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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acrobatica Infiniti Circus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) LOOKING FOR BOOKS. Donations needed –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

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

(10) INSTAPOLL. Survey says –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Front: I Read Baen’d Books

Reverse: RIP Joe Buckley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie says —

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

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

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

BBC 4’s intro reads —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/21/18 I Picked The Wrong Week To Quit Scrollin’ Pixels

(1) THE SOURCE. Paste Magazine tells readers “If You Love Black Panther, You Have to Read Nnedi Okorafor’s Books”.

…Okorafor, who’s about to wrap up a run on Marvel’s Black Panther: Long Live the King comic series, boasts an enthralling catalogue of novels steeped in afrofuturism. So if you’re looking for more stories featuring kickass women and inventive tech on the African continent, Okorafor has you covered.

Here are Paste’s top five picks to get you started:

Black Panther: Long Live the King

The obvious first title on this list is Marvel’s six-issue Long Live the King series, in which Okorafor wrote issues one, two and five. With art by André Lima Araújo and colors by Chris O’Halloran, Okorafor’s vision for Wakanda delivers a captivating narrative that breathes new life into the Black Panther canon.

Okorafor also wrote issue six, a one-shot story about Ngozi illustrated by Tana Ford, due out on February 28th. You might recognize Ngozi—an original Okorafor creation—from her first appearance in Venomverse: War Stories. And if the character is new to you, you’ll love the Nigerian woman who bonded with the Venom symbiote and became a hero….

(2) OKORAFOR FREE READ. Slate agrees that the work of Nnedi Okorafor is the place to start, and has timely released “Mother of Invention”, “a new short story by the author of Marvel’s Black Panther: Long Live The King.”

(3) DOUBLE UP. Yes, one reason Black Panther had a record weekend is because patrons failed to get away with stunts like this! “Two kids dressed as a tall man to get into “Black Panther” were caught on video”. Rare has the story:

Two kids decided they wanted to go to the new Marvel superhero film “Black Panther,” but they didn’t want to pay for two movie tickets, so they tried to dupe the movie theater’s manager.

The duo went to the theater disguised as one “tall man” under a trench coat, but unsurprisingly, their plan didn’t work. However, despite their unsuccessful attempt to save on movie tickets, they have gone viral on Twitter thanks to their hilarious antics.

 

(4) ANTIHARASSMENT DONOR. The Independent reports “Emma Watson donates £1m to help fund for sexual harassment victims”.

The donation from the Harry Potter star to the UK Justice and Equality Fund comes as nearly 200 female British and Irish stars signed an open letter calling for an end to sexual harassment in the workplace.

Watson is one of the first donors to the fund, which was set up by the 190 women who signed the open letter, along with a group of 160 academics, activists and charity workers.

Emma Thompson, Carey Mulligan, Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Chan, Keira Knightley and Watson are among the actors to sign the letter, which was published in The Observer.

(5) THE CULTURE MEETS THE VAST WASTELAND. Engadget reports “Amazon’s answer to ‘Altered Carbon’ is Iain M. Banks’ space opera”.

…Amazon Studios will adapt the first novel, Consider Phlebas, for television.

Dennis Kelly will adapt the sci-fi drama for Plan B Entertainment (World War Z). The Iain Banks’s estate will serve as an executive producer for the series. “Iain Banks has long been a hero of mine, and his innate warmth, humor and humanism shines through these novels,” said Kelly, who previously adapted Matilda for the stage. “Far from being the dystopian nightmares that we are used to, Banks creates a kind of flawed paradise, a society truly worth fighting for — rather than a warning from the future, his books are a beckoning.”

(6) DIAL M. Upon hearing the news about Banks’ novel, Damien G. Walter immediately warned all in hearing that the sky is falling — “5 things that can go HORRIBLY wrong adapting The Culture”.

I don’t consider myself a true fan of many things, but I am an unapologetic Iain (M) Banks fanboy.

Which is an easy thing to be. Banks is a brilliant, brilliant writer. A storyteller in the class of Neil Gaiman, with the muscular prose abilities of J G Ballard, and the conceptual imagination of an Asimov or Le Guin. I read his Culture books in my teens, his literary novels in my twenties, and re-read nearly all of them in my thirties. Just this year I’ve been working my way through Peter Kenny’s spot on audio adaptations.

So, like all true fans, I’m a little worried by news of a tv adaptation. Banks was fairly outspoken about his decision not to allow movie or tv adaptations of the Culture novels. I totally respect any decision his estate makes on this, and nobody doubts Amazon have the cash to make it happen? But do they have the skill, creativity and imagination?

How many ways could a Culture tv adaptation go wrong? Let us count the ways….

(7) WHAT ADA PALMER AND JOHN HERTZ HAVE IN COMMON. Patrick McGuire writes: “I just received my Winter issue of the alumni University of Chicago Magazine. Bundled with it was The Core, a semiannual supplement magazine devoted to the College. (U.C. is primarily a graduate institution, so the undergraduate school is decidedly the tail, not the dog.) The Winter 2018 Core has a profile of sf writer and history professor Ada Palmer. It is fairly insightful and informative, even if it does refer to Sassafras as a ‘folk band.’ The current issue of The Core is, at least as I write, not at the URL where it is supposed to be per the print issue, but after considerable poking around I found the Palmer article here — ‘Renaissance-woman’. The profile does discuss her sf novels and it has photographs of Ada and others in costume. She also gets the magazine cover.”

“Curiously, the mother-ship University of Chicago Magazine for Winter itself has a letter from prominent fan John Hertz. John primarily discusses non-sfnal topics, but does include a plug for Benford’s The Berlin Project.

(8) BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS. New York bookstore The Strand would be delighted to sell you a copy of every single one: “Best Selling Author of Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer, Shares His Top 50 Books”.

(9) BEST EDITOR HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS. Lee Harris doesn’t want British sff editors overlooked, and assembled a get-acquainted thread. Jump aboard here —

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 21, 1966  — Raquel Welch in a Stone Age bikini starred in One Million Years B.C. which premiered theatrically on this date.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY DROID

  • Born February 21, 1946 — Anthony Daniels, who plays C3PO.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian found a Yoda joke that really works in Half Full.
  • On the other hand, John is right to call this stfnal pun a real groaner – The Argyle Sweater.

(13) WHAT’S THAT HE SAID? At age 54, a Doctor Who reviver finally gets to play Macbeth: “Christopher Eccleston: Northern accent ‘held me back'”.

The actor star says there is a perception in the industry that “people like me can’t be classical”.

Eccleston was born into a working class family on a council estate in Salford in Lancashire in 1964.

He will appear as Macbeth in a new production at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon, but he had to ask for the role.

Unfortunately, Billie Piper is not playing Lady Macbeth.

(14) SECOND BREAKFAST. Did you ever do a movie marathon drinking game? Well, this is an eating game for the LotR trilogy – whatever food is eaten on screen, they cook and eat too!

(15) TANK GIRL TO RETURN. Titan Comics will bring the Tank Girl franchise back to life in 2018.

It’s been 30 years since the dynamic partnership of Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett (Gorillaz) unleashed Tank Girl upon the world! To celebrate Tank Girl’s 30th Anniversary, Titan Comics is launching the ‘Year of Tank Girl’ in 2018 – a year-long celebration with new comics, graphic novels and special events, including a global Tank Girl Day event on Saturday, October 20.

Originally published in 1988 as a black and white comic strip in UK magazine Deadline, Tank Girl has gone on to become a cult icon in the 30 years since her first appearance, with numerous comics and graphic novels, and even her own feature film in 1995, which boasted an all-star cast including Lori Petty, Naomi Watts, Malcolm McDowell, Ice-T, and Iggy Pop, and directed by Doctor Who’s Rachel Talalay.

As Tank Girl prepares to celebrate 30 riotous years in 2018, Titan Comics is proud to announce its ‘Year of Tank Girl’ campaign.

Celebrations kick off in April 2018 with Tank Girl: Full Color Classics 1988-1989 – the first of six prestige editions presenting those original seminal strips from Deadline in glorious color, just as Hewlett and Martin envisaged them three decades ago. Colored by Tracy Bailey (Fighting American) and Sofie Dodgson (Tank Girl: Bad Wind Rising), this is a new take on the classic strips. Plus, it includes rare and unseen artwork, as well as photos from the early days of the Martin and Hewlett partnership.

(16) #!&@! MY DAD SAYS. Bradford Betz, in a Fox News story “William Shatner Shames Texas Dem From Using His Photo in Campaign Newsletter”, says that Shat told Brandy Chambers, running for the Texas House of Representatives as a Democrat, to stop using a photo she took at a Comic-Con with him because it seemed like he endorsed her, which he hasn’t.

The image circulated until it reached Shatner on Saturday. The 86-year-old actor tweeted at Chambers that her use of the convention photo misleadingly suggests an “endorsement” on his part. He then told her to “remove my photo” and “destroy all copies of whatever this is immediately.”

(17) BOXING DAY. According to ULTRAGOTHA, “Spurius Ennius Nasica is Rocky Balboa put through a Roman name generator.” The connection between Rocky and Rome is this discovery — “Rare Roman boxing gloves uncovered near Hadrian’s Wall in ‘astonishing’ find”.

Roman boxing gloves believed to be the only surviving example from the period have gone on display after being discovered near Hadrian’s Wall.

The gloves were found last summer during an excavation at Vindolanda, near Hexham in Northumberland.

Other items were unearthed in the dig, including swords, horse gear and writing tablets.

The gloves – which date from around 120 AD – are made of leather and have the appearance of a protective guard. They are designed to fit snugly over the knuckles, protecting them from impact.

(18) QUANTUM LEAP LEFTOVERS. Io9 investigates the tantalizing question “Did a Fan Just Find Proof of Quantum Leap’s Secret Lost Ending?” 

…The series finale of Quantum Leap was bleak (to put it mildly), with the final title card confirming that Scott Bakula’s character, Sam Beckett, remained lost in time. However, one video claims a long-rumored alternate ending was actually real, one which would’ve made it possible for Sam to make that final leap home.

YouTuber Allison Pregler has released a video sharing what she says are negatives for an alternate ending to the fifth season of Quantum Leap. How did she get her hands on such a historical item? Pregler bought a bunch of Quantum Leap negatives on eBay.

“When I was looking at the film strips to try and guess what episodes or scenes they were, it took me a second to really grasp what I had. I thought it really looked like that alternate ending I’d read before, but no one knew it was filmed so I couldn’t believe it,” Pregler told io9. “I’m still having trouble believing it.”…

(19) LOST AGAIN. Netflix reboot of Lost in Space premieres April 13.

The Robinson family, part of a highly trained mission to establish a new colony in space, is unexpectedly pulled off course forcing them to crash land on a lost planet.

 

(20) REPEL BUYERS! Tabletop Tribe is not kidding — “The Worst Board Game Box Art Ever”. Man, are these awful! Just look at #19 —

  1. Guildhall (2012?—?Alderac Entertainment Group)

“Meet the wife. I luv ‘er more than any pig, and that’s sayin’ summat.”

Indeed sir. For a pig farmer you appear to be punching way above your weight.

It’s not that the characters are badly rendered (although it does appear that it’s simply photo overpainting at work here), or the inconsistent lighting and flat boring background. It’s just a bizarre motley collection and a piglet with a nose four sizes too big.

[Thanks to Joel Zakem, JJ, Mix Mat, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, ULTRAGOTHA, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark Hepworth, Patrick McGuire, Hampus Eckerman, Michael J. Walsh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce Diamond.]

Pixel Scroll 1/6/18 First You Get The Files, Then You Get The Pixels, Then You Get The Scrolls

(1) ZILLIONS OF YEARS AGO. College Humor shows that “If Jurassic Park Were In Different Geological Eras,” we’d be staying away from the box office in droves….

(2) FINDER. Silvia Moreno-Garcia will be hosting a list of Latino SFF in English published or to be published this current year (2018). You’ll find it at “LATIN AMERICANS IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE SPECULATIVE LITERATURE LIST 2018”.

(3) DRINK UP. A piece by Nancy Di Gennaro called “Murfreesboro’s Green Dragon Launches On-Site Brewery” in a newspaper called the Daily News Journal says that the Green Dragon Pub and Brewery is a “Hobbit-themed” pub that has become a brewery in October.

Green Dragon opened 3 1/2 years ago, fulfilling a lifelong dream of Joe Minter, a big fan of “The Lord of the Rings” author J.R.R. Tolkien. Two of Tolkien’s main characters, Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, both embarked on adventures at age 50. So Minter took their lead and did the same, leaving his career with Home Depot for the unknown.

The tiny eatery nestled in the basement of an old creamery is reminiscent of Tolkien’s imagined shire pub, with staff members that dress the part and rustic furnishings.

(4) STABBY AWARDS. Voting continues on Reddit for the 2017 r/Fantasy Stabby Awards until January 13. There are two sets of award categories, external and those focused on r/Fantasy redditors.

  • External awards:

BEST NOVEL OF 2017
BEST SELF-PUBLISHED / INDEPENDENT NOVEL OF 2017
BEST DEBUT NOVEL OF 2017
BEST SHORT FICTION OF 2017
BEST SERIALIZED FICTION OF 2017
BEST ANTHOLOGY / COLLECTION / PERIODICAL OF 2017
BEST ARTWORK RELEASED IN 2017
BEST FANTASY SITE FOR 2017
BEST GAME (ANY FORMAT) OF 2017
BEST TV SERIES / MOVIE OF 2017
BEST RELATED WORK OF 2017

  • redditor awards – guaranteed reddit gold as an award:

BEST ACTIVE r/FANTASY AUTHOR (‘best overall redditor- author edition’)
r/FANTASY BEST COMMUNITY MEMBER (‘best overall redditor- non-author edition’)
BEST POST / COMMENT IN 2017
BEST r/FANTASY ORIGINAL REVIEW

(5) MAIL IS COMING. It seems like a long time since Sean Bean was in Game of Thrones, but his character is part of the forthcoming Royal Mail stamp set — “Game of Thrones: New stamp set to feature Jon Snow and Arya Stark”.

An additional five-stamp sheet features the Night King and his undead White Walkers as well as giants, direwolves, dragons and the Iron Throne.

Fans can buy the stamps at Post Office branches across the UK from 23 January or by calling Royal Mail’s customer service line.

They can also be pre-ordered on the Royal Mail website.

(6) SUBMISSION WINDOW OPEN. Alpennia reports that The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast will be open for submissions during January 2018 for short stories in the lesbian historic fiction genre, to be produced in audio format for the podcast, as well as published in text on the website. See complete guidelines here — “Call for Submissions: Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast Fiction Special”.

(7) RAMBO READS. The Seattle Review of Books asked “Whatcha Reading, Cat Rambo?” She told them, beginning with —

What are you reading now?

Right now I am reading Louisa Morgan’s A Secret History of Witches. Morgan’s the pen name for local author Louise Marley, whose work I enjoy under any name.

(8) WHERE THE IDEAS ARE. Cat Rambo also livetweeted highlights from Rachel Swirsky’s Ideas Are Everywhere class today. Jump aboard here —

(9) BLACK MERMAIDS. Nalo Hopkinson does a reading and gives an interview in a podcast on the Boston Review website, “Waving at Trains”. She talks about dystopias and how they affect her writing.

“We are not supposed to own imagination . . . so, damn it, I am making black mermaids.” In this podcast, the award-winning writer Nalo Hopkinson reads her story, “Waving at Trains,” featured in Boston Review‘s 2017 literary issue, Global Dystopias. She also talks to Avni Sejpal about the politics of dystopia, writing from the Global South, and the enduring importance of black mermaids….

AS: So when you are writing something, are you also thinking about how it will sound out loud?

NH: Yes. If I am thinking in words at the time that I am writing. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I think in moving images and then I have to translate it into words. But, yes, I am always aware that at some point I might want to read the thing. And I am very aware of how characters speak, because speech does not only carry the accent, it carries the economic level of the characters, which tells you something. So whenever I have stories translated into other languages, generally they go for the standard form of the language. I find that that actually makes the translation a little bit pallid and it removes some of the nuances, so my characters end up sometimes sounding like middle class people being petulant . . . and sometimes they are middle class people, like the girl in this story, who are having a very hard time.

(10) YOUNG OBIT. NASA astronaut John Young has died at the age of 87.

John Young, NASA’s longest-serving astronaut, who walked on the moon and flew on the first Gemini and space shuttle missions, has died.

The first person to fly six times into space — seven, if you count his launch off of the moon in 1972 — and the only astronaut to command four different types of spacecraft, Young died on Friday (Jan. 5) following complications from pneumonia. He was 87.

“NASA and the world have lost a pioneer,” said NASA acting administrator Robert Lightfoot in a statement on Saturday. “John Young’s storied career spanned three generations of spaceflight; we will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier.”

(11) JERRY VAN DYKE. The Hollywood Reporter says Jerry Van Dyke, brother of Dick, died January 5. He was 86. He had one main genre credit —

Van Dyke famously passed up the opportunity to star on Gilligan’s Island in favor of toplining the short-lived My Mother the Car, considered one of the worst shows in TV history.

As the Wikipedia explains the show —

…Attorney David Crabtree (played by Jerry Van Dyke), …while shopping at a used car lot for a station wagon to serve as a second family car, instead purchases a dilapidated 1928 Porter touring car. Crabtree hears the car call his name in a woman’s voice. The car turns out to be the reincarnation of his deceased mother, Gladys (voiced by Ann Sothern)….

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) THE LOVE LIFEBOAT. I’d pay to see this.

(14) CENTURIES OF COVERS. BookPorn assembled a big collection of Frankenstein book covers to celebrate the anniversary.

January 1st, 1818Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley is published

(15) ALIENS BITE THE DUST AGAIN. The Washington Post’s Ben Guarino says a Kickstarter-funded campaign has discovered that the flickering light in the yellow-white dwarf star KIC 8462852 was not caused by aliens who “had constructed a titanic array of solar panels around the star” but to dust — “The strangest star in the sky finally has an explanation for its flicker”.

Fourteen hundred light-years separate Earth from the strangest star in the sky. The light from this star flickers, like a giant neon sign drifting through the constellation Cygnus. After the star’s dim intervals, which last for days or weeks, it brightens again.

No other star acted this way. No observation could explain its behavior.

That is, until now. A 200-strong team of scientists says it has arrived at an answer, thanks to an astronomy project crowdfunded on Kickstarter. The culprits are not aliens, as some people have speculated, but probably a cloud of dust, each particle less than a micrometer across. Combined, these dust particles coalesced into one of the biggest question marks in recent astronomical memory.

In 2015, astrophysicist Tabetha Boyajian published a paper describing the starlight dips. The brightness diminished by 20 percent, according to observations from the Kepler space telescope. Planets block starlight when they pass across stars, like a hand waved in front of a flashlight. But even an object as huge as Jupiter can reduce a star’s brightness by just 1 percent.

(16) 1949 WORLDCON. Available on eBay, “30 photos Worldcon 1949 w negatives Doc E.E. Smith Jack Williamson Robert Bloch”, from the estate of Franklyn M. Dietz.

30 photos Worlds Science Fiction Convention 1949 in Cincinnati  w negatives Doc E.E. Smith jack Williamson, Robert Bloch L.A. Eschbach Fletcher Pratt.

Nice fan photos – 30 photos plus a greeting card from the Cincinnati fan group and 17 negatives.  Lots of behind the scenes photos of the worldcon with fans, models and speakers/authors.

Others speaking are probably Theodore Sturgeon, Judy Merrill George O Smith Arthur banks and some fans

(17) BARDIC CIRCLE. Moira Greyland Peat looked for a humorous side of JDA being banned from Worldcon 76 and wrote new lyrics to the filk standard “Banned from Argo.”

“Banned from Hugo.”

When we pulled into Worldcon in need of R&R
The puppies, Sad and Rabid camped in every joint and bar
We had Trufan expectations of their hospitality
But found too late it wasn’t geared for Puppies such as we

And we’re Banned from Hugo, everyone
Banned from Hugo just for having that Wrongfun
We spent a jolly Worldcon there for just three days or four
But Hugo doesn’t want us anymore…

Our Captain’s tastes were simple and his stories were complex
We found he’d sold five manuscripts and pocketed large checks
The Thought Police were on the way—he had no second chance
His heroine was fair and blonde, and had a straight romance! …

Our Engineer would yield to none at writing Rabid tales
He wrote them for Castalia House and made a ton of sales
His favorite story didn’t win, but it got the votes of all
And now he’s got his No Award on the mantle of his hall! …

(18) THE UNINVITED. John Scalzi obliquely commented on the current uproar in “Obnoxious Twits and Conventions”.

And if a convention decided I was not welcome at their event, how would I take it? I mean, I would hope they’d tell me before I made flight arrangements and my hotel rooms were non-refundable, but otherwise, meh, it’d be fine. Generally I prefer not be in places I’m not wanted, and if the convention committee was telling me to go away, that’s a pretty good, non-subtle hint. Which means my weekend is now free! Which is excellent, I usually have things to do on a weekend, even if those things are “watch six hours of How It’s Made in a row and then take a nap.” Which these days is a pretty great weekend, I have to tell you.

I was looking for something more substantive, so asked this question in comments:

Bearing in mind how instrumental you were, personally, in the drive to get sff conventions to adopt Codes of Conduct, I’d be much more interested in your views about this application of a CoC. Do you think it was appropriate? Why? What do you think we should take away from it?

He responded:

As for whether in this case the convention’s decision to yank attending status was merited, it seems so to me based on what I know (and what I know of the obnoxious twit in question), although as noted I haven’t spoken to anyone involved about the decision and am not privy to the full data set they used to make their decision. But even if I disagreed with it, they’re the concom and it’s their decision to make. The decision might have consequences, although in this case, the consequences (other obnoxious twits deciding not to attend in solidarity) seem like an upside to me.

(19) OPEN THE CELL BAY DOOR PAL. Whitney Avalon sings “Funny Rey Song – Second To Last Jedi – Star Wars Musical.”

(20) THE OTHER JJ. And either funny or sad – maybe both! ScreenRant gives us “Everything Wrong With ‘The Last Jedi’ – Pitch Meeting.” Plenty of spoilers in case that still matters.

[Thanks to JJ John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Hampus Eckerman, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Bill for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 1/5/18 A Scroll By Any Other Name Would Pixelate Just As Adequately

(1) SETTING A VISION. Author Fonda Lee explains her approach to storytelling in a thread that begins here —

(2) LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HIGHLIGHTS WOMEN ILLUSTRATORS. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna, in “Undersung women illustrators get their due at Library of Congress exhibition”, reports on a Library of Congress exhibition featuring such significant women cartoonists as Dale Messick, Lynn Johnston, and Lynda Barry.

It is possible, in this era of increasing recognition of women artists, to gaze at the recent prize-laced success of Alison Bechdel and Roz Chast and Raina Telgemeier and Lynda Barry, to name just a few, and consider that the field of illustration is becoming more level along gender lines. But then you consider that only two women have ever won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, or that The Washington Post runs only two comic strips created by women — and none by a woman of color — and you remember how much further the cause of women artists getting fair representation has yet to travel.

That is a central thread running through “Drawn to Purpose: American Women Illustrators and Cartoonists,” the rotating exhibit of nearly 70 works now up at the Library of Congress’s Swann Gallery from its Prints and Photographs Division.

“This show has been years in the making,” says its curator, Martha H. Kennedy, noting that her vision for “Drawn to Purpose” long preceded 2017’s shifting zeitgeist amid the #Resist and #MeToo movements.

Here’s a link to the Library of Congress webpage about the exhibit.

Features the rich collections of the Library of Congress and brings to light remarkable but little-known contributions made by North American women to the art forms of illustration and cartooning. Spanning the late 1800s to the present, the exhibition highlights the gradual broadening in both the private and public spheres of women’s roles and interests, and demonstrates that women once constrained by social conditions and convention, have gained immense new opportunities for self-expression and discovery.

The exhibit, which opened in November, continues through October 20.

(3) PAPERBACK SHOW. Here’s an updated poster for the 2018 Vintage Paperback Show with the names of participating writers and artists.

(4) BY THE NUMBERS. Here’s an ambitious project – Ross Johnson gives us “Every Episode of Black Mirror, Ranked” at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

  1. “Shut Up and Dance”

Hackers take over a teen’s computer and threaten to expose his solo sexual activities to the world if he doesn’t commit a series of increasingly intense tasks. Commentary on the “for the LULZ” troll culture aside, its an episode that falls victim to the show’s worst impulses: much as in season two’s “White Bear,” the big twist undermines the whole thing, attempting to convince us maybe the kid had it coming all along—after we’ve been lead to care about him. The performances are spot on, and the story’s engaging enough for a time, but the vague moral (“people who are bad deserve absurdly elaborate punishments, or do they?”) is just lazy. This is Black Mirror at its most mean-spirited. (Season 3, Episode 3)

(5) TV SF. Here is “io9’s Ultimate Guide to 2018’s Scifi, Fantasy, and Superhero TV”. For example —

Counterpart

Series premiere: January 21 at 8:00 pm, Starz

The always-great J.K. Simmons stars in this scifi thriller about a pencil-pusher who realizes the government agency he’s working for has long been concealing the existence of a parallel dimension. Things get really odd when his double (a badass secret agent) pops up in his world and enlists him to help catch a killer who’s also slipped in from the other side.

Daniel Dern sent the link with these notes —

  • I’d given up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D ~2 seasons back, but the current one has been worth watching IMHO
  • Legion’s (the Marvel mutant, not DC’s L of Super Heroes (1)) first season was incredible. Halfway through that season, I thought they were going to go yukky-horror, but happily that’s not where they went. Yes, it’s a Marvel mutant, but no, this isn’t a mutant or superhero show per se, more like Number Six’s Last Year In Marienbad.

(6) ANTIQUE COOLTH. Gotta love this. (If you’re a geezer.) “I was there when it was cool”.

(7) NO SPECTRUM FANTASTIC ART LIVE IN 2018. John Fleskes, Cathy Fenner, Arnie Fenner announced on Facebook that they will not be holding a convention in 2018, however, there will be a Spectrum Awards ceremony.

We have (understandably) been receiving a number of messages and emails inquiring about the 2018 dates for Spectrum Fantastic Art Live. While we have worked diligently since the close of the 2017 show last April to come up with something workable this year, we, unfortunately, were unsuccessful. Kansas City is an increasingly difficult venue to find acceptable show dates; we’ve felt lucky to have been able to squeeze in when we could in the past (realizing, of course, that any dates we used put SFAL in conflict with other conventions artists like to attend). With a new downtown convention hotel in the works and a new airport approved by voters, dates in Kansas City will continue to get harder to come by in the future rather than easier as more—and bigger—shows move into the area. The dates, spaces, and hotel prices that were available to us this year simply didn’t work for the vision we have for SFAL.

Reluctantly we’re announcing that there is no Spectrum Fantastic Art Live convention planned for 2018.

However, there IS a Spectrum 25 Awards ceremony in the planning stages for May 2018: we are working with Baby Tattoo’s esteemed showman Bob Self on something pretty wonderful. We’ll be making an announcement once details are finalized in the coming weeks.

But what about another SFAL? Well, we’re working on that, too.

This hiatus is allowing us to rethink the model for an artist convention/fair. While we’re extremely grateful to the 2000+ supporters who turned out for SFAL in Kansas City, we recognize that we were falling short of the event’s potential. Being unable to break through that attendance ceiling has prevented us from achieving the goals we have for the show and community….

Certainly, the social and networking opportunities of any convention or gathering are extremely important—but so are the finances for all. SFAL was never set up as a profit-generator for us, but it has to pay for itself and to provide a reasonable return for exhibitors. Spending time together is always an emotional plus, naturally, but artists paying for their own “party” while an organizer pockets their cash isn’t—and will never be—our purpose. Growing the market and giving the Fantastic Art community the public recognition it deserves are what SFAL, like the Spectrum annual, have always been about.

(8) UP ALL NIGHT. From The Guardian, “Buy a cat, stay up late, don’t drink: top 10 writers’ tips on writing”.

…stay up late as HP Lovecraft did: “At night, when the objective world has slunk back into its cavern and left dreamers to their own, there come inspirations and capabilities impossible at any less magical and quiet hour. No one knows whether or not he is a writer unless he has tried writing at night.”

(9) STEUER OBIT. Jon Paul Steuer (March 27, 1984 – January 1, 2018), known as the first actor to play Worf’s son Alexander Rozhenko in Star Trek: The Next Generation, is dead at 33.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 5, 1950The Flying Saucer opened theatrically.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 5, 1914 Superman actor George Reeves.

(12) BLACK PANTHER. Capitalizing on the new film, Marvel will release Black Panther – Star Here, a FREE sampler, on January 31.

Featuring excerpts from Marvel’s current Black Panther ongoing series, as well as World of Wakanda, Black Panther and the Crew, and portions from Reginald Hudlin and John Romita Jr.’s Black Panther run, BLACK PANTHER – START HERE serves to introduce brand new readers to the character’s expansive 50-year Marvel history, while long-time fans will be able to relive some of T’Challa’s most epic adventures.

(13) ADVANCE NOTICE. The New York Historical Society will host “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” from October 5, 2018 through January 27, 2019:

Journey to where magic and myth began! Join us in October 2018 for “Harry Potter: A History of Magic”, a British Library exhibition. New-York Historical Members can reserve tickets starting February 14 at 12 pm. Tickets go on sale to the general public in April.

Capturing the traditions of folklore and magic at the heart of the Harry Potter stories, Harry Potter: A History of Magic unveils rare books, manuscripts, and magical objects from the collections of the British Library, New-York Historical Society, U.S. Harry Potter-publisher Scholastic, and other special collections. Visitors can explore the subjects studied at Hogwarts and see original drafts and drawings by J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter illustrators Mary GrandPré and Jim Kay. Harry Potter: A History of Magic is currently on view at the British Library in London through February 28, 2018.

September 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the U.S. publication of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, following the 20th anniversary celebrations of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the U.K. in 2017.

(14) RELIC OF MIDDLE-EARTH. The New York Times, in “The Hero Is a Hobbit”, has unearthed W.H. Auden’s review of The Fellowship of the Ring from 1954.

Seventeen years ago there appeared, without any fanfare, a book called “The Hobbit” which, in my opinion, is one of the best children’s stories of this century. In “The Fellowship of the Ring,” which is the first volume of a trilogy, J. R. R. Tolkien continues the imaginative history of the imaginary world to which he introduced us in his earlier book but in a manner suited to adults, to those, that is, between the ages of 12 and 70. For anyone who likes the genre to which it belongs, the Heroic Quest, I cannot imagine a more wonderful Christmas present. All Quests are concerned with some numinous Object, the Waters of Life, the Grail, buried treasure etc.; normally this is a good Object which it is the Hero’s task to find or to rescue from the Enemy, but the Ring of Mr. Tolkien’s story was made by the Enemy and is so dangerous that even the good cannot use it without being corrupted….

(15) TIME PASSAGES. In the past Jim Butcher has rarely spoken out about fan controversies (no matter how hard people tried to get him involved), but after reading Larry Correia’s fresh condemnation of the Worldcon banning Jon Del Arroz he made these comments:

Don’t agree with Larry about everything, but when it comes to WorldCon and the Hugos, I think he’s got a point or two which are, based upon my experiences with WorldCon, difficult to refute.

The choices made by various folks involved with WorldCon have, over time, convinced me that there’s quite a few more less-than-nice people there than at other conventions. As I get older, my remaining time gets increasingly valuable. If I went to WorldCon, that’s a weekend I could have spent with some of the many wonderful people in my life, or with excellent and nerdy readers who don’t much care about politics and just want to do fun nerd things. Or I could have spent that time writing.

There’s probably a lot of perfectly wonderful people helping with WorldCon, and there’s certainly a lot of nice people attending. But it’s sort of hard to see them through the crowd of ugly-spirited jerks, and the nice people of WorldCon? They are completely inaudible over the noise the jerks are making.

So for the kind people at WorldCon, I hope you catch me at another con or signing sometime, and thank you so much to those of you who buy my work.

To the jerks, may you meet no one who displeases you, and I hope that your con goes exactly the way you want it to go.

(16) WHEN WAS THE FUTURE INVENTED? Can’t find a record of linking to this when it came out – Adam Roberts’ essay “Till Tomorrow” in The New Atlantis.

So this future, the one Gleick is talking about, is a quite recent technological invention. There is a peculiar irony here: Gleick, who scolds Shakespeare for being stuck in the present, is so attached to our present ideas that when he encounters past views of the future he denies that they count as “the future” at all. If the difference were not framed so absolutely, Gleick would surely be on to something — nobody could gainsay the observation that, at the very least, stories about the future are very common today whereas a few centuries ago they were not. In the hands of a less breathless writer, this might have led to a more fruitful discussion about how our “temporal sentience,” as he puts it, differs from our ancestors’.

But the larger claim is dotty. Can you really imagine any population of human beings living their lives wholly incurious about what next week, or next year, might bring, or thinking that it won’t be different? Think through the practicalities: How could anybody have planned anything, stored grain for the winter, calculated the interest on loans, or mustered armies, if the future truly were indistinguishable from the present?

And this brings us to hunter-gatherers and farmers. It is certainly possible to imagine our hunter-gatherer ancestors living in some bestial, continuous present of consciousness, their experience of time pricked out with moments of intensity — the chase, the kill, the satisfaction of a full stomach — but indifferent to the distant future.

But it is quite impossible to imagine farmers prospering in such a frame of mind. Once we humans began to depend on planted crops and domesticated animals, our new mode of life absolutely required us to think ahead: to anticipate setbacks and think through solutions, to plan, to map out the future world — indeed, many potential future worlds.

Time travel as mental exercise must have begun at least that early. And that makes this focus on recent modernity look a little parochial. We are not so special. Indeed, thinking in this way of the future’s origins might make us rethink some of the metaphors we use to articulate our sense of time. Gleick is good on the limitations of these figures of speech — for example, time, as he shows, is not really “like a river.” Farmers, the original time travelers, are likewise prone to think of rivers not first as modes of transport but means of irrigation. Might time be the same for us — not a vehicle for taking us somewhere, as a horse is to a hunter, but a resource to make fertile what we have and hold dear?

(17) MORE ON SWATTING. According to Vice, “Fatal swatting results in felony charges for gamer but not cop who pulled trigger”.

Barriss has been charged in Kansas, though he’s being held without bail in Los Angeles. He’ll likely be out in Kansas to face trial by early February, according to the Wichita Eagle, and could wind up spending up to 34 months in prison.

The police officer who allegedly pulled the trigger has not been charged, though Finch’s mother is calling for charges against the officer.

“Justice for the Finch family constitutes criminal charges against the shooting officer and any other liable officers as well as damages against the city of Wichita for the policies and practices of its Police Department,” attorney Andrew Stroth, who is representing the family, told the Associated Press in a phone interview.

The Wichita police department claims that Finch was shot after he came to the door and moved his hand toward his waistline. Police Chief Gordon Ramsay called the incident a “terrible tragedy,” according to TIME.

(18) SOUND FAMILIAR? Curvature with Lyndsy Fonseca and Linda Hamilton, is a time travel drama about an engineer who travels back in time to stop herself from committing a murder.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, K.M. Alexander, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and Woody Bernardi for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Hey Amazon, How About Doing These Lord of the Rings TV Shows?


By Daniel Dern: According to a November 13 press release, Amazon.com will be doing one or more TV shows to based on Lord of the Rings and possibly other of J.R.R. Tolkien’s published and unpublished works — and thanks to an anonymous email from PalantirLeaks, I’ve got the inside scoop on their plans…which I’m (shhhh!) sharing with you.

As you’ll see, the Big A has an ambitious potential line-up — enough for its own cable channel — going beyond the obvious series and mini-series to the gamut of TV possibilities.

(Note/disclaimer, I’m not the only person having fun with this announcement — I’d noticed some likely headlines before I wrote most of my piece, but carefully avoided reading any of those stories… although I’m not finding them now, just this — “Hobbit star Orlando Bloom promises elven spin-off movie”.

I also deliberately avoided what’s probably the most obvious LoTR spin-off suggestion as too obvious not to have been made decades ago, and as a quick web search shows, there’s no shortage of hits for “Mordor She Wrote”…)

TALL AND SMALL (Cop show) Think “She’s an Entwive, he’s a Halfing,” as our protoganists find, fight, and solve crimes and mysteries/dunnits by an assortment of Men, Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, et cetera (creating opportunities for lots of fun guest stars, including, permissions permitting, Marvel’s Groot). Originally titled “Little, Big” until somebody pointed out that’s already the title of one of John Crowley’s science fiction books science fiction books.

MAKE ‘SHROOMS FOR DADDY. (Cooking) Hobbit-hosted, featuring festive fungi feasts. Sponsored by Farmer Maggot, who tries to interrupt with shaggy-warg stories about rascally hobbits trying to steal his mushers at night, plus PSAs flagging the visual differences between safe versus poisonous (or otherwise dubious) ‘shrooms.

HAPPY, HUNGRY HOBBITS! (For kids; possibly animated.) Follow Frodo, Samwise, Merry, Pippin and others when they were rascally young hobbitlings, and their hilarious hijinks as they search for elevenses, experiment with Gandalf’s fireworks, and more. Watch Frodo get in, and escape from, trouble by “borrowing” his Uncle Bilbo’s magic disappearing ring.

CLOAKS AND STAFFS U. (Angsty series) Gandalf, Galadriel, Saruman, Radagast when they were at wizarding school, learning their craft — and practicing through pranking each other.

MATHOM ROAD SHOW. Treasure or junk? Antiquing and garage/yard selling Middle Earth’s stuff.

RIDDLE US THIS (Game show) Smeagol Gollum hosts the ever-popular riddle game show, where the loser may be eaten, or at least web-wrapped by Shelob.

THE AMAZING WRAITHES. Which team will make it from the Last Lonely House to Mount Doom before the one of the Nine get them? All bets are off, in this exciting — and thrill-filled — competition.

DANCING WITH THE ELVES. (Competition) Judging includes who looks the most embarrassing by comparison.

GIMLI SHELTER. Dwarves show how to protect your home (hole, village, castle, etc.) against orcs, wargs, and flaming dragons.

THE B-FELLOWS. (Either reality show or fiction, TBD) Sure, we know about the Fellowship of the Nine… now follow the travails of the team(s) that didn’t make the cut, who bravely (but not always eptly) set themselves up as Decoy Fellowships.

HOW I MET YOUR MITHRIL (Middle Earth Geographic documentary) A look at the geography, minerals, fauna and non-sentient flora of Middle Earth, from pipeweed and athelas through why some of the mountain ranges improbably have corners (see
https://www.tor.com/2017/08/01/tolkiens-map-and-the-messed-up-mountains-of-middle-earth/). Narrated and led by Ranger ‘arry Aragon, with stunning aerial views courtesy of Eagles with head and body cams.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-SAM (live-action). Heh, turns out Shelob wasn’t just a humongous spider, she was also radioactive… as Samwise found out when he returned to the Shire and found himself sticking to walls, shooting webbing from his fingers, being strong as an Oliphant, and wanting to eat insects. Hilarity and hijinks ensue.
So set those DVRs, that’s what we’re Tolkien about!

Pixel Scroll 11/14/17 The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Scrollbar And The Pixels From Mars

(1) PRO TIP FROM SFWA. SFWA Director Kate Baker issued this word to the wise —

(2) WINDYCON APOLOGY. At Windycon.org, the Windycon 44 statement regarding the Tutti Frutti Literature panel title and description from convention chair Daniel Gunderson.

Now that the convention is over, we have had the opportunity to read through the many posts and comments on the subject. We have taken to heart the hurt and anger caused by the poor choice of wording used in the title and description of this panel.

We are very sorry we offended. While this was not our intention, it was the result, and for this we sincerely apologize.

We will be working to ensure this does not happen in the future. These are some specific steps we will take moving forward.

We will push back the programming timeline significantly. This will allow for more careful choice in wording for panel titles and descriptions. This will also allow more time for oversight and review of titles and descriptions.

We will work to keep titles and descriptions clear and unambiguous. Panel titles should be sufficiently clear that the entire intent of the programming item can be understood from the title alone. Descriptions will be used to provide additional information about the panel, but will not be relied on to supplement an insufficient title.

We will make sure to run titles and descriptions past a larger group of individuals who were not involved in the generation process. This will provide the opportunity to have outside individuals point out potentially problematic phrasing that programing may not have been aware of, or may have been blinded to by already understanding the original intent.

As of this posting, we have removed the programming item from our online programing list, so we do not continue to offend.

Again, we deeply apologize for any pain this may have caused.

(3) HELP NEEDED. Long-time LASFSian Mike Donahue has started a GoFundMe appeal — Help Mike Donahue keep his home. He gives the full explanation at the link. It begins:

I’m in imminent danger of a bank sale on my house, which is in foreclosure. No date has yet been set. I’ve been given a pay up date of Dec 5 2017. They can move before that, I don’t know. And they don’t tell you the info you need.   Or how long after that they force the sale on the house. I was in an auto accident in January, which greatly strained my cash resources….

(4) SUPERPEDESTRIAN. In the early Seventies, Margaret Atwood wrote Kanadian Kulchur Komics under a pseudonym. She tells what it was like in — “Margaret Atwood reflects on the significance of her This Magazine comic strip”.

Yes, it’s a blast from the past! Or if not a blast, maybe a small firecracker?

Whose past? My past, obviously: I was Bart Gerrard, one of my noms de plume—the name of a then-forgotten and probably now more-forgotten Canadian newspaper caricaturist of the turn of the century.

…The central joke of the Survivalwoman comics was this: in 1972 I’d published a book called Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature, which had made waves of a sort, not all of them friendly. This book was an attempt to distinguish what people wrote in Canada from what they wrote in the United States and the United Kingdom, in riposte to what we were so often told: that there wasn’t any Canadian literature, or if there was, it was a pale echo of things written in large, cosmopolitan, important places. Survival against the odds—both natural and human—I took to be one of the leitmotifs of such Canadian writing as I could get my hands on then, in the dark ages before the Internet, print-on-demand, and Abe Books.

Pair that leitmotif with the fact that, in the world of comix, Canada did not have a superhero of its own—Nelvana of the Northern Lights and Johnny Canuck and their bros and sisses having vanished with the demise of the wartime “Canadian Whites” in approximately 1946. (King of the Royal Mounted did not count, being American. Anyway, King had no superhuman features, unlike the present-day Wolverine.)

So what more appropriate than Survivalwoman: a superheroine with no discernable powers, who had a cape but could not fly—hey, it was Kanada, always lesser—and came equipped with snowshoes? The visual design was based on me—curly hair, short—as was part of the personality—earnest and somewhat clueless.

(5) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. If any of you have good celebrity connections, David Brin could use a hand getting invitations out to people he’d like to have involved in his 20th anniversary screening of The Postman.

I’m putting out a call! If any of you know genius cinematographer Stephen F. Windon, or genius cinematic composer James Newton Howard, I’m hoping to invite them to a special, 20th anniversary screening of The Postman at UCSD’s Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. Whatever its faults, the film is musically and visually one of the dozen or so most gorgeous films ever made. (With a small but growing cult following.)

I’d invite Kevin Costner – who certainly gets some credit for that beauty – and screenwriter Brian Helgeland too – (or any of the younger Costners in the film) because I think the flick had more heart that any other from that era. Alas, no method I’ve researched seems to penetrate the Hollywood protective barriers, not even for Mr. Windon. And Tom Petty is now beyond reach, alack.

(6) SPFBO FINALS. Mark Lawrence has set up a post to track the “Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off Finals”. At this stage, the 10 finalists will be chosen based on the scores of participating blogger-reviewers. They are: Bookworm Blues, Fantasy-Faction, Fantasy Book Critic, Lynn’s Books, The Qwillery, Pornokitsch, Ventureadlaxre, Fantasy Book Review, Booknest, and Kitty G video reviews.

There’s not much to see there yet, but it will become more interesting as the results are filled in.

Filers will be interested to know there are links to a large number of book reviews at the post for the first phase of the Blog-Off, in which 200 of the 300 works under consideration were eliminated.

(7) FRESH HORROR. Brett J. Talley, whose name has appeared in this blog before as a Bram Stoker nominee, is up for a federal court appointment. The Daily Beast has the story: “Before He Was Tapped By Donald Trump, Controversial Judicial Nominee Brett J. Talley Investigated Paranormal Activity”. There’s more at the link about his interest in Lovecraft.

Brett J. Talley, nominated by President Donald Trump to the Federal District Court in Montgomery, Alabama, has never tried a case, is married to a White House lawyer, and has been dubbed as unqualified by the American Bar Association.

… But ghost chasing wasn’t a quirky side-hobby. Indeed, before he became the embodiment of the Trump administration’s efforts to pack the courts with young, conservative, sometimes dubiously-credentialed judges, Halley wrote books about paranormal activities that earned him numerous plaudits. And not just within the horror fiction scene. Stuart Stevens, Mitt Romney’s campaign manager in 2012, was a fan too.

“I find it hilarious that no one is writing about his horror writing. He has a cult following.” Stevens told The Daily Beast. “I have to say I wasn’t really aware he was a lawyer as my dealings with him were as a writer on campaign. He’s an interesting, smart guy. But so is Stephen King.”

(8) FIN DE CYCLE. James Davis Nicoll, in “Seasons Crying No Despair”, says it wasn’t easy, but David Axel Kurtz’ Northern Tier won him over.

Those reservations aside, I got drawn into Slip’s story, which is saying a lot when you consider how very much I dislike bicyclists as a group. Having been run over on numerous occasions by scofflaw bicyclists, I live for a future in which the use of bicycles is limited to the Marianas Trench, the Lunar farside, and the surface of the Sun, places I do not plan to visit any time soon. I am not the target market for thrilling tales of bicyclists and the increasingly vast armies who stalk them. Nevertheless, Slip won me over; she persisted.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 14, 1851 Moby Dick is published.
  • November 14, 1969 – Apollo 12 took off.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born November 14 – Cat Rambo
  • Born November 14 – Wolf Von Witting
  • Born November 14 — Moshe Feder
  • Born November 14 – Edd Vick
  • Born November 14 – Charles Mohapel

(11) FINAL FRONTIER. Fan-made Star Trek Continues released Part II of its last episode “To Boldly Go.” (Find Part I here.) Executive Producer Vic Mignogna (also the series’ “James T. Kirk”) told Facebook followers:

No vocabulary can express how much this production has meant to me. From the very beginning, all I knew was that I wanted to make one episode of Star Trek the way I remembered it. Would anyone like it? I didn’t know. Would I make another? I didn’t know. All I knew was that I wanted to pay tribute to Bill, Leonard, Gene and everyone who made the show that meant so much to me when I was a boy. I would use all the skills that TOS inspired me to try for the first time to make the best episode I could. I never imagined so many amazing people would do so much, and I’m deeply humbled by their involvement. I will be forever grateful to the cast, crew & volunteers who selflessly gave so much to make Star Trek Continues a reality. And to you, the viewers and fans, for your support and enthusiasm. With bittersweet joy, we present our final episode. Hopefully, it will be a long lasting tribute and historic ending to the most iconic television series in history.

 

(12) COMING SOON ON AMAZON. People are having a lot of fun with the idea of a new Lord of the Rings series on Amazon. This idea beats Dynasty and Dallas to pieces.

(13) PRE-RINGS CIRCUS. Nathaniel Ingraham tries to figure out what the Amazon series will be like in “Amazon’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ prequel will need to forge its own identity”. One of his ideas comes from a video game:

Of course, Amazon new series won’t be the first new narrative set in Middle-earth. The most recent example is the 2014 video game Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (and its newly-released sequel). The game drew players in by using the familiar setting of Mordor, a familiar timeframe (between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), iconic characters like Gollum and crucial elements like the Rings of Power. But it also starred entirely new characters, expanded Tolkien’s mythology and told an entirely new story.

It wasn’t perfect (that ending!), but Shadow of Mordor overall did an admirable job at taking a familiar setting and writing a new story around it. It’s the kind of product that could serve as a blueprint for how Amazon can create a new property that will hook loads of viewers while still paying service to longtime fans. Simply being able to reference The Lord of the Rings will be enough to bring in many viewers — millions have seen Jackson’s films and won’t care if the series is telling stories Tolkien himself didn’t dream up. Add in the fact that Game of Thrones will wrap up in 2018 or 2019 and it’s easy to imagine those viewers getting their fantasy methadone from Amazon’s new series.

Ultimately, the enduring popularity of Tolkien’s work is what Amazon is banking on here. Yes, there will absolutely be a cadre of fans who hate what Amazon produces, but that group will almost certainly be outnumbered by people enjoyed The Lord of the Rings at some point in their life and decide to give Amazon’s series a shot — if the show is good.

(14) MORDANT OF THE RINGS. Adam Whitehead engages in less serious – well, frankly hilarious – speculation about “Ideas for the new LORD OF THE RINGS TV series” at The Wertzone.

This Ent-focused conservation programme, voiced over by David Attenborough, will fuse almost-thrilling episodes where the Ents discuss a problem for hours on end with notes on the shameful deforestation of Fangorn Forest and destruction of the surrounding ecosystem.

(15) DARK VADER. Mark Hepworth sent this photo with his brew review: “I thought a beer item might enliven the scroll. I came across this in a local-ish pub and obviously had to try it. It was much more drinkable than I’d expected from a Sith Lord!”

(16) MARTIANS AND SIGOURNEY WEAVER. Mark Swed reviews “‘War of the Worlds’: Delirious opera rises from the death and destruction of L.A.” in the Los Angeles Times.

So here’s what you need to know about the heavily hyped “War of the Worlds” that [Yuval] Sharon mounted at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Sunday afternoon for the L.A. Phil, in collaboration with his own massively disruptive opera company, the Industry, and the nonprofit Now Art L.A. A new opera and new kind of opera by Annie Gosfield, it does everything an opera’s supposed to. It does a lot opera’s not supposed to do. That includes immersive opera, one of Sharon’s specialties as the mastermind of “Hopscotch,” the celebrated opera in autos two years ago.

…On the most basic level, this is a fairly straightforward operatic adaption and update of Orson Welles’ famous 1938 radio broadcast, based on H.G. Wells’ science-fiction novel “The War of the Worlds.” At a time when radio broadcasts were beginning to be interrupted by news flashes, Welles treated the play as an ordinary dance-band radio program with increasingly frightening bulletins of an alien invasion.

The brilliantly theatrical night-before-Halloween prank caused panic among some gullible listeners, giving credence to Russian futurist Velimir Khlebnikov’s prediction that radio had the power to become the Great Sorcerer. Sharon sees the panic as an early-warning sign of the imposing threat of fake news.

Riffing on the radio show, this “War of the Worlds” begins as a symphony concert, albeit one with a celebrity host, Sigourney Weaver. The opera will eventually take over the concert, which is meant to include Gosfield’s new celestial orchestral cycle to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Holst’s “The Planets.”

…Weaver breaks in again and again on the first two movements with reports from outdoors, which are beamed into the hall (audio only, this is radio). Astronomy professor Pierson (actor Hugo Armstrong), standing on a parking lot, attempts to allay fear with his soothing British accent. Mrs. Martinez (mezzo-soprano Suzanna Guzmán) offers a more feverish firsthand account of the scary machines and creatures somewhere on Main Street. Gen. Lansing (baritone Hadleigh Adams) haplessly leads the troops in attacking the aliens.

Before long the music creeps into the action. The Martians have an alien voice in soprano Hila Plitmann’s stratospherically supernatural coloratura (and she does look like she might have stepped out of an outtake of “Alien”), accompanied by theremin and otherworldly percussion. Sharon’s libretto follows Peter Koch’s original radio play fairly closely. L.A. doesn’t fare any better than New York City. Civic officials are of little help, although the mayor valiantly tries. There is political humor for all.

…Finally, there are those decommissioned sirens left over from the Second World War that still peek out from behind billboards and buildings around town, noticed primarily by history buffs. They’re the symbol of the production and were one of the motivating ideas for both Sharon and Gosfield, who was obsessed with them when she studied at CalArts in the 1980s.

In the end, they are about the least interesting thing visually, theatrically or sonically about the production. It is not that they aren’t marvelous in their mysteriously antiquated way; it is just that every other aspect of this opera and its sensational production and performance happens to be more marvelous.

(17) SECURE THE NOMINATION. Timothy the Talking Cat has picked up a new vice: “McEdifice Returns: Chapter Awards”.

“Ahem, here is what I was just writing:

Dear Mr or Mrs Pulitzer, Hello. As you may know I am one of the best writers in the world. You may have already read some parts of my latest book “McEdifice Returns” a psychological drama about one man’s struggles to come to terms with his past.

I guess you are probably thinking ‘We’d love to give Timothy one of our Pulitzer Prizes but people might think it is just a way of making our prize look more popular and relevant with the cool kids’. Fear not! That is exactly the right kind of move that will help the sadly faded and increasingly irrelevant Pulitzer Prize strike a chord with modern audiences who frankly a sick of all that liberal clap-trap and just want some good old fashioned entertainment.

So I hereby give you permission to award me a Pulitzer.

Yours,

Timothy the Talking Cat

PS This is like totally a nomination so you’ll understand that from now on I’ll be saying ‘The Pulitzer Prize nominated author Timothy the Talking Cat’. That’s great free publicity for your prize. No need to thank me – just trying to help you out.

“Hmmm, I see you have also written similar letters to ‘Mr Oscar and your friend Tony’ as well as ‘Ms or Mr Grammy'”

(18) MARVEL’S MULTIPLE AVENGERS. This cover art just jumps off the screen.

Avengers: Disassemble! The epic weekly takeover continues this February when Kim Jacinto takes the reigns to draw the second month of Marvel’s biggest team adventure, and Marvel is excited to reveal the covers for issues #679 – #682 of AVENGERS: NO SURRENDER by Mark Brooks.

“In month two of NO SURRENDER, the rubber hits the road as we learn what’s really going on and who is behind it,” says SVP and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. “A couple different Avengers make the supreme sacrifice, the action grows ever more intense—and the stage is set for the return of a major player in the Marvel line-up of stars! Oh, and the origin of Voyager!”

Co-written by Mark Waid, Al Ewing and Jim Zub with art by Pepe Larraz, Kim Jacinto and Paco Medina, AVENGERS: NO SURRENDER unites the casts and creative teams of three titles into one weekly book of exciting action. It all starts with AVENGERS #675 this January, when the teams of THE AVENGERS, UNCANNY AVENGERS, and U.S. AVENGERS come together in a story as exciting and powerful as the Marvel Universe itself.

(19) FASHION JUSTICE. Ashley Boucher, in “‘Justice League’ Amazonian Bikinis Have Twitter in Uproar: ‘Men Ruin Everything’” in The Wrap, says that there are many tweets complaining that the Amazons in Justice League wear bikinis while those in Wonder Woman didn’t.

The costumes worn by the Amazon women are noticeably different than they were in “Wonder Woman,” and viewers are afire online with discussions about how the change represents differences in the male and female gaze.

In “Wonder Woman,” directed by Patty Jenkins, the costumes were designed by Lindy Hemming, and covered the Amazons’ torsos with armor. In “Justice League,” directed by Zach Snyder, the costumes were designed by Michael Wilkinson. And while Wilkinson’s outfits keep a similar Gladiator vibe, they feature small bra tops and bottoms that some say more closely resemble bikinis than what you’d want to wear into battle.

 

(20) HISTORIC HOOCH. Back when the Little Old Winemaker was young: “‘World’s oldest wine’ found in 8,000-year-old jars in Georgia”.

Scientists say 8,000-year-old pottery fragments have revealed the earliest evidence of grape wine-making.

The earthenware jars containing residual wine compounds were found in two sites south of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, researchers said.

Some of the jars bore images of grape clusters and a man dancing.

Previously, the earliest evidence of wine-making was from pottery dating from about 7,000 years ago found in north-western Iran.

(21) COST CUTTING. Darth Vader has been discounted: “Star Wars game in U-turn after player anger”.

Games publisher EA has changed a rule in its Star Wars Battlefront II video game after a huge backlash.

During the game, players have to obtain credits – either by buying them or through long hours of game play – to unlock popular characters including Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.

Many players said it was unfair as the gaming required worked out at around 40 hours per character, unless they paid.

EA says the number of credits required will now be reduced by 75%.

“Unlocking a hero is a great accomplishment in the game, something we want players to have fun earning,” said executive producer John Wasilczyk from the developer Dice, in a statement.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Dave Doering, David K.M.Klaus, Chip Hitchcock, rcade, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 11/4/17 Do You Come From The Land Scroll’d Under, Where Pixels Glow And Files Sunder?

(1) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Luke has a different-colored lightsaber! ScreenRant obsesses: “Star Wars 8: Is Luke’s Green Lightsaber Evidence of His Fall to the Dark Side?”

The fact that several posters and some merchandise have featured Luke holding his old blue-bladed lightsaber – the one Rey brings him at the end of The Force Awakens – instead, adds to the mystery. It’s possible he simply lost the lightsaber during the 35 years since The Force Awakens, but that’s a weird thing to hand wave away. The more likely explanation is that we haven’t seen it because it’s a spoiler.

(2) JUST FOLLOW THE BOUNCING HERO. Io9 directs Quantum Leap fans to this indispensible tool

Journalist Josh Jones created an interactive map for Special Request magazine that traces every leap Sam Beckett took during Quantum Leap’s series run, with every episode title and description available for those who want to match the leap with the location.

Using Google Maps, Jones marks a total 93 leaps across five seasons, with the second season having the most leaps out of all of them (22, one more than every following season). Most of them took place in the United States, though there were a few in Europe, along with one in Egypt and another in Japan. But it looks like Sam never managed to leap to Central America, South America, or Australia. What, were there no koalas who needed help?

The link is: Google Map of all the Quantum Leaps.

(3) FUTURE WEALTH. David Brin dispenses idiosyncratic wisdom in a Marketshadows interview.

Ilene: Lately, it seems like there are a lot of winners who are also cheaters… are we going backwards?

David: Amid 6,000 years of feudal despotisms, a few brief moments of illumination happened when citizens rose up to rule themselves. Periclean Athenian democracy was spectacularly agile and creative, but only lasted about one human lifespan, before it was crushed by neighboring oligarchies. The Florentine Republic was shorter lived. But we’ve managed about 250 years of an amazing experiment.

So don’t be myopic. Other generations of Americans faced crises and attempts by would-be feudal lords to smash our diamond back into the old pattern. Generally, these phases of the American Civil War (we’re in phase eight) have ended surprisingly well, as we extend freedom and rights and dignity to ever more kinds of people. But at the time, each crisis seemed impossible to overcome.

We need confidence. Alas, that is why many voices in power and media try to spread gloom.

(4) NO PRIZE. Andrew Porter was watching Jeopardy! when contestants hilariously failed to recognize clues to a classic sf novel.

This 1870 novel has a ship whose name is from the Greek for “Sailor” and a captain whose name is Latin for “No One.”

Wrong answers: “What is Watership Down” and “What is the Ballad of Cap’n Crunch?”

Real answer: “What is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

He also passed a second “scintillating wrong Jeopardy! answer” –

On TV in the 1960s we learned that its mission was “to seek out new life and new civilizations.”

Contestant: “What is Apollo?”

(5) ANIMAL CROSSING. Is Vox Day doing what he otter? That and other animal-based questions can be answered using Camestros Felapton’s chart in “Today in Pointless Statistics”

Yesterday, I was speculating about how the far-right may have a fear of rabbits. I’ve no means of ascertaining that but I did wonder if rabbits got mentioned more than you would expect.

Disproportionate Lagomorphic Referencing in Ideologically Extreme Propaganda

By C.Felapton, M.Robot 2017

Abstract

It has been postulated that the alt-right talks about rabbits a lot. Our research unit examined this hypothesis empirically using highly advanced data-mining techniques.

Using a sample of common animal words, the frequency of use of those words was established and then compared with word frequency in an established corpus of English words. It was established that at least one member of the alt-right talks about rabbits disproportionately….

Camestros was so tickled by the experiment that he repeated the search on two other “control” blogs, discovering that “cat” was the animal most often mentioned on both — however, the word appears on File 770 (in posts and comments) ten times more often than on Monster Hunter Nation. Meow, baby!

(6) HOLD ONTO YOUR WALLETS. The Verge issues a warning — “Amazon wants to turn Lord of the Rings into the next Game of Thrones”. Maybe call it, The Eye in the High Castle?

Amazon Studios has been looking for a way to duplicate HBO’s success with Game of Thrones, and the company may have found a solution: adapting J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings into a TV series. Variety reports that the company is currently in talks with Warner Bros. Television and the late author’s estate, and while discussions are said to be in “very early stages,” it is clearly a high priority, with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos himself involved in the negotiations.

Amazon isn’t the only looking into the rights, according to Deadline, which reports that the Tolkien Estate is looking to sell the television rights to the iconic fantasy series to the tune of $200-250 million, and has approached Netflix and HBO as well. There appears to be some strings attached: the rights might not encompass all of the characters in the story. HBO has reportedly passed on the project.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 4, 1922 — Pharoah Tutankhamen’s tomb is discovered.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born November 4, 1917 – Paul I. Evans

(9) STORIES WORTH NOTICING. At Locus Online, Rich Horton reviews short fiction from Asimov’s, F&SF, Uncanny, Clarkesworld, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, People of Color Take Over Special Issue, and Tor.com.

In Tor.com‘s July set of stories I thought “The Mar­tian Obelisk” by Linda Nagata the best. It’s set in a future in which a series of disasters caused by human nature, environmental collapse, and technological missteps have led to a realization that humanity is doomed. One old architect, in a gesture of, perhaps, memorialization of the species, has taken over the remaining machines of an abortive Mars colony to create a huge obelisk that might end up the last surviving great human structure after we are gone. But her project is threatened when a vehicle from one of the other Martian colonies (all of which failed) approaches. Is the vehicle’s AI haywire? Has it been hijacked by someone else on Earth? The real answer is more inspiring – and if perhaps just a bit pat, the conclusion is profoundly moving.

(10) RADICAL NEW FORMAT. James Corden brings you “Thor: Ragnarok 4D w/ the ‘Thor’ cast”.

…Chris Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, and Jeff Goldblum, reprising their movie roles for a live, surprised audience who thought they were actually seeing the new Marvel movie. “Will they be mad that I’m interrupting the film?” Corden says. “Possibly. You know, wherever there is change, people will call it disruption. So I guess, you know, what I’m saying is, ‘Who gives a [bleep]?’”

 

(11) MORE THOR. Every media adaptation of Thor (before James Corden got hold of him) is referenced in this video: (Hat tip to io9.)

(12) HATCHING OUT. Cheryl Morgan, in “Aotearoa Futurism”, tells where you can learn about some of the subtle Maori-oriented references planted by the director in Thor: Ragnarok.

I’m not going to give you spoilers here, but if you have already seen the film I recommend this article by Maori SF fan, Dan Taipua. The director of the film, Taika Waititi, is also Maori, and he has left a whole bunch of Easter eggs in there for his people, and for their indigenous Australian friends.

Dan got in touch with me on Twitter and pointed me at two Radio New Zealand podcasts in which he and colleagues apply the ideas of Afrofuturism in a specifically Maori/Polynesian context. You can find them here and here.

I’m delighted to see this sort of thing happening in the South Pacific, and I’m hoping to learn a lot more about Aotearoa Futurism if/when Worldcon comes to New Zealand in 2020.

(13) HOLLYWOOD REVIVAL. I started following the fate of this legendary Hollywood joint because Ray Bradbury used to lunch there with people like with the likes of Sam Peckinpah and John Huston. Therefore I’m sure he’d have been happy to know — “Formosa Cafe Will Come Back Shinier Than Ever”.

A $150,000 grant has been awarded to 1933 Group, a hospitality company with a number of bars around Los Angeles, to rehabilitate West Hollywood’s iconic Formosa Cafe.

The restaurant, which closed at the end of 2016, was opened in 1925 by a retired boxer who apparently loved trains: The lunch counter was built in a retired Pacific Electric Red Car trolley. It was built next to some of L.A.’s earliest movie studio lots, and immediately attracted a movie star clientele. And some mobsters, too. The Formosa lost some of its luster in its later years but was still beloved by nostalgics (and played itself in the 1997 film L.A. Confidential).

(14) GRAPHIC EPIC. Washington City Paper’s Matt Cohen profiles African-American author Adam Griffiths, whose 600-page graphic novel Washington White looks at “institutionalized racism” by telling the story of the decline and fall of a great Washington newspaper: “Adam Griffiths Wrote a 600-Page Graphic Novel About His Grandmother’s Civil Rights Lawsuit”.

Listening to Adam Griffiths talk about his new graphic novel, Washington White, is a dizzying experience. It’s a science fiction spy thriller that takes place in D.C.—and also a parallel universe within an engineered disease that only the government knows about. In this mysterious world, the president of the United States authorizes the testing of mind-control drugs, a transgender drummer fights to rejoin her punk band, and a greedy developer tries to gentrify the parallel universe-within-a-disease with a sea of condos. At the center of it all is the novel’s titular newspaper, Washington White—a tabloid whose black owner tries to tell the public about all the crazy shit going on in the District because his dad is the one behind it….

(15) IN HOC SIGNO HECTO. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler encounters a “[November 3, 1962] A Plague of Purple (December 1962 Galaxy)”.

… It has become de riguer at my former favorite magazine, that of Fantasy and Science Fiction, to print “funny” literary stories.  Tediously amusing, dully droll, laden with parenthetical (uselessly so) clauses — and hyphenated articulations, sometimes “quoted” for extra sardonicism.  And did I mention the extra verbiage?  These magazines pay three cents per word, you know….

Dr. Morris Goldpepper Returns, by Avram Davidson

Having poured myself a stiff drink in reward for having made it through the opening novella, my moment of self-congratulation was shattered as I espied the byline of the next piece.  Davidson is the poster child for excellence gone to the prolix weeds.  Sure enough, this piece, ostensibly about earthworms and aliens, is possibly his worst offender yet.  One star.

(16) THE BUBBLY. “Ferdinand the Bull Gets His Own Soda, Sort of”: Food & Wine has the story.

An adaptation of Munro Leaf’s children’s book The Story of Ferdinand, this newest film from a 20th Century Fox studio follows a bull with a big heart (voiced by John Cena) who gets captured and must fight to find his way home. To help gear up for the film’s approaching release, zero calorie beverage company Zevia is offering young moviegoers the chance to sip one of four flavors in their exclusive tie-in line of non-caffeinated sodas. That includes ginger root beer, grape, cream soda and black cherry—all of which feature a natural sweetener.

… Only 1,250,000 cans will be released and are available, beginning yesterday, in 20,000 U.S. grocery stores. You can get a six-pack of these special edition Zevia sodas for $5.99 at retailers like Target, Whole Foods, and Sprouts Farmers Market from now until the film’s mid-December release. As a sweet bonus, you’ll get a Fandango coupon for $5 off a Ferdinand movie ticket when you buy the soda.

(17) ZERO OUT OF TEN DENTISTS RECOMMEND. After drinking all that soda, remember to brush your teeth. What’s that you say, Count, it wasn’t soda you were drinking?

(18) SHIRT OFF HIS BACK. Looking for Christmas gift suggestions?

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Errol Cavit, Mike Kennedy, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Errolwi.]

Pixel Scroll 7/4/17 The Land Of The Pixel, And The Home Of The Scroll

(1) HAIL TO THE CHIEF. This would not be a typical way of celebrating Independence Day anywhere but fandom. ScienceFiction.com compiled a list of the “Top 10 Supervillains Who Have Taken Over America”. At number nine —

  1. Doctor Doom

Doom conquered the United States in 2099, made himself President and did what you’d expect Doom to do in that position. It’s worth noting that he also became a God of his own universe in 2015’s ‘Secret Wars’, so this President thing isn’t that impressive.

(2) LOWERING THE BOOM. It’s not only the blowing up part that’s dangerous for humans. The wastes are, too. The Verge explains “How Hollywood and the Army are shaping the future of fireworks”.

Another ingredient in fireworks, called perchlorate, helps the fuel combust and makes the colors shine more brightly. But it’s also thought to be toxic, which is why the Environmental Protection Agency regulates how much of the stuff can seep into drinking water.

As with air pollution, it’s not completely clear the extent to which fireworks displays contaminate water systems with perchlorate. But a 2007 study conducted by EPA scientists found that perchlorate levels in Oklahoma surface waters increased by between 24 to over 1,000 times baseline levels after an Independence Day display — and it took from 20 to 80 days to go back down.

Scientists with the US Army’s Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC) are trying find a cheap, effective replacement for perchlorate. For the military, which uses pyrotechnics to mimic actual battlefield conditions in training simulations, perchlorate contamination of groundwater can shut down training operations. “When soldiers get deployed to real combat theaters, they are less prepared,” says Jared Moretti, a scientist with ARDEC who specializes in pyrotechnics.

(3) A CHANCE TO HELP. In the aftermath of Dwain Kaiser’s death, a GoFundMe has been launched to assist his widow.

We are raising money to help his wife, JoAnn Kaiser, who is in her 80s and lives well below the poverty level. Dwain and JoAnn owned one of the last used bookstores in Pomona, not because they made a enough money to live on, but because they loved educating our community. More importantly, they loved BOOKS. JoAnn is unable to cover the overwhelming expenses she will incur during this time of great loss: funeral, a memorial service, moving, and paying store bills. We reach out to all of you for support. Any assistance you can provide will impact JoAnn’s ability to grieve the loss of her best friend and husband without the burden of wondering how she is going to survive financially. All proceeds will go toward Dwain’s funeral, a memorial service, and moving expenses.

The goal is $10,000, and at this writing they are halfway there.

(4) LORD OF THE RINGS SETTLEMENT. Yahoo! Movies, in “Warner Bros., Tolkien Estate Settle Massive ‘Lord of the Rings’ Lawsuit”, reports the parties have reached agreement.

Warner Bros. and the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien have resolved a rights dispute over “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings,” the two parties said in a court filing.

The Tolkien estate and its book publisher HarperCollins had filed an $80 million lawsuit against Warner Bros., its New Line subsidiary and Rings/Hobbit rightsholder Saul Zaentz Co. for copyright infringement and breach of contract, in 2012, as reported here in  “What  Has It Got In Its Jackpotses?”

The gist of the suit is that their agreement allows the studio to create only “tangible” merchandise based on the books, not digital products like the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Online Slot Game.

…The suit also complained the defendants had asserted rights to exploit the books through anything from ringtones and downloadable games to hotels, restaurants and travel agencies.

(5) DC AT SEA. Batman features in the new livery some Italian ferryboats — “Batman jumps on board the new Tirrenia ships”.

Tirrenia, partnering with Gruppo Onorato Armatori and Warner Bros. Consumer Products, has started a great restyling of their ferry ships.

The classical white and blue livery will progressively be substituted by the DC Superheroe par excellende: Batman!

Sharden, docked today 7th April of 2017 at pier 18 of the Port of Civitavecchia, is one of the first Tirrenia ships to wear the new colours: both sides of the ships are different from one another: at one side are Batman and Robin, at the other Batman with his fierce enemy, the Joker.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The Department of Veterans Affairs has approved the hammer of Thor (the Norse god of thunder and lightning) as a religious symbol for veteran gravestones. Two soldiers have headstones bearing the hammer.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 4, 1865 — Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published.
  • July 4, 1939 — Julius Schwartz ditched the last day of the first World Science Fiction Convention and went with Mort Weisinger and Otto Binder to see a ballgame at Yankee Stadium. He still got to see fan history being made. Baseball fan history.

A very special thing happened that afternoon: Lou Gehrig announced his retirement from the game of baseball. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It’s something I will never forget.

Gehrig’s famous lines echoed throughout the park:

For the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

(8) THE FIRST COUNCIL. Noting with pleasure that the President has reestablished the National Space Council, Jerry Pournelle remembers the final achievement of the original Council of which he was part.

When the Bush I administration took office, most of the Reagan people were replaced by Bush supporters. As a Reagan man – I chaired the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy that in 1980 wrote the Space and Space Defense policy papers for the incoming Reagan administration – my White House access and contacts effectively came to a halt. There were no more Reagan men in the White House.

However, there was the newly created National Space Council, headed by the Vice President, Dan Quayle. Mr. Quayle was not a space cadet, and hadn’t been well known in the pro-space community. Until the day he was asked to be then Vice President George H. W. Bush’s running mate, he was referred to as “the distinguished junior Senator from Indiana”, and generally well regarded; the day after he joined the ticket he became a buffoon not to be taken seriously by the very same news media. However, he took the post of Chairman of the National Space Council seriously, and when the Citizen’s Advisory Council proposed an X project, the SSX, he met with General Dan Graham, rocket genius Max Hunter, and council chairman Jerry Pournelle.

We presented our proposal for the SSX, a 600,000 gross liftoff weight (GLOW) single stage to orbit (SSTO) X Project; as Max Hunter said, we hoped it would make orbit; it would sure scare it to death. It would also be savable; and it could be flown sub-orbital. Of course it was fully recoverable. The preliminary design description was done mostly in my office, with visiting members of the Council working on it.

Mr. Quayle listened to us, and the asked advice from his technical people. He was told that recoverable single stage to orbit was impossible and had been proved to be so in a RAND study. Mr. Quayle then asked RAND to review that study, which they did, and Lo! It turned out not to be impossible after all. It was a possible X Project. Mr. Quayle tried to get it funded; apparently he took us quite seriously. He was unable to get full funding, but he did get Air Force funding for a scale model. Douglas won the competition for that X project, and it was built, on time and within budget, and delivered to White Sands test range for flight testing. It became known as the DC-X (Douglas Aircraft gave all their aircraft, such as the SC-3, that kind of designation).

One big controversy about vertical rocket landings was that it could not be controlled at low altitude and the speeds involved. Another was that it would re-enter nose down, and wouldn’t be able to turn tail down. DC-X flew 10 successful missions, landing and being refueled and flown again; there are plenty of reports on that. On one of those missions it went from nose up the nose down, then back to nose up in which orientation it made a perfect landing.

Alas after the 10th flight the Air Force turned the ship over to NASA. On the eleventh mission, it successfully landed, but a NASA technician had failed to connect the hydraulic line to one of the landing feet, and it fell over. It could have survived that, but due to over vigorous (and needless testing) the NASA test people cracked the hydrogen fuel tank, then welded it and sent it to fly. Falling over cracked that tank and DC-X literally burned on the ground a hydrogen leaked out.

Mr. Clinton won the 1992 election, and in 1993 abolished the National Space Council. President George W. Bush did not revive it, nor did President Obama.

(9) BREAKING OUT. The Verge interviews “Fantasy author Myke Cole on grounding a medieval world with demons in it”.

…For his next act, Cole is changing things up a bit. His upcoming series, The Sacred Throne, exchanges the modern-day world that he’s been using as a setting for a more traditional fantasy realm. The Sacred Throne series is very much a modern-day fantasy thematically, but more on the “grimdark” side of the genre in the vein of authors like Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, or George R.R. Martin than the more optimistic worlds of Tolkien or Lewis….

Why the change from the more urban fantasy setting from your Shadow Ops series to something closer to traditional swords and sorcery?

This book is super important me. So the Shadow Ops series, when it sold and when it got praised, it was always the authentic military voice. I think I might have been the only currently serving military member writing. At the time I was still on duty to the Coast Guard when that book came out. There’s a lot of retired military guys writing, but I don’t know anyone who is actually active and writing, which is what I was doing. So I kept getting praise for my “authentic military voice.” I was just kind of like, “Okay, I’m glad that people like this, and I’m definitely happy if it sells books,” but the truth is that you start to think “Well, is this a gimmick?” Do people like my writing because I’m a good writer, or do people like my writing because it’s authentic and it’s a military voice? And of course that set me up for kind of growing insecurity, and so it became very important to me to prove to myself that I was a writer with a capital W. That I can do other things.

(10) PRETENDERS TO THE THRONE.  They make number one sound far ahead of the other four — “Five Writers Who Could Be the Next Stephen King”.

  1. Andrew Pyper

The number one writer who could challenge the King for positioning is Andrew Pyper. Pyper’s most recent novel titled “The Damned” is rapidly becoming a massive success. The 2013 novel has already become a best seller. This is number six and by far the most pleasing to his following. The Writer from Toronto has written the horror story and makes no apologies. The book follows “The Demonologist” which established quite a fan base for the writer who is beginning to delve more deeply into horror genre, but without the commercial nonsense that many come to expect. He’s not prone to cliche and you’ll have to read it to find out how he makes use of throwing curves so you won’t really know what’s coming up.

(11) BANGARANGING ON. The Washington Post’s Ada Tseng interviews Dante Basco, who played Rufio in Hook (an orange-mohawked guy who was killed by Captain Hook in the film), and has now made a short-film about Rufio, Bangarang, which is available online — “Remember Rufio in ‘Hook’? The actor is trying to keep his cult character’s legacy alive.”.

Basco has a cameo in the film, but is too old to play the young Rufio. A new generation of kids now knows him better for his voice-over work as Prince Zuko in the Nickelodeon cartoon “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” But he still gets recognized by “Hook” fans every single day.

“I’ve been Rufio longer than I’ve not been Rufio, for sure,” he says. “To this day, it’s a blessing and a curse. Some people have such strong memories of me as a young actor, that it’s hard to see me as anything else. But everyone comes to Hollywood hoping to get a role people are going to remember them for, and I get girls saying I was their first crush, or Asian guys saying Rufio was the first time they saw an Asian kid on-screen that wasn’t nerdy or stereotypical, so I was lucky the character that resonated was cool.”

 

(12) TZ. John King Tarpinian told me he’d be at home today watching the Twilight Zone Marathon. And Steve Vertlieb made a timely recommendation that I read his 2009 post “The Twilight Zone: An Element of Time”:

“The Twilight Zone: An Element Of Time” is my published 2009 celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the original, classic Rod Serling television series. With original teleplays by Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, and the visionary pen of host Rod Serling, along with accompanying scores by Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, and Fred Steiner, among others, this tender recollection of the iconic sci-fi/fantasy anthology series may bring to mind your own special memories of the program. Be swept away into another dimension with this sweet remembrance, adrift upon rippling currents of time and space, only to be found in…”The Twilight Zone.”

Here’s the beginning:

For a writer searching for his voice in the midst of corporate conservatism during the late 1950s, the creative horizon seemed elusive at best. Television, although still a youthful medium, had begun to stumble and fall, succumbing to the pressures of financial backing and sponsorship in order to survive its early growing pains. Navigating a successful career through a cloak of fear and indecision became problematic for a young writer struggling to remain relevant.

Rod Serling had penned several landmark teleplays for The Columbia Broadcasting System, including Patterns, and Requiem For A Heavyweight, but the perils of network censorship were beginning to take a toll on the idealistic author. As his artistic voice and moral integrity became increasingly challenged by network cowardice, Serling found his search for lost horizons alarmingly elusive.

(13) HALF CAST. Stewart Clarke in “Second ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Film Starts Shooting as New Plot Details Emerge” on Variety, says that the second Fantastic Beasts film will be set in Paris in the 1920s and will have Jude Law as a young Albus Dumbledore.

The studio offered new details of the upcoming film, which will see Eddie Redmayne return as magical beasts lover Newt Scamander to take on Gellert Grindelwald, the dark wizard played by Johnny Depp, who was unmasked at the end of the first movie.

Jude Law will star as future Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore in the film, a younger version of the character originally played by the late Richard Harris and Michael Gambon in the Harry Potter films. The sequel moves the main action to 1920s Paris, shortly after Scamander’s capture of Grindelwald at the end of the first installment.

Warner Bros. revealed that “Grindelwald has made a dramatic escape and has been gathering more followers to his cause – elevating wizards above all non-magical beings. The only one who might be able to stop him is the wizard he once called his dearest friend, Albus Dumbledore. But Dumbledore will need help from the wizard who had thwarted Grindelwald once before, his former student Newt Scamander.”

(14) MORE THAN JUST DECORATIVE. JJ sends this along with a safety warning, “Totally not a suggestion for Hugo winners with annoying neighbors. Purely hypothetically.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Steve Vertlieb, Mark-kitteh, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, the e.e. cummings of filers. clack.]

Pixel Scroll 3/27/17 On The Gripping Hand Of Darkness

(1) SPACE, THE INITIAL FRONTIER. In a profile published in the October 17 New Yorker, Julie Phillips reveals why Ursula Le Guin’s name has a space in it.

Her husband’s birth name was Charles LeGuin.  They were married in France, and “when they applied for a marriage license, a ‘triumphant bureaucrat’ told Charles his Breton name was ‘spelled wrong’ without a space, so when they married they both took the name Le Guin.”

(2) JUST MISSPELL MY NAME CORRECTLY. By a vote of the members, the Science Fiction Poetry Association has renamed itself the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association. Although its name has changed, the organization will keep using the initials SFPA.

And nearly every time the poets talk about SFPA in the hearing of old-time fanzine fans you can depend on someone dropping a heavy hint that they’re at risk being mixed up with a pre-existing fan group that uses the same abbreviation. Today it was Andrew Porter chirping in a comment on the announcement —

Not to be confused with the Southern Fandom Press Association, which has been around for more than 40 years…

Unfortunately it’s Porter who is confused, as he seems to have forgotten the apa’s name is the Southern Fandom Press Alliance.

(3) SAMOVAR LAUNCHES. A new sff magazine, Samovar, launched today, featuring “the best of speculative fiction in translation including original stories, reprints, poetry, reviews and more material, as well as printing translations alongside the stories in their original language.” Samovar will be produced as a quarterly, special imprint of Strange Horizons.

“Stories tell us who we are, and let us see who other people are. We already have access to an enormous wealth of speculative fiction in English, but we want to know more” – The Samovar editorial team.

What wondrous fantastical tales are being conjured in Finnish? Who writes the best Nigerian space odysseys? Is Mongolia hiding an epic fantasy author waiting to be discovered? We want to know, and we aim to find out.

For Samovar, writers and translators are of equal importance, and we do our best to shine a spotlight on the talented individuals who pen both the original and the translated version of a story. We hope that in this way we can boost the profile of speculative fiction in translation so that everyone involved receives the recognition they deserve and so we can all continue to enjoy the strange, mind-bending and fantastical fiction of all cultures.

In issue one: two sisters create an imagined world where things that are lost can be found. A despot is forced to see the truth he’s tried to hide from. An academic finds poetry, science fiction and reality beginning to merge. And the Curiosity Rover turns its own sardonic gaze on Mars.

The Samovar editorial team is Laura Friis, Greg West and Sarah Dodd. Their advisory board includes Helen MarshallRachel Cordasco and Marian Via Rivera-Womack.

(4) TENSION, APPREHENSION, AND DISSENSION. The Atlantic’s Megan Garber asks: What’s the opposite of a “cliffhanger”?

Extended cliffhangers (cliffstayers? cliffhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaangers?) have animated some of the most narratively powerful works of television of recent years; they have helped to heighten the tension in shows like Breaking Bad (how low will Walt go?) and Serial (did he do it?) and Quantico (did she do it?) and True Detective (who did it?) and Lost (who are they? where are they?) and, in general, pretty much any sitcom that has ever featured, simmering just below its surface, some will-they-or-won’t-they sexual tension.

What’s especially notable about the recent shows that are employing the device, though, is that they’re locating the tension in one (unanswered) question. They’re operating in direct opposition to the way traditional cliffhangers were primarily used: between installments, between episodes, between seasons, in the interstitial spaces that might otherwise find a story’s momentum stalling. Big Little Lies and Riverdale and This Is Us and all the rest are taking the specific narrative logic of “Who shot J.R.?” and flipping it: The tension here exists not necessarily to capture audience interest over a show’s hiatus (although, certainly, there’s a little of that, too), but much more to infuse the content of the show at large with a lurking mystery. Things simmer rather than boil. The cliffhanger is less about one shocking event with one central question, and more about a central mystery that insinuates itself over an entire season (and, sometimes, an entire series).

(5) SLOWER THAN LIGHT COMMUNICATION. This is how social media works: I never heard of Harry Potter & the Methods of Rationality until somebody complained about it.

The appeal for a 2016 Hugo nomination was posted by the author in 2015.

First, the following request: I would like any readers who think that HPMOR deserves it sufficiently, and who are attending or supporting the 2015, 2016, or 2017 Worldcon, to next year, nominate Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality for Best Novel in the 2016 Hugos. Whether you then actually vote for HPMOR as Best Novel is something I won’t request outright, since I don’t know what other novels will be competing in 2016. After all the nominees are announced, look over what’s there and vote for what you think is best.

I don’t know how many votes he ended up getting but it wasn’t enough to rank among the top 15 works reported by MidAmeriCon II.

(6) FINALLY A GOOD WORD ABOUT THE MOVIES. Book View Café’s Diana Pharoah Francis was both nostalgic and thoughtful after hosting a Lord of the Rings marathon at home.

…Among the SF/F communities, it was this extraordinary vision come to life in a way we had never experienced before. It was not cheesy or all about the CGI. It was about strength, honor, choices, and hope. It was real characters in dreadful situations. The watching of heroes being made and broken beneath weights no one should have to bear. And Aragorn — a king in the making. A soul of strength and doubt and humility.

The movies were inspiring on a lot of fronts. I think it’s appropriate to watch it now in a world that is struggling so hard against itself. With so much fear, and worry and such dire enemies. Who are those enemies? Too many are ourselves. Our fears that turn us into monsters or traitors. Denethor, Gollum, Boromir, the Nazgul — absolute power corrupts. There are those who give up. Those who refuse to fight. Those who lose themselves.

The stories, the movies and the books, are a view into ourselves and what we can hope to be and what we may become — good and bad. It’s a reminder that it’s never a good time to quit in the battle against darkness — in whatever shape it takes….

(7) MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM! ON YOUR SHELVES. James Davis Nicoll names “Twenty Core Space Operas Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”.

“Chosen entirely on the basis of merit,” says James, “with a side-order of not repeating titles that were on the first list.”

(8) TWEETS OF THE DAY ABOUT TWO WEEKS AGO. I felt a disturbance in the force. Just not right away.

(9) FIVE PLUS TWO. John Scalzi offers “7 Tips for Writing a Bestselling Science Fiction Novel” at Female First. This is my favorite:

Make your universe two questions deep. By which I mean, make it so when someone asks you a question about why/how you created or portrayed the universe, character etc the way you did, you have a smart, cogent answer for it, consistent with the construction of the book. And then when they have a follow-up question, be able to answer that effectively, too. That will make 95% of your readers happy with your worldbuilding (the other 5% are SUPER nerds. Which is fine! For them, say “Oh, I’m glad you asked that. I’m totally going to address that in the sequel.” Try it! It works!).

Strangely enough, none of his seven tips is “Start a fuss with somebody in social media.”

(10) SECOND FIFTH. But as we just witnessed last week, that is part of the Castalia House playbook – which is evidently followed by Rule #2, “Stalk real bestselling writers on their book tours.”

Here’s a video of a jackass asking John Scalzi to sign Vox Day’s SJWs Always Lie, and posing an insulting question about John’s Tor book deal. You’ll note the book in John’s hand has not been autographed by Vox Day. When is his book tour?

(11) HOT OFF THE PRESS. Liz Colter (writing as L. D. Colter) has a new book out this week – A Borrowed Hell.

Facing a sad, empty life, July always persevered by looking forward. An unhappy childhood, a litany of failed relationships, and even losing his job–none of it could stop him. But then the foreclosure notice arrives, and July is facing losing the one thing that keeps him grounded–his home.

With pain in his past and now in his future, July gives up and starts down the same road of self-destruction that the rest of his family had followed. It is only when he awakens in a hospital after a violent car accident that things change.

He starts to experience blackouts, which leave him in an alternate reality of empty desert and strange residents. It is a nightmarish world that somehow makes the real world seem that much better. Then he meets a woman that becomes a beacon of light, and his life starts to turn around.

But the blackouts continue, sending him to the alternate reality more often and for longer periods of time. Realizing that he may never escape, July asks the question he’d always been afraid to ask: How can he finally be free? The answer is one he’s not sure he can face.

I can’t resist a droll bio:

Due to a varied work background, Liz can boast a modest degree of knowledge about harnessing, hitching, and working draft horses, canoe expeditioning, and medicine. She’s also worked as a rollerskating waitress and knows more about concrete than you might suspect.

(12) HISTORY MINUS FDR. The LA Times says a bestselling author has a new trilogy on the way.

Charlaine Harris, whose Sookie Stackhouse books inspired the television series “True Blood,” will release the first book in a new trilogy next year.

Harris’ novel “Texoma” will be published in fall 2018 by Saga Press, a science fiction and fantasy imprint of Simon & Schuster, the publisher announced in a news release.

“Texoma” will be a work of speculative fiction that takes place in “an alternate history of a broken America weakened by the Great Depression and the assassination of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”

(13) DAMP YANKEES. In New York Magazine’s author interview “Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140: To Save the City, We Had to Drown It”, Robinson discusses why the book is surprisingly optimistic, how his thoughts on the global economy influenced 2140, and how he came up with the time frame for the book.

…[T]here were two goals going on that forced me to choose the date 2140, and those two goals cut against each other. I needed to put it far enough out in the future that I could claim a little bit of physical probability to the height of the sea-level rise of 50 feet, which is quite extreme. A lot of models have it at 15 feet, though some do say 50 feet. So I did have to go out like a 120 years from now.

Cutting against that future scenario, I wanted to talk about the financial situation we’re in, this moment of late capitalism where we can’t afford the changes we need to make in order to survive because it isn’t cost effective. These economic measures need to be revised so that we pay ourselves to do the work to survive as a civilization facing climate change.

I wanted a finance novel that was heavily based on what lessons we learned — or did not learn — from the crash of 2008 and 2009. All science-fiction novels are about the future and about the present at the same time.

(14) WEBCAST. Another Spider-Man trailer will be out tomorrow – here’s a seven-second teaser for it.

[Thanks to Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Chris Gregory, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]