robert Zubrin’s argument about the need for population growth as a prerequisite in developing a starship.

To achieve a 200-times increase over today’s GDP, we will need a population of 54 billion. We will need energy of 2500 terawatts by the year 2200.

Pounding away at the opposite conclusions reached in Paul Ehrlich’s famous book The Population Bomb, Zubrin said, “If humans destroyed more than they made, the earth would be barren already. The real resource is human creativity.” Every mouth comes with a pair of hands and a brain. If we accept Malthusian advice, and act to reduce the world’s population, we will impoverish the future by denying it the contributions the missing people could have made.

(3) THE AI TROPE. Ann Leckie’s “Vericon 2016 GoH Speech” overflows with interesting ideas, just like her fiction.

The very first robot story–the first ever use of the word “robot” in fact–is a robot uprising story. But when Karel ?apek wrote RUR he wasn’t worried about artificial intelligence. The robots of his story aren’t mechanical, they’re made of some sort of synthetic biological material. And the word “robot” which ?apek famously coined, comes from a Czech word for “slave.” It’s a story about the revolt of people made on an assembly line (the first actual assembly line had debuted just ten years earlier). It’s a story about the rebellion of people who were built to be the cheapest, most efficient workers possible, workers you didn’t have to pay, or feed anything in particular, or take any notice or care of. In other words, slaves. And ?apek ‘s story hit a nerve. It didn’t just give us the word for robot, it is the ultimate model for nearly all the robot uprising stories since. So that model–robots as slaves, with all the assumed dangers attendant on enslaving people who outnumber you–is the model we’re using when we think about super smart machines. This has not been lost on any number of science fiction writers, who have used robot and AI stories to comment explicitly on oppression and racism. But just personally–well, I won’t go into my problems with the whole “slaves in my allegory are machines and the masters are human beings” bit, though that’s kind of icky when you think about it, but on top of that I think it’s a dangerous model to use as a basis for actual, serious real world predictions about artificial intelligence.

(4) AUSSIE FANHISTORY. Now available at eFanzines.com, issues of iOTA, a fanzine with news of Leigh Edmonds’ Australian fandom history project.

Here are a pair of excerpts from iOTA #2:

  • The purpose of this little efanzine is to serve as a progress report on my current history project which is to research and write a history of Australian fandom, focusing on the period between 1956 and 1975. It is also a place where I can publish little bits and pieces of the writing and art of Australia’s fan past to help introduce you to the rich vein of material that previous generations of fans have left us.
  • Fanzine Review what you missed in 1939. Our friend Robin Johnson turns up with the most interesting things at times.  Usually it is old airline timetables – and we share an interest it air transport so we can find hours of harmless interest and amusement in airline timetables – but not on this occasion. This time it was a little fanzines with a pink cover produced in the old fashioned way using carbon paper.  (If you are not aware of this form of reproduction, I’m thinking about writing a little series called something like ‘Reproductive Pleasures’ in some future issues.  Some people have never heard of carbon paper, which means that they are young and happy folk.) This little pink and carbon paper produced fanzine is Ultra 1, produced by Eric Russell in Sydney, bearing the date October 1939.  It is probably the fourth fanzine title to be published in Australia after John Devern’s single issue of Science Fiction Review published in February 1939, Australian Fan News, a single issue of which was published by William Veney, Bert Castellari and Eric Russell in May 1939 and three issues of the JSC Bulletin (Junior Science Club) published by Vol Molesworth and Ken Jeffreys in June 1939.  (Thanks to Chris Nelson for his extensive research in this area.)  Of these early titles Ultra was among the early successful Sydney fanzines, seeing fourteen issues published between October 1939 and December 1941 when the commencement of the Pacific War brought an end to most of this kind of frivolity in Australia.

(5) GERONIMO! Neil Clarke has quit his day job and gone into editing full-time.

I’m quite excited—and a little terrified—by the prospect of taking the leap. There are a bunch of uncertainties, like healthcare costs and filling the income gap between Lisa’s new job and my old one, but we’re close enough to give this career switch a try. As some of you know, this has been a major goal of mine since my heart attack four years ago. At age fifty, and after ten years working part-time, I’m finally going to be a full-time editor!

Naturally, my first priority has to be those uncertainties I mentioned: income gap and insurance. As I see it, I have a few things to target:

  1. I’ve altered the Clarkesworld Patreon goals to include direct salary and healthcare expenses. Would be nice if it was that simple, but I figure it’s worth putting out there….

(6) HOW TO MAKE IT TO THE FINISH LINE.  The New York Times tells “Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books”. Some of these titles are of genre interest.

Even books initially picked up as escape reading like the Hugo Award-winning apocalyptic sci-fi epic “The Three-Body Problem” by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin, he said, could unexpectedly put things in perspective: “The scope of it was immense. So that was fun to read, partly because my day-to-day problems with Congress seem fairly petty — not something to worry about. Aliens are about to invade!”

…To this day, reading has remained an essential part of his daily life. He recently gave his daughter Malia a Kindle filled with books he wanted to share with her (including “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “The Golden Notebook” and “The Woman Warrior”). And most every night in the White House, he would read for an hour or so late at night — reading that was deep and ecumenical, ranging from contemporary literary fiction (the last novel he read was Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad”) to classic novels to groundbreaking works of nonfiction like Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction.”…

(7) CERNAN OBIT. “Gene Cernan, last man to walk on Moon, dies aged 82” reports the BBC.

Captain Cernan was one of only three people to go to the Moon twice and the last man to leave a footprint on the lunar surface in 1972.

The final words he spoke there were: “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return with peace and hope for all mankind.”

He was the commander of the Apollo 17 mission at the time.

Twelve people have walked on the Moon, and only six of them are still alive today

(8) THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Neil Armstrong, recalling how it felt to look back at Earth from the surface of the moon: “I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 16, 1948 – John Carpenter.

(10) QUOTABLE QUOTE: “In England, I’m a horror movie director. In Germany, I’m a filmmaker. In the US, I’m a bum.” – John Carpenter.

(11) BRANDON EASTON INTERVIEW. From Motherboard, “How Diversity Writing Programs Can Help Sci-Fi Live Up to Its Ideals”.

Motherboard: What do you think is really the problem that people aren’t talking about?

Brandon Easton: A lot of the reason why white writers who are entry level aren’t getting work has nothing to do with diversity programs. It’s because showrunners are hiring their buddies who are also EP’s [executive producers] and co-producer level who have these immense salaries that eat up the budget, so that they can’t hire anybody underneath a story editor level. This is what’s going on. Everyone knows this, yet still you have all these disgruntled writers scapegoating diversity programs instead of talking about the real issue at hand, which is nepotism. If you look at how many people graduate from these programs every year that number is so fucking low, it doesn’t even register as a percentage.

Motherboard: Science fiction has a long history of being open-minded about multiculturalism. Some argue that it’s the most open-minded of the genres. Do you think that’s true?

Brandon Easton: Science fiction as a literary genre, in theory, has open-minded concepts. And the fact is that historically, black writers have not been allowed in because for a while the editors, the people who controlled it, the publishing industry itself, even if someone had a great story – once racial politics were revealed, those people didn’t get to work. Now, if you’re talking about TV and film, there has been some really cool stuff that has progressive undercurrents thematically, but, when it comes to hiring practices we still revert back to straight white men as writers and creators of science fiction. Again, I do believe science fiction in its content itself can be extremely progressive and extremely life affirming, but we’re talking about the content versus the content creators. And I think that’s the issue.

Motherboard: I still think science fiction is special versus the other genres. Not only historically in terms of casting, but because when I read the genre, I don’t care what the race of the writer is. I just want to be blown away. Show me a new way of thinking.

Brandon Easton: I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. What I’m saying is that it helps when people get the opportunity. That’s where the problem is. If you want to be really serious about it, the only genre that’s really helped black people more than anything else has been comedy. Historically, I’m going back to the early 1900s, comedy was the only place where black writers could get a chance to write. Several generations of mainstream black stars came out of comedy: Will Smith, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Jamie Fox, Bill Cosby, Chris Tucker, Eddie Murphy, Steve Harvey, Tyler Perry, Wanda Sykes, Whoopi Goldberg and so many others. Comedy is where African Americans have had a shot, as opposed to science fiction, particularly television, has almost been completely closed to black writers.

(12) PRIZEWORTHY. Jonathan Edelstein’s picks in short fiction – “Another year of awards” at Haibane.

I’ll start with novelettes rather than short stories, because that way I can start with my favorite story of 2016: Polyglossia by Tamara Vardomskaya (GigaNotoSaurus, March 2016). GigaNotoSaurus doesn’t usually get much attention from reviewers and critics, but this is a rich, multi-layered story that is well deserving of an award.

Polyglossia is a story of linguistics, cultural survival, family and resistance to oppression – not necessarily in that order – set in a low-magic fantasy world that suggests the early twentieth century. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of good world-building, and the world of this story is intricately detailed and plausible; more than that, the world-building is integrated into the plot and informs the characters’ actions such that no detail is wasted. The linguistics are also tightly integrated into the plot – the author is a Ph.D. candidate in linguistics with an interest in the philosophy of language, and it shows – and the politics of language and cultural preservation come to play a key part in its resolution. At the same time, the story calls into question what we call family, what duties we owe to our ancestors, and how to balance those duties against the exigencies of politics. Polyglossia is rewarding on several levels – thus far, I’ve never failed to get something new out of it with each rereading – and if I had to pick one story that defined speculative fiction for me in 2016, it would be this one.

(13) STEALING A MARCH. Dan Wolfgang very carefully avoids stepping on Sarah A. Hoyt’s Sad Puppies turf while offering slates for the Dragon Awards and Hugo Awards in “A Very Special Message About Pooka Related Sadness”.

Sad_Pookas--678x381

The post is labeled “satire,” but here are typical examples of the names and works populating the slates:

Best Editor, Long Form

Best Semiprozine

Best Fanzine

(14) ROCKET RESOURCE. Greg Hullender sends word that Rocket Stack Rank has posted its page to help people pick artists for the 2017 Best Professional Artist Hugo.

We’ve added some features to make this easier to use, based on our own use (we’ve both already used it ourselves to make our own nominations) but we’ve realized that Eric and I use it very differently, so we’d welcome feedback from others. As with much else involving awards, there’s no one “right” way, so it’s good to support a number of different ways.

Eric is the artistic one (he can actually draw), so he wants to see several pieces by the same artist and makes judgments on that artist’s style overall. When he sees things he likes, he wants to visit that artist’s site, look at their gallery—even read interviews with the artist.

I don’t know art, but I know what I like. I want to quickly flip through all the pictures, extract the ones that I like, and then winnow down the list. (“Extract” means “Press ctrl-click on the author’s name at the top of the lightbox.” That opens a new tab, with that author’s work at the top of it.)

So this year the list contains eligible pictures as well as some that aren’t eligible (either they’re from last year or else they’re from semiprozines). The award is for an artist, not a particular work, after all, and this provides a bit more context on many of the artists. No one is listed who doesn’t have at least one eligible work, though, and those are highlighted.

Since the usual way to use the list is by opening the lightbox and then flipping through the pictures, we inserted an image of the Hugo rocket to separate artists. Eric found that useful, but I discovered that I paid almost no attention to which artist was which until after I’d selected about fifteen pictures I liked.

Winnowing the list wasn’t that hard (for me—Eric’s process was more sophisticated). I looked at all fifteen just at the thumbnail scale, and dropped three or four that I decided weren’t really as good. I dropped a few more because they really only had one picture I’d liked and the rest looked different. (In one case, I went to the artist’s home page to confirm that other pics in his/her gallery really did look like the single picture I was using to judge.) When I had six, I eliminated one because I didn’t like any of that artist’s pictures that were actually qualified for 2016. (So much for the idea that it’s about the artist, not the art.)

To fill out the Hugo Ballot, I copy/paste the author’s name from the web site and for the example of that author’s work, I use a link to that artist’s place on the main Professional Artists’ page. For example, http://www.rocketstackrank.com/2017/01/2017-professional-artists.html#JulieDillon points to Julie Dillon’s work on our page. (It’s what you get when you click on her name in the lightbox.)

We’d love to know how well this works for other filers and what we might do to make it better.

(15) HIDDEN HISTORY. Lauren Sarner, in “Tim Powers Loves Conspiracies” at Inverse, interviews the author of The Anubis Gates, Last Call and Declare about hanging out with Philip K. Dick and the allure of conspiracy.

What was Philip K. Dick like?

Since his death, there has arisen a kind of caricature of him. If you just read casually, you’d get the impression that he was this drug addled, crazy visionary who imagined God spoke to him. Actually he was a very sociable, funny, realistic, generous, gregarious friend. Not at all the William Blake crazy mystique the general impression has become. If you read his last few books, like VALIS and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, you can see that this was a rational, skeptical, humorous person. But it always does annoy me when people say, ‘Didn’t he like live in a cave and wander up and down the street talking to himself?’

(16) YOU CAN TELL A BOOK (COVER) BY ITS COVER. JJ sent this link — “The Cover of Each Max Gladstone Book Has Predicted the Cover of the Next One” from Tor.com — with a recommendation:

Okay, this is not new, but it is too fucking funny (you have to read all the way to the end for the final cover).

I say it lives up to the hype…

(17) RESURRECTED TALENT. IMDB shows some pretty hefty credits for Citizen Vader (2014):

A lonely widower stalks his deserted mansion, gloomily contemplating ending his own life. His last word may hold the key to what has sent him down this dark path.

 

Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)

Aidan Duffy
George Lucas (characters)
Orson Welles (characters)

Music Department

Bernard Herrmann original score music
John Williams original score music

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Hampus Eckerman, Aziz H.Poonawalla, Cat Rambo, Andrew Porter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]