Pixel Scroll 6/29/18 My Pixel’s Back, It’s Going To Save My Reputation, If I Were You, I’d Take An Internet Vacation

(1) ‘TIS THE SEASON. It’s time now for yard signs to sprout on neighborhood lawns as Brianna Wu’s campaign stands up for the September 4 primary.

(2) SMALL PLEASURES. N.K. Jemisin is right about that —

(3) MATTHEW KRESSEL. Scott Edelman entreats you to share BBQ brosket with Matthew Kressel in episode 70 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

This episode’s guest is Matthew Kressel, whose short story “The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard)” was one of the finalists this year. He was a previous finalist twice before in the same category for “The Sounds of Old Earth” in 2014 and “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” in 2015. His short stories have appeared in Lightspeed, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Analog, Interzone, and many others, as well as in anthologies such as Mad Hatters and March Hares, Cyber World, The People of the Book, and more. His novel, King of Shards, was praised by NPR as being “majestic, resonant, reality-twisting madness.”

He was also nominated for a World Fantasy Award for his work editing the speculative fiction magazine Sybil’s Garage, and is the co-host—along with former Eating the Fantastic guest Ellen Datlow—of the Fantastic Fiction reading series held at the KGB Bar.

Our dinner Friday night that weekend was at Pork & Beans, which has been voted best BBQ in Pittsburgh.

We discussed the story of his accepted by an editor within an hour and then praised by Joyce Carol Oates, the ways in which famed editor Alice Turner was the catalyst which helped turn him into a writer, why after publishing only short stories for 10 years he eventually published a novel, how comments from his Altered Fluid writing workshop helped make his Nebula-nominated “The Sounds of Old Earth” a better story, why a writing self-help book made him swear off those kinds of self-help books, the secrets to having a happy, heathy writing career, why he’s grown to be OK with reading bad reviews, what he learned from reading slush at Sybil’s Garage, and much more

(4) FINNEGAN BEGIN AGAIN. Fatherly tells how “You Can Now Get Drunk Like Captain Kirk From ‘Star Trek’”.

This week, Silver Screen Bottling Co. announced an “official” James T. Kirk Straight Bourbon Whiskey. You can’t order this in a bar, yet, but you can pre-order a bottle right here, where they’re also selling signature glasses, and showing the whiskey next to cigars, even though Kirk never really smoked. (Except for that one time he was in a space prison in Star Trek VI.)

If you don’t want to order Star Trek whiskey online, the James T. Kirk Straight Bourbon Whiskey will also be on sale at San Diego Comic-Con, starting on July 19. At that point, Silver Screen Bottling Co. will announce other Star Trek-themed spirits.

(5) GORTON OBIT. Bob Gorton, former chairman of Pulpcon, passed away on May 31. Mike Chomko wrote a brief tribute.

A retired mathematics professor at the University of Dayton, Bob was known for his dry sense of humor. He served as an important bridge between the lengthy term of Rusty Hevelin as Pulpcon chairman and the founding of PulpFest in 2009. A quiet man, Bob was the winner of the Lamont Award in 2002, presented at Pulpcon 31 in Dayton, Ohio. He will be missed.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 29, 1979 Moonraker premiered on this day theatrically

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 29 – Sharon Lawrence, 57. Amelia Earhart in Star Trek: Voyager, Maxima in the animated Superman series, and Vivian Cates in Wolf Lake, a short lived werewolves among us series.
  • Born June 29, 1920 – Ray Harryhausen.

Ray and Diana Harryhausen with Steve Vertlieb in 1990.

Steve Vertlieb invites you to hop over to The Thunder Child and read his “Ray Harryhausen Tribute”.

Ray Harryhausen remains one of the most revered figures in fantasy/sci-fi motion picture history. Born June 29th, 1920, Ray was not only a childhood hero, but became a dear and cherished friend of nearly fifty years duration. His work in films inspired and influenced generations of film makers, and garnered him a special Academy Award, presented by Tom Hanks, for a lifetime of cinematic achievement. Steven Spielberg joyously proclaimed that his own inspiration for directing “Jurassic Park” was the pioneering special effects work of Harryhausen. Published after his death several years ago, here is a celebration and loving remembrance of the life and work of cinematic master, and special effects genius, Ray Harryhausen. It is also the tender story of a very special man, as well as an often remarkable personal friendship. I love you, Ray. You filled my dreams, my life, and my world with your wondrous creatures.

Ray would have turned 98 years young had he lived. In remembrance of this wonderful soul, here is my affectionate tribute to my friend of nearly fifty years, and boyhood hero of interminable recollection and duration…the incomparable Stop Motion genius, and Oscar honored special effects pioneer, Ray Harryhausen. Journey with me now to a “Land Beyond Beyond” where dreams were born, Cyclopian creatures thundered across a primeval landscape, mythological dragons roared in awe struck wonder, and magical stallions ascended above the clouds…Once Upon A Time.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) FARCE FIELD. Steven Levy in WIRED profiles Palmer Luckey, founder of Anduril Technologies, which aims to install a virtual surveillance system on the U.S.-Mexico border. “Inside Palmer Luckey’s Bid to Build a Border Wall”.

…Palmer Luckey—yes, that Palmer Luckey, the 25-year-old entrepreneur who founded the virtual reality company Oculus, sold it to Facebook, and then left Facebook in a haze of political controversy—hands me a Samsung Gear VR headset. Slipping it over my eyes, I am instantly immersed in a digital world that simulates the exact view I had just been enjoying in real life. In the virtual valley below is a glowing green square with text that reads PERSON 98%. Luckey directs me to tilt my head downward, toward the box, and suddenly an image pops up over the VR rendering. A human is making his way through the rugged sagebrush, a scene captured by cameras on a tower behind me. To his right I see another green box, this one labeled ANIMAL 86%. Zooming in on it brings up a photo of a calf, grazing a bit outside its usual range.

The system I’m trying out is Luckey’s solution to how the US should detect unauthorized border crossings. It merges VR with surveillance tools to create a digital wall that is not a barrier so much as a web of all-seeing eyes, with intelligence to know what it sees. Luckey’s company, Anduril Industries, is pitching its technology to the Department of Homeland Security as a complement to—or substitute for—much of President Trump’s promised physical wall along the border with Mexico.

Anduril is barely a year old, and the trespassing I’d witnessed was part of an informal test on a rancher’s private land. The company has installed three portable, 32-foot towers packed with radar, communications antennae, and a laser-­enhanced camera—the first implementation of a system Anduril is calling Lattice. It can detect and identify motion within about a 2-mile radius. The person I saw in my headset was an Anduril technician dispatched to the valley via ATV to demonstrate how the system works; he was about a mile away….

…Middle-earth buffs will recognize Anduril as the enchanted blade that was Aragorn’s go-to lethal weapon…”All of us are Lord of the Rings fans, so it was a pretty fun name,’ Luckey says. ‘Also, I have Anduril the sword hanging on my wall.  (Luckey procured a collector’s version, not the original movie prop.)…

Another fannish connection:  Anduril Industries has hired former MythBusters co-host Jamie Hyneman to develop an “autonomous firefighting machine’ called Sentry designed to put out California wildfires.  Hyneman, Levy reports, ‘built one of the fiercest battlebots in Robot Wars history.”

(10) THE STARS HIS DESTINATION. His facial expression is disturbingly like that of  Autopilot in the movie Airplane! — “Floating robot Cimon sent to International Space Station”.

An experimental robot with an animated cartoon face has been sent to the International Space Station (ISS) on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Dubbed Cimon (Crew Interactive Mobile Companion), the device is intended as an “an AI-based assistant for astronauts”.

Cimon weighs 5kg but in zero gravity it will float move around thanks to 14 internal fans.

It is an attempt to find out whether robots and astronauts can collaborate.

To this end, Cimon is equipped with microphones and cameras that help it recognise Alexander Gerst, the German astronaut with whom it will work.

(11) SAFETY FIRST. Adweek tells why “This Lovable Aardman Animation Is a Cautionary Tale and a ‘Dam’ Good Lesson”.

Dammy, a Canadian beaver, learns vital safety lessons in this tuneful Aardman-animated video from Ontario Power Generation.

Our anthropomorphized hero—his big, flat tail jutting out from the seat of his pants—loves to fish from a rowboat, and dreams of landing “the big one.” Alas, his quest takes him perilously near a massive hydroelectric dam.

“Don’t ignore that warning sign, your life could be on the line,” croons Canadian folk and bluegrass singer Ken Whiteley on the campfire-song soundtrack he helped compose.

Hey, listen to the lyrics and steer clear of those turbines because the fur could really fly! Of course, Dammy dodges the whammy by the skin of his teeth.

 

(12) OUR FOREFATHERS, AND FOREMOTHERS. “Partaaaaay like it’s the 60’s. The 1860s, that is,” says Mike Kennedy. “This is cosplay like you’ve never seen before.”

An episode of the Vice video series, American Conventions, takes you inside the annual meeting of the Association of Lincoln Presenters in Freeport IL—which features more than a score of Abraham Lincolns, over a dozen Mary Todd Lincolns, and multiple other period costumers. Each of them seems dedicated to not just dressing the part, but being the part. The 12 minute video is interrupted by two short commercial breaks, but may should be worth your time. And, the ghods know we could use more people in this world with the ethics of Honest Abe (or at least those of his best nature; all people are flawed in some way). The video host—Darlene Demorizi—even gets into the spirit as she dresses as Lincoln and makes a heartfelt toast to the gathered crowd.

(13) ORGANIC INVENTORY OF ENCELADUS. Behind the paywall at Nature: “Macromolecular organic compounds from the depths of Enceladus”.

Saturn’s moon Enceladus harbours a global water ocean1, which lies under an ice crust and above a rocky core2. Through warm cracks in the crust3 a cryo-volcanic plume ejects ice grains and vapour into space4,5,6,7 that contain materials originating from the ocean8,9. Hydrothermal activity is suspected to occur deep inside the porous core10,11,12, powered by tidal dissipation13. So far, only simple organic compounds with molecular masses mostly below 50 atomic mass units have been observed in plume material6,14,15. Here we report observations of emitted ice grains containing concentrated and complex macromolecular organic material with molecular masses above 200 atomic mass units. The data constrain the macromolecular structure of organics detected in the ice grains and suggest the presence of a thin organic-rich film on top of the oceanic water table, where organic nucleation cores generated by the bursting of bubbles allow the probing of Enceladus’ organic inventory in enhanced concentrations.

The popular science version of this story is free on BBC: “Saturn moon a step closer to hosting life”.

Scientists have found complex carbon-based molecules in the waters of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

Compounds like this have only previously been found on Earth, and in some meteorites.

They are thought to have formed in reactions between water and warm rock at the base of the moon’s subsurface ocean.

Though not a sign of life, their presence suggests Enceladus could play host to living organisms.

The discovery came from data gathered by the Cassini spacecraft….

(14) A WORLDWIDE REACH. Jeff VanderMeer shares his appreciation for “The International Covers of The Southern Reach Trilogy”. See the images at the link.

Ever since FSG Originals came out with the now-classic Southern Reach covers, there has been what seems like an ongoing competition to create amazing original art and design for other editions, from the somber grace of the original UK hardcovers to, well, the neon color of the UK paperbacks, which riffed off of FSG’s gutsy X hardcover design. An incredible amount of creativity has gone into these other editions. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but the Turkish, South Korean, and Spanish covers (Pablo Delcan!) are right up there. Not to mention the lovely Hungarian cut-out covers and a Ukrainian Brutalist Rubic’s Cube with a tiny cute bunny clinging to one of its levels.

(15) YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW. Yahoo! Entertainment listens in while “Mark Hamill and Chris Evans Discuss Whether a Lightsaber Could Break Captain America’s Shield”.

Mark Hamill and Chris Evans have answered a question that kids everywhere want to know: if Luke Skywalker and Captain America got into a fight, could Luke’s lightsaber break through Cap’s vibranium shield?

(16) INFINITY WAR IMPROVED. Carl Slaughter declares this is “Probably the best How It Should Have Ended episode yet.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Jonathan Cowie, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Allan Maurer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seanan McGuire is not ‘a big name’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 12 is Election Day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use cases are said to include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 4/18/18 Wanna Bees Pulling Gees Through The Trees

(1) LUKE SKYRANTER. Movie Banter brings you “10 minutes of Mark Hamill being HONEST about The Last Jedi.

No matter what you think of the film and the way Luke Skywalker was portrayed, thank goodness Mark isn’t afraid to speak his mind. He is sincere and cares about the franchise as much as he cares about the fandom.

 

(2) THE BREW THAT IS TRUE. Inverse explains that “Ewoks Are Coffee Farmers According to Star Wars Canon”.

The upcoming Han Solo movie will, no doubt, make all sorts of changes to Star Wars canon, but a just-released book about Han and Lando’s adventures quietly revealed that Ewoks are actually renown coffee farmers. Yep, those cute little Imperial-killing teddy bears are responsible for the best cup of java you’ll find outside of Dex’s Diner.

The book, Last Shot: A Han and Lando Novel, came out earlier this week, and it follows the two coolest characters in the galaxy across three distinct time periods. In one of them, set after Return of the Jedi but well before The Force Awakens, baby Ben Solo kicks his dad in the face. Later in that scene, Han’s culinary droid, BX-778, brews up a mean cup of Endorian caf. (Coffee is called “caf” in the book because, well, that’s how Star Wars rolls).

(3) STURGEON ANALYSIS. At Rocket Stack Rank, Eric Wong’s analysis shows the Sturgeon Award nominees are highly correlated with other guides to outstanding short fiction: “Sturgeon Award Finalists Versus Other Top Stories of 2017”. Greg Hullender says:

Last year too, the Sturgeon Award Finalists were the most accurate guide to which stories would be broadly recommended (by serious reviewers, major anthologies, and prestigious awards). http://www.rocketstackrank.com/2018/01/2016-best-sff-short-fiction-guides.html

There’s definitely something special about this award. It should get more attention than it does.

(4) THESE POTATOES AIN’T GONNA PLANT THEMSELVES! Or will they? “All by Itself, the Humble Sweet Potato Colonized the World”.

Of all the plants that humanity has turned into crops, none is more puzzling than the sweet potato. Indigenous people of Central and South America grew it on farms for generations, and Europeans discovered it when Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean.

In the 18th century, however, Captain Cook stumbled across sweet potatoes again — over 4,000 miles away, on remote Polynesian islands. European explorers later found them elsewhere in the Pacific, from Hawaii to New Guinea.

The distribution of the plant baffled scientists. How could sweet potatoes arise from a wild ancestor and then wind up scattered across such a wide range? Was it possible that unknown explorers carried it from South America to countless Pacific islands?

An extensive analysis of sweet potato DNA, published on Thursday in Current Biology, comes to a controversial conclusion: Humans had nothing to do with it. The bulky sweet potato spread across the globe long before humans could have played a part — it’s a natural traveler.

Likewise, ArsTechnica says “Sweet potatoes may have reached Pacific Islands 100,000 years ahead of Polynesians.”

“This finding is likely to be controversial because it calls into question the alleged contacts between Polynesians and Americans in pre-European times,” Oxford University botanist Pablo Muñoz-Rodriguez, who led the study, told Ars Technica. “[The] sweet potato was the only remaining biological evidence of these contacts.”

Muñoz-Rodriguez and his team sampled DNA from 119 specimens of sweet potatoes and all of their wild relatives, including a sweet potato harvested in the Society Islands in 1769 by the Cook expedition. With those samples, Muñoz-Rodriguez and his colleagues built a phylogenetic tree: a family tree that shows evolutionary relationships among organisms based on the differences in their DNA. For plants, researchers often build two phylogenetic trees: one for the DNA stores in the nucleus of the plant’s cells and one for the chlorophyll-producing organelles called chloroplasts, which have their own DNA. Genetic material doesn’t always get passed on in the same way for both, so it’s sometimes useful to compare the two.

The team used the phylogenetic trees to estimate how long ago each branch of the tree split off from the others. It turned out that the Society Islands sweet potato hadn’t interbred with Central and South American lines for at least 111,500 years…

(5) TODAY’S JOB LOST TO ROBOTS. WIRED Magazine reports “A Robot Does the Impossible: Assembling an Ikea Chair Without Having a Meltdown”. I’m beginning to suspect Brian Aldiss wrote the wrong ending for “Who Can Replace A Man.”

Researchers report today in Science Robotics that they’ve used entirely off-the-shelf parts—two industrial robot arms with force sensors and a 3-D camera—to piece together one of those Stefan Ikea chairs we all had in college before it collapsed after two months of use. From planning to execution, it only took 20 minutes, compared to the human average of a lifetime of misery. It may all seem trivial, but this is in fact a big deal for robots, which struggle mightily to manipulate objects in a world built for human hands.

(6) ALL IN A DAY. Initially, Patrick Nielsen Hayden made his feelings clear about a new book coming out which has the same title as an Emma Bull novel. (Jump on the thread here.)

Later he apologized. (Thread begins here)

(7) DOG DUTY. The New York Times inquires: “Do You Know Which Dog Breeds Are in a Mutt? Scientists Want to Find Out”.

One of the favorite pastimes of dog people is guessing a mutt’s ancestry.

Is that scruffy little guy in the dog park a mix of Afghan hound and Catahoula leopard dog? Is the beast that bit someone really a pit bull, or a cocker spaniel-beagle potpourri? And how about your aunt’s yippy pillow on paws — Maltese/poodle/peke?

If you’re wondering about your own dog you can, of course, get a DNA test. But there’s a lot of open territory for that familiar figure in the canine world, the dog guesser. You know who I mean, they’re like dog whisperers, but louder.

Now all self-proclaimed experts have a chance to prove their mettle or meet their comeuppance. The MuttMix survey debuted on Monday. It is citizen science for people who are willing to be proven terribly wrong, a dog quiz that tests how good you are at figuring out what a mutt is made of.

The survey is being run by the Darwin’s Dogs program at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., a center for genome studies, and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Fellow dog guessers (yes, I confess) proceed at the risk of your exceedingly high self-regard….

(8) THE MODERN PROMETHEUS. Mary Shelley biopic opening in theaters May 25.

Starring: Elle Fanning, Maisie Williams, Bel Powley, Douglas Booth, Joanne Froggatt & Stephen Dillane She will forever be remembered as the writer who gave the world Frankenstein. But the real life story of Mary Shelley—and the creation of her immortal monster—is nearly as fantastical as her fiction. Raised by a renowned philosopher father (Stephen Dillane) in 18th-century London, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Elle Fanning) is a teenage dreamer determined to make her mark on the world when she meets the dashing and brilliant poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth). So begins a torrid, bohemian love affair marked by both passion and personal tragedy that will transform Mary and fuel the writing of her Gothic masterwork. Imbued with the imaginative spirit of its heroine, Mary Shelley brings to life the world of a trailblazing woman who defied convention and channeled her innermost demons into a legend for the ages.

 

(9) NEXT ON HIS AGENDER. Jon Del Arroz, worried there might still be a few people he hasn’t alienated this week, announced he is “Coming Out As A Woman” [Internet Archive link] – which is to say, adopting a pseudonym.

After serious deliberations, I will be only submitting short fiction to professional markets from a new female pen name. I’ve come up with the name, I’ve got the email address, it’s ready to go. I will be, for all intents and purposes, a female author. It’s the only way to get ahead in the business, and the smart thing to do. I won’t be broadcasting the name here in case of any inadvertent discrimination, but I will keep you informed as to how reactions change based on having a female name. It’ll be interesting to say the least.

(10) PRELUDE TO SPACE. NPR tells about “Antarctic Veggies: Practice For Growing Plants On Other Planets”.

…Now, the greenhouse project, called EDEN ISS, is fully operational. Bamsey’s colleagues in Antarctica harvested their first salads last week.

And while growing greens in Antarctica is exciting — for much of the year there’s no fresh produce at Neumayer Station III — Bamsey says the end goal of this project is much farther away. EDEN ISS is a practice round for cultivating food in space.

The eight-nation team of EDEN ISS researchers chose to grow “high-water-content, pick-and-eat-plants,” Bamsey says, “things that can’t normally be stored for long periods of time.” The crops include lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, swiss chard, and herbs — basil, chives, cilantro and mint. One-tenth of the yield will become research data, while the rest will help feed Neumayer Station III’s crew….

(11) SPACE DIAMONDS. “Inter Jovem et Martem”? “Meteorite diamonds ‘came from lost planet'”.

A diamond-bearing space rock that exploded in Earth’s atmosphere in 2008 was part of a lost planet from the early Solar System, a study suggests.

The parent “proto-planet” would have existed billions of years ago before breaking up in a collision and was about as large as Mercury or Mars.

A team has published their results in the journal Nature Communications.

They argue that the pressures necessary to produce diamonds of this kind could only occur in planet of this size.

Using three different types of microscopy, the researchers characterised the mineral and chemical make-up of the diamond-bearing rocks. The fragments were scattered across the Nubian desert of northern Sudan after the asteroid 2008 TC3 exploded 37km above the ground on 7 October 2008.

(12) MUSICAL INTERLUDE. Another Instant Classic by Matthew Johnson:

Yub nub, yub nub, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive

Well you tell by the way I use my spear
I’m a murder bear, I got no fear
Speeder bikes and Empire goons, I’ve been kicked around
My forest moon
And now it’s all right, it’s OK
I’ve got stormtroopers to slay
And way above, I think I spy
A Death Star hangin’ in the sky

Whether you’re a Jedi or just a little yeti
You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Feel the walkers breakin’, this tree trunk is a-shakin’
And we’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive

Yub nub, yub nub, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Yub nub, yub nub, stayin’ alive

Well you might think I’m a teddy bear
My god’s a droid in a wooden chair
I may just have stone age tools
But I’m the end of those Empire fools
And now it’s all right, it’s OK
There’ll be some fireworks this day
And way above, I think I spy
A Death Star fallin’ from the sky

Yub nub, yub nub, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Yub nub, yub nub, stayin’ al-i-i-i-ve…

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day A.G. Carpenter, Ingvar and Cassy B.]

Happy St. Patrick’s Day – Irish Eyes Are Smiling

Dave Lally and James Bacon.

By James Bacon: St Patrick’s day in Dublin is about the parade, enjoying the festivities and watching the floats, full of costumes, colour and hours of effort.

This year in Dublin, to mark the celebrations, Mark Hamill has been asked to be a special guest, joining the dignitaries in the President’s stand on O’Connell St.

Hamill has traced some of his Irish heritage, his great-grandmother Elizabeth Keating from Kilkenny, his grandparents John Keating married Margaret Foley in Carlow Cathedral in 1822 and Mary Harvey was his great-great-grandmother, from a Famine immigrant family that settled in America.

Mark Hamill encourages people to visit Ireland, and this week, I hope Dublin 2019 has done that too, and especially to join us at Dublin 2019 An Irish Worldcon.

Our prices are increasing on the 3rd of April, and that is also an important cutoff date for those who supported the bid, Bid backers and Bid pre-supporters, as their discount ends. Further details here. https://dublin2019.com/join-us/upgrade-options/

We are acutely aware that for some members the Dublin Worldcon will be more than a Bus, Dart or Luas into town, or a Train or Coach up to Dublin, and so we have initiated an instalment plan this week, to help everyone who wants to, to come along by spreading the membership cost over a number of payments.

Details on the instalment plan are here: https://dublin2019.com/instalment-plan/

We also have a ‘First Worldcon rate’ for fans who have never been to Worldcon, and we are pleased to be welcoming over 100 of those fans already. If this is you, do get your ‘First Worldcon’ membership at the cheapest it will be, it too will rise on the 3rd of April.

We will also be launching a family rate, before the price rise. Do watch our social media for that.

As ever, it is helpful to Worldcons that people sign up, join up, indeed the more people that join earlier, the better we can plan, and be more effective with your money.

There are plans and preparations that can be made: checking the Passport is in date, or indeed ordering one; thin?k?ing about how the trip to the Dublin Worldcon in Ireland, in August 2019 can be part of a larger adventure, going around the country,

Do join us –  https://dublin2019.com/join-us/

Once the parade is over, I will be joining our Dublin 2019 treasurer amongst other fans, for a few pints watching Ireland play England in the six nations rugby championship and hopefully have another reason to keep my Irish eyes smiling. I hope you have a great day, whereever you are.

Very best and I hope you have a wonderful day.

Pixel Scroll 3/8/18 Stay Tuned For Pixels As They Break

(1) ELVES FOREVER. Olga Polomoshnova explores Elves’ immortality in “Who wants to live forever?” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

By their nature the Elves are bound to Arda, with their bodies being made of  “the stuff of Earth”. They live as long as the world endures….

What Men crave for and desire with all their hearts is, in fact, a burden. More accurately, this serial longevity becomes a burden with time. The Elves age very slowly, but during the course of their long lives they know death of wounds or grief, though not, like Men, of old age, and they fear death, too. Elvish ageing shows in their ever-growing weariness of the world. One of the best descriptions of this state was provided by the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, who experienced such longevity due to his possession of the One Ring. He compared his unnaturally long life with being “all thin, sort of stretched, […] like butter that has been scraped over too much bread” (Fellowship of the Ring, p. 42). So probably that is exactly how the Elves could feel many thousand years into their lives.

(2) HAMILL’S WALK OF FAME STAR DEDICATED. Star Wars icon Mark Hamill is now a star in the Hollywood firmament: “Mark Hamill Gets ‘Overwhelming’ Support From Harrison Ford & George Lucas at Walk of Fame Ceremony”.

On Thursday, some of the actor’s closest friends and colleagues came out to honor him as he was immortalized in Hollywood with the recognition befitting a cultural icon like himself.

Hamill got some sweet support from his former Star Wars co-star Harrison Ford, Star Wars creator George Lucas, recent Last Jedi co-star Kelly Marie Tran, as well as a pair of Storm Troopers and the iconic droid R2-D2. His wife of nearly 40 years, Marilou York, was also to celebrate the honor.

(3) CROWDFUNDING WILL REVIVE AMAZING. Steve Davidson has launched a Kickstarter to hasten “The Return of Amazing Stories Magazine!”

Amazing Stories is an institution. It is an icon of the field. Over the years it has represented both the best and the worst that this genre has to offer. It has inspired the careers of authors, artists, editors, academics, scientists and engineers. Its presence proved that there was a viable market for this kind of literature, a fact not lost on other publishers who quickly followed suit. By 1930 there were four magazines in the field, eventually many more. And the fans? They bought every single one of them.

Amazing Stories deserves to be an ongoing part of our community. It may be a bit worn around the edges, the spine may be cracked a little and it may shed bits of pulp here and there, but those are love scars. Amazing Stories is not just our progenitor, it is the embodiment of the heart and soul of the genre.

We love it. We love what it’s done for us, what it represents, what it created. How can we not, when we love Science Fiction?

We know you share that love. Please show that love. It’s time for Amazing Stories to live again.

On the first day Steve’s appeal brought in $5,079 of its $30,000 goal.

Here’s how the money will be used. (Experimenter Publishing is Steve’s company.)

Experimenter plans to publish its first new issue for a Fall 2018 release and will be distributing the magazine at Worldcon 76 in San Jose CA. Professional, SFWA qualifying rates of 6 cents per word will be paid and Experimenter intends to become a fully SFWA qualifying market within its first year of operation. Several stories by well known authors have already been contracted, as has cover art by a highly respected artist.

Following five years of growth and development as an online multi-author blog serving the interests of science fiction, fantasy and horror fans, the publication of well-regarded articles produced by over 175 contributors, read by over 40,000 registered members, and following the publication of three special editions, a comic book and a growing selection of anthologies, classic novels and facsimile reprints, Experimenter believes the time is right to launch the quarterly magazine.

(4) ABOUT THE BARKLEY PROPOSAL. What were signers of Chris Barkley’s YA Award name proposal told? One of them, Shawna McCarthy, wrote in a comment on Facebook:

I was a signatory and do not feel misrepresented to other than not knowing the name of the award had already been decided. It’s possible the sponsor thought I was more up on the state of WC business committee work than I was.

(5) COMIC-CON’S QUASI-MUSEUM. Kinsee Morlan, in “Don’t Call Comic-Con’s Balboa Park Digs A museum–At Least Not Yet” for Voice of San Diego, says that Comic-Con International is upholding its nonprofit status by building a museum in San Diego’s Balboa Park (which will replace the San Diego Hall of Champions) and is hiring British museum designer Adam Smith to create it.

Smith said specifics are still hazy, but a few things are starting to become clear. For starters, he’s not ready to dub the new space a museum just yet. He’s toying with calling it a center or something else that better communicates its mission of showcasing contemporary exhibits that focus on what’s happening now or in the future — think virtual reality demos or participatory immersive television experiences (yeah, that’s a thing).

Smith also obliterated the traditional curator-led exhibition model. Instead of experts organizing most of the shows, he said, super fans will be likely be generating exhibitions and events. That’s a move taken from Comic-Con’s convention playbook, where fan-generated panels have always been a big part of the offerings.

David Glanzer, Comic-Con’s director of communications who’s been with the nonprofit for decades, fielded some of my questions, too.

Civic leaders are perpetually terrified that Comic-Con will pack up its bag and head to Los Angeles or another city if San Diego doesn’t expand its Convention Center soon. Glanzer said folks should not assume that won’t happen now that Comic-Con’s new center is opening in Balboa Park. He said they’re two separate projects and the convention could still relocate in the future if its space problems start impacting the quality of the convention.

(6) LOVED THE BOOK, HATED THE FILM. LitHub list of “20 Literary Adaptations Disavowed by Their Original Authors” has plenty of sff:

  • Earthsea (2004) – Based on: Ursula K. Le Guin, Earthsea cycle (1968-2001)

Le Guin hated the Sci-Fi Channel’s adaptation of her books, and she had quite a lot to say on the subject, but the biggest problem was that the miniseries completely whitewashed the original text. Early on, she was consulted (somewhat) but when she raised objections, they told her that shooting had already begun. “I had been cut out of the process,” she wrote at Slate.

Also:

  • Mary Poppins (1964) – Based on: P. L. Travers’s Mary Poppins (1934)
  • Hellraiser: Revelations (2011) – Based on: Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart (1986)
  • A Wrinkle in Time (2003) – Based on: Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (1962)
  • Charlotte’s Web (1973) – Based on: E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web (1952)
  • Solaris (1972, 2002) – Based on: Stanis?aw Lem’s Solaris (1961)
  • The Last Man on Earth (1964) – Based on: Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (1954)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971) – Based on: Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange (1962)
  • The Shining (1980) – Based on: Stephen King’s The Shining (1977)
  • The NeverEnding Story (1984) – Based on: Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story (1979)
  • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) – Based on: Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964)

(7) LOPATA OBIT. Steve Lopata’s daughter announced that he passed away March 5, peacefully, at the hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas. Sammi Owens said:

…I deeply regret to inform you that his heart was failing and Worldcon 75 Helsinki was his last trip. He had heart surgery and despite valiant efforts he succumbed to his heart disease on March 5, 2018…. My mom Frances and I want the scifi community and all his friends to know how much he dearly loved you all. His all time favorite activities were working Ops for Worldcons and having an audience for his tales- umm, I mean true stories…. Peace be with you all and thank you for your friendship to our beloved man.

Patrick Maher was one of many fans who worked Ops with Steve with good words about him:

I didn’t know Steve very long, only since he walked into Shamrokon in 2014 and offered to help out. We didn’t know who he was but, as he said he had just come from Loncon III, we asked James Bacon who he was. James described him as Steve ‘Awesome Ops Guy’ Lopata. He sat in Ops all weekend and offered sage advice. When I took over Ops for Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, he was the first person I went to for advice.

Lopata also did volunteer work with big cats, as he explained in an article for Mimosa in 2001.

One of the first questions I am asked when I tell people about working with lions and tigers is, “How did you get involved?” There are two answers. First the short, “I like kitties;” and the longer one, “I was at a convention and saw this guy walking a tiger on a leash. I asked if I could pet the tiger and about half an hour later, I was a volunteer at the breeding park.”

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock calls this too bad not to share: Arlo and Janis.
  • And here’s an International Women’s Day item from Bizarro.

(9) INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY. Headstuff’s Aoife Martin celebrated the day by analyzing “Author Pseudonyms” used by women. A couple of instances came from sff —

Closer to modern times we have the case of Alice Bradley Sheldon who wrote science fiction under the pen name of James Tiptree Jr. In an interview she said that she chose a male name because it “seemed like good camouflage. I had the feeling that a man would slip by less observed. I’ve had too many experiences in my life of being the first woman in some damn occupation.” It’s interesting that Sheldon should have felt the need to do this but she was a successful science fiction writer – so much so that she won several awards including a Hugo for her 1974 novella, The Girl Who Was Plugged In and several Nebula awards. Her secret wasn’t discovered until 1976 when she was 61. Throughout her career she was referred to as an unusually macho male and as an unusually feminist writer (for a male). Indeed, fellow writer Robert Silverberg once argued that Tiptree could not possibly be a woman while Harlan Ellison, when introducing Tiptree’s story for his anthology Again, Dangerous Visions wrote that “[Kate] Wilhelm is the woman to beat this year, but Tiptree is the man.” Suitably, the James Tiptree Jr. Award is given annually in her honour to works of science fiction and fantasy that expand or explore one’s understanding of gender.

(10) A NEW KIND OF BARBIE. The Huffington Post reports Mattel is honoring a few living legends this International Women’s Day: “Frida Kahlo And Other Historic Women Are Being Made Into Barbies”. Genre-related figures include Katherine Johnson and Patty Jenkins.

Kids around the world will soon be able to own a Barbie doll bearing the likeness of Frida Kahlo, Amelia Earhart or Katherine Johnson.

All three women made herstory in different industries: Earhart was the first female aviator to fly across the Atlantic Ocean; Mexican artist Kahlo was known for her unique painting style and feminist activism; and Johnson, who was highlighted in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures,” broke boundaries for black women in mathematics and calculated dozens of trajectories for NASA, including the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the moon.

The dolls, which are part of Mattel’s new series called “Inspiring Women,” will be
mass produced and sold in stores….

(11) ANOTHER STAR WARS SERIES. A well-known name in superhero movies will be responsible for a Star Wars series to appear on Disney’s new streaming platform: “Jon Favreau hired for ‘Star Wars’ series: Why fans have mixed feelings”.

The director whose film launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe is coming to a galaxy far, far away. Jon Favreau, the filmmaker behind Iron Man, Elf, and Disney’s live-action Jungle Book and Lion King, will write and executive-produce a live-action Star Wars series for Disney’s new streaming platform. Lucasfilm announced today that Favreau, who is also an actor with roles in the Clone Wars animated series and the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story,  will helm the new show. While Favreau has a strong fanbase (going all the way back to his 1996 debut film Swingers), many on social media are wondering why Lucasfilm has hired yet another white man to steer the diverse Star Wars universe — and announced it on International Women’s Day, no less.

(12) STORYBUNDLE. Cat Rambo curated The Feminist Futures Bundle, which will be available for the next three weeks.

In time for Women’s History Month, here’s a celebration of some of the best science fiction being written by women today. This bundle gathers a wide range of outlooks and possibilities, including an anthology that gives you a smorgasbord of other authors you may enjoy.

I used to work in the tech industry, and there I saw how diversity could enhance a team and expand its skillset. Women understand that marketing to women is something other than coming up with a lady-version of a potato chip designed not to crunch or a pink pen sized for our dainty hands. Diversity means more perspectives, and this applies to science fiction as well. I am more pleased with this bundle than any I’ve curated so far.

In her feminist literary theory classic How to Suppress Women’s Writing, science fiction author Joanna Russ talked about the forces working against the works of women (and minority) writers. A counter to that is making a point of reading and celebrating such work, and for me this bundle is part of that personal effort, introducing you to some of my favorites. – Cat Rambo

The initial titles in the Feminist Futures Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:

  • Happy Snak by Nicole Kimberling
  • Alanya to Alanya by L. Timmel Duchamp
  • Code of Conduct by Kristine Smith
  • The Birthday Problem by Caren Gussoff

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular titles, plus SIX more!

  • Starfarers Quartet Omnibus – Books 1-4 by Vonda N. McIntyre
  • The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein
  • Spots the Space Marine by M.C.A. Hogarth
  • The Terrorists of Irustan by Louise Marley
  • Queen & Commander by Janine A. Southard
  • To Shape the Dark by Athena Andreadis

(13) FAIL HYDRA. Cory Doctorow updated BoingBoing readers about a publisher accused of questionable practices: “Random House responds to SFWA on its Hydra ebook imprint”

Allison R. Dobson, Digital Publishing Director of Random House, has written an open letter to the Science Fiction Writers of America responding to the warning it published about Hydra, a new imprint with a no-advance, author-pays-expenses contract that SFWA (and I) characterize as being totally unacceptable. Dobson’s letter doesn’t do much to change my view on that:

(14) BEARING WITNESS. Lavie Tidhar has tweeted a noir Pooh adventure. Jump on the thread here:

(15) ANDROIDS AT 50. Here’s a clipping from Nature: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Ananyo Bhattacharya toasts Philip K. Dick’s prescient science-fiction classic as it turns 50.” [PDF file.]

When science-fiction writer Peter Watts first opened Philip K. Dick’s 1968 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a word caught his eye. It was “friendlily”. How had Dick got that past an editor? As Watts told me: “I knew at that point that Dick had to be some kind of sick genius.”

(16) CURRENT EVENTS. This sounds like a job for Doctor Who: “A Political Dispute Puts A Wrinkle In Time, Slowing Millions Of European Clocks”.

For the past few weeks, something strange has been happening in Europe. Instead of time marching relentlessly forward, it has been slowing down imperceptibly, yet with cumulatively noticeable results, so that millions of clocks the Continent-over are now running behind.

The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity released a statement Tuesday saying that since mid-January, Europe’s standard electrical frequency of 50 hertz has fallen ever so slightly to 49.996 hertz.

For electric clocks that rely on the frequency of the power system — typically radio, oven and heating-panel clocks — the cumulative effect was “close to six minutes,” according to the agency.

(17) TAINT FUNNY MCGEE. The BBC says “Amazon promises fix for creepy Alexa laugh”.

Amazon’s Alexa has been letting out an unprompted, creepy cackle – startling users of the best-selling voice assistant.

The laugh, described by some as “witch like” was reported to sometimes happen without the device being “woken” up.

Others reported the laugh occurring when they asked Alexa to perform a different task, such as playing music.

“We’re aware of this and working to fix it,” Amazon said.

(18) CUBE ROUTER. Meanwhile, at MIT, they’re wasting their time saving time: “Rubik’s robot solves puzzle in 0.38 seconds”.

Ben Katz, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, collaborated with Jared Di Carlo to create the robot.

“We noticed that all of the fast Rubik’s Cube solvers were using stepper motors and thought that we could do better if we used better motors,” said Mr Di Carlo in a blog post.

Mr Katz said in his blog the 0.38 seconds included “image capture and computation time, as well as actually moving the cube”.

Their contraption used two PlayStation Eye cameras from the old PS3 console to identify the configuration of the cube.

However, mistakes often resulted in a cube being destroyed.

(19) DARK MATTER. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination released a video of a recent guest presentation: “Sir Roger Penrose: New Cosmological View of Dark Matter, which Strangely and Slowly Decays”.

Sir Roger Penrose joined the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination on January 19, 2018, to give a talk on his latest research and provide an insight into the thinking of a modern day theoretical physicist. Is the Universe destined to collapse, ending in a big crunch or to expand indefinitely until it homogenizes in a heat death? Roger explains a third alternative, the cosmological conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC) scheme—where the Universe evolves through eons, each ending in the decay of mass and beginning again with new Big Bang. The equations governing the crossover from each aeon to the next demand the creation of a dominant new scalar material, postulated to be dark matter. In order that this material does not build up from aeon to aeon, it is taken to decay away completely over the history of each aeon. The dark matter particles (erebons) may be expected to behave almost as classical particles, though with bosonic properties; they would probably be of about a Planck mass, and interacting only gravitationally. Their decay would produce gravitational signals, and be responsible for the approximately scale invariant temperature fluctuations in the CMB of the succeeding aeon. In our own aeon, erebon decay might well show up in signals discernable by gravitational wave detectors.

 

(20) HANDY HINTS. And in case you ever have this problem: “Here’s How You Could Survive Being Sucked Into a Black Hole”. The article is honestly kind of useless, but I love the clickbait title.

OK, so maybe you aren’t going to get sucked into a black hole tomorrow. Or ever. Maybe even trying to imagine being in such a situation feels like writing yourself into a Doctor Who episode. But, for mathematicians, physicists, and other scientists attempting to understand cosmic strangeness in practical terms, these thought experiments are actually very useful. And they may be more practical in and of themselves than we’d realized.

At least, that’s what a team of researchers led by Peter Hintz at the University of California, Berkeley found through their study of black holes, recently published in the journal Physical Review Letters

[Thanks to Standback, Will R., John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, J. Cowie, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 2/24/18 I Am Just A Pixel, Though My Story’s Seldom Scrolled

(1) HIGH CONCEPT. This quartet of movie posters for Solo features Han Solo, Qi’ra, Lando, and Chewie.

(2) WAIT A MINUTE. Mark Hamill is going to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. You mean he didn’t already have one? And this guy did? —

Trump was awarded a Walk of Fame star in 2007 for his role in reality series “The Apprentice.”

The official ceremony for Hamill’s star will take place on Mar. 8, according to Variety magazine. “Star Wars” creator George Lucas and Hamill’s costar, Harrison Ford, will assist in hosting the event.

(3) WORLDCON 76 PROGRESS REPORT 2. Available to read here [PDF file].

(4) MEXICANX INITIATIVE HITS 50. Worldcon 76 guest of honor John Picacio and supporters have reached a milestone:

WE DID IT. Thanks to my Mexicanx Initiative teammates, we have now reached our goal of 50(!!!) Sponsored Attending Memberships to Worldcon 76 in San Jose for deserving Mexicanx pros and fans. I had envisioned doing this since last August, but it was exactly one month ago that I was able to announce this endeavor. My good friend John Scalzi immediately joined in, and together with some amazing friends, here we are — ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. My friends at ALAMO pushed us over the top with the final seven memberships! This was truly a team effort and you’re looking at everyone responsible for this win: John Scalzi Mary Robinette Kowal Chris Rose Fast Forward: Contemporary Science Fiction Ctein John O’Halloran Elizabeth McCarty Chris Brown Kate Elliott Kat Angeli Rina Elson Weisman Randall Shepherd Richard Flores IV Amazing Stories Worldcon 76 in San Jose Joanna Volpe, Ty Franck, Mur Lafferty, Christine O’ Halloran, BWAWA, and of course, Canadiense Anónima. Muchas gracias, all!

Picacio reveals there will be a follow-on fundraiser:

For those still wanting to contribute — ping me. I’ll share more on this tomorrow, but I’ve been building a secondary fund called ‘The Mexicanx Initiative Assistance Fund’, to assist with travel and food needs for Mexicanx facing an expensive journey to Worldcon 76 in San Jose. I’ve done this quietly, but it’s been building and it’s a complementary, but very separate fund from what we’ve achieved above. And yes, Worldcon’s treasury handles all the money. I never touch it. I just go get it.

(5) PROFESSIONAL DISCOURTESIES. John Picacio came back online later to chastize Terry Goodkind for belittling the artist of one of Goodkind’s book covers.

Heads up to everyone in the publishing industry: Authors, please take note, especially those new to the sf/f field — Pictured here is some of the most unprofessional behavior you will ever witness. This is a writer publicly throwing his cover artist under the bus, while embarrassing his publisher and their art director. This is the behavior of a child throwing a tantrum. It’s pathetic and it’s bush league. Never make the same mistake this guy just did. EVER. To Bastien Lecouffe-Deharme: Hold your head high. We’ve got your back.

And on Twitter they do have his back — lots of supportive tweets like these —

(6) NONFICTION FICTION. In “Why Adding Monsters and Fairies to a Memoir Can Make It Even More Real”, Matthew Cheney, Carmen Maria Machado, Rosalind Palermo Stevenson, and Sofia Samatar discuss the speculative memoir.

Sofia Samatar: Since I am starting this adventure, let me tell you why I chose to bring this particular group together. Carmen has written some of my favorite short stories, and one time when we were sharing a hotel room at a conference, I told her I’d been thinking about the intersection of memoir and speculative fiction, and she said she was actually working on a speculative memoir at the moment. Matt’s a fiction writer, too, and I invited him because, also at a conference, at some reception in a dark room, we were standing around with our paper plates, and he told me he was writing a dissertation on the blurry space between fiction and nonfiction, looking at Virginia Woolf and J.M. Coetzee and Samuel R. Delany. Rosalind is a brilliant writer, whose story “Insect Dreams” I have read many times. Her work plays with history and the fantastic, and recently she told me her new book is about the idea of the female Adam, and described it as a “hybrid” and a “faux autobiography.”

I started thinking about the idea of “speculative memoir” because I was a fantasy and science fiction writer whose work was becoming more and more autobiographical. Of course, all writing draws from experience, but there’s a particularly weird energy to writing memoir, in a deliberate way, in a fantastic or uncanny mode. It seems to announce a certain relationship to memory, and to experience. I wonder if each of you could start by talking a bit about this in relation to your own work. What do you find compelling about the concept of speculative memoir?

(7) REALLY EVERYTHING. Jeb Kinnison’s after action report about Life, The Universe & Everything 2018 covers some dimensions not heard about in the earlier File 770 account.

The LibertyCon contingent was well-represented, with local writers Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen, and Sarah Hoyt in from Colorado. Baen did its roadshow and the infamous Lawdog attended. While I met Larry briefly at LibertyCon two years back, I saw a lot more of him and his charming wife Bridget this time. We had listened to the audiobook of “Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent” (written by Larry, read by Adam Baldwin) on the drive up. As Larry’s media empire has grown and the movie options for some of his worlds are pending, it’s kind of a thrill that he now knows who I am and lets me hug him (his excuse being his arm was injured and couldn’t take too many handshakes.)

(8) NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED. Allegedly. “PETA Hands Out Awards to ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Jumanji’ for Being Animal-Friendly”.

From Star Wars: The Last Jedi to Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals on Thursday revealed the Hollywood actors and movies it recognizes for animal-friendly achievements this year with its first-ever Oscats Awards.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi nabbed the prizes for best live-action movie and best original screenplay for positive storylines, like Finn and Rose liberating fathiers used for racing and Chewbacca choosing not to eat a porg.

Wait a minute, in the movie I saw, Chewie already killed and cooked one of the damn things! How does PETA square giving an award after that?

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 24, 1886Thomas Edison married Mina Miller. He wooed the 19-year-old woman via Morse code. Who says online dating is new?

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born February 24, 1786 — Wilhelm Karl Grimm, the younger of the two Brothers Grimm, is born in Hanau, Germany.
  • Born February 24, 1945Barry Bostwick (The Rocky Horror Picture Show)
  • Born February 24, 1947Edward James Olmos (Battlestar Galactica, Blade Runner 2049)
  • Born February 24, 1961Kasi Lemmons (Candyman, Vampire’s Kiss)
  • Born February 24, 1966Billy Zane (The Phantom, Back to the Future II)
  • Born February 24, 1970Ungela Brockman (Starship Troopers, Mystery Men)

(11) RELENTLESS. Kameron Hurley isn’t willing to coast: “From Good to Great: Starting With ‘Why'”.

It’s easy to stay motivated when you’re crushing yourself against a system. I loved being a young, scrappy writer in my 20’s, speaking truth to “the establishment,” and coming up through the slings and arrows of SFF publishing to claim my space within it. But what happens when you become the establishment? Do you just head off to do the movie deals, to expand your work to a new audience? Do you spend your time mentoring new writers? Do you just blurb a lot of books?

Accepting that I was an established author has been a hard road, for me. There are young people coming into SFF now who don’t know of an SFF without me in it. I’ve been publishing novels for seven years, which feels like a blink compared to my hard road to get here, but plenty of readers have come of age during those seven years, and for some that’s half or a third or a quarter of their lives. I know I have a long way to go, still. A huge career ahead. But I need to find my passion again for why I’m doing this. I have to find the why, or the road just stops here.

And, you know, I realize this sounds like, “Wah, wah, I got everything I wanted!” but I’ve seen how many people get stuck at “good” on the way to great. And I don’t want to just be good. I want to be great. To get to great requires continuous learning, interrogation of what you want, and leveling up again and again. So while I may not have all the steps mapped out to get me to “great” yet… at least that seems to be the place I want to reach. I don’t want to stop at good. I’ve gotten to good.

(12) HI-TECH INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY POSSE. Fast Company profiles copyright violation search services in “Here Come The Copyright Bots For Hire, With Lawyers In Tow”.

“I climbed up 900 stairs on an island to take a photo of the whole island, and it was used on the cover of a local magazine out there,” she says.

[Photographer Christy] Turner might not have known about the photo theft if not for a pair of services called Copypants and Pixsy, which use algorithms to scour the internet for copies of photographers’ work and help them enforce their rights. They send stern letters to suspected infringers, demanding that their clients be compensated or that licensing fees be paid; in some cases, law firms that work with the companies will even initiate a lawsuit on their behalf. In Turner’s case, justice came in the form of $500 in damages.

(13) SIDE BY SIDE. Cat Eldridge says, “One of the firm memes of sf is that new technologies always replace existing technologies. Reality is far messier than that meme which is why shows like Firefly makes sense.” Fast Company contends “The CD Business Isn’t Dying—It’s Just Evolving”.

…“We felt like the culture dictated that people were going to buy vinyl, not CDs,” says Kevin Farzad, Sure Sure’s drummer and percussionist. “And we were kind of surprised that more CDs sold than not.”

The band could be forgiven for assuming CDs wouldn’t sell. From their peak of $13.2 billion in 2000, U.S. CD revenues have slid to just $1.2 billion in 2016, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. And as listeners flock to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, the CD’s decline isn’t slowing down. Earlier this month, Billboard reported that Best Buy will stop selling CDs in stores this summer, and that Target only wants to pay distributors for the CDs it actually sells. Some observers saw the news as a death blow to a fading format.

Yet it’s hard to reconcile that gloomy outlook with what’s happening in the indie music world, where the CD is still thriving. Earlier this week, the online music store Bandcamp reported 18% year-over-year growth in CD sales for 2017, up from 14% growth in 2016. (Bandcamp declined to comment for this story.)

(14) JOBS APPLICATION. History on the block: “Steve Jobs’s 1973 job application going on sale” and is expected to fetch $50K.

It is not known what the application was for, nor whether Jobs was successful.

He wrote his name as “Steven jobs” and his address as “reed college”, the school he attended briefly in Portland, Oregon before dropping out.

On the form, Jobs responded “yes” to having a driving licence but when asked if he had access to a car he wrote “possible, but not probable”.

Next to “Phone” the creator of the iPhone wrote “none”.

(15) PROXY CANCERS. In-vitro repro of specific tumors lets oncologists test drug efficacy without testing patients: “‘Mini-tumours’ created to battle cancer”.

Scientists have been able to predict how cancer patients will respond to therapy by growing miniature versions of their tumours in the laboratory.

They say the groundbreaking work could lead to “smarter, kinder and more effective treatments”.

The study, in the journal Science, was 100% accurate at telling which drugs would fail and this could spare patients from unnecessary side-effects.

Mini-tumours could also be a powerful way of testing new drugs.

(16) BEST HORROR. The cover for Ellen Datlow’s The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Ten, has been revealed:

(17) MEDIA TIE-IN. In the Washington Post, DeNeen L. Brown interviews Jesse Holland, who wrote the Black Panther novelization while spending a semester as the distinguished visiting professor of the ethics of journalism at the University of Arkansas: “He loved ‘Black Panther’ comics as a kid. Then Marvel asked him to write a novel for the movie.”

Holland, who teaches nonfiction writing at Goucher College outside Baltimore, had already written four books, including “The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House,” when Marvel approached him.

They’d seen his companion novel for another blockbuster movie: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” He’d written about Finn, a former First Order stormtrooper.

After “Finn’s Story” was published in 2016, an editor at Marvel called Holland. “She says, ‘We have this character, the Black Panther,’?” Holland recalled. “There’s never been a novel about the Black Panther.”

Marvel wanted to recount the origin of the Black Panther in novel form, update the story and introduce the superhero to new readers.

“Most of the world didn’t know the character until last year,” Holland said. “If you want a succinct origin story to tell you who he is, my novel is a good place to start. You’ll see a lot of characters in the movie in the novel. We are drawing from the same wellspring.”

(18) WAKANDA WEAR. Yahoo! Entertainment’s Gwynne Watkins, in “Behind ‘Black Panther’: The hidden meanings of those stunning Wakanda costumes”, looks at the costume designers for Black Panther and what statements they were trying to make in describing a country that had never been conquered by colonial powers.

Yahoo Entertainment: The concept of Wakanda as an African nation that was never colonized by the Dutch or British is so powerful. How did that inform your design choices?
Ruth Carter: 
I discovered so many things about Africa that I didn’t know — like, the cloth that we normally see in many African-inspired things, the wax cloth, was brought in from the Dutch. There are influences of the British; when you see a Nigerian wedding, you’ll see a Nigerian traditional drape and a guy with a top hat on. [laughs] So you have to dig deeper and go to the indigenous tribes of Africa. You’re not a real historian, you’re just kind of the temporary historian for the picture, so you’re looking at beadwork and you’re looking at carvings and you’re looking at masks. And you’re being inspired by patterns. There are a couple of patterns that I saw repeated throughout the continent: one is like a checkerboard, another one is a triangle.

And I looked at books on African ceremonies, since ceremonies reminded me of precolonization. So for example, the Dogon tribe were the first astronomers. They do a ceremony once a year where they adorn themselves in these brilliant raffia skirts and wood-carving masks that shoot up to the stars — they’re really tall. And they do these moves that sweep the earth….

(19) NOW BOARDING. Flying to Wakanda? Your connecting flight is ready in Atlanta.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is getting into the Marvel movie spirit by jokingly offering flights to Wakanda — the fictional country from Black Panther.

The airport tweeted out a digitally altered image of gate T3 showing its destination as Wakanda, the kingdom ruled by King T’Challa, aka the Black Panther, in the eponymous super hero film.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 12/27/17 A Very Modest Scroll

(1) SFWA IN TIMES TO COME. Cat Rambo’s yearly recap of all her activities includes a look ahead for SFWA —

  • SFWA’s excellent Executive Director Kate Baker said a few years back, “I want to make the Nebula weekend -the- premiere conference for professional F&SF writers” and I said, “Tell me what you need to do it.” This year’s Nebulas were fantastic; next year’s will be even more, including having Data Guy there to present on the industry, an effort that’s taken a couple of years to get in place.
  • The SFWA Storybundle had its first year and was wildly successful, as was the Nebula-focused HumbleBundle. The Storybundle program will grow 150% in size in 2017, which sounds really impressive but just means 3 bundles instead of 2. Plus – SFWA’s Self-Publishing Committee has taken that effort over, so no work for me! (Last year I read a bajillion books for it.)
  • A long, slow revamp of Emergency Medical Fund stuff driven by Jennifer Brozek, Oz Drummond, and Bud Sparhawk is coming to its final stages. I just saw the EMF stewards in action: they received an appeal, evaluated it within 24 hours, and within a week, if I am correct, funds had been disbursed. The Grants Committee just wrapped up its 2017 work; next year it’ll have even more money to play with, thanks to the aforementioned Nebula HumbleBundle.

(2) A BIT ICKY. A nine-year-old got a lovely note from the outgoing Doctor Who. BBC has the story: “Doctor Who: Peter Capaldi reassures fan over regeneration”

(3) SIPS. Charles Payseur is back with “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #241”

With its last issue of the year, Beneath Ceaseless Skies delivers two very dark fantasy stories about expectations and rules, curses and sacrifices. In both characters find themselves playing out roles that have been laid out for them, having to find ways to exist in stifling situations. In both, the main characters must contend with the weight of tradition and expectation. In both, the main characters are faced with strong willed women who want to change things. Who want to break the Rules. And in both stories the main characters have to face what the world is like, what their life might be like, should those Rules shatter. It’s an interesting issue that asks some very difficult questions and reveals some visceral hurts. To the reviews! …

(4) DOG STAR. The Storm Trooper K-9 division –

(5) CURTIS OBIT. The actor who famously played a disfigured Star Wars cantina criminal has died reports Yahoo! Entertainment.

Alfie Curtis, the British actor who earned a place in the Star Wars pantheon for playing the menacing Mos Eisley Cantina scofflaw with the “death sentence on 12 systems,” has died, according to the BBC. He was 87. News of Curtis’s death was first reported by the fan site Elite Signatures.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 27, 1904 — J. M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan premiered in London
  • December 27, 1951Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere premiered.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY STARGAZER

  • Born December 27, 1571 — Johannes Kepler

(8) YOUNG SETH MACFARLANE’S STAR TREK VIDEO. David Klaus sent this video and made these comments about it on Facebook:

I presume this is only an excerpt of a longer fan film Seth MacFarlane made as a teen, a far better film than I could have made when I had thoughts about trying to do when I was a teen many years before this.

His space background is an artist’s conception of gases spiraling into the event horizon of a black hole, pretty cool, along with what appears to be an AMT model of the refit Enterprise. His voice occasional verges into sounding like Shatner’s instead of his own, and he uses sound effects and music from the original series. I’d get a kick out of seeing the whole thing.

 

(9) NUKE HOBBYIST. He told NPR it’s not that hard, compared to what else is done today in manufacturing: “North Korea Designed A Nuke. So Did This Truck Driver”

To make his models, he drove 1,300 miles to Los Alamos, N.M., the birthplace of the atomic bombs. The museum there has accurate, full-scale replicas of Little Boy and Fat Man that he could work from. As he designed his models, he decided he’d write a brochure to go with them.

“The brochure turned into a 431-page book,” he says.

Coster-Mullen never sold a single model, but he has been adding to his bomb brochure ever since, building up what are basically complete specs for America’s first nuclear weapons. He has traveled the country, and the world, to glean all sorts of supposedly secret details.

“Nobody leaked anything to me,”he says. “I found all this information was hiding in plain sight.”

(10) SOI DISANT DISNEY PRINCESS. She’s willing to take the promotion!

(11) BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. Chris Nuttall argues the case for the original — “Classic Battlestar Galactica – The Review” at Amazing Stories.

Battlestar did it’s level best to depict a society that was different from ours, even though it had points in common. Everything from the ranks and uniforms to the games and terminology smacked of an alternate universe, not men and women who could have walked off a modern day aircraft carrier. It wasn’t that far from America, I admit, but it was different – again, unlike the remake. It’s really a pity they didn’t put quite so much thought into their FTL drive concepts, as the exact nature of ‘light-speed’ is never really addressed.

Like most other shows from that era, Battlestar needed a good cast – the special effects could not carry the show by themselves. And Battlestar had some very good characters – Commander Adama, Apollo, Starbuck, Tigh and Boomer … and, on the other side, Baltar and Count Iblis. (Notably, Baltar was originally executed by the Cylons after betraying the Twelve Colonies, but he was later brought back because they needed someone as the face of the enemy, a problem the remake sought to solve with ‘skin-jobs.’)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Will R. Cat Eldridge, and Chip Hitchcock. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 12/17/17 Scroll Your Pixel Wings And Fly Away

(1) OLD CHESTNUTS ROASTING. John Scalzi’s “8 Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know About Your Favorite Holiday Music” might make you suspect he gets his inside pop music history the same place Lucy Van Pelt finds her little-known facts about nature. But his facts are much funnier!

“Little Drummer Boy”

…Most of these drafts were only fragments, although Davis completed “Little Didgeridoo Boy” and had it performed for Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies during a 1964 trip to the United States. Menzies was reported to ask Davis how a didgeridoo happened to be anywhere near Bethlehem in biblical times. Davis would later write disparagingly of Menzies’ “Philistine musical nature” and shoved that version of the song into a box. In 2001, musical artist Madonna was reported to have considered recording the didgeridoo version with herself playing the instrument, but the idea was shelved to avoid offending Australian aboriginal sensibilities. Madonna went on to make the film Swept Away instead.

(2) COLLECTING COLLECTIBLES. Amy B. Wang of the Washington Post profiles Star Wars autograph collectors, who will happily pay $200 for Felicity Jones’s signature and $295 (in cash) for Mark Hamill’s and who make sure they have Vis-a-Vis blue permanent markers, which are no longer made and sell for $415 a box on eBay — “Want an autograph by ‘Star Wars’ Mark Hamill? Bring the right marker and $295 in cash.”

Welcome to the modern world of autograph collecting, a passion that has evolved into a highly choreographed commercial endeavor. It’s rare these days to write to a PO box and receive an autographed headshot or to bump into a famous figure on the street and ask him to sign a napkin. Increasingly, getting an autograph requires a fan’s time and money.

Despite this, autograph seeking has reached a fever pitch for the Star Wars fandom, a reflection of the series’s hold on popular culture.

(3) YOUNG ARTHUR. Kim Huett says. “Since the centenary of Arthur C. Clarke’s birth has been celebrated by all and sundry it seems only appropriate that I come in late with the story nobody else knows to tell” — “The Young Arthur Clarke”. (Here follows the lead-in – the principal story is at the link.)

Believe it or not but there was a time when Arthur C. Clarke was not yet a famous science fiction author. Way back in the late thirties he was merely known as an aspiring author and genius who had been nicknamed ‘Ego Clarke’ by his good friend William F. Temple. Why ‘Ego’? Something to do with Arthur C. Clarke being very sure of himself I believe. I’m reminded of a an exchange between Bill Temple and Arthur’s brother that occurred during Clarke’s first visit to the USA. While out on a late evening stroll Arthur’s brother exclaimed in horror that Arthur had forgotten to take the Moon with him. Bill Temple assured him that everything was fine, that Arthur had a US edition over there. You simply don’t make that sort of joke about an unassuming friend. (For more about the Temple/Clarke relationship please read Temple of the Sphinx.)

(4) SMOFCON MEMBERSHIPS. Next year, SMOFCon 36 will be held in Santa Rosa, California. Chair Bruce Farr announced:

Membership rates are presently $50 for full, or $25 for Con Suite Only memberships. After December 31, 2017 full memberships will go up to $60. The link to our online Registration page is here.

We’ve added some space for Thursday pre-convention meetings just down from the Hospitality Suite. There is also a meeting room close by the Hospitality Suite throughout the convention for socializing so that the Hospitality parlors won’t be overcrowded.

If you have any questions or comments, the below links are active from the Committee page on our website.

(5) JUMANJI. The December 16 Parade has an interview with Jack Black by Mara Reinstein, where Black recalls his friendship with Robin Williams and explains why he is barely on social media: “Jack Black Dives into Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”.

Black filmed Jumanji with its original star at the forefront of his mind.“He had a profound influence on the industry,” he says of the legendary comic. Black recalls being an 8-year-old kid in Southern California and seeing the rising star as alien Mork from the planet Ork in a 1978 episode of Happy Days (which would lead to Williams’ own breakout sitcom, Mork & Mindy).

“It was a big moment for me,” he says. “He came on like a hurricane. I remember being like ‘Who is that? That guy is amazing! I believe he’s an alien!’ Throw any other actor in there and it’s ridiculous. But Robin Williams took you on this fantastic journey with this absurd premise because he committed so completely.”

(6) GIVENS OBIT. In “Robert Givens, R.I.P.”, Mark Evanier pays tribute to a former Disney animator who died December 14.

Bob Givens got out of high school in 1936. In 1937, he went to work for the Walt Disney Studio, mostly as animation checker on Donald Duck cartoons and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In 1940, he moved over to the Warner Brothers cartoon studio where one of his first jobs was doing the redesign of a rabbit character who would henceforth be known as Bugs Bunny.

(7) POPVICH OBIT. Marina L. Popovich, a test pilot who broke more than 100 flying records and who was the first Soviet woman to break the sound barrier, died November 30 reports the New York Times:

Despite their initial skepticism, most male instructors and pilots came to be in awe of her.

“She learned strikingly fast,” Nikolai A. Bondarenko, a test pilot, wrote in his memoirs, adding that she had piloted an L-29 fighter jet “as confidently as she walked the ground.”

In “The First Soviet Cosmonaut Team: Their Lives and Legacies” (2009), the space historians Colin Burgess and Rex Hall wrote that most of Ms. Popovich’s success “would lead to later speculation that she was about to become the first Soviet woman to travel into space.”

At one point the Soviet space program did train female cosmonauts, and Ms. Popovich was admitted for testing. But ultimately only one, Valentina Tereshkova, was sent into space. Ms. Popovich said that she was advised to focus on her family, and that she was forced out of the program.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 17, 1843 — Charles Dickens’ classic story “A Christmas Carol” is published.
  • December 17, 1969 – Project Blue Book, a program dedicated to the investigation of UFOs, was terminated. For more than 20 years, the U.S. Air Force had examined 12,618 sightings. Most of these were found to be caused by man-made objects such as balloons, satellites, and aircraft; natural or astronomical phenomena; weather; and hoaxes. Today, 701 remain unexplained
  • December 17, 2003 — The third and final Lord of the Rings movie opens.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 17, 1973 — Rian Johnson, director of some outer space movie.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy asks if this is unfair competition at the Olympics – In the Bleachers.
  • John King Tarpinian says he would have one of these if he still had an aquarium – Close To Home.

(11) OPENING WEEKEND THREATS. Sure sounds scary, but shouldn’t a real Jedi be able to do some kind of mind trick on himself to avoid seeing spoilers?

(12) AVOIDING SPOILERS. And if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t watch this video. Well, actually, do what you like, I’m not your mother!

(13) PORG$. The Washington Post’s Hau Chu looks at the porgs by telling readers about the Ewoks, because George Lucas, thinking about his daughter, “wanted her–and all children–to have a STAR WARS character that would appeal specifically to them” — “Porgs are the latest Star Wars creature aimed at hearts and wallets”.

 Porgs appeared for only a split second in the trailer, but one glimpse of the creatures was enough to stir up a frenzy. A Google search produces more than 3 million results for porgs, many of them revolving around one question: What are they?

The birdlike creature was inspired by puffins on Skellig Michael, an island off the southwest coast of Ireland. That island was the filming location for Ahch-To, the planet where Luke Skywalker appears at the end of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

“You fall into those deep, soulful eyes. I think a lot of people are going to want a porg as a pet,” said Pablo Hidalgo, creative executive for Lucasfilm, the company that has produced the Star Wars movies.

(14) HEAD CANON. “No, Lord Helmet, I didn’t see you playing with your dolls!” “For ‘Last Jedi’ Director, The Journey To ‘Star Wars’ Began With Action Figures”.

Johnson has been a Star Wars fan since he was a little boy in Denver, playing with his action figures.

“My mom surprised me and got me a Jawa,” he recalls. “I wanted a Jawa, and she got it for me. But then you always end up losing the main characters, and you’re left with like Hammerhead and like the walrus man; with the weird droid whose name you don’t know, who’s missing a leg. Those were the first movies I was making in my head.”

(15) REIMAGINED. A different take on the iconic headgear.

(16) ALSO PLAYING. NPR loved SW VIII and hated Ferdinand, but says the obscure Spanish Birdboy is “A Dark, Beautiful, Boundary-Pushing Animated Film”.

Just how dark is Birdboy: The Forgotten Children, a trippy animated folktale from Spain about a bunch of talking animal adolescents searching for a better life? Well, even the tottering alarm clock seemingly there for comic relief wails to its owner, “Why do you always have to hurt me?” In fact, the bulk of the movie consists of adorable, anthropomorphic objects and critters getting hurt, often in some grisly fashion: an inflatable PVC duck who screams when he’s deflated; a chirping bird who gets shot to death, leaving behind starving chicks; a baby Jesus doll who cries an alarming amount of blood when his owner squeezes him. Yessir, the Happy Meal toys are sure to go flying off the shelves for this one.

(17) ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION. Abigail Nussbaum is back from the theater with her take on “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”. This is a full review, so BEWARE SPOILERS.

Whatever else can be said about this film, it is so much its own thing that I half-wonder whether general audiences won’t reject it for being neither the fun romp they associate with Star Wars, nor the grim but still conventionally-structured deviation from the norm that was The Empire Strikes Back.  It is the first Star Wars film to actually try to be about something[1], and what it’s about is, well, Star Wars.  It’s a film that is in direct conversation with the previous works in this series, most especially Return of the Jedi and the prequels.  It spends slightly more than half its running time fooling you into thinking that it’s merely going to recapitulate these movies, only to pull the rug out from under you, along the way asking some pointed questions about the Star Wars‘s universe’s core assumptions.  This doesn’t entirely work, but the mere existence of the attempt, in a film universe as little given to self-reflection as this one, is shocking.  It’s a Star Wars movie that is interesting.

(18) THE UPSIDE DOWN. The BBC tells how “Rocket rumbles give volcanic insights”.

What do volcanoes and rockets have in common?

“Volcanoes have a nozzle aimed at the sky, and rockets have a nozzle aimed at the ground,” explains Steve McNutt, a geosciences professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

It explains why he and colleague Dr Glenn Thompson have installed the tools normally used to study eruptions at the famous Kennedy Space Center.

Comparing the different types of rumblings could yield new insights.

(19) DROPPING CHUNKY. There’s a madness to this method: “Biologists With Drones And Peanut Butter Pellets Are On A Mission To Help Ferrets”.

She said there are only about 300 black-footed ferrets left in the wild, and they depend almost entirely on prairie dogs to survive. And protecting the prairie dog population is beneficial to species beyond the ferrets.

“Prairie dogs are Chicken McNuggets of the prairie, where so many species eat them,” Bly said.

But in recent years, prairie dog towns across the American West have been exposed to a deadly disease called sylvatic plague. While it’s treatable in humans, sylvatic plague can wipe out entire prairie dog towns in less than a month. And that means no more food for endangered black-footed ferrets.

So Bly, Matchett and a team of scientists and engineers have spent this year vaccinating prairie dogs in central Montana against the plague using drones.

Drone pilots fly the machines across the prairie, dropping blueberry-sized pellets about every 30 feet. They are flavored to taste like peanut butter, and prairie dogs love peanut butter. The kicker is that they’re laced with a live vaccine that protects them from the plague.

(20) YOUR NEXT SIDEWISE AWARD WINNER. Sounds legit.

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