Pixel Scroll 9/10/19 I Can’t Believe I Pixeled In Front Of The Dean Of Science Fiction!

(1) SNEAK PEEK. The folk at the seasonal SF² Concatenation have advance-posted a review of the Dublin Worldcon ahead of their autumnal edition.

The SF² Concatenation is largely run by Brits  — however, the conreport here is by Sue Burke, a US fan and sff author (Semiosis): “Dublin 2019”.

…Despite the inconvenience, the snaking queues became good places to meet new people.

The Auditorium held only 2,000, so events there required wristbands to get in, and we had to line up in the afternoon to get them. I didn’t attend the Opening Ceremony/1944 Retro Hugos, Masquerade, or Hugo Award Ceremony. (During the Closing Ceremony, I was instead standing in line at the airport). I wanted to get a wristband for the Hugo Awards, but the queue was enormous and located outside, next to the CCD, during a cold, windy rainstorm, so I abandoned that attempt. (In fairness to the organisers, I am not sure where else the queue could have been located. All available space inside the building was in use!)

Other than that, the convention was splendid: well-organised and always on time.  Events started at 9 a.m. with accessible yoga and a “stroll with the stars” morning walk, and ended in the wee hours at Martin Hoare’s Bar – known as Martin’s, named for the volunteer who was to be Fan Bar Manager but who died a few weeks before the convention.

…Other than [overcrowding] the convention was splendid: well-organised and always on time.…

…For me, one of the many high moments of the convention came on Saturday evening at the Bright Club Ireland, a stand-up comedy show. Steve Cross made an excessively deep, textual reading of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to determine the exact date that the Earth is destroyed by the Vogons.

(2) NOT EASY MAKING GREEN. That new Muppets comedy series? Fuggedabowdit! The Hollywood Reporter has learned: “‘The Muppets’ Disney+ Comedy Series Scrapped”. But Disney is greenlighting the talk show Muppets Now.

….Creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis (Once Upon a Time) and Josh Gad (Frozen) have walked away from the scripted comedy, called Muppets Live Another Day, which they had been quietly at work on for months, and Disney+ has opted to abandon work on the series.

…The decision to retool the planned Muppets show will not impact the unscripted shortform series Disney+ announced last month at D23. That show — Muppets Now — will feature beloved characters like Kermit and Miss Piggy alongside celebrity guests.

(3) ATTEMPTED THEFT. A BBC story reports — “Margaret Atwood says thieves targeted Handmaid’s Tale sequel”.

Margaret Atwood says thieves made concerted efforts to steal her manuscript for The Testaments, the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale.

The author and her publisher were targeted by “fake emails” from “cyber criminals”, trying to obtain the unpublished novel, she told the BBC.

She described the attempts as a “phishing exercise” that could have led to blackmail or identity theft.

“It was a commercial venture of a robbery kind,” Atwood said.

“People were trying to steal it. Really, they were trying to steal it and we had to use a lot of code words and passwords,” she told BBC arts correspondent Rebecca Jones.

“What would they have done with it if they had succeeded? They might have said, ‘We’ve got the manuscript, and we’re putting it up online [unless you] give us your credit card details’. Or they might have said, ‘Read this excerpt and download it. And if you downloaded it, a virus would have stolen your information’.

(4) NEW COINAGE. Ken Pelham offers advice about devising “The Jargon and Slang of the Fantastic” at the SFWA Blog.

…But don’t fear creating words. Heck, Shakespeare did it all the time. Just make sure they sound authentic to the world created. Sometimes those words even become part of our own Earthly languages. Like William Gibson’s “cyberspace.” We instinctively knew what it meant the first time we heard it. And J.K. Rowling may have added more words to the English language than anyone since Shakespeare. Time will tell….

(5) NEW DEAL. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “‘Bonkers’ new ‘Joker’ sidesteps controversy, ‘Batman’ hook-up”, has an interview with Joker director Todd Phillips, who says that his film, set in a world resembling New York City in the late 1970s “was never meant to connect” to anything in the DC Extended Universe, “and I don’t see it connecting to anything in the future,” meaning it’s unlikely Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker will take on Robert Pattinson’s Batman.

Meanwhile, Phoenix choked up while paying tribute to his late brother, River. “When I was 15 or 16 my brother River came home from work and he had a VHS copy of a movie called Raging Bull and he sat me down and made me watch it. And the next day he woke me up, and he made me watch it again. And he said, ‘You’re going to start acting again, this is what you’re going to do,’” the younger Phoenix recalled while receiving the TIFF Tribute Actor Award. “He didn’t ask me, he told me. And I am indebted to him for that because acting has given me such an incredible life.”

What initially appeared to be a curious experiment is shaping up to be a sure thing, at least in terms of box office. According to some forecasts, Joker is on track to enjoy a $100 million opening weekend, topping last year’s Venom, which also billed itself as a darker alternative to the usual superhero fare. And the Toronto audience largely greeted the movie with cheers and applause, with the majority of the praise being directed in Phoenix’s direction.

(6) HORROR YOU CAN BANK ON. The Hollywood Reporter asks “Is ‘It’ a New Kind of Horror Franchise?” Tagline: “Never before has there been a series that’s been closer to being the ‘Avengers’ or ‘Star Wars’ of the genre.”

…But with only two films to its name, It is larger than its competing properties. Consider: It: Chapter One did around 40 percent of the Conjuring series’ combined global gross with just the first installment. It: Chapter Two‘s success remains unwritten, but short of disaster the film will cement this duology among the genre’s greatest blockbusters. Chalk that up once more to King’s name; that alone gives It: Chapter One and Chapter Two a built-in audience at a moment when the author’s material is a ubiquitous hot commodity. (See: April’s Pet Sematary re-adaptation, Hulu’s Castle Rock, the upcoming Doctor Sleep and In the Tall Grass.) Give credit to It‘s shapeshifting antagonist, Pennywise, too, a movie monster tailor made to scare the bejesus out of a wide viewing audience. Spiders might be your worst nightmare. Maybe werewolves. Maybe diseased hobos, mummies, your abusive father, your dead brother, a kindly old lady lurking naked in her kitchen or, last but not least, clowns. It has all of these (plus a very cute pomeranian that isn’t actually so cute after all).

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 10, 1935Popeye was heard for the first time on NBC radio.
  • September 10, 1993 — Fox TV first aired The X-Files.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 10, 1898 Bessie Love. In 1925, she starred in The Lost World based on the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. She wouldn’t show up again in a genre film until 1963 when she was in Children of the Damned followed by being in Battle Beneath the Earth a few years a later and then having a small uncredited role in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. She’d be in Vampyres, Gulliver’s Travels and The Hunger to round her genre career. Vampyres btw is described as a “erotic/lesbian vampire horror film”, an apparent subgenre in the Seventies. (Died 1986.)
  • Born September 10, 1952 Gerry Conway, 67. Writer who’s best known for co-creating with John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru the Punisher character and scripting the death of Gwen Stacy during his long run on The Amazing Spider-Man. I’m also fond of his work on Weird Western Tales at DC.
  • Born September 10, 1953 Pat Cadigan, 66. Tea from an Empty Cup and Dervish is Digital are both amazing works. And I’m fascinated that she co-wrote with Paul Dini, creator of Batman: The Animated Series, a DCU novel called Harley Quinn: Mad Love.
  • Born September 10, 1953 Stuart Milligan, 66. He first shows up as Walters on the Sean Connery-led Outland and a few years later we see him as a Police Sergeant on Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He’ll play Richard Nixon in Doctor Who for two Eleventh Doctor stories, “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of The Moon”. 
  • Born September 10, 1955 Victoria Strauss, 64. Author of the Burning Land trilogy, she should be praised for being founder along with AC Crispin for being founder of the Committee on Writing Scams. She maintains the Writer Beware website and blog. 
  • Born September 10, 1959 Tara Ward, 60. She played Preston in the “Warriors of the Deep”, a Fifth Doctor story.  After Doctor Who, she shows up in one-offs in Star Cops and Dark Realm beforehaving a very minor role in the Justice League film.
  • Born September 10, 1959 Nancy A. Collins, 60. Author of the Sonja Blue vampire novels, some of the best of that genre I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. She had a long run on Swamp Thing from issues 110 to 138, and it is generally considered a very good period in that narrative.  She also wrote Vampirella, the Forrest J Ackerman and Trina Robbins creation, for awhile.
  • Born September 10, 1968 Guy Ritchie, 51. Director of Sherlock Holmes and its sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, both of each I rather liked,  and the live-action Aladdin. He did also directed / wrote / produced the rebooted The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which got rather nice reviews to my surprise as well as King Arthur: Legend of the Sword which apparently sucked. 

(9) BRADBURY HISTORY.  In this decade-old video, Roslyn Shapiro talks about Ray Bradbury’s writing group with her husband in the 1940’s.

(10) THE NO GOOD, VERY BAD… “The day the dinosaurs’ world fell apart” — lots of concrete details in this BBC article.

Scientists have a recording of the worst day on Earth; certainly the worst day in the last 66 million years.

It takes the form of a 130m section of rock drilled from under the Gulf of Mexico.

These are sediments that were laid down in the seconds to hours after a huge asteroid had slammed into the planet.

You’ll know the event we’re talking about – the one researchers now think was responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs and the rise of mammals.

The high-resolution account of this catastrophe was recovered by a UK/US-led team, who spent several weeks in 2016 drilling into what remains of the crater produced by the impact.

Today, this 200km-wide structure is positioned under Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, with its best preserved central portions sitting just offshore of the port of Chicxulub.

The team pulled up a great long core of rock but it’s a particular 130m-long section that essentially documents the first day of what geologists call the Cenozoic Era, or as some others like to refer to it: the Age of Mammals.

(11) INSPIRATION. BBC’s current affairs and entertainment channel Radio 4 presents a 25-minute ‘religious’ program, Beyond Belief. Yesterday’s episode focused on the implications for religion of the novel Frankenstein.

Ernie Rea in conversation with guests about the religious content in Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein, which is often lost in its interpretation on the big screen.

(12) LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION. “Polaroid’s newest gadget gives analog life to smartphone photos”. FastCompany says the device goes on sale October 10.

It’s a shiny, tightly framed snapshot of a couple of friends of mine, posing as we share a booth at a New York diner. It’s almost (but not quite) square, with a distinctive white border that’s thicker at the bottom than on the other sides.

As you may already have figured out, the item I am cradling in my hand is a Polaroid photo.

But unlike the hundreds—thousands?—of Polaroids I’ve shot in my life, this one began its life as a digital image. I took it with my Pixel 3 smartphone and then used a new gadget, the Polaroid Lab, to transfer it onto a piece of proudly analog Polaroid instant film, where it developed before my eyes in classic fashion.

… For the most part, I liked how my Polaroid-ized photos came out—but not because they were perfect replicas of the digital originals. They were soft rather than crisp, with a dreamy color palette and an element of surprise, since two copies of the same image don’t necessarily develop identically. The current Polaroid Originals film is the best it’s made since Impossible revived the format, but it still isn’t as consistent as Fujifilm’s Instax.

(13) UNDER THE RADAR. Smithsonian’s 2017 article shows Moose and Squirrel were the real subversives: “How Bullwinkle Taught Kids Sophisticated Political Satire”, not the villains.

…The Variety Show format enabled three things. First, its gloss of adult sophistication completely undercut by silliness was incredibly attractive to me and my sister.  Secondly, it got us to delight in the work of a revolving cast of top-notch, old school voice actors who’d grown up in radio and knew how to sell a line.  June Foray, for example, is the common thread that weaves together the everyman fast-talkers of Warner Brothers films (she voiced Granny and Witch Hazel for Looney Tunes), the pop culture and political satire of Stan Freberg, and the Cold War kiddie fare of “Bullwinkle” (as Rocky, Nell Fenwick, Natasha, and more).

“Fractured Fairy Tales” were narrated by veteran actor Edward Everett Horton, a Warner Bros. stable favorite, and featured Daws Butler (Elroy Jetson), a Stan Freberg comedy show veteran, along with Paul Frees and June Foray. Before giving voice to Dudley Do-Right’s nemesis Snidely Whiplash, Hans Conried was better known as Captain Hook in Disney’s “Peter Pan,” as well as for his years’ long yeoman’s work on radio mystery shows, “I Love Lucy,” and “Burns and Allen.”

Finally, the show’s format and depth of talent connected my sister and me to a world of comedy that was well before our time, but helped us navigate what came afterwards. Apart from Sesame Street and the Electric Company (whose cast was a gift to future Broadway lovers) the cartoon landscape during the 1970s was bleak. I don’t know what happened during the Summer of Love to cause formerly respectable shops like Hanna-Barbera to go from “Jonny Quest” to “Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels,” but it can’t have been pretty.

(14) IN THE DOCKET. The New York Post reports the late author’s relatives are contesting ownership of a valuable Ellery Queen collection: “Late author’s stolen book collection found after hitting auction block: suit”.

The jig is up!

In a twist straight out of a pulpy page-turner, a son says he discovered his late mystery-novelist father’s signed books had been stolen — after seeing them go up for auction at Soetheby’s, according to a new lawsuit.

Upper West Sider Richard Dannay — son of detective-fiction author Frederic Dannay — claims 33 of his dad’s signed books were stolen by his step-mom Rose, passed to her son Terry Koppel and eventually given to Sotheby’s for auctioning, according to a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit filed late Wednesday.

Richard says he didn’t even know the books existed until he got the brochure from the auction house on Nov. 18, 2016 which described the collection as “The Terry R. Koppel Collection of Ellery Queen,” the court papers say.

(15) CONFLICT OF INTEREST CONTINUES TO FUEL CONFLICT. Washington Post economics columnist Steven Pearlstein discusses the debate between writers v. agents in Hollywood, saying that showrunners ought to end their memberships in the Writers Guild of America so that they can be “honest brokers” who are neither writers of talent agencies and then can act as a check on talent agencies’ power. “Big agencies and studios have a lock on Hollywood. It’s high time to apply antitrust law”.

… Five months ago, with the backing of 95 percent of its members, the Guild instructed writers to fire their agents unless they agreed to limit themselves to making money the old-fashioned way — taking a 10 percent commission for every contract they negotiate. Some of the small and midsize agencies agreed. But the Big Four — William Morris Endeavor, United Talent Agency, Creative Artists Agency and ICM Partners, which together negotiate 75 percent of the writers income — refused. The big bone of contention: a decades-old industry practice known as “packaging.”

These days, four of five TV shows and movies are said to be “packaged,” meaning that a talent agency has put together a group of its clients — actors, directors, writers and other talent — to participate in a project. For this, they earn a packaging fee that, in television, is almost always 3 percent of what a network pays the studio to produce the show, or somewhere between $15,000 to $30,000 per episode. Although these package fees are paid by the studios out of the production budget, they substitute for the traditional 10 percent commissions that writers, actors and directors would otherwise be required to pay their agents. The agencies claim that packaging is saving writers $49 million a year in commissions. The writers contend that whatever they are saving in commission is more than offset by the lower salaries they earn when production budgets are squeezed to pay packaging fees to their agents.

… The five-month standoff has also caused a rift among the writers, some of whom are having second thoughts about the Guild’s hard-line strategy. With the quiet encouragement of the agencies, more than 500 guild members are backing a slate of dissidents running against the current leadership in an election that will be decided Sept. 16.

The dissidents — headed by top “showrunners” such as Greg Berlanti (“The Flash,” “Arrow”), Shonda Rhimes (“Scandal,” “Grey’s Anatomy”), Ryan Murphy (“Glee,” “American Horror Story”), Aaron Sorkin (“West Wing,” “Network”), John Wells (“ER,” “The West Wing”) and David Kelley (“Big Little Lies,” “Goliath”) propose to reopen talks in the hope of reaching a “reasonable” compromise with the agencies.

On Twitter, the dissidents have been called “scabs” and “shills,” while the current leadership is accused of waging a needless battle and weakening the Guild as it heads into more important negotiations next year on a new contract with the studios and networks….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “To Scale: The Solar System,” a 2015 video on YouTube, Alex Gorosh and Wylie Overstreet travel to Nevada’s Blackrock Canyon to build a scale model of the solar system so large that Neptune’s orbit is seven miles in diameter.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/25/19 Cthulhu’s On First?

Editor’s Note: My ISP took the site down for several hours to do database maintenance. I was notified earlier today it would happen and put the info in a comment, however, I doubt many people saw it. We’re back now!

(1) HOW TO SUCCEED AS A PANELIST Delilah S. Dawson’s thread “So You’re On Your First Panel As A Writer” tells participants how to sharpen their skills. Thread starts here.

(2) RINGING THE REGISTER. “How Many Copies Did Famous Books Sell in the First Year?” LitHub says from two to two million. Here’s the number for the first genre work on their list –

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932): 13,000 copies (UK); 15,000 copies (US)

(3) STOP THAT TRAIN. The New York Times says the Justice Department lawsuit is supported by The Authors Guild and PEN America: “2 Big Book and Magazine Printers Face Suit to Block Their Merger”.

In a lawsuit filed last week in federal court in Chicago, the Justice Department asked for a halt to Quad/Graphics’s planned $1.4 billion purchase of LSC Communications. Lawyers in the department’s antitrust division argued that the merger would decrease competition and drive up prices.

Quad publishes every Condé Nast title, including The New Yorker and Vogue, most publications from Hearst Magazines, including O: The Oprah Magazine, and Scholastic books. LSC Communications publishes two magazines from AARP that claim to have the largest circulations in the world, Penguin Random House books and more.

…In its attempt to block the deal, the Justice Department had two allies from the community of writers: The Authors Guild and PEN America. “The lack of competition among book printers has already caused a bottleneck and increased publishing costs, and a merger between these two companies could exacerbate this situation by creating a monopoly,” the Authors Guild said in a statement in March.

That same month, the Authors Guild and PEN America joined the Open Markets Institute, an antitrust think tank based in Washington, in sending a letter to the Justice Department recommending that the merger be blocked.

It was imperative that the government act, the letter said, because magazines and books “are fundamental to the ability of citizens to freely express and share their thoughts, ideas, opinions and works of art.”

(4) ROCKET’S RED GLARE. ScienceFiction.com learned “Marvel Monsters REALLY Want Lady Gaga To Voice Rocket Raccoon’s Love Interest In ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 3’” and kicks off its coverage with a referential pun:

Are Marvel fans a “Shallow” lot?  They are lobbying hard for James Gunn to cast Lady Gaga as the voice of Lylla, a sentient otter from the comic books who winds up being the love interest of Rocket Raccoon, who is voiced by Bradley Cooper in the movies.  This is after Film Updates posted a tease on Twitter that Gaga was under consideration, and that Lylla was “set to make an appearance” in Gunn’s upcoming ‘Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3’.

(5) DESTROYING THE INTERNET. On reason.com, Mike Godwin of the R Street Institute, in “What If Widespread Disinformation Is the Solution to Fake News?” interviews Neal Stephenson about his idea, expressed in Fall, that the solution to fake news on the Internet is to hire people to perform “libel service,” flooding the Net with so many slanderous articles about a subject that no one could believe anything on the Net about a particular person.

I confess I haven’t yet finished Stephenson’s latest 800-plus-page tome, which so far might be characterized, although not necessarily captured, by the term “near-future dystopia.”  But when I came across Stephenson’s depiction of how automated disinformation could actually remedy the damage that internet-based “doxxing” and fake news inflict on an innocent private individual, I paused my reading and jumped down the rabbit hole of tracing this idea to its 1990s roots. 

…This whole chapter rang many bells for me, not least because it paralleled a discussion I had with a law professor at a conference last year when I pitched the idea of a “libel service.” Basically, you’d hire a “libel service” to randomly defame you on the internet, so that whenever anyone says something bad about you on Twitter or Facebook, or in the comments area of some newspaper, you could just say “that’s probably my libel service.” No one would know whether the defamatory statements were true or not, and people would be predisposed to doubt anything too terrible that’s said about you.

(6) MARVEL ONE-ACT PLAYS. Samuel French and Marvel Entertainment have launched Marvel Spotlight, a collection of one-act plays “telling the stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

Developed specifically for teenagers, these one-act plays star the iconic Super Heroes Ms. Marvel, Thor, and Squirrel Girl. The scripts are now available for purchase as well as licensing within the educational theatre market at MarvelSpotlightPlays.com.

Here’s the abstract for Mirror of Most Value: A Ms. Marvel Play:

Kamala attempts to boost Ms. Marvel’s fledgling super hero profile by writing her own fan fiction. But when building a fandom becomes an obsession, Kamala’s schoolwork and relationships begin to suffer. To become the Jersey City hero of her dreams, Kamala must learn to accept herself just as she is – imperfections and all.

(7) ALL BRADBURY ALL THE TIME. Camestros Felapton points out the connections between Bradbury’s fiction and the Elton John biopic: “The Rocket Man versus Rocketman”.

Both the song and story feature a man who pilots an interplanetary rocket as a routine job that takes him away from his family for large stretches of time. However, the song places the perspective with the pilot (the titular rocket man) but the story focuses on the feelings and experiences of the pilot’s son.

Bradbury is such a powerful writer. Even though the sci-fi trappings of the story are of the gee-whiz 1950s style shiny technology, the story itself is focused on emotional connections and that signature Bradbury sense of the past and memory.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 25, 1953 Robot Monster debuted — the one where the guy in the gorilla suit wore a divers helmet with antennae.
  • June 25, 1965 Dr. Who And The Daleks was released in London. The film featured Peter Cushing as Dr. Who. Cushing would do one more film, Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. a year later.  Cushing was the First Doctor, so Roberta Tovey was cast as his granddaughter. 
  • June 25, 1975 Rollerball premiered
  • June 25, 1982 Blade Runner arrived in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 25, 1903 George Orwell. Surprised to learn he only lived to be forty-seven years old. Author obviously of Animal Farm and 1984, both of which I read a long time ago. Best use of the 1984 image goes to Apple in their ad where a female runner smashes the image of Big Brother. (Died 1950.)
  • Born June 25, 1925 June Lockhart, 93. Maureen Robinson on Lost in Space which amazingly only ran for three seasons. She has a number of genre one-offs including Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Greatest American Hero and Babylon 5. She appeared in the Lost in Space film as Principal Cartwright. 
  • Born June 25, 1935 Charles Sheffield. He was the President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and of the American Astronautical Society. He won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for his novelette “Georgia on My Mind,” and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel for Brother to Dragons which is an amazing read. Much of his fiction is in his Heritage Universe series; the linked short stories of space traveller Arthur Morton McAndrew are a sheer comic delight. (Died 2002.)
  • Born June 25, 1956 Anthony Bourdain. That’s a death that hit me hard. Partly because he’s round my age, partly because, damn, he seemed so interested in everything that I couldn’t conceive him committing suicide. And yes, he was one of us with three works to his credit: Get Jiro!,  (with Joe Rose and Langdon Foss), Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi (with Joe Rose and Ale Garza) and Hungry Ghosts (with Joel Rose, Alberto Ponticelli, Irene Koh, Paul Pope). The first two are on DC, the latter‘s on Berger Books. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 25, 1960 Ian McDonald, 59. Now here’s an author that I’ve read a lot of starting with his first novel, Desolation Road, and following through to his most recent, The Luna series. I do have favorites — Desolation Road and the other Mars novel, Ares Express, plus the Everness series are the ones I like the best. Chaga I think is the one I need to read again as I was annoyed by it the first time. 
  • Born June 25, 1981 Sheridan Smith, 38. She makes the Birthday list for being Lucie Miller, a companion to the Eight Doctor in his Big Finish audio adventures starting in 2006 and running through at least this year. Her only video genre work was being in The Huntsman: Winter’s War as Mrs Bromwyn.

(10) WHAT A KINDNESS. Actor Michael Sheen answered a request in character as Aziraphale:

(11) STAN LEE NOVEL COMING. Per Entertainment Weekly, “Stan Lee’s posthumous project A Trick of Light to be published as a book”.

Stan Lee’s posthumous creative project A Trick of Light, initially announced as the beginning of a new series for Audible, will be published as a hardcover finished book this fall, EW has learned exclusively. The book will be classified as Lee’s first-ever novel for adult readers, and marks the first foray into his new Alliances universe, which was created in partnership between Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment, Ryan Silbert’s Origin Story, and Luke Lieberman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is set to publish A Trick of Light, with Kat Rosenfield serving as co-author.

A Trick of Light is a superhero origin story about the unlikely friendship between Cameron, a gifted young man struggling with newfound fame after a freak accident gives him the ability to manipulate technology with his mind, and Nia, a hacker and coding genius with a mysterious past. The two must combine their powers to fight the dangerous physical and online forces threatening to wipe out the human race. Audible’s original launches June 27; it’s narrated by Grown-ish star Yara Shahidi.

… The novel version publishes on Sept. 17, 2019, and is available for pre-order.

(12) THE FLEET. Ethan Mills is finally won over to Chambers’ series, as he explains in “Space Chillwave, Not Space Opera: Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers” at Examined Worlds.

The setting was really interesting and philosophically fruitful: a fleet of generation ships dating back to a time before contact with aliens who possess advanced technology that made generation ships useless.  Instead of traversing the inky depths of interstellar space, the Fleet orbits a planet.  Still, the people continue to live there.  Why? It’s complicated.  But it prompts the existential question: What are we, the readers, doing on a rock hurtling through space heading nowhere in particular, destined to die?  It starts off subtle but it all gets pretty deep (we’re talking meaning-of-life type stuff, some of it – damn it – coming from the angsty teen).  This really surprised me considering a lot of the novel feels pretty… light and fluffy.  You could totally read this as a light and fluffy space romp and enjoy it just fine, but there are depths if you’re willing to look into the subtleties.

(13) WILLITS TRIBUTE. Alan White’s Skyliner #7 is a wonderful collection, even if it is “a sad one, being dedicated to the late, great Malcolm Willits, Author, Fannish Mogul, Citizen Kane of Mickey Mouse, and one of the early fen who actually did something worthy of the fannish pantheon.” It includes long autobiographical pieces, such as “Gottfredson and Me” about Willits’ appreciation for the artist who produced Disney’s Mickey Mouse comics.

I have long loved Floyd Gottfredson, even though I did not know his name. But I knew him through his work, through his wonderful Mickey Mouse stories, and especially through his wonderful artwork. I knew it first through the Big Little Books, those miniature jewels that came out during the Depression and reprinted Mickey’s great adventures. I remember them from the ten cent store; whole counters full, all spine out and a dime apiece

A few years later all my Big Little Books disappeared, along with the comic books I had carefully protected from the wartime paper drives, thereby prolonging World War II a microsecond. My father was a YMCA Secretary, and he had given all of them to the children of Japanese-American families being relocated to internment camps. In vain was my protest that the 10¢ war stamp I purchased each week in the 2nd grade was sacrifice enough. Nor was my offer to substitute my school books even considered. I soon found myself in a staging area looking at sad-eyed Japanese-American children being held in wire cages. Dad informed me they were as American as I. It was then I began to suspect his grasp of world affairs. Didn’t he know who Captain America was fighting; had he slept through that Don Winslow serial we had seen a week or two before and neglected to notice who the villains were? But I acted properly contrite and was rewarded with some new comic books on the way home, so the world turned bright again. When my father turned 90, he was honored for his work with the Japanese-Americans during World War II. My contribution remains unheralded.

…Do artists such as Carl Barks and Floyd Gottfredson really need their friends? John W. Campbell, legendary editor of astounding science-fiction once said that if all the fans stop buying his magazine he would never know. He meant the fans that filled the letter columns, attended the conventions, published the fanzines, and badgered the authors. They probably compromise 1% of the readership, and 90% of the headaches. By being so vocal they could manage from orbit the general policies of the magazine that were keeping the rest of the readership contented. Yet where would Barks and Gottfredson be today if it were not for the godsend that two fans, Bruce Hamilton, and Russ Cochran, we’re born to collect and publish the works of these two artists? How difficult it would be to place a historical perspective on them without the pioneering works Tom Andrae, Donald Ault, Bill Blackbeard, Geoffrey Blum, Barbara Botner, Mark Evanier, Alan Dean Foster, Bob Foster, Frank & Dana Gabbard, Gottfreid Helnwein, Gary Kurtz, George Lucas, Leonard Maltin, John Nichols, Tor Odemark, Mark Saarinen, Horst Schroeder, David Smith, Kim Weston, myself, Mark Worden, and many others both here and abroad.

(14) THE HORROR OF IT ALL. Nick Mamatas’ affection for the Lovecraftian storytelling style is manifest in his review of Toy Story 4, a post made public to encourage readers to sign up for his Patreon.

…The uncanny and the unworthy populate the film. Woody, ignored by his new owner, feels valueless and thus assigns himself the task of attempting to keep Forky alive. The antagonists are antique store dolls–there a Chatty Cathylike figure whose voice box was damaged at her creation, so her pull-cord “I love you!” sounds like a twisted dream calling forth from the bottom of a tar pit. She commands a quartet of ventriloquist dummies who cannot speak and who do her bidding while flopping around on their twisted limbs. She desires Woody’s innards for her own….

(15) ASTRONAUT HEIRLOOM. All kinds of things are going under the hammer during The Armstrong Family Collection III Space Exploration Auction (July 16-18) – even “Neil Armstrong’s Childhood Toy Teddy Bear Directly From The Armstrong Family Collection”.

(16) TRANSPORTATION SENTENCES. Felicity McLean explores “Australian Gothic Literature” at CrimeReads.

Of course the Germans have a wonderful word for ‘Gothic novel’. Schauerroman. Literally: “shudder-novel”. A story that makes you shiver with fear. Because Gothic is the literature of the menacing and the macabre.

It’s the stuff of nightmares.

But how does such a dark art translate in sunny Australia? How do you cause your readers to shiver when the temperature sits stubbornly above 80 degrees?

Gothic influence has been loitering creepily in Australian literature ever since European settlement. In 1788, when the British began shipping their convicts to Australia, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Ontranto had recently been published in England and so the British transported the Gothic mode along with their very worst criminals.

(17) DEADLY TROPE. Also at CrimeReads, Caroline Louise Walker analyzes “Why Doctors Make for the Most Terrifying Villains in Fiction”.

SIR WILLIAM GULL in From Hell, by Alan Moore (art by Eddie Campbell)

In Moore’s brilliant graphic novel, we’re asked to bend all we know about a serial killer we all know: Jack the Ripper. The details and research embedded in the conspiracy theory that unfolds are haunting, staggering, and so well done. If the infamously gruesome homicidal maniac was one and the same as a highly respected royal physician, then we must consider who we are trusting with our lives, and why.

(18) ON THE CLOCK. Details on the Falcon Heavy’s key payload: “Nasa puts up deep-space atomic clock”.

Nasa has put a miniaturised atomic clock in orbit that it believes can revolutionise deep-space navigation.

About the size of a toaster, the device is said to have 50 times the stability of existing space clocks, such as those flown in GPS satellites.

If the technology proves itself over the next year, Nasa will install the clock in future planetary probes.

The timepiece was one of 24 separate deployments from a Falcon Heavy rocket that launched from Florida on Tuesday.

The other passengers on the flight were largely also demonstrators. They included a small spacecraft to test a new type of “green” rocket fuel, and another platform that aims to propel itself via the pressure of sunlight caught in a large membrane; what’s often called a “lightsail”.

But it is the mercury-ion atomic clock, developed at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which has had most attention.

(19) REMOTE LAB. “‘Jet in a box’ powers remote Halley Antarctic base” – article resonates with discussions about whether we should ever send crews rather than robot labs to other planets.

The UK has managed to get one of its major Antarctic bases operating in an automatic mode for the first time.

Halley base, on the Brunt Ice Shelf, is remotely running experiments that include the monitoring of the ozone layer and of “space weather”.

The station would normally be crewed year-round, even through the permanent darkness of winter.

But staff have had to be withdrawn because of uncertainty over the stability of nearby ice.

A giant berg the size of Greater London is about to break away from the Brunt, and officials from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) consider it prudent to keep people away from the area, at least until the light and warmth of summer returns.

That’s prompted the UK’s polar research agency to develop an innovative set-up that can continue the station’s priority science activities in what is now the third winter shutdown on the trot.

(20) TOOL FOR SF WRITERS? BBC unpacks “The simple rule that can help you predict the future”. Note Le Guin quote near end, and signup for Forecast Challenge at the top.

What will remain in 100 years’ time of the city or town where you were born: which landmarks or buildings? What about in 500 years? The controversial author Nassim Nicholas Taleb offers a counter-intuitive rule-of-thumb for answering questions like this. If you want to know how long something non-perishable will endure – that is, something not subject to the limits of a natural lifespan – then the first question you should ask is how long it has already existed. The older it is, the more likely it is to go on surviving.

…The logic of Taleb’s argument is simple. Because the only judge that matters when it comes to the future is time, our only genuinely reliable technique for looking ahead is to ask what has already proved enduring: what has shown fitness and resilience in the face of time itself, surviving its shocks and assaults across decades, centuries or millennia. The Tower of London may seem modest in comparison to the Shard skyscraper – which sits across the Thames at 11 times the height – but it has also proved its staying power across 94 times as many years. The Shard may be iconic and imposing, but its place in history is far from assured. When it comes to time, the older building looms larger.

(21) MUPPET HISTORY. DefunctTV: Jim Henson is a six-part series chronicling the life and works of the man behind the Muppet mayhem. Here’s the first of four installments.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/6/18 By Grabthar’s Pixel, By The Scrolls Of Warvan, You Shall Be File’d

(1) SNAPPY JACKETS. BookRiot lists its choices for “The Best Book Covers of 2018”. Lots of genre book covers here. Two examples:

I love a cover with a flipped image, this one showing a well-dressed man and woman on one side and a bowler hat-wearing man bicycling on the other side. The colors and rainy arc of tree branches in the London mist makes me think of Mary Poppins (that scene with Mr. Banks, anyone?) and then all I want to do is put this book into my eyeballs.

—Aimee Miles

Any time someone mentions this book—which is often because it’s awesome—the cover vividly pops into my brain. It’s like a movie poster for a blockbuster that you just can’t wait to see, and then after you see it you put the poster up on your bedroom wall!

—Jamie Canaves

(2) ATMOSPHERICS. Out today, the Game of Thrones “Official Tease: Dragonstone.”

Fire and ice. The final season of Game of Thrones begins this April.

 

(3) AUREALIS AWARDS DEADLINE. Tehani Croft, Judging Coordinator of the Aurealis Awards, reminds everyone that entries close at midnight, Friday, December 7:

It’s important to remember that ALL eligible Australian work published for the first time between January 1 and December 31, 2018, must be entered by midnight on December 7even work intended for publication after the December 7 cut off.

When entries are made, you will receive an auto response from our system to acknowledge receipt (please check your spam folder if this does not arrive) – this is the only requirement for entries to be valid. Details regarding payment (for long form entries) and submission will follow in the coming week.

Thank you to everyone who has already submitted entries this year – the judges have appreciated a consistent flow of entries in a timely manner, which has helped avoid an end-of-year bottleneck.

(4) FOURTH ALLEGATION AGAINST TYSON. Buzzfeed News adds a new charge: “Nobody Believed Neil deGrasse Tyson’s First Accuser. Now There Are Three More.”

…Now a fourth woman has told BuzzFeed News her experience of sexual harassment from Tyson. In January 2010, she recalled, she joined her then-boyfriend at a holiday party for employees of the American Museum of Natural History. Tyson, its most famous employee, drunkenly approached her, she said, making sexual jokes and propositioning her to join him alone in his office. In a 2014 email shared with BuzzFeed News, she described the incident to her own employer in order to shoot down a proposed collaboration with Tyson….

(5) MORTAL PETER JACKSON. The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy renders his verdict: “‘Mortal Engines’: Film Review”.

A fantastical bit of steampunk sci-fi runs to a considerable extent on fumes in Mortal Engines, an action-loaded tale of adventure and combat set in a future that takes its design cues entirely from the past. Based on the initial book in a series of four by British author Philip Reeve, the first of them published in 2001, this new effort by Peter Jackson’s Wingnut Films is certainly lavish and expensive looking but never thoroughly locks in to capture the imagination or sweep you off to a new world where you particularly want to spend time. It’s combat-heavy, but not in an especially enthralling way, spelling an uncertain commercial future in the U.S. at least; foreign results could be significantly better.

One thing the film does have going for it is a resilient female lead, Hester Shaw (Icelandic actress Hera Hilmar), a survivor of childhood violence compelled to take revenge on her mother’s killer. Another is a bizarre form of conquest that’s illustrated in the extensive opening action sequence, in which one mobile society — in this case, a condensed version of London — races on giant treads across a rough wasteland in pursuit of a smaller, rag-tag community in order to literally gobble it up. There’s a milder, less demented Mad Max quality to the set-piece that decidedly rivets the attention, even if the sheer physics of it seem more than a bit preposterous; it’s akin to a huge garbage truck consuming a lawn mower.

(6) APPS AND TRAPS. Etelka Lehoczky says “Surrealism Meets Sci-Fi In ‘Parallel Lives'” in a review of this collection of short comics stories by O. Schrauwen and Eric Reynolds.

Parallel Lines is loosely a work of sci-fi. Most of its characters live at some time in the future, and all make use of rarified technologies. One woman communicates with a hologrammatic friend and lives in a coffin-sized pod. A team of explorers wend their way through outer space in a shimmering cubical ship. Schrauwen’s father Armand turns up in the book: He uses something called a Bomann Kühlbox T5000 to beam his face and voice to the future. (He finds it a frustrating experience, as the futurians ignore him in favor of seeking out exotic new ways of “leisuring.”) Schrauwen himself makes an appearance, too, in a first-person story of alien abduction that toys unsettlingly with the tropes of that genre.

(7) WHAT’S WRONG WITH WOKE “WHO”? [Item by Olav Rokne.] Lucy Jones of the Independent uses Doctor Who’s more inclusive storytelling — and the resultant backlash — as a framework to examine what it means to be “politically correct.” Her conclusion is pretty close to what most people on File 770 have been saying all along: that there’s nothing incorrect about telling stories that fully represent the diversity of society. “Doctor Who backlash shows why it’s time to bin the phrase ‘politically correct’”.

Words have consequences, and, in the rise of populism, these ones certainly have had, so instead of writing it off, I wanted to delve deeper into the Doctor Who criticism and try to understand what these swathes of shocked people online were outraged by, and if it had anything valuable to say about how people feel about changing societal and cultural norms.

(8) ARMITAGE OBIT. Peter Armitage (1940 – 2018): British actor, died December 4, aged 78. Screen appearances include Jack the Ripper (both episodes, 1988), Chimera (one episode, 1991), The Indiana Jones Chronicles (one episode, 1993), The Second Coming (both episodes, 2003), Magic Grandad (four episodes, 2003).

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born December 6, 1911 – Ejler Jakobsson, Writer and Editor born in Finland who emigrated to the U.S. as a teenager. Several short fiction works co-written with his wife Edith were published in the horror pulps in the late 1930s, and they co-edited two one-off magazines entitled The Octopus and The Scorpion. When Super Science Stories was revived briefly in 1949, he was editor for that two year run – with Damon Knight as his assistant. In 1969, he took over Galaxy and If, succeeding Frederik Pohl. With the assistance of Judy-Lynn and Lester del Rey, he worked to make the magazines more contemporary. Under his auspices, several Best of anthologies for both If and Galaxy were published, and Galaxy was a three-time finalist for the Hugo Award. (Died 1984.)
  • Born December 6, 1924 – Wally Cox, Actor and Comedian. Who can resist the voice of the Underdog series, which ran from 1964 to 1967? I certainly can’t. He also appeared in the films Babes in Toyland,  Quarantined, and Once Upon a Mattress, and had guest parts in The Twilight Zone, Mission: Impossible, Lost in Space, Get Smart, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., and Night Gallery. Interestingly, he had a lifelong close friendship from childhood with Marlon Brando (Died 1974.)
  • Born December 6, 1938 – Patrick Bachau, 80, Actor, Writer, and Producer from Belgium who had parts in French-speaking genre films before crossing the ditch where he became known to genre fans for his four-year role as Sydney on The Pretender. He also played a main role in the miniseries Kindred: The Embraced, had guest parts in episodes of Alias, The Dead Zone, and Earth 2, and had roles in Jennifer Connelly’s genre film debut Phenomena, The Cell, Serpent’s Lair, Vampires: The Turning, the execrable The Rapture, and 2012: We Were Warned.
  • Born December 6, 1948 – JoBeth Williams, 70, Oscar-nominated Actor and Producer who graduated from university intending to become a child psychologist, but instead caught the acting bug. Genre fans will remember her for her Saturn-nominated role in Poltergeist and its sequel. Other genre films include The Day After, Endangered Species, Switch, TiMER, It Came from the Sky, and The World Beyond. She also played Marge Slayton in From the Earth to the Moon.
  • Born December 6, 1953 – Tom Hulce, 65, Oscar-nominated Actor of Stage and Screen and Producer. His first genre role was in a highly-praised performance as the lead in the American Playhouse broadcast of The Rise and Rise of Daniel Rocket, about a young boy who discovers that he can fly. Although the bulk of his career has been in the theater, his most notable genre film role was as Henry Clerval in Kenneth Branagh’s Saturn-nominated Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. He was nominated for an Annie Award for his voice performance of Quasimodo in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and appeared in the films Stranger than Fiction and Jumper.
  • Born December 6, 1962 – Colin Salmon, 56, Actor from England who is best known for playing M’s Deputy Chief of Staff in three James Bond films, and as James “One” Shade in the Resident Evil film series. He has had roles in films including Alien vs. Predator, Tales from the Crypt, Punisher: War Zone, Annihilation: Earth, and Space Island One, and on television series including Arrow, Limitless, and the obligatory Doctor Who appearance (with David Tennant). He had a main role in the British series Hex, and currently plays General Zod in the Krypton series.
  • Born December 6, 1969 – Torri Higginson, 49, Actor and Producer who is almost certainly best known for her Saturn-nominated main role for four seasons as Dr. Elizabeth Weir on Stargate: Atlantis – but, like JJ, you may experience the lightbulb going on when you hear that her earliest genre role was as the female lead in Shatner’s TekWar series. She also had a main role in the supernatural series Inhuman Condition, and a recurring role in the deep space mystery series Dark Matter. Other appearances include Stephen King’s Storm of the Century, Stonehenge Apocalypse, The Cult, and episodes of Highlander: The Raven and The (new) Outer Limits.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brevity puts a smart weapon in Captain Kirk’s hands – or is that a smartass weapon?

(11) THEY’RE IN A RABBIT STEW. BBC One has put out a trailer for its adaptation of Watership Down. It will be released on Netflix on December 23, the day after it debuts on BBC One.

(12) MORAL EQUIVALENT OF WAR. M. Harold Page expounds on internet culture in “Worldbuilding Once and Future Fake News: Not Really A Review of Singer & Brooking’s LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media at Black Gate.

I’ve been reading LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media by Singer and Brooking. It describes the emerging world of Internet “news” where news passes from person-to-person on social media, no source is uncontroversially trustworthy, and where both information warriors and click-bait farmers are uninterested in the truth, except as a way of making untruths more plausible.

In this world, what determines a narrative’s success is not veracity but rather: Simplicity; Resonance; and Novelty.

Just switch the arena to “rumor” and this looks awfully like a greatly accelerated version of the pre-modern — especially Medieval and Renaissance — milieus we use as inspiration for Fantasy worldbuilding.  Keep the rumor but return the tech, and it’s also a good jumping-off point for building a Space Opera future. Stay with me and I’ll explain. But first, back to the smoking ruins of Limoges.

(13) THE FAR SIDE OF THE MOON. Nature reports a Chinese spacecraft will soon make the first visit: “Journey to the far side of the Moon” [PDF file].

Early in the New Year, if all goes well, the Chinese spacecraft Chang’e-4 will arrive where no craft has been before: the far side of the Moon. The mission is scheduled to launch from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan province on 8 December. The craft, comprising a lander and a rover, will then enter the Moon’s orbit, before touching down on the surface.

If the landing is successful, the mission’s main job will be to investigate this side of the lunar surface, which is peppered with many small craters. The lander will also conduct the first radio astronomy experiments from the far side of the Moon — and the first investigations to see whether plants will grow in the low-gravity lunar environment…

(14) MORE MUPPET MUSIC. Lyndsey Parker, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story, “Paul Williams unearths lost ‘Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas’ Muppet soundtrack: ‘One of my favorite things I’ve ever done'”, says that Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, which hasn’t been seen since its broadcast on HBO in 1977, is about to be released in theaters later this month.  Paul Williams talks about his song “When The River Meets The Sea,” which was played at Jim Henson’s funeral in 1990 and which he thinks is one of his best works.

When songwriting legend Paul Williams met Muppets mastermind Jim Henson in 1976, after appearing on The Muppet Show, the fateful encounter led to a long and fruitful musical partnership, highlighted by Williams’s Oscar-nominated theme for The Muppet Movie, “Rainbow Connection.”

But it all started with the 1977 HBO cult classic Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, which will be screened in theaters nationwide for the first time ever this month, on Dec. 9 and 16. And incredibly, Williams’s twangy Emmet Otter soundtrack has finally been officially released, just in time for this holiday season, with a previously unreleased song, “Born in a Trunk,” that didn’t make it to air.

(15) FRUIT FLIES LIKE A… MARULA? NPR reveals “When And Where Fruit Flies First Bugged Humans”.

A study published Thursday suggests Drosophila melanogaster first shacked up with humans when the insects flew into the elaborately painted caves of ancient people living in southern Africa.

That’s according to a report published Thursday in the journal Current Biology.

Scientists say the flies would have been following the alluring smell of stored marula fruit, which were collected and stored by cave-dwelling people in Africa. This tasty yellow fruit was a staple in the region in those days — and was also the fruit that wild flies apparently evolved to depend on in nearby forests.

The humble fruit fly now lives with humans all over the planet and is one of the world’s most studied creatures. For more than a century, biology and medical laboratories have depended on this fly — one scientist notes that at least nine times, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded for research on Drosophila….

(16) STONE FAT: Harder to lose than cellulite! “Fossil preserves ‘sea monster’ blubber and skin”.

Scientists have identified fossilised blubber from an ancient marine reptile that lived 180 million years ago.

Blubber is a thick layer of fat found under the skin of modern marine mammals such as whales.

Its discovery in this ancient “sea monster” – an ichthyosaur – appears to confirm the animal was warm-blooded, a rarity in reptiles.

The preserved skin is smooth, like that of whales or dolphins. It had lost the scales characteristic of its ancestors.

The ichthyosaur’s outer layer is still somewhat flexible and retains evidence of the animal’s camouflage pattern.

The reptile was counter-shaded – darker on the upper side and light on the underside. This counter-balances the shading effects of natural light, making the animal more difficult to see.

(17) NO LONGER SF. Remember to tip your avatar: “Japanese cafe uses robots controlled by paralysed people”.

A cafe staffed by robot waiters controlled remotely by paralysed people has opened in Tokyo, Japan.

A total of 10 people with a variety of conditions that restrict their movement have helped control robots in the Dawn Ver cafe.

The robot’s controllers earned 1,000 yen (£7) per hour – the standard rate of pay for waiting staff in Japan.

It is hoped the project will give more independence to people with disabilities.

(18) A WORD FROM SOMEBODY’S SPONSOR. We’ve come a long way from the one-room schoolhouse. I suppose in another generation they’ll be saying we’ve come a long way from the one-robot schoolroom.

The Belgian company Zora Bots is currently conquering the world with its unique solution especially designed for humanoid robots. Now, Zora Bots is about to change the way education system prepares the future generations to the ongoing technology revolution. In Belgium, a new step has just been made in that field with the support of Zora solutions. Comitted in an ambitious digitilization program, the town of Ostend (West Flanders) becomes today the first smart city in Europe to equip all its secondary schools with a humanoid robot. That means no student in secondary cycle will be deprived of having his first coding experience with a robot.

(19) MAKING A POINT: BBC tells about “The Indian restaurants that serve only half a glass of water”.

At the pure vegetarian Kalinga restaurant, a couple have just been seated when a waiter approaches their table and asks if they want water.

“I said yes and he gave me half a glass of water,” says Gauripuja Mangeshkar. “I was wondering if I was being singled out, but then I saw that he had only poured half a glass for my husband too.”

For a moment, Ms Mangeshkar did wonder whether her glass was half full or half empty, but the reason why she was served less water was not really existential.

Nearly 400 restaurants in Pune have adopted this measure to reduce water use, ever since the civic authorities announced cuts in supply a month ago.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Steve Green, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 8/30/18 I, For One, Welcome My New Cybernetic Pixel Scroll Wrangler

(1) THE (AMERICAN) GODS THEMSELVES. Neil Gaiman pointed to Leslie S. Klinger’s announcement of a planned reference work about “American Gods”.

I’m thrilled to announce that next Fall, William Morrow will publish Annotated American Gods, with my notes based in significant part on Neil’s manuscripts, journals, and research material as well as many other sources, including conversations with Neil and answers to the questions of “Who are all these unidentified gods anyway?”. I believe that this will be a large-trim edition, with the notes on each page in the margins, based on the 10th Anniversary edition text. Among other things, the notes will highlight all of the significant textual changes that were made for that edition. There will be black-and-white images of various people, places, and maybe even gods!

(2) ATTRACTIVE IDEA. You might say the Worldcon’s YA award gets some love from the Word of the Day:

(3) TREK FEATURES IN PRE-EMMY ANNOUNCEMENT. Deadline hails fans with some award news: “‘Star Trek’ Beams Up TV Academy’s 2018 Governors Award”

“Bridge to engineering — what’s that, Scotty?” “Ach, it’s the Governors Award, Captain — comin’ right at us!” “Mister Spock?!” “It seems that Star Trek has been selected to receive that honor from the TV Academy next month, Captain.”

The award to Star Trek recognizes “the visionary science-fiction television franchise and its legacy of boldly propelling science, society and culture where no one has gone before,” as the Academy put it. The honor will be beamed up September 8 during Night 1 of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards.

(4) POETRY CONTEST DEADLINE. 40th Anniversary Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association Speculative Poetry Contest deadline is August 31. Acclaimed Irish poet John W. Sexton is this year’s judge and esteemed Texas poet Holly Lyn Walrath is Chair. You do not have to be a SFPA member to enter poems. Rules at the link.

(5) MORE TO CTHULHU THAN MEETS THE EYE. With HPL’s 128th birthday this month, Bryan Thao Worra takes on the question “How Can Writers of Color Reconcile H. P. Lovecraft’s Influence with His Racist Legacy?” at Twin Cities Geeks.

…When I would read a story like The Shadow over Innsmouth, it felt more relevant to our journey than most of the refugee narratives on the market. Someone arrives in town to discover peculiar folks are nice at first, then turn into monstrous horrors who have bizarre traditions they want the protagonist to partake in? That’s an oversimplification, certainly, but the seeds are there to be sown. It can be sensitive to have a conversation on the real politics that ignited the Laotian Secret War, but a conversation on an alien war between Great Old Ones and Elder Things, with poor humanity caught between mindless horrors duking it out? There’s a tale that could be told, although not without its complications. Are the Great Old Ones NATO or the Warsaw Pact to Lovecraft’s Elder Things and Elder Gods? Lovecraft’s Fungi from Yuggoth appear in The Whisperer in Darkness; there, the reader learns these creatures take the brains of their victims to their distant planet in shiny metal cylinders. Simple science-fiction horror or an interesting metaphor for the cultural brain drain of a country as refugees board the metal cylinders of American planes to escape to safety?

…If I encouraged my community to read only safe, respectable literature touching on Laos, we’d find our people depicted typically as the faceless, coolies, or the enemy. In the works of writers like H. P. Lovecraft, and others, I felt we could at least start to flip the script and assert our true authentic voice from an unexpected direction. When I began writing in earnest, I had a desire to avoid many of the colonial, imperialist, and feudal trappings that disempower us. I saw science fiction, fantasy, and horror as a way to discuss our journeys and to empower ourselves, even as there can be no doubt these genres are filled with any number of paranoid and small-minded figures who may know how to put a sentence together but not necessarily an inclusive core. But like any zone of literature, one works at it.

(6) MORE ON JOHN WARD. Game Manufacturers Association (GAMA) board member Jeff Tidball addresses the question “It Is Wise for GAMA to Seek a New Executive Director”. As Mark Hepworth noted in comments, Tidball very carefully avoids saying why Ward was not kept on. He does say that Ward was appointed ten years ago in very different circumstances:

The GAMA board of directors announced on Friday that it is not renewing the employment agreement of its Executive Director, John Ward. (Read a copy of the press release hosted on this site.) A fair number of members want to know why, and that’s great, because it indicates that GAMA’s members are interested in the governance and management of their trade organization.

The board’s decision arose in a closed meeting of the board, so the details and voting record of individual board members are confidential. The board’s consensus in recent discussion has been that the decisions made by the body are the decisions of the entire body, and so it would be inappropriate to publish a list reciting the votes of each member.

(Side note: This is based on very recent dialogue, the ultimate resolution of which is still pending. The question arose in the first place when a previous board decision led to a board member’s business being threatened. So, if you’ve seen or been part of board meetings in the past where detailed notes and vote-tallies were circulated, that’s why what I’m reporting here may be different from your experience.)

I wasn’t on the GAMA board ten years ago when John Ward was hired as its Executive Director. Many people, some of whom were intimately involved in the hiring process, some of whom were on the board at the time, many of whom were acquainted with the state of GAMA at that time, have assured me that John Ward was the best candidate for the position of ED when GAMA faced existential crises of finances and responsible organization. I believe them.

It’s been suggested that because John was the right person for that job, ten years ago, he must therefore still be the right person for the current job. There’s a logical disconnect there. The right person to turn a company around is not necessarily the right person to envision its future. The right person to fight a war is not necessarily the right person to rebuild the landscape. And so on. The skill sets are different.

Circumstances change, and GAMA’s have changed. The change is largely thanks to John Ward. The board gives him credit for what he’s done and applauds what he’s accomplished. So make no mistake: I thank John Ward for the hard work he’s done for GAMA. At the same time, I believe that a new voice and skill set would be better to lead GAMA for the next ten years.

(7) ALTERNATE NATURAL HISTORY. Ursula Vernon did a bunch of these today. Not in a single thread, so you’ll need to seek them out. Here is the premise and two lovely examples:

(8) BOUNCED OFF THESE BOOKS. Liz Lutgendorff finds most of the books that topped NPR’s poll “shockingly offensive” — “I read the 100 “best” fantasy and sci-fi novels – and they were shockingly offensive”. (The poll was a product of 5,000 nominators and 60,000 voters.) Lutgendorff used this test to help evaluate the list:

The test had three simple questions:

1: Does it have at least two female characters?

2: Is one of them a main character?

3: Do they have an interesting profession/level of skill like male characters?

It was staggering how many didn’t pass. Some failed on point 1….

Many failed on my second criteria, like Out of the Silent Planet or Rendezvous with Rama.

C S Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet was one of the oldest books on the list, aside from Jules Verne. It’s an early attempt at explaining space flight and encountering an alien race. Most of the plot revolves around the main character, Ransom, trying to understand the aliens before managing to escape back to earth.The most entertaining aspect of the book is the ludicrous physics. There is one woman in the story, who Ransom exchanges about three sentences with before she wanders off. Perhaps you can forgive that on age, the book being from 1938.

The same can’t be said for Rendezvous with Rama, which was written in 1973. It was critically acclaimed and won many of the main science fiction prizes such as the Nebula Award, the British Science Fiction Association Award, the Hugo Award and Locus Award. The story centres around a group of space explorers who have to investigate a mysterious spacecraft that enters the solar system.

While there are more women, almost all are subordinate to the main male lead. There is one female authority figure who is on the Council of Rama (the organisation directing the efforts of investigation), but she doesn’t play a significant role. I also got distracted by the fact that, inexplicably, the male lead sleeps with almost all the women mentioned in the book.

Finally, most would fail on the third part of the test because the women characters were all mothers, nurses or love interests. They were passive characters with little agency or character development, like the women in A Canticle for Leibowitz and Magician. They were scenery, adding a tiny bit of texture to mainly male dominated world….

(9) NELSON OBIT. An opportunity here to take note of her fascinating career — “Miriam Nelson, 98, Golden Age Dancer and Choreographer, Dies” in the New York Times – even if Jerry Lewis provides the unlikely genre connection:

Miriam Nelson, whose seven-decade career as a choreographer and dancer spanned the golden ages of Broadway, Hollywood and television, died on Aug. 12 at her home in Beverly Hills, Calif. She was 98.

Much of Ms. Nelson’s movie work was for nonmusicals. She choreographed the madcap party scene at Holly Golightly’s apartment in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961), and also appeared in it as the glamorous party guest in gold brocade and pearls who argues with the man wearing a fake eye patch.

Behind the camera, Ms. Nelson taught … Jerry Lewis to hoof it like a space alien in “A Visit to a Small Planet” (1960) and the whole cast of “Cat Ballou” (1965) — led by Jane Fonda, who she said was a balletically trained natural — to execute Old West dances for the hoedown scene.

(10) THE ROADS MUST SCROLL. Today’s trivia –

Moving sidewalks may have been synonymous with airports since the mid-20th century but the technology was known even earlier. A “moving pavement” transported people between exhibits during the Paris Expo in 1900 and science fiction novelist H.G. Wells even mentioned them in his 1899 tale “A Story of the Days to Come.”

Sources: USA TodayA short history of airport moving walkways “ (2016) and QIMoving Walkways”)

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 31, 1797 — Mary Shelley. Author of Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) considered by many to be very first genre novel. Though not appreciated for it until rather recently, she was a rather excellent writer of biographies of notable European men and women.
  • Born August 30 — R. Crumb, 76. Ok, this is a weird associational connection. Back in 1966, The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick was illustrated by R. Crumb in Weirdo #17. Crumb days text is by Dick. It’s really, really weird. You can find it here.
  • Born August 30, 1955 – Judith Tarr, 63. Perhaps best known for her Avaryan Chronicles series, and myriad other fantasy works. She breeds Lipizzan horses at Dancing Horse Farm, her home in Vail, Arizona. Need I note horses figure prominently in her stories?

(12) WORKING FOR LEX. Here’s one of the DC Crossovers that have been discussed in Scrolls — Lex Luthor Porky Pig Special #1 variant,. Became available August 29, according to Graham Crackers Comic Books.

Facing financial and personal ruin, a desperate Porky Pig applies for and gets and entry-level position with LexCorp. Grateful to his new benefactor, Porky becomes Luthor’s most loyal employee and defender. But when a major scandal breaks in the news and Lex is called before a Congressional Committee, guess who is about to be offered up as the sacrificial pig?

(13) ESA ASTRONAUT INTERVIEW. Newsweek interviews European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti about her time after her stay on the ISS and her current role on the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway project (“Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti: NASA Lunar Gateway Is ‘Natural Next Step in Exploration’”).

Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is [… the] first Italian woman in space […] the former fighter pilot spent almost 200 days on the International Space Station (ISS) from 2014 to 2015—a record spaceflight for an ESA astronaut.

As well as investigating how fruit flies, flatworms and even human cells behave in space, Cristoforetti gained fame for brewing the first espresso on the ISS….

Q:           What is your role with the Gateway?

A:           I’m a crew representative for the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway project. It’s a space station that will be built around the moon in the early 2020s. For human spaceflight, you always want astronauts involved so that they can give a little bit of perspective to the future crew members, users and operators. I’m just starting that, I’m just getting myself into the topic.

(14) INNERSPACE. The Psychedelic Film and Music Festival debuts October 1-7 in New York, and will explore “the medicinal and therapeutic use of psychedelics and investigate the existence of inner worlds through trance music and science fiction, horror, surrealism, fantasy and virtual reality film.”

Simon Boswell will be there —

Renowned film composer and noted psychedelic Simon Boswell will headline a night of music on October 3 at Mercury Lounge on the Lower East Side for a special concert at The Inaugural Psychedelic Film and Music Festival. Performing with his musical group The AND, Boswell will play pieces from his illustrious film composition career in rock, electronica, gothic horror and futuristic styles.

Mr. Boswell is notable for integrating electronic elements with orchestral instruments to create vibrant and atmospheric soundtracks for widely praised cyberpunk, horror and science fiction films including Santa Sangre (1989), Hardware (1990), Dust Devil (1992), Shallow Grave (1994), Hackers (1995) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999). He was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Original Television Music for the BBC series The Lakes (1997) and in recent years has composed for several film projects and toured worldwide with The AND, performing live music against video backdrops of remixed content from his impressive film resume.

Tickets available on Ticketfly: https://ticketf.ly/2nyeb1o

(15) IN VINE VERITAS. Someone reading today needs this book – just not sure who it is. Altus Press announces plans for “Tarzan, Conqueror of Mars”. (No indication there is any connection with the series of similarly-themed action figures from days gone by.)

In 2014, Altus launched The Wild Adventures of Tarzan, with Tarzan: Return to Pal-ul-don. Two years later came the monumental King Kong versus Tarzan, a dream project long thought unachievable.

Now, in association with Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and Altus Books, the Wild Adventures announces its most breathtaking project to date.

Tarzan, Conqueror of Mars!

Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs and his amazing creations have long dreamed of reading a novel in which the Lord of the Jungle visits the Red Planet and encounters John Carter.

In Tarzan, Conqueror of Mars, this finally happens!

When a witch doctor’s sorcery hurls the ape-man’s soul out of his magnificent body, Tarzan discovers himself on a weird, treeless landscape, a dying planet inhabited by creatures unknown to him. Marooned on Mars, Tarzan must learn to survive in an unfamiliar environment. With no hope of rescue, the ape-man begins the arduous journey that takes him from being a friendless stranger on an alien world to his rise as a force to be reckoned with. For on Barsoom—as Martians style their home planet—there exists apes. Great apes of a type not found upon Earth. Hairless giants resembling gorillas, but possessing two sets of arms. Not to mention ferocious lion-like monsters known as banths as well as the elephantine zitidars.  Tarzan will go up against these fearsome creatures, and so begins the perilous march that elevates him from naked and unarmed castaway to the undisputed Ape-lord of Barsoom!

Written by genre giant Will Murray, TarzanConqueror of Mars ultimately brings the famed Lord of the Jungle into open conflict with Edgar Rice Burroughs’ other great hero, John Carter, Warlord of Mars. In the end, which one will be victorious?

(16) DRIZZT IS BACK. R.A. Salvatore’s Timeless, on-sale September 4, marks the return of Drizzt Do’Urden, the legendary dark elf fighter that’s been a mainstay of fantasy books and the successful Forgotten Realms RPG games for over 30 years.

Not only will readers get more of the swashbuckling, sword-and-sorcery action Salvatore is known for; they’ll also get to know more of the characters who dwell in the Forgotten Realms.

Salvatore is unique, because he was one of the originators of modern Epic Fantasy—but he has continued to evolve, and to take on new fans. With TIMELESS, a master of Epic Fantasy is poised to make a huge splash in a beloved genre.

(17) SEND FOR THE MUPPET CORONER. According to Rolling Stone reviewer Peter Travers, “‘The Happytime Murders’ Review: Puppet Raunchfest Is Dead on Arrival”.

A few critics are calling it the worst movie of the year. Unfair! The Happytime Murders, the R-rated look at a serial killer running wild in a puppet-populated L.A., has what it takes to be a contender for worst of the decade. Directed by Brian Henson (son of the late, great Sesame Street and Muppets icon Jim Henson) and starring a painfully stranded Melissa McCarthy, this toxic botch job deserves an early death by box office….

(18) EIGHTIES UNERASED. James Davis Nicoll continues his Tor.com series with “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1980s, Part II”.

Let us journey onward, this time to women who first published speculative fiction in the 1980s whose surnames begin with B….

For example:

Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff cannot be the sole Bahá’í author/musician active in speculative fiction, but she is the only one I know. Her body of work is small enough—eight books or so—that one could read the entire thing in a week or two. Those who might want just a taste could try The Meri, in which a young woman with great magical potential struggles against a society profoundly suspicious of magic. Alternatively, you could explore her shorter work in the collection Bimbo on the Cover.

(19) EPIC NERD CAMP. Karen Heller’s Washington Post article “‘Growing up, we were the weird ones’: The wizarding, mermaiding, cosplaying haven of Epic Nerd Camp” profiles Epic Nerd Camp,  a summer camp in Starrucca, Pennsylvania where “men in kilts and women withhair stained with all the colors of Disney” can eat bad summer camp food, fight off bugs, and spend their days engaging in LARPing, cosplay, “wandmaking, sword fighting, boffer games, Quidditch, waizarding, chainmaille, escape rooms and FX makeup.”

Heller credits Dr. Seuss with originating the word “nerd” —

Nerds have been with us forever, but the term seems to have been coined by Dr. Seuss, circa 1950. (From “If I Ran the Zoo”: And then, just to show them, I’ll sail to Ka-Troo/And Bring Back an It-Kutch, a Preep, and a Proo,/A Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too.) The word gained further popularity on TV’s “Happy Days,” where the Fonz applied it to almost any young person who was not the Fonz. Around the same time, geek — once the name for carnival performers who bit the heads off live chickens — came into its modern interpretation, referring to intense enthusiasts.

(20) THE WALK NESS MONSTER. A sauropod stepped in something, once upon a time: “170-million-year-old dinosaur footprint found in Scotland”.

An extremely rare 170-million-year-old dinosaur footprint has been found in Scotland. Paleontologists, however, are keeping its precise location secret until they can complete their research.

The footprint was discovered earlier this year by Neil Clark, curator of paleontology at the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum. Clark told Fox News that he had just given a talk in Inverness in the Scottish Highlands and decided to “visit the Jurassic rocks” in the area.

“After about a half hour looking, I spotted the footprint and was able to immediately recognize it as the footprint of a sauropod dinosaur,” he told Fox News. “I had to do a double take on the footprint as I couldn’t believe that such an obvious footprint had not been seen previously, considering the number of researchers who visit the coast each year.”

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

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.]