Pixel Scroll 6/26/18 Eliminate The Inscrollible, Whatever Remains, However Impixellable, Must Be The Fifth

(1) AMAZING’S SUBMISSION SYSTEM, TAKE TWO. Jason Sanford sent a link to his open post on Patreon, “Amazing Stories rejection emails and why I report on the SF/F genre”.

Last week File770 covered my reporting on Amazing Stories and their submission system. Steve Davidson commented on that Pixel Scroll article and it lead to some discussions between he and I. I published an update this morning and figured I’d pass it along in case you were interested in it…

Sanford recounts an unnamed author’s description of problems they had getting the status of a submission to Amazing Stories, and how he put it to the test.

…After talking with authors like the person above and seeing comments from many other writers who said they didn’t receive rejections, I decided to do more digging into the Amazing Stories submission system. I set up two test accounts of my own in their system, one using a Yahoo account and the other a Gmail account. I didn’t receive either of the initial email verifications for these accounts or the multiple password resets I requested. These emails didn’t even arrive in my spam folders.

I also examined the email header and code from one of the Amazing Stories rejections which an author did receive and forwarded to me. This rejection email was sent through the Amazing Stories submission system using a Gmail account as the send-from address with a separate reply-to address using the amazingstories.com domain. (Note: I won’t publish these email addresses to respect the privacy of the people working on Amazing Stories.)

The author quoted above used Gmail, as did some of other authors who said they didn’t receive their rejection emails. One of the test accounts I set up was also a Gmail account. Google should not block emails sent between valid Gmail accounts, so the failure of these emails to arrive into other Gmail accounts strongly suggests something was wrong with how the Amazing Stories system was set up or sending out emails.

After doing these tests I spoke with Steve Davidson about all this. His complete response is quoted below. Steve said he’d pass along the information about the email verification and password resets to his webmaster to be investigated and, if needed, fixed.

A few hours after Steve said his webmaster would look into the issue, I again tested the password resets. They now worked and I received the emails in my Yahoo and Gmail test accounts. Another author also confirmed they now worked where they hadn’t before.

In short, shortly before I raised this issue with Steve the emails wouldn’t arrive from their system. After Steve said he’d let his webmaster know about the issue, the emailed worked. This alone strongly suggests there was an issue with Amazing Stories’ system.

I hope this means the issue the Amazing Stories submission system is fixed. I personally want to see Amazing Stories succeed with their relaunch and believe most people in the genre feel the same. And there’s no shame with admitting a new submission system had some issues. Galaxy’s Edge recently had a major submission glitch with a number of subs being lost. They posted a message explaining the issue and even authors whose submissions were lost appeared to be cool with everything….

Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson responded on Facebook.

…While we investigated and then explained that the issue(s) were on the recipient’s end of the email chain (spam folder, settings that were overly sensitive to automated messages originating with our server’s email program) we nevertheless have changed the system to originate from a Gmail sending account, which ought to make it past nearly everyone’s electronic censors.

We are also adding an FAQ and a direct contact button on our submissions page; we’ve re-written the rejection notice and have re-examined our internal policy for when more personalized rejection emails will be sent.

One “issue” that apparently exacerbated this situation for some was the fact that we were not made aware of the problem(s) for some authors directly, which we believe ought to have been the first step on the part of people having issues. We received over 200 submissions the first day we opened and have processed several hundred more since; the number of direct queries we received regarding failed communications can be counted on one hand.

Each of those was handled on an individual case bases and, from our end, did not appear to rise to the level of a “systemic” problem that needed to be looked into more deeply.

In point of fact, our native email server was sending out the appropriate status update messages (it was checked numerous times), but some recipient email servers were rejecting the messages, most likely because they originated from an unfamiliar source (our email server) AND were automated status updates.

From our end, everything appeared to be working as it should and, lacking feedback to the contrary, we were in no position to do anything about it.

Once we were made aware of the problem, we thought that an explanation would prompt users to look into their email servers and address the issue with their providers. Since this largely seems to not have been done and we continued to receive complaints, we have taken the steps outlined above.

If you continue to have an issue with email communications from our website, we STRONGLY request that you contact us directly.

(2) BEYOND COCKYGATE. Elsewhere, Jason Sanford has surfaced another interesting trademark claim. The thread starts here.

(3) BUSTED. Is it true that JDA has a lot more followers in Twitter than he did a few days ago?

(4) NERO AWARD. The “Nero” is presented annually by The Wolfe Pack for the best American Mystery. The award criteria include:

  • written in the tradition of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories
  • first published in the year preceding the award year
  • originally published in the United States

The 2018 Nero Award finalists are:

  • The Dime by Kathleen Kent, (Mulholland Books / Little, Brown)
  • The Lioness is the Hunter by Loren D. Estelman (Forge)
  • Gone to Dust by Matt Goldman (Forge)
  • August Snow by Stephen Mack Jones (Soho)
  • Blood for Wine by Warren C. Easley (Poisoned Pen Press)

(5) CAMPBELL. Analog has posted a lengthy excerpt from Alec Nevala-Lee’s forthcoming book ASTOUNDING: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

“The Campbell Machine” plumbs the obsessions behind several of his ideas about the human mind.

…In “Design Flaw,” Campbell had argued that the solution to highway hypnosis lay in “a solid engineering job,” and psionics was his attempt to frame the project in terms that he thought would appeal to his readers, prompting them to collect data that would illuminate the unexplored aspects of consciousness that had resulted in Joe’s accident. The editor had once held out similar hopes for dianetics, but now his motives were far more personal. He had been unable to avenge his stepson directly, so he would overthrow all of physics and psychology instead.

If he proved unable to stick with it for long, this only reflected a pattern that had been evident throughout his life. In his article on Joe’s death, Campbell had claimed that some people had “an acquired immunity” to highway hypnosis, but he didn’t mention that he included himself in that category, or that he attributed it to the hell of his youth. On the day after the crash, he had written a long letter to his father, explaining why he was impervious to hypnotic trances. The drivers who were the most at risk, he wrote, were the ones who were good at concentrating, and Campbell was “not just intellectually afraid of it—deeply and effectively afraid.”

He placed the responsibility for this squarely on his parents: “You and Mother so disagreed that I had a hell of a time trying to satisfy the requirements which both of you placed on me; doing so was inherently impossible, and it was damned uncomfortable. But you did give me a life-long immunity to highway hypnosis!” His childhood had taught him to survive, but at a devastating cost: “You and Mother between you gave me immunity to many things that neither one of you could have; either of you could have crippled me. . . . At the time, of course, I felt a vast injustice; I do not forgive you, because that’s a useless and arrogant thing.”…

(6) LUND OBIT. Land of the Giants actress Deanna Lund, 81, died June 22. The Hollywood Reporter obituary begins —

Deanna Lund, who played one of the seven castaways trying to survive in a world of large, unfriendly people on the 1960s ABC series Land of the Giants, has died. She was 81.

Lund died Friday at her home in Century City of pancreatic cancer, her daughter, actress and novelist Michele Matheson, told The Hollywood Reporter. She was diagnosed in September.

Lund starred as Valerie Scott, a selfish party girl, on the Irwin Allen-created series, which aired for two seasons, from September 1968 until March 1970.

Set in the year 1983, 20th Century Fox’s Land of the Giants revolved around the crew and passengers of the spaceship Spindrift, which on the way to London crashed on a planet whose humanoid inhabitants were hostile and unbelievably huge. The show was extremely expensive to make, costing a reported $250,000 an episode.

The sexy Lund had appeared as a redheaded lesbian stripper opposite Frank Sinatra in Tony Rome (1967) and as Anna Gram, a moll working for The Riddler (John Astin), on ABC’s Batman, leading to her being cast on the show….

(7) NOT MY SPACE LEADER. Vice Motherboard is sorry you missed it: “The Space Nation of Asgardia Inaugurated Its First Leader in an Incredible Ceremony”. Asgardia, a self-proclaimed space-based democracy, has “inaugurated” its first head of “state” — namely Igor Raufovich Ashurbeyli, the billionaire providing what appears to be the bulk of the backing for the “state.” Ashurbeyl, a native of Baku, Azerbaijan, has made his fortune on weapons and related aspects of the Russian military-industrial complex. He has also been said to be a “true patriot and believer in the strong [Russian] state.”

Mike Kennedy sent the link with an observation: “So, a Russian oligarch is heading up a ‘space-based democracy’ which is to be ‘a united supra-national space state open to all people on Earth.’ What could possibly go wrong?”

The space nation held an incredible ceremony on Monday inaugurating its self-declared leader Igor Ashurbeyli as its head of state. Ashurbeyli is a Russian billionaire whose money comes from weapons systems. His backing has allowed Asgardia to thrive and he wants the country to join the UN, but to do so it must have a functioning government. It elected a parliament in April (a motley collection of international characters between the ages of 40 and 80, as specified by the Asgardian constitution) followed by Ashurbeyli declaring himself head of state.

To celebrate the momentous occasion, the Asgardians held a fantastical celebration at the 13th century Hofburg palace, the former principal imperial palace in the center of Vienna, Austria. It was creepy. It was beautiful. It was elegant and magical in a way that Terra-based ceremonies no longer are and it began with children introducing cosmonaut Oleg Artemiev who shared a very special message from the International Space Station.

(8) FIRST STAN, NOW BUZZ. What’s the use of being a babe magnet if your adult children get in the way? The Independent has the story: “Buzz Aldrin sues his children for trying to take control of his finances after claiming he suffers from dementia”.

Astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin has sued two of his children and former business manager for trying to take control of his finances and accused them of “slander” for saying he suffers from dementia.

The 88-year-old said in a lawsuit that Janice Aldrin, Andrew Aldrin, and former manager Christina Korp are included in the lawsuit which claimed they took control of millions of dollars of “space memorabilia” and his company finances “for their own self-dealing and enrichment”. Mr Aldrin owns BuzzAldrin Enterprises and a charity group called the ShareSpace Foundation.

He has also accused the three of elder exploitation for “knowingly and through deception or intimidation” keeping him from his property as well as stifling his “personal romantic relationships”.

(9) SYNDROME ROUNDUP. Carl Slaughter picked these out —

(10) VALE BOB NEWBY. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Emmys: How the ‘Stranger Things’ VFX team brought Sean Astin’s bloody death to life”, says that Sean Astin’s death on this show was a shocker and the Stranger Things vfx crew deserves credit for making the on-screen death plausible.

It’s the moment that had Stranger Things fans screaming: adorkable Radio Shack manager Bob Newby (played by geek icon Sean Astin) uses his technical savvy to save the day, only to become chow for the monstrous Demodogs. Bob’s shocking death scene is arguably the biggest highlight of the show’s second season, replacing #JusticeForBarb with #JusticeForBob as a trending Twitter topic. It also provides some of the best evidence of the show’s Emmyworthy special effects, overseen up by husband-and-wife F/X team of Paul and Christina Graff.

(11) THEY BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE. H.P. posted this Venn diagram at Every Day Should Be Tuesday:

He says it illustrates this idea:

A story can be good but be neither superversive nor pulp.  A story can be pulp but be neither superversive nor good.  A story can be superversive and good but not pulp.  A story can be all three (easier said than done).  A story can be none of the three (easy enough—the real trick is figuring out how to win awards for it).  And so on.  Think of it as a Venn diagram.

However, the Filer who sent it to me says what the diagram shows is that most superversive and pulp fiction isn’t good.

Who’s right?

Regardless, what H.P.’s trying to do is define the characteristics of “superversive.”

People associated with Superversive Press have written several posts that I will be drawing from that attempt to pin down just what the term means.  The best are by Tom Simon, Corey McCleery, and L. Jagi Lamplighter.  Each identifies particular traits of a superversive story.  Simon points to moral high ground and courage.  McCleery insists that superversive stories should be aspiring/inspiring, virtuous, heroic, decisive, and non-subversive.  Lamplighter argues that, for a story to be superversive, it must have good storytelling, the characters must be heroic, and the story must have an element of wonder.

These are good starting points.  You can probably guess which trait I like least.  “Good storytelling” isn’t useful as a trait because it conflates superversive with good.  The only other term I really don’t like is “non-subversive.”  If you are defining superversive in contrast with subversive, as Simon does, then it is no more than a truism.  And a superversive work may subvert, indeed, it probably should.

(12) SPEAK HUP. Will Seuss Inc. sue the BBC? Verse illustrates the Beeb’s article “The haughty history of the letter H”.

Throughout history, those with social clout have set the standards for what’s the more acceptable pronunciation….

Like Dr. Seuss’ Star-Belly Sneetches and Plain-Belly Sneetches, there are two types of creatures — haitchers with H on their 8th letter name and aitchers with “none upon thars”.

That H isn’t so big. It’s really so small. You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.

But it does — the tiny H on “(h)aitch” divides the nation. The pronunciation has become something of a social password, a spoken shibboleth distinguishing in-groupers from out-groupers. Those with social clout set the standards for what’s “in” and what’s “out” — no H has the stamp of approval.

The best kind of people are people without!

Shibboleths die hard — the opprobrium attached to haitch probably derives from its long association with Irish Catholic education. There’s no real evidence for this, mind, as Sue Butler points out, but never let facts get in the way of a good shibboleth.

(13) A CAT ON THE RAILS. The BBC has pictures: “Japan unveils Hello Kitty-themed bullet train”

It is enough to wake the tired eyes of the groggiest commuter. A striking white and pink bullet train themed around the Japanese cartoon character and marketing phenomenon Hello Kitty.

The bespoke train will begin a three month run between the western cities of Osaka and Fukuoka on Saturday.

It was unveiled by the West Japan Railway firm which hopes the use of a famous local export will boost tourism.

Hello Kitty branding features on the windows, seat covers, and flooring.

(14) CASH FOUND BEHIND THE SEAT CUSHIONS. But not the currency you’d expect: “Hoax ‘devil coins’ found in Bath Abbey”.

Two “devil coins” that were hidden in Scandinavian churches as part of an elaborate hoax in the 1970s have been discovered in the unlikely setting of Bath Abbey.

Dusty odds and ends, including an order of service from 1902, were found in the abbey when stalls were removed for restoration work.

The most intriguing discovery, however, was two coins bearing a picture of Satan and the legend Civitas Diaboli on one side and 13 Maj Anholt 1973 on the other.

Experts figured out the coins were linked to the story of a Danish eccentric who perpetrated an elaborate 40-year hoax that was only discovered almost a decade after his death.

(15) YOUR OWN MARTIAN ODYSSEY. Red Rover, Red Rover send HiRISE right over… SYFY Wire reports “A Mars video game developed from NASA data now exists, and it’s pretty far out”. Developer Alan Chan has a new Mars rover driving game available for the Steam gaming platform. It features terrain developed from NASA data gathered by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It also features a “ridiculously overpowered Mars rover” which is even equipped with jump jets. You can careen across (or even a bit above) Mars’ Victoria Crater, Western Cerberus, South Olympus, Jezero Crater, Bequerel Crater, Hibes Montes, Candor Chasma, Aeolis Streams, and Noctis Labyrinthus at speeds far beyond any yet achieved on Mars.

Quoting the article:

“The HiRISE camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is the most powerful one of its kind ever sent to another planet,” states HiRISE Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. “Its high resolution allows us to see Mars like never before, and helps other missions choose a safe spot to land for future exploration.”

…Red Rover is now available on Steam for $4.99, and it even supports Oculus Rift for the ultimate immersive VR experience.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 6/22/18 Couldn’t Understand A Thing He Said But The Crazy Pixels Just Knocked Me Dead!

(1) OUT OF TIME.  Unlike some others that have been scooped up by Amazon and Netflix, no rescue is in sight for this series. “NBC cancels Timeless, but a wrap-up movie may happen” reports Sci-Fi Storm.

Sorry Timeless fans, but NBC has officially passed on a third season of the show. Now, we’ve been here before, when they announced that the show was canceled after the first season but fan uproar managed to convince NBC brass to reconsider. Unfortunately this time there doesn’t appear to be any hope for a second such resuscitation with the second season ratings failing to hit targets. However, we understand that NBC and Sony have been talking about a possible 2-hour wrap-up movie – but nothing has come of it so far.

(2) JURASSIC OR GOTHIC? NPR critic Chris Klimek’s “Dino Vs. The Volcano: ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ Generates Intermittent Heat” deserves its introductory subhead: “In this derivative but fitfully inventive fifth installment of the Jurassic franchise, our heroes try to rescue Isla Nublar’s dinosaurs from extinction-by-lava, only to get their ash handed to them.”

Children are plagued by the occasional certainty that there’s a monster in their basement, if not right under their bed, and they’re almost always wrong. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the follow-up to 2015’s mediocre but hugely successful revival of the Jurassic franchise, is the exception that proves the rule.

This fifth installment is so desperate to recombine the strands of the 25-year-old series in a novel way that halfway through its ruuuuuuuun! time, it takes a bizarre but not unwelcome left turn, evolving from yet another sweaty Central American dino-safari into a Gothic haunted house flick.

Monsters in the basement. Monsters in the bedroom. Monsters on the auction block, with creepy Toby Jones holding the gavel! Oh, and a little girl (Isabella Sermon) whose stern-but-loving governess (Geraldine Chaplin) scolds her when her enunciation sounds too American. Jurassic World raked in the fifth-highest box-office take in film history, grossing a paltry $1.7 billion, so you can see why the filmmakers felt compelled to tweak the formula into something a little closer to Jurassic Wuthering Heights.

(3) CARRIE FISHER. This ceremony took place in May: “Carrie Fisher honored with commemorative plaque outside TCL Chinese Theatre”.

A permanent memorial to Carrie Fisher is now in place outside the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

The commemorative stone plaque was originally unveiled in December prior to the release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” but it is now affixed in cement in front of the famed theater’s entrance.

Fisher’s brother Todd was on hand for the unveiling of the plaque at the theater’s forecourt….

(4) REMAKE. The history of the future in one tweet:

(5) ROGER AND OUT. In honor of the 30th anniversary of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, SYFY Wire’s Josh Weiss has interviewed Charles Fleischer, who voiced Roger. The interview includes several anecdotes from filming the movie — Fleischer was actually on-set with Bob Hoskins (who played human private eye Eddie Valiant), et al., doing lines off camera: “Who Framed Roger Rabbit at 30: How Roger’s iconic voice made the cut”.

Before 1988, Hollywood had already come up with the idea of mixing live action with animation in the same space; it wasn’t a novel idea, although the execution was rudimentary and ultimately less immersive than distracting. One had to suspend their disbelief far beyond the normal limit in order to feel like Gene Kelly was dancing with Jerry Mouse or Julie Andrews was being served by penguin waiters.

Mary PoppinsAnchors Aweigh, and Pete’s Dragon might have done it first, but Who Framed Roger Rabbit perfected the art of mixing live action with animation, taking it to a place no one had ever imagined.

Roger Rabbit (an adaptation of Gary K. Wolf’s 1981 novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit?) changed all the rules…

Quoting the first and last Q&A’s:

Q: How did you end up getting the role of Roger Rabbit?
A: Bob Zemeckis had seen me do my stand-up. And he asked me to come in and help them audition actors for the Eddie Valiant role to read the character [of Roger] off camera, so someone could react to it. After doing several of those, he offered me the job….

Q: If you were to be approached for a sequel all these years later, what would be your response?

A: When do we start?

(6) NOT WHAT YOU’D EXPECT FROM A JPL FOUNDER. Glenn Garvin reviews Strange Angel in “CBS Dabbles in America’s Unusual Occult History in Strange Angel at Reason.com.

In an epoch when we’ve already had television shows about heroic motorcycle gangs and cuddly-puppy serial-killers-next-door, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised when a devil-worshiping aerospace engineer takes center stage. Yet the effects of the digital age on television diversity continue to amaze me.

It was not so long ago that any American who turned on his television at 8 p.m. on a Friday had a choice of Family Matters, Uncle Buck, America’s Most Wanted, Quantum Leap, or putting a gun in his mouth. And now the digital arm of what used to be known as The Tiffany Network has a series with a hero, or at least protagonist, who regularly masturbates on magic tablets in an attempt to summon the Whore of Babylon.

To be fair, neither the Whore of Babylon nor any of her precursor acts has appeared in the first three episodes of Strange Angel. But it should be just a matter of time. The series is based on a biography of Jack Parsons, a real-life pioneer of American rocketry and one of the founders of NASA’S Jet Propulsion Lab. More interestingly, he was also a follower of Aleister Crowley, the wandering, omnisexual occultist, practitioner of black magic and, at the very least, Luciferian fellow traveler. (Crowley always denied being a Satanist, but rather undercut his claim by referring to himself as “the Beast 666” and mailing out “Antichristmas cards.”)

(7) MARTIAN NIGHTFALL. The lights are going out all over Mars and may not be relit in this rover’s lifetime: “Mars Dust Storm Now ‘Planet-Encircling,’ Dimming Hopes For NASA Rover”.

NASA scientists are still holding out hope they will hear from the surprisingly long-lived Mars rover. It went into snooze mode earlier this month, thanks to a gargantuan dust storm on the Red Planet that’s blocking beams from reaching the solar panels that recharge the rover’s batteries.

But like light on Mars, hopes of hearing from Opportunity anytime soon have dimmed.

NASA says the two-week-old storm doubled in size over the weekend, and is now officially a “planet encircling” or “global” event.

Opportunity’s science operations have been suspended, but it is happily not the lone Mars rover.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock saw Frankenstein admiring a new tattoo at Bizarro.

(9) OCTAVIA BUTLER. Steven H Silver covers Octavia Butler’s birthday for Black Gate in “Birthday Reviews: Octavia E. Butler’s ‘The Book of Martha’”.

Octavia E. Butler was born on June 22, 1947 and died February 24, 2006.

Butler earned a Hugo Award in 1984 for her short story “Speech Sounds.”  In 1985, her novelette “Bloodchild” received both the Hugo and the Nebula Award.  She received a second Nebula Award in 2000 for the novel Parable of the Talents.  In 2010, she was posthumously inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.  She received the SFWA’s Solstice Award in 2012.  Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, based on her 1979 novel Kindred, earned her and Damian Duffy a Bram Stoker Award in 2018.  She had several other award nominations as well.

(10) MONKEYING AROUND IN COMICS. Walmart — the proverbial 800 lb. gorilla of retail shopping in the US — is so powerful a force that it can reportedly get Bowdlerized editions of music and the like produced just for its stores. Well, this isn’t that… but it may be reminiscent. DC Comics is issuing series of 100-page compilations to be sold just at Wally World. The first 4 to go on sale (1 July) will be  Batman GiantSuperman GiantJustice League of America Giant, and Teen Titans Giant. Syfy Wire has the story — “DC Comics announces Walmart exclusive 100-page Giant anthology comics featuring Bendis, King, and more”.

DC Comics is making an ambitious new publishing push aimed directly at Walmart shoppers.

The publisher announced Friday that it has partnered with the massive retail chain for a series of “100-page Giant” anthology titles that will feature both exclusive new stories and reprints of classic tales from various eras in DC Comics history. The inaugural titles in the line will go on sale July 1, and will ultimately feature serialized stories from top DC creators including Brian Michael Bendis, Tom King, Dan Jurgens, Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Tim Seeley.

“We are extraordinarily excited about working with Walmart to expand the reach of our books,” DC Publisher Dan DiDio said in a press release. “These new monthly books combine new and accessible stories with reprints of classic comic series. It’s a great way for new readers to get into comics and follow the characters they’ve grown to love in TV and film.”

(11) REVIEWING TOLKIEN. Book Marks at Literary Hub shares the original opinions of “C. S. Lewis, W. H. Auden, & Edmund Wilson on The Lord of the Rings”. For example, here’s what Auden told readers of the New York Times in 1954:

The first thing that one asks is that the adventure should be various and exciting; in this respect Mr. Tolkien’s invention is unflagging, and, on the primitive level of wanting to know what happens next, The Fellowship of the Ring is at least as good as The Thirty-Nine Steps.

(12) NEITHER A BURROWER NOR A LENDER BE. J.C. Kang gives a rundown on “Orconomics: A Satire by J. Zachary Pike” at Fantasy-Faction.

When I’d finished laughing and the dust had cleared, I came up with this easy way to characterize Orconomics:

  1. An unabashed celebration of D&D character classes, races, magic, and terminology.
  2. Subversion of common fantasy tropes.
  3. A metaphorical lesson in Mortgage Backed Securities and other derivatives.
  4. Hilariously witty prose.
  5. One hell of a wonderfully crafted, insidious plot worthy of the Koch Brothers’ undermining of democracy.

(13) ADVANCE PEEK. Scott Meslow, in a GQ story called “EXCLUSIVE: Your First Look at the 100% Real* Script for the Fan-Made Star Wars: The Last Jedi Remake, Which is Definitely Happening”, writes what he says is the script for the film, which he says is written by “Real Mature Adults who love Star Wars so much they spend at least seven hours a day complaining about it online.”

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI REMAKE opens where STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS left off, with REY handing LUKE SKYWALKER his lightsaber.

LUKE: Hey, that’s my lightsaber! Thanks! [Luke takes lightsaber] Now it’s time for me, the Last Jedi, to go kill Snoke and save the galaxy!

REY applauds. Finally, her life’s work as the galaxy’s greatest lightsaber courier is complete. [Note: Rey is never seen again.]…

(14) YOUR MOVIE MAY VARY. Meantime, Timothy the Talking Cat is trying to fund his own scam — “Tim’s Last Jedi Remake Update: aka ‘Porgzooka’”. The “leaked” production photo cracked me up.

(15) SCALY MODEL. In “What makes people deeply dippy for dinosaurs?” the BBC quotes several opinions given in connection with a tour of a diplodocus skeleton. One academic suggests:

Here’s how he thinks the everywhere – “dinosaurs are on cereal boxes; they’re on children’s clothes” – and the nowhere – they’re dead – work on us: “The fact dinosaurs are extinct makes them ours.

“A dinosaur can’t object to our interpretation.

“They’re malleable – inaccessible but right next to us; a success and failure; scary and reassuring. The ambivalence is a real part of it. They bring together these concepts – mystery and reality with enough space in between to do what we like.

“There’s a distance but a close distance – and it’s a distance we control.”

Meanwhile, the author of Jurassic Park says he has no idea why….

(16) SUPER SOUTH CAROLINIANS. On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Mike Colter and Stephen reenact the first issue of the comic book Luke Cage.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/14/18 When The Scroll Hits Your Eye Like A Big Pixel Pie, That’s A-nnoying

(1) PUTTING SOME ENGLISH ON IT. Should the Hugo Awards add a Best Translated works category? Here are Twitter threads by two advocates.

(2) EXPANDING STOKER. The Horror Writers Association will be adding a new Bram Stoker Awards category for Short Non-Fiction in 2019.

HWA President, Lisa Morton welcomes the new addition, stating: “As a writer who has written non-fiction at all lengths, a reader who loves articles and essays, and an admirer of academic study of dark fiction, I am pleased to announce this new awards category.”

(3) WEBER DECLARES VICTORY. David Weber’s Change.org petition, “Ensure Freedom of Speech & Assembly at ConCarolinas”, recorded 3,713 signatures. Weber’s fans were so enthusiastic one of them even signed my name to the petition. Although I asked them to remove it I’m still getting notifications, like this one — “The Vote Is In…”

Our petition in favor of the policy on guest invitations for ConCarolinas enunciated by Jada Hope at the closing ceremonies of the 2018 convention is now closed.

That policy, simply stated, is that ConCarolinas will issue apolitical invitations to genre-appropriate guests and that guests, once invited, will not be DISINVITED because of political hate campaigns waged online after the invitations are announced.

In the week that it was open, it accrued over 3,700 signatures, many of whom left comments explaining why they had signed in support of that policy. We believe this is a fairly resounding statement of the fact that many more members of fandom support a policy in which individuals are not excluded because of the political demands of a vocal minority who assail conventions online. We believe the fact that NONE of the signatures on this petition were anonymous speaks volumes for the willingness of the signers to “put their money where their mouths are” on this issue.

At no time have we suggested that conventions are not fully entitled to make their initial guest selections on whatever basis they like, including how compatible they expect that guest’s apparent politics to be to the con goers they expect to attend. What we have said is that there is no justification for RESCINDING an invitation, once issued and accepted, simply because someone else objects to that guest’s inclusion. Clearly there will be occasional genuinely special circumstances, but unless something becomes part of the public record only after the invitation has been extended, it should not justify rescinding an invitation. That was that thesis of this petition, and that was what all of these individuals signed in support of.

Sharon and I thank you for the way in which you have come out in support of our position on this, and we reiterate that it does not matter to us whether the guest in question is from the left or the right. What matters is that true diversity does not include ex post facto banning of a guest simply because some online mob disapproves of him or her.

Fandom is supposed to be a community open to ideas that challenge us. Creating an echo chamber in which no dissenting voices are heard is the diametric opposite of that concept. Thank you, all of you, for helping to tone down the echo effect.

(4) WHERE STORIES COME FROM. Robert Aickman recalled, in “Strange, Stranger, Strangest” at The Baffler.

Like some of his more famous contemporaries—Evelyn Waugh, say, or Aldous Huxley—Aickman yearned for those pre-industrial times before the democratic rabble began making all their poorly educated and unreasonable demands; and while his political prejudices didn’t yield what some of his contemporaries considered a satisfactory person (one of his closest friends recalled him as being incapable of any “real commitment to anyone”), they inspired him to explore narrative ideas that were always idiosyncratic, funny, disturbing, and unpredictable. No two Aickman stories are alike; and no single story is like any other story written by anybody else.

The most dangerous forces in an Aickman story often emerge from common and unremarkable spaces: tacky carnival tents, rural church-yards, the rough scrim of bushes at the far end of a brick-walled back garden, the human rabble who visit their dead relatives in decaying cemeteries, or remote (and often unnamable) foreign holiday isles. And while supernatural events may often occur in Aickman stories—at other times they only seem to occur, and at still other times they don’t occur at all.

(5) JEMISIN GETS AWARD. The Brooklyn Book Festival Literary Council has announced the lineup of initial 150-plus authors for this year’s Brooklyn Book Festival (“Brooklyn Book Festival Announces Stellar Fall Line-Up”), September 15-16. Hugo award-winning author N.K. Jemisin will be the recipient of the annual Best of Brooklyn (BoBi) Award.

Brooklyn author N.K. Jemisin has been named the recipient of the Brooklyn Book Festival’s annual Best of Brooklyn (or BoBi) Award. The annual award is presented at the September Gala Mingle to an author whose work exemplifies or speaks to the spirit of Brooklyn. Past honorees have included Colson Whitehead, Jacqueline Woodson, Jonathan Lethem, James McBride, Lois Lowry and Pete Hamill.

(6) LE GUIN TRIBUTE. John Lorentz, who attended, says the video recording of last night’s tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin is now available online at http://www.literary-arts-tribute.org/.

It was a special night (Ursula was a real treasure here in Portland, and throughout the literary world), and we were very happy that we could be there.

It was a mix of videos of Ursula and live speakers, such as Molly Gloss, David Jose Older and China Mieville.

And a dragon!

(7) AROUND THE BLOCK. Mary Robinette Kowal says NASA astronauts are now doing the spacewalk she saw them rehearse. Get on the Twitter thread here —

(8) SNEYD OBIT. Steve Sneyd, a well-known sff poet who also published fanzines, died June 14. John Hertz, in “The Handle of a Scythe, commemorated Sneyd after the Science Fiction Poetry Association named him a 2015 Grand Master of Fantastic Poetry.

He was poetry editor for Langley Searles’ unsurpassed Fantasy Commentator.  His own Data Dump has been published a quarter-century;

.. On the occasion of the Grand Master award, Andrew Darlington posted a 3,400-word piece “Steve Sneyd from Mars to Marsden” at Darlington’s Weblog Eight Miles Higher,  with photos, images of Sneyd’s various publications including Data Dump, electronic links, and things too fierce to mention

Sneyd’s own website was Steve-Sneyd.com. And there’s an entry for him at the SF Encyclopedia — http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/sneyd_steve.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 14  — Lucy Hale, 29. Bionic Woman (2007 TV series) as Becca Sommers, sister of Jaime Sommers, and voiced Periwinkle in TinkerBell and the Secret of the Wings.

(10) NOW AUTOMATED. CockyBot™ is on the job.

(11) SWATTERS PLEAD. “Two rival gamers allegedly involved in Kansas ‘swatting’ death plead not guilty in federal court” reports the Washington Post.

…Late last December, Casey Viner and Shane Gaskill, two young men separated by more than 800 miles and a time zone, clashed inside the digital playpen of “Call of Duty: WWII.” The Wichita Eagle would later report that the disagreement was over an online wager of less than $2.

But according to a federal indictment, Viner, from North College Hill, Ohio, became “upset” with Gaskill, a Kansas resident. Plotting a real-world revenge for the alleged slight delivered in the first-person shooter, Viner allegedly tapped a 25-year-old  from Los Angeles named Tyler Barriss to “swat” Gaskill.

“Swatting” — or summoning police to an address under false emergency pretenses — is a particularly dangerous form of Internet harassment. But when Gaskill noticed that Barriss had started following him on Twitter, he realized what the Californian and Viner were plotting. Instead of backing down or running for help, Gaskill taunted the alleged swatter via direct message on Twitter.

“Please try some s–t ,” Gaskill allegedly messaged Barriss on Dec. 28, according to the indictment. “You’re gonna try and swat me its hilarious … I’m waiting buddy.”

The wait was not long. According to authorities, about 40 minutes after the messages on Twitter, police in Wichita swarmed a local house in response to a hostage situation. Twenty-eight-year-old Andrew Finch was shot dead by law enforcement — the result, allegedly, of Barriss’s fake call to police. The deadly hoax, sparked by an online gaming beef, quickly became international news.

Now Viner, Gaskill, and Barriss are all facing federal criminal charges stemming from the shooting. On Wednesday afternoon, Viner and Gaskill — 18 and 19, respectively — were in a Wichita courtroom making their first appearance in the case. The Associated Press reported that both men pleaded not guilty to a host of charges, including conspiracy to obstruct justice and wire fraud.

(12) WARM SPELL. NPR reckons “Antarctica Has Lost More Than 3 Trillion Tons Of Ice In 25 Years”.

Scientists have completed the most exhaustive assessment of changes in Antarctica’s ice sheet to date. And they found that it’s melting faster than they thought.

Ice losses totaling 3 trillion tonnes (or more than 3.3 trillion tons) since 1992 have caused global sea levels to rise by 7.6 mm, nearly one third of an inch, according to a study published in Nature on Wednesday.

Before 2010, Antarctica was contributing a relatively small proportion of the melting that is causing global sea levels to rise, says study co-leader Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds.

But that has changed. “Since around 2010, 2012, we can see that there’s been a sharp increase in the rate of ice loss from Antarctica. And the ice sheet is now losing three times as much ice,” Shepherd adds.

(13) DUSTY ROADS. The end? “Enormous Dust Storm On Mars Threatens The Opportunity Rover”.

A massive dust storm on Mars is threatening NASA’s Opportunity rover, which has been conducting research on the Red Planet for well over a decade.

Where the rover sits, the dust storm has completely blotted out the sun, depriving Opportunity of solar power and cutting off communications with Earth.

NASA scientists believe the rover has fallen asleep to wait out the storm, and that when the dust storm dies down and sunlight returns, the rover will resume activity.

“We’re concerned, but we’re hopeful that the storm will clear and the rover will begin to communicate with us,” says John Callas, the Opportunity project manager.

The rover has survived dust storms before, but it’s never lost power this thoroughly.

The dust storm on Mars grew from a small, local storm into a massive event over the course of the last two weeks. Opportunity is located near the middle of the storm, while the newer rover Curiosity — which is nuclear-powered, so not threatened by the loss of sunlight — is currently near the storm’s edge.

… There’s no expectation that the rover will be completely buried by dust, but there are risks associated with the lack of temperature control and the extended lack of power.

“The good news there is that the dust storm has warmed temperatures on Mars,” Callas says. “We’re also going into the summer season so the rover will not get as cold as it would normally.”

The rover also has small, plutonium-powered heater units on board that will help keep it from freezing, and NASA scientists believe the rover will be able to ride out the storm until the skies clear. It’s not clear how long that will take.

(14) HOMEBREW DROID. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Patrick Stefanski decided, even before Solo: A Star Wars Story hit the theaters he wanted to build an Alexa-powered version of the droid L3-37. Well, the head anyway. He combined his skills with 3-D printing, model painting, and electronics to have his robot head respond to “Ethree” as a custom wake word and reply with a sassy “What?” when summoned. Those changes required running Amazon Voice Services software—basically the thing that powers Alexa—on a Raspberry Pi microcomputer rather than using stock Amazon hardware. That change also allowed him to set the localization to the UK so “she” could speak with a British accent.

Quoting the io9 article “Talented Hacker Turns Amazon’s Alexa Into Lando’s Sass-Talking L3-37 Droid” —

One of the best parts of Solo: A Star Wars Story is Lando Calrissian’s piloting droid, L3-37, who’s been uniquely pieced together and upgraded from parts of other droids. Patrick Stefanski has essentially done the same thing to turn Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant into a desktop version of L3-37 who answers to your beck and call.

The customizability of Amazon’s Echo speakers, which feature Alexa built-in, are quite limited. So in order to make his L3-37 actually respond to the simple phrase, “Elthree,” Stefanski instead used a software version of Alexa running on a Raspberry Pi3 mini computer. It also allowed Stefanski to alter his location so that his Alexa-powered L3-37 speaks in a British accent, similar to actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s performance of the character in the movie.

The SYFY Wire article has more of an interview with Stefanski, “This dude built a fully-functional and definitively sassy 3D-printed L3-37 Alexa”, including:

“I originally wrote off the idea of doing a 3D printed L3 project when I first saw her in a teaser trailer. Here is a 6- or 7-foot walking humanoid robot with tons of articulation and a ton of personality. What could I possibly do with that? Some builder’s tried to tackle K2-SO, a very similar droid from the Rogue One movie, and ended up with a 6-foot static mannequin.

…]That’s cool and all but, me, I’m all about the motors and the electronics and the motion.

“Then as luck would have it, the first time I heard L3-37 talk (a British female voice), it happened to be on the same day I saw a random YouTube video about someone hacking together an Echo Dot and one of those old ‘Billy the Bass’ novelty fish. […] My daughter is 3, and just starting to really get comfortable with Alexa. ‘ALEXA PLAY FROZEN!!!!’ is something you’ll hear yelled in my house a lot! So, I started thinking of something fun to do with our Echo, and the idea of turning it into this new female robot from Star Wars kind of just fell into place.”

(15) GREEN HELL. Science Alert is enthralled: “Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano Is Literally Raining Gemstones Now, And We Want Some”.

If Hawaii’s K?lauea volcano were to offer an apology for its chaos and destruction, it just might come in the form of a beautiful green mineral called olivine.

Over the past months we’ve reported on devastating lava flows and bone-shattering boulders. Now it’s raining gems – a rare event that has geologists enthralled and the rest of us just plain confused.

But ULTRAGOTHA sent in the link with a demurrer: “I will note that I am not confused as to why an active volcano is producing olivine.  This one does it a lot. There is a green beach on Hawai’i.” She has in mind Papakolea Beach:

Papakolea Beach (also known as Green Sand Beach or Mahana Beach[1]) is a green sand beach located near South Point, in the Ka?? district of the island of Hawaii. One of only four green sand beaches in the world, the others being Talofofo Beach, Guam; Punta Cormorant on Floreana Island in the Galapagos Islands; and Hornindalsvatnet, Norway.[citation needed] It gets its distinctive coloring from olivine sand eroded out of the enclosing volcanic cone (tuff ring).

(16) HIGH PRICED TICKET. This weekend, “Aliencon links the worlds of space travel, UFOlogy and science fiction at the Pasadena Convention Center”. Story from the Pasadena Weekly.

Tully notes that AlienCon moved to Pasadena this year simply because of needing a bigger venue, and that there is no hidden agenda or secret information that ties Pasadena to an impending alien invasion or hidden landing sites from past eras.

“That question of whether we know things we can’t tell came up numerous times at the first AlienCon,” says Tully. “I don’t know anything, hand over heart, but I believe we have a panel that answers everything one could possibly know. They don’t get censored by the government.”

The move to Pasadena has already paid off with one-day passes  for Saturday already sold out, as are the Bronze and Gold level (which includes a private event with the “Ancient Aliens” cast) passes, which cost $124 and $549, respectively. The remaining Silver level passes cost $436 and, according to the website, “passholders receive guaranteed premium seating in the Main Stage, a voucher redeemable for autographs or photographs, a tote bag with exclusive merchandise, and much more!”

The fact that AlienCon doesn’t feature any experts from Caltech or JPL raises the antenna of Dr. Michael Shermer, founder of the Altadena-based Skeptic Society, who has long debunked the prospect of alien life forms as well as the existence of God. While he was somewhat impressed that the chief astronomer of the federal government’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program and “Star Trek: Voyager’s” Picardo (who works with the Pasadena-based Planetary Society) will be panelists, he was more incredulous about the moneymaking aspects of the event.

“It’s a fun topic, like talking about God, where everyone has an opinion, but no one has any proof,” says Shermer. “But with the Gold Pass costing $550, you better be able to meet and greet an actual alien.”

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

Pixel Scroll 4/22/18 The Inevitable Filer Recursion: A Meteorologist In Florida Named “Pixel Scroll”

(1) GONE OVERBOARD. Polling geek site FiveThirtyEight analyzes BoardGameGeek’s top rating for Gloomhaven: “Players Have Crowned A New Best Board Game — And It May Be Tough To Topple”.

…A new game now tops those rankings: It’s called Gloomhaven, and it’s the current BoardGameGeek No. 1, having taken over the top spot this past winter. The game has won scads of awards, including more than a handful of Golden Geeks and a Scelto dai Goblin — the goblins’ choice. Its place atop the BoardGameGeek list cements its status as a flagship of the current golden age….

In Gloomhaven (which retails for $215), “players will take on the role of a wandering mercenary with their own special set of skills and their own reasons for traveling to this remote corner of the world. Players must work together out of necessity to clear out menacing dungeons and forgotten ruins.” The game’s website likens it to a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel. Just don’t forget your swords or spells. Childres attributes his game’s success, at least among the hardcore denizens of BoardGameGeek, to the way it improves on the appeal of the roleplaying of Dungeons & Dragons, in which crawling dungeons can become rote. In Gloomhaven, you have special abilities that you can use over and over, and once you use them, you can watch them make cool stuff happen. It’s heavy on the fun stuff, rather than the grind of repetitious orc slaying, and as the BoardGameGeek leaderboard shows, gamers are appreciative.

(2) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. ConStellation 9 in Lincoln, Nebraska says funds raised this weekend put John Picacio’s Mexicanx Initiative over the top.

(3) DPP DELAYED. The German SFF event Phantastika 2018 has been cancelled, and taken with it this year’s Deutscher Phantastik Preis ceremony. Event organizer Mike Hillenbrand told an interviewer the award will still be given, at a time to be determined:

MH: …The DPP will be back this year, and we hope to get a grant as well. The joke is that we already had a name sponsor and several category sponsors for the award ceremony, and last year we had well over 600 guests at the ceremony – and I think the DPP is too important to call it off. How, where and if there will be a ceremony, but of course we have to discuss with the editors of phantastik-news.de and then someone will make known. Soon. 🙂

English version via Google Translate.

(4) BID ‘EM UP. Nate D. Sanders Auctions is taking bids on this item til 5 p.m. April 26: “Stephen Hawking Signed Book From 1973 — One of the Scarcest of Signatures”.

Stephen Hawking book signed from 1973, shortly before Hawking was not able to write his name due to ALS. Hawking signed this book, ”The Archaeology of the Industrial Revolution”, along with several other members of the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy at Cambridge University, on the occasion of an employee leaving his job as a computer operator. Hawking signs the half-title page, ”Stephen Hawking”, in stilted, but legible writing, below the signatures of other faculty members and below the gift inscription, ”With gratitude and best wishes from the friends of the IOA computer staff.”

It was at the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy at Cambridge where Hawking, as a research scientist, made some of his earliest scientific breakthroughs regarding black holes and quantum mechanics. Also in 1973, he published his important first book, ”The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time” which is now considered a classic and has been printed many times over. It was also at this time that ALS was overtaking Hawkings physically, and he would be confined to a wheelchair by 1975.

(5) BLACK PANTHER IN CHINA. Carl Slaughter says: “In this man on the street survey, Chinese people really open up about the Black Panther movie.  Easy to read subtitles with grammatically correct translation is a major bonus.” The takes are of varying sophistication.

(6) NO BUCKS, NO BUCK ROGERS. The Verge’s space reporter Loren Grush has written a story about commercial spaceflight — with emphasis on commercial: “Product launch: a trip to the Taco Bell Space Station”. It’s satire, but is it so far from Delos Harriman’s efforts?

Over my headset, I hear the flight controller counting down on the launch live stream.

“T-minus five minutes to liftoff.”

I don’t think my heart has ever pounded this hard. I’m strapped into a seat inside one of SpaceX’s SpriteDragon™ capsules, sitting on top of a Pepsi™ Falcon 9 rocket. And I’m just 300 seconds away from my first trip to space. With every second that ticks away, my nerves send an electric shock throughout my body. I’ve never been more exhilarated or more petrified….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 22, 1953 Invaders from Mars was released.

(8) GOTTESMAN OBIT. Star Trek fan Regina Gottesman (1948-2018) died April 17 reports Fanlore. A fanwriter and fanzine publisher, in 1982, she was nominated for a FanQaward. In a bio written at that time Gottesman said about herself:

She was involved with the New York STAR TREK conventions (The Committee Cons) from their inception, has worked on Lunacons (this year she edited the Program Book), and has attended many cons, both media and sf. TIME WARP was her first “official” ‘zine experience’, and, although no longer associated with TIME WARP (as of issue #6), she now co-edits COMLINK The STAR WARS and Media Letterzine, and has started her own’ zine, ERRANTRY….

(9) WINDOW ON GREEN TOWN. Atlas Obscura would like to show you around “Ray Bradbury’s Waukegan”.

Spend an afternoon visiting Bradbury’s greatest muse—the town now known as Green Town.

Ray Bradbury is a towering legend in the world of science fiction and horror, a man among the greats of American literature. Whether his stories were set in futuristic dystopias, nightmarish carnivals, or abandoned Martian cities, in Bradbury’s mind they all happened in Green Town—the pseudonym he gave to Waukegan, Illinois— his hometown.

Come see Waukegan, Illinois, through the eyes of Ray Bradbury with the Atlas Obscura Society Chicago. You’ll get a peek into the mind of the author as we are guided to places that toe the line between his life and his fiction. Walk the streets that both Ray and his characters walked, while seeing the places that molded the mind of one of the most creative authors of the last century.

(10) MOMENTUM. John Seavey’s Storytelling Engines: How Writers Keep Superhero Sagas Going and Going! comes out May 16. Here’s what readers will learn:

Every continuing series has an engine…

This engine is a collection of ideas, characters, and settings that help writers to generate good stories. STORYTELLING ENGINES examines comics from Fantastic Four and Superman to Spider-Woman and Dial H for H-E-R-O to find out which parts of that engine make a series easier to write, and which parts make a writer’s life miserable!

  • Why did Alfred the Butler have to die?
  • How did the Comics Code create Eclipso?
  • What do Aquaman and Thor have in common?
  • How does Conan the Barbarian resemble Mystery Science Theater 3000?

Find the answers to these questions and many more in STORYTELLING ENGINES!

(11) POETRY JUDGE. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association has named John W. Sexton as the judge of its 2018 Speculative Poetry Contest. The contest opens June 1st. More details can be found here.

John W. Sexton was born in 1958 and lives in the Republic of Ireland. He is the author of six poetry collections, the most recent being the imminent Futures Pass, from Salmon Poetry. His earlier collections include Vortex (2005), Petit Mal (2009) and The Offspring of the Moon(2013). He also created and wrote The Ivory Tower for RTÉ Radio, which ran to over one hundred half-hour episodes from 1999 to 2002. Two novels based on the characters from this series have been published by the O’Brien Press: The Johnny Coffin Diaries and Johnny Coffin School-Dazed, which have been translated into both Italian and Serbian. Under the ironic pseudonym of Sex W. Johnston he has recorded an album with legendary Stranglers frontman Hugh Cornwell, entitled Sons of Shiva,which has been released on Track Records. He is a past nominee for The Hennessy Literary Award and his poem “The Green Owl” won the Listowel Poetry Prize 2007. Also in 2007 he was awarded a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in Poetry. (Photo of John W. Sexton courtesy of Niall Hartnett.)

The contest chair is Holly Lyn Walrath:

The SFPA is honored to have Holly Lyn Walrath as our 2018 contest chair to coordinate this process. She is a writer of poetry and short fiction. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Fireside Fiction, Liminality, Eye to the Telescope, and elsewhere. She is a freelance editor and volunteer with Writespace literary center in Houston, Texas. Find her on Twitter @HollyLynWalrath or at hlwalrath.com.

(12) DEADPOOL SCOOPS. ScreenRant guides you to “25 Deadpool Easter Eggs And Secrets Only True Fans Noticed.”

(13) WIN BY A HEAD. NPR’s Jason Sheehan likes the new Scalzi: “In ‘Head On,’ Killer Robots, Dogged Gumshoes … And A Very Important Cat”.

I love that the entire plot of John Scalzi’s newest novel, Head On, hinges on a cat.

I mean, it’s such a stupid idea. It’s a gimmick that’s been played straight, played crooked, played backwards and forwards in so many stories that there’s just no trope-life left in it. Cat as McGuffin. Cat as material witness. Cat as embodiment of damsels in distress. It’s the literary equivalent of Scooby Doo and the gang pulling the rubber mask off old Mr. McGillicutty the groundskeeper because he was the pirate ghost all along.

And I love that Scalzi did it anyway. Mostly because he found a new way to use it (in addition to all the old ways in which he absolutely uses Donut the cat) which, in conforming so literally to the defining nature of science fiction, somehow makes it seem new and fresh. The #1 thing that defines science fiction — that separates I, Robot from War and Peace — is that technology (no matter what it is) must play a pivotal role in the development of the plot. Read: It ain’t enough just to have spaceships, the spaceships have to matter, get it?

(14) THAT OTHER FIRST LADY. Dear to many fannish hearts: “The master blender who is Scotch whisky’s First Lady”.

Rachel Barrie is one of the few women ever to hold the title of Scotch whisky master blender.

In her 26-year career, Rachel has sniffed or sipped 150,000 different whiskies.

She is a trailblazer in what was traditionally a male-dominated industry, having held the coveted title since 2003.

As arguably the most prominent woman in her field, Rachel can reasonably be described at the First Lady of Scotch whisky.

(15) FIAT LUX. The BBC considers the question: “Is ‘bisexual lighting’ a new cinematic phenomenon?”

The under-representation of bisexuality on screen has been debated for a number of years, and some have seized on bisexual lighting as an empowering visual device.

Reflecting this, the Pantone Color Institute named Ultra Violet as its colour of the year for 2018, referencing the influence of “Prince, David Bowie, and Jimi Hendrix”.

But is it really a tool to represent bisexuality, or are people reading too much into neon-tinged stylisation?

(16) THIRD ROBOT THEME. “Europe’s Mars rover takes shape” — it can wheel-walk out of sand traps that ended Spirit. They’re building three: one to stress-test, one to send, and one to test fixes on. Chip Hitchcock asks, “Wonder if anyone’s hoping it will be used for signaling as in The Martian)?”

So, here it is. Europe’s Mars rover. Or rather, a copy of it.

This is what they call the Structural Thermal Model, or STM. It is one of three rovers that will be built as part of the European Space Agency’s ExoMars 2020 mission to search for life on the Red Planet. And, no, we’re not sending all three to the Red Planet.

The STM is used to prove the design. It will go through a tough testing regime to check the rover that does launch to Mars – the “flight model” – will be able to cope with whatever is thrown at it.

What’s the third robot for? It stays on Earth and is used to troubleshoot any problems. If mission control needs to re-write a piece of software to overcome some glitch on the flight rover, the patch will be trialled first on the “engineering model” before being sent up to the Red Planet.

(17) TO BOLDLY MEDDLE. This is funny. See the image at the link. (Because it might not be polite of me to gank an image belonging to a Deviant Art artist. I’m not sure.)

A repaint of the Galileo shuttle as the Mystery Machine. Now comes the question of what those Meddling Kids would be in the Trekverse.  Velma, of course, would be a Vulcan but I’m not sure as to what the rest would be.  Any ideas?

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

Pixel Scroll 2/20/18 Not All Pixels Scroll Up In Value. Some May Scroll Down

(1) NEW DOCTOR WHO LOGO. Merchandise with the Thirteenth Doctor’s new logo is on sale starting today.

(2) MEDICAL MARVEL. Pat Cadigan reports some good news in her latest update: “I Have Cancer But Cancer Doesn’t Have Me”.

The level of cancer in my body has fallen again. The hormones I’m taking are still killing off cancer cells.

Today I saw a new members of my oncologist’s team. It was all I could do not to start dancing around her office. Although who knows—she might have danced with me. She looked amazed when she checked the results of my blood test.

On our way out, Chris and I ran into a few fellow-travellers who said they liked my lucky short—i.e., the one that says, I’m Making Cancer My Bitch. I love my lucky shirt.

(3) HEDGEHOG DAY. Daniel P. Dern has been keeping an eye on superhero TV and provided this update for the Scroll:

In last night’s Legends of Tomorrow (B-lister superheroes travelling through time and space to fix history hiccups usually using the Dr “House” method of first making things much much worse…) Season 3 Episode 11, ”Here I Go Again” — “Zari [not from our time period] finds her place on the team when she gets caught in a time loop that results in the Waverider blowing up over and over again.”

The fun part is that when she realizes what’s happening, she tries describing it, one of the from-our-time heroes says “OK, on the next cycle, find me and say, ‘Groundhog Day.'” (which, of course, on the first try, she instead says ‘Hedgehog Day.’)

(And another of the from-our-time heroes counters with a Star Trek time loop citation…)

Fun episode, marred only IMHO by (SPOILER ROT13ed) znxvat vg ghea bhg gb or n pbzchgre-vaqhprq plorefcnpr rkcrevrapr engure guna npghny Tebhaqubt Qnl ybbcvat. Cuhv.

(Just like bar bs gur yngre Beivyyr rcvfbqrf univat ~3/4 bs gur rcvfbqr erirnyrq gb or orra n “Jr’ir unq lbh va n ubybqrpx fpranevb sbe cflpubgurencl” znthssva, sru.)

Like one of the recent episodes of The Magicians (scrolled recently), it’s gratifying to see characters from our time period exhibit familiarity with sf pop culture enough to use them as information shortcuts.

(4) A TRUTH UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED. Robin Reid says, “I just finished John Kessel’s latest, Pride and Prometheus (Mary Bennett from Pride and Prejudice meets Victor Frankenstein and his Creature)” and recommends Liz Bourke’s review “Literary Fusion: Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel” at Tor.com.

There are three main points of view in Pride and Prometheus. The most interesting, by my lights, is Mary Bennett, younger sister of Elizabeth Bennett. Several years have passed since the end of Pride and Prejudice, and Mary has passed thirty years of age and is entering into spinsterhood. She has an interest in natural philosophy, especially fossils, and feels as though she should find a man to marry, but does not feel as though there is a man who will marry her. When she encounters Victor Frankenstein, a young man haunted by some secret of his past, she finds herself oddly compelled by his presence. Mary’s part of the narrative is told in the third person, unlike the other two narrators, who recount their parts of the story in the first person. This matches the approach of the original narratives.

(5) KEEP ON TRUCKING. Time to celebrate: “NASA’s Opportunity rover sees its 5,000th day on Mars”.

This weekend, NASA’s Opportunity rover spent its 5,000th day on Mars. While that is a feat in and of itself, it’s even more impressive when you consider that it was only planned to last 90 Martian days, or sols. Both Opportunity and its companion rover Spirit were launched towards Mars in 2003, landing on two different parts of the planet in January 2004. Neither were expected to make it through Mars’ harsh winter though, which lasts about twice as long as ours and is severely lacking in light, but NASA’s team discovered that pointing the rovers towards the north and towards the sun was enough to keep them powered through the winter. Further, making sure the rovers were on north-facing slopes each winter helped to keep them going for years longer than they were ever intended to function.

(6) HEROIC EFFORT. The Nielsen Haydens’ Making Light suffered a server problem and at the moment the latest post displayed is dated 2008. I wish them the best of luck and a complete return to the internet of all their text and comments.

(7) MORE GENRE FROM THE TOY FAIRE. See photos of toys hyped at the NYC Toy Fair at the link.

With new installments of Star Wars, Jurassic Worldand the Avengers headed our way this summer, movie fans have plenty to cheer about. The same goes for toy lovers, who can look forward to action figures, play sets, board games, and other playthings based on 2018’s biggest blockbusters and hottest television shows. Yahoo Entertainment spent the past weekend at New York City’s annual festival for toys, Toy Fair, where we got to see both the new and retro movie- and TV-related toys that everyone will be talking about this year. Scroll through the gallery and start getting your holiday wish lists ready now.

They include —

Lego ‘Star Wars’ Kessel Run Millennium Falcon

It took Han Solo only 12 parsecs to make his famous run through the Kessel Mines. See if you can lap that record as you assemble this 1,414-piece Lego Millennium Falcon, which comes complete with laser turrets and a Dejarik board

Ultimate Co-Pilot Chewie

It’s the Star Wars answer to Teddy Ruxpin: an interactive Chewbacca doll who talks, uh, growls on command and can also be rocked to sleep or tickled into a laughing fit. Warning: Kids might have to compete with their parents for cuddle time with this adorable Wookiee.

(8) APES AT 50. Mark Kermode talks about the 50th anniversary of Planet of the Apes release and wonders if Star Wars will look as good at the same age.

“Of course,” says IanP, “Star Wars isn’t growing old as gracefully with all its repeated facelifts …”

(9) ALMOST ERASED. Vulture interviews “The Man Who Made Black Panther Cool”:

Christopher Priest broke the color barrier at Marvel and reinvented a classic character. Why was he nearly written out of comics history?

“I’m an asshole. I’m abrasive. I am so sure that I’m right about virtually everything. I can sing you an aria of reasons to not like me,” says comics writer Christopher Priest, his bass voice rising to the brink of anger but never quite tipping over. “Not liking me because I’m black is so juvenile and immature, because there’s many reasons to not like me.” He’s speaking, as he often does, about the racism — both overt and structural — that he’s faced in the comics industry over his 40-year career. But that set of attributes, seen from another angle, can apply to the reasons to like him, or at least admire him — he’s unwaveringly outspoken, endearingly opinionated, as well as a pioneer in the comics industry. He’s also likely the only comics writer to have taken breaks from his career at various times to toil as a musician, pastor, and bus driver.

(10) NEBULA TOOL. Now that the Nebula finalists are out, Rocket Stack Rank has prepared an annotated version with links to the stories (where possible), synopses, reviews, etc. — “2017 Annotated Nebula Award Finalists”

Greg Hullender explains, “By sorting the list according to how many different sources of recommendation each one got, we make it easier to see where the Nebulas are acknowledging broadly popular stories and where the SFWA members have a unique perspective.”

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 20, 1962  — Astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 20,  1926 Richard Matheson (links to SyFy Wire’s commemorative article.)

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Daniel P. Dern got the Amazon reference in Grimmy.
  • Chip Hitchcock noticed something super about Arlo and Janis.

(14) A LITTLE MISTAKE. If either of us had actually gone to a copyediting school, I’d wonder if RedWombat and I graduated from the same one:

(15) INTERNET VISUALIZED. Looking back: “The Father Of The Internet Sees His Invention Reflected Back Through A ‘Black Mirror'” contrasts idealistic inventor Vint Cerf with William Gibson’s what-will-really-happen.

While Cerf and his colleagues were busy inventing, the young aspiring science fiction writer William Gibson was looking for a place to set his first novel. Gibson was living in Seattle, and he had friends who worked in the budding tech industry. They told him about computers and the Internet, “and I was sitting with a yellow legal pad trying to come up with trippy names for a new arena in which science fiction could be staged.”

The name Gibson came up with: cyberspace. And for a guy who had never seen it, he did a great job describing it in that 1984 book, Neuromancer: “A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding.”

(16) GOODLIFE. The scum of the Earth has been around longer than they thought: “Origins of land plants pushed back in time”.

A seminal event in the Earth’s history – when plants appeared on land – may have happened 100 million years earlier than previously thought.

Land plants evolved from “pond scum” about 500 million years ago, according to new research.

These early moss-like plants greened the continents, creating habitats for land animals.

The study, based on analysing the genes of living plants, overturns theories based purely on fossil plant evidence.

“Land plants emerged on land half a billion years ago, tens of millions of years older than the fossil record alone suggests,” said study author, Dr Philip Donoghue of the department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol.

(17) AFROFUTURISM. The Washington Post’s Sonia Rao, in the wake of Black Panther, gives an overview of Afrofuturism and discusses forthcoming Afrofuturist projects, including Janelle Monae’s new album Dirty Computer and a forthcoming TV production of Octavia Butler’s Dawn directed by Ava DuVernay.“The resurgence of Afrofuturism goes beyond ‘Black Panther,’ to Janelle Monáe, Jay-Z and more “.

Monáe released a trailer on Friday for “Dirty Computer,” a new album with an accompanying narrative film. The 30-second teaser, set to air ahead of some “Black Panther” showings, presents clips of a dystopian world set to guitar feedback and snapping fingers. Monáe’s co-star Tessa Thompson is abducted by a man dressed in military gear. We cut to the two embracing on a beach. Seconds later, Monáe lies on an examination table while someone strokes a mysterious tattoo on her arm.

“They drained us of our dirt, and all the things that made us special,” she narrates. “And then you were lost. Sleeping. And you didn’t remember anything at all.”

Monáe’s work has exhibited Afrofuturist influences for years — the Quietus, an online British magazine, proclaimed back in 2010 that she “brandishes the acetylene torch for radical Afrofuturism.” In her multi-album “Metropolis” saga, the singer’s alter ego, Cindi Mayweather, is a messianic android who was sent back in time to lead a protest movement against an oppressive regime.

 

(18) CORRECTING AN OMISSION. Yesterday’s Scroll quoted K. Tempest Bradford’s tweet contrasting her own fundraiser to JDA’s, but she didn’t get all the benefit from that she might have because the tweet didn’t link to her YouCaring page — “Send K. T. Bradford To Egypt! (For Research)”. She had reached $3,135 of her $5,000 goal, but earlier today a couple of large donations put her over the top. Congratulations!

(19) THE FRANCHISE. With six you get Sharknado Bloody Disguting has the details:

Not surprisingly, Sharknado 6 is coming this Summer, and the first plot details, along with an early piece of poster art, have come to us out of EFM today.

In the sixth installment…

“All is lost, or is it? Fin unlocks the time-traveling power of the SHARKNADOS in order to save the world and resurrect his family. In his quest, Fin fights Nazis, dinosaurs, knights, and even takes a ride on Noah’s Ark. This time, it’s not how to stop the sharknados, it’s when.”

Tara Reid, Ian Ziering and Cassie Scerbo return.

Sharknado 6 will premiere on July 25, 2018.

(20) BIG BANG’S BILLIONAIRE GUEST. Supposedly Sheldon has already met him: “Bill Gates to Guest Star on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ — But Remember When He Punched Sheldon in the Face?!”

Bill Gates is headed to The Big Bang Theory!

ET has learned that Gates will be guest starring as himself in an upcoming March episode of the hit CBS comedy. The famed Microsoft founder will be stopping by Penny’s work and when this news reaches Sheldon, Leonard and the rest of our geektastic gang, the guys do everything in their power for a chance to meet him.

But here’s a Big Bang fun fact for you: Sheldon has actually already met the infamous tech billionaire on the CBS comedy and let’s just say their first interaction did not go very well. In fact, Gates punched Sheldon in the face!

(21) SUGGESTION BOX. Here’s a fan video proposing the way to begin Jodie Whittaker’s first episode as Doctor Who.

There are many great stories, but none as great as this. This is the story of the girl who fell from the stars. And this is how it begins… Without the Tardis and without hope, the Doctor is sent plummeting towards the planet below. The Doctor must come to terms with her new body quickly and escape her incoming demise. Here is a concept scene I’ve created for the upcoming debut episode for the Thirteenth Doctor! Just a bit of fun really but actually turned relatively believable. I have this theory in my mind that the Tardis would materialise underneath the Doctor as she’s falling and catches her. I’ve tried to imagine this as best as possible in this video!

 

[Thanks to Dave Langford, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, IanP, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Daniel P. Dern, Alan Baumler, Robin A. Reid, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 8/9/17 Soft Pixel, Warm Pixel, Little Ball Of Scroll

(1) VERIFIED FILER IN HELSINKI. Daniel Dern sent a photo of himself at Worldcon 75 wearing his Filer button: “From the batch I had made at Sasquan. Also note ‘pocket program’.”

Daniel Dern

Can it be, a pocket program that fits in a pocket?!!

Good thing – they need all the room they can get.

(2) JAMMED. Cheryl Morgan on “Worldcon 75 Day 1: Where Did All These People Come From?”

The Helsinki Worldcon is now well underway, and the big topic of conversation is the attendance. On the face of it, this is a good thing. We all want Worldcon to grow. The largest number of attending members in history is still LA Con II in 1984 with 8365. LonCon 3 in 2014 had more members in total, but only 6946 attending. The last I heard Helinki was up to 6001. Some of those may be day members, who have to be counted somewhat differently from full attending members, but even so it is an impressive number. Helsinki certainly looks like being in the top 5 Worldcons by size.

Unfortunately, based on previous Worldcons outside of the US/UK axis, expected numbers for Helsinki were more like 3500. Messukeskus could handle that easily. It is more than big enough in terms of exhibit space for what we have. But the function space, where programming happens, is stretched to the limit.

There are many things that a Worldcon can do to cope with the unexpected, but building new program rooms is not one of them. Seeing how memberships were going, Helsinki did negotiate some space in the library across the road. It did not try to turn empty exhibit halls into function space because we all know how badly that went in Glasgow in 1995.

(3) MORE SPACE COMING. Nevertheless, Worldcon 75 chair Jukka Halme says:

We will have more function spaces on Thursday available, and even more on Friday and Saturday. These things take time, as some of these rooms need to be built in halls, since we already have all the available rooms in Kokoustamo at our disposal. I believe this will help out the congestions somewhat.

Also, we are closing all membership sales on our website. http://www.worldcon.fi/news/closure-membership-sales/

All in all, I believe still we had a very good opening day for Worldcon 75 and the next four will be even better! See you in Messukeskus!

(4) UNPRECEDENTED. Kevin Standlee says:

I believe that’s true. And simply because I happen to know this story I will add that before L.A.con III (1996), Bruce Pelz and I briefly discussed what our membership cutoff should be – a topic because the previous L.A. Worldcon (1984) set the all-time attendance record. We considered 16,000. But since our attending membership sales didn’t even crack 7,000, it never became an issue.

(5) YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF THE GAME. Doris V. Sutherland finds three points of interest in Pat Henry’s answer to Alison Littlewood, refusing to take her off the Dragon Awards ballot — “The Dragon Awards: A Peek Behind the Scenes”. The third is:

3: The Dragon Awards were originally conceived as a way of building a reading list for SF/F fans during the nominations phase, with the awards themselves being of secondary importance.

Now, the first two of these takeaways won’t be much of a surprise to anyone who’s been keeping an eye on the proceedings, but the third point is significant.

For one, it explains something that had rather puzzled me about the Dragons: the shortness (less than one month) of the period between the ballot being announced and the voting process ending, leaving very little time for a typical reader to get stuck into a single novel category before voting. If fans are expected to continue using the ballot as a reading list after the awards are presented then this is a lot easier to swallow.

(6) WHAT REAL WRITERS DO AND DON’T DO-DOO. Chuck Wendig offers a “PSA To Writers: Don’t Be A Shit-Flinging Gibbon”.

Here is a thing that sometimes happens to me and other authors who feature a not-insignificant footprint online or in the “industry,” as it were:

Some rando writer randos into my social media feed and tries to pick a fight. Or shits on fellow authors, or drums up some kind of fake-ass anti-me campaign or — you know, basically, the equivalent to reaching into the overfull diaper that sags around their hips and hurling a glob of whatever feces their body produces on any given day. The behavior of a shit-flinging gibbon.

Now, a shit-flinging gibbon hopes to accomplish attention for itself. It throws shit because it knows no other way to get that attention. The gibbon’s most valuable asset, ahem, is its foul colonic matter, so that’s the resource it has at hand.

Thing is, you’re not a shit-flinging gibbon.

You’re a writer.

Your most valuable asset is, ideally, your writing.

If it’s not, that’s a problem. A problem with you, to be clear, and not a problem with the rest of the world. It rests squarely upon your shoulders.

If your best way to get attention for yourself is to throw shit instead of write a damn good book, you are a troll, not a professional writer.

(7) A SPRINT, NOT A MARATHON. Here’s the place to “Watch five years of the Curiosity rover’s travels in a five-minute time-lapse”.

Five years of images from the front left hazard avoidance camera (Hazcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover were used to create this time-lapse movie. The inset map shows the rover’s location in Mars’ Gale Crater. Each image is labeled with the date it was taken, and its corresponding sol (Martian day), along with information about the rover’s location at the time.

 

(8) COLD EQUATION. Although sf is not really a predictive genre, that doesn’t stop people from enjoying the recognition when the things they’ve warned about in fiction happen in reality: the Antarctica Journal has the story — “Craig Russell, Canadian Novelist Predicts Arctic Event”.

In 2016, a Canadian novelist, Craig Russell — who is also a lawyer and a theater director in Manitoba — wrote an environmental cli-fi thriller titled “Fragment” about a major calving event along the ice shelf of Antarctica. The Yale Climate Connections website recently recommended the novel, published by Thistledown Press as a good summer read.

Ironically, scientists in Antarctica are in fact right now monitoring the Larsen C ice shelf with a huge crack in it and threatening to fall into the sea any day now. How is that for reality mirroring art?

How did Craig Russell respond when asked how he felt about his accurately future-predicting novel being in the news now?

“Some 40 years ago, as a student, I lived and worked at a Canadian Arctic weather station, 500 miles from the North Pole,” he added. “So I’ve remained interested in polar events, and was both fascinated and appalled by the Larsen A and B ice shelf collapses in 1995 and 2002.”

To see world events catch up so quickly with a fictional reality I spent years creating has been quite unnerving,” he added.

(9) STAR WARS INTERPRETATION. Syfy Wire will show you the lot: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi teaser posters get the LEGO treatment “.

The long wait for the next Star Wars film can be painful to endure. We hang on any morsel we can get, any tie-in we can overreact to, and anything else that can get us geeking out. Then there is LEGO, who can help ease the painful wait by just getting us in a good mood. Take the new teaser posters for The Last Jedi, which were released in mid-July at the D23 Expo.

LEGO has now taken those same posters and LEGO-fied them, giving us six posters with LEGO mini-figure art that corresponds to those D23 posters. Again, repeating the crimson robe attire, echoing the red we saw on the first poster and also the ruby red mineral base of planet Crait. There’s no telling yet whether these posters are just part of Lego’s social media campaign or if these posters will be part of their gift with purchase program for VIP Lego Club members.

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Book Lovers Day

From the scent of a rare first edition book found in an old time book collection, to a crisp, fresh book at the local supermarket, the very sight of a book can bring back memories. Reading as a child, enjoying the short stories, the long books and the ability to lose yourself in a story so powerful that at the end your asking yourself where to get the next book in the series. This is for the reader in all of us, the celebration of Book Lovers Day!

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 9, 1930 — Betty Boop premiered in the animated film Dizzy Dishes

(12) TODAY IN ALTERNATE HISTORY

(12b) YESTERDAY’S BIRTHDAY FILER

  • Born August 8, 2017 — Sophia Rey Tiberius Pound

(13) COMIC SECTION. Chip Hitchcock saw yesterday’s Bliss and thought: “Flame on!”.

(14) RELICS OF WAR. Something to watch out for when beachcombing in Helsinki: “German woman mistakes WW2 white phosphorus for amber”.

A German woman narrowly escaped injury after picking up an object she believed to be amber but which then spontaneously combusted.

She had plucked the small object from wet sand by the Elbe river near Hamburg and put it in a pocket of her jacket, which she laid on a bench.

Bystanders soon alerted the 41-year-old to the fact her jacket was ablaze.

The stone was actually white phosphorus, which had reacted with the air as it dried.

Police say the two are easily confused.

Chip Hitchcock adds, “Yes, most amber comes from the south coast of the Baltic, and leftover munitions may be more common in Germany than in Finland.”

(15) RIGHTING THE RECORD. Max Gladstone decides it’s up to him to salvage the reputation of a famous academic: “Defending Indiana Jones, Archaeologist” – at Tor.com.

First, I want to acknowledge the common protests. Jonesian archaeology looks a lot different from the modern discipline. If Jones wanted to use surviving traces of physical culture to assemble a picture of, say, precolonial Peruvian society, he’s definitely going about it the wrong way. Jones is a professional fossil even for the mid-30s—a relic of an older generation of Carters and Schliemans. Which, if you think about it, makes sense. By Raiders, he already has tenure, probably gained based on his field work in India (Subterranean Thuggee Lava Temples: An Analysis and Critical Perspective, William & Mary Press, 1935), and the board which granted him tenure were conservatives of his father’s generation, people who actually knew Carter and Schliemann—not to mention Jones, Sr. (I’ll set aside for the moment a discussion of cronyism and nepotism, phenomena utterly foreign to contemporary tenure review boards…)

Jones is the last great monster of the treasure-hunting age of archaeology. To judge him by modern standards is to indulge the same comforting temporal parochialism that leads us to dismiss post-Roman Europe as a “Dark Age.” Jones may be a lousy archaeologist as we understand the field today. But is he a lousy archaeologist in context?

(16) PROGENY. I can’t even begin to imagine, but apparently somebody at DC Comics can — “Superman & Wonder Woman’s Future Son Revealed”. ScreenRant has the story.

If you’ve ever wondered what the children of Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, or Aquaman would look like, the time for wondering is over. Thanks to DC Comics, every fan gets to see the parentage and superpowers of the sons and daughters of the Justice League. The good news is that they’re every bit the heroes that their parents were, making up the Justice League of the future… the bad news is that they’ve traveled back in time to seek their parents’ help. Because as heroic as their superhero parents taught them to be, the future may be too lost for them to ever save.

(17) GUFFAW OF THRONES. If you don’t mind MAJOR SPOILERS, then this Bored Panda post is for you — “10+ Of The Most Hilarious Reactions To This Week’s Game Of Thrones”. Funny stuff.

If you haven’t watched this week’s Game Of Thrones, come back to this after you do because it contains MAJOR SPOILERS. You have been warned. All the rest of you probably agree that The Spoils of War was one of the most emotional episodes of the show to date. Judging from all the reactions online, at least the internet certainly thinks so.

Bored Panda has compiled a list of some of the funniest reactions to Game Of Thrones Episode 4 of Season 7, and they brilliantly capture the essence of the plot….

(18) FASHION STATEMENT. Architectural Digest wryly calls this “Innovative Design” — “Game of Thrones Uses IKEA Rugs As Capes”.

As any of the HBO series’s devoted fans can tell you, Game of Thrones is not a cheap production. In fact, with the budget for its most recent season coming in at more than $10 million per episode, it’s among the most expensive television shows in history. (If you have dragons in a scene, they need to destroy things . . . and that’s not cheap). But it’s not only the dragons and set designs that are costly; it’s also the costumes. There are upward of 100 people who work to ensure that each character is wearing an outfit that’s as realistic as possible. What might surprise some fans, however, is that IKEA rugs are often used as clothing.

“These capes are actually IKEA rugs,” Michele Clapton, an Emmy Award–winning designer, told an audience at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles last year. “We take anything we can,” Clapton added with a chuckle as she described the process that goes into designing medieval garb. “We cut and we shaved [the rugs] and then we added strong leather straps. . . . I want the audience to almost smell the costume.” The result is an IKEA-inspired cape that not only appears worn-in but also has the aesthetic of real medieval clothing. It remains unclear as to which IKEA rugs were used to dress the GoT characters. The next time you visit IKEA, see if you can envision Jon Snow marching into battle with a Höjerup or Alhede wrapped around his shoulders.

(19) POORFEADING. Another graduate of the Pixel Scroll Editing Academy & Grill:

(20) DINO TIME. This dinosaur had more bumps on its head than a Star Trek: Voyager humanoid: “It’s Official: Stunning Fossil Is a New Dinosaur Species”.

About 110 million years ago in what’s now Alberta, Canada, a dinosaur resembling a 2,800-pound pineapple ended up dead in a river.

Today, that dinosaur is one of the best fossils of its kind ever found—and now, it has a name: Borealopelta markmitchelli, a plant-eating, armored dinosaur called a nodosaur that lived during the Cretaceous period. After death, its carcass ended up back-first on the muddy floor of an ancient seaway, where its front half was preserved in 3-D with extraordinary detail.

Unearthed by accident in 2011 and unveiled at Alberta’s Royal Tyrrell Museum in May, the fossil immediately offered the world an unprecedented glimpse into the anatomy and life of armored dinosaurs.

(21) THUMBS DOWN. Carl Slaughter says If you have read the Dark Tower series, you will probably share this reviewer’s shrill disapproval of the screen adaptation.

(22) MARJORIE PRIME. This doesn’t sound too jolly.

2017 Science-Fiction Drama starring Jon Hamm, Tim Robbins, Geena Davis, and Lois Smith

About the Marjorie Prime Movie

Eighty-six-year-old Marjorie spends her final, ailing days with a computerized version of her deceased husband. With the intent to recount their life together, Marjorie’s Prime relies on the information from her and her kin to develop a more complex understanding of his history. As their interactions deepen, the family begins to develop diverging recounts of their lives, drawn into the chance to reconstruct the often painful past. Marjorie Prime is an American science-fiction film written and directed by Michael Almereyda, based on Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play of the same name.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mark-kitteh, Craig Russell, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 5/17/17 Round Up The Usual Pixels

(1) THE REAL AMERICAN GODS. Mark-kitteh says, “This may be the perfect combo of SF and cats for us–”

(2) ANIMAL FILIBUSTER. The Washington Post’s John Kelly interviewed Ralph Nader, who has written a fantasy novel, Animal Envy, in which animals are given the power to speak via a software program and “are given a 100-hour special broadcast” to discuss all their issues — “In his odd new book, Ralph Nader talks to the animals –and they talk back”.

Ralph Nader –tireless windmill-tilter –is standing at the National Zoo recalling a conversation he once had with an editor at The Washington Post about what he felt was the paper’s less-than-adequate coverage of his presidential campaign.

“I remember saying, ‘There are times I say to myself, I wish I was a panda, given the coverage The Post gives to pandas,’” Nader said.

Well, Nader still isn’t a panda, but he is a kangaroo, a dolphin, an elephant, a crocodile, a squirrel, an owl, an Arctic tern, a German cockroach, a European corn borer, a radioactive Chernobyl beaver, and dozens of other mammals, reptiles, birds and insects.

They’re all characters he assumes in his new book, “Animal Envy: A Fable.”

He is also a cheetah: Safe at any speed…

(3) LUNCH OR HISTORICAL REENACTMENT? “Cynthia Felice and I break into the Watergate Hotel!” That’s what Scott Edelman says in his dramatic invitation to listen to Episode 37 of Eating the Fantastic.

Grab lunch at the Watergate with my unindicted co-conspirator Cynthia Felice in Episode 37 of Eating the Fantastic.

I visited the Watergate Hotel recently, and in case those of you familiar with the history of that infamous location might be thinking I went there to bring down a president with a Bob Woodward/Carl Bernstein-style investigation, let me quickly add … no. Rather, I went there to investigate the food at the recently opened Kingbird restaurant, with a guest who surprised me with her sudden visit to Washington, D.C., and whom I somehow managed to convince that a meal with me would be oh, so much more fun than visiting the National Air and Space Museum.

Joining me within the walls of the Watergate Hotel was Cynthia Felice, who published her first short story, “Longshanks,” in 1976 in the pages of Galileo, a science fiction magazine published by the late, great Charlie Ryan, and her first novel, Godsfire, two years later. She is also the co-founder with Ed Bryant — about whom, alas, I must also say late and great — of the Colorado Springs Writer’s Workshop.

We discussed how Frank Herbert’s Dune made her say, “Hey, I can do that,” the virtues of owning a motel while being a writer, the marriage advice Kate Wilhelm gave her at Clarion, what Thomas M. Disch told her that fixed one of her short stories, why we all loved the late, great Ed Bryant, the extraordinary lengths David Hartwell went to as he edited her second novel, how her collaborations with Connie Willis began, and more.

(4) THOSE SIDEKICKS, THEY DO GET WEARY. ComicMix’s John Ostrander, in “Sidekicking Around”, delves into one of comics’ well-known formulas.

Robin falls into a strange category of the child or teen sidekick. He was originally introduced to lighten up the Dark Knight Detective and, again, to give Batman someone to talk to rather than himself. Robin humanized the Bat. His popularity gave rise to a whole slew of child/teen associates such as Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Speedy, and Aqualad. Later, these five went from supporting characters to central ones when they formed their own super-team, the Teen Titans (later, just the Titans when they all outgrew their teenage years).

The original Robin, Dick Grayson, later grew out of his shorts and tights to become a full-fledged hero of his own, first as Nightwing and then later, briefly, actually taking Bruce Wayne’s place as Batman before reverting back to Nightwing. There have been other Robins since then, including one — Jason Todd — who was killed by the Joker. Don’t worry; he got better. The role is currently being filled by Bruce’s son, Damian. I believe he died as well at one point but is also now feeling better.

(5) STEAMPUNK BIBLIOPHILE RETURNS. This week 2012 Hugo Finalist Selena Chambers released Calls For Submission, her new short fiction collection.

Selena Chambers’ debut collection guides readers out of space and time and through genre and mythos to explore the microcosmic horrors of identity, existence, and will in the face of the world’s adamant calls for submission. Victorian tourists take a virtual trip through their (and the Ottoman empire’s) ideal Orient; a teenage girl learns about independence and battle of the bands, all while caring for her mesmerized, dead mother; a failed Beat poet goes over the edge while exploring the long-abandoned Government Lethal Chambers.

Chambers was a Related Work co-Hugo Finalist in 2012 with Jeff VanderMeer for their collaboration on The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature.

(6) MORE YA AWARD WSFS WANK. Kevin Standlee says, “You’d Think I’d Remember These Things”. You need to read all four steps to follow his argument, but here’s a foretaste of what you’ll be getting into if your click the link….

  1. Item 1 means that that as it currently stands, the Worldcon 75 WSFS Business Meeting does not have the authority to name a YA Award. However, the 2018 WSFS Business Meeting could apply a name to the Award in a single vote because of that provision. (Of course, this is all moot if the base proposal fails to be ratified.)

  2. Should the 2017 Business Meeting decide to ratify that YA proposal without the provision, the 2017 Meeting could then move as a new amendment to insert a name into the Award, with the name being something that could be passed in 2017 and ratified in 2018, like any other WSFS Constitutional amendment. That means the YA Award would have no official name in 2018, but (assuming 2017 passes a naming amendment that is ratified in 2018), it could get an official name for 2019 and beyond.

(7) BREW FOR TWO. Sounds like anybody who makes it through the Worldcon 75 Business Meeting will probably need to stop over in Iceland on the way home to chill out — “Beer baths to open in North Iceland in June”.

Kaldi brewery in Ãrskogssandur, just north of Akureyri in North Iceland, will be opening beer baths and spa in the coming month.

“The construction of the baths is progressing and everything is according to plan,” says Agnes Anna Siguroardottir, CEO of Kaldi brewery.

There will be seven beer baths in total, all suitable for two people. All guests that have reached 20 years in age can relax in their beer baths with a beer in hand, as there will be a pump by each bath. 20 is legal drinking age in Iceland.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Film director Stanley Kubrick was a big admirer of Steve Martin’s movie The Jerk. (Source: IMDB)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 17, 1902 –The Antikythera mechanism is recovered. Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the occasion.

(10) THE BIRD BLABS. The Vulture knows what might have been: “The Secret History of William Gibson’s Never-Filmed Aliens Sequel”

But there’s an alternate universe where the series’ propulsive momentum only increased –a reality in which the third Alien film featured advanced xenomorphs exploding in batches of half a dozen from people’s legs, stomachs, and mouths; where cold-warring rival space stations of communists and capitalists race to outdo one another with their genetic experiments on the aliens’ tissue; where a flock of the phallic horrors flies through the void of space, only to be beaten back by a gun-toting robot. Oh, and there’s a thing called the New Beast that emerges from and sheds a shrieking human’s body as it “rips her face apart in a single movement, the glistening claws coming away with skin, eyes, muscle, teeth, and splinters of bone.”

This is the alternate universe where legendary science-fiction writer William Gibson’s Alien III (that’s “III,” not “3”) screenplay was realized. It is, perhaps, a better world than ours….

You can find the screenplay in an antiquated .txt file online, and there have been occasional discussions of it on message boards and niche blogs, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t been appropriately acknowledged as the remarkable genre-fiction artifact that it is. Indeed, with studio backing and the right production team, one can imagine the finished film being on par with Alien and Aliens, and it certainly would have altered the course of the franchise’s history. With the arrival of Alien Covenant –a movie that, whatever its merits, largely retreads ideas from the series’ previous installments –it’s time to tell the story of how Gibson’s Alien III came to be, why it never crossed the finish line, and what made it special.

(11) KIDPROOFING. John King Tarpinian recommends, “Take the kids to see Alien this weekend, then put this cookie jar out. They will never “steal” a cookie again.” ThinkGeek’s Alien Ovomorph Egg Cookie Jar:

(12) CONDIGN REVENGE. Isn’t Aidan channeling me here?

(13) PUN TIME. Yes, I think this is funny, too.

(14) SHADOW CLARKE JURY GOES INTO OVERTIME. Now they need to deal with the actual Clarke Award shortlist.

With both the Sharke Six and the official Clarke shortlist now out of the bag, I thought I’d like to reflect a little on some of the books I encountered that did not make the running, either through being ineligible (i.e US-published) or through not being submitted. I’ve found myself wanting to talk about them because even now at the end of Phase One of my Sharke reading and with a sizeable number of eligible submissions under my belt, these omissions still feel notable, with discussion around the Clarke Award seeming the poorer for their absence.

The Booker Prize has already had its debate about allowing American novels into the mix, with predictably divided responses. Whether or not the Clarke should open itself up to US submissions is a discussion that lies beyond the remit of this essay, though it does seem a shame that there have been and will continue to be books that stand central to any discussion of the year’s SF and yet under current Clarke rules must remain excluded from one of its most prestigious awards.

I still haven’t reviewed two of the books on my original shortlist. As it happens, we now know that neither of the books made it onto the Sharke Six, and neither made it onto the official Clarke Award shortlist, though I suspect for rather different reasons. So I thought I would take this opportunity to consider why they might not have been chosen.

I’ll start with Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton.

Superficially, this seems to be exactly the sort of novel that has often found its way onto the Clarke shortlist. It is an elegantly, at times beautifully written novel, as here when an astronaut moves from the spinning outer ring of a spaceship to the gravity-free core:

Of all the books that I personally shortlisted for this project The Power is the one that I find most challenging to judge and to write about. I chose it precisely because of this difficulty; I had read it before and felt decidedly mixed about it. I have loved some of Alderman’s earlier work — her debut Disobedience (2006) was one of the first books that I reviewed online — and have read her assiduously, with great pleasure. Yet this fourth novel, her breakthrough book, left me unsure and unsettled. While friends and critics turned out in numbers to praise its ingenuity and confidence, its bold engagement with the dynamics of power and gender, I hung back and sat on my immediate reaction. Which was: Yes, all those things, but… I couldn’t decisively put my finger on what the ‘but’ was; it was just there, throwing up a barrier between the book and me. At the same time, I couldn’t dismiss it; I was niggled. It stayed with me. So much so, that when it came time for creating my Clarke shortlist I knew The Power had to be on it. Whatever my personal reservations, it was clearly one of the more thought-provoking and eloquent of the submitted books. I felt I owed it a re-read, to test my first response.

Other commentators have already discussed the alternate history setting of Azanian Bridges (Paul Kincaid on this site and Gautam Bhatia at Strange Horizons, while Mark Bould also provides a useful list of other African alternate histories on his own website), and I don’t see any real point in recapitulating what they’ve already said so well.

Instead, I want to focus on the relationship between Martin van Deventer, the white psychologist, and Sibusiso Mchuna, the young black man whom he is attempting to treat. Sibusiso, a trainee teacher, has withdrawn into himself after witnessing the murder of his friend, Mandla, at an anti-government rally. At a loss to know what else to do for him, his father has agreed to his being admitted to the local mental asylum for treatment. We can only speculate as to why his father did this rather than taking Sibusiso home but for now consider it as only one among many markers of the fact that Sibusiso is metaphorically as well as literally a long way from home, living in a white world, among people who have no idea about him.

(15) WE INTERRUPT YOUR READING FOR AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT. Now that Chuck Tingle’s professional porn has been linked from the Hugo Voter Packet, Hugo administrator Nicholas Whyte feels the need to clarify his cameo appearance in the work — thus his LiveJournal post “Pounded In The Butt By My Second Hugo Award Nomination, by Chuck Tingle”:

Second paragraph of third section:

“Hello, I’m Chuck,” I say, formally introducing myself.

I am quoted (well, paraphrased) in the crucial second section, in which author Chuck Tingle, miserable after the defeat of Space Raptor Butt Invasion in the 2016 Hugo Awards, receives notification from the 2017 Hugo Awards adminstrator that he has been nominated this year. Let’s just say for the record that the demands subsequently and consequently made of him as part of the Hugo process are not those actually required of Hugo finalists in real life.

(16) THE BEST DAY OF HIS LIFE. “This 10-year-old donated thousands of comic books to veterans”The Week has the story.

Carl Scheckel knows that not all heroes wear capes. In a show of support for American soldiers, the 10-year-old comic-book aficionado from New Jersey decided to collect and donate thousands of comic books to veterans in hospitals and servicemen deployed overseas. The mastermind of carlscomix.com, Scheckel gathered roughly 3,500 books for the nearby Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, When he arrived to donate them in person, officers treated him to a surprise VIP tour of the base, where he got to try on military gear and explore the inside of a place. ‘It was the best day of my life!’ wrote Carl on his website.

(17) AN OPPORTUNITY ON MARS. It’s been there for over 13 years! “Mars rover reaches site that scientists still can’t explain”.

Opportunity, which is much, much smaller than its car-sized Curiosity cousin, was sent to Perseverance Valley in hopes of shedding some light on its origins. Scientists studying Mars know that the valley was carved by some dramatic force, but with a handful of possibilities including water, wind, and even muddy rocks, there’s still no clear answer. With the rover in place, researchers plan to use its observations to generate a detailed map which will be used to plan the vehicle’s driving route along the rim and eventually into the valley itself.

(18) ON THE WAY TO THE FINAL FRONTIER. I found out about LUNAR from BoingBoing:

Motion designer Christian Stangl and composer Wolfgang Stangl created this gorgeous short film, titled LUNAR, from thousands of NASA photographs taken by astronauts.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Scott Edelman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Darrah Chavey.]

Pixel Scroll 1/18/17 There’s A Pixel Scrolled Every Minute

star-trek-discovery

(1) STILL AT THE DOCK. Unless you subscribed to CBS All Access especially to see this show, it won’t be a crisis for you: “Star Trek Discovery delayed, no longer has a release date”.

Those looking forward to Star Trek Discovery’s promised streaming debut in May will have to wait even longer. According to the The Hollywood Reporter, the premiere has been pushed back right as production is due to start and CBS finishes casting and script rewrites.

“This is an ambitious project; we will be flexible on a launch date if it’s best for the show,” a CBS rep said in a statement. “We’ve said from the beginning it’s more important to do this right than to do it fast. There is also added flexibility presenting on CBS All Access, which isn’t beholden to seasonal premieres or launch windows.”

“This is an ambitious series.”

The 13-episode Discovery was originally slated to premiere this month on CBS, but was pushed back to allow the producers to better “achieve a vision” fans of the franchise would appreciate. Since then, however, the series has been dogged by a slow casting process, as well as the departure of former showrunner Bryan Fuller.

(2) WHO IS #2? A few weeks ago Theodora Goss told her Facebook readers that she was one of two Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship recipients. I have now been able to learn the name of the second recipient from a contact at the Center for the Study of Women in Society at the University Oregon.

Roxanne Samer is a postdoctoral scholar and teaching fellow in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. She holds a PhD in critical studies from the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. Samer coedited with William Whittington the book Gender, Sexuality, and Media: Audiences and Spectatorship, which is under contract with the University of Texas Press. She is also the editor of “Transgender Media,” a special issue of Spectator: The University of Southern California Journal of Film and Television Criticism 37.2 (Fall 2017). She will visit UO Libraries’ SCUA to do research toward fleshing out her dissertation, Receiving Feminisms: Media Cultures and Lesbian Potentiality in the 1970s, for publication as a book.

(3) POST-KINDERGARTEN GRADUATE STUDIES. Jason Sanford explains, “All I really need to know I learned from science fiction and fantasy stories”.

For example, from Arthur C. Clarke I learned that the ultimate destination of all humans is extinction. Even if some parts of humanity transcend reality, as in Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End, humanity as a species is destined to eventually disappear from this universe.

From Isaac Asimov I learned that even if our ultimate fate is to disappear, humanity can have an amazing ride while we exist.

From Ursula K. Le Guin I learned that culture shock can be both a way to awaken you to new intellectual horizons and to kill you….

(4) BLURB SEASON. Maya Kaathryn Bonhoff continues filking her way through the components of published fiction with “There’s a Bimbo on the Cover Verse 6: There’s a Blurb on the Cover” at Book View Café.

Verse 6:
There’s a blurb on the backside of the book.
There’s a blurb on the backside of the book.
There’s one story on the cover; inside the book’s another.
There’s a blurb on the backside of the book.

Blurbage (as I like to call it) is the collection of stuff one finds on the covers of one’s novel. If you publish with a mainstream house as the Café staff does, you are not always—dare I say almost never—in control of what goes on the cover. Blurbage (as I an using the term) is composed of several parts: …

(5) SOMETIMES THEY DO GET WEARY. Oliver Langmead tells his readers at Fantasy-Faction “Why I Don’t Like Dragons”.

As of recent years, I’ve found myself going through dragon fatigue. Much in the same way as zombies and vampires, it feels a little bit like we hit peak dragon a while ago (pun intended). This isn’t to say that dragons can’t be great. Sure they can. Just like zombies and vampires can be brilliant from time to time, when somebody finds a really refreshing angle on them, or when we’re talking about classic texts. Just that… in fantasy, the literature of the impossible, sometimes it can feel like writers are playing it a bit too safe.

(6) THE SOUND OF MUSING. Larry Correia has a great post about making choices that help stories succeed in more than one medium: “Ask Correia #17: Writing for the Ear, Tweaking Your Writing To Work Better in Audiobook Form” at Monster Hunter Nation.

Read your stuff out loud.

I don’t do this as much when I’m writing the first draft, but when I am editing, I will usually read everything aloud. Dialog that is unnatural, stilted, or weird is going to be obvious when you hear it, even if it looks okay when you see it.

If your family thinks you’ve gone insane, close the door or turn your radio up and get talking. Even if your writing isn’t going to get turned into an audiobook, this is still a valuable exercise to weed out stupid dialog or awkward descriptions. You don’t need to do voices, or be loud, just muttering it to yourself will usually reveal the awkward bits.

Keep in mind however, that in either format you do not want to write exactly like people talk. That’s because in real life most speakers use a lot of uhm… err… uh… pauses and brain farts.

If you write all those noises down that people make when they’re thinking of what to say, it becomes annoying for the reader. I try to use that stuff sparingly in fictional dialog, and when I do, I try to use it only when it is going to tell the reader something about that character. So if you’ve got somebody where it is important to convey their awkwardness, nervousness, or hesitancy, do it, but try not to overdo it. A realistic amount of ums and urrs will annoy readers and waste your listener’s time. Same with affections like ending every sentence with know what I’m saying? A little bit goes a long way. A good narrator is going to convey those character traits, and in written form you can convey that stuff through the story you tell around them.

Oh, and that one liner that sounded really super cool in your head? Reading it out loud will help you realize if it actually sucks.

(7) GAUTIER OBIT. His most notable role was a rock star, but he’s also known as a robot: “Dick Gautier, Who Played a Rock Star in ‘Bye Bye Birdie,’ Is Dead” reports the New York Times.

Dick Gautier, a comic actor best known for his Tony-nominated performance as a vain rock ’n’ roll star in the Broadway musical “Bye Bye Birdie” and his recurring role as a robot with a heart on the television show “Get Smart,” died on Friday in Arcadia, Calif. He was 85.

A spokesman, Harlan Boll, said the cause was pneumonia.

Mr. Gautier had the square-jawed good looks of a leading man. But he also had a wild sense of humor — he began his career as a stand-up comedian — and for more than 50 years he was primarily a scene-stealing supporting player on sitcoms.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 18, 1644 — John Winthrop documented the first known unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings in North America.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 18, 1882 — A. A. Milne

(10) WINNIE-THE-POOH DAY. And by a stunning coincidence, this is also Winnie-the-Pooh Day.

One of the cuddliest holidays around has to be Winnie the Pooh Day, celebrated on the birthday of author A A Milne. It’s one special anniversary fans just can’t bear to miss! Every year, the occasion is marked with events such as teddy bears’ picnics, featuring plenty of honey on the menu.

The only remaining question is whether someone will be along in a few minutes to tell us that the author is foisting off unwonted xtianity on the public, like the last time I posted something from the calendar.

(11) HERE’S MUD IN YOUR EYE. Observer says “NASA’S Rover Discovered Some Mud Cracks That Could Be Really, Really Important”.  But can they be that important? Did anyone threaten to move to another country when this made the news?

In recent weeks, scientists used NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover to examine slabs of rock cross-hatched with shallow ridges. All signs lead them to believe they’re mud cracks, which makes them the first to be confirmed on the Red Planet by the Curiosity mission.

“Even from a distance, we could see a pattern of four- and five-sided polygons that don’t look like fractures we’ve seen previously with Curiosity,” said Curiosity science team member Nathan Stein in NASA’s announcement. “It looks like what you’d see beside the road where muddy ground has dried and cracked.”

If this interpretation holds up, it would be evidence that the ancient era (three billion years ago) when these sediments were deposited included wet conditions, followed by drying. High resolution images have pointed to the existence of deltas, gullies and river valleys on Mars, which is why scientists view it as one of the places in our solar system most likely to be/have been home to alien life. (There are three others, according to NASA director of planetary science James Green).

(12) FAKE NEWS. This virtual award may not exist, but it was hotly contested: “The Shippy Awards 2016 Winners”

SHIPPY! Why yes, that is a drawing of a trophy that does not exist. IT IS THE MOST COVETED MADE UP TROPHY IN THE UNIVERSE.

AND NOW, LET US ANNOUNCE THE WINNERS OF THIS GLORIOUS DRAWING OF A TROPHY THAT DOES NOT EXIST!

Ultimate Ship Honors Best Ship of the Year

Feyre and Rhysand from A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas with 40.4% of the vote

Runners up: Kaz and Inej from Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, with 22.2% of the vote

This was by far the most highly voted category, but as you can see, one ship rather ran away with the competition.

Shippiest Book

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas with 37.7% of the vote

Runner up: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo with 37.2% of the vote

(Are you sensing a pattern/theme-ish thing? Get used to this pattern/theme-ish thing.)

And there are many more ship-themed categories.

(13) NOT A COINCIDENCE. Rich Horton shares his “Hugo Nomination Thoughts, Short Fiction: Novellas” at Strange at Ecbatan.

One more note to begin with – though I participate with a lot of enjoyment in Hugo nomination and voting every year, I am philosophically convinced that there is no such thing as the “best” story – “best” piece of art, period….

The other obvious point to make is that the great bulk of these stories are those that I included in my yearly anthology. There are a few that didn’t make it, for reasons of length, contractual situation, balance, or even that I might have missed a story by the deadline for the book.

(14) PAGEVIEWS. Sarah A. Hoyt gives nine pieces of good advice about “How to Build a Web Presence” at Mad Genius Club.

6- Post EVERY DAY.  If, like me this last week, you have to go AWL, have guest posts.  You’ll still lose readers and some of them won’t come back, but it’s better than dead air.  (Trust me.)  I don’t know why post every day works, except through “be habit forming.”

7- Police your community.  I actually have had to ban very few people, but remember the “drunken uncle at the wedding.”  If a poster is just there to attack and is making other people uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to ban him.  He might not be doing anything wrong, but his right to express himself doesn’t trump your right to have your normal commenters enjoy themselves. Also, if the community gets in an unpleasant rut, nudge them.  My commenters once, while I was asleep, misunderstood something someone posted and attacked.  He got defensive and they ran him off the blog.  You don’t want that, particularly if it’s someone interesting.

People who say they’re not responsible for the tone of their comment sections are disingenuous or clueless.  You can police just enough, intervening to break up things just enough that you keep it from becoming a snake pit without neutering it.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 1/17/17 ‘Twas Pixel That Killed The Scroll

(1) ASK ME ANYTHING. SFWA President Cat Rambo visited with her fans at Reddit today — “Yup, It’s My Real Name: AMA with Cat Rambo”.

I think that, more than ever, it’s important for writers to be working together and sharing notes. I see a lot of scams out there, and also some increasingly shady activity on the part of some of the traditional publishers.

Perhaps at one time, a writer could live an existence where they produced a manuscript, handed it off, and got enough money to go write another. Increasingly, though, that’s not the case and writers have to spend at least a little time thinking about marketing themselves – even if they’re publishing traditionally. Publishing continues to change rapidly, and writers need to stay on top of that, because they’re the ones with the most at stake.

(2) BUSINESS WISDOM. Kristine Kathryn Rusch continues her advice to writers in the aftermath of the latest publishing fiasco — “Business Musings: All Romance Ebooks & Visions of the Future Part Two”.

But I’m not here to discuss the merits or lack thereof of Booktrope or ARe. I did that in other posts. What I need to discuss here is the future.

You see, these closures were right on time. And several other closures will follow in the next few years.

Some of the upcoming closures will be predictable. And others will catch us all by surprise.

Why am I saying this?

Because three different factors are coming into play in the next few years. These three factors intertwine, at least in the indie publishing industry, which will amplify the result.

You’ll need to bear with me. This will take some explaining.

One note on terminology. When I say indie publishing, I mean the non-traditional side of the publishing industry. Indie publishing encompasses the self-publishing revolution which started thanks to Amazon and the Kindle in 2008. (Amazon released the Kindle in November of 2007, just in time for holiday giving.) Some writers still self-publish, but many use services or have created their own publishing companies to publish outside of the mainstream infrastructure. Hence, indie as in independent. (What confuses all of this was that, back in the day, many small but traditional presses called themselves independent presses. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about publishing that could not have happened in 1985.)

So, what are these three intertwining factors that will impact us in the next few years?

They are:

  1. A gold rush
  2. An investment bubble
  3. A business cycle

(3) GHOST TOWN. Comic Excitement, whose antiharassment policy made news ahead of last weekend’s debut convention (“They Think It’s a Joke”), reportedly bombed. Trae Dorn covered it in Nerd and Tie — “Comic Excitement Convention’s Flop and the Hubris of Man”.

You’d probably be forgiven for not knowing that “Comic Excitement Convention” (yes, that’s the actual name) took place this last weekend in Los Angeles, CA. Despite their touted $10,000 cosplay contest prize, it doesn’t seem like a lot of effort was put into marketing the con.

Which is probably why hardly anyone showed up.

The first year convention occupied Kentia Hall at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and although early promotional materials talked about expecting a massive turnout, at con observations estimate attendance to be under a thousand. The whole thing… well it seems to have been a mess….

(4) NO SH!T SHERLOCK. Naked Security says those rascally Russian hackers are suspected of another break-in — “BBC launches probe into leak of Russian-dubbed Sherlock finale”.

Damn you, Russia, we wish we knew how to quit you!

If you’re not hacking our politicians  and our politicial machinery, you’re leaking a Russian-language version of the recent season finale of the BBC’s hotly anticipated Sherlock a whole day earlier than it was supposed to air.

Maybe. Allegedly. At any rate, Russian state TV is definitely investigating the leak “in close contact with the BBC”, according to Russia Today (RT), Russia’s English-language broadcaster.

Russian Channel One is blaming hackers for the show’s last episode, dubbed in Russian, having been illegally uploaded for all to see and all Russians to decipher on Saturday.

(5) SIMPLY HORRIBLE. Cheatsheet argues these are “10 of the Worst Sci-Fi TV Shows of All Time”. But first on the list is Space:1999  — how can that be right?

In the past decade or so, science fiction on television has seen a dramatic uptick in both quantity and quality. Shows like Westworld are keeping critics engaged and audiences coming back for more week after week, but while a number of sci-fi shows over the years have developed significant cult followings, others have become notorious examples of just how bad the genre can be when it isn’t executed effectively. Here’s our look at some of the worst sci-fi shows to ever hit the small-screen. For the record, we’re focusing specifically on live-action series only. So any infamous animated shows won’t be appearing below….

  1. Logan’s Run (1977–1978)

Based on the popular sci-fi film of the same name, this television adaptation has remained largely forgotten. An attempt to cash in on the film’s success, the show — which starred Gregory Harrison as Logan 5 and Heather Menzies as Jessica 6 — lasted only 14 episodes before network executives called it quits.

(6) ROSARIUM MAKES A DEAL. Bill Campbell’s award-winning Indie house Rosarium Publishing will be publishing Taty Went West, the critically-acclaimed fantasy debut novel by South African born writer, artist, and musician Nikhil Singh.

The story is the first in a trilogy of what Singh describes as “Alice in a necrotic Wonderland” and follows Taty, a teenage girl who is forced to run away from home and escape to The Outzone, who discovers along the way that she has extrasensory powers. She finds herself kidnapped and dropped into a world filled with a motley cast of eccentric characters, including a feline voodoo surgeon, a robotic sex slave nun, detachable siamese twins and a sinister pleasure peddler who wishes to exploit her gifts.

Described by Lauren Beukes as “a hallucinogenic post-apocalyptic carnival ride,” Taty Went West is part satire, part science fiction and completely fantastic. Singh’s prose style of writing and elaborate descriptions are only enhanced by the gorgeous illustrations which head each chapter and are drawn by the author as well.

Nikhil Singh art

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born January 17, 1933 — Shari Lewis, actress and puppeteer, best known for Lamb Chop.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 17, 1931 — James Earl Jones, who became even more famous by voicing Darth Vader,

(9) COVER UP. Out of Print has a line of clothing featuring the art from classic sff/f book covers.

The-Outsider-and-Others-Mens-Book-T-Shirt_01_2048x2048clockwork-orange_Womens_Red_Book_T-Shirt_1_2048x2048

(10) FLAME OFF. CinemaBlend knows “How Lynda Carter Helped Supergirl With That Old School Wonder Woman Reference”.

The CW’s Supergirl has dropped nods to major superheroes of DC Comics history many times over its first two seasons so far, and it surpassed itself in a Season 2 episode that featured legendary actress Lynda Carter as President Olivia Marsdin. The episode managed to sneak in an unforgettable reference to Carter’s role as Diana Prince on Wonder Woman. I spoke with veteran TV director Rachel Talalay about her work directing Lynda Carter and star Melissa Benoist on Supergirl, and she told me this about what went into the Wonder Woman callbacks in the “Welcome to Earth” episode of Season 2:

They were written in the script, and they were absolutely embraced. We were allowed to push them, but they were definitely in the script. That was great because that gave us permission to just say ‘We know we’re doing Wonder Woman homages.’ So there was an absolutely magical moment when it was scripted that Melissa was to do the Wonder Woman twirl to put herself out when she was on fire. Lynda came and said, ‘I’ll show you how to do it.’ I have on my phone a video of Lynda Carter showing Melissa Benoist how.

(11) THIRD ROCK. Curiosity has found its third meteorite on Mars.

NASA’s Curiosity rover has spied a potential meteorite on Mars, which would be the third it has found since it landed in August 2012….

There’s a bit of a puzzle about these meteorites, though. On Earth, 95 percent of all meteorites are stony, and only 4.4 percent are iron. But so far on Mars, all eight meteorites seen (three by Curiosity and five by Opportunity) have been iron.

(12) RAPT ATTENTION. A subject near to our hearts: ”Striking photos of readers around the world”.

A new book brings together Steve McCurry’s photos of readers, spanning 30 countries. From a steelworks in Serbia to a classroom in Kashmir, they reveal the power of the printed word….

McCurry’s photos are made up of those moments, glimpses of people absorbed in the written word, many unaware they were being photographed. The Swiss poet, novelist and painter Hermann Hesse gave an insightful description of what can be an all-consuming experience in his 1920 essay On Reading Books. “At the hour when our imagination and our ability to associate are at their height, we really no longer read what is printed on the paper but swim in a stream of impulses and inspirations that reach us from what we are reading.”

(13) SAD POOKAS. I’ve been informed these aren’t the droids I’m looking for. I also just realized I love Big Brother.

(14) NEWS TO ME. There’s such a thing as a Game of Thrones edition of Monopoly.

Featuring custom Game of Thrones packaging, stunning game design, and large, hand-sculpted custom tokens, the MONOPOLY: Game of Thrones Collector’s Edition Game will transport fans into a world of intrigue, valor, and betrayal. After all, when you play the MONOPOLY: Game of Thrones Collector’s Edition Game you win, or you go bankrupt!

MONOPOLY: Game of Thrones Collector’s Edition Game includes:

– Custom Game Board Featuring Westeros awaits your rule

– 6 oversized, hand sculpted tokens elegantly cast in zinc. Includes: Crown, Direwolf, Dragon Egg, The Iron Throne, Three-Eyed Raven and White Walker – Game of Thrones MONOPOLY money features the symbols of Westeros and Essos….

(15) BRADBURY PLAQUE. Mentioned in yesterday’s comments, here are photos of the plaque in UCLA’s Powell Library commemorating the spot where Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 on a rented typewriter. John King Tarpinian, who was instrumental in getting the school to put up the plaque, appears with Bradbury and Dennis Etchison in the second picture,

Plaque commemorating Ray Bradbury's use of Typing Room at UCLA's Powell Library to write Fahrenheit 451.

Plaque commemorating Ray Bradbury’s use of Typing Room at UCLA’s Powell Library to write Fahrenheit 451.

John King Tarpinian reading plaque to Ray Bradbury

John King Tarpinian reads the plaque to Ray Bradbury. Dennis Etchison is on the right.

(16) BELIEVE YOUR LYING EYES. L’Illusion de Joseph, on Vimeo, is a charming look at 19th-century “phenokistascopes” and the unusual images 19th century people found entertaining.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, David K.M.Klaus, BGrandrath, kathodus, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

Pixel Scroll 12/8/16 Let It Scroll, Let It Scroll, Let It Scroll

(1) X-WING. Hollywood decorating the neighborhood for the premiere of Rogue One. Robert Kerr’s photo shows a prop now on display curbside near the theater.

photo-by-robert-kerr-resized_20161208_170203-01

Yahoo! Movies ran a series of photos taken while the fighter was being hauled into position.

Star Wars has definitely landed in Hollywood.

Preparations for Saturday’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story premiere have already seen some big road closures on Hollywood Blvd. — and on Tuesday, an X-Wing was spotted in the area where the stars of the film will gather in a few days.

Pictures quickly spread on social media, as apparently keeping an X-Wing secret is even trickier than keeping plans for the Death Star under wraps.

The red-carpet premiere itself also prompted major road closures in Hollywood, with the X-Wing now clogging streets up further. Road closures will last until 6 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 13.

(2) JAM ON MARS. Will Curiosity need Tommy John surgery? Seeker says “Curiosity’s Mars Drill Is Jammed”.

The Mars rover’s robotic arm-mounted drill appears to have malfunctioned and NASA has instructed the rover to hang tight while they find a solution.

Having your drill break down while you’re millions of miles from the nearest hardware store would be a bummer, but that is exactly what’s happened to NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity.

The rover, which is currently located at the lower slopes of the 3.4-mile-high Mount Sharp (officially known as Aeolis Mons), was supposed to carry out a drilling operation on a geologically interesting location on Dec. 1 when mission controllers got word that Curiosity was unable to complete its commands. Early indications show that the rover detected a fault with the “drill feed” mechanism that lowers the drill piece to the rocky sample and aborted the operation.

(3) AT HOME. The Chicago Reader visited a  popular sf author in her new (since 2012) neighborhood — “Mary Robinette Kowal makes puppets and writes in a 1913 building in the Ukranian Village”.

A fire is roaring in the fireplace and sprays of bright red winterberry adorn a vase on the deco mantel. The scent of hot cider wafts through the air. What Victorian-era storybook scene have I stepped into on this chilly, gray day in late November? It’s the home of Hugo Award–winning author, audiobook narrator, and professional puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal, a spacious and stately 1913 apartment in Ukrainian Village that she shares with her winemaker husband, Robert, and their two cats.

 

(4) RETURN OF RUTLAND WEEKEND TV. The Guardian ran this feature in August — “Ex-Python Eric Idle and Brian Cox to take on The Entire Universe for the BBC”. But now the BBC broadcast date is nearing.

Written by Idle, the one-hour show will feature the return of Rutland Weekend Television, the haphazard station depicted in Idle’s sketch show of the same name during the 1970s.

Filmed in front of a live studio audience, The Entire Universe will feature an “explosion of comedy, music and dance” and will air on BBC2.

Davis plays The Big Bang and comedian Fielding is Einstein, while Game of Thrones actor Hannah Waddingham tackles time, and Robin Ince attempts to keep order.

Idle has written songs for the Christmas special, which will be choreographed by Arlene Phillips and combine “fascinating facts about the birth of the universe with larger-than-life comedy characters”.

Cox finds himself in a major musical at Rutland Weekend Television, after thinking he is booked to give a lecture.

The program will be broadcast in Britain on BBC2 on December 26.

(5) DO JAMES DAVIS NICOLL’S HOMEWORK. He’s lining up books to review in 2017, and feels there’s one writer demographic that requires more of his attention:

Don’t often tick the Other/Genderqueer/Non-Binary box in my site’s review gender fields. Can change that. What authors should I consider?

He emailed me the link asking, “Do the F770 people have suggestions?”

(6) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #12. The twelfth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for the four-book Twixt series from Dawn Metcalf.

Today’s auction is for a signed set of all four TWIXT books. But wait – there’s more! Metcalf also has a pile of “own voices” and books she’s offered to donate to a local shelter and/or children’s hospital in your name. The higher the bidding, the more books she’ll donate!

  • $25: Two books
  • $35: Three books
  • $45: Four books
  • $60: Five books
  • $75: Six books

About Book One: INDELIBLE:

Some things are permanent. Indelible. And they cannot be changed back.

Joy Malone learns this the night she sees a stranger with all-black eyes across a crowded room-right before the mystery boy tries to cut out her eye. Instead, the wound accidentally marks her as property of Indelible Ink, and this dangerous mistake thrusts Joy into an incomprehensible world-a world of monsters at the window, glowing girls on the doorstep and a life that will never be the same. Now Joy must pretend to be Ink’s chosen one-his helper, his love, his something for the foreseeable future … and failure to be convincing means a painful death for them both. Swept into a world of monsters, illusion, immortal honor and revenge, Joy discovers that sometimes, there are no mistakes.

Somewhere between reality and myth lies … THE TWIXT!

(7) TINGLE’S SATIRICAL NEWS SITE. Chuck Tingle harpoons the “alt-right” with his most feared weapon – laughter — at a new website, Buttbart. At the bottom of the home page are links for donating to the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Billings Public Library Foundation

READER POLL: What is real?

We asked our readers if reality was a constantly shifting web of cosmic planes, blinking in and out of exhistence depending on our location in spacetime.

YES: %87

NO: %2

K’GULH-TUB KA: %11

(8) GLENN OBIT. Mercury astronaut and former U.S. Senator John Glenn (1921-2016) died December 8 reports SF News Site.

Glenn was the last surviving member of the Mercury 7 astronauts and the first American to orbit the Earth, flying on the third Mercury mission on February 20, 1962 aboard Friendship 7. Following his flight and status as a national hero, Glenn was grounded by President Kennedy and eventually became a Senator from Ohio and ran unsuccessfully for President. The oldest of the Mercury astronauts, he flew a second time in 1998 about the space shuttle Discovery, becoming the oldest man to fly in space.

CNN’s obituary recounted the highlights of his 1962 mission:

….Glenn recalled in a Life magazine article a strange phenomenon that occurred during the mission: “There, spread out as far as I could see were literally thousands of tiny luminous objects that glowed in the black sky like fireflies. I was riding slowly through them, and the sensation was like walking backwards through a pasture where someone had waved a wand and made all the fireflies stop right where they were and glow steadily.”

The flight also featured a glitch that contributed to Glenn’s reputation for being cool under fire.

Because of an indicator light showing that the Mercury capsule’s heat shield was partly detached, mission controllers decided to bring Glenn home early and told him not to jettison his aft retro rockets, which allowed him to maneuver the craft in space. Because the retropack was strapped to the heat shield, it was thought it would provide an extra measure of security.

It would later be learned that the heat shield wasn’t damaged, but the fiery re-entry was made more spectacular by the scorching retropack in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Glenn’s first words when he stepped aboard the deck of the USS Noa were, “Boy, that was a real fireball of a ride!”

…More than 20 years after their historic missions, the team was immortalized in the 1983 movie “The Right Stuff.” Glenn — portrayed by Ed Harris — didn’t care much for the film, saying, “I thought it was dramatic enough without Hollywood doing its number on it.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born December 8, 1953 – Kim Basinger, Batman’s Vicki Vale.
  • Born December 8, 1964 – Teri Hatcher, Lois and Clark’s Lois Lane.

(10) TA-POCKETA-POCKETA

  • Born December 8, 1894 – James Thurber

(11) A GRAIL OF A TALE. A dinosaur tail was discovered trapped in amber in Myanmar.

The tail of a 99-million-year-old dinosaur has been found entombed in amber, an unprecedented discovery that has blown away scientists.

Xing Lida, a Chinese paleontologist found the specimen, the size of a dried apricot, at an amber market in northern Myanmar near the Chinese border.

The remarkable piece was destined to end up as a curiosity or piece of jewelry, with Burmese traders believing a plant fragment was trapped inside.

“I realized that the content was a vertebrate, probably theropod, rather than any plant,” Xing told CNN.

“I was not sure that (the trader) really understood how important this specimen was, but he did not raise the price.”

(12) POP CULTURE COINCIDENCE. Reuters reports a “Space oddity as Dr David Bowie treats ‘starman’ Buzz Aldrin in New Zealand hospital”.

In what can only be described as a space oddity, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin is being cared for in a New Zealand hospital by Dr David Bowie after being evacuated from the South Pole.

In a truly remarkable coincidence, Aldrin’s doctor shares the name of the late British singer whose greatest hits included songs such as “Starman” and others about space travel that could easily have been penned for the great American astronaut.

(13) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. Reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Livia Llewellyn and Sarah Pinsker on December 21 on Wednesday, December 21 at the KGB Bar in New York. Event starts at 7 p.m. Details at the linked post.

Livia Llewellyn is a writer of dark fantasy, horror, and erotica, whose short fiction has appeared in over forty anthologies and magazines and has been reprinted in multiple best-of anthologies, including The Best Horror of the Year series, Years Best Weird Fiction, and The Mammoth Book of Best Erotica. Her first collection, Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors received two Shirley Jackson Award nominations, for Best Collection, and for Best Novelette (for “Omphalos”). Her story “Furnace” received a 2013 Shirley Jackson Award nomination for Best Short Story. Her second collection, Furnace was published this year.

Sarah Pinsker is the author of the Nebula Award winning novelette “Our Lady of the Open Road” and the Sturgeon Award winning “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind.” Her fiction has appeared in magazines including Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Uncanny, among others, and numerous anthologies and year’s bests. She is also a singer/songwriter with three albums on various independent labels and a fourth forthcoming. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland with her wife, dog, and a yard full of sentient vines.

(14) THE WORK THAT STORIES DO. Foz Meadows’ well-written piece “Unempathic Bipeds of Failure: The Relationship Between Stories and Politics” found a home at Black Gate:

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need stories to act as emotional dry-runs for caring about different types of people, because our empathy would already natively extend to everyone. But we don’t live in that world; because if we did, somewhat paradoxically, we’d have less urgent need of its empathy, as its unequivocal presence would make it much harder for us to discriminate in the first place.

Which is precisely why stories matter; why they’ve always mattered, and will continue to matter for as long as our species exists. Stories can teach us the empathy we otherwise lack, or whose development is railroaded by context, and yeah, it’s frustrating to think that another person can’t just look at you, accept what you are, and think, human, different to me in some respects but fundamentally as whole and as worthy of love, protection and basic rights as I am, but you’ve got to understand: we’re a bunch of bipedal mammals with delusions of morality, a concept we invented and which we perpetuate through culture and manners, faith and history and memory – which is to say, through stories, which change as we change (though we don’t always like to admit that part), and in that context, the value of the impossible – of SFF as a genre – is that it gives us those things in imaginary settings, takes us far enough out of the present that we can view them at a more objective remove than real life ever allows, and so get a better handle on them than our immediate biases might otherwise permit…

And so I think about the UKIP supporter who empathized with a fictional refugee [in Dragon Age 2] but voted to dehumanize real ones; about the millions of people who grew up on stories about the evils of Nazism, but now turn a blind eye to swastikas being graffitied in the wake of Trump’s election; of Puppies both Sad and Rabid who contend that the presence of politics in genre is a leftist conspiracy while blatantly pushing what even they call a political agenda; about fake news creators and the Ministry of Truth; about every f***ing dystopian novel whose evocation by name feels simultaneously on the nose and frighteningly apropos right now, because we shouldn’t have to cite The Handmaid’s Tale to explain why Mike Pence and Steve Bannon (to say nothing of Trump’s infamous comments) are collectively terrifying, and yet see above re: unempathic bipeds of failure, forever and always; and yet

(15) ORANGE CONE BY THE ROADSIDE. The discussion of Meadows’ main points, however, was drowned out by the reaction to several lines in her closing:

For the past few years, the Sad and Rabid Puppies – guided by an actual neo-Nazi – have campaigned against what they perceive as the recent politicization of SFF as a genre, as though it’s humanly possible to write a story involving people that doesn’t have a political dimension; as though “political narrative” means “I disagreed with the premise or content, which makes it Wrong” and not “a narrative which contains and was written by people.”

Vox Day reacted in a post titled “Please to remove the libel”:

I have written to John O’Neill, my former editor at Black Gate, asking him to remove this false, malicious, and materially damaging libel directed at me, and by extension, the Sad and Rabid Puppies. As I was a long-time contributor to Black Gate, Mr. O’Neill knows perfectly well that I am neither a neo-Nazi nor a National Socialist, I have never been a neo-Nazi or a National Socialist, I do not belong to, or subscribe to the tenets of, the German National Socialist Workers Party or any subsequent facsimile, and I do not appreciate the libelous attempts of Ms Meadows, to publicly and falsely assert that I am “an actual neo-Nazi”.

Vox Popoli commenters spent the day conspicuously scavenging the web for Meadows’ personal and financial details and lodging their finds as comments on Day’s post. Meadows Twitter stream also has been haunted by people unsuccessfuly trying to intimidate the author by sounding as if there could be ominous consequences.

Day made several updates to his post, one saying a resolution was in process.

UPDATE: As I expected, John was very reasonable about it and the matter is being resolved. Thanks for your support, everyone.

But in the hours since, Meadows’ text has remained unchanged nor has O’Neill added any comment.

(16) INVASION. In a New York Times article “California Today: Booksellers See a Threat in New Law”, the A.C.L.U. has an opinion.

A new law going into effect next month mandates that anyone selling a signed book for more than $5 must vouch for the autograph’s authenticity. That includes, among other things, identifying the previous owner.

“If you visit my bookstore to trade in that copy of ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ you picked up at a book signing, I’ll need to take down your name and address and then provide it to whoever happens to buy the book from me,” said Scott Brown, who runs Eureka Books in Eureka.

The law was designed to protect consumers from the booming trade in fake collectibles. But it is written so loosely that some worry it might drag booksellers down.

“I can understand why booksellers are concerned,” said Michael Risher, a lawyer with the A.C.L.U. of Northern California. “The law is an invasion into privacy and should be amended.”

The legislation began with an effort by State Representative Ling Ling Chang to broaden a 1992 law about sports memorabilia. She joined forces with Mark Hamill, the “Star Wars” actor who kept seeing signed posters that were fake. Booksellers say they didn’t realize they were vulnerable until after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure in September.

Ms. Chang, who was unavailable for comment, has published on her Facebook page a statement that both “the letter and spirit of the law” do not apply to booksellers. Her reasoning is that the law is aimed at “dealers,” who are mostly in the business of selling signed collectibles. Since booksellers sell all kinds of books, many of them unsigned, Ms. Chang argues that leaves them off the hook.

But some booksellers worry that is not true….

(17) RATS! New Zealand’s 2017 national sf convention has opened a writing competition.

In our short story competition, you have the opportunity to channel your inner rodent, or world build a mischief of rats… Write us a short story which, in honour of our Ghost of Honour, Orville, includes a reference to a rat.

The competition is held in association with SpecFicNZ, who are generously contributing prizes, and judged by Guest of Honour Seanan McGuire. Get scratching!

We’re also running a drabble competition – 100 words of fiction based around a word you invented. If you’re new to writing, this could be a great place to start.

Find out more at www.lexicon.cons.nz/comps.php. Other competitions will be announced shortly; artists, filkers, and cosplayers, stay tuned.

(18) DEAL US IN. Tor.com’s Natalie Zutter has good news for Cards Against Humanity fans: “Patrick Rothfuss and Cards Against Humanity Release Special Sci-Fi Pack”.

For $5, this pack of 30 cards “poking fun at the Sci-Fi genre” (in Rothfuss’ words) will let you throw down the geekiest cards in your next game of CAH. All proceeds from the first two weeks of sales will go to Worldbuilders, Rothfuss’ nonprofit. What’s more, Rothfuss says, they’ll double that donation before passing it along to Heifer International, the organization that Worldbuilders supports.

Here’s everyone who contributed to the cards!

  • Delilah S. Dawson
  • Elizabeth Bear
  • Jim C. Hines
  • Myke Cole
  • Martha Wells
  • Catherynne M. Valente
  • Patrick Rothfuss

[Thanks to JJ, Xtifr, Bonnie McDaniel, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Redheadedfemme. (Yes, Bonnie, I held over a few you suggested last year.)]