Pixel Scroll 7/16/18 Now With Bolded Typos

(1) GONE WITH THE YUAN. The most expensive film ever made in China bombed and is already out of theaters. The Hollywood Reporter has the story — “China’s First $100M Film Pulled From Cinemas After Disastrous Opening Weekend”.

In the long lead-up to its release, Chinese fantasy epic Asura was promoted as China’s most expensive film ever made, with a production budget of over $110 million (750 million yuan). So perhaps it’s unsurprising that the film’s producers, which include Jack Ma’s Alibaba Pictures, decided to take desperate action after the movie opened to just $7.1 million over the weekend.

Late Sunday evening in Beijing, Asura‘s official social media accounts posted a simple statement saying that the film would be pulled from cinemas as of 10 p.m. local time. After landing in theaters with limited fanfare, China’s priciest picture ever would vanish from the scene entirely.

Asura is co-produced by Zhenjian Film Studio and Ningxia Film Group — two of the investors behind the successful Painted Skin fantasy franchise — along with Alibaba Pictures Group and other minority investors.

The statement announcing Asura‘s retreat from cinemas supplied no explanation for the unprecedented move. But a representative from Zhenjian Film, which is credited as lead producer, later told Chinese news site Sina: “This decision was made not only because of the bad box office. We plan to make some changes to the film and release it again.”

Chinese site Sixth Tone tells it this way: “Epic Budget, Epic Fail: Chinese Blockbuster ‘Asura’ Tanks”.

China’s latest fantasy epic, “Asura,” claimed to be the most expensive domestic production to date — but it didn’t even last three days in cinemas.

Six years in the making, the film was planned as the first of a trilogy based on ancient Tibetan mythology. The Alibaba Pictures production promised lush CGI from an award-winning, international team in its depiction of war between two heavenly realms. Marketing campaigns for the film emphasized its budget of $100 million.

But after opening on Friday, the film made a mere $7.1 million over its first weekend. By contrast, “Hidden Man,” a highly anticipated action-thriller by actor and director Jiang Wen, brought in $46.5 million. Meanwhile “Dying to Survive,” a dark comedy about cancer drug smuggling operations, defended its box office lead, racking up $68.5 million on its second weekend and even prompting a spike in online insurance sales.

Aggregate user ratings of “Asura” varied wildly across China’s two biggest ticketing platforms, Tencent-funded Maoyan and Alibaba-owned Tao Piaopiao, earning 4.9 and 8.4 out of 10, respectively. Users of review platform Douban rated the film a miserable 3.1 out of 10.

(2) EFFECTS OF COMIC CON PROLIFERATION. Heidi MacDonald tells Publishers Weekly readers why “In a World of Too Many Cons, San Diego Is Still King”.

An ever-increasing number of comics and pop culture conventions are taxing publishers’ exhibition budgets and turning artists into nomads, on the road signing autographs in a different city or country every weekend….

Indeed, the expanding comics convention schedule is beginning to tax publisher budgets while turning comics creators into a hardened (and often exhausted) group of road warriors who must trek to a different city every weekend.

As more and more events flood the schedule, publishers and creators alike are developing new strategies for dealing with the demands for their time. And the conventions are beginning to evolve, some developing business models to stay above the pack of newly launched shows, while others, including many poorly planned and financed events, are becoming synonymous with disaster, poor attendance, canceled events, and disappointed fans.

“The number of cons has really exploded over the last five years,” says Martha Donato, president of MAD Events Management, which puts on the Long Beach Comic Con every September, along with other shows. “It’s [become] every city, every weekend, all year, globally.”

Even for a location such as Long Beach, Calif., close to many West Coast comics publishers, the competition for guest artists and publisher-exhibitors has become fierce, she says. “A much bigger percentage of our time, energy, and resources are now devoted to getting exhibitors to attend,” she adds. “Talent and their publishers have many more offers than they could ever accept, even if they wanted to.”

Donato’s show gets support from publishers in Los Angeles, including Top Cow and Aspen, but even loyal exhibitors have to pick and choose. “Publishers are facing a deluge of opportunities and they can afford to be choosy,” says Donato. “There’s a lot of saying no.”

(3) RECASTING MUPPETS MOVIES. The most selfless answer is….

(4) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 16, 1955 Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe premiered on the small screen
  • July 16, 1958The Fly creeped the heck out of everybody…”Help Me…Help Me.”
  • July 16, 2005 — The 6th book in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series sold 6.9 million copies in its first 24 hours.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 16, 1928 – Robert Sheckley
  • Born July 16 – Will Ferrell, 51. Holmes in the forthcoming comedy Holmes and Watson film,  HerculesHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every ChildCurious George and The Last Man on Earth series.
  • Born July 16 – Corey Feldman, 47. Genre roles in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film series, the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,Tales from the Crypt and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven series to name but a few of his files.
  • Born July 16 – Rose Salazar, 33. Genre work includes American Horror StoryMaze Runner: The Death Cure, and Batman: Arkham Origins video game.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • Updating a Kafka classic at Bizarro.

(7) THE TIDE IS IN. Camestros Felapton continues scoping out the Hugo nominees: “Review: The Black Tides of Heaven (Novella) J.Y.Yang”.

As I said above, I found the second half easier to engage with than the first. It focuses more on Akeha, the surpising “spare” half of the twins, who in post-adolesence decides to be confirmed as a male (gender is assigned post-childhood in this world). Fate, prophercy, control and inevitability (whether magical or political) play out as important themes but, again, I think their impact as ideas get lost amid the scale of the story.

(8) IN ORDER. Mark Kaedrin gives his rankings and his reasons — “Hugo Awards: Short Stories”.

In the past five years of reading Hugo nominated short stories, I think I’ve enjoyed about 2-3 of the stories quite a bit. That’s… not a very good batting average. For whatever reason, I always find that this category just fills up with stories that don’t work for me. True, several puppy trolling nominations made the cut, which didn’t help (for example: they nominated SF-themed erotica two years in a row, and then another that was a bad parody of a bad story, etc…), but even the stories I liked weren’t that great. I’ve always chalked that up to this category having the lowest barrier to entry. It doesn’t take a whole lot of time or effort to seek out a bunch of short stories (mostly available for free online too), so the nominations are spread far and wide. There used to be a requirement that a finalist had to have at least 5% of the nominations in order to be considered, which often resulted in a small category because most stories couldn’t clear that bar. So basically, the stories that do make it here rarely have wide appeal. That being said, this year’s nominees are actually a pretty congenial bunch. I don’t actually hate any of the stories, even if a few don’t quite tweak me the way I’d like (even those are pretty good though). I do still find it hard to believe that these are the actual best short fiction of the year, but I’ll take this over the past 4 years’ worth of nominations. However, I do think it’s telling that at least one story on the 1942 Retro Hugos ballot, Proof by Hal Clement, is far better than any of these nominees, which I think says something (I’d have to read/reread a couple of the other 1942 finalists to be sure, but I suspect that ballot is more my speed). Anyway, let’s get to it….

(9) CURRENT EVENTS. And don’t forget this year’s fiction. Rocket Stack Rank hasn’t — “July 2018 Ratings”. Greg Hullender summarizes:

We posted our monthly ratings last night. It was a typical month, with 11 stories recommended (with 4 or 5 stars) out of 72 (expected would be 11 to 13).

We recommended 4 stories from F&SF, 3 from Asimov’s,  2 from Analog had 2. The other two were in Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed. Over time, the three print and seven online magazines we follow split the recommendations 50/50 (not counting stand-alone novellas or original anthologies), and the print magazines only come out 6 times a year, so this isn’t quite as lopsided as it looks, but it was definitely a good month for the traditional three magazines.

(10) START YOUR COCKY CAREER. This article on “Cocky-gate” also seems to be a great blueprint for how to use Kindle Unlimited to give you a 6-figure salary. Let The Verge tell you about it: “Bad Romance”.

…The fight over #Cockygate, as it was branded online, emerged from the strange universe of Amazon Kindle Unlimited, where authors collaborate and compete to game Amazon’s algorithm. Trademark trolling is just the beginning: There are private chat groups, ebook exploits, conspiracies to seed hyperspecific trends like “Navy SEALs” and “mountain men,” and even a controversial sweepstakes in which a popular self-published author offered his readers a chance to win diamonds from Tiffany’s if they reviewed his new book.

Much of what’s alleged is perfectly legal, and even technically within Amazon’s terms of service. But for authors and fans, the genre is also a community, and the idea that unethical marketing and algorithmic tricks are running rampant has embroiled their world in controversy. Some authors even believe that the financial incentives set up by Kindle Unlimited are reshaping the romance genre — possibly even making it more misogynistic.

A genre that mostly features shiny, shirtless men on its covers and sells ebooks for 99 cents a pop might seem unserious. But at stake are revenues sometimes amounting to a million dollars a year, with some authors easily netting six figures a month. The top authors can drop $50,000 on a single ad campaign that will keep them in the charts — and see a worthwhile return on that investment….

(11) THEY’VE GOT ‘RITHIM. Or you can try this route–sell your old pb’s for hundreds or thousands of dollars each on Amazon. The New York Times has the story: “Amazon’s Curious Case of the $2,630.52 Used Paperback”.

Even a casual browse through the virtual corridors of Amazon reveals an increasingly bizarre bazaar where the quaint policies of physical bookstores — the stuff no one wants is piled on a cart outside for a buck a volume — are upended. John Sladek, who wrote perceptive science fiction about robotics and artificial intelligence, predicted in a 1975 story that computers might start making compelling but false connections:

If you’re trying to reserve a seat on the plane to Seville, you’d get a seat at the opera instead. While the person who wants the opera seat is really just making an appointment with a barber, whose customer is just then talking to the box-office of “Hair,” or maybe making a hairline reservation …

Mr. Sladek, who died in 2000, is little read now, which naturally means his books are often marketed for inordinate sums on Amazon. One of his mystery novels, “Invisible Green,” has a Red Rhino “buy box” — Amazon’s preferred deal — offering it for $664.

That is a real bargain compared with what a bookseller with the improbable name Supersonic Truck is asking: $1,942. (Copies from other booksellers are as little as $30.) Supersonic Truck, which Amazon says has 100 percent positive ratings, did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Ms. Macgillivray, who has published eight novels, said she had been poking around Amazon’s bookstore and was more perplexed than ever by the pricing.

“There’s nothing illegal about someone listing an item for sale at whatever the market will bear, even if they don’t have the book but plan to buy it when someone orders it,” she said. “At the same time, I would think Amazon wouldn’t want their platform used for less than honorable practices.”

(12) READERCON PORTRAITS. Paul Di Filippo shares photos of “Some Members of Fictionmags Attending Readercon 2018 “ at The Inferior 4.

In order of appearance: Ellen Datlow, Fred Lerner, Gary Wolfe, George Morgan, Gordon van Gelder, Henry Wessells, Jess Nevins, Michael Dirda, Peter Halasz, Scott Andrews, Scott Edelman, Sheila Williams, Steve Dooner, Mark Walsh.

(13) ONCE MORE WITH FEELING. And Daniel Dern covered the non-human population at ReaderCon, photographing this “alternative SJW credential.”

An ‘edge-‘og (hedgehog). (Not mine.)

Yeah, the SF context isn’t visible, would you take my word for it?

(14) ICE DELIVERY. NPR tells what it’s like for locals: “Massive Iceberg Looms Over A Village In Greenland”.

The photographs are stunning: a giant mountain of ice towers over a tiny village, with colorful homes reminiscent of little doll houses against the stark, blue-gray landscape.

But for the people living in those houses – that beauty could be life-threatening.

“It’s kind of like, if you lived in the suburbs, and you woke up one morning and looked out, and there was a skyscraper next to your house,” says David Holland, an oceanographer at New York University who does research in Greenland during the summer months. “I’d be the first to get out of there.”

He says that’s why authorities have taken action to evacuate those living closest to the water from the village of Innaarsuit, where the iceberg has parked itself just off the coast. According to the BBC, the village has just 169 residents.

(15) THE IMPORTANCE OF POORFEADING. “Harry, it s***s” — just not quite so badly: “Aliens killed by spelling mistake in 2013 Colonial Marines game”.

An infamously dreadful 2013 Aliens video game is now believed to have fallen victim to the most chilling of threats in the universe: a typo.

Aliens: Colonial Marines was released on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 to terrible reviews.

Many of them mentioned how badly the artificial intelligence (AI) behaved.

But it has now emerged that a single stray “a” in the game’s code may have been to blame.

Videos on YouTube show the game’s AI characters – the aliens and human teammates the player doesn’t control – ignoring threats, shooting wildly at nothing or standing in the line of fire.

(16) EARLY BRADBURY. David Doering has been digging through ancient fanzines and found a curiosity: “Here’s a little gift for you: a verse by Ray Bradbury himself–likely never before reprinted in the history of, well, like poetry or something. And maybe for some reason…”

VERSE OF THE IMAGI-NATION

“TIs a Sinema”
by Ray Bradbury

I think that I shall never see
Flash Gordon as he ought to be.
Midst growls of pain & awful lafter
each Saturday I see a chapter.
I cannot bear to see him more
for he Is really such a bore.

& Tarzan! too, is all so poor:
A shrinking violet demure
who beats upon his frazzled chest
& turns his puss into the west
to roar defiance with…”Fresh fish!
–I think that he’s a lousy dish…

From: Imagination, v. 1, issue 11, whole no. 11, August 1938

[Thanks to David Doering, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, StephenfromOttawa, Brian Z., Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Greg Hullender, Bill Burns, John King Tarpinian, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mix Mat.]

Pixel Scroll 7/15/18 Old Filer’s Scroll Of Practical Pixels

(1) AMERICA’S FAVORITE DOCTOR. Welby? Casey? Kildare? Guess Who….? Thursday on BBC America:

Have TARDIS, will time travel: The new special “Doctor Who: The Lost Episode” uses remastered footage and new animation to reconstruct an unfinished 1970s-era tale from the venerable British science fiction drama penned by “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” author Douglas Adams and starring Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. 8 p.m. BBC America

(2) DEAL ALL THE CARDS. The Doctor figures in “The Pigs in Space” sketch at The Muppets Take the O2 (Arena) show, too.

(3) TASTE TEST. Cat Rambo turns in another sweet critique to The Green Man Review: “The Prettiest Candy: Albanese World’s Best Mini Gummi Butterflies”.

Having recently discovered that my favorite gummi bears were possibly made with child labor, I went looking for a substitute recently and picked up a bag of Albanese Mini Gummi Butterflies.

Candy is often not pretty, particularly when chocolate is involved, but these candies, shaped like butterflies, look like little stained glass jewels. The flavors are blue raspberry, cherry, grape, green apple, orange, and strawberry, with the usual scheme of color vaguely indicating flavor….

(4) SHADOW CLARKE JURY DELIBERATIONS. Fell a little behind linking to these posts…..

…I went a bit overboard (OH GOD HELP I CAN’T STOP) but you get the point. There’s a completely functional and immensely fun version of this story that puts it solidly in the Hunger Games/Limetown bracket of ‘tough heroic female lead discovers something terrible and vows to defeat it.’ I love stories like those, especially when they’re folded into this kind of post-apocalyptic subset of fiction.

But what Curtis does here is untidier, harder to achieve, newer and ultimately more rewarding. Nerissa is living day to day after losing everything, so she isn’t party to what would be the central plot in a more traditional dystopia. The parts she discovers, especially the transhumanism elements of the final act, feel earned and contextualized precisely because she discovers them when she does….

 As I said when making my selection of books to review for the Shadow Clarke, I didn’t expect to see Ian McDonald’s Luna: Wolf Moon on the shortlist. Having read it, I don’t have any direct criticism of the Clarke jury for neglecting it but that is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the novel. In fact, I enjoyed it very much and also its predecessor, Luna: New Moon, which I read immediately beforehand. That, of course, is one of the problems with considering a sequel or volume from a series for an award; it is going to be difficult to judge it without knowledge of the preceding story. Especially, when, as in this case, we are dealing with the middle volume in a trilogy which directly picks up strands from the first volume and also does recognisable work in setting up its successor. Therefore, despite the fact that Luna: Wolf Moon contains a strong narrative arc of its own and leaves the reader feeling as satisfied as if they have read a standalone novel, it is nonetheless not directly comparable because it is not entirely self-contained. Experience suggests that judges are generally inclined to favour the single-volume work (and on a practical level they are probably unwilling to read earlier series volumes on top of lengthy submission lists).

To kick off my Shadow Clarke experience, I’ve started with John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire, a novel based on a singularly intriguing premise. In a far distant future, humanity exists in an interplanetary empire called the Interdependency, its far-flung outposts connected by the Flow: a series of natural space-time currents that facilitate fast travel between different parts of the universe. As the Flow exists without concern for human planetary preferences – and as the Flow route to Earth was lost centuries ago – the majority of people live underground, in planetary habitats or in space stations along these Flow routes, with trade and travel controlled by aristocratic Guild families. Only one habitable world exists: the planet of End, so-called because it’s the most distant realm in the Interdependency, accessible only by a single pair of Flow streams connecting it to Hub, where the Emperox rules. But the Flow, so long assumed stable, is collapsing, threatening the survival of the entire Interdependency – and, as a consequence, of the human race….

…When I originally added Water & Glass to my short list, I suspected that the plot’s concern with a group of (largely European-coded) survivors onboard a submarine, the Baleen, would herald “an already present anxiety about intimacy, trauma, and reproductive concerns.” Given its thematic concerns from the blurb, I guessed that as a Noah’s Ark tale, the plot would likely revolve around questions of “precariousness and interdependent survival, resettling, and the possibility or repopulation or extinction,” though within the frameworks of the novel itself they were unable to gather more than a few animals, rather than any idea of two of a wide variety. Since reproduction felt central to Water & Glass’ concerns, the blurb itself led me to worry about the likelihood of queerphobia or eugenics in play, and unfortunately this assumption is almost entirely borne out. While queerness is entirely and frustratingly absented from this narrative (its own form of queerphobia), a concern with eugenics and human evolution through human-animal gene splicing is one of the grand revelations of the piece….

Dreams Before the Start of Time is beautifully written. The prose is clear, sometimes sparse, quite subtle in the way it provides a smooth emotional surface whilst signalling a great depth of feeling within the many characters. It is also an excellent science fiction novel-of-ideas, with clear themes and careful working out of the societal implications of new technology. How wonderful! …

American War has been short-listed for the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke award. A selection of our panel of shadow jurors respond to the novel below…

Rich with warmth and suspense and surprise, Spaceman of Bohemia is an exuberant delight from start to finish. Very seldom has a novel this profound taken readers on a journey of such boundless entertainment and sheer fun. It has been short-listed for the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke award. A selection of our panel of shadow jurors respond to the novel below…

HUMANKIND IS EXTINCT.

Wiped out in a global uprising by the very machines made to serve them. Now the world is controlled by OWIs — vast mainframes that have assimilated the minds of millions of robots.

But not all robots are willing to cede their individuality, and Brittle is one of the holdouts.

Left to my own devices, it’s rare for me to write criticism for books I haven’t finished. If I find a book boring or if it simply isn’t for me, there’s little motive to write a partial review to that effect, and so I don’t say anything; alternatively, if a work annoys me so much that I want to nitpick it in detail, I usually spite-read the entirety to be sure my facts are in order. In this instance, however, I feel justified in submitting criticism based on partial reads for two main reasons. Firstly, the Shadow Clarke jury is, by design and definition, reactive: we are here to pass judgement on award selections that have already been made by other people, and to do so in only 300-500 words per book. That being so, while we’ve certainly been given the scope and opportunity to write longer, more in-depth criticisms if we want, at base, we’ve been asked to provide a pass/fail grade on whether we feel a particular book merited its inclusion on the shortlist, with only a cursory explanation as to why.

Which leads to the second point: we are doing this on a fairly tight schedule which – for me, personally – overlaps with packing up my house and family in preparation for an international move. Work on the Shadow Clarke is unpaid, done as a labour of love for the genre; and while I’m happy to participate on those conditions, I am not a masochist….

Reading American War directly after Borne is an interesting experience, if not exactly a cheerful one. Where Vandermeer’s novel carefully files the comfort of specific geography off every element of it’s world, El Akkad builds his dystopian America in painful familiarity. North and South, Blue and Red. CNN and Fox. The political and ideological dividing lines that it’s impossible to avoid in the hourly news cycle are the frame work for El Akkad’s novel. Or at the very least, the foundation.

In a near-future London, Millie Dack places her hand on her belly to feel her baby kick, resolute in her decision to be a single parent. Across town, her closest friend—a hungover Toni Munroe—steps into the shower and places her hand on a medic console. The diagnosis is devastating.

In this stunning, bittersweet family saga, Millie and Toni experience the aftershocks of human progress as their children and grandchildren embrace new ways of making babies. When infertility is a thing of the past, a man can create a child without a woman, a woman can create a child without a man, and artificial wombs eliminate the struggles of pregnancy. But what does it mean to be a parent? A child? A family?

Through a series of interconnected vignettes that spans five generations and three continents, this emotionally taut story explores the anxieties that arise when the science of fertility claims to deliver all the answers.

It has been short-listed for the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke award. A selection of our panel of shadow jurors respond to the novel below…

…Cargill is a screenwriter first and foremost and its impossible not to see the influence of his primary craft here. That’s not a criticism either, there’s no sense of this being a lightly expanded movie treatment designed to be dropped onto a producer’s desk as an unusually fancy leave behind. Rather, this is a book steeped in the iconography and tempo of modern American cinema and that’s both interesting and not always a good thing for book or reader….

On a small isolated island, there’s a community that lives by its own rules. Boys grow up knowing they will one day take charge, while girls know they will be married and pregnant within moments of hitting womanhood.

But before that time comes, a ritual offers children an exhilarating reprieve. Every summer they are turned out onto their doorsteps, to roam the island, sleep on the beach and build camps in trees. To be free.

At the end of one of such summer, one of the younger girls sees something she was never supposed to see. And she returns home with a truth that could bring their island world to its knees.

It has been short-listed for the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke award. A selection of our panel of shadow jurors respond to the novel below…

…The greatest problem for me with Gather the Daughters is that no one is allowed to behave or think or speak like an adult. (We have only to think of the depth of field achieved by Margaret Atwood in her characterisation of The Handmaid’s Tale to see how Melamed’s novel is deficient in this regard.) A narrative that depends on compliance will inevitably run out of steam, as this one does. History has proved to us time and again that holding down a dictatorship is difficult work – sooner rather than later the peasants begin to uncover the injustices and deceptions perpetrated against them, and start to revolt. You have to kill a lot of people to keep these systems going, and even so your days as a despot are numbered from the beginning. On the island, the only reason nothing has come unstuck for the Wanderers so far is because everyone else in the community insists on behaving like characters in a YA dystopia….

It has been short-listed for the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke award. A selection of our panel of shadow jurors respond to the novel below…

What is it I look for in science fiction? The answer will be different for everyone, of course, and some who followed last year’s Shadow Clarke project may have come away with the impression that I don’t really like science fiction at all, that I’ll always find something to gripe about because that’s the kind of critic I am.

The truth is that I want books to be brilliant, and that’s what I go in hoping, every time. Most of all I hope to be shocked and surprised by a new voice or a new idea or a new way with words, to be seduced by science fiction all over again. Although Jeff VanderMeer can scarcely be described as a new voice, the effect of reading Borne has been transfiguring, like water after drought. After a long dry spell in which I honestly thought I’d had it with the genre, encountering Borne has left me on a high, inspired to join in the conversation once again.

(5) EXERCISE YOUR FRANCHISE. One of File 770’s self-imposed duties is to chronicle the many genre awards. Few are as exotic as Chuck Wendig’s — “Awkward Author Contest 2018: Winner, And Now It’s Your Turn”. He has picked JD Buffington as the first winner, and called on his blog readers to vote on the other entries.

Here are the rest — there are 40 more submissions.

They are utterly weird and wonderful. You will find some familiar faces in here, perhaps.

Your job now is:

Pick your favorite.

Just one.

JUST ONE.

Go to the comments section below.

Type in the number of your favorite photo — the number that corresponds with the photo in Flickr. Aka, the photo’s title.

That’s it.

Type nothing else, or your vote may not be counted.

Do not choose two.

Choose one, type only the number.

We’ll keep voting open till Wednesday, July 25th.

Enjoy. Vote. See you on the other side.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • A bad pun produced by a great mashup of comic and movie references in Brevity.

(7) BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS. Business Insider lists “15 books famous scientists think you should read”.

We compiled a list of book recommendations from a handful of illustrious minds by combing the web for quotes, checking out personal blogs, and just asking them directly. The picks below come from popular scientists including author and television personality Bill Nye, surgeon-turned-writer Siddhartha Mukherjee, and globe-trotting primatologist Jane Goodall.

The books they’ve recommended range from high fantasy, like Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” to canonical, like Plato’s seminal work “The Republic.”

Here are 15 books that brilliant scientists consider must-reads…

(8) AIR CAB. No discussion of what fares will be: “Rolls Royce develops propulsion system for flying taxi”.

Rolls said the initial concept for EVTOL used gas turbine technology to generate electricity to power six electric propulsors, specially designed to have a low noise profile.

Its wings would be able to rotate 90 degrees, enabling the vehicle to take off or land vertically. It could also use existing heliports and airports.

“We believe that given the work we are doing today to develop hybrid electric propulsion capabilities, this model could be available by the early to mid 2020s, provided that a viable commercial model for its introduction can be created,” the firm said.

(9) PROJECT LAUNCHED. The BBC reports — “Lift-off for Scotland: Sutherland to host first UK spaceport”.

Lockheed has made no secret of its desire to bring the Electron rocket to Scotland. Currently, this vehicle flies out of New Zealand.

A British version of the rocket would have an upper-stage developed and built at LM’s UK HQ in Ampthill, Bedfordshire.

“This is a defining moment for UK Space,” a spokesperson for the company told BBC News. “Lockheed Martin has been working with Britain for over 80 years and we stand ready to support the development of UK launch capability should our extensive experience in developing space infrastructure be called upon.”

(10) INFLUENTIAL ANIME. In the Washington Post, Hau Chu looks at the 30th anniversary of Akira (first released in Japan on July 15, 1988) and sees it as “inspiring a generation of works to come”, including “Stranger Things,” a Kanye West music video, and Rian Johnson’s Looper: “Why the pioneering Japanese anime ‘Akira’ is still relevant 30 years later”.

For the film’s cyberpunk look, Otomo drew from his own pop culture obsessions, including “Blade Runner,” which influenced the towering skyscrapers of Neo Tokyo, and “Tron,” whose neon-illuminated motorcycles inspired the hordes of biker gangs.

Otomo had been a respected illustrator of manga, Japanese comics. But for “Akira,” instead of trying to match his anime peers in Japan, he was working from European comic artists such as Moebius — an influential artist for the legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. Otomo’s drawings for “Akira” were distinctive for their realism; he used lighting, color and an attention to detail to create a vivid, lived-in space.

(11) DRAGONS FOREVER. In August, the USPS will issue a set of stamps featuring dragons: “Postal Service to Feature Mythological Creatures on Stamps at APS National Summer Convention Stamp Show”.

The U.S. Postal Service will be joined by the American Philatelic Society (APS) to unveil four colorful stamp designs of 16 Forever stamps depicting dragons — the high-flying, fire-breathing mythological creatures that have roamed our imaginations for millennia — at the APS national summer convention and stamp show Aug. 9-12 in Columbus, OH.

“We’re very excited to bring these beautiful stamps to the 132nd annual APS convention,” said U.S. Postal Service Stamp Services Director Mary-Anne Penner. “This is one of the premier stamp shows in America and serves as an excellent platform to showcase these special stamps.”

…The new stamps will be issued as a pane of 16 stamps showcasing one of four designs: a green fire-breathing dragon towering over a medieval-inspired castle; a purple dragon with orange wings and sharp black armor on its back snaking around a white castle; a black dragon with green wings and green armor on its back swooping past a ship on the sea; and a wingless orange dragon weaving its way around a pagoda.

The stamps feature digital illustrations created by artist Don Clark of Invisible Creature studio.

(12) TRAILER PARK. 7 Splinters in Time — now in theaters.

Directed by: Gabriel Judet-Weinshel Detective Darius Lefaux is called to identify a body that is identical to him. As he dives into the harrowing case, different versions of himself begin to emerge and haunting memories of lives not lived fill his mind. Darius soon realizes that not all versions of himself are good and that he must find his other self, before it finds him.

 

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

Martin P. Robinson Announced as 2018 SFWA Nebula Awards Toastmaster

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have announced Martin P. Robinson will serve as Toastmaster for the 52nd Annual Nebula Awards Ceremony.

Robinson is a puppeteer who has worked for the Jim Henson Company for 37 years, performing a range of characters including Mr. Snuffleupagus, Telly Monster, Slimey the Worm, and the Yip-Yip Martians.

In 1982 he designed, built and performed the carnivorous plant Audrey II for the original Off-Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors, and designed/performed the show’s 2003 Broadway revival as well. Martin is the senior Muppet-style instructor for all international productions of Sesame Street.

The Nebula Awards will be presented on Saturday May 19, during the annual SFWA Nebula Conference.

Pixel Scroll 3/17/18 Several Species Of Small Furry Filers Gathered Together In A Scroll And Grooving With A Pixel

(1) DISNEY EXTRACTS HAND FROM COOKIE JAR. Design Taxi reports “Disney Redesigns ‘Star Wars’ Posters After Getting Called Out For Plagiarism”.

Disney has unveiled a new set of posters for the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story after its previous artworks were called out by a French artist for plagiarism.

In this redesigned collection, Disney has amended the graphics whilst sticking to a similar color scheme.

Each character remains paired with a unique color. For instance, ‘Han’ is matched with an orange-red aesthetic, ‘Lando’ gets a blue hue, while ‘Q’ira’ receives a pink-purple scheme.

 

(2) SCRYING THE CRYSTAL CLARKE. Ian Mond takes his shot at predicting the Clarke Award shortlist in “Brief Thoughts on the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2018 Submissions List” at The Hysterical Hamster.

Mark Hepworth did the same in a comment here on File 770.

(3) MANO-A-MANO. Steven Barnes, while speculating about which characters will get killed off in the next Avengers movie, added an interesting cultural critique of the martial arts in Black Panther.

this is petty, and a trivial objection, but another missed opportunity was the battle between T’Challa and Killmonger during the ceremony. It relates to a complaint I had about Civil War (which I loved). This is from a life-long martial artist’s perspective, so I’m only partially serious. The problem is this: BP fought like everyone else in Civil War, and his technique looked very Asian. Korean in the kicks. Not what the Prince of Wakanda would use, because African arts are as lethal. But in BP, both T’Challa and Killmonger fought pretty much the same. I find it difficult to believe that Killmonger, never having been in Wakanda, would fight with techniques that look as if he had been trained by the same people who trained T’Challa. They could have had a fascinating clash of styles. But that is really nit-picking.

(4) PANTHER POLITICAL ANALYSIS. At Blog of the APA: In “Black Issues in Philosophy: A Conversation on The Black Panther”, Greg Doukas and Lewis Gordon discuss the politics and ethics of leading characters in the movie.

GREG DOUKAS: I am thoroughly perplexed by the reaction exhibited in some of my friends and colleagues, whose ideas I otherwise ordinarily agree with. The proposition they raise, and which I’ve been troubled by, is this: Over the duration of the film, our hero T’Challa [the Black Panther] makes a transformation from a nativist into a character representing a liberal politics of amelioration and liberalism more generally, while his nemesis Killmonger emerges as a distinctly Fanonian character in his own politics by presenting a radical critique of colonialism and racism. 

LEWIS GORDON: This is far from the case. First, Killmonger is not Fanonian. He is a tyrant. Fanon believed in radical democracy.  Wakanda is clearly a republic and possibly a constitutional monarchy in which each member of the society contributes as counsel and skilled citizen. It’s clearly a city-state or what in ancient Greek is called a polis, in which politeia (the thriving of citizens through activities cultivated by such a social space) is expected to occur. Killmonger is more like the case studies of colonial disorders in the later part of Fanon’s The Damned of the Earth. He is a tyrant because his relationship to everyone was asymmetrical, driven by resentment and hate, and his regard for life was nil. Think of how he killed his loyal girlfriend Linda and how he ultimately aimed to destroy or destabilize Wakanda—a functioning African state—with the now faddish Afropessimistic declaration of “burning it all down.”  His ego was such that he wanted to bar, through destruction of the special vibranium affected plant, the possibility of future Black Panthers emerging. Bear in mind also that T’Challa was not against fighting/violence. His point is that it should be used only when necessary, and he was doing so always on behalf of justice and a people in whose respect rested his legitimacy.  Killmonger didn’t care about respect from the people.  He also didn’t have respect for them. His “legitimacy” was like, say, Donald Trump’s: achieved purely from the strict adherence to the imperfect rules, though unlike Trump he actually defeated his opponent in fair combat. The people revolted against him not because he won the ritualistic battle but because his tyrannical rule defied the virtues the battle was to manifest. They fought against him in fidelity to the spirit of the rules.

(5) IMPRESSIVE. Rich Lynch actually came up with video of the Octavia Butler clue from Friday’s episode of game show Jeopardy! Click here: Jeopardy! Butler clue

(6) WHO AGAINST GUNS. Comics Beat updates readers: “Who Against Guns raises $16,000”.

We’ve been reporting on the fan-led effort known as Who Against Guns for several weeks now. Today, just over two weeks after the start of the campaign which launched February 26, organizers have announced that they’ve raised $16,000 for these gun violence prevention charities:  Community Justice Reform CoalitionMarch For Our Lives, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Moms Demand Action.

(7) TOLKIEN’S DOG STORY. Middle-Earth Reflections takes up J.R.R. Tolkien’s Roverandom.

Originally Roverandom was conceived in 1925 when the Tolkiens — Ronald and Edith with their sons John, Michael and Christopher — went on a family holiday to Filey, Yorkshire. They rented a cottage with the view of the sea and the beach to spend a big part of September there. At that time the Tolkiens’ second boy Michael, who was about five years old, had a small, black-and-white toy dog. The boy  was extremely fond of it to the extent that he never parted with it. It was an unfortunate loss of that beloved toy during a walk on the beach one day and unavailing search for it that led Tolkien to make up a story about the dog’s adventures to explain its disappearance to the saddened boy.

In 1936, when The Hobbit was accepted for publication by Allen & Unwin, Tolkien was asked for more children’s stories, so he sent in Roverandom together with  Mr Bliss and Farmer Giles of Ham. However, Roverandom was not published then: in 1937 The Hobbit came out, proved a tremendous success and the publishers demanded more Hobbit stories from the author. It was only in 1998 that Rover’s tale finally saw the light of day.

Just like some other stories written by Tolkien, Roverandom began as something told to the amusement (or, in this case, consolation was the initial motive) of his own family. But as the story began to grow, it inevitably drew in more aspects of Tolkien’s background and interests. From a simple children’s story it established connections with Tolkien’s own Legendarium, Norse mythology, Arthurian legends, folklore, history and real events which took place at the time when the story was being created and written down.

(8) SPOILER WARNING. In Zhaoyun’s “Microreview [TV series]: The Frankenstein Chronicles” for Nerds of a Feather, the spoiler isn’t what you think.

It’s one of the longest-running gags in show business: cast Sean Bean in your TV series and there is an extremely high chance his character will perish by the end of season one. If in a movie, he’ll probably die heroically, indeed motivationally, spurring the surviving heroes on to greater successes; in TV series, his specter looms over the remainder of the show, meaning everything that happens from then on occurs in the shadow of his sacrifice (since he is usually innocent of any wrongdoing but is executed/killed anyway). So when I finally watched The Frankenstein Chronicles, I knew to expect a gruesome end for Bean’s “John Marlott” at the end of season one. I don’t even feel the need to issue a spoiler alert so far, because Sean Bean’s near-inevitable death early in projects is a truth universally acknowledged.

(9) TENTH ANNIVERSARY. Kasma editor Alex Korovessis offers 10 Years of SF as a free download:

10 Years of SF! is an anthology featuring some of the best stories I have had the privilege to publish over the past 10 years, since Kasma’s inception in 2009. It is available freely by clicking the appropriate button below.

(10) THE MORE THINGS CHANGE. A fan lamented:

In the few months I have been an active member of fandom, I have found knit into its fabric a conglomeration of ego, hate, progressiveness, overbearing acts, belligerence, perversities, totalitarianism, crack-pot ideas and every good and bad thing that goes to make up the outside world.

Today on Facebook? No, these are the words of Clarence “Sully” Roberds, an Illinois fan writing in November of 1939. Think about that the next time you read a complaint that fandom isn’t what it used to be.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian passes along Drabble’s stfnal St. Paddy’s joke.
  • And Bizarro’s tribute to the Sasquatch.

(12) 2019 HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS. Coffee break’s over – back to work!

Click to see Renay’s 2019 Hugo Sheet (at Google Docs).

(13) OFTEN IMITATED. Inverse celebrated the release of Forbidden Planet on March 15 in “62 Years Ago Today, the Template for All Sci-Fi Movies Was Born”.

Nearly every science fiction story you know and love today owes it all to one movie that came out in 1956, a film that set the standard for how sci-fi stories work for the modern audience. Franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek might have defined sci-fi for generations, but Fred McLeod Wilcox’s Forbidden Planet basically created sci-fi as we know it.

There’s even an opening scrawl with yellow text more than 20 years before the first Star Wars movie.

(14) BALLS. “Ikea Is Developing The Meatball Of The Future” – no, it’s not made from ground-up Billy bookcases.

Ikea is the largest furniture retailer in the world. But did you know that it’s also likely the largest meatball retailer in the world? Across its 340 stores worldwide, Ikea feeds people 2 million meatballs each day. Which is why Ikea’s high-concept Space10 lab is experimenting with a meatball of the future–one that uses zero actual meat. They call it the Neatball.

…The Space10 team is careful to clarify that none of these items are coming to market, but it’s interesting to see Ikea’s thought process on the future of food all the same. After all, Ikea has already given us a veggie version of its famous meatballs that people seem to like. And Space10 released meatball concepts not long ago that have since gone from art project to fully cooked concept here–because that’s what Space10 does: It prototypes the future for Ikea.

(15) AMAZON VS. CONSERVATIVES. Vox Day finds that Amazon’s alleged massacre of conservative authors’ book reviews is highly exaggerated [Internet Archive].

Of course, the mere fact that there is a closed alliance of authors with personal relationships who pay very close attention to reviews may explain at least a reasonable percentage of these deletions, given the terms of service. I checked out my reviews and it looks like ten or fewer reviews were deleted across all my various book listings. Not only that, but several of the reviews were one-star fake reviews, so two of my average ratings actually increased. This made me suspect that the deleted reviews were likely in open violation of Amazon’s terms of service, which Amanda Green’s investigation appears to have generally confirmed.

He also says in a comment:

Don’t get Clintonian. It’s not tricky at all. Are they family? Are they close friends? Did they work on your book?

If so, then don’t review their books.

That being said, I think Amazon would be well advised to limit reviews to Verified Purchases in addition to whatever conflict-of-interest limitations they see fitting.

Let’s face it, the world doesn’t need any more reviews on the lines of “I am so-and-so’s mother and I can’t believe he wrote a whole book! It’s really good!”

(16) COMICS RANT. The comics artist Colleen Doran went on an epic Twitter rant about “diversity hires.”

It implies things about race, it implies things about sex, it implies things about sexuality. And because I can’t read your mind, I don’t really know what “diversity hire” means to you. But I know what it means to me. So tread that ground with care.

Start the thread here —

(17) THE FORCE IS WITH THEM. Pacific Standard profiles “The Jedi Faithful”.

Disambiguating real-world practices from the traditions that the Star Wars franchise established is not so much a passing curiosity as one of the central reasons the group of Jedi has assembled here for the weekend. Belief in the Force here on Earth is ultimately simple enough, a matter of faith that requires no greater suspension of disbelief than praying to any other life-force or deity. However, the practical extension of that belief, as demonstrated in the Star Wars canon—namely, that one can use the Force to exert mental influence on the external world—poses a larger problem: The cosmos, absent green screens, doesn’t so easily succumb to the will.

And so, for those following the Gospel of Lucas, life can often seem a battle of approximations. Lightsabers here on Earth aren’t in fact shafts of light, but an alloy of plastic and LEDs. Jedi on Earth have downgraded telekinesis for noetic sciences and a belief that collective thought can influence external change. And, as their possession of DVD box sets, plastic lightsabers, and Star Wars kitsch indicates, they, unlike their fictional counterparts, haven’t quite subscribed to an ascetic’s denial of worldly attachments

(18) MAGIC SCHOOLS. L. Jagi Lamplighter says Superversive SF’s Fantastic Schools and Where to Find Them blog is “just a fun thing a couple of us are doing–covering magic schools and schooling in general. We are open to posts from anyone who writes about Magic Schools. It’s just a labor of love kind of thing. Nothing big. (Or anyone who has an opinion on either magic schools or schools in general.)”

She penned their most recent post: “Which Magic School Is For You: Roke”.

How many of you ever wished you could attend Roke? I bet many readers don’t even know what Roke is.

Once upon a time, in the long-ago dream time of the 1970s and 80s, there were three fantasy series everyone read: Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, C. S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles, and Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea Trilogy. Everyone who read fantasy had read all three, and they were considered equally great.

I remember the day, some years ago now, when I realized that while Narnia and Lord of the Rings had made the grade, Earthsea had been basically forgotten. Many modern fantasy fans had never heard of the books. They didn’t even know that LeGuin had invented one of their favorite concepts: the magic school.

But Ursula Leguin’s magic school in Wizard of Earth Sea was the first time a fantasy writer thought “Gee, we see so many wizards in stories. Who trains them? Where do they go to school?”

And what she gave us was Roke.

(19) MUPPETS. Gwynne Watkins, in the Yahoo Entertainment story “Miss Piggy’s ‘a mess inside’: Frank Oz and puppeteer pals reveal Muppet secrets”, interviews several associates of Jim Henson who are promoting Frank Oz’s HBO documentary Muppet Guys Talking.

If I were thinking about, from a viewer’s perspective, which Muppet changed the most over time, I would say Miss Piggy

Oz: Yeah, probably so. But Piggy is a different situation. I’ve said this before: Her beginnings were in the women’s liberation movement, just by accident. And I don’t consciously change things, but the characters don’t interact with the world — I interact with my world. And I don’t interact in such a way where I say, “Oh, I’ve got to put that in my character.” I think because of the zeitgeist, it just kind of happens without me knowing it. But Piggy’s a little different. Piggy is such a mess inside, that I think as the years go on, she gets more and more emotional baggage. And that’s mainly why she changes. She keeps being rejected by the frog. She keeps trying and cannot do the things that she wants to, like tell jokes or dance. So I think she has this emotional baggage that hurts her more and more and more, and as a result she covers more and more and more. That’s what I think. 

[Thanks to JJ, Mark Hepworth, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, rcade, Cat Eldridge, David Doering, Carl Slaughter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ken Richards.]

Pixel Scroll 3/16/18 My Very Educated Mother Just Scrolled Us Nine Pixels

The Management regrets that a long day necessitates a short Scroll.

(1) PERFECT PITCH. Seanan McGuire’s Twitter sonnet is linked here too late to influence your Hugo nominations, yet you might enjoy it anyway. Jump on the thread here —

(2) SPEAKER TO KERMIT. Muppet Guys Talking is available today – see it for $9.97. (There’s probably some reason for that nice round coff number.)

Five of the original Muppet performers/innovators come together to discuss the creation of their iconic characters under the visionary leadership of Jim Henson.

(3) REBUTTAL. Will Shetterly airs his full and complete responses to File 770 comments in his own post: “Writers at File 770 validate my concern about the Fourth Street ban”.

For the record, I omitted the emails about planning the seminar before I was kicked off it, I omitted the emails we shared once it was settled that I’d be doing a panel at the convention, and out of consideration for Alex Haist, I omitted some insulting notes that she incompetently or maliciously left on the copy of the letter she sent me to answer my four questions. If there’s anything I left out that seems pertinent, I invite anyone from the Board to share it with the assurance that I have no intention of suing anyone.

(4) CANTINA SCENE. Io9 asks “Can You Name Every Alien in This All-Encompassing Scifi Cantina?” Artists Vance Kelly and Kevin M. Wilson have created a cantina scene filled with characters from different sf works, prints of which go on sale 21 March at the Hero Complex Gallery in LA. See the image at the link,

(5) HAVE YE SEEN THE GREAT WHITE SATELLITE? Thar she blows!: “Big harpoon is ‘solution to space junk'”.

Airbus is testing a big harpoon to snare rogue or redundant satellites and pull them out of the sky.

The 1m-long projectile would be attached, through a strong tether, to a chase spacecraft.

Once the target was captured and under control, the chase vehicle would then drag its prey down into the atmosphere to burn to destruction.

(6) KIRBY ADAPTATION. The BBC says “Ava DuVernay ‘to direct superhero film'”.

Ava DuVernay, director of Selma and A Wrinkle in Time, is in talks to direct a superhero film based on DC Comics characters, according to reports.

DuVernay, whose other films include the Oscar-nominated documentary 13th, has been linked to The New Gods, based on a comic book created by Jack Kirby.

DuVernay seemed to confirm the news by posting a photo of Kirby on Twitter.

The New Gods would be the second major superhero film directed by a woman, after Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman.

(7) JEOPARDY! TONIGHT. Andrew Porter says “In the category African-American Literature, the answer and the photo shown was: ‘This author of Kindred and Xenogenesis combined African-American literature with science fiction themes.’

“No one got the question: ‘Who is Octavia Butler?’”

(8) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. 2CELLOS, “Game of Thrones.”

And JJ assures me, “If you’ve never seen these guys before, they do an absolutely hilarious version of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck.”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/22/17 On The Fifth Day She Scrolled Five Tidbits About Ray Bradbury

(1) WHAT’S THAT SMELL? CNN’s Brian Lowry is not impressed: “‘Valerian’ turns French comic into epic mess”.

A feast for the eyes and positively numbing on the brain, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” makes an early bid for worst movie of the year — or at least, the most ostentatious waste of money, given the lavish trappings of this comic-book adaptation from French writer-director Luc Besson.

Visually sumptuous, Besson has approximated the scale of a “Star Wars” epic, albeit one wholly populated by versions of Jar-Jar Binks….

(2) GUARANTEED INCOME. Fast Company considers “Could Hawaii Be The First State To Offer A Basic Income?” Shades of Mack Reynolds!

With trials already underway in Kenya, Finland, and Oakland, and several others planned elsewhere, basic income is starting to get a thorough testing. The idea of direct cash transfers to meet basic human needs has been getting a lot of attention in the media, from Silicon Valley leaders, and among academics and think tanks. It can’t be long before a city or state in the United States experiments with basic income for itself (Oakland’s pilot is run by Y Combinator, a startup incubator)….

(3) SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM. And what will Hawaiians buy with their guaranteed money? Well… “‘It’s flavourful as hell’: Welcome to Hawaii’s annual Spam festival”

Not even the drizzle can deter the crowds unspooling along Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach. As late April showers fall upon Kalakaua Avenue, the roads are lined three-deep with sunburned tourists, surfer bros and silver-haired pensioners. Their colourful T-shirts, flower garlands and fancy dress costumes are soaked by rain, but eagerly they wait. Suddenly, a chorus of tiny ukuleles starts to play. The procession begins. Are they waiting to pay homage to a visiting dignitary or religious leader? No. They’re here to celebrate Hawaii’s favourite food: the immortal luncheon meat called Spam.

I join snaking queues for seemingly endless food stalls, each dish more absurd than the last: Spam pizza, Spam fried rice, Spam crackers, Spam pho, deep-fried mac and cheese bites (with Spam) and, of course, Spam fritters. I spot some Spam-infused macadamia nuts, and a slab of grilled Spam atop sticky rice, doused in soy and bound with seaweed: Spam sushi. There’s even Spam dipped in chocolate.

(4) CELEBRATING AFRICAN SF. The University of Manchester’s The Manchester Review has published a special issue on African SF: “Manchester showcases African sci-fi writers, including the author of an ‘African Game of Thrones’”.

This edition of the review is edited by the multi-award winning Geoff Ryman, a Senior Creative Writing Lecturer at The University of Manchester. His own work has won the Arthur C Clarke Award, the Philip K Dick Award and the British Science Fiction Award, and his passion for African science fiction has led him towrite a series interviewing 100 writers from the continent.

Ryman says:

The number of African science fiction stories being published is now too great to do anything other than list. Right now, this wave of creativity reminds me of Elizabethan England at the time of Shakespeare – the power is rising, and the literature with it.

(5) CHAOS DENIED. A spokesperson for former Doctor Who Peter Davison complains the actor’s comments on the new Doctor were quoted out of context:

Since there’s been a flurry of out of context and editorialized articles from various tabloids today (they do love to create chaos), here’s a transcript of Peter’s actual comments from a press interview at #SDCC2017 (the “breaks” were apparently pauses for questions which were edited out):

I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for her and I think that it will be hard for some fans to adjust to it. As I said before, it’s difficult to adjust to any new Doctor, but I think the important thing is that those are uncertain fellows, those who are uncertain should be encouraged to watch it with an open mind. I don’t know, I feel… I think the time for discussion about that is past. They’ve made the announcement. Jodie Whittaker is the next Doctor and that’s great!

[break]

I feel.. if I feel any doubts about it, it’s the loss of a role model for boys, who I think Doctor Who is vitally important for. So I feel a bit sad about that, but I understand the argument that you’ve got to open it up, so that’s absolutely fair enough. So she has my best wishes and full confidence. I’m sure she’ll do a wonderful job.

[break]

As a viewer, I kind of like the idea of the Doctor as a boy, but then maybe I’m an old fashioned dinosaur. Who knows? But I think that’s irrelevant now. The time for discussion is over. We have a new Doctor. And let’s give her our full support.

[break]

I would encourage them to watch. I think there’s too much… you know on the internet… there’s too much bile coming from both sides. And too many people are being horribly sexist about it, and too many people are saying, ‘Well, we don’t care about you. You’re old fashioned. Go away and watch something else.’ I think fans who are doubtful, who are uncertain should be encouraged and welcomed. And just approach it with an open mind.

[break]

Oh yeah, of course. I mean, she’s a terrific actress. And you can absolutely understand it. Look, someone rings you up… I know this feeling… someone rings you up one night. You’re sitting at home and they say ‘how would you feel about being the next Doctor Who?’ It’s a fantastic opportunity, so of course, she grabs it with both hands. I’m sure she’ll do a wonderful job!”

 

(6) THE MAGIC GOES AWAY. This is the last weekend LA’s Harry Potter-themed store Whimsic Alley will be open — “Miracle Mile’s Whimsic Alley Closing”. It says something about social media – don’t ask me what – that a store with over 18,000 Facebook “likes” has bit the dust.

Both a shop and a popular party and entertainment venue, with a castle-like Great Hall event space and a retail area resembling a Dickensian streetscape, the business has been catering to fans of the Harry Potter books and movies — as well as fans of other popular entertainments such as Game of Thrones, Dr. Who, Outlander and even Downton Abbey — in its current location since 2008 (and it was located in Santa Monica for five years before that).  It sells books, costumes, toys, magic wands and other character-related accessories, and has hosted hundreds of birthday parties, tea parties, costume balls, murder mystery dinners, fantasy-themed craft fairs, day camps and even weddings.  For many years before Potter-themed attractions opened at Universal Studios, fans from all over the world would trek to Whimsic Alley for its one-of-a-kind items and atmosphere.

“New multi-million dollar theme parks and exhibitions are awe-inspiring,” owner Stan Goldin said in the closing statement, “But for many years, Whimsic Alley filled a void that no one else seemed interested in filling. Our staff enjoyed serving our clientele as much as they hopefully enjoyed their experiences. As a result, we developed close friendships along the way which we hope will continue for many years to come.”

But Goldin told the Buzz that those new theme park attractions, along with other factors such as the rise of online shopping, and perhaps also traffic and parking disruptions from local subway construction, may be what finally sealed the fate of the beloved store. Business has fallen off dramatically in the last year or so, he said, and “we can only speculate why.”

(7) HALF OF SIXTEEN TONS AND WHAT DO YOU GET? Yahoo! Celebrity’s piece “Comic Book Superfan’s Collection Weighs More Than 8 Tons” tells about Bob Bretell, an LA guy who is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having 103,000 comic books, including Amazing Fantasy 15.

Martin Morse Wooster sent the link with a comment: “I remember there was a discussion in File 770 back in the day about fans who were moving their collections and discussing how many tons of books they had.  I remember some fans had more than one ton, but I don’t think anybody had two.  Well, this guy has eight tons of comics!”

(8) CONVERSATIONS WITH CREATORS. Thieved from John Scalzi’s Twitter feed.

(9) WUT? Camestros Felapton has scored another technological breakthrough, the sound-free podcast. It’s guaranteed to be as pleasing to the deaf as it is to the dumb: “The Book Club Roundtable Discussion Club Non-Audio Podcast Club”. Features Camestros, Timothy the Talking Cat and a radiant guest star —

[Camestros] Well, I’m glad you asked. Coming all the way from the distant past and the far future is Susan the triceratops! A big round of applause for Susan!

[Susan the Triceratops enters from the wings] Hi.

[Camestros] Hi Susan. Now for the viewers at home can you tell us more about yourself?

[Susan] Viewers? Isn’t this a podcast?

[Timothy] The government is always watching us Susan. They fear my outspoken commitment to freedom and privatising healthcare.

[Susan] Thank you for the clarification small mammal predator. Well, as you know, I’m originally from the distant past but due to a time-travel accident I ended up in the far future where I now live in Fungus Town, home to the post-apocalyptic Fungus civilisation. In my spare time I defend the city in my superhero identity: Triceracopter.

(10) SHUFFLE UP. Bibliophilopolis tells how fans can “deal themselves in” to “An All-Bradbury #24in48 Readathon!”

From the readathon’s home page, here are some details: “If you’re new to 24in48, this is the basic gist: beginning at 12:01am on Saturday morning and running through 11:59pm on Sunday night, participants read for 24 hours out of that 48-hour period. You can split that up however you’d like: 20 hours on Saturday, four hours on Sunday; 12 hours each day; six four-hour sessions with four hour breaks in between, whatever you’d like.”

What am I Reading?

Now “the rest of the story” is that most participants don’t actually read 24 entire hours, but rather have that as a goal.  In the past, I’ve participated by reading 24 short stories, which is harder than you think.  This year, though, to up the ante, I’m going to try to read 52 stories, all by the master storyteller, Ray Bradbury.  Why? Many reasons, not the least of which being I really enjoy reading his stories. He also doesn’t write many “long-ish” stories, so they might average a short enough length for me to complete 52 in a weekend. The most important reason, though, is that I am hoping to “raise awareness” about a local (for me) literary treasure, The Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. Pay them a visit at the link, and also check out their Facebook page. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the Center on a couple occasions and it is chock-full of Bradbury artifacts and documents, and a re-creation of his office space. Including his seat of choice, a director’s chair (see photo below).

(11) YESTERDAY IN HISTORY. From John King Tarpinian’s 2009 Comic-Con photos:

Here is a picture I took, my friend Robert is in the middle.  The other two are Jerry Robinson & Ray Bradbury.  If you don’t know who Jerry was then you do not deserve to be in San Diego this weekend.

(12) FIVE YEARS AGO. And in 2012, John photographed George Clayton Johnson’s image on the screen at Comc-Con’s Bradbury eulogy session.

George Clayton Johnson

(13) COMIC SECTION. John  King Tarpinian got a laugh from today’s Off the Mark.

(14) I’VE SEEN THAT FACE BEFORE, SOMEWHERE. One good book cover deserves another. And another.

The Martian by Andy Weir (Feburary 2014)

John Glenn: America’s Astronaut (April 2014)

Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space (June 2014)

Scott Parazynski: The Sky Below: A True Story of Summits, Space, and Speed (August 2017)

(15) FAN MAIL FROM SOME FLOUNDER. The Daily Beast’s Erica Wagner remembers the family business: “Inside the Secret World of ‘The Muppet Show’”.

“Dear Kermit the Frog,” begins the letter from a young fan, framed on the wall of the new Jim Henson Exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. “How is show business? When are you and Miss Piggy getting married? Tell Miss Piggy I saw a bride dress.”

I’d guess from the handwriting that the scribe was 6 or 7 years old. But at the top of the page is handwriting that I recognize—my mom’s, making a careful note of just how many letters like this there were the pile of mail requiring her attention. Because when I was growing up, my parents’ job was answering all the fan mail the Muppets received.

(16) VIEW FROM A PUPPY. In what Dr. Mauser says will probably be his last Sad Puppies blog post, he presents his version of recent history: “The Claw!”

….Now if the goal of the Sad Puppies were to probe how deep the fix was in in the Hugo electorate, the goal of the Rabid Puppies was to Win. The organizer has a bit of a beef with the SF community, to put it mildly, and taking one of their awards would be a coup. The first attempt was no real master stroke. Having seen how effective Larry’s fanbase had been in getting nominees on the ballot in SP2, the easiest, no effort way to get in was to hijack the list, add himself and a few of his house’s authors to the list at the top, knock off the bottom items to fill out a slate, and mobilize his fanbase as well. With so much commonality to the lists, it would be impossible to sort out whose supporters were whose. Which as a tactic to make his influence appear larger than it was, was successful. SP and RP got conflated and slammed in the social media, and the real media, by design. Some people still can’t tell them apart. But good Tactics sometimes make bad Strategy, and the backlash the organizer engendered resulted, as I said, in one of the most toxic Hugo ceremonies ever, as well as in rules changes designed to make the Hugo nomination process even more opaque than the final vote process.

It wasn’t much better the next year, when his spitefulness towards the fandom made him pollute the nominations with crude gay porn titles. If he couldn’t win, he was going to ruin the whole thing. It merely cemented the backlash, but it didn’t require the overkill numbers unleashed the year before to shut him out, thus those excess no-award voter accounts were released.

Skipping ahead to this year. It becomes really simple to see why he sent an acolyte to announce he was commandeering the helm of SP5. Clearly he believed that the Sad Puppies had an army of followers and if he could co-opt them to his cause, he could finally win, or at least do real damage.[1] The Kickers, on the other hand, had rigged the game even more, making it harder for any small group to dominate the nominations, but a sufficiently large one, like say, tor.com fans, with properly distributed votes, could capture a large number of nominations, and they did. And in the coming years, another fix is going in that will allow any sufficiently large cabal to de-nominate anything they don’t like[2] (They call it 3 Stage Voting, or 3SV, but it’s NOTHING like what I proposed).

I don’t think though that this is going to stop him from shoving more and more quarters into the damned machine, trying to grab that Trophy. The Sad Puppies have proven their point, and are off to chase more good fiction. The Hugos don’t interest them any more. The Rabids though, they’re out to win, no matter how much the game is rigged, and how destructive the results end up being. That’s a feature to them, not a bug.

(17) CONFEDERATE. Vulture’s Josef Adalian in “The Producers of HBO’s Confederate Respond to the Backlash and Explain Why They Wanted to Tell This Story” has an extended interview with showrunners Benioff and Weiss, including why they brought in two African-Americans, Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Malcolm Spellman to be co-showrunners.

So Malcolm and Nichelle, take me back to how David and D.B. first came to you with this. How did you decide to get involved?

MS: They first called me and said they wanted to take us to lunch and talk about a project they had. They took me and Nichelle out to a restaurant and told us the history of it: They had this script, the movie version, but they felt taking it to TV would be better. And they knew they needed black voices on it. There was already a comfort level between all of us. I feel like me and Nichelle, both separately, have a great pedigree — her particularly — and so it made sense.

For me and Nichelle, it’s deeply personal because we are the offspring of this history. We deal with it directly and have for our entire lives. We deal with it in Hollywood, we deal with it in the real world when we’re dealing with friends and family members. And I think Nichelle and I both felt a sense of urgency in trying to find a way to support a discussion that is percolating but isn’t happening enough. As people of color and minorities in general are starting to get a voice, I think there’s a duty to force this discussion.

Nichelle Tramble Spellman: When we initially sat down, we made the joke, “Oh, this is going to be a black Game of Thrones spin-off! This is gonna be awesome.” And then [Benioff and Weiss] got into what the story was about, and I just remember being so excited — and absolutely terrified at the same time. I can’t remember the last time I approached any story like that. So Malcolm and I left the lunch and couldn’t stop talking about it the entire way home. And immediately that night, this chain of emails just started. Like, “Have you read this? Have you read that? What about this piece of history? How can we bring this all into a present-day story line.”

And immediately what the conversation turned into is how we could draw parallels between what has been described as America’s original sin to a present-day conversation.

(18) NOT EVERYONE’S A BELIEVER. It’s easy to be cynical in Hollywood.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, mlex, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

Pixel Scroll 7/20/17 Be Vewy Quiet – I’m Hunting Pixels

(1) CORE DYSTOPIAS. James Davis Nicoll tempts fate every two weeks with a list of core sf. Today’s entry is “Twenty Core Dystopias Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”. The first four items are:

  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

(2) SCA JOINS THE 21ST CENTURY. The Society for Creative Anachronism has promulgated “The SCA Harassment and Bullying Policy”.

The SCA prohibits harassment and bullying of all individuals and groups.

Harassment and bullying includes, but is not limited to the following: offensive or lewd verbal comments directed to an individual; the display of explicit images (drawn or photographic) depicting an individual in an inappropriate manner; photographing or recording individuals inappropriately to abuse or harass the individual; inappropriate physical contact; unwelcome sexual attention; or retaliation for reporting harassment and/or bullying. Participants violating these rules are subject to appropriate sanctions. If an individual feels subjected to harassment, bullying or retaliation, they should contact a seneschal, President of the SCA, or the Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman. If a participant of the SCA becomes aware that someone is being harassed or bullied, they have a responsibility pursuant to the SCA Code of Conduct to come forward and report this behavior to a seneschal, President of the SCA or Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman.

The following statement must be posted at gate/troll at every SCA event in a size large enough for people to see it as they enter our events. This language must likewise be quoted in ALL site handouts at every event a site were a handout is made available.

THE SCA PROHIBITS HARASSMENT AND BULLYING OF ALL INDIVIDUALS AND GROUPS.

Participants engaging in this behavior are subject to appropriate sanctions. If you are subjected to harassment, bullying or retaliation, or if you become aware of anyone being harassed or bullied, contact a seneschal, President of the SCA, or your Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman.

(3) POTTER SPIRITUALITY. Michelle Boorstein and Julie Zauzmer of the Washington Post discuss the “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text” event at the Sixth and I Synagogue in “Hundreds pack DC hall to discuss podcast exploring Harry Potter as a sacred text”. The podcast is now #2 on iTunes and “has inspired face-to-face ‘Potter’ text reading groups–akin to Bible study rather than book club–in cities across the country.”

Touring the country this summer, the podcasters have been met night after night by adoring, mostly millennial crowds who want to soak up their secular meaning-making. For the growing slice of Americans who label themselves “spiritual but not religious,” Casper ter Kuile and Vanessa Zoltan are kind of pop stars.

The irony is, the pair are skeptical about secularism.

“It doesn’t speak to people’s hearts and souls,” Zoltan said during a recent interview. “I get that people get connection and meaning from Soul Cycle, but will [those people] visit you when your mom is dying?”

Zoltan and ter Kuile are complicated evangelists for their own cause. Even as their following grows, they are still pondering some big questions: Can non-traditional types of meaning-making build community? Can texts that are deeply moving to readers truly hold them to account in the way Scripture has among the God-fearing?

(4) JOB INSECURITY. The Washington Post has a piece by Travis M. Andrews and Samantha Schmidt on the firing of Kermit’s voice, Steve Whitmire.  Reportedly, Whitmire was publicly grumpy, as in a 2011 interview on “Ellen” where he said he “was often mistaken for a green fire hydrant.”  Also, Howard Stern (!!) has weighed in, saying that “the odds of you making a money-generating career” as a puppeteer are “next to nothing” and “do not lose that job under any circumstances.”

(5) MINDS FOR MISCHIEF. Nicole Hill has picked out “6 Robots Too Smart for Their Own Good” at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Robots, man. You can’t live without them (unless you vacuum the old-fashioned way), and quite often, you can’t live with them—at least, not without massive, horrifying, oft-accidental repercussions.

That’s not to say all robots are bad. Quite the opposite. Sometimes, though, their massive brains work in ways that aren’t quite healthy—for them or for us.

Clever 4-1 (Prey of the Gods, by Nicky Drayden)

In a novel chock full of dueling goddesses, genetic engineering, and general mayhem, Clever 4-1 manages to stand above the fray while contributing directly to it. You see, Clever 4-1 awakens both at a troubling time and in the nick of time: the personal assistant robot gains sentience just as his master has awakened his own inner divinity. Just as an ancient demigoddess unleashes a plan to regain her former glory by bathing South Africa in blood. Just as all hell is breaking loose, Clever 4-1 starts out to find others of his kind who have gained sentience, to marshal their forces, to assist and do good. As with any nascent movement, you’ll have your leadership coups, and Clever 4-1 has to balance politicking with near-constant danger on his shoulders. Well, not shoulders.

(6) THE OLD SWITCHEROO. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn found there was a completely obvious reason for Louisville Fandom Fest to announce a last-minute change of venue.

You see, this announcement came in the wake of the Kentucky Expo Center telling the world the con wouldn’t be held there first. After attendees were concerned that the con wasn’t listed on the Kentucky Expo Center’s event calendar, they reached out to the venue asking what was up. The venue’s management responded on Twitter that not only was the convention not being held there this year, but that the con never had a contract for the space.

Although, as JJ points out:

What the Kentucky Expo Center actually said was:

We do not have a contract for FandomFest at our facility.

This leaves open the possibility that there was a contract at some point, but that it was cancelled, due to contractual breaches such as, I dunno, maybe something like non-payment of advance reservation fees.

(7) STREET VIEW. Google Maps adds the International Space Station.

The International Space Station has become the first “off planet” addition to Google Maps’ Street View facility.

Astronauts helped capture 360-degree panoramas of the insides of the ISS modules, as well as views down to the Earth below.

Some of the photography features pop-up text descriptions, marking the first time such annotations have appeared on the Maps platform.

(8) HENDERSON OBIT. LASFS member Lee Henderson, who sometimes handled the gaming room at Loscon, died July 17. He was working on an auto when the car jack became dislodged and the car collapsed on top of him.

He is survived by his wife and two children. His mother, Rita, has started a GoFundMe hoping to raise $10,000 for funeral expenses.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Space Exploration Day

The origins of Space Exploration Day date back to man first walking on the moon, with the day itself first observed to commemorate this historic event during events held in the early 1970s. It is about more than just the moon landings though and is intended to pay homage to the incredible achievements of the past and fire up enthusiasm for the benefits of space exploration efforts to come in the future.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 20, 1969 — Neil Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the Moon. He also placed the U.S. flag there.
  • July 20, 2017 – John King Tarpinian munched his commemorative Moon Pie, as he does each year on this date.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 20, 1949 — Guy H. Lillian III

(12) LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARILY EXPENSIVE TOYS. Nerdist doesn’t want you to miss its exclusive news story – about Mattel’s Justice League Barbies.

For almost sixty years now, Barbie has been a Jane of all trades, having had careers as a school teacher, a pop star, a super model, and even an astronaut that one time. Name an occupation, and Barbie has probably had her turn at the wheel at some point. And now, Barbie is getting her chance to be one of the iconic superheroes of the Justice League!

(13) FORMERLY THE FUTURE. Yesterland is a site about retired Disneyland attractions, like the Flying Saucer ride.

If you’ve never looked at this ride closely, you might think it’s just a colossal air hockey table with a fleet of ride vehicles that can scoot above it. But it’s much more complicated—and much more ingenious—than that.

The Flying Saucers ride uses a big, blue oval, bisected into two halves, each with thousands of round air valves, Each half has a movable arm. There are four fleets of 16 saucers. Unlike other “batch load’ attractions, this one loads efficiently.

As the ride cycle begins, a giant arm slowly swings away from the loading area, releasing your group of saucers. Air valves directly below your saucer lift it up.

Tilt your body to make your saucer scoot across ride surface. Wherever you go, your saucer actuates air valves as you pass over them. All the lift comes from below. Your saucer has no moving parts—or, more accurately, you’re the only moving part of your vehicle. You can go remarkably fast. ….

(14) GAME OF THRONES ALUMS FIND THE LOST CAUSE. The New York Times sums up reaction to David Benioff’s and D. B. Weiss’ next project, Confederate.

It was supposed to be HBO’s next big thing: a high-concept drama from the creators of “Game of Thrones,” set in an alternate America where the Southern states seceded from the Union and slavery continued into the present day.

Instead, the new series, called “Confederate,” has provoked a passionate outcry from potential viewers who are calling out HBO and the creators over how they will handle this volatile mixture of race, politics and history. Several historians and cultural critics are also skeptical about whether the “Game of Thrones” team, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, are the right people to address the subject and if it should be attempted at all.

“Confederate” arrives at a time when many minorities feel their civil rights are under siege, and when issues surrounding the Civil War and its legacy — the propriety of displaying Confederate flags; the relocations and razings of Confederate monuments — continue to confront Americans on an almost daily basis.

To its critics, the show’s promise to depict slavery as it might be practiced in modern times is perhaps the most worrisome element of “Confederate.” They say that slavery, a grave and longstanding scar on the national psyche, especially for black Americans, should not be trivialized for the sake of a fantasy TV series.

(15) FOZ MEADOWS ON ‘CONFEDERATE’. Here are the first few tweets in Foz Meadows’ commentary.

(16) JEMISIN ON HISTORY. N.K. Jemisin tweeted her skepticism about the supposed gradual withering away of slavery that’s postulated in both real and alternate history. Well-placed skepticism, I’d say – this is a country that needed almost a full century after the Civil War to pass the Voting Rights Act. The same attitudes would have conserved slavery. Follow this tweet to find her complete statement.

(17) DEL ARROZ ON JEMISIN. Jemisin says at her Twitter account “I use robust autoblockers due to harassment.” No wonder. Jon Del Arroz spent a day this week rounding up people to harass Jemisin after supposedly discovering he was one of those blocked.

(18) THANK YOU VOTERS OF THE INTERNET. The heir of Boaty McBoatface is a Swedish train says The Guardian“Trainy McTrainface: Swedish railway keeps Boaty’s legacy alive”.

It’s happened again. A public vote to name four trains running between the Swedish cities of Stockholm and Gothenburg has resulted in one of the four being called Trainy McTrainface in an echo of the name chosen by the British public for the new polar research vessel.

Trainy McTrainface received 49% of the votes in a poll, jointly run by Swedish rail company MTR Express and Swedish newspaper Metro.

That placed it well ahead the other three options: Hakan, Miriam and Poseidon.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, lurkertype, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, John DeChancie and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

Pixel Scroll 7/18/17 Fahrvergnügen 451

(0) What’s Daniel Dern’s title a reference to? Some commercials that aired before many of you were born.

(1) COLONIZE OR QUARANTINE? Pilita Clark, the Financial Times environment correspondent, complains “Elon Musk’s inter-planetary fantasy spells danger for Mars”.  (This link goes straight to a paywall, but via Google I found a way around.)

What is troubling is that he (Musk) seems to think of Mars mush as early European explorers viewed Africa and the Americas, as places to be colonised regardless of the consequences.

Mars is in a pristine state and experts say it should stay that way if we are to find proof of past or present life there.  Plonking a city of 1m humans on it would wreak havoc with such efforts, according to veteran space scientists such as Andrew Coates of University College London, whois working on the ExoMars rover due to launch in 2020.

Prof Coates says the big global dust storm on Mars could carry specks of terrestrial matter across the planet that scientists could mistake for evidence of Martian life.  He also worries about Mr Musk’s breezy attitude to the brutally cold weather on Mars, where temperatures average minus 63C.

(2) THE BREW THAT MADE KENTUCKY FAMOUS. We’ve mentioned Wil Wheaton’s beer before. Here’s this year’s edition of “Drew Curtis / Wil Wheaton / Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout.

COLLABORATORS

Drew Curtis, Fark.com Creator & Patent Troll Killer

Wil Wheaton, Actor & Web Celeb

Greg Koch, CEO & Co-founder, Stone Brewing

It’s been four years since this otherworldly stout burst out of our collective proverbial chests. Four years since the primally viscous first release ooze-snaked across the galaxy. This specialty imperial stout draws its huge flavor from wheat (that’s Wil, natch), pecans and bourbon barrels (two homages to Drew’s home of Kentucky) and Greg’s lifelong quest for pushing the limits of “why the hell not?” to make bigger, bolder beers. The result is a mind-blowing amalgamation of intense yet smooth flavors, perfect for a warm summer evening, a cozy winter’s night or the approaching destruction of the entire human race (be it externally or internally inflicted).

For this year’s bottle art, we were thrilled to entrust the task to heralded comic book writer and artist Walt Simonson. He was gracious enough to work with us in exchange for our donation to The Hero Initiative, a charity organization that provides retirement funds for golden-age comic book artists.

(3) MARVEL’S LIVESTREAM FROM SDCC. Marvel Entertainment will air the action from their booth at Comic-Con starting Thursday, July 20.

Hosted by TWHIP! The Big Marvel Show’s Ryan Penagos and Lorraine Cink, and Marvel Gaming host Jessica Brohard, viewers will be able to watch booth events with their favorite Marvel comic, television and movie talent, hear panel recaps from special guests, and learn about all the fun surprises happening on the convention floor, from exclusive merchandise to special signings. Join in on the fun by visiting www.marvel.com/SDCC2017 or Marvel’s YouTube channel.

 

  • Thursday, July 20: 11:00 a.m. PT/1:00 p.m. ET – 5:00 p.m. PT/8:00 p.m. ET
  • Friday, July 21: 11:00 a.m. PT/1:00 p.m. ET – 5:00 p.m. PT/8:00 p.m. ET
  • Saturday, July 22: 11:00 a.m. PT/1:00 p.m. ET – 5:00 p.m. PT/8:00 p.m. ET
  • Sunday, July 23: 11:00 a.m. PT/1:00 p.m. ET – 3:00 p.m. PT/6:00 p.m. ET

(4) FROG FURY. The New York Times covers the brawl: “Kermit the Frog Performer and Disney Spar Over an Ugly ‘Muppet’ Firing”.

“This is my life’s work,” said Mr. Whitmire, 58, who lives in the Atlanta area. “The only thing I’ve done my whole adult life, and it’s just been taken away from me. I just couldn’t understand why we couldn’t resolve this.”

Disney, which acquired the Muppets in 2004 from the Jim Henson Company, painted a wholly different picture, portraying Mr. Whitmire as hostile to co-workers and overly difficult in contract negotiations. Members of the Henson family said they supported the dismissal as well.

… Henson’s family, which still runs the Jim Henson Company, chose Mr. Whitmire to replace Henson as Kermit in 1990 after Henson unexpectedly died of pneumonia at the age of 53. Some of those same family members say they supported the decision to replace Mr. Whitmire, though they are no longer involved with the Muppets.

“He played brinkmanship very aggressively in contract negotiations,” Lisa Henson, president of the Jim Henson Company, and Jim Henson’s daughter, said in a telephone interview.

Ms. Henson said Mr. Whitmire was adamantly opposed to having an understudy for his role, which presented problems when it came to what she called “B-level performances, such as a ribbon-cutting.” She said he was unwilling to appear on some of these occasions but also refused to develop an understudy and that he “blackballed young performers” by refusing to appear on the show with them.

Brian Henson, the company’s chairman and Jim Henson’s son, said that while Mr. Whitmire’s Kermit was “sometimes excellent, and always pretty good,” things changed when he was off set.

“He’d send emails and letters attacking everyone, attacking the writing and attacking the director,” he said.

Whitmire, meanwhile, has continued to characterize himself as indispensable in posts at Muppet Pundit, such as — “The Muppet Performers are not Interchangeable”.

The point is that there is so much vital and significant knowledge that was gained by the dwindling few of us who consistently stood next to Jim. From his characters to his methods and philosophies, it’s stuff you can never fully intuit from watching the Muppets. I know that to be true because I, too, was a completely obsessive Muppet fan with preconceived notions of my own that had to be unlearned when Jim hired me in 1978.

I approach The Muppets as a lineage tradition. For the inside knowledge-base steeped in its origins to survive and be passed down, there has to be a line of transmission, or you had to be there. For the Post-Jim performers to really understand enough about the Muppets to carry on the lineage they need to continue to be around the core performers Jim mentored as long as any of those people are willing and able to share.

None of this is a value judgement of any individual, it is a pointing out of the value of historical perspective so long as that perspective is used progressively. Having had the opportunity to spend the last 27 years cultivating knowledge of Jim along with feeling his presence through Kermit, I find myself at a place where evolving Jim’s vision has begun coming from a deep empathetic connection to him.

So, I see my most important task as providing a taste of the atmosphere created by Jim Henson to those Post-Jim core performers who will never otherwise come by it. My hope was to install it directly into their hearts and minds so that they could, in turn, be inspired to do the same for the next generation of performers instead of the characters becoming stale copies of their former selves. But, as I look around at what is presently transpiring it’s clear to me that the job is far from done.

(5) NO SH*T! Eliot Peper of Harvard Business Review tells “Why Business Leaders Need to Read More Science Fiction”.

At the end of the 19th century, New York City stank. One hundred fifty thousand horses ferried people and goods through the streets of Manhattan, producing 45,000 tons — tons! — of manure a month. It piled up on streets and in vacant lots, and in 1898 urban planners convened from around the world to brainstorm solutions to the impending crisis. They failed to come up with any, unable to imagine horseless transportation.

Fourteen years later, cars outnumbered horses in New York, and visions of manure dystopia were forgotten.

If 19th-century urban planners had had access to big data, machine learning techniques, and modern management theory, these tools would not have helped them. They simply would have confirmed their existing concerns. Extrapolating from past trends is useful but limiting in a world of accelerating technological change.

Science fiction can help. Maybe you associate it with spaceships and aliens, but science fiction offers more than escapism. By presenting plausible alternative realities, science fiction stories empower us to confront not just what we think but also how we think and why we think it. They reveal how fragile the status quo is, and how malleable the future can be…..

Science fiction isn’t useful because it’s predictive. It’s useful because it reframes our perspective on the world. Like international travel or meditation, it creates space for us to question our assumptions. Assumptions locked top 19th-century minds into believing that cities were doomed to drown in horse manure. Assumptions toppled Kodak despite the fact that its engineers built the first digital camera in 1975. Assumptions are a luxury true leaders can’t afford.

(6) FOR SOME VALUES OF OVERDUE. John Ostrander reminisces about a career spent pushing deadlines in “The Digital Dog Ate My Homework. Honest.”

In my earliest days as a pro writer, I did everything on typewriter (first manual and then electric; rumors that I chiseled them on stone tablets are just mean). I didn’t have a computer until later and, even when I did, some companies (including DC) were not equipped to receive them electronically. So that meant printing them up on my dot-matrix printer and then rushing them off to FedEx for overnight delivery.

Unless you called in your package by a certain time, usually much earlier than you had the work done, you had to take the package to the nearest FedEx office. If you didn’t hit the office by closing time (usually around 6 PM), you had to make the Midnight Run to the main FedEx office out by the largest airport around. More than once, Kim was the driver while I finished collating the pages, stuffing them in the envelope, and addressing the delivery slip. Let me tell you, Speed Racer had nothing on Kim. She’d run stoplights and take stop signs as suggestions to be ignored. Often, we’d meet other local freelancers also making the death defying Midnight Run. It almost got to be a club.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 18, 1986 Aliens burst into theaters.
  • July 18, 2001 Jurassic Park III opened.
  • July 18, 2008 The Dark Knight, the fifth film in the big-screen Batman series, opens in theaters around the United States.

(8) EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE. At Fantasy Literature, Bill Capossere and Tadiana Jones each review Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us by Sam Kean. Capossere begins:

Informative, witty, vivid, often compelling, sometimes juvenile, knowledgeable, clear, and written throughout with verve and panache via what feels like a wholly singular voice, Sam Kean’s Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us (2017) is what every non-fiction book should aspire to. It’s been a while since I’ve so enjoyed a work of non-fiction so thoroughly and consistently.

Kean divides his exploration of air into three large sections, the first dealing with the origin of our current atmosphere, one of many our planet (if not humanity) has seen….

Jones is just as enthusiastic:

Kean has a vivid and engaging style of writing, with a wry sense of humor, which elevates Caesar’s Last Breath far above most pop science books. Gas molecules are described as feral, oxygen as a madman, our moon as an albatross (as compared to the gnats that circle most other mooned planets), and gravity as “that eternal meddler” that won’t abide two planets in the same neighborhood. I learned about the Big Thwack (when a hypothetical planet called Theia smashed into our earth, vaporizing itself and eventually reforming into our moon), the Oxygen Catastrophe of 2,000,000,000 BC, and the mushroom cloud-shaped cakes baked during the heady days of the late 1940s when nuclear blasts didn’t really seem all that dangerous.

(9) INSIDE BASEBALL. Jennifer Brozek shared “10 Things I Learned While I Was A Director-At-Large for SFWA” at the SFWA Blog.

6: Authors, even your favorite author, are only human.

Everyone has either heard the story, or experienced it themselves: “I used to love reading AuthorX, but then I met them and discovered they are terrible. I can’t read their work anymore.” Sometimes it is hard to discover your idols are human with human wants, needs, foibles, opinions, habits, and flaws. When you work on SFWA’s Board of Directors, you usually see all the behind-the-scenes stuff.

Sometimes, you work with an author/editor on a SFWA project and it doesn’t go as smoothly as you like. Sometimes, it appears as if an author once admired has nothing but scorn for the work you are doing and no desire to help out—just kvetch and complain. Sometimes, authors come to the Board at their worst—financial or medical difficulties, personal conflicts that threaten to spiral out of control, issues with editors, agents, or publishers. They don’t have their “public face” on. They are human. They make mistakes. They can be hurt. They put their pants on one leg at a time.

This is one of those learning lessons that really surprised me. I’m not sure why. I just know it did.

(10) STARFINDER’S APPENDIX N. Paizo is producing a new science fantasy RPG named Starfinder, and they’ve released an image of the “Inspirational Media” pages from the game.  It’s a wide list of old and new SF, not just books but also comics, movies, and games.

In the comment thread one of the developers remarks, “That said, I am excited to see fans talking about the things that moved them that we didn’t include. Those suggestions, and the conversations they start, are to me the greatest legacy of all these inspirational media appendices.”

Few appendices have made as big a splash in gaming history as Gary Gygax’s Appendix N. (I thought Cosmo’s appendix bursting at Gen Con that one year might have it beat, but he reminded me that was technically a gallbladder removal, so it’s OUT OF THE RUNNING!) That formative list of novels hit in 1979, in the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide. In it, Gygax laid out some of the works that had made the largest impact on him in the creation of Dungeons & Dragons, from Leigh Brackett and Robert E. Howard to Jack Vance and Andre Norton. In doing so, he created a reading list for an entire generation of gamers and fantasy fans, and had a tremendous impact on the genre as a whole.

When we created the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook in 2009, we gleefully took the opportunity to publish our own version of Appendix N, keen to introduce fans to our new favorites like Clive Barker and China Miéville, along with grand masters like C. L. Moore. Yet it was ultimately still a fairly small list—just a single column of text—and cribbed heavily from Gygax, focusing solely on novels.

When I first sat down to paginate the Starfinder Core Rulebook, I knew that space was going to be at a premium. I had, by some estimates, 800+ pages of content to cram into something even smaller than Pathfinder’s 576 pages. Yet I also knew that just one page of inspirational media wasn’t going to be enough. In order to make a game like Starfinder, we had to stand on the shoulders of innumerable giants, both childhood heroes and our friends and peers. We couldn’t in good faith restrict ourselves to just literature, either. How could you have Starfinder without Star Wars and Alien? Without Shadowrun and Warhammer 40,000? Without Starcraft and Mass Effect? It just wouldn’t be the same.

(11) BIG EARS. BBC News video: “Telescopes to reach nine billion light years away”.

South Africa has started to set up radio telescopes far more powerful than any current ones in use around the world, in its pioneering search for extra terrestrial activity.

(12) WATER HAZARD. In Washington, D.C. a security robot drowns in a fountain mishap. “We were promised flying cars, instead we got suicidal robots.”

A security robot in Washington DC suffered a watery demise after falling into a fountain by an office building.

The stricken robot, made by Knightscope, was spotted by passers-by whose photos of the aftermath quickly went viral on social media.

(13) RETURN TO TONE. Ian Leslie’s post “Unfight Club” on Medium contends there is a way to have discussions on Twitter without devolving into flame wars, virtue signalling, etc. etc.  If only.

  1. Beware the moral surge. The moral surge is the rush of pleasure you get?—?the dopamine hit?—?when you assert your moral integrity in public. A certain kind of columnist lives for it; much of social media is driven by it. Virtue signalling is its outer manifestation, but I’m talking about an inner mechanism. We’re all subject to it, and that’s not a bad thing in itself?—?it makes sense that we should feel good for ‘doing the right thing’ in the eyes of our group. But when you ingest too much of this drug, or get dependent on it, you end up giving your own bad behaviour a pass. When you’re addicted to the moral surge, personal abuse begins to seem like nothing when measured against high principles. ‘Anything I say to or about that person, however nasty or dehumanising, is justified, because they voted for austerity, which murders people,’ (the more apocalyptic your public language, the purer the hit). Letting your tribe see you condemn others feels good?—?so good that it degrades your own moral machinery. Viciousness becomes a virtue. Don’t let this happen to you: recognise your susceptibility to the moral surge, and be wary of it.

(14) THE EARLY 21ST CENTURY. Martin Wisse calls The New Weird “The last whites only literary movement in science fiction”.

As said, diversity when looked at from that white, middle class male perspective tends to focus on who’s being written about more than on who’s doing the writing. Not that this isn’t important in its own right, but it will still reflect the same limited perspective and no matter how well intentioned, often reducing anybody who isn’t (white, male, middle class) to the exotic. Diversity from this perspective is always from the outside looking in, making it easy to fall into stereotypes, cultural appropriation, orientalism and othering. You get things like making mutants as a metaphor for the Civil Rights struggle and thinking that’s enough, or writing alternate history in which America is conveniently empty when the Europeans land. This sort of diversity is only possible if your audience and peers are the same as you, or you can at least pretend they are.

The New Weird happened at arguably the last time that you could still hold up this pretence without immediadely being contradicted by the very same people you’re denying the existence of. Twitter, Youtube and Facebook didn’t exist yet, blogging was in its infancy and existing fannish and science fiction online spaces were still dominated by, well, white middle class men. What made Racefail not just possible but inevitable was that between the New Weird and Racefail the internet became not just mainstream but ubiquitous as both access and ease of access increased; it’s no coincidence that much of Racefail took place on Livejournal, one of the earliest social media sites and one that had long been home to sf fandom. Tools or sites like Twitter or Tumblr have only made it easier for everybody to let their voice be heard, harder to ignore people when they address you directly. It has its advantages and disadvantages, but the upshot is that science fiction can no longer pretend to be just white, middle class or male.

(15) LICENSE REVOKED. John C. Wright says “Dr. Who Is Not”.

The replacement of male with female is meant to erase femininity. In point of fact, and no matter what anyone thinks or wishes, readers and viewers have a different emotional relationship to female characters as male. This does not mean, obviously, that females cannot be protagonists or cannot be leaders. It means mothers cannot be fathers and queens cannot be kings.

It means if you want a female Norse warrior goddess, go get Lady Sif or Valkyrie, and leave Thor alone. It means if you want female Time Lady from Gallifrey, go make a spin off show starring Romana or Susan or The Rani, and leave The Doctor alone.

I have been a fan of Dr Who since age seven, when Tom Baker was the Doctor. I have tolerated years of public service announcements in favor of sexual deviance that pepper the show. But this is too much to tolerate.

The BBC has finally done what The Master, the Daleks and the Cybermen have failed to do. They killed off the Doctor.

Dr. Who is dead to me.

(16) ON HIS GAME. So can John shout BINGO! yet?

(17) PRO TIPS. Now I’m wondering what anyone would be asking David about File 770 at his site. Maybe, “Why doesn’t Mike pay for material”?

(18) TWEETS OF FAME. To satisfy your appetite for something that has nothing whatever to do with science fiction, we present this link to Bored Panda’s “The 10+ Most Hilarious Parenting Tweets Of The Year So Far”. Here’s #2 on their list —

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “A Single Life” is an animated short nominated for an Oscar in 2014 by Job, Joris, and Marieke which asks what happened if you had a 45 RPM record that enabled you to travel through time?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Francis Hamit, Chip Hitchcock, and Nancy Sauer for some of these stories. Title credit goes to  File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/13/17 Lucky Scroll Means Fine Pixel (LSMFP)

(1) LIMERICK DERBY. Fantasy Literature’s Kelly Lasiter says it’s time for “FanLit’s 2017 SFF Limerick Contest”

Your task is to create a limerick that has something to do with speculative fiction. It could be about a character, a series, an author, or whatever fits the theme…

Full guidelines at the post. Entries are made in comments there.

Here is the winning limerick (by Ben) from 2015:

The day came that I had been dreading,
It would surely end in beheading
and my family depressed
as they murdered their guests,
Never go to a Westeros wedding

(2) PIRATES WITHOUT RESERVATIONS. Otakon, the Washington D.C. Asian pop culture convention, discovered someone trying to victimize members by creating a fake hotel website. Otakon Hotel and Venue Manager John Nadzam has issued a warning. [H/T to Petréa Mitchell.]

To all of our members:

It has come to our attention that an outside party set up a pirate housing website: “otakon2017.org”.

This website was in no way associated with Otakon, Otakorp Inc., or Experient (our exclusive and official housing provider).  We have taken all efforts to shut down the site as soon as we found out, but we cannot determine if any reservations were taken, if reservations through this site will be honored, or what may have happened to any information they may have gathered.

If you did not receive a confirmation email that looks like the one at the end of this message, or if you have any doubts on your reservation’s validity, please contact Experient immediately…

There have been reports of this happening to several different conventions (genre and otherwise) now, and cons are starting to warn members about it. For example, DesignCon 2018 and ASBMR 2017 Annual Meeting have prominently posted “Beware of Unauthorized Hotel Solicitations” on their websites.

(3) MORE EMMY NEWS. The Hollywood Reporter enthuses: “Carrie Fisher Gets Posthumous Nomination for ‘Catastrophe'”.

The actress was nominated for her guest role in the Amazon comedy series’ third season as Mia, the troublesome mother of Rob (played by Rob Delaney), an American who moves to London when his one-week fling leads to an unplanned pregnancy. She had finished filming her scenes in the notable sixth episode shortly before her death in December. Fisher was 60 years old when she suffered a major heart attack during a transatlantic flight and died a few days later in the hospital.

…Fisher appeared in four episodes throughout Catastrophe‘s initial two seasons, and her third-season episode became a tribute to the late star. “It was such a shock to lose her and so unexpected and so awful, that all we had was her performance in episode six to think about,” co-creator and star Sharon Horgan told THR of Fisher’s “funny and heartfelt performance” back in April. “So, that’s what we concentrated on: making that episode a dedication to her, I guess, and beyond that, no, because it’s hard watching her onscreen so alive and yet no longer with us.”

(4) CANNED FROG. Steve Whitmire, in “It’s Time To Get Things Started…” at Steve Whitmire Muppet Pundit, says he was fired by Disney.

In 1978 when I was asked to join The Muppet Show, the Muppets were the hottest thing on the planet. I was invited to sit at the feet of the true masters, Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, and Dave Goelz; working alongside them, absorbing different skills from each, as we, along with many talented others, contributed towards the same shared vision, the vision of one man. The result became a skill-set for myself that was sort of a compilation of the best of them all.

For me the Muppets are not just a job, or a career, or even a passion. They are a calling, an urgent, undeniable, impossible to resist way of life. This is my life’s work since I was 19 years old. I feel that I am at the top of my game, and I want all of you who love the Muppets to know that I would never consider abandoning Kermit or any of the others because to do so would be to forsake the assignment entrusted to me by Jim Henson, my friend and mentor, but even more, my hero.

As I am sure you can imagine, I have experienced every possible emotion since October 2016, when I received a phone call from The Muppets Studio’s executives to say they were recasting. Through a new business representative, I have offered multiple remedies to their two stated issues which had never been mentioned to me prior to that phone call. I wish that we could have sat down, looked each other in the eye, and discussed what was on their minds before they took such a drastic action.

(5) ASTRONAUT IN CHARGE. “Former astronaut Julie Payette to be Canada’s next governor general” – the CBC has the story.

Former astronaut Julie Payette will be the Queen’s new representative in Canada, CBC News has confirmed.

The 53-year-old Montrealer, who speaks six languages, will be named the 29th governor general, a position that comes with a $290,660 annual salary and an official residence at Rideau Hall.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will make the announcement Thursday.

A computer engineer with a commercial pilot licence, Payette was picked from among 5,330 applicants in 1992 to be one of four new astronauts with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

She participated in two space flights to the International Space Station and served as the CSA’s chief astronaut between 2000 and 2007.

Payette is active on a number of causes and has served as a board member for Drug Free Kids Canada as well as being listed as a National Champion of the Trans Canada Trail.

…Acting as the Queen’s representative in Canada, the governor general also serves as commander-in-chief of the Canadian Armed Forces and represents Canada at events, ceremonies and official visits at home and abroad.

(6) POSTMODERN STOIC. Kameron Hurley tells “How Pro Writers Deal with Pro Criticism”.

You write until the words are the right ones.

So if you think that leveling up as a writer means that nobody ever critiques your work again, or every word you shit will be gold, here is your reminder: it doesn’t get easier as you go. The bar gets higher. You need to jump further, climb higher, level up. If you didn’t make a million out the gate your first time, welcome to the long slog toward the breakout book, where you constantly have to stay on top of your game or fall down and start over again.

I have heard from many writers that I was “lucky” to make it out of the implosion of my first publisher with a relatively high profile (if not high $$, though Legion sales are steady af) career afterward. The best writer career path is, frankly, to have a “hit” right out the gate and build on that success. While it’s VERY possible to get a break out later (I can think of several writers who had written anywhere from 4-11 books before their breakout book), it sure does seem easier, from the outside, to build on that success than to take the long way up like I am, slowly, slowly, selling more and more books with every contract.

But here’s the thing. I’m well aware that to write a breakout book, I have to level up my work. We like to pretend it’s ALL luck with a breakout book, and sometimes that’s true (the “Hollywood bought it!” phenomenon), but sometimes it really is about skill, about writing a story that connects with more people, a story folks can’t put down, a story that everyone goes, “You have to read this trilogy because it’s great and OMG the third book has THE BIGGEST PAYOFF AND MOST EPIC THIRD ACT.” That part isn’t luck, it’s writing a good story. And to write that good story takes consulting with other professionals and working to make the story the best it can be. You will always be the ultimate owner of anything that you write (Meyna is staying in the book!), but you have to learn when to be able to take constructive feedback for what it is and when to throw out stuff that doesn’t work with your own vision. That’s a tough skill, I admit. I struggle with it all the time. Being able to sort through feedback to find the right way through takes a lot of practice, and it’s this, too, that makes you a pro.

(7) COLLABORATION. Stewart Baker has tips for “How to Write with a Co-author” at the SFWA Blog.

There are as many different ways to share authorship of a story as there are combinations of people. Some prefer to split up the tasks of writing, with one author creating an outline that the other drafts from, or vice versa. Others might draft every other scene, or only write a particular character’s sections, and so on.

The benefits of co-authoring are potentially great: Each writer has a chance to learn new habits and strategies, and brainstorming can go much more quickly with two people involved. But, as with any kind of partnership, it’s important to establish early on how the relationship is going to work. Making assumptions about the writing process and your expectations for your co-author can lead to misunderstandings and stress, and has the potential to end friendships and scuttle careers.

(8) MARVEL GENERATIONS. Another spin on Marvel Legacy —

In a flash, the Marvel heroes are offered a gift: to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who came before them! These heroic journeys all launch from the same point: the Vanishing Point! This epic 10-issue series brings together iconic and present-day heroes such as Laura Kinney and Logan, Amadeus Cho and Bruce Banner, Clint Barton and Kate Bishop, and many more of your favorite characters. The stories of GENERATIONS begin at the Vanishing Point where time has no meaning, and these epic tales offer fans a direct bridge and prelude into the senses-shattering Marvel Legacy, as the challenges and revelations of GENERATIONS will alter the destinies of our heroes moving forward in a dramatic fashion!

 

(9) NEXT AT KGB. “Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series” hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Karen Neuler and Genevieve Valentine on July 19 at the KGB Bar. The event starts at 7 p.m.

Karen Heuler

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 a bunch of other near-misses. She has published four novels and three story collections, and this month Aqueduct Press released her novella, In Search of Lost Time, about a woman who can steal time.

Genevieve Valentine

Genevieve Valentine is an author and critic. Her most recent book is the near-future spy novel ICON; her short fiction has appeared in over a dozen Best of the Year anthologies. Her comics work includes Catwoman for DC Comics and the Attack on Titan anthology from Kodansha. Her criticism and reviews have appeared in several venues including the AV Club, the Atlantic, and The New York Times. Please ask her about the new King Arthur movie.

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Embrace Your Geekness Day

Wellcat Holidays organized the holiday stating that we all should be proud of the things that define us, and little defines us as much as those things we’re passionate about. “Dungeon games, comic books, vampire dress-up” we should have no shame about anything we’re into. In fact, you should shout it loud and proud.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 13, 1984 The Last Starfighter premiered

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 13, 1940 – Sir Patrick Stewart
  • Born July 13, 1942 – Harrison Ford

(13) STORMY WEATHER. Setting up a close view of the Great Red spot: “NASA Spacecraft Gets Up Close With Jupiter’s Great Red Spot”.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft will be directly over the spot shortly after 10 p.m. ET Monday, July 10, about 5,600 miles above the gas giant’s cloud tops. That’s closer than any spacecraft has been before.

The spot is actually a giant storm that has been blowing on Jupiter for centuries. It’s huge, larger than Earth in diameter.

“It’s lasted a really long time,” says Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio and principal scientist for NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter. “No scientists really understand exactly how that storm is created or why it could last so long.”

(14) NASA BUDGET. The Planetary Society told members the House of Representatives’ NASA budget includes $62.5 million in support of a new Mars orbiter, “effectively matching the recommendations made by The Planetary Society in our report, Mars In Retrograde: A Pathway for Restoring NASA’s Mars Exploration Program.”

The committee released July 12 the report accompanying the commerce, justice and science (CJS) appropriations bill, which its CJS subcommittee approved on a voice vote June 29. At that time, the committee had released only a draft of the bill, with limited details about how the nearly $19.9 billion provided to NASA would be allocated.

In NASA’s science account, planetary science emerges as a big winner, with the report allocating $2.12 billion, a record level. That amount is $191 million above the White House request and $275 million above what Congress provided in 2017.

Some of that additional funding will go to missions to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, thought to have a subsurface ocean of liquid water that could sustain life. It provides $495 million for both the Europa Clipper orbiter mission and a follow-on Europa Lander, to be launched by 2022 and 2024, respectively. The administration’s budget request sought $425 million, devoted solely to Europa Clipper.

The report also provides additional funding for Mars exploration, including $62 million for a proposed 2022 orbiter mission. NASA sought just $2.9 million for studies of future Mars missions, raising worries among scientists that NASA would not be able to get an orbiter, with telecommunications and reconnaissance capabilities, ready in time for the 2022 launch opportunity.

(15) FIRST COMICS ENCOUNTERS. A companion piece to NPR’s survey: “Cartoonists Tell Us: What Do Comics Mean To You?”

The first comic book I ever read was an obscure DC title that I begged my parents to buy for me from a rotating rack at a New Jersey Turnpike rest stop. World’s Finest Comics #306, “The Senses-Shattering Saga of Swordfish and Barracuda!” Not the highest of high art, maybe — even the cover described S&B as “THE GREATEST SUPER-HERO TEAM SINCE — WHAT’S-THEIR-NAMES?” But still — that was the first inkling I had that comics could be portals to other worlds, purveyors of strange wonders, and certainly a hell of a lot more entertaining than the blue “sport cloth” backseat of our 1981 Corolla.

In honor of this year’s big reader poll of favorite comics and graphic novels, we’ve asked some very cool comics creators to tell us what comics meant to them, whether as children or adults.

(16) AND TOTO TOO. A “modern dystopian buffet”: “‘Tropic Of Kansas’ Rips Dystopia From The Headlines”

And as has been said a thousand times by critics far smarter than me, there is nothing that happens in science fiction that is not a reflection of our own grubby reality. We have been afraid of nuclear war, of environmental calamity, of technology, plague and politics and the enmity of our fellow man, and these dreads have always made their way into our entertainment. The worse the days, the more baroque the diversions. And these days are very bad indeed.

So this mess of a present has birthed a new breed of dystopian novels, of which Christopher Brown’s Tropic Of Kansas is the latest. Not simple dystopia, but complicated by present reality and recognizable politics. Not nameless or alien, but very much named and very close to home. And while these books have utopian leanings, they are not happy stories. No one walks away smiling. They are revolution porn.

(17) BOY NEXT DOOR. Whatever’s in that radioactive spider bite is great for romance. Page Six reports “‘Spider-Man’ co-stars Tom Holland and Zendaya are dating”, and they’re just the latest.

This isn’t the first time a “Spider-Man” movie brought us new Hollywood romances. Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield began dating while filming “The Amazing Spider-Man” in 2011. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst also dated during his stint as the superhero in the early 2000s.

We may even get to see Holland and Zendaya’s relationship bloom on-screen as well, as the end of the movie may have foreshadowed a future romance.

(18) WONDER ACCOUNTING. The Hollywood Reporter says Wonder Woman has legs —  “Box Office: ‘Wonder Woman’ Holding Better Than Any Superhero Movie in 15 Years”.

Directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman is still going strong as it heads into its seventh week. The movie, grossing $371.3 million through Tuesday, is now assured of topping out at $390 million or more domestically, becoming the No. 8 comic book adaptation of all time, not accounting for inflation. And it will soon pass up Disney and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ($385.8 million) in North America to become the top summer earner.

(19) CHICKEN GEAR. Adweek is surprised to discover “KFC Is Now Selling Apparel, Home Goods and a Meteorite Shaped Like a Chicken Sandwich”.

Last week, we mysteriously received a Colonel Sanders pillowcase in the mail, designed to look like we were sleeping together. Now, KFC has explained what that whole thing was all about: As of yesterday, the brand launched KFC Ltd., an online merchandise shop packed with limited-edition goods and high-quality fried chicken apparel.

This includes that randy pillowcase, which you can score for just $14.

It’s easy to compare this idea to Pizza Hut’s Hut Swag idea from last year. But while Pizza Hut was punting stuff like leggings, scarves and hoodies with phrases like “Pizza is bae” (why?), KFC is swinging for a somewhat more discerning (or fetishist) market. Gear includes vintage apparel, “finger lickin’ good jewelry” and—wait for it!—a meteorite they’ve carved into the shape of a Zinger sandwich (which they recently decided to launch into space). The meteorite is going for $20,000.

(20) CHICKEN BLEEP. Io9 has been digging through the documents released from a lawsuit brought by The Walking Dead’s Frank Darabont — “Frank Darabont’s Furious Emails to His Walking Dead Coworkers: ‘Fuck You All'”.

Darabont and AMC spent about six months figuring out what should remain confidential as they prepare their cases and exhibits for New York judge Eileen Bransten. After coming to an agreement, they’ve released thousands of pages of documents, which include depositions, expert testimony, and financial details for other AMC shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. The documents show how convoluted Hollywood deals and negotiations are, for better and worse, but they also shine an unflattering light on Darabont’s behavior during his time on The Walking Dead.

One of the biggest conflicts behind the scenes of The Walking Dead was AMC’s decision to cut the budget by almost half a million dollars per episode between seasons one and two. Darabont’s solution, which was to film the whole season in one location, the infamous farmhouse, created problems and resulted in arguably the series’ worst season. Darabont became overwhelmed, struggling to create more with less (plus, AMC demanded to see all the scripts ahead of time), and it showed in his behavior toward the team. Here’s an email to executive producer Gale Anne Hurd and others from June 2011, one month before he was fired:

Fuck you all for giving me chest pains because of the staggering fucking incompetence, blindness to the important beats, and the beyond-arrogant lack of regard for what is written being exhibited on set every day. I deserve better than a heart attack because people are too stupid to read a script and understand the words. Does anybody disagree with me? Then join the C-cam operator and go find another job that doesn’t involve deliberately fucking up my show scene by scene.

This email supports the earlier rumors that Darabont became difficult to work with, along with several other messages that contain just as many profanities toward dozens more behind-the-scenes crew members: camera operators (“Ray Charles could operate better”), an episode director (“It’s like we yanked some kid with no experience out of high school and put her in charge”), and even his writing staff, as shown in a particularly tense email to an AMC executive.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Beatles, Hippies, and Hells Angels is a video on Vimeo by Fons Scheidon which is an introduction to a Sky Atlantic documentary about Apple Corps.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/10/17 The Scrollish Pixelman’s Union

(1) FISHING FOR COMPLIMENTS. Share a grilled snook to die for with Elizabeth Hand in Episode 40 of Scott Edelman’s podcast Eating the Fantastic.

Elizabeth Hand

We discussed why she probably won’t take LSD on her deathbed, what made her a fan of Marvel rather than DC when she was a kid, her unusual fee for writing term papers back in college, the true meaning of Man’s Search for Meaning, the unfortunate occupational hazard of book reviewing, who was the best science fiction writer of all time (and why), plus more.

(2) MAD PLASTIC DISEASE. Cedar Sanderson raises the spectre of hostile Nature in “Take two aspirin”:

Toni Weisskopf shared a photo on Facebook of a computer module absolutely infested with an ant nest, seething with eggs, and her comment was that she’d like to see more stories like that in science fiction. It’s an excellent point. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read ( and written) where the tech performs flawlessly. Which does happen. There are also stories where it doesn’t, but how many can you think of where the characters have to deal with an infestation? How would we prevent that, control it, and what kind of adaptations will we see?

I’d run across an article recently about bacteria which will break down plastics that were formerly thought invulnerable. Then there was another one speculating about why less plastic (by an order of magnitude) is found in the ocean than projected, and the discovery of novel bacteria on that plastic. The concern was focused on reducing pollution, but what happens when bacteria evolve to eat stuff we want to stay intact and functional? The stories about nanotech making gray goo aren’t that far off from what bacteria are already capable of — only fortunately they are not so fast to act.

(3) STINKS ON DRY ICE. Entertainment Weekly has the roundup: “‘The Mummy’ reboot slammed as ‘worst Tom Cruise movie ever’ by critics”.

Universal’s first foray into the depths of its Dark Universe probably would have benefitted from a brighter guiding light.

After spending over three decades dazzling audiences across large-scale action-adventures on the big screen, Tom Cruise’s latest genre spectacle, The Mummy, is set to unravel in theaters this Friday. Movie critics, however, got a peek under wraps this week, as movie reviews for the blockbuster project debuted online Wednesday morning. The consensus? According to a vast majority of them, perhaps this romp should’ve remained buried.

(4) 451 CASTING. Probably fortunate, then, that this bit of promotion came out before The Mummy opened: “HBO’s Fahrenheit 451 casting heats up as The Mummy’s Sofia Boutella boards”

If you were already fired up for HBO’s upcoming movie adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrenheit 451, then prepare to throw a couple more books on the barbie, cause this cast is starting to cook.

Just ahead of her titular turn in this weekend’s The Mummy, Sofia Boutella has signed on to join Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle, Creed, Fantastic Four) and Michael Shannon (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 99 Homes) as the core players in the film from writer/director Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes).

According to THR, Boutella will play the female lead Clarisse, “an informant caught between” Jordan’s Montag — a fireman whose job it is to burn books, but who ends up rebelling against such a scorching notion after meeting free-spirited Clarisse — and Shannon’s Fire Chief Beatty, Montag’s mentor.

(5) ROSARIUM OPENS ANTHOLOGY. Rosarium Publications invites submissions of science fiction, fantasy, horror, interstitial, and unclassifiable works to Trouble the Waters: Tales from the Deep Blue, edited by Sheree Renée Thomas, Pan Morigan, and Troy L. Wiggins.

TROUBLE THE WATERS: Tales from the Deep Blue will be a new anthology of water-themed speculative short stories that explore all kinds of water lore and deities, ancient and new as well as unimagined tales. We want stories with memorable, engaging characters, great and small, epic tales and quieter stories of personal and communal growth. Science fiction, fantasy, horror, interstitial, and unclassifiable works are welcome. We are seeking original stories in English (2500 — 7000 words; pays 5-6 cents per word) from writers of all walks of life from this beautiful planet and will accept some select reprints (pays 2-3 cents per word). Deadline: November 1, 2017. Projected publication: November 2018, Rosarium Publishing, www.rosariumpublishing.com. Please send submissions as a .doc, .docx, or .rtf file in standard mss formatting with your name, title, and word count to: TroubletheWaters2018@gmail.com

Complete submission guidelines can be found here.

(6) DYSTOPIAS. The Financial Times’ Nilanjana Roy, in “Future Shocks”, reviews Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne and Hao Jingfang’s “Folding Beijing” to see if our love of dystopias as something to do with the continued decline in urban life around the world.

The nightmare near-future city that a writer like Prayaag Akbar, by contrast, summons in his first novel, Leila (2017), rests on a distinctly South Asian set of fears. About a mother’s search for the daughter she was separated from, it is set in a frightening world where cities are segregated into zones of Purity, citizens sorted by their community, surnames, castes and religion.

This background came out of his discomfort with the way Indian cities have developed. “They are segmented, self-enclosing,€ he told me recently. “We practise a kind of blindness — you teach yourself not to see the tragedies that unfold in public spaces.”

These concerns — about cities splitting into walled enclaves, residents separated from each other’s lives by fears of pollution, contamination, or a striving after purity — find startling expression in Hao Jingfang’s Hugo award-winning “Folding Beijing”….

(7) BRADBURY. BookRiot’s Andy Browers is your guide to “A Friend In High And Low Places: Finding Ray Bradbury Where You May Not Expect Him”.

While I hate to ruin surprises, here are four places you might find yourself in his presence, sometimes peripherally, sometimes looking him right in the bespectacled eye.

Star Trek (aka “Star Track”, as my grandma called it)

Too obvious? Maybe. He and Gene Roddenberry, the fella who dreamed the franchise up, were pals who sat at the same midcentury science fiction table in the cafeteria. Bradbury famously loved all things space and rocket related, and it is fitting that he gets a couple of nods as the namesake of a Federation star ship. In the saucily-named episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation “Menage a Troi”, for instance, which ship is bestowed the great honor of relieving the pain of fandom everywhere by arriving to whisk away Wesley Crusher to Starfleet Academy? The U.S.S. Bradbury, the first of its class.

Wesley missed the space bus by saving the day in that episode, much to the chagrin of a large swath of viewers at home who were sick of having a kid on the Bridge. (Wil Wheaton, I was cheering for you. Please know that.) (Mostly because I kept hoping Wesley would scream TRAAAAIIIIIN in slow motion, which as far I know never happened.)

(8) ORPHAN BLACK. Carl Slaughter advises, “If you haven’t watched Tatiana Maslany portray as many as 14 cones in Orphan Black, you’re missing a treat.”

View Entertainment Weekly’s photo gallery, “‘Orphan Black’ A to Z: Dive Into the Show’s DNA Before Its Final Season”.

(9) STREET MEMORIAL. Here’s Pat Evans’ photo of the mementos being left today on Adam West’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. West died on Friday from leukemia.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 10, 1692 — Bridget Bishop was the first person to be hanged at the Salem Witch trials.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CREATORS

  • Born June 10, 1928 Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak.
  • Born June 10, 1952 — Kage Baker

(12) FAMOUS BOOKSTORE HAS A BACKUP PLAN. The original Books of Wonder, inspiration for the bookstore owned by Meg Ryan’s character in the 1998 comedy You’ve Got Mail, is opening a second location as a contingency plan in case it can’t afford the coming rent hike — “Books of Wonder to Open Upper West Side Location”.

Books of Wonder, the renowned children’s bookstore on 18th Street in New York City, announced Thursday that it would open a second location, on West 84th Street, sometime this summer.

According to the store’s founder and owner, Peter Glassman, the 18th Street store’s lease will expire at the end of 2019. “Given the rise in retail rents along 18th Street, I am not optimistic about our ability to renew the lease,” he said. Though he said he planned to seek a new location in that area, the impending uncertainty was part of his decision to open another branch on the Upper West Side.

“I wanted to make sure we had another location open and well established before the current store’s lease expires, so if we have difficulty finding a new location and have to close for a few months we would have another location to serve our customers, not be out of business for any period of time, and not have to lay off my wonderful staff,” he said.

Andrew Porter adds,

When they opened, originally on Hudson Street in the lower Village, they were primarily an SF/fantasy-oriented store. They took out full-page ads in my Algol/Starship, then in SF Chronicle. The store regularly has readings and signings by SF/F YA and children’s authors, for example, with Sarah Beth Durst. It has also published numerous books by and about L. Frank Baum.

 

Peter Glassman. Photo by Andrew Porter:

Sarah Beth Durst and Bruce Coville at her signing in 2015. Photo by Andrew Porter.

(13) TOMBSTONE TERRITORY. This just in from the Australian National Convention.

(14) DEADPOOL’S NEXT RAMPAGE. Marvel pulls back the shroud, er, curtain.

If you’re Deadpool and you kill the entire Marvel Universe, why not eat some chimichangas…and then kill all over again? Proving there’s nothing like revenge, the superstar team of Cullen Bunn (X-Men Blue, Venomverse) and Dalibor Talajic (Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe, Redwolf) reunite to bring you Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe Again, and the Merc with the Mouth has never been more ready to return to that katana.

“This is not a sequel to the original story,” warns series writer Cullen Bunn. “This is an all new murderous rampage. The Marvel Universe has changed a great deal since the first series. So, of course, Deadpool had to up his game and change his tactics.”

 

(15) WONDER MOTHER. Marguerite Bowling, in a Daily Signal piece called “Wonder Woman Can Get the Job Done Pregnant, So Can You” says that Gal Gadot’s reshooting fight scenes while five months pregnant should be an inspiration to women. (The Daily Signal is a news website run by the Heritage Foundation.)

But here’s another fun fact that shows you can proudly be pro-mom and pro-career woman: Israeli actress Gal Gadot was five months pregnant with her second child when she did reshoot scenes for the movie that included a climactic battle scene.

To get around her then-visible baby bump, costumers cut an ample triangle on her iconic suit and replaced it with a bright green cloth that allowed the movie’s special effects team to change her figure post-production.

Given the prevailing negative news that shows women facing all sorts of career challenges by wanting to have a baby, it’s refreshing to see a successful woman embrace her pregnancy and still do an exceptional job.

(16) MIL-SF. Jeffrey C. Wells says “I Can’t Believe it’s not Baen: Rick Shelley’s Lieutenant Colonel” — and throws in a funny bingo card as a bonus.

If you didn’t figure it out from the title, or the cover, Lieutenant Colonel is Military Sci-Fi (Mil-SF for short), a genre devoted to chronicling how and why people are gonna shoot at each other in the future. And, also unsurprisingly, Lieutenant Colonel is the fifth book in Shelley’s “DMC” series, with each earlier book having sequential titles like Lieutenant, then Major, then Captain, and so on. Not exactly creative, but what can you do.

In any case, this series centers around a dude named Lon Nolan as he works his way up through the ranks in the Dirigent Mercenary Corps (from which we get the “DMC” acronym). Lon is your typical officer– professional, honorable, and — kind of boring. Dude makes Honor Harrington seem like Hamlet. Wait, no, that’s not a good analogy, ‘cause Harrington gets shit done. But I digress.

…Thankfully, Lieutenant Colonel doesn’t delve into super preachiness. Though it did inspire me to create MIL-SF BINGO! Just print this off next time you read about space-soldiers shooting space-lasers at space-commies, and check off the boxes as you go along!

(17) WIDER SPECTRUM. An Adweek story tells how “Equinox Extends LGBTQA from A to Z With a New Alphabet for Pride Month”.

It’s Pride Month! And every year, around this time, a certain kind of pundit hops on a soapbox to complain about how the term “LGBTQA” just keeps getting longer, and isn’t that just ludicrous?

Actually, it isn’t. In fact, it’s not nearly long enough. And a campaign from Wieden + Kennedy New York highlights why.

For Equinox and the LGBTQA Community Center, the agency has produced “The LGBTQAlphabet,” whose chill and choreographed film goes down the list of not six letters but 26. The goal is to show that a handful of labels isn’t remotely sufficient to encompass the complex identities of the world’s 7 billion people.

(18) SHARKES KEEP NIBBLING. Here are more recent reviews from the Shadow Clarke jury, and a guest post by the actual Clarke Award director.

This is the future we were promised. This is what all those science fiction novels from way back told us to expect: silver-finned rocket ships taking us out to the frontier towns of Mars and beyond; clanking metal robots wanting to be human; people transformed into something monstrous by whatever is out there.

And Tidhar, whose work has always displayed an over-fond preference for intertextual references to other science fictions, makes absolutely certain we recognise that these are other writers’ futures. The digital vampire is called a Shambleau, a pointed reference to the first of C.L. Moore’s Northwest Smith adventures. There are repeated references to someone called Glimmung on Mars, which of course recalls Philip K. Dick’s children’s novel, Nick and the Glimmung, which is, of course, set on Mars. And the presiding spirit that dominates the whole novel is probably Cordwainer Smith, with the way space is repeatedly described as the “Up and Out”, as well as casual references to C’Mell and Mother Hitton. There are more, some less familiar than others; I’m pretty sure that there are references to Edward Whittemore’s little-known but brilliant Jerusalem Quartet scattered throughout this novel. Someday, I suspect, someone might produce a concordance for Central Station, teasing out all of the echoes of and references to other works of science fiction. It will be a thick volume.

Of course, no one has gone broke by playing to the geeky self-regard of the science fiction fan. In recent years, self-referential science fiction books, novels like Among Others by Jo Walton that deliberately draw attention to other science fiction works, have proved especially popular.

If not for my commitment to the Sharke process I wouldn’t have chosen to write about Occupy Me; it’s unlikely that I would have finished reading it at all. My immediate response was akin to a toddler presented with something green and fresh and healthy: stampy feet; scowly face; a protesting shriek of ‘I don’t like it!’. I bounced off the book hard and repeatedly, and continued to do so despite dosing myself with Gareth’s blazingly positive review and Nina and Paul’s balanced perspectives at the midway point. Whatever the book’s thematic qualities, whatever its madcap quirks — and often because of them — I couldn’t stomach it. I find it impossible to see or be fair to the better parts of the novel because I’m painfully fixated on the fundamental ways in which it fails for me. Under usual circumstances I would think it ill-advised to throw a hat into the critical ring when I have so little critical perspective to share but I will try to explain.

While the Clarke Award can never guarantee having every potentially eligible book submitted, we are able to offer a reasonably comprehensive ‘state of the nation’ snap shot via our lists, not only of the books themselves but also for deeper analysis into the numbers of submitting publishers, the demographic breakdowns of authors and similar should people want to take those numbers and run with them.

More immediately, after my first couple of spins in the director’s chair I was starting to learn all of the ongoing debates, criticisms and wishes that surrounded the award’s announcements every year.

The award was, in no particular order, overly predictable, willfully unpredictable as a tactic to generate PR controversy, trying too hard to be the Booker, ignoring the heartlands of SF, full of wrongheads (a lovely fannish term that one), and so on and so on — Business as usual for a book award in other words.

(19) DRINK IT OR ELSE. Atlas Obscura recalls a series of 1950s commercials for Wilkins Coffee that featured violent Muppets prototypes.

In the ads, Wilkins — who bears a striking resemblance to Kermit the Frog — tries to convince another proto-Muppet, Wontkins to drink Wilkins Coffee. Wontkins almost always refuses. In retaliation, Wilkins shoots him, stabs him, or otherwise inflicts physical harm upon him.

 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark-kitteh, JJ, John King Tarpinian and Lace for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr, with a little help from his friends.]