Pixel Scroll 7/1/19 We Shall File On The Pixels, We Shall File On The Scrolling Grounds

(1) GOT THAT RIGHT. Fast Company’s Jeff Beer points out “Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’ is dangerously close to becoming ‘Sponsored Things’”.

We’re mere days away from the Stranger Things season three debut, and it feels like we’ve already hit Peak Brand Tie-In for the show, culminating in this senseless Cubs business. It’s actually a pleasant surprise the team didn’t go full Nostalgia Things and reissue 1985 caps and shirts, since just about every other brand has been using the 1985-ness of it all as the foundation of the entire marketing exercise. Throwback Mongoose BMX bike? Check. Nike Hawkins High School sweats? Check. New Coke? Big time check.

(2) STERLING AND PLATT AND MERCER, OH MY! David Langford has added three more free ebooks to the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund site. Download, and feel free to donate something to the fund!

Bruce Sterling donned his unsecret identity of Vincent Omniaveritas to publish the 1980s “samizdat” fanzine Cheap Truth, whose 18 issues engaged in much shit-kicking denunciation of fuddy-duddy old SF/fantasy and praise of radical new stuff (or sometimes vice-versa) in those days when the genre’s Cyberpunk and Humanist cliques were supposed to be deadly rivals. Subversive and fun, Cheap Truth was explicitly not copyrighted and so has been assembled into an Ansible Editions ebook without any tiresome formality about asking permission.

The Patchin Review ran for seven issues from 1981 to 1985 and generated much controversy in the SF community with its no-holds-barred criticism, satire, examination of dubious publishing practices, exuberant “Gabby Snitch” gossip column and numerous polemics – both signed and pseudonymous. As its title indicates, this ebook contains the complete run – plus two bonus articles by Charles Platt that appeared elsewhere.

The Meadows of Fantasy was first published in traditional duplicated fanzine format in 1965. …Archie Mercer (1925-1998) was a prolific fanzine publisher in the 1950s and 1960s, and the second winner of the UK Doc Weir Award for general contributions to the fan scene. Publications and other achievements are listed in his Fancyclopedia 3 entry.

The Meadows of Fantasy is not a fan allegory like The Enchanted Duplicator but a light humorous novel set against the general background of 1960s British science fiction fandom. One character echoes the author’s fondness for variously excruciating puns. Although Dungeons and Dragons had yet to be launched, role-playing games – in storytelling rather than dice-throwing mode – had considerable popularity in 1960s fandom:

(3) DAY OF RAGE. Sarah Gailey wrote some tweets that caught the eyes of those on the other end of the political spectrum.   

(Read “JynErso’s” email to the Hugo Awards here.)

Bounding Into Comics is working hard to make this a kerfuffle: “Tor Books Blogger Sarah Gailey Calls For Violence and Murder After Reporter Andy Ngo Attacked by Antifa”.

Tor Books blogger and the author of Magic for Liars and the American Hippo Sarah Gailey called for violence and murder following the attack on reporter Andy Ngo by members of Antifa.

Gailey in a number of now-deleted tweets called for not only violence against those opposing Antifa, but also called for murder….

(4) HALF OF THE BEST. [Item by Dann.] This is Petrik Leo’s “best of the year so far” lists.  I found it interesting as I have read from three of the series listed.  I’ve heard of several more.  And it includes three self-published works.

I had not had a chance to read any of the books in Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor series.  But I’ve heard consistently good things about it.  So I plowed through all three books in the last couple of weeks.  It’s a shame that this series isn’t getting more discussion on the awards circuit.  The first two books were Goodreads nominees, but that’s about it.

So there you have it. It’s quite crazy that my best book of the year so far was actually the third book that I finished this year. Honestly speaking though, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that The Sword of Kaigen [by M.L. Wang] is my book of the year so far, I don’t even know if I’ll find a book better than it for the remaining of this year. I’ve been praising and shouting about this book non-stop across all my social media platform for the past six months and I will continue to do so.

(5) HAWKING MEDAL. Brian Eno was among those who received the Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication  in June. Ansible adds, “And asteroid 81948 has been given his full name, Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, but mercifully will be called Eno for short.” (“Brian Eno gets asteroid named after him, receives Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication” at Consequence of Sound.)

Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication

On Monday, Eno attended the prestigious science festival Starmus V, where he was presented with the Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication. The Here Come the Warm Jets mastermind received the award celebrating popular science at an international level alongside this year’s other recipients: Elon Musk and Todd Douglas Miller’s new documentary film, Apollo 11.

(6) MOURNING BECOMES ELECTRIC. Sarah Lazarus, in “Obituaries for the Recently Canceled” at McSweeney’s, has advice for people who have been cancelled by the Internet. For example —

Following a long battle in defense of a controversial Facebook post, Meredith Van Dorn, 20, finally succumbed to cancellation at her home on Thursday night. Ms. Van Dorn was surrounded by friends and loved ones who, upon her cancellation, insisted they always had kind of a weird feeling about her, actually. Ms. Van Dorn’s parents, Peter and Linda, would like their daughter to be remembered for her sweet smile and love of dancing, rather than her provocative feelings about Japanese toilets.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 1, 1891 Otis Adelbert Kline. Early pulp writer and literary agent whose great claim to fame was a possibly apocryphal feud with fellow author Edgar Rice Burroughs, in which he supposedly raised the latter’s anger by producing close imitations of Burroughs’s Mars novels. Wollheim and Moskowitz would believe in it, Lupoff did not. (Died 1945.)
  • Born July 1, 1934 Jean Marsh, 85. She was married to Jon Pertwee but it was before either were involved in Dr. Who. She first appeared alongside The First Doctor in “The Crusade” as Lady Joanna, the sister of Richard I (The Lionheart). She returned later that year as companion Sara Kingdom in “The Daleks’ Master Plan”. And she’d return yet again during the time of the Seventh Doctor in “Battlefield” as Morgana Le Fay. She’s also in Unearthly Stranger Dark PlacesReturn to Oz, Willow as Queen Bavmorda and The Changeling
  • Born July 1, 1935 David Prowse, 84. The physical embodiment of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. Ok, it’s been a very long time since I saw Casino Royale but what was Frankenstein’s Creation doing there, the character he played in his first ever role? That he played that role in The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, Hammer Films a few later surprises me not. He shows up in Gilliam’s Jabberwocky according to IMDB as Red Herring and Black Knights (and no I’ve no idea what that means). Finally he’s the executioner in The People That Time Forgot, a film that’s very loosely based off of several Burroughs novels. 
  • Born July 1, 1939 Karen Black. Her first foray into genre was playing three characters in Trilogy of Terror based on short stories by Richard Matheson. Later films were Killer FishThe Last Horror Film (an uncredited role since credited), Invaders from Mars (really stinker of a film), It’s Alive III: Island of the AliveThe Invisible KidZapped Again!Evil SpiritsChildren of the Night (errr, no), Dark BloodChildren of the Corn IV: The Gathering (no, no, no), Dinosaur Valley Girls (it’s a soft core porn film), TeknolustLight Speed and a lot more.  (Died 2013.)
  • Born July 1, 1952 Dan Aykroyd, 67. Though best known as Dr. Raymond Stantz in the original Ghostbusters films (which he wrote with Harold Raimis), he actually shows up a year earlier in his first genre role in Twilight Zone: The Movie as Passenger / Ambulance Driver. He’s reprising his role in Ghostbusters 2020
  • Born July 1, 1955 Robby the Robot, age, well, sixty four years.Yes this is this official birthday of the robot in Forbidden Planet which debuted a year later. He would later be seen is such films and series as The Invisible Boy,Invasion of the Neptune Men, The Twilight Zone, Lost In Space, The Addams Family, Wonder Woman and Gremlins.  He was also featured in a 2006 commercial for AT&T.
  • Born July 1, 1962 Andre Braugher, 57. He’s got the voice of Darkseid in Superman/Batman: Apocalypse which is why he makes the Birthday list. If there’s ever proof that a great voice actor can make an animated role, this is it. It’s also a superb film. His other major genre role is as General George W. Mancheck in The Andromeda Strain series that originally aired on A&E. 
  • Born July 1, 1964 Charles Coleman Finlay, 55. Editor for past five years of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The Traitor to the Crown series is best known work.  
  • Born July 1, 1965 Kevin J. Maroney, 54. He’s a long-time fan who’s the managing editor of The New York Review of Science Fiction. In the latter capacity, he has received fourteen nominations for the Best Semiprozine Hugo: 1997-2009, 2012. 
  • Born July 1, 1967 Pamela Anderson, 52. Yes, she makes the Birthday list for being the character named Barb Wire in the Barb Wire film which in turn was based on a Dark Horse series that never should’ve been filmed. And yes I’ve seen it — she really  deserved the Worst New Star Award she got from The Golden Raspberry Awards. Other than appearing on Futurama, that’s it for her genre credits. 
  • Born July 1, 1981 Genevieve Valentine, 38. Author of the superb Persona series and also she scripted a Catwoman series, working with artists Garry Brown and David Messina. Her first novel, Mechanique: A tale of the Circus Tresaulti, won the Crawford Award for a first fantasy novel. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Today’s Non Sequitur takes up the issue of anti-science-fiction snobbery.

(9) WAKANDA. “The Goal Is To Feel Strong, Says ‘Black Panther’ Jewelry Designer” – read the NPR interview.

Douriean Fletcher is Marvel Comics’ first licensed jewelry maker. She’s behind the powerful adornments worn by the women of Wakanda in Black Panther, which helped pull audiences into an imagined world where power and societal roles are based on expertise and ability. On Sunday, she’s giving a talk at the National Museum of Women in the Arts about the aesthetics of gender equity in Wakandan society.

On one of her favorite pieces from Black Panther:

It is the piece at the scene at the very end of the film, Black Panther, and then it also makes another appearance at the very end of Avengers which was exciting for me because I didn’t know that it was going to be filmed. When I saw it in the theater, I screamed because I was so excited.

Black Panther costume designer Ruth Carter “really wanted something that was very, very strong,” Fletcher says of the necklace she designed for Angela Bassett’s character, Ramonda.

(10) MYTHCON 50. Book ‘em, Danno.

The second Progress Report for Mythcon 50 is now live on the website; it includes essential updates and reminders, especially the July 15 deadline for purchasing Room & Board packages for those staying on campus, the Commuter Dinner Package for those staying elsewhere but who would like to join us for Friday & Saturday night dinner and the Sunday evening banquet, and stand-alone banquet tickets for those not resident on campus who don’t want the Friday & Saturday cafeteria dinners.

(11) ONE LAST LANDING. The July/August 2019 issue of MIT Technology Review magazine is all about space — missions, methods and more, including tether and catapult launchers. One of the articles is provocatively titled “What Neil Armstrong got wrong”.

Fifty years after Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon, it’s hard not to conclude that he got things backwards. The moon landing was a giant leap for a man—Armstrong’s life was forever changed—but, in hindsight, only a small step for mankind….

(12) WRITER AT WORK. Who’s in charge of the book, you or the kaiju? Show the monster whenever you want! Max Florschutz says that and much more in “’Being a Better Writer: Summer of Cliche Writing Advice!’ Announcement” at Unusual Things.

Simply put, have you ever heard any cliche writing advice? Something that’s short and pithy and sort of correct but not entirely? Like “always show the monster last” or “show, don’t tell?”

You know, the kind of thing that comes out of the woodwork the moment anyone says they’re thinking of writing a book or working on a short story. The kind of stuff people who are not writers can repeat in quick sound bites to sound knowledgeable.

There’s a plethora of this stuff out there. In fact, that’s what gave me the idea of doing a themed BaBW series for the summer. A writing chat I hang out on was discussing how a lot of this advice is fairly pithy and usually weak … but contained a grain of truth.

“Show the monster last” for example. There are actually some circumstances where this statement makes sense. There’s a line of logic to it. But the problem is that, like many sayings, the actual context around it has been lost over time, and what we’re left with is a single, short line that doesn’t have any of that context and suddenly can be just as unhelpful as it is helpful. After all, there are plenty of instances where you won’t want to show the monster last.

(13) BREAK’S OVER. Mad Genius Club’s Dave Freer is back from hiatus, and he’s not wearing those spurs for no reason – listen to him tell you about the books he wants to write: “Back in the saddle”.

Another was a somewhat satirical take on SJW and the inevitable collision with real life that happens when those of genuine conviction go and try actually help the people they believe need it (and these people exist, and always have – my grandmother was a missionary’s daughter, and I read a few of the letters her father wrote.  I’ve also had a fair bit to do with the volunteers clearing a particularly nasty invasive thorn from the outer island.  It’s physical, often painful and involves lots of ‘evil’ modern machinery and poisons.  They may be batty… but they’re each worth fifty of the typical upper-middle class urban white woman who rants about the cause de jour on twitter.  They are a very different beast to the current virtue-signaling herd-follower who never ACTUALLY physically did anything to help the designated victims). The ‘victims’ of course are also nothing like the straw-man poor little usually brown people patronized to your standard issue SJW.

(14) SJWCS VS AI. Meanwhile, if you don’t really want your cat bringing you little gifts of dead things — “Cat flap uses AI to punish pet’s killer instincts”.

A cat flap that automatically bars entry to a pet if it tries to enter with prey in its jaws has been built as a DIY project by an Amazon employee.

Ben Hamm used machine-learning software to train a system to recognise when his cat Metric was approaching with a rodent or bird in its mouth.

When it detected such an attack, he said, a computer attached to the flap’s lock triggered a 15-minute shut-out.

…The process took advantage of a technique called supervised learning, in which a computer is trained to recognise patterns in images or other supplied data via labels given to the examples. The idea is that once the system has enough examples to work off, it can apply the same labels itself to new cases.

One of the limitations of the technique is that hundreds of thousands or even millions of examples are sometimes needed to make such systems trustworthy.

Mr Hamm acknowledged that in this case the results were not 100% accurate.

Over a five-week period, he recalled, Metric was unfairly locked out once. In addition, the cat was also able to gain entry once out of the seven times it had caught a victim.

(15) FANDOM CIRCA 1940. Someone’s doing her research:

(16) WARM UP THE POPCORN. ScreenRant invites you to step inside  the “Avengers: Endgame Re-Release Pitch Meeting.”

Avengers Endgame had one of the best theatrical runs in the history of cinema. But not quite… THE best. In a pretty transparent attempt to dethrone James Cameron’s Avatar as the highest grossing movie of all time, Marvel decided to re-release Endgame in theatres with a little bonus content to try and entice people to see it again. But is an intro from the director enough to get people to come out? What about a deleted Hulk scene? Did they include a Stan Lee tribute just to try and tug us by the heartstrings all the way to the movies? Do they really think people will pay for a movie ticket just to see a few minutes from Spider-Man: Far From Home which is set for release a week after the Endgame re-release? To answer all these questions and more, step inside the pitch meeting that led to the Avengers Endgame Re-release! It’s super easy, barely an inconvenience!

[Thanks to Dann, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Rich Horton, Andrew Porter, Own Whiteoak, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Carl Slaughter. Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 6/10/19 We Have Always Lesnerized In The Castle

(1) DOUBLE DUNE.  Deadline reveals there will be a Dune TV series concurrent with the new films (the two back to back). “‘Dune: The Sisterhood’ Series Ordered By WarnerMedia Streaming Service With Denis Villeneuve Directing”.

WarnerMedia has given a straight-to-series order to Dune: The Sisterhood, a drama from Legendary Television based on Frank Herbert’s classic novel Dune and the popular sci-fi franchise it spawned.

The series is designed to co-exist with the Dune feature film, currently in production at Warner Bros., as part of Legendary’s comprehensive plans for Dune which also include video games, digital content packages and comic book series.

Further underlining the symbiotic relationship between the movie and the series, Denis Villeneuve, who is directing and producing the new Dune film, also is set to executive produce the series and direct its pilot episode, with one of the feature’s co-writers, Jon Spaihts set to write the show. It mirrors NBCUniversal ‘s approach to the Purge franchise, which also encompasses a film and TV series franchise.

(2) GREAT FANTASY NOVELS BY WOMEN. The writer and filmmaker Sarah Passos tweeted:

She has gotten over 500 replies, including recommendations from Gaiman and Rothfuss.

(3) MY IMPOSTOR SYNDROME. Once in a dream I was impersonating a famous fantasy writer and Oxford scholar, wearing suitably tweedy clothes. “Hello,” I said to a middle-aged woman, and introduced myself. “I’m J.R.R. Tolkien.”

“Tres bien,” she answered in French. She was buying it. That much French I understood. In fact, that was all the French I understood. I was going to need an excuse to hold the conversation in English. Uh. Uh. So the next thing I said was, “I’m sorry, but I’ve forgotten all of my French, Old Norse, Greek, Latin, and 14 other languages I made up myself.”

(4) THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY. That tech had to be good for something. Variety has learned, “Steven Spielberg Writing Horror Series for Quibi That You Can Only Watch at Night”.

Steven Spielberg is penning a horror series for Quibi that users will only be able to see when their phone knows it’s dark outside, founder Jeffrey Katzenberg said on Sunday.

…Katzenberg said Spielberg has already “written five or six episodes (which Quibi calls “chapters,” like a novel) of a 10- or 12-chapter story.” The program is being developed under the title “Spielberg’s After Dark.” (Spielberg is also developing a revival of his anthology series “Amazing Stories” for another new content programmer, Apple TV Plus.)

(5) CHELSEA CAIN. Comic writer Chelsea Cain has deleted her Twitter-account after a controversy regarding her new comic Man-eaters. At Women Write About Comics, Jameson Hampton analyzes the controversy: “Questioning Chelsea Cain’s Feminist Agenda”.

…Insisting that her book is not trying to imply that all women menstruate is one thing, but the implication that all people who menstruate are women is something else entirely — and plays into a societal habit to assume all trans issues are trans women issues. Compounding that issue is Mags Visaggio, a prominent trans woman in comics who came to Cain’s defense on twitter, insisting the book wasn’t offensive and that Cain should be able to write about “her experience as a cis woman” — again, missing the point that transmasculine people were primarily the ones being harmed.

Specifically, Cain has been back under scrutiny this week after the release of issue #9 of Man-Eaters on June 5th. The controversy? Imagery of propaganda posters in concentration camps featuring the text from fan tweets that had been critical of Cain’s work on the book.

Cain claims that her intention was to “acknowledge the really painful criticisms” that made her feel “worthless and small.”

However, she clearly hasn’t given a lot of thought to the implications of sharing criticism in this way. While the tweets were unattributed in the comic, she has claimed that she “didn’t know” people could still find the original tweets by searching for the text — which feels like a dubious claim, not only because it’s a basic function of Twitter, but also because (as pointed out by CK Stewart) it seems difficult to believe that someone who has experienced so much online harassment is so naive about how online harassment can happen. It’s possible she didn’t consider the nuance of using these words on the walls of a concentration camp, but worth noting that “being more nuanced” was something she explicitly promised to the very writer of the tweets used here. The potential implication that trans folks and their allies are the oppressors and women are the victims is subtext, but it’s hard not to read into it, especially while Cain continues to complain about how the criticisms of her book are mean and hurting her feelings….

(6) THAT’S WHAT THEY SAID. Max Florschutz, in “Being a Better Writer: Voice VS Grammar”, supports this point with some colorful analogies (which you should go there to read).

…I want you to think for a moment, and think hard. Have you ever read a book where a scene or chapter begins without telling you who the viewpoint character of the chapter is, but you can tell anyway because of the voice in the narration? Or read a book where two characters are speaking unattributed, but you’re able to figure out who they are because of their voices?

I have. To both. Because those characters are given strong voices that, while often not grammatically correct, are vivid and real. They have a way of speaking, from use of particular words, to phrases, to even just a cadence or a flow that makes them uniquely identifiable.

That is the power of character voice. To be so vivid and real that even if a character doesn’t offer a name, the reader can figure out who they are simply based on their style of speaking. And since dialogue and narration are the two things our reader will see the most in most books, this makes character voice as powerful a tool as a character walking in screen in a film or show.

(7) SPEAK, MEMORY. The book created for Vonda McIntyre’s memorial, Remembering Vonda, is available for purchase at Lulu.com.

Award-winning SFF author Vonda N. McIntyre died April 1, 2019. The world lost a force of nature, a brilliant, kind, generous, fiercely talented artist. In this volume, friends, colleagues, admirers, fans all pay tribute to a radiant life. McIntyre’s oeuvre includes Dreamsnake (Hugo and Nebula award winner, ’78), The Moon and the Sun (Nebula ’98; a movie based on it is awaiting release); as well as stories, novelizations and tie-ins, including the Star Trek novel The Entropy Effect. She founded the Clarion West workshop and was a “fairy godmother” to hundreds of students; a quiet, tireless feminist, Kentucky-born McIntyre moved to Seattle with her family and became a life-long resident, as well as a prolific creator of crochet topoplogy; McIntyre also collaborated with Ursula K. Le Guin, and was a founding member of the Book View Cafe, an author-owned publishing cooperative. McIntyre both shaped and nurtured the SF/F community; as her friend Jane Hawkins has said “we shall not see her like again.

(8) STEPHEN COLBERT MEETS KING KONG. Just another Tony Award nominated guest….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 10, 1922 Judy Garland. Best remembered for her portrayal of Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, it was also her only genre role in her tragically short life. (Died 1969.)
  • Born June 10, 1928 Maurice Sendak. In Seattle many years ago, I saw the painted flats he did for The Nutcracker. Truly stunning. Of course, he’s known for Where the Wild Things Are which I think is genre adapted into other media including a film by Spike Jonze. In the Night Kitchen might be genre and it is often on Banned Books lists. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 10, 1937 Luciana Paluzzi, 82. She’s best known for playing SPECTRE assassin Fiona Volpe in Thunderball. Genre wise, I see she was also in Journey to the Lost City (in the original German, Das indische Grabmal), HerculesThe Green Slime1001 NightsCaptain Nemo and the Underwater City and War Goddess (also known as The Amazons and The Bare-Breasted Warriors in its original Italian title). The latter film is online in its entirety on Youtube. 
  • Born June 10, 1950 Ed Naha, 69. Among his many genre credits, he was Editor of both Starlog and Fangoria. An even more astonishing genre credit was that he produced Inside Star Trek in 1976 wth Gene Roddenberry, William Shatner, DeForest Kelley and Mark Lenard talking about the series. Fiction wise, he wrote one series as D. B. Drumm, The Traveller series and adapted a number of movies such as Robocop and Robocop 2 under his own name. Way back in the Seventies, he wrote Horrors: From Screen to Scream: An Encyclopedic Guide to the Greatest Horror and Fantasy Films of All Time which alas has not been updated. There are no digital books at iBooks or Kindles for him.
  • Born June 10, 1951 Charles Vess, 68. If you ever need a crash course in learning about his art, go find a copy of Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess which lavishly covers his career up to a decade ago. I’ve got a personally signed copy here along with lots of his artwork. He’s had interesting career including the Spider-Man: Spirits of the Earth graphic novel that he wrote and illustrated. I strongly recommend the illustrated version of Stardust he did with Gaiman as it’s amazing. 
  • Born June 10, 1952 Kage Baker. I never met her but we had a decade long conversation via email and once in a while via phone. We were supposed to write a Company Concordance for Golden Gryphon but she got too ill for it to happen. Harry the Space Raptor is now living with her sister Katheleen.(Died 2010.)
  • Born June 10, 1953 Don Maitz, 66 Winner of the Hugo twice for Best Artist and ten Chesley Awards from the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists. And a World Fantasy Award as well. Yes, I’m impressed. From Asimov to Wolfe, his artwork has adorned the covers of many genre authors. He’s married to Janny Wurtz and their excellent website can be found thisaway.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) DUBLIN 2019 DAY PASSES. Available June 15.

(12) SLOW CHANGE. Unlike Sweden (noted in a Pixel some time ago), “For Many Germans, Cash Is Still King”.

This may be surprising to some. After all, Germany is Europe’s leading economy and famous for technological know-how. But, even while some of its neighbors in Europe and elsewhere are quickly swapping physical money for new pay technologies, many Germans prefer their euro bills. Cash is quick and easy to use, they argue. It provides a clear picture of personal spending, keeps transactions more private and is widely accepted in the country.

“I usually pay cash. This way I have the feeling of keeping track of the money I spend,” says Madeleine Petry, 29, as she shops at a supermarket in Berlin. “Sometimes when I couldn’t make it to the ATM, I use my debit card in the store, but I never use my credit card for shopping in the real world — just for online shopping.”

She is not the only one with this mindset.

A 2017 study by the country’s central bank, Deutsche Bundesbank, said Germans carried an average of 107 euros (over $115 at the 2017 exchange rate) in their wallet. That’s more than three times what the average French person carries (32 euros), according to the European Central Bank. It is also far more than what Americans carry. Three-quarters of respondents in a U.S. Bank survey said they carried less than $50 — and one-quarter said they keep $10 or less in their wallet.

(13) THE ROBOTS RETURN. John Scalzi announces “Love Death + Robots Renewed for Season Two”. The Hollywood Reporter has the story:

Netflix has picked up its series Love, Death and Robots for a second run, and the anthology is bringing aboard an animation veteran to help bring the show to life.

Jennifer Yuh Nelson, the director of Kung Fu Panda 2 and 3, will join the series as supervising director for the second season — or “volume,” as the show’s producers call it. A release date and episode count for the new run has yet to be determined.

(14) HIDE AND SEEK. “Scientists close in on hidden Scottish meteorite crater”, estimated to be 20 times older than Chicxulub.

Scientists think the time has come for a full geophysical survey of The Minch, to see if the Scottish strait is hiding an ancient meteorite crater.

The idea that such a structure lies between the Western Isles and mainland Scotland was first raised back in 2008.

They found evidence on the Highlands coast for the rocky debris that would have been produced by a giant impact.

Now, the team from Oxford and Exeter universities believes it can pinpoint where the space object fell to Earth.

Writing in the Journal of the Geological Society, Dr Ken Amor and colleagues say this location is centred about 15-20km west-northwest of Enard Bay – part way across The Minch towards Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides.

The feature would be buried deep under the seafloor, they add.

(15) ALIEN MUSEUM PIECES. In the Washington Post, John Kelly remembers seeing Alien when it was released 40 years ago and interviews National Air and Space Museum curator Margaret Weitekamp about the artifacts from Alien and Star Trek in the Air and Space Museum’s collections: “‘Alien’ scared me silly 40 years ago. Today, my chest bursts with affection for it.”

In 2003, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History welcomed into its collection a 3-foot-tall plaster-of-Paris xenomorph egg that was used as a prop in “Aliens.” It may not be a moon rock or a first lady’s dress, but it’s iconic just the same. The National Air and Space Museum has a set of 103 “Alien” trading cards.

(16) RETURN OF THE BLOB. Watch where you step! ABC7 in LA reports “Tar oozes on to sidewalk, street near La Brea Tar Pits”.

A black, gooey mess was bubbling up out of the ground near the iconic La Brea Tar Pits on Saturday.

The sight was attracting the attention of locals and tourists alike.

City workers were on Wilshire Boulevard trying to contain the seepage that was taking over a corner across the street from the historic landmark.

“I’ve seen it bubble up a little bit before, and it’s always fascinating when it happens. Thinking, OK, the tar pits are gonna win this time and take over the world,” Andrea Ross-Greene said laughing. “This is the biggest eruption I’ve seen, and I think it’s pretty cool.”

The earth has been oozing tar and methane gas in the area since pre-historic times.

(17) GRRM Q&A. In Santa Fe at his Jean Cocteau Cinema, George R.R. Martin emcees occasional author events, which they have now started recording for streaming and later viewing. Here are three available on YouTube.

  • Marlon James (author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf.)
  • Alan Brennert (from The Twilight Zone, author of Daughter of Molokai.)
  • Lee Child (Creator of Jack Reacher.)

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

Pixel Scroll 5/28/19 Pix-El, Last Scroller Of Krypton

(1) BAYCON. The Mercury News shared its very positive impression of last weekend’s BayCon: “Bay Area science fiction fans beam up to San Mateo to talk Star Trek, transgender fans and activism”.

…Speakers over the weekend included Brianna Wu, a congressional candidate from Massachusetts who was one of the most high-profile victims of an online harassment campaign aimed at women in the video game industry in recent years.

In conversations with the attendees on Sunday — an intimacy organizer Chris Castro said is a selling point of BayCon over larger conventions — Wu and moderator Gregg Castro discussed activist burnout and creating spaces for people who want to help but may not be comfortable canvassing or making phone calls. Wu also encouraged more women to run for office, calling it “the best job in the world.”

Also presenting at that panel was Sarah Williams, who grew up in Fremont and now lives in Davis. She said discussing social issues and activism is “almost necessary” in science fiction because it’s so forward-looking. The panels are also useful in fans’ personal lives, she said. As a queer woman, Williams said she knew she had to be supportive when her daughter told her she was a transgender girl.

Still, she said, she needed guidance on what support her daughter would need. She could access that through panels such as “Transfans,” a presentation held on Sunday morning about transgender science fiction fans. Williams said she also knew she could look up the speakers and reach out to them for advice.

However, Sumiko Saulson was present at another panel which didn’t reflect that kind of acceptance, and wrote about the experience on Facebook:

I’m reluctant to get into what happened when I was on a panel yesterday because it was fairly traumatic, but the short of it is that a well-known author guest (David Brin) started the panel by saying he wouldn’t trust regular Americans with this but we’re alpha sci fi writers, then went into a very ableist spiel about how we all know some beings – including, specifically certain humans, and he referenced the developmentally disabled – are inferior, people are just too politically correct to say so. Then he asked a moral dilemma question about if it would be more ethical to uplift animals and have them as servants than to genetically alter humans as servants and make them low IQ

Then he got into an argument with a young enby [non-binary] person in the audience who was sitting near Darcy (Chris Hughes) and the rest of the extremely poorly moderated panel included lots of yelling between the audience and panel, as he’d set the tone. He seemed to be intentionally asking baited or loaded questions….

(The report goes on for several more paragraphs in which some panelists’ conduct grew even more disturbing.)

(2) ANIMENEXT UPDATE. As a result of harassment allegations against AnimeNEXT chair Eric Torgersen (see Pixel Scroll for May 22, item #4), he has been suspended while the con’s board of directors investigate. They made the following announcement on Facebook over the weekend:

…as of April 14th, 2019, Eric Torgersen has been suspended from AnimeNEXT staff, pending this investigation, and will not be present at the 2019 event. AnimeNEXT and Universal Animation, Inc. have hired a neutral third party to conduct the investigation.

Additionally, Mr. Torgersen has not been a member of the board since 2018 and has not been Convention Chairman since 2017.

AnimeNEXT and Universal Animation, Inc. want our convention to be a safe and positive experience. As such, we do not condone harassment of any kind. We appreciate your patience and understanding until this investigation is completed.

Sincerely,

The Universal Animation Inc. Board of Directors

(3) ENTERPRISING FANS. Ernest Lilley tells Amazing Stories readers all about the Museum of Science Fiction’s weekend event: “MOSF Escape Velocity 2019 — Dominique Tipper GoH “.

While Amazing Stories editor Steve Davidson was holding down a booth at Balticon, the Capital Region’s largest sci-fi convention, I was an hour away at the Museum of Science Fiction’s annual convention: Escape Velocity 2019.

Escape Velocity is a different sort of con than anything else in sci-fi. Visually it looks like a media con, with lots of large-scale movie props and cosplayers, but behind the closed panel doors, there’s a serious attempt to create a fusion of pop-sci-fi culture, accessible science, resources for educators, and even a few policy wonks talking about the future of space conflict….

(4) PROOF NEGATIVE. Fabrice Mathieu unblushingly presents MOON SHINING » or: How Stanley Kubrick shot the Apollo 11 Mission?  — “an imaginative behind the scenes of the Moon Landing of Apollo 11 directed by Stanley Kubrick in 1969!”

(5) MOON COLLECTIBLES AUCTION. And yet people bid millions on Heritage Auction’s Spring Space Exploration Auction #6206

This was the second installment of The Armstrong Family Collection™ (TAFC) and, when the floor sessions were over, the top seven and fifteen of the top twenty sale prices were TAFC lots. A section of Lunar Module Flown Wright Flyer Wing Cloth and a Lunar Module Flown Wright Flyer Propeller Piece tied for top price at $175,000 each. Currently, the total sales are $4.579 million with Post-Auction Buys continuing.

(6) WHO’S TOXIC? Marvel’s Captain Marvel is coming out on Blu-Ray, heralded by the release of an extended version of a scene from the film. It’s caused an uproar.

Stylist takes this side: “Why Captain Marvel’s deleted scene on toxic masculinity has angered trolls”.

… Captain Marvel counters with a handshake and introduces herself. The man tells her: “People call me… The Don.”

Releasing an unimpressed “wow”, Captain Marvel then unleashes her superhero powers on the man, sending electrical pulses through her hand, forcing the man to his knees in pain.

“Here’s a proposition for you,” she says. “You’re going to give me your jacket, your helmet and your motorcycle, and in return, I’m going to let you keep your hand.”

He quickly hands over his keys, and Captain Marvel lets go, adding: “What, no smile?”

In just a minute-long scene, Captain Marvel sums up what’s wrong with men telling women to smile, and unsurprisingly, that’s made some men angry.

…The men criticising the scene — and attacking Larson — are missing the point, and being purposefully obtuse as to its message.

Yes, it shows Captain Marvel using her powers to harm someone else, but plenty of superheroes before her have done exactly the same, and gone much further than she did. That Captain Marvel is called out for behaviour that male superheroes have got away with for decades is sexist.

And saying the scene will hurt “feminist causes” is a fundamental misunderstanding of what feminism is about — women want equality, and that partially means dismantling the idea that the only good women are nice women.

Max Florschutz takes the other side in “The Captain Marvel Kerfluffle”.

…. Both sides have, as you can predictably guessed, gone up in arms. Both make some good points, and both make some bad points.

However, the reason I chose to take some time out of my crunched day to post about this was because at its core, the argument Disney’s marketing team and the writers of Captain Marvel have claimed is … well, wrong.

Vers isn’t a hero in that scene. Not by any definition of the term. And to see people so aggressively defending Vers actions as “heroic,” even the writing team? Well … I think that’s in part why the Captain Marvel had the problems it had.

See, the problem isn’t that the scene exists, but that people, creators included, are insisting that it is “heroic.” And it isn’t. It’s far from it, in fact, unless you’re aiming to redefine “heroism” as something completely different. Which I don’t think the writers are trying to do … They just genuinely don’t seem to know what heroism is.

Already there are people defending the “heroism” of the scene online by saying that naysayers are only unhappy because it’s “a woman,” declaring that no one had issues with a male character doing similar in Terminator 2.

No. Because in Terminator 2 the T-800 is nota hero. He’s an anti-hero. If someone declares that heroic, than they’re wrong. Flat out. He threatens physical harm to innocents because he doesn’t care, and has no morals. Classic anti-hero trait.

Vers threatening a slimy guy past simply shutting him down isn’t heroism with the goal of stealing his possessions isn’t heroism. It’s the mark of an anti-hero, just as it was with the T-800….

(7) DOGGONE IT. This week New Zealand’s Stuff showed that a problem persists: “Game of Thrones fans buying huskies from unregistered breeders”.

…A New Zealand husky rescue charity that has dealt with hundreds of abandoned dogs after Game of Thrones ramped up the breed’s popularity is pushing for reform outlawing “backyard breeders.”

Michelle Attwood, who founded the Canterbury-based charity Husky Rescue NZ in 2009, said that hundreds of huskies had been abandoned to her charity every year since Game of Thrones launched – their TV connection clear through names like Ghost, Nymeria, Stark and Snow.

Huskies have become a real “status symbol,” she said, with Thrones fans driving a vicious cycle.

Peter Dinklage publicized the problem in 2017:

At the time he released a statement:

‘Game of Thrones’ star Peter Dinklage is asking fans to stop buying huskies as pets just because they resemble the fictional direwolves in the blockbuster HBO show. The actor warns fans the pups still need constant care after the novelty wears off. “Not only does this hurt all the deserving homeless dogs waiting for a chance at a good home in shelters, but shelters are also reporting that many of these huskies are being abandoned,” Dinklage said Tuesday in a statement released by PETA.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 28, 1908 Ian Fleming. The James Bond novels of course which are no doubt genre but also Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang which originally was published in three volumes and became a much beloved film. Like Heinlein, he would do a travelogue, this one called Thrilling Cities. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 28, 1951 Sherwood Smith, 68. YA writer best known for her Wren series. She’s also co-authored The Change Series with Rachel Manija Brown. She also co-authored two novels with Andre Norton, Derelict for Trade and A Mind for Trade.
  • Born May 28, 1954 Betsy Mitchell, 65. Editorial freelancer specializing in genre works. She was the editor-in-chief of Del Rey Books. Previously, she was the Associate Publisher of Bantam Spectra when they held the license to publish Star Wars novels in the Nineties.
  • Born May 28, 1977Ursula Vernon, 42. She is best known for her Hugo Award-winning graphic novel Digger which was a webcomic from 2003 to 2011. Vernon is also the creator of The Biting Pear of Salamanca, a digital work of art which became an internet meme in the form of the LOL WUT pear. 
  • Born May 28, 1982 Alexa Davalos, 37. Her first genre role i think was Gwen Raiden on the fourth season of Angel. She‘s Juliana Crain currently on The Man in the High Castle. And she was Andromeda in the remake of Clash of the Titans

(9) HUGO AWARDS ON JEOPARDY! TOMORROW.For once you get the news before the show is aired. Kevin Standlee says, “The Hugo Awards will be featured in a category on Jeopardy! on Wednesday, May 29.”

(10) DARKNESS FALLS. Fantasy Book Critic weighs in on “Necromantica by Keith Blenman (reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)”.

…Necromantica is, essentially, a love story. You feel it in the way Lama speaks to Mornia. You see it in Mornia’s behavior. Remember, they’re not sharing a drink. They’re in the midst of the battle and they slaughter enemies. Call it a dark fantasy romance. I mean, you don’t write a story called Necromantica without it being dark, right?

Lama and Mornia share heart-wrenching stories. Mornia used to live a free, spiritual life and wanted to grow into a healer. By the time the story begins, her life has been robbed from her and ell her loved ones killed. She survived, but she’s broken. Whatever magic she possessed, she used for revenge. Instead of healing people, she focused on black arts and necromancy. …

(11) BY THE HAIR ON THEIR CHINNY-CHIN-CHIN. SYFY Wire’s “Fangrrls” column has published a “scientific” study entitled “A very serious cultural study on beards and which dudes look hotter with them.”

To beard or not to beard, that is the question.

Last year, when the Avengers: Infinity War trailer revealed that Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers had grown a beard, the internet went wild. How is it possible that Evans, this hunky cinnamon roll of a golden retriever boy scout bro, could get even hotter? It was almost unfair, yet there it was. We mourned the loss of Cap-beard for an extended period of time on SYFY FANGRRLS, but it also got us thinking as to what it was about some well-organized facial hair that had us all aflutter.

It turns out that there’s a scientific reason for that. It’s not just pure shallowness! According to a study in 2013 on the subject, facial hair acts as a major influence in shaping people’s ideas about what we expect from men in society. The study revealed that “women judged faces with heavy stubble as most attractive and heavy beards, light stubble and clean-shaven faces as similarly less attractive.” For men, it was the opposite case, with full beards as the most attractive. Those conducted for the study also revealed that full beards were judged as an excellent sign of parenting ability and healthiness, so all your daddy Steve Rogers jokes paid off in a big way.

They go on to judge the beard-appeal and stylings for Jason Momoa, Chris Evans, Henry Cavill, Chris Hemsworth, John Krasinski, Rahul Kohli, Keanu Reeves, and Jason Mantzoukas.

(12) LOVE THAT MECHA. Future War Stories tunes into Japanese TV in “Future War Stories From the East: Armored Troopers VOTOMS”.

…Many of the more famous anime and manga is often defined and remembered because of a certain iconic character, unique setting, or piece of machinery (which is often Mecha). Some imported Japanese animations or comics are lucky enough to be imported wholly to the West along with other associated products like models, video games, or toys. Others were not so lucky and came over to our shores in pieces and over a great length of time, forging fans along with way….

…What is “Armored Trooper VOTOMS”? VOTOMS is the brainchild of Fang of the Sun Dougram creator Ry?suke Takahashi and despite being developed in 1983, VOTOMS is still an on-going Japanese military science fiction franchise encompassing anime TV series, OVAs, video games, models, and toys. At about the time that Fang of the Sun Dougram was ending its run on Japanese television, Takahashi and Nippon Sunrise animation studio would continue the mecha-centered war stories with the VOTOMS 52 episode television show that aired on TV Tokyo from April 1st, 1983 through March 23rd, 1984….

(13) NOVELLA NOTIONS. Garik16’s Hugo finalist reviews continue with — “Reviewing the 2019 Hugo Nominees: Best Novella”.

Hugo Award voting just opened at the start of May and continues through the end of July.  For those of you new to the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre, the Hugo Award is one of the most prominent awards for works in the genre, with the Award being given based upon voting by those who have paid for at least a Supporting Membership in this year’s WorldCon.  As I did the last two years, I’m going to be posting reviews/my-picks for the award in the various categories I feel qualified in, but feel free to chime in with your own thoughts in the comments….

(14) COLLECTIBLE HARDCOVERS. Gizmodo/io9: “Folio Society Is Doing Special Editions for All of A Song of Ice and Fire…If It’s Ever Finished”.

The Folio Society recently announced that it was releasing a special collector’s edition of A Game of Thrones, the first novel in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Now, on the cusp of the series finale for HBO’s Game of Thrones, it looks like we can expect even more—the entire A Song of Ice and Fire, including those famously still-unwritten books. Of course, that all depends on whether Martin ever finishes them. 

In a statement to io9, the Folio Society’s representative confirmed that it was following up its A Game of Thrones hardcover edition with other books in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The publisher says the project is a collaborative with Martin, who’s been involved “every step of the way.” The first book is available for preorder, and is set to come out on July 16.

(15) [PROCESSOR] POWER TO THE PEOPLE. “The tablet computer pulled by donkey” – BBC has the story, and a photo:

Back in 2016, mobile technology the like of which had not been seen before rolled into the remote community of Funhalouro, in Mozambique.

Pulled by donkey, the container consisted of four LCD screens, powered by solar panels.

It was a mobile roadshow, starting with music to draw a crowd and then switching to a three-minute film on the biggest of the screens.

While the topic – digital literacy – was not the most entertaining, it was engaging for the audience, many of whom had never seen a screen or moving images before.

After the film, the audience was invited to use smaller touchscreen tablets to answer a series of questions about what they had seen.

There were prizes of T-shirts and caps for those with the highest scores.

For those who couldn’t read, the questions were posed in diagram form….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Shocking Truth of Lightsabers vs. Lightning,” on YouTube, Martin Archer, a physicist at Britain’s Queen Mary’s University, says that if lightsabers are made of plasma, having two of them blast each other is a bad idea and having lightning bolts sent toward a lightsaber is a really bad idea.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/4/19 Like Pixels Through File 770, So Are The Scrolls Of Our Lives

(1) COVER REVEAL. Here is The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s March/April 2019 cover. The cover art is by Kent Bash.

(2) BETTER WORLDS. The latest short story (and video adaptation) in The Verge’s “Better Worlds” series is “A Sun Will Always Sing,” by Karin Lowachee. (Video byYeah Haus.)

There’s also a Q&A: “Karin Lowachee on how humanity can peacefully coexist with AI” conducted by Andrew Liptak.

What inspired this story, and how did you construct this future?

I’d seen on YouTube a discussion from scientists about if an AI possessed an exact neural map of the human brain that it would not be out of the realm of possibility to believe that they would also be imbued with curiosity and maybe even a sense of responsibility for the Earth because now they, too, were a part of its systems. Around the same time, I stumbled on articles written by social scientists who believed that in taking care of certain economic necessities, humanity ideally could free up resources for creative problem-solving on the world scale and exploration.

These points of reference were really the general jumping-off points for me to try to logically extrapolate a human society that accommodated AIs (though not without some implied struggle) because the AIs were not, in fact, seeking a judgment day. They wanted to live and progress just as humans, and though their consciousness was not exact to humans, they were their own kind and just as worthy to be respected. We recognize this in intelligent animals, or even animals as a whole, so my thinking was it could be possible for AIs as well.

(3) WASTE NOT, WANT NOT. Max Florschutz offers advice about “Being a Better Writer: Garbage”. His ideas are far more realistic than J.K. Rowling’s.

Consider, for example, your trash. What happens to it? How do you dispose of it? Is it a garbage can next to your desk or in the kitchen? What happens to it once the can is full? Where does it go? Who deals with it? Do you know? Or does it simply “vanish?”

Well, here’s the thing. It definitely doesn’t vanish. Refuse is refuse: Someone has to do something with it or it piles up. Waste from your home, for example, at least in the US, is collected in a larger can and taken to the side of the road for a garbage truck to collect (99% of the time. The US’s coverage with this system is so ubiquitous that I’ve been to rural places where the only vehicle in town that isn’t a four-wheeler or a boat is the town garbage truck). That truck then takes it to a landfill or a processing center. At the first, the garbage is dumped out. At the second, it’s sorted and separated, usually with an end-goal in mind of dividing up the garbage into smaller, more dedicated end-states, from compost to recycling.

(4) NYRSF READINGS. Jim Freund asks, “Why waste your time with the State of the Union, when we have such a brilliant and more fulfilling alternative?”

The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series resumes Tuesday, February 5.

Mimi Mondal (Bone Stew) writes about history and politics, occasionally disguised as fiction. Her first co-edited anthology, Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia E. Butler won a Locus Award and was nominated for a Hugo Award in 2018. In the past Mimi has worked as an editor at Penguin India and Uncanny Magazine, and spent eleven years at universities in India, Scotland and the US, from which she is currently recovering in New York and at @Miminality on Twitter.

Karen Heuler’s stories have appeared in over 100 literary and speculative magazines and anthologies, from Conjunctions to Clarkesworld to Weird Tales, as well as a number of Best Of anthologies. She has received an O. Henry award, been a finalist for the Iowa short fiction award, the Bellwether award, the Shirley Jackson award for short fiction (twice), and others. She has published four novels and a novella, and her fourth story collection has just been published by Tartarus Press.

The events begins at 7:00 p.m. in The Brooklyn Commons Café, 388 Atlantic Avenue (between Hoyt & Bond St.) in Brooklyn, NY.

(5) FIVE STORIES IN ONE. Syfy Wire gets to Hogwarts by way of Korea: “Geek Road Trip: Harry Potter fans in South Korea just opened a five-story cafe devoted to the boy wizard”.

Once we get inside, we’re quickly pointed to the counter. The food and drink offerings here are relatively run-of-the-mill Seoul cafe classics: Americanos, various flavored lattes and milk teas, and fruity adeS. On the menu, they promise chocolate wands are coming soon, and on select days there’s Butterbeer. Dessert-wise there’s a selection of cakes, none of which are themed, save for one: the wizard cake, a mini replica of the birthday cake Hagrid brings to Harry. We ordered the wizard cake for a cool 17,000 Won (around $15), grabbed our pager, and began to explore.

And trust me, there’s a lot to explore. Everywhere you turn there’s a poster or a reference to something Harry Potter-esque. Quotes in English and Korean line the staircases along with posters and portraits. Even the elevator is fully decked out.

(6) NO CODE FOR THIS CONDUCT.  The infosec industry conference DerbyCon is calling it quits after this year. Their explanation sounds like “We’re closing down rather than resorting to enforcing our code of conduct.”

Read their announcement here: “DerbyCon 9.0 – Every Beginning Has an End”.

…This year, we had to handle issues that honestly, as an adult, we would never expect to have to handle from other adults. Conferences in general have shifted focus to not upsetting individuals and having to police people’s beliefs, politics, and feelings. Instead of coming to a conference to learn and share, it’s about how loud of a message a person can make about a specific topic, regardless of who they tear down or attempt to destroy. To put it in perspective, we had to deal with an individual that was verbally and mentally abusive to a number of our volunteer staff and security to the point where they were in tears.

This is not what we signed up for.

Admittedly, we had no idea how to handle this person, and in fear of repercussion of removing this person, allowed them to stay at the conference in order to “not upset the masses”. The best we could do was just apologize, for other apologies, and apologize more for another’s actions. This is just one example of many we have had to deal with over the past few years, and each year it becomes increasingly harder for us to handle. We do everything as a conference to ensure the safety, security, and go above and beyond that of others. Maybe that puts us on a different level where something that would normally not be an issue explodes into a catastrophic situation on social media.

Who knows? What we do know is each year it gets harder and harder.

2019 will be our last year of DerbyCon.

Motherboard reports “Hackers Baselessly Blame Women and ‘SJWs’ for the End of DerbyCon Security Conference”.

…Some in the infosec community read the organizers’ statement and began to blame the shutdown on “Social Justice Warriors,” and women who complained too much. For example, far right blog Gateway Pundit pointed to an incident where an attendee complained that other attendees were joking about sexual assault outside of the conference’s Mental Health Village. Others on Twitter latched on to the rumor that “SJWs” killed DerbyCon.

Regardless of the reason for the conference’s cancellation, the announcement renewed a conversation about toxicity in the infosec community that has been taking place in earnest since at least 2017 (and in smaller circles before then), when the Verge reported on chat logs from well-known security researcher Morgan Marquis-Boire, in which he confessed to a series of sexual assaults; the Verge and VICE corroborated that reporting with multiple women who have knowledge of the assaults.

While some women in the cybersecurity world were discussing the toxic interactions, sexual harassment, and assaults they’ve faced in the infosec community, members of a popular closed Facebook hacking group called “illmob” began to attack women who have spoken up about these issues, including Georgia Weidman, a security researcher who recently tweeted that her career was hurt by attending and speaking at DerbyCon in 2013….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 4, 1925 Russell Hoban. Riddley Walker may well be one of the most difficult novels I’ve ever read but it’s certainly also worth it. ISFDB lists a lot of other SF works by him but I must say I hadn’t realised that he’d written any beyond this work. Had any of you known this? (Died 2011.)
  • Born February 4, 1940 John Schuck, 79. My favorite SF role by him is as the second Draal, Keeper of the Great Machine, on the Babylon 5 series. I know it was only two episodes but it was a fun role. He’s also played the role of Klingon ambassador Kamarag in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and in  Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. He guest starred in Deep Space Nine as Legate Parn In “The Maquis: Part II”, on Star Trek: Voyager as Chorus #3 in the “Muse” episode, and on Enterprise as Antaak in the “Divergence” and “Affliction” episodes. Oh, and he was Herman Munster in The Munsters Today.  Now that was a silly role! Did you know his makeup was the Universal International Frankenstein-monster makeup format whose copyright NBCUniversal still owns? 
  • Born February 4, 1961 Neal Asher, 58. I’ve been reading and enjoying his Polity series since he started it nearly twenty years ago. Listing all of his works here would drive OGH to a nervous tick as I think there’s now close to thirty works in total. I’m listening to The Line War right now and it’s typically filled with a mix of outrageous SF concepts (Dyson spheres in the middle of ten thousand year construction cycles) and humans who might not be human (Ian Cormac is back again). He’s the sort of writer that I think drives our Puppies to madness — literate pulp SF pumped out fast that readers like. 
  • Born February 4, 1970 Gabrielle Anwar, 49. Currently Lady Tremaine on Once Upon a Time. On the BBC series Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, she once played Ramandu’s Daughter. Marti Malone in Body Snatchers which is the third film adaptation of that Finney novel.  She was Queen Anne in The Three Musketeers which I love and Emily Davenport in The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Patriotic Ewoks will shed a tear over this Brevity.

(9) STAR TREK: RENT. On The Late Late Show With James Corden, the cast of Star Trek: Discovery leaves the bridge for this week’s episode of Carpool Karaoke. Sing along with Sonequa Martin-Green, Anthony Rapp, Doug Jones and Mary Wiseman. Complete show is accessible through an Apple app.

There’s another preview on Twitter.

(10) WORLDCON ECONOMICS. Persistent Scribble tasks an unnamed author who feels the Worldcon should give them a free membership. Thread starts here.  

(11) VAMPING IT UP. What We Do in the Shadows, from writer Jemaine Clement and director Taika Waititi, premieres March 27 on FX.

What We Do in the Shadows is a half-hour comedy series based on the feature film of the same name by co-creators Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. Set in New York City, the show follows three vampires who have been roommates for hundreds and hundreds of years. Stars Matt Berry, Kayvan Novak, Natasia Demetriou, Harvey Guillen and Mark Proksch.

(11) Y? Y NOT? The Hollywood Reporter has posted that, “‘Y: The Last Man’ Ordered to Series at FX.” Much of the cast had been announced as early as mid 2018 (The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Y: The Last Man’ FX Cast Unveiled, Diane Lane and Barry Keoghan to Star”), but FX has now definitized the series order.

File this under “years in the making.”

Brian K. Vaughan’s beloved comic series Y: The Last Man is finally coming to a screen. FX on Monday announced that it has picked up its TV adaptation to series. The network has handed out a series order for the drama from showrunner Michael Green and starring Barry Keoghan and Diane Lane. It is expected to premiere in 2020.

[…] Green (American GodsBlade Runner 2049Logan) and Aïda Mashaka Croal (Luke CageTurn) serve as showrunners and executive producers. Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson of Color Force (American Crime StoryPoseThe Hunger Games) and Vaughan executive produce and developed the series. Melina Matsoukas (InsecureMaster of NoneBeyonce: Formation) directed the pilot and exec produce the FX Productions drama. In addition to Keoghan and Lane, the cast also includes Amber TamblynImogen Poots, Lashana Lynch, Juliana Canfield and Marin Ireland.

(12) BLUER MARBLE. BBC story says “Climate change: Blue planet will get even bluer as Earth warms”.

Rising temperatures will change the colour of the world’s oceans, making them more blue in the coming decades say scientists.

They found that increased heat will change the mixture of phytoplankton or tiny marine organisms in the seas, which absorb and reflect light.

Scientists say there will be less of them in the waters in the decades to come.

This will drive a colour change in more than 50% of the world’s seas by 2100.

(13) AS EASY AS A. Chip Hitchcock says BBC’s article “How easy will it be to build a Moon base” is an “interesting overview despite one huge error-of-fact.” (Can you spot it?)

How can astronauts build a lunar base if traditional building materials are too heavy to load into a rocket?

In 1975, three years after the final Apollo Moon landing, Space: 1999 first aired on British television. It began with a nuclear explosion wrenching the Moon, and an international lunar colony of over 300 people, out of its orbit and into an unknown journey into space.

The TV series obviously made an impression on a young Elon Musk because, when the SpaceX founder revealed their plans for a lunar colony in August 2017, he called it Moonbase Alpha after the lunar base in Space: 1999. “Cheesy show,” Musk tweeted, “but I loved it.”

SpaceX is not alone is wanting to get humans back on the Moon. The Chinese space agency CNSA (China National Space Administration) has announced the next stages of its successful Chang’e lunar exploration missions – shortly after Chang’e 4 became the first spacecraft to make a soft landing on the far side of the Moon.

Chang’e 5 and 6 will be sample return missions while Chang’e 7 will survey the South Pole, a region of specific interest for human habitation because it contains water ice. “We hope that Chang’e 8 will help test some technologies and do some exploring,” deputy head of the CNSA Wu Yanhua said in January, “for the building of a joint lunar base shared by multiple countries.”

China is not alone in this ambition. Across the globe, 50 years after the Moon landings, the practicalities of a moonbase are taking shape. The irony is that, while only the United States of America has left footprints on the Moon, the Americans are now having to play catch up. It didn’t unveil plans for a permanent moonbase until August 2018. Nasa’s primary focus until then had been Mars. The European Space Agency (Esa) was already one step ahead.

(14) YARN V. GLASS CEILING. Pixar has a new short film that blurs the line between genre and a workplace dramedy (Mashable: “Pixar’s newest short ‘Purl’ is a must-watch for every workplace”).

Pixar’s new animation program SparkShorts has released its first short film, a powerful story about the difficulty of fitting into a workplace of human males. 

“Purl” might be about a pink ball of yarn, but its title character adopts new behaviors and aggression to be one of the boys, a transparent allegory for women trying to break the glass ceiling in corporate culture.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Gordon Van Gelder, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Errolwi, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to ULTRAGOTHA.)

Pixel Scroll 10/23/17 A Long Scroll To A Small Angry Pixel

(1) ASKING FOR A MULLIGAN. The Hugo Award Book Club casts aspersions on a 2001 winner in “Harry Potter and the Undeserved Hugo”.

If Hugo Award voters had the prescience to have recognized (via award or nomination) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 1998, perhaps it would be more forgivable. But looking at the situation with 15 years of hindsight, it feels like the Hugos were just bandwagon jumping on an established series that was already extraordinarily popular.

It seems to me that honouring the book with a Hugo Award did nothing to help it find new readers, and this feels like an abdication of what the award should be about.

(2) SOUND THE HORN. Since being chastised for misspelling Froot Loops, John King Tarpinian has been doing penitential research about the cereal. Those of you who were saying you can’t get unicorn burgers may want to know you can get unicorn breakfast cereal, for a limited time — “Unicorn Froot Loops Are Now Enchanting Store Shelves”.

Kellogg’s is giving early mornings a major dose of magic. According to Delish, the cereal giant is remixing its fan-favorite Froot Loops with a very 2017 makeover: unicorn.

Almost unrecognizable without Toucan Sam, eagle-eyed shoppers are sure to get pulled in by the rainbows, stars, and a very cute unicorn. The limited-edition cereal comes with new packaging that features the as-yet-unnamed animated unicorn complete with a requisite rainbow mane, but the real magic is inside the box.

While standard Froot Loops are already a Technicolor addition to any breakfast, the unicorn version is a little more subdued, but ups the ante when it comes to trendy hues.

(3) SPEAKING UP. Neil Gaiman voiced a character on The Simpsons on Sunday – a Coraline parody was part of the latest “Treehouse of Horror” episode.

A.V. Club reviewed the overall effort: “The Simpsons walks us through a visually ambitious but forgettable Treehouse Of Horror”.

The 28th “Treehouse Of Horror” carries on the venerable Simpsons institution by, as ever, tossing a whole lot of stuff at the screen and seeing what sticks. To that end, this year’s outing gives us: An Exorcist parody, a Coraline parody, Homer eating human flesh (just his own, but still), stop-motion segments, horror and fantasy-specific guest stars, a little light Fox standards-pushing (Homer does, as stated, eat human flesh), and the usual string of hit-or-miss gags. That last part isn’t really a criticism in itself. Freed up from the need to calibrate the heart-yucks equation, a “Treehouse Of Horror” rises or falls on the strength of its jokes, although the annual Halloween anthology provides its own unique degree of difficulty.

(4) ON THE CANVAS. Walter Jon Williams does a draft cover reveal for the next book in the Praxis Series. He has been making a heroic effort to complete it but  the book isn’t cooperating, as he says in “Punch Drunk”.

I haven’t been posting for several days, because I’ve been trying to finish  The Accidental War, which (according to the publisher) is Book IV of the Praxis series, but which (according to me alone, apparently) is Book VI, because I count Impersonations and Investments, and they don’t.

See?  It even has a cover!  Though this may not be the actual cover when it’s released, at the moment it’s just sort of a cover suggestion the art department is playing with.

Wow!  Sure looks like MilSF, doesn’t it?

(5) PENRIC. And at Goodreads, Lois McMaster Bujold has shared “The Prisoner of Limnos cover sneak peek” with art by Ron Miller.

So, as promised, here is the e-cover of the new Penric & Desdemona novella. It will be #6 in the current internal chronology (and publishing order.)

The vendor-page copy will read:

“In this sequel novella to “Mira’s Last Dance”, Temple sorcerer Penric and the widow Nikys have reached safety in the duchy of Orbas when a secret letter from a friend brings frightening news: Nikys’s mother has been taken hostage by her brother’s enemies at the Cedonian imperial court, and confined in a precarious island sanctuary.

“Their own romance still unresolved, Nikys, Penric, and of course Desdemona must infiltrate the hostile country once more, finding along the way that family relationships can be as unexpectedly challenging as any rescue scheme.”

(6) PRODUCT PLACEMENT. Adweek tells how “A Baby Dragon Brings the Heat for Doritos on Twitter”.

You don’t have to be a Targaryen to know the value of a baby dragon.

When Doritos U.K. released a limited edition of extra-hot tortilla chips called Heatburst this past spring, it became part of the conversation on Twitter by creating its own “celebrity”—a comical, fire-breathing baby dragon—to represent the new flavor.

As described in the video below, the Heatburst campaign, with the hashtags #HeatWillCome and #BabyDragon, centered on the dragon character. It launched with a series of quirky videos where the baby dragon innocently ignited virtually everything around him. As awareness for the product grew, the baby dragon became a Twitter character in his own right, inserting himself into pop-culture moments and current events to keep the brand top of mind. Doritos U.K. did this using a full-range of Twitter formats, including branded emojis, GIFs, and conversational videos.

(7) CONTINUED WEINSTEIN AFTERMATH. The Hollywood Reporter says female animators sent a letter to executives at major animation studios insisting on an end of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Among the 217 women and gender-nonconforming people who signed the letter are Netflix’s head of kids programming Jenna Boyd, Bob’s Burgers producer and writer Wendy Molyneax, Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar and Danger & Eggs co-creator Shadi Petosky, as well as animators of BoJack Horseman, Adventure Time and The Powerpuff Girls.

The full text of the letter is at The Wrap (“Women Animators Pen Open Letter on Sexual Harassment: ‘This Abuse Has Got to Stop’”.) The demands include:

  1. Every studio puts in place clear and enforceable sexual harassment policies and takes every report seriously. It must be clear to studio leadership, including producers, that, no matter who the abuser is, they must investigate every report or face consequences themselves.
  2. The Animation Guild add language in our constitution that states that it can “censure, fine, suspend or expel any member of the guild who shall, in the opinion of the Executive Board, be found guilty of any act, omission, or conduct which is prejudicial to the welfare of the guild.” To craft and support the new language, we ask that an Anti-Harassment and Discrimination Committee be created to help educate and prevent future occurrences.
  3. Our male colleagues start speaking up and standing up for us. When their co-workers make sexist remarks, or when they see sexual harassment happening, we expect them to say something. Stop making excuses for bad behavior in your friends and co-workers, and tell them what they are doing is wrong.

(8) MAKING LIGHT. Overshadowed by the Cuban Missile Crisis is Galactic Journey’s review of the November 1962 Fantastic.

It seems likely that the threat of violence, which hangs over our heads in these troubled times, makes it necessary for us to make light of traditional terrors.  We laugh to keep from screaming.  As an example, on the same day that China invaded India, Bobby Picket’s novelty song, The Monster Mash, reached the top of the charts.

Appropriately, the latest issue of Fantastic features another comic version of old-fashioned horrors….

It’s Magic, You Dope! (Part 1 of 2), by Jack Sharkey Lloyd Birmingham’s cover art, which reminds me of the macabre cartoons of Charles Addams, captures the spooky but laughable nature of this short novel by editor Cele Goldsmith’s resident comedian.

(9) YESTERDAY’S DAY

(10) THE MALL’S OUR DESTINATION. At Pornokitsch, Jared takes us shopping: “Malls, Mallrats and Browsing”.

Doug Stephens wrote a powerful piece on how ‘to save retail, let it die’. In it, he lists all the ways in which retail is doomed (hi, Amazon!) on his way to a, more-or-less, familiar conclusion: retail spaces need to become experiences.

Stephens posits that the future retail spaces aren’t about buying products at all, but about:

  1. gathering data
  2. selling experiences that involve the products

Imagine, I suppose, the LEGO store, but solely with the build-your-own minifig display. And lots of covert measurement over which pieces everyone uses… (Ok, this must happen already, but still. Imagine!)

Then, presumably, we all go home and receive Snapchats telling us that a new set of our favourite LEGO can be purchased, right now. Just wink acceptance, and your facial recognition purchasing programme will do the rest. Then, when you lose a piece, you shout at Alexa, and the replacement follows. Whatever. That sort of thing. All beside the point.

(11) LOU ANDERS. Variety includes Lou Anders’ good news in “‘Dark Matter’ EP Vanessa Piazza Sets Multi-Year Producing Partnership With eOne”.

Piazza is also developing “Masked,” based on the original super-hero fiction anthology edited by Lou Anders, who will also be involved in the series adaptation. Notable comic and graphic novel writers, including Lilah Sturges, Paul Cornell, and Gail Simone whose short stories appear in the book, will contribute to the anthology series, working with Piazza and executive producer and showrunner Joseph Mallozzi.

(12) INDIE FOCUS. The inaugural issue IndiePicks Magazine is now on the street.  You can read an electronic copy via their website.  Subscriptions to the electronic and paper versions are also available.

Their sff reviewers appear to be Alan Keep and Megan McArdle.  Their horror reviewer is Becky Spratford.  And their YA reviewer is Magan Szwarek.

(13) EARLY ELECTRONIC MUSIC. NPR on the creator of the Doctor Who theme: “Forebears: Delia Derbyshire, Electronic Music’s Forgotten Pioneer”.

All that changed in 1960 when she went to work at the BBC as a studio manager. She soon became enamored of the Radiophonic Workshop, a division of the media conglomerate dedicated to electronic experimentation. The invention of tape recording in the 1950s allowed sounds to be manipulated in entirely new ways; in a time when radio dramas ruled popular entertainment, the Workshop was a creative — and coveted — place of employment. In 1962, Derbyshire was assigned a position at the workshop, where she’d work for over a decade, becoming a sound specialist and a leading voice in musical counterculture: The weirder her soundscapes became, the more wondrous they felt. She created music for the world’s first fashion show with an electronic soundtrack (and considering the commonality of techno/dance music on the runway, she left a legacy in that field, too). She organized robotic noise in a way that felt truly alien, shocking sounds whole decades ahead of this music’s time.

(14) GUARD YOUR ARTISTIC FREEDOM. Max Florschutz issues a warning in “Being a Better Writer: Preaching to the Choir” at Unusual Things.

They adjust the story that they’re telling so that it is no longer aimed at the general audience, but at those who already buy into it. And that means changing the presentation.

For example, say someone writes a story that is going to preach to the choir with regards to one of the US’s political parties (which happens a lot, unsurprisingly). Writing a story that appeals to the group already supporting that party is going to result in a different story than one written to a general audience. A story that was written for a general audience on the topic would need to, for starters, approach all of its topics from a neutral starting point, as it would need to assume that those approaching the work didn’t share or even know of the authors ideas and views. It would then need to examine the ideals it wanted to present from a variety of points, answering the reader’s questions and concerns—which could be fairly vast—as it attempted to explain the stance of the author. It would also need to do so while maintaining a level voice and giving the various viewpoints a fair shake.

But if we compare that to a title written for an audience that wants to be preached too, most of that will disappear. For example, that audience does not want to start from a neutral point. They’ve already left that ground. They want a position already ensconced in their stance. Nor do they want to examine their own beliefs from a variety of angles—that can raise uncomfortable questions and truths that they’d rather not deal with—so each angle approached must be designed to reinforce that safe space they’ve already built for themselves by making sure that all other ideas, themes, etc, are wrong. It also can’t have a level voice nor give equal treatment to other views; after all, those views are wrong. Lastly, to preach to the choir, the work needs to reinforce the idea that the audience is safe where it is, that they have made the right or smart decision by believing what they believe.

And the truth is, creating this kind of work is extraordinarily popular. Everywhere. Because there’s a guaranteed audience as long as the “choir” exists. Michael Moore films, for example? One-hundred percent preaching to the choir. Baptist-ploitation films like God’s Not Dead? Also preaching to the choir. And many, many others—crud, you readers along could probably fill the comments with thousands of works from all sides of any spectrum or idea that preach to the choir. It works because it appeals to a set audience that wants to be told that they’re right, to be reinforced without thinking critically (or in some cases, by being giving a thought that sounds critical, but actually isn’t). And that audience? They eat this kind of pandering up.

… So, with that said—specifically the bit about a quick buck—why wouldn’t you want to preach to the choir? Why not go for it?

Well, the answer is pretty simple: Once you do, it’s hard to go back. Once you’ve started writing stories that support that little “safe zone,” you’ve effectively shackled yourself to it and to that audience. That audience is going to want more of the same, and if you don’t deliver it, they will become unhappy.

(15) I’M NOT OKAY, YOU’RE NOT OKAY. Douglas Smith spends the first four paragraphs of “On Writing of a Different Culture” at the SFWA Blog apologizing for world history before getting to the point:

So, yes, I was a tad paranoid of being accused of cultural appropriation.

Let me first explain why I was drawn to Cree and Ojibwe culture for The Wolf at the End of the World.

If you think you’re doing something wrong, wouldn’t it be better to not do it? If you haven’t done something wrong, why are you apologizing?

(16) JOE HILL. Lisa Taylor reviews “Strange Weather by Joe Hill” for The Speculative Herald.

Strange Weather is a collection of 4 short novels, each telling a unique story. They are all independent of one another, and could be read in any order. I may not rate this one quite as high as most of the works I’ve read by Hill, but I suspect most of that comes from my preference for longer works. The stories are quick and varied covering funny to horrifying to creepy and the main character in each are varied.

(17) PERSONAL BEST. Here’s a record that will appear with an asterix next to it.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/10/17 Eric And The Dread Pixel Scroll

(0) TRAINING COMPLETED. Thanks to you who wished me a good trip to New Mexico for my mother’s 91st birthday celebration. I’d say your wishes were effective, not only because we had a fine reception and dinner, but because my Amtrak experience was far superior to that of the folks who left Los Angeles aboard the previous day’s Southwest Chief. The Santa Fe New Mexican has the story

Passengers and crew aboard a Chicago-bound Amtrak train spent the night stopped in Northern New Mexico hill country after the lead engine struck a boulder and partially derailed.

No serious injuries were reported, but the two engineers in the lead engine were taken to a hospital for evaluation, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said Friday from Chicago.

The incident occurred Thursday evening on Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks in a rural area near Watrous about 105 miles northeast of Albuquerque.

…The train’s second engine and all the cars remained on the tracks and the train still had power, heating and toilet service while it remained at the derailment site, the Amtrak spokesman said.

Not to overstate things — I would have missed the excitement anyway, since my destination was one of the last stops before they hit the rock, however, it still felt like a narrow escape.

(1) RUH ROH! Last month Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson shared the long history behind “Why Amazing Stories Isn’t Back on NBC”. However, over the weekend the media reported “Steven Spielberg will revive ’80s NBC series ‘Amazing Stories’ for Apple”.

Apple is making a major statement on its television ambitions as it nears an acquisition of an original series from filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

The tech giant is close to a deal to buy a new version of Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories,” the Emmy-winning sci-fi anthology series that ran on NBC from 1985 to 1987.

NBCUniversal, which co-owns the rights to the property, confirmed that an agreement is imminent. Apple declined to comment. The Wall Street Journal first reported the deal Tuesday.

A scripted series with the imprimatur of Spielberg, one of Hollywood’s most-heralded producer-directors thanks to “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Schindler’s List” and the “Jurassic Park” franchise, and his company Amblin Television, will be a demonstration of the tech giant’s clout as it enters the television business…

More as the story develops.

(2) PUPPY LOVE. Yahoo! says get your Kleenex ready — “Carrie Fisher’s dog watching the new ‘Star Wars’ trailer will destroy you”.

Millions of Star Wars fans watched the new trailer for The Last Jedi on Monday night — including one very good boy.

A photo of Gary, Carrie Fisher’s beloved French bulldog, was posted to his official Instagram account on Monday, and, guys, we’re warning you — it’s going to make you whimper….

(3) WHO ARE YOU? Jim C. Hines, in “A Plea to Conventions About Name Badges”, asks conventions to fix a problem that people have been complaining about the entire time I’m been in fandom.

I have a favor to ask of conventions: please design your badges so that names can be easily and clearly read.

I’ve never been good with names. It’s frustrating as hell, and it’s become a bigger problem as I travel to more conventions. I get introduced to so many people, and within 24 hours, a lot of those names escape my brain like Batman villains from Arkham Asylum.

Jim provides illustrations of what works for him, and what doesn’t.

(4) A NEW YORK COMIC CON STATE OF MIND. The Washington Post’s Aaron Gregg, in “Marvel cancels comic book deal with Northrop Grumman after Twitter backlash”, says that Marvel cancelled a proposed partnership with Northrop Grumman (whose “Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus” superheroes were supposed to team up with The Avengers) after lots of fans objected, noting, among other things, that Tony Stark gave up his defense contracts.

Marvel teased the partnership Friday morning in a tweet that promised more details in a presentation the following day at the New York Comic-Con festival. A retro-style comic book cover temporarily posted on Marvel’s website featured a team of “Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus” super heroes fighting alongside Marvel’s popular Avengers superheroes. The cover was quickly scrubbed from the company’s website, but not before it went viral on Twitter.

Twitter users ridiculed Marvel, accusing it of partnering with “death merchants.” Some pointed out that the Marvel character Iron Man, alias Tony Stark, had been the billionaire CEO of a company that built advanced weaponry but had turned his back on the weapons business after seeing its effects. Angry fans called out specific Marvel executives, and at least one suggested publicly protesting the issue at Marvel’s Comic-Con booth.….

(5) SZECHUAN LETDOWN. Meanwhile, another corporation was breaking hearts in the culinary arena. Michael Cavna and Maura Judkis, in “McDonald’s botched its ‘Rick and Morty’ Szechuan sauce stunt, and fans are not happy”, report that McDonald’s has disappointed thousands of viewers of the Cartoon Network show Rick and Morty. After 45,000 people signed a Change.org petition inspired by the show calling on the company to bring back Szechuan Sauce (originally created to promote Mulan in 1998), McDonalds promised select locations would have the sauce, but only a few did.

One Washington Post reporter was among those “Rick and Morty” fans who went questing Saturday for the fabled sauce, driving to three Maryland locations — one of them listed as an official “participating” outlet — and none had received a Szechuan shipment. One restaurant tried to pawn off Sriracha sauce. Another tried to sell the tangy Signature sauce. And a third outlet’s shift manager came to the drive-thru window to apologize profusely — clearly this wasn’t her first “Rick and Morty”-related apology of the day.

(6) REMEMBER WHEN? The Atlantic bills this article as “Revisiting Star Trek’s Most Political Episode” – which is saying something about a series that often delivered messages.

“It’s not that they don’t care. It’s that they’ve given up.” This was how Commanding Officer Benjamin Sisko, played by Avery Brooks, described early 21st-century Americans in an episode from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. When it aired in 1995, “Past Tense” spoke to contemporary concerns about homelessness by telling a story set in 2024—the near future for viewers, but the distant past for characters. In the two-part episode, Sisko and two of his companions from the U.S.S. Defiant find themselves stranded in San Francisco, where they’re reminded that the federal government had once set up a series of so-called “Sanctuary Districts” in a nationwide effort to seal off homeless Americans from the general population. Stuck in 2024, Sisko, who is black—along with his North African crewmate Dr. Julian Bashir and the fair-skinned operations officer Jadzia Dax—must contend with unfamiliar racism, classism, violence, and Americans’ apparent apathy toward human suffering.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Tiaan Jerjerrod was the project manager of the second Death Star, which was destroyed at the end of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. Supervising Jerjerrod was Emperor Palpatine’s right-hand man, Darth Vader. (Source: Death Star II: A Project Management Case Study.)

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Ada Lovelace Day

Ada Lovelace Day, whose goal is to “… raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths.” (Wikipedia)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 10, 1965 — The Red Baron first appeared in  Peanuts comic strip.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY EXPLORER

  • Born October 10, 1861 — Fridjtof Nansen, whose arctic navigation inspired fellow Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl. His ship, Fram, shares a museum with Kon Tiki and Ra.

(11) COMIC SECTION.

Martin Morse Wooster approves this “old school groaner” in today’s Frank and Ernest.

(12) SCI-FI SWINGS LIKE A PENDULUM DO. In “‘Blade Runner 2049’: Why some science fiction writers are tired of dystopias”, a recent article by the Christian Science Monitor, several sff authors suggest that they are tired of the wave of grim visions of humanity’s future. Is it time to create more works around an optimistic future based on expanding technology and human understanding?

In “Blade Runner 2049,” which opens Friday, post eco-disaster Los Angeles has built a massive coastline wall to fend off rising ocean levels. Few of the overpopulated city’s human or android occupants have ever seen a tree or a real animal. The incessant rain is as dour as Harrison Ford’s facial expressions. Worst of all? One character bemoans the fact that there’s no more cheese in the world.

Recent dystopian blockbusters seem to be jostling in a grim race to be the first to reach the seventh circle of hell in Dante’s “Inferno.” But some science-fiction writers are tired of the sorts of pessimistic futures depicted in movies and TV shows such as “The Hunger Games,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Black Mirror,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

In response, influential authors Neal Stephenson, Cory Doctorow, David Brin, and Kim Stanley Robinson argue that futuristic fiction should, instead, offer an inspiring outlook about mankind’s ability to shape its destiny. But do the kinds of stories we tell ourselves have a cultural impact on shaping a better tomorrow?

“I want to nod at something that Jill Lepore wrote in The New Yorker about the dangers of drowning ourselves in dystopian stories,” says Christopher Robichaud, who teaches a class at Harvard Extension School on Utopia and Dystopia in fiction and philosophy. “The utility dystopian fiction used to serve was to bring problems to our attention and seek solutions. But the danger is that these stories can become a collective act of despair in response to current events.”

(13) SPACE TUTOR. In “Astronaut encourages kids to flip for STEM”, the Washington Post’s Marylou Tousignant says that the Air and Space Museum recently hosted a webcast with astronaut Randy Bresnik on the International Space Station where he had floating candy and showed kids an official NASA barf Bag.

If you could ask an astronaut orbiting in space any question, what would it be?

Students from several Washington-area schools got to do that recently at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum as part of its “STEM in 30” program.

Among other things, they wanted to know: Is it hard to move around up there? Can you watch TV? How do you know when it’s time for bed? What if you get sick?

(14) GRIM TIDINGS PODCAST SEEKS SUPPORT. The hosts of the Grim Tidings Podcast have invited fans to support them via Patreon.  Rob Matheny and Philip Overby focus on interviewing authors, editors, and agents working within the Grimdark sub-genre.  They have recorded over 100 episodes including luminaries from the field such as Joe Abercrombie, C.T. Phipps, Anna Smith Spark, Brian Stavely, Michael R. Fletcher, Sebastien De Castell, Laura M. Hughes, and Deborah A. Wolf.

(15) HAIR APPARENT. Is singing songs like this the real reason John Scalzi constantly needs to think up new names for his band?

(Just kidding – I laughed….)

(16) A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT. Alex Acks finds more to criticize about fantasy maps in a post for Tor.com — “Tolkien’s Map and the Perplexing River Systems of Middle-earth”.

…So what is it about the mighty Anduin that makes me tilt my head like a dog hearing a high-pitched noise? There are four main factors, in ascending order based on how easily I’m able to mentally excuse each point.

It cuts across two mountain ranges.

There is one fact you really need to understand to grasp the basics of how rivers work. Ready? Water flows downhill. That’s it. That’s the secret. Water flows downhill, and as it flows it tends to erode sediment and transport it downstream, and over long enough periods of time, that gets us our classic V-shaped river valleys and a ton of other morphological features. Which is why, when a river is on a collision course with mountains—normally places where the elevation goes up—you have to stare at it for a minute.

This is the easiest oddity for me to find an excuse for—because it is actually something that happens in reality! For example, the Colorado River cuts pretty much perpendicularly through the entire Basin and Range Province of North America. And the reason this works is because the Colorado was here before all that extensional tectonic silliness happened and the basins started dropping down from the ranges—and that process of down-drop was slow enough, relative to the ability of the Colorado to cut its own channel, that the river didn’t get permanently trapped in one of the basins.

So if we make the assumption that the Anduin existed before the mountains—and assume that the mountains uplifted in a natural way, thank you—it’s very possible for it to have cut down fast enough to maintain its course despite uplift. (Keep this in mind, we’ll be coming back to it later…)

(17) KEEP ON SWIMMING. And over the weekend Camestros Felapton gave us “Even More Plot Elements of Fantasy Maps”.

Big Islands

In Earthsea islands are large and numerous, in Lord of the Rings, on the other hand, islands barely appear and are small. In both cases they are locations and destinations and themselves contain terrain.

In Tolkien’s wider work, Númenor is the most notable island – a version of Atlantis, which itself gives us a classic inspiration for islands in Western literature. Oceanic islands can be countries with their own terrain but cut off from surroundings. Le Guin depicts the islands of Earthsea more like medieval era city-states with a wider common culture but no central authority.

It is interesting to me that Tolkien, who draws on many aspects of Britain and Britishness in building Middle Earth, avoids the island quality of Britain. This despite a tendency to mythologize the insular quality of Britain in English propaganda-history both in high-culture (Shakespeare’s ‘sceptered isle’) and low-culture (‘fog in the channel, continent cut off’). George R.R. Martin’s Westeros does this by having it be an eratz England circa the War of the Roses (with Scotland being another place full of ice zombies). Westeros’s scale seems flexible but it’s primary plot role as an island is to be a container. Events are within Westeros (up to the Wall) or beyond (either over the wall or on another continent).

The point being – oceanic islands are treated as political units rather than as terrain.

(18) JUXTAPOSITION. The title of Max Florschutz’ latest post halted me in my tracks — “Being a Better Writer Delayed” — until I remembered “Being a Better Writer” is a recurring topic at his Unusual Things blog.

(19) HOLY BLEEP. Camestros Felapton subjected his precious bodily fluids to a famous corporation’s bizarre new offering, “Coca-cola with coffee”.

…There is also a weird slimy quality to it. It’s like drinking coke but a bit more unpleasant.

The coffee is “real” and from Brazil. If I was Brazil I might object to the free advertising.

(20) X-FILES SEASON 11 TRAILER. The truth etc. etc.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/10/17 Second Cinco De Mayo

(1) THE PRIZE. Mark Lawrence came up with something incredibly logical and hilarious at the same time —  “The SPFBO now has an award!”

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off now comes with its own award. The fabulous and coveted Selfie Stick!

There are several illustrative photos with highly amusing captions at the link.

(2) SFWA HUMBLE BUNDLE. It’s a brand name, otherwise you’d probably wonder why it’s given to what might be the least humble bundle ever – Super Nebula Author Showcase – with 40 books and 31 short stories. And the works in the bundle generally are either Nebula winners or nominees, or by the authors of other Nebula-nominated work.

  • Pay $1 or more and get:

Doorways by George R.R. Martin, Venus Prime by Arthur C. Clarke, Reading the Bones by Sheila Finch, Howard Who? by Howard Waldrop (includes winner, “The Ugly Chickens”), The Healer’s War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link (includes winner, “Louise’s Ghost”), Phoenix Without Ashes by Harlan Ellison (winning author), and Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook edited by Cat Rambo.

  • Pay $8 or more and also unlock:

Word Puppets by Mary Robinette Kowal, Shadow Show: Stories In Celebration of Ray Bradbury, Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories by Adam-Troy Castro, Robot Dreams by Isaac Asimov, Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress, The Last Temptation by Neil Gaiman, Inside Job by Connie Willis, The Baum Plan for Financial Independence by John Kessel (includes winner, “Pride and Prometheus”), Sister Emily’s Lightship by Jane Yolen, The Jagged Orbit by John Brunner, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells, and 2013 Nebula Awards Showcase.

  • Pay $15 or more and unlock

Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee, The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth by Roger Zelazny, The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction Vol. II, Frank Herbert Unpublished Stories by Frank Herbert, Everything But the Squeal by John Scalzi, Fountain of Age by Nancy Kress, Moving Mars by Greg Bear, The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson, Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison, and Archangel #1 – #4 (4 issues included) by William Gibson.

  • Pay $20 or more to unlock

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine, Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor, The Computer Connection by Alfred Bester, Burn by James Patrick Kelly, First Person Peculiar by Mike Resnick, At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson, Report to the Men’s Club by Carol Emshwiller (includes winner, “Creature”), What I Didn’t See by Karen Joy Fowler, Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany, and Bloodchild by Octavia E. Butler.

And wait, there’s more!

  • FREE: Read 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees!

Love short stories? Bonus stories for Humble Bundle buyers: 31 short stories by the 2016 Nebula Nominees on the Great Jones Street app.

(3) UP A LAZY RIVER. Are we supposed to be shocked that Amazon has added a strategy for selling gently-used books? Publishers Weekly has learned some are scandalized by this one — “New Amazon Buy Button Program Draws Ire of Publishers, Authors”.

A new program from Amazon is drawing a range of reactions from those across the publishing industry, from fear to downright anger. The e-tailer has started allowing third-party book re-sellers to “win” buy buttons on book pages. The program, publishers, agents, and authors allege, is discouraging customers from buying new books, negatively affecting sales and revenue.

Up until now, the buy button on book pages automatically directed customers to new copies of titles Amazon stocked from the publishers. Now, re-sellers can win a buy button by meeting various criteria outline by Amazon which includes the price, availability, and delivery time. The program is also only open to books in new condition.

Those objecting to this policy say it is allowing Amazon to deprive publishers of sales and authors of royalties. (Because re-sellers are not buying their copies from publishers, these sales will not be counted as sales, and money derived from them will not go to publishers or authors.)

(4) DEFENDING AMAZON. New Republic also carried the ball for those with a negative viewpoint about Amazon’s policy, “Amazon Steps Up Its Battle With the Book Industry”, which inspired the wrath of Max Florschutz. He thought it was so outrageous he borrowed a page from Larry Correia’s playbook and set about “Fisking an Anti-Amazon Article From the New Republic” .

After the news that Amazon had begun allowing third-party sellers to “win” the buy button, it strongly condemned the company. “Without a fair and open publishing marketplace, publishers will soon lose the ability to invest in the books that advance our knowledge and culture,” it said in a statement.

Hogwash and claptrap. This is how a “fair and open” market works. Companies are allowed to sell a product on their shelves at as low a price as they want. If they bought a book from the publisher but sell it at a lower mark-up than the publisher does, that’s their right. To insist that the opposite, which would be establishing a fixed price that all books had to be sold at would be “fair and open” is lunacy. That’d be the opposite: It’d be price fixing, which the big publishers were already found guilty of once befo—Oh.

Many publishers believe they’re being cheated by sellers in the third-party marketplace, which don’t acquire their books from official channels—instead they sell remaindered copies (books that did not sell in stores and were returned to the publisher) or “hurts” (books with minor blemishes), often for rock-bottom prices. If these books are “remainders” or “hurts” or pirated, as some publishers have claimed they are, then publishers and authors won’t see a dime.

Okay, hang on a second here. This doesn’t make sense. So the publishers are complaining that the numbers of remained or damaged books being sold are damaging their sales margin? What?

Let’s look at this reasonably. Yes, damaged copies of books exist. But if they exist in such large numbers that your own book sales are declining because of that … then you already have a problem whether they are sold or not. Because your production process is generating that many damaged copies in the first place. Which means you’re already burning a fair margin of your money on bad prints. Which means something about your printing process probably needs to be looked at. Especially if you’re generating so many damaged books that they can outsell a portion of your normal sales.

The “remainder” excuse is even worse, and yes, an excuse. Because if there were enough books not selling that remaindering copies existed … why are you printing even more and trying to sell them? You should be leaving them on shelves. If they’re “competing” with sales already existing, that means someone went and printed up new copies of a book that didn’t sell well in the first place … which is the bigger problem. If you only sold 200 copies of a 1000-print run, don’t garbage the remaining 800 and print up another 1000. Sell the 800. I’m sorry, but if “remainder” sales are damaging “new” sales, something is wrong with your business plans, not with the market.

And in either of these cases, why isn’t the author seeing any money? That sounds like a poor contract written heavily in the publishers favor, not the fault of the booksellers.

Lastly, I love how the article just casually throws “piracy” out there as if it’s part of the problem. It shouldn’t be. Amazon clamps down on pirates pretty quickly, because pirates are bad for business, and Amazon gets this. If there is piracy going on, the publishers should be working with Amazon to cut it off … not slyly insinuating that Amazon is supporting it somehow.

(5) BEAUTIFUL STORIES. Natalie Luhrs has Murderbot sounding like a companionable character, in a review of Martha Wells’ All Systems Red.

Murderbot isn’t your usual SecUnit though: they’re independent, having hacked their governor module which is supposed to keep them operating within a narrow set of parameters. Murderbot’s also really into online dramas and would much rather watch them all day than actually do their job—Murderbot, I feel you, I really, really do. They’re alternatively apathetic, annoyed, and  awkward and I found the expression of traits to be endearing.

(6) ON THE ROAD AGAIN. Jim C. Hines has an excellent post about “Traveling with Depression”.

This is such an odd post to try to write. I had a wonderful time in Buenos Aires. I’m so happy and honored that I got to go. I was also depressed about the trip, especially that first day or two. Both of these things are true.

I’m going to France next week for Les Imaginales. I’m feeling anxious. I suspect the depression will hit me in much the same way, especially that first day when I’m exhausted and have nothing scheduled. I’m mentally berating myself about feeling stressed instead of excited. I know, intellectually, that this will be another wonderful experience.

But brain weasels don’t give a shit.

  • “Now you’re depressed about going to France? You are such a disappointment.”

It’s just over five years since I got my diagnosis. Since I started taking antidepressants and talking to a therapist. It’s frustrating to be reminded that, like the diabetes, this isn’t something we’ve been able to “cure.” Instead, it’s something I try to manage. Like the diabetes, some days I do better than others, and some situations make it harder to manage.

(7) SF IN EGYPT. Black Gate’s Sean McLachlan interviews Egyptian sf author Mohammad Rabie about his novel Otared, a grim dystopian tale of Cairo in 2025.

One of the things that struck me when reading the novel was the almost total absence of religion. Since it’s such a cornerstone of so many Egyptians’ lives, this must have been deliberate on your part. Why did you make this creative decision?

I believe religion is the major reason for our current situation. We look at the president as the equivalent of God on earth, he cannot be criticized or opposed, and if one did so he must be sued and punished. So beside praying, fasting, and other religious rituals, there is a deep and strong feeling of surrender to the ruler of the country, as if we surrender to God. In Otared, and according to the logic of the novel, you will find most of the characters willing to die, and the main reason is to be transferred to a better place – in the case, heaven — it is nearly the same situation now in Egypt, people give up their own freedom just to have a better afterlife. It may be hard to understand this idea for a Westerner, to put it simply, we tend to stay under injustice, to be rewarded by God at the end. There may be no religious rituals in Otared, but the core of religion is one of motives of the characters.

(8) DOCTOROW STUDIES. Crooked Timber is running a Cory Doctorow seminar, inspired by his new book, Walkaway, “a novel, an argument and a utopia, all bound up into one.” Eleven related posts are online – click the link to see the list.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In the 1979 movie Alien, the blue laser lights that were used to light the alien ship’s egg chamber were borrowed from The Who.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 10, 1969 – John Scalzi

(11) SHADOW CLARKE JURY APPEALS THE VERDICT. We’d have been disappointed if they loved the official Clarke Award shortlist, don’t you think?

Our immediate reaction to the list was decidedly mixed. Although two of our shadow shortlist were in the mix (The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Central Station by Lavie Tidhar), some of the other choices proved less palatable.  Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee and Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan had some advocates amongst us, but Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit and Emma Newman’s After Atlas were not favourites with those who had already read them.  The gulf in ambition, thematic reach and literary quality between the six shortlistees seemed significant. Paul thought the list came across ‘as two completely different shortlists stuck together. How can the Tidhar and Whitehead belong in the same universe as Chambers and Newman? Chambers, Lee and Newman have been popular successes, but hardly critical successes. This is another safe and populist list.’

Jonathan agreed, adding that he suspected ‘a tension between those who want the Clarke to be like the Hugo and those who want to retain that connection to the more literary tradition. The Clarke’s slide into hyper-commerciality continues.’  Megan shared Jonathan’s perspective. ‘What we’re getting from this list is a commercially-packaged view of science fiction. And I feel the Colson Whitehead this year is last year’s Iain Pears, just a literary toss-in to shut up people like us.’

Nina also felt the list represented ‘a split in the values of criticism’, while Vajra agreed with Megan that the Whitehead was the anomaly on this list rather than vice-versa. ‘This is a “we included Whitehead because everybody would shout at us if we didn’t” kind of shortlist’.  Maureen summarised this set of opinions most succinctly: ‘This really is a cut-and-shut shortlist. Something to offend everyone. The more I look at the shortlist the more it looks like something assembled to nod at various constituencies without satisfying any.’

And there are a few more reviews to catch up:

I entered 2016 with my affection for science fiction at a low ebb. My levels of engagement with the genre have varied quite considerably with the passage of time but I was suddenly aware that I had been writing about science fiction for over a decade and that said decade had left my tastes almost completely estranged from those catered to by the larger genre imprints.

hate all that plot description that comes with a review – read the blurb I say – but if you need some clues Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me has an angel, dinosaurs, a suitcase – think Pulp Fiction, think Wile E Coyote, think The Rockford Files (!) – plus a vet and a doctor. It has higher dimensions and quantum foam, trees of all kinds though especially trees of knowledge that might just be libraries spanning time and space AND it has bird gods, though actually our avian overlords may just be artistic scavengers or better, refuse ‘artistes’. It’s a novel that is helter-skelter and overabundant; in some ways it’s like (a very glorious) extended episode of Doctor Who…and I’m sure that some readers may even think, a little on the twee side. Though of course, they would be wrong. Those same readers may wonder if the parts add up to an organic whole. And to be fair I wonder myself but it really doesn’t matter. There are many, many riches here – this is a marvellous novel – full of love, kindness, empathy and extraordinary ambition – the only one that can give Central Station a run for its money in 2016’s SF best of. But that is to get ahead of myself.

(12) POLLS WITHOUT POLES. Rich Horton continues with “Hugo Ballot Reviews: Novelette”, in which Stix Hiscock did not earn a place.

My ballot, then, will look like this, tentatively, though the first three stories — actually, the first four — are real close in my mind:

1) “The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan

I wrote this in my Locus review: “”The Art of Space Travel”, by Nina Allan, [is] a fine meditative story about Emily, who works at the hotel where the Martian astronauts are staying before they head out to space. The story isn’t about the astronauts, though, but about Emily, and about her mother, a scientist who has a sort of Alzheimer’s-like disease, perhaps because of contamination she encountered while investigating a plane crash, and about her mother’s involvement in preparation for a failed earlier Martian mission, and about Emily’s desire to learn who her father was. A good example of the effective — not just decorative — use of an SFnal background to tell a mundane story.” Allan actually had three very strong longer stories this year: also “Ten Days” from the NewCon Press anthology Now We Are Ten, and “Maggots”, a very long novella (perhaps indeed novel length) from the horror anthology Five Stories High.

(13) HOME TOWN BOY. When Spider-Man comes back to New York, comic dealers will be throwing parties in his honor.

Spider-Man returns to his friendly neighborhood in the new ongoing series PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN! From superstar writer Chip Zdarsky (Star-Lord) and legendary artist Adam Kubert (Avengers, X-Men) comes a companion to the best-selling Amazing Spider-Man series. This can’t-miss series takes Peter Parker back-to-basics and is bursting at the seams with heart, humor, and over-the-top action!

To kickoff this incredible new series, Marvel has partnered with participating retail stores to host PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN LAUNCH PARTIES. In addition to exclusive variant covers, participating retail stores will receive exciting promotional items – including Spider-Man masks!

The issue goes on sale June 21.

(14) OLD TIME IN THE HOT TOWN. Ancient Australian rocks suggest where to search for life on Mars.

Old rocks found in the Australian Outback have some weighty implications, scientists say: They hint at the environment in which life on Earth originated and suggest a location to search for life on Mars.

Scientists in Australia say they have found biological signatures of life in rocks that also show the presence of a hot spring, lending weight to a theory that the earliest life on Earth might have originated in freshwater hot springs on land rather than in deep-sea hydrothermal vents….

The fossil finding predates the previous oldest evidence for life on land by almost 600 million years, the scientists say. They described their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

NASA is currently considering where to land the rover on its 2020 Mars Exploration Mission, and one of the sites is a “hot spring-type setting,” about the same age as the early Earth, Djokic says.

“If you’re going to look for life on Mars, we know it was preserved on hot springs here on the ancient earth,” she says. “So there’s a good chance if it ever developed on Mars, then it would probably be preserved in hot springs there, too.”

(15) CLUTCH PLAY. Huge “baby dragon” oviraptor fossil found in China: “‘Baby Dragon’ Found In China Is The Newest Species Of Dinosaur”

In the 1990s, all of the known species of oviraptorosaur were small creatures. “There’s no way they were laying a 4- to 5-kilogram egg,” Zelenitsky says.

Then, in 2007, scientists in China discovered the first species of giant oviraptorosaur. “So finally, after 12 years, there is a species of oviraptorosaur that could have laid these giant oviraptorosaurlike eggs,” Zelenitsky says.

If Beibeilong nested like its smaller oviraptorosaur cousins did, it would be the largest known dinosaur to have sat protectively on its eggs.

(16) A DINOSAUR NAMED ZUUL. Long before Ghostbusters, there was Shinbuster.

In a paper for the Royal Society Open Science, Royal Ontario Museum paleontologists Victoria Arbour and David Evans describe the 75 million-year-old creature, a new species they dubbed Zuul crurivastator. Yes, its name is a reference to the demon Zuul from the original Ghostbusters movie. “Crurivastator” means “crusher of shins,” which is exactly what this creature could do with its spiked, hammer-tipped tail….

Weighing 2.5 tonnes and spanning 20 feet from its horned face to its spiny tail, Zuul was a living tank. In previous work, Arbour demonstrated using computer models that a beast like Zuul could use its tail club to break leg bones in its foes. This would have been especially effective against predator T. rex, which walked on two legs. Take out one leg, and the animal won’t survive long in the dinosaur-infested jungles of the Cretaceous.

 

(17) BRINGING THE HEAT. There’s a roundup about China’s successful sf writers at the English-language site Hot in China — “Chinese Sci-Fi Once Again Venturing Overseas”

When we look at the origin of sci-fi in China, famous scholars Liang Qichao and a young Lu Xun both translated Jules Verne’s sci-fi writing. By now, sci-fi in China has developed for half a century. While sci-fi creativity was curbed from 1902 to 1979, its progress has not stopped. Today’s Chinese sci-fi is growing rapidly after a subjective change: There is the founding of the magazine Sci-fi World, and its growth to a sci-fi magazine with the world’s largest circulation by the 1990s, and the emergence of many excellent Chinese sci-fi writers.

(Apparently File 770’s John Hertz is “Hot in China”, too – he’s part of a group photo at the end of the article featuring Hugo-winner Hao Jingfang taken at MACII.)

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Mark-kitteh, Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, Nick Eden, John King Tarpinian, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 5/2/17 Pixel Packing Mama, Lay Your Pixel Down

(1) YOUNG AGAIN. James Davis Nicoll will be doing a Phase II of Young People Read Old SFF and asks — What short works published before 1980 would File 770 readers recommend?

(2) POTTERPOLOGY DAY. Following her tradition of apologizing for killing off a character on the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts, J.K. Rowling tweeted today —

And as Katherine Trendacosta astutely observed at io9:

See? She knows she’s stirring shit up and she does it anyway.

For the uninitiated, Severus Snape is the third rail of Harry Potter fandom. One side has the completely valid argument that Snape was, despite happening to be on the same side as the heroes, horribly abusive to his students and, whatever Rowling’s intent, less “in love with” Lily Evans than a stalker with “nice guy” syndrome. The other side says that his very obvious flaws make him an interesting and nuanced character, and that, regardless of everything else, he died a hero. Plus, being played by Alan Rickman in the movies made Snape a lot more approachable than he is on the page.

(3) FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. May 6 is Free Comic Book Day when participating comic book shops give away special sample comics free to anyone who comes into their shops. There are a lot of different issues involved – see the catalog.

(4) BEAGLE SUIT. Peter S. Beagle isn’t as broke as people are making him out to be says Snopes’ David Emery in “The Trials of ‘Last Unicorn’ Author Peter S. Beagle”.

Contrary to Internet rumor, the beloved science fiction and fantasy author Peter S. Beagle (perhaps best known for his classic 1968 novel The Last Unicorn) is neither destitute nor teetering on the brink of starvation.

A cry for immediate financial assistance went up shortly after the writer’s 78th birthday on 20 April 2017, in the form of tweets describing Beagle’s circumstances as “dire”:

Several posts repeated the claim that Beagle, who has been embroiled in a costly legal battle with his former manager since 2015, was having difficulty even meeting basic household expenses such as grocery bills. However, we spoke to Beagle’s lawyer, Kathleen A. Hunt of El Cerrito, California, who told us that her client’s money woes, albeit chronic, are not as acute as they have been portrayed:

It’s true that he doesn’t have lots of money, but it’s not true that his living situation is dire. Peter does need the help and support of his friends and fans, but it is not the case that he’s in danger of being on the street.

We also spoke with Beagle himself, who said he considers himself a lot better off than the average writer:

It’s always dicey, but anybody who makes a living as a writer learns to cope with lean times. Compared to so many other people, I’m fortunate.

The impromptu fund drive nevertheless resulted in a welcome infusion of cash, not to mention an outpouring of love and support from Beagle’s many online fans. “The response was pretty phenomenal,” Hunt said.

The writer’s ongoing money woes are due in part to court costs from a 2015 lawsuit he filed against Connor Cochran, owner of Conlan Press, who had managed the author’s creative and business affairs for fourteen years…

Cochran filed a counterclaim denying the allegations, and posted a series of statements on his web site alleging that Beagle was being unduly influenced by individuals close to him who seek personal gain from the suit…

At present, Beagle says he feels fine and endeavors to write every day (with varying levels of success, he admits), focused mainly on a novel he envisions as a semi-sequel to Two Hearts, which itself he describes as “kind of a sequel to The Last Unicorn.” He will appear at BayCon, the annual San Francisco Bay Area science fiction convention, in May.

The lawsuit is set to go to trial in January 2018.

(5) RHETORICAL VIOLENCE. In The Guardian, Jessa Crispin challenges a popular narrative: “The Handmaid’s Tale is just like Trump’s America? Not so fast”.

…If the television show based on the Margaret Atwood dystopia feels like propaganda, with its depiction of women raped, mutilated, and forced into shapeless cloaks and bonnets in the new American theocracy named Gilead, then it shouldn’t be a surprise viewers are responding to it as such.

There are dozens of thinkpieces claiming this show is all too real and relevant; Atwood herself called it “a documentary” of Trump’s America. Sarah Jones at The New Republic went so far as to compare Gilead to contemporary Texas and Indiana. Women are in peril. We must do something.

If this propaganda is not being used to sell us a war, we should be interested in what it is selling us instead. That so many women are willing to compare their own political situation living under a democratically elected president with no overwhelming religious ideology (or any other kind, for that matter, except for maybe the ideology of greed and chaos), with the characters’ position as sexual slaves and baby incubators for the ruling class, shows that it is always satisfying to position yourself as the oppressed bravely struggling against oppression.

The text and the thinkpieces make it clear who our enemies are: conservatives and Christians. (It shouldn’t be a surprise The New Republic piece was headlined “The Handmaid’s Tale is a Warning to Conservative Women.”)…

(6) IN JEOPARDY! Tom Galloway reports:

On Monday’s Jeopardy! episode, the defending champion Alan Lin (“a software engineer from Santa Barbara, CA”) was asked by Alex Trebek about his writing. Lin replied that he writes SF short stories, but hasn’t sold one yet. But last summer he went to this writing workshop…. Checking the Clarion site, he’s listed as an alumnus. He’s doing well; as of the end of Monday’s show, he’s a six-time winner at $123,600 and still going. But on Monday’s show, he was beaten to the buzzer by another player on the clue in the category The Book of Verbs of “‘The Cat Who ____ Through Walls’ by Robert A. Heinlein”

(Jeopardy! will be doing an uncommon midyear online tryout test at the end of the month (three nights, May 30, 31, June 1) for those others who want to tryout. See Jeopardy.com for details)

(7) SEVEN TIME STOKER LOSER. Scott Edelman has a story:

Saturday night, I was up for my seventh Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Association, and emcee Jeff Strand took that opportunity to root for me … if you can call it rooting. Here’s what he had to say during his opening comments. Note that since the livestreamed video was so dark Jeff wasn’t even visible, I replaced that video with a photograph of me after I donned a new button once the results were announced in my category.

 

(8) DICK OBIT. Anne Dick died April 28 after surviving with congestive heart failure for many years. The former wife of Philip K. Dick published a biography about him in 2010, The Search for Philip K. Dick.

Tandy Ford, Anne Dick’s daughter and Philip Dick’s step-daughter, told a member of Facebook’s Philip K. Dick group, “She was still working away on her computer the night before her passing. She was a force of nature and her loss leaves a great void.”

In a 2010 profile by the New York Times’ Scott Timberg Anne Dick said:

“I think he’s what you might call a psychomorph,” Ms. Dick said recently, sitting in the boxy, modernist home she once shared with him. “He was quite different with each person. He had this enormous gift of empathy, and he used it to woo and please and control. I’m not saying he wasn’t a very nice person too; he was. He just had a very dark shadow.”

…After the breakup of their marriage, Ms. Dick said she endured seeing herself reflected in several evil-wife characters in his later novels. Yet when he died in 1982, after a series of strokes, “everything changed,” she said.

“You see a person in the round,” she continued. “I started writing this after he died, because I was still so confused by what had happened.”

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. When screenwriter William Goldman first tried to get The Princess Bride made into a movie in the 1970s, he wanted the relatively unknown actor and bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger to play the role of Fezzik. By the time the film was made in 1987, Schwarzenegger was a too big star. The part instead when to former wrestler Andre the Giant.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 2, 1933 — Although accounts of an aquatic beast living in Scotland’s Loch Ness date back 1,500 years, the modern legend of the Loch Ness Monster is born when a sighting makes local news on May 2, 1933. The newspaper Inverness Courier related an account of a local couple who claimed to have seen “an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface.” The story of the “monster” (a moniker chosen by the Courier editor) became a media phenomenon, with London newspapers sending correspondents to Scotland and a circus offering a 20,000 pound sterling reward for capture of the beast.

(11) THEIR STEELY KNIVES. Mark Lawrence explains how his Stabby Award finally arrived after some difficulty, and treats fans to a photo gallery of all the daggers and double-headed axes his work has won:

And finally here they are with my growing collection of pointy literary awards, along with the books responsible. My quest to win the Fluffy Bunny award for Friendliest Fantasy continues in vain.

(12) VIVA MAX. I can’t stay away from “five things” posts any more than a dog can avoid noticing a squirrel. Today Max Florschutz blows the myths away in “Five Things Non-Writers Should Know About Writers and Writing”.

1) Writing is a Lot of Hard Work This is one of the most common misconceptions I hear about writing. That it’s not work. That’s it’t not hard. That it’s not a “real” vocation (Yes, I hear all of these all the time).

This just plain isn’t true. Writing is a dedicated effort that takes hundreds, thousands of hours worth of both practice, planning, and devotion. Unfortunately, most people don’t think of it as something that does, because after all, they can write. They do it all the time! Text messages, letters, Facebook posts … they write all the time. How hard could it be to write a story?

The truth is that it’s very hard to write a story. It requires a very different set of tools to writing a text message, copying down the minutes of a meeting, or writing someone a letter. These things are straightforward and simple because they’re personal. Writing a story, however, is very impersonal. It has to be written from a perspective outside the writer’s own, and convey it’s tale to a vast audience of varying talent, comprehension, and capability. Writers must figure out how to paint a picture in each and every reader’s mind—a challenge considering that all of them will be very different people, and yet the same words the author pens must in each case create the same vision.

(13) AMAZON AUTHOR. Amanda S. Green continues her Mad Genius Club series with a lesson in Amazon marketing — “It’s really a business, pt. 2”.

Today, let’s talk about the Amazon author page and one or two related topics.

First of all, if you have released anything on Amazon and haven’t set up your Amazon author page, do so now. Don’t finish reading this post. Hie thee off to Author Central. You will sign in with the same user name and password that you have set up for your KDP account. Once you have, the first page you encounter is a general information page. Review everything there because there is some interesting information, especially if you haven’t been publishing for long.

(14) SHADOW CLARKE JURY FINISHES. Tomorrow the real Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist will be revealed. Today, the Shadow Clarke Jury issued its collective decision about who belongs on that list.

My final shortlistee is another popular novel among the Sharkes: the reality-bending investigation of light and perception, A Field Guide to Reality by Joanna Kavenna. While Jonathan approves of its class consciousness in the form of a cynical satire of academia, Maureen is intrigued by the alt-Oxford setting and intricate unfolding of universes, while Nina finds it good for “bust[ing] wide open” the science fiction envelope. The Sharke reviews, so far, have demonstrated just how malleable and diaphanous this novel is.

…Too often in the past, we agreed, Clarke shortlists had tended to feel weighted towards two or at the most three contenders that immediately looked stronger than the others, with the remainder simply making up the numbers. We wanted to avoid that scenario if we could, to present a genuine six-horse race.

And so the discussion proper was soon underway. The first two slots were filled very quickly – indeed, I think we all came to the meeting in the knowledge that Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station? were scoring high marks with just about every juror. Paul Kincaid called The Underground Railroad ‘essential’, and even went so far as to say he would judge this year’s Clarke Award on whether or not the official shortlist included it. Those who read the comments on the Sharke reviews here will know that I am not The Underground Railroad’s strongest advocate myself – and if the book makes it through to the official shortlist I will do my best to write in greater detail about why that is – but as I said to my fellow Sharkes I wasn’t about to step in front of a juggernaut. And as for Central Station, I was only too happy to see this very special book go through, especially since if the Clarke made any sense Tidhar would have been shortlisted twice already in previous years, for Osama and for A Man Lies Dreaming.

With two down and four to go, the question was then asked of each Sharke: of all the novels on your personal shortlist, are there any that you would say, absolutely, should be in the Sharke Six…

(15) THE GHOST BRIGADIER WHO WALKS. So why is the first thing that pops into my mind The Phantom comic strip? It’s not as if John goes around punching people in the jaw. (But if he ever did!)

(16) EVERYBODY LOOK WHAT’S GOIN’ DOWN. Galactic Journey gets another letter of comment from 1962 — “[May 02, 1962] A Good Lie (Letter Column #2)” – by a writer who wonders what the heck the U.S. is doing in Indochina.

Anyway, I thought of something I didn’t write about in my first letter to you.  (Thanks for sending some back issues of your publication.) I see that you are aware that there is something going on in Indochina that involves the US (March 31, 1961), but now, a year later, yes, it is clear that we as a nation are involved in war, but are just being sort of secretive about it.

(17) SOMETHING FOR MOTHERS’ DAY. Now on eBay, it can be yours for $28,000 – Bride of Frankenstein Movie Novel Signed by Elsa Lanchester & Forrest J Ackerman”.

First Edition. Signed and inscribed on the half-title by the film’s star, Elsa Lanchester, to Philip J. Riley, the editor of the book ‘The Bride of Frankenstein. Screenplay by William Hurlbut & John L. Balderston.  Introduction by Valerie Hobson. Foreword by Forrest J Ackerman’ which reprinted the film’s screenplay. Inscribed: “To Phil, From THE Bride of Frankenstein! Elsa Lanchester. With all my very best wishes.” Additionally signed and inscribed to Riley from Forrest J Ackerman on the front free endpaper: “Phil – Aunt Beeze is fine and here’s The Bride of Frankenstein. What else? Forry, at 59.” Ownership signature dated 1938 on the front pastedown…

(18) MIDNIGHT SEUSS. The Tennessean apprises locals of a chance to see “Dr. Seuss’ secret ‘Midnight Paintings’ at the Factory at Franklin”.

Presented by Ann Jackson Gallery (Roswell, Ga.), the exhibition on view May 5-7 charts the wider reaches of Geisel’s prolific artistic imagination, featuring nearly 100 limited edition reproductions of his work that have been largely unseen by the public. In addition to sketches, illustrations, and political cartoons he created during World War II, the major highlight of the exhibition are the selections from “The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss,” a collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures that Geisel created late at night for his personal enjoyment.

… The paintings and drawings, detached from a narrative, are more formally sophisticated and experimental.

Though they depict familiar Seussian settings populated by flamboyant characters and animals rendered in the same waggish visual vernacular as his storybook illustrations, they are more detailed, diversely colored, and at times more wondrous.

His sculptures, which comprise their own sub-collection of his secret art called, “Unorthodox Taxidermy,” are also remarkable. Using plaster, metal, and taxidermied animal parts, Geisel sculpted what look like the heads of his own outlandish animal creations — a “Goo-Goo-Eyed Tasmanian Wolghast” or “The Carbonic Walrus” — and mounted them on wood like hunting trophies.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Tom Galloway, Cat Eldridge, Scott Edelman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 1/2/17 The Pixel Shines In The Darkness, And The Darkness Has Not Overcome It

(1) NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY. Today is National Science Fiction Day, the date chosen because it is Isaac Asimov’s birthday. Judging by the return on my Google search, it’s a day beloved by writers of calendar clickbait but it goes largely unnoticed by fans. Should we be doing something about it?

(2) YOU’LL GO BLIND. Self-publishing isn’t the problem – self-editing is. At least, the kind of self-editing that Diana Pharoah Francis discusses in “Writers Club: The Evils of Self Editing” at Book View Café.

I’m not saying that self-editing is bad. It’s not. It’s just we often do it while writing and that’s when it’s evil. Sometimes we do it when we aren’t aware and that’s when it’s really awful.

When I first started out writing, I wrote for me and me alone. I was trying to entertain myself and so I didn’t worry about whether this would be offensive or that would be sappy or if readers would hate my characters. None of that entered my mind because it was all about the fun of telling myself the story and getting lost in it.

Then I published. This was a dream come true. But that’s when the evil self-editor started sneaking in to my creative zone. I’d write something and then delete it because it was too something: too off-color, too disgusting, too violent, and so on. That limited me in ways that I stopped noticing. I internalized those limits and made them an unacknowledged part of my writing process. It’s like a house. You don’t pay attention to where walls are or light switches because they just exist and are necessary and you’re glad they’re there doing their job.

Only really, the self-editor at this point in the process is really a saboteur. It’s a swarm of termites eating away your writing in secret and you have no idea it’s even happening.

(3) BOUND FOR CHINA. Tomorrow Nancy Kress leaves for Beijing . “I will be teaching a week-long workshop with Sf writer Cixin Liu, SF WORLD editor Yao Haijun, and Professor Wu Yan.”

(4) CA$H CALL. Jim C. Hines is collecting data for his 2016 Writing Income Survey.

For nine years, I’ve been doing an annual blog post about my writing income. It’s not something we talk about very much, and I think the more data we put out there, the more helpful it is to other writers.

The trouble is, I’m just one data point. Better than none, of course. But this year, I decided to try something a little different, and created a 2016 Novelist Income Survey.

The process and goals are similar to the First Novel Survey I did seven years ago. (The results of that one are a little outdated at this point…) I’ll be sharing the basic data like the median, mean, and range of author incomes, as well as looking at patterns and other correlations. No personal or identifying information will be shared in any way.

(5) THEY BLINDED ME WITH (PSEUDO)SCIENCE. A site called Book Scrolling (say, are we cousins?) compiled “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2016 (Year-End List Aggregation)”.

“What are the best Science Fiction & Fantasy books of 2016? We aggregated 32 year-end lists and ranked the 254 unique titles by how many times they appeared in an attempt to answer that very question!”

It comes as no surprise that the results are blindingly arbitrary.

Even though it ranked first among sf books in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards, Pierce Brown’s Morningstar comes in #26 on this list.

And this is a list of books not just novels – the VanderMeers’ Big Book of Science Fiction is #24.

Joe Hill’s The Fireman is #4.

Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky is #1.

(6) EARLY SCRIPT DOCTORING. It’s a new month – which means I can read another five LA Times articles free, so I caught up on John Scalzi’s tribute to the late Carrie Fisher from December 27 —

Out on the Internet, along with the many heart-touching tributes to Carrie Fisher, photographs of her as Leia Organa, either as princess (the original trilogy) or general (from “The Force Awakens”) and with her beloved French bulldog Gary, there’s another picture, originally placed there by cinema documentarian Will McCrabb, showing a page of the script of “The Empire Strikes Back.” On the script are several edits, in red pen, condensing and improving the script. McCrabb said the hand that put the edits there was Carrie Fisher’s, noting on Twitter that Fisher herself confirmed it to him.

Is he correct? The edits might have been made by Irwin Kershner, “Empire’s” director, instead. At the time — 1979 — Fisher would have been 22 years old. Yet here she was, looking at a script written by Lawrence Kasdan, who would go on to several screenwriting Oscar nominations, and Leigh Brackett, Howard Hawks’ secret screenwriting weapon and one of the great science fiction writers of her time, and thinking “this needs some fixing.” And then getting out her pen and doing just that.

Whoever made the edits wasn’t wrong. At least some of the edits to the scene (in which Leia, Han and Chewbacca plot a course to visit Lando Calrissian) made it to the final cut of the film. Simpler, tighter, better — and with the rhythm of speech rather than exposition (science fiction, forever the genre of people explaining things to other people). Carrie Fisher played a galactic princess, but she had a working writer’s gift for understanding how people talk, and how language works. At 22.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 2, 1902 – Leopold Bloom takes a walk around Dublin.
  • January 2, 1902 — The first dramatization of The Wizard of Oz opens, in Chicago. Book and lyrics by Baum, music by Paul Tietjens, plot reworked to provided plenty of gags and cues for irrelevant songs (and to eliminate the Wicked Witch of the West). Described in detail in Ethan Mordden’s Anything Goes: A History of American Musical Theatre, it sounds worse than the way US cinema reworked The Dark is Rising, but it was suited the audiences of the time well enough to run on various stages for seven years.
  • January 2, 1905 — Elara, a Moon of Jupiter, discovered.
  • January 2, 2000 — Patrick O’Brian died this date. Alan Baumler notes, “He was born on Dec 12. but I forgot to send it to you) and while his Aubrey-Maturin series of sea stories is not Fantasy/SF, given that Novik’s Temeraire series is pretty explicitly O’Brian WITH DRAGONS and Weber’s Honor Harrington series is O’Brian IN SPACE I would think it was worth mentioning.” Absolutely – and besides one of the Nielsen Haydens (I wish I could find the exact quote) said the technology in Napoleonic warships was so complex they were like the starships of their time.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born January 2, 1920 – Isaac Asimov. (Hey, wouldn’t it look bad if we forgot to list him on National Science Fiction Day?)
  • Born January 2, 1929 – Charles Beaumont, known for scripting Twilight Zone episodes.

(9) WHEN IS IT TIME TO BAIL? Max Florschutz helps new writers avoid the death spiral of investing time in unproductive writing projects by a self-evaluation process, partially quoted here:

What really sets a death spiral apart, however, from a fresh project that is still in its growing stages is the amount of time that has been sunk into it. For example, when looking at your current writing project, ask yourself the following questions. If you can answer yes to even one of them, you may want to consider the possibility that you are stuck in a death spiral.

—Has forward progress stopped in lieu of going back and editing/rewriting what you’ve already written before you’ve made it very far into the story?

—Have you since spent more time editing/rewriting that first bit of the story than you did originally writing it?

—Do you get started on writing new material for said story only to realize that you need to go back and edit/add in something and gone and done that instead? Has that been your experience the last few times you sat down to work on this story? Has it kept you from adding any new material in significant amounts (say, chapters)?…

(10) OCCASIONAL ACCURACY. NASA presents “The Science of Star Trek”, but finds it difficult to marry those two concepts.

The writers of the show are not scientists, so they do sometimes get science details wrong. For instance, there was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which Dr. Crusher and Mr. LaForge were forced to let all of the air escape from the part of the ship they were in, so that a fire would be extinguished. The doctor recommended holding one’s breath to maintain consciousness as long as possible in the vacuum, until the air was restored. But as underwater scuba divers know, the lungs would rupture and very likely kill anyone who held his breath during such a large decompression. The lungs can’t take that much pressure, so people can only survive in a vacuum if they don’t try to hold their breath.

I could name other similar mistakes. I’m a physicist, and many of my colleagues watch Star Trek. A few of them imagine some hypothetical, perfectly accurate science fiction TV series, and discredit Star Trek because of some list of science errors or impossible events in particular episodes. This is unfair. They will watch Shakespeare without a complaint, and his plays wouldn’t pass the same rigorous test. Accurate science is seldom exciting and spectacular enough to base a weekly adventure TV show upon. Generally Star Trek is pretty intelligently written and more faithful to science than any other science fiction series ever shown on television. Star Trek also attracts and excites generations of viewers about advanced science and engineering, and it’s almost the only show that depicts scientists and engineers positively, as role models. So let’s forgive the show for an occasional misconception in the service of an epic adventure.

(11) SUAVE AND DEBONAIR. The Daily Beast tells everyone, “Blame Horror-Film Legend Vincent Price for the Rise of Celebrity Lifestyle Brands”.

But while Martha Stewart famously (and accurately!) said in 2013 that “I think I started this whole category of lifestyle,” the concept that Stewart began selling with her first book, 1982’s Entertaining, is a little different from what celeb lifestyle brands are peddling. Stewart—who worked as a model and in the financial industry before becoming Our Lady of the Hospital Corner—became famous due to her lifestyle of perfect taste, immaculate table settings, and painfully severe pie crust prep. In contrast, celebrity lifestyle brands—like Paltrow’s Goop, which launched in 2008 and is widely considered the OG celeb lifestyle site—hinge on the more loaded idea that celebrities have great taste because they’re rich, and if you master that taste and pick up a few celeb-approved luxury items, you might get closer to the lifestyle of an Academy Award winner (without having to do all that pesky acting training).

Despite attracting the attention of many petty haters like myself, Goop is, of course, a resounding success—according to Fast Company, in 2015 the site had one million subscribers and got more than 3.75 million page views each month. But while everyone from Real Housewives to Gossip Girls have followed in Paltrow’s (presumably Louboutin-clad) footsteps in recent years, the roots of the celebrity lifestyle brand don’t lie solely with Stewart—rather, they began in the mid-20th century, with a cookbook.

The first celebrity cookbook was penned by horror film legend and acclaimed mustache expert Vincent Price (or, at the very least, its publisher, Dover, proclaimed it as such in a 2015 press release). Called A Treasury of Great Recipes, the book—which Price wrote with his wife, Mary—drew from their world travels, collecting recipes from high-end restaurants like New York City’s Four Seasons as well as ones that the Prices whipped up while entertaining at home. And the book didn’t just feature cooking instructions; it also included shots of the Prices at play, sipping soup proffered by a waiter in black-tie dress, or simply relaxing in their gorgeously appointed, copper pot-filled kitchen.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Bartimaeus, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Alan Baumler, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg Hullender.]

Pixel Scroll 11/21/16 Pon Far. Squa Tront.

(1) FOR LONG DISCUSSIONS ABOUT SHORT STORIES. Standback and Levana Taylor have launched the Short Story Squee & Snark website. It began as a Facebook group and all of the 50+ discussions from the existing group have been imported to the new site.

But it’s safe to assume the real action will be around the newest, most recent story selections. For our first few weeks, we’ve got story suggestions from Chinelo Onwualu, from Charles Payseur, and Abigail Nussbaum. Our first discussion begins tomorrow.

After that, we’ll be pressing on with selections from your humble hosts, Standback and Levana – and suggestions from you. You can follow us on RSS or on Twitter to join along.

(2) OCCASIONAL TIRADER. Julie Phillips profiles “The Fantastic Ursula Le Guin” ini The New Yorker.

To talk to Le Guin is to encounter alternatives. At her house, the writer is present, but so is Le Guin the mother of three, the faculty wife: the woman writing fantasy in tandem with her daily life. I asked her recently about a particularly violent story that she wrote in her early thirties, in two days, while organizing a fifth-birthday party for her elder daughter. “It’s funny how you can live on several planes, isn’t it?” she said. She resists attempts to separate her more mainstream work from her science fiction. She is a genre author who is also a literary author, not one or the other but indivisibly both.

Le Guin can be polemical, prone to what one close friend calls “tirades” on questions she feels strongly about. I once watched her participate in a panel discussion on gender and literature at WisCon, an annual gathering of feminist science-fiction writers, readers, and academics in Madison, Wisconsin. Scowling like a snapping turtle, she sat waiting for illogical remarks, which she then gently but firmly tore to bits. Yet a conversation with Le Guin is often full of comic asides, laughter, and—a particularly Le Guin trait—good-natured snorts. Humor seems to be her way of taking the edge off the polemic, as well as an introvert’s channel of communication. Behind even the lightest remarks, one is aware of a keen intelligence and a lifetime of thought, held back for the purposes of casual conversation.

(3) DEMON WITH A BRASS BAND. Omni’s Joshua Sky interviewed Jason Davis, editor of many Harlan Ellison collections, about the project to digitize and preserve all of Ellison’s writings, in “To Preserve A Demon”.

Writer/editor Jason Davis has a special ambition — to catalog, digitize, edit, correct, annotate and re-publish (or publish for the first time, in some cases) all of Harlan Ellison’s writings. Twenty-six four-foot-wide drawers of typescripts, over 100 feet of paper if stacked, the lifework of a man who is easily one of the most influential and cantankerous authors of the 20th century. Jason is spearheading the Harlan Ellison Books Preservation Project, a grand undertaking “To create definitive versions of all Harlan Ellison’s writings, fiction and non-fiction, to preserve in print for posterity.”…

JS: How did this project come about?

JD: I took over HarlanEllisonBooks.com in 2012. For the most part, I’ve been limited to publishing the previously uncollected, and un-reprinted stuff. His other works were with other publishers. I could do a new collection, like Harlan 101, which contains stories that you’ll find spread across many other Ellison collections. I can do that as a unique volume, and it did very well.

Certain economic factors were built into the original business model before I took over, and — as previously noted — the rights to most of the iconic collections are tied up elsewhere, so because of the need to sell X copies of a given book to make a return, I’ve concentrated on material that wasn’t available in any form elsewhere, with a few exceptions — like Harlan 101 or 8 in 80 by Ellison — where there was some unique aspect to the book that made it worth releasing.

For the Preservation Project, I’m working at the story/essay level, so I’m not stepping on anyone else’s toes. The entirety of Harlan’s work will be digitized and corrected to make sure it’s as the author intends it. In the future, if a publisher comes to him and says, “I want to put out a new edition of Shatterday in hardback,” it will be a simple matter of pushing a button, and a complete text of that collection goes off to the publisher in electronic form after the contract is signed. As it currently stands, that publisher would receive a large box of photocopied typescripts which would have to be scanned or typed into a computer for publication, which leads to inputting errors and a lot of back-and-forth between the publisher’s employees and Harlan’s office via phone, fax and e-mail. One of the goals of this project is to make republishing Harlan’s writings more appealing to publishers — who have their own economic pressures to deal with — by front-loading a lot of the editorial work.

To date the Kickstarter has raised $78,375 of the $100,000 goal.

(4) THE CALCULUS OF ONLINE BOOK SHOPPING. After Max Florschutz sells you the book, he’ll try to sell you on reviewing that book on Amazon.

Now, there’s some truth to why we think this way, after all. I’m not saying that those that pass over a book with only three reviews are being subconsciously manipulated. Rather that the reasoning for such is so valid and ingrained that we as consumers tend to let it subconsciously spill into all sorts of areas.

So, getting back to that review number, it turns out that it’s really important, because people recognize that a higher number of reviews is a good thing. It means a wider variety of readers purchased the product and then left their opinion. And if the book was poor, even with a few outliers that enjoyed it immensely and gave it high reviews, the average rating would reflect that. In this manner, a book that has five stars at ten reviews is, to many, less trustworthy and less likely to be a truly good read than a book that has three stars but three hundred reviews.

And this compounds. The higher the number of reviews, the greater the variety among those leaving them, and the greater chance that the average rating is, the way a prospective reader sees it, accurate. Which therefore increases the chance that they will then seriously consider purchasing the book.

(5) NO TWO SNOWFLAKES ARE ALIKE. Camestros Felapton reviews the reviewer: “MetaReview: Dave Truesdale Reviews Diabolical Plots #21”.

That the reviewer frames his review around a comment by the author—the “unjust violent death of Michael Brown”—and then gives the reader of Truesdale review a totally different narrative that is nothing short of intellectual dishonesty. Truesdale’s review fails on literary grounds (the shift of focus from a fictional story about emotional pain in the face of perceived injustice and violence to Truesdale’s evaluation of whether the author is justified in feeling angry about a real-world event), and from an error in judgment by Truesdale in attempting to justify a judicial killing, which not only reveal the weakness in the review itself, but which highlights how the reviewer’s own strong prejudice in the matter clouded his thinking, and obstructed his capacity to give a professional review.

(6) TREVOR OBIT. Irish novelist, playwright and short story writer Sir William Trevor (1928-2016) died November 20 reports The Bookseller. He won the O. Henry Prize four times and the Whitbread Award three times; he was also nominated for the Booker Prize five times.

The Internet Science Fiction Database lists his genre work as:

Novels

The Children of Dynmouth (1976)

Shortfiction

Miss Smith (1967)
The Only Story (1971)
The Love of a Good Woman (1972)
George and Alice and Isabel (1973)
Visions of Hell (1974)
Mrs. Acland’s Ghosts (1975)
The Death of Peggy Morrissey (1975)
Broken Homes (1977)
The Raising of Elvira Tremlett (1977)
Autumn Sunshine (1980)

(7) CLOWES OBIT. Jonathan Clowes, Doris Lessing’s agent, has died at the age of 86. The Bookseller published a tribute:

After founding Jonathan Clowes Ltd. in 1960, Clowes assembled a select and high-powered client list including international bestseller Len Deighton, novelist, poet and playwright Maureen Duffy, Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing, novelists Sir Kingsley Amis, Elizabeth Jane Howard and Brian Freemantle.

His clients also included television writers David Nobbs, Carla Lane and Dr David Bellamy.

Clowes took an unlikely path to become one of London’s most renowned and respected literary agents, having left grammar school aged 15 and worked in a number of different trades, from gardener to decorator, even going on to serve time in prison for his stance as a conscientious objector.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 21, 1942: “Tweety Bird” debuted

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born November 21, 1924 – Christopher Tolkien
  • Born November 21, 1944 – Harold Ramis

(10) BEASTLY CAPITALISM. ScienceFiction.com has a question: “Weekend Box Office (11/18-11/20): ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Did Fantastically… But Fantastically Enough?”

It’s no surprise that ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ topped the box office charts this weekend, with $75M in the US and $218.3M globally.  This film kicks off a series of five projected movies– with the first sequel already scheduled to arrive on November 16, 2018– all penned by J.K. Rowling, the creator of ‘Harry Potter’, but did studio Warner Brothers bite off more than they could chew?  That’s what some insiders are wondering, as this movie’s opening is below that of other franchise players like ‘Doctor Strange’ ($85M opening weekend) and WB’s own ‘Suicide Squad’ ($133.6M… and that was considered a disappointment).

(11) ATTENTION BAKER STREET REGULARS. Sherlock Season 4 is almost upon us. Reportedly, for the first time shows in the UK and the US will be broadcast on the same dates.

Sherlock will return in “The Six Thatchers” on January 1, 2017 on MASTERPIECE on PBS.

Coming in 2017, Sherlock will return with three brand-new episodes that promise laughter, tears, shocks, surprises and extraordinary adventures.

Season four begins with the mercurial Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch), back once more on British soil as Doctor Watson (Martin Freeman) and his wife Mary (Amanda Abbington) prepare for their biggest challenge yet: becoming parents.

(12) ANOTHER ITEM FOR THE WISH LIST. Dread Central is making a list and getting it wet.

Leave it to Mondo to tug on our nostalgic heartstrings just before Christmas. They’re releasing a vinyl version of the soundtrack to Joe Dante’s Gremlins, and the packaging literally changes when exposed to water and sunlight… just like the titular creatures.

gremlins_front%20cover_uv%20lightgremlins_sleeve%201gizmo_dry

(13) THREE STOOGES AT THE ALEX. Glendale’s Alex Theatre hosts the 19th Annual The Three Stooges® Big Screen Event this Saturday at 2:00 & 8:00 p.m.. Order tix online here.

The LA Weekly has named The Affordable Curly Care Act: Poking Medicine in the Eye Since 1933 their “Pick of the Week.” What more can we say? How about, “Buy your tickets early to avoid the lines at the box office.”

A special surprise bonus will be shown in addition to this lineup of five classic Stooges shorts:

  • FROM NURSE TO WORSE (1940 – Jules White)
  • CASH & CARRY (1937 – Del Lord)
  • SOME MORE SAMOA (1941 – Del Lord)
  • SCRAMBLED BRAINS (1951 – Jules White)
  • ALL THE WORLD’S A STOOGE (1941 – Del Lord)

(14) WHAT TOOLS THESE MORTALS BE. Mark-kitteh writes: “A performance of The Tempest with a live motion-capture Ariel on stage? I’m sure some will say the Bard will be spinning in his grave, but I suspect he’d just be updating his list of stage directions to include ‘exeunt stage upwards’,” — The Tempest review: Real-time digital avatar brews storm in a teacup” at ArsTechnica.

(15) ANYTHING YOU CAN DO. ScreenRant knows “Everything Supergirl Can Do That Superman Can’t”.

Supergirl is more than a chip off the ol’ Krypton block. While her younger cousin gets all the credit for bench-pressing the earth and saving the universe, Supergirl’s individual strengths have been sorely undervalued….

  1. She Can Shapeshift

Superman is dead. This is the reality of the post-Crisis “pocket universe” where Lex Luthor was a good guy who bet the ranch on recreating his long lost love, Lana Lang. Lex’s advanced form of AI was called the “protoplasmic matrix,” or just “Matrix” for short. Indeed, Luthor’s weird science led to the recreation of his lady love, now called Matrix– an unholy hodgepodge containing the memory of Lana with the Kryptonian specs of Superman (whom he knew about thanks to his otherworldly technology).

In addition to being almost as strong as Kal-El, this new creation had the powers of invisibility, telekinesis, and shapeshifting, which she took full advantage of by morphing into Supergirl 2.0. In a battle against General Zod, Faora, and Quex-UI, Matrix/Supergirl held her own but ultimately had to call on the support of Superman to take down the triumvirate. Though the pair defeated the Krypton criminals, the pocket universe was basically destroyed, and the new shapeshifting Matrix was taken back to the mainline DC Universe where she became the first post-Crisis Supergirl.

(16) ANOTHER MILLION BRICKS IN THE WALL. How many LEGO bricks does it take to build these various science fictional structures?  This infographic from earlier in the year has the theoretical answers.

How Many Lego Would It Take To Build Sci-Fi Megastructures
How Many Lego Would It Take To Build Sci-Fi Megastructures Created By: Ebates

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]