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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 29, 1979 Moonraker premiered on this day theatrically

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

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

Ray and Diana Harryhausen with Steve Vertlieb in 1990.

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

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

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

(8) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 6/25/18 Don’t Forget To Pick Seven Pixels To Put Under Your Pillow So You’ll Dream Of Your One True Scroll

(1) WEATHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET. “NASA reveals stunning images of Jupiter taken by the Juno spacecraft”Yahoo! has the story.

The breathtaking images show swirling cloud belts and tumultuous vortices within Jupiter’s northern hemisphere.

Scientists said the photos allowed them to see the planet’s weather system in greater detail.

According to the space station, the brighter colours in the images represent clouds made up of ammonia and water, while the darker blue-green spirals represent cloud material “deeper in Jupiter’s atmosphere.”

(2) HOW TO MAKE MAGIC. Fantasy-Faction’s Aaron Miles advises writers about “Creating A Magic System”.

The naming of a thing gives you power over it. Sorcery is the will and the word. Cast fireball now and you won’t be able to again until tomorrow and have finished your revision.

Magic systems exist in scores of fantasy novels. Diverse in their rules, varying in complexity, they instruct us in how the magic of the world of the story works and in any rules that govern it. Some authors disdain them, preferring to keep their magical arts shrouded in mystery, while others will provide exhaustive explanation and runic charts in the back of the book. I’ve always believed that a good magic system can only enhance a book, serving to develop the world, engage the reader and open up the scope for storytelling. Clever use of such a system can create new plot opportunities, allow an author to foreshadow and enact hidden twists, not to mention being interesting creations in their own right.

A common stop on the road to worldbuilding, many authors love to craft their own systems with various casting protocols, methodologies and effects. It can be great fun to develop your own magic system but if the groundwork is poor it will quickly become difficult to manage or hard to understand for the reader. This article will cover the various aspects involved in creating a magic system and how to make it interesting and effective….

(3) BET AWARDS. Black Panther and its king won hardware at last night’s BET Awards, but another of the movie’s stars was responsible for a highlight of the evening:

[Jamie] Foxx brought “Black Panther” star Michael B. Jordan to the stage and asked him to recite the powerful line from the film, “Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, cause they knew death was better than bondage.”

Best Actor Award

  • Chadwick Boseman *WINNER

Best Movie Award

  • Black Panther *WINNER

(4) PUPPY ADJACENT. N.K. Jemisin’s Twitter thread on bigotry and artistic mediocrity begins here.

(5) NO LONGER THE WILDER AWARD. BBC reports “Laura Ingalls Wilder removed from book award over racist language”.

The US Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) has removed Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from one of its awards over racist views and language.

The association had received complaints for years over the Little House on the Prairie author’s “anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments in her work”.

The ALSC board voted unanimously on Saturday to remove Wilder’s name from the children’s literature award.

The medal will be renamed as the Children’s Literature Legacy award.

(6) FANTASTIC POSTER. Yet another brilliant poster heralds Portugal’s Forum Fantastico, to be held from October 12 to 14 in Lisbon.

(7) WHAT TO CHARGE? Peter Grant’s comment at Mad Genius Club sheds new light on indie authors’ book pricing strategies.

Kindle Unlimited changes this equation dramatically, depending on the length of a book. I’ll be writing at greater length about this in a couple of weeks, but here’s a potted summary.

KU pays out just over $0.0045 for a single page read by a subscriber. If your book is (say) 100,000 words, that translates (in KENP, or KU equivalent pages, according to Amazon’s calculations) to about 360 pages. That means a KU “borrow” of your book will earn you about $1.62. If you sell that same book for $2.99 via Amazon, with a 70% royalty rate, you’ll earn about $2.00 after Amazon’s charge to download the book to the purchaser. In other words, a $2.99 price point is barely better, from an earnings perspective, than a KU “borrow”. It’s probably not economical. You’ll make more money pricing it at $3.99 or $4.99.

However, that brings up the question of what readers will pay. For a relatively unknown author, $2.99 might be all that most buyers are prepared to pay. For someone better know, $4.99 might be feasible. I’ve been charging that for my books for some years, and I’m getting sales at that level; but there’s also growing resistance even to that price from some readers. I’ve actually had e-mails saying that I’m being greedy to charge that much, and that I should price it much cheaper, otherwise they won’t spend their money on me – or they’ll use KU instead of buying the book. Even Amazon’s beta price recommendation service from KDP recommended, for my latest trilogy, that I price it at $2.99 per volume, to maximize sales income. Of course, it didn’t factor KU into that pricing equation.

I now take KU into my pricing calculations. If I won’t make much more per sale than I know I’ll earn on a KU “borrow”, it’s frankly not worth my while to sell the book at all! Why not just make it available in the subscription library?

(8) WHAT’S BREWING AT CAPE CANAVERAL? Galactic Journey’s Traveler popped back to the present long enough to inform beer drinkers about the Mercury program: “[June 25, 1963] It’s showtime!  (A musical and educational performance on the Mercury 7)”.

We’ve a special treat for you, today!  As you know, the Journey frequently presents at conventions and venues across the country.  Our last event was at the science-themed pub, The Wavelength Brewing Co.

Not only was a fine selection of craft beers on tap, but also the Young Traveler, performing a suite of current musical hits.  I followed things up with a half-hour presentation on the recently concluded Mercury program, discussing all of the flights and the folks who flew them.

 

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Max Brooks wrote The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z.  His parents are Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 25, 1976 – The Omen premieres in North America.

(11) RINGO. As two departed Dragon Con staffers (Pixel Scroll 6/9/18 Item #3) anticipated, the con is inviting John Ringo as a guest. Ringo shared the news on Facebook along with a request:

My Letter of Agreement to Dragon Con has been sent in and the announcement will go out this week that I am, again, going to be a guest of the con.

Due to various ‘stuff’ the leadership of DCon already knows/suspects/has-been-informed there will be ‘push-back.’

I am hereby asking my fans to STAY OUT OF IT. Don’t respond on any page especially any DCon page. Let the (extremely professional) con management handle any response.

Rpt: STAY OUT.

DragonCon has handled far worse in their time and they’re not worried about this particular kerfuffle.

“Meddle not in the affairs of Dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.”

(12) HOWEY SHORT FICTION. Jana Nyman reviews Hugh Howey’s collection for Fantasy Literature: “Machine Learning: Thoughtful and thought-provoking stories”.

Odds are good that you’ve heard of Hugh Howey — whether you’ve read one of his novels or short stories, or even if you’re just aware of the runaway success of his SILO trilogy, which began with Wool. Machine Learning (2017) is the first collection of his short stories (and one novelette), most of which were published elsewhere in various times and places, and it’s an excellent display of his range, insight, and talent. Each story is followed up by a brief Afterword from Howey, giving him the opportunity to explain where the story came from and what his goals were in writing it. When necessary, I’ve marked stories that were previously reviewed at Fantasy Literature, so that you can compare/contrast my thoughts with those of our other reviewers.

“The Walk up Nameless Ridge,” previously reviewed by Kat Hooper. A mountain climber hopes to be the first to summit a frighteningly tall peak, thereby receiving the honor of having it named after him, which is something he cares about more than anything else in his life. Howey gets deep in this man’s head, examining what motivates him to keep going despite literal loss of limbs and the emotional and physical distance placed between him and his family….

(13) TAKEI V. TRUMP. George Takei compares his family’s internment during WWll to Trump’s family separation policy and says the situation on the Mexican border is much worse.  He shares a lot of background, offers a lot of insight, and sets the records straight on many counts. From CNN: “George Takei: Donald Trump’s immigration rhetoric is ‘grotesque'”

(14) REDEEMING MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA. Future War Stories analyzes a controversial game: “FWS Video Game Review: MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA”.

Among the icons of military science fiction are some legendary video game titles that have reinforced the fans and forged new ones. One of the most beloved was BioWare’s Mass Effect series that spanned across three primary games, a number of DLCs, books, and comics. It was a beloved universe for its fans that caused them to cosplay, wear N7 gear, and even tattoo themselves. When 3rd and final Mass Effect game was released in 2012, we fans wondered if this was indeed the end of the journey after the mishandling of the ending to the trilogy. Then came happy news of a new game that was a fresh start with new characters and a focus on exploration in a new setting. When 29th century centered game was released in March of 2017, there was understandable disappointment and many fans felt deeply betrayed by EA and BioWare. But it is worth the hate and loathing? I decided to embarked on the journey to the Andromeda galaxy to see if it was a betrayal of the heritage of the Mass Effect games or a merely misunderstood entry into the franchise.

The GOOD

There is much made about the broken nature of ME:A and its ugly or underwhelming graphics…but under all of the noise and press is a semi-solid game that does delivery a long, relatively enjoyable campaign that becoming more and more rare these days. Overall, the concept of the Andromeda Initiative expedition to the nearest galaxy is maybe something that has been seen in sci-fi, but it a great way to separate this new ME game from the previous titles…

(15) SOUNDTRACKS. Courtesy of Carl Slaughter:

  • Hobbit soundtrack

  • Lord of the Rings soundtrack

(16) NAZIS IN SPACE – NOT. Revell has taken off the shelves in Germany a model kit for the Haneubu II aircraft because it is convincing customers that the Nazis had camouflaged-covered flying saucers with zap guns. Gizmodo reports: “Flying Saucer Toy Recalled For Teaching Kids That Nazis Achieved Space Travel”. The model kit has been recalled because it promotes the idea that Nazis not only had the capability for space travel, but could use their saucer-type spacecraft to blast Allied aircraft. Quoting the article:

If you’ve ever watched the History Channel at 3AM, you know that the Nazis had a secret program during World War II to develop flying saucers. The Nazi’s UFO experiments never actually flew, but the model toy company Revell recently released a set in Germany that makes it look like one of the Nazi saucers actually worked. And historians are pissed….

The toy company has pulled the 69-part set, known as the Haunebu II, from store shelves. But you can still find plenty of the toys available for sale online. The Nazi UFO is even seen on the box blasting Allied planes out of the sky—a disgusting image to promote, to say the least….

“Unfortunately, our product description does not adequately express [that the Nazi saucer program was unsuccessful] and we apologize for it,” Revell said in a statement.

(17) WESTWORLD’S FALLOUT PROBLEM. BBC says “Westworld game hit by Bethesda legal claim”.

Game publisher Bethesda is suing Warner Brothers over a game based around the HBO series Westworld.

Bethesda alleges the Westworld game, released last week, is a “blatant rip-off” of its Fallout Shelter title.

Included in the legal challenge is Canadian developer Behaviour Interactive, which helped Bethesda develop Fallout Shelter in 2014….

The Westworld game gives players the job of managing the titular theme park and its robotic inhabitants.

The facility managed by the player can be expanded underground and includes many of the locations seen in the TV series.

Many reviews of the game mentioned its similarity to Bethesda’s Fallout Shelter, which gives players the job of managing and expanding an underground facility….

(18) TURING TESTER. The classic WWII device has a new home: “Codebreaking Bombe moves to computer museum”. (Chip Hitchcock suggests it’s another tourism opportunity for people willing to travel a distance before/after Dublin 2019.)

The UK’s National Museum of Computing has expanded its exhibits celebrating the UK’s wartime code-breakers and the machines used to crack German ciphers.

On Saturday it will open a gallery dedicated to the Bombe, which helped speed up the cracking of messages scrambled with the Enigma machine.

The Bombe was formerly on display at Bletchley Park next door to the museum.

A crowd-funding campaign raised £60,000 in four weeks to move the machine and create its new home.

… The initial design of the Bombe was drawn up by Alan Turing and later refined by Gordon Welchman. The gallery is being opened on the 106th anniversary of Turing’s birth.

(19) BIRD IS THE WORD. Scientists say “Bird family tree shaken by discovery of feathered fossil”.

The turacos, or banana-eaters, are today found only in Africa, living in forests and savannah.

A beautifully preserved fossil bird from 52 million years ago is shaking up the family tree of the exotic birds.

The fossil’s weird features suggests it is the earliest known living relative not just of the turacos, but of cuckoos and bustards (large long-legged birds).

And the fact the remains were unearthed in North America shows the distribution of different birds around the globe would have been very different in the past.

(20) GOOD TO THE LAST PROTON. Ars Technica says the retirement party will be happening soon: “Russia’s Proton rocket, which predates Apollo, will finally stop flying”. With over 400 launches under its figurative belt (and about an 89% success rate) the Proton rocket family is nearing retirement. Dating from tis first launch, the Proton will turn 56 in mid July. That means it predates the Saturn V used in the Apollo program by more than 2 years.

The Russian-manufactured Proton rocket has been flying into space since before humans landed on the Moon. First launched in 1965, the rocket was initially conceived of as a booster to fly two-person crews around the Moon, as the Soviet Union sought to beat NASA into deep space. Indeed, some of its earliest missions launched creatures, including two turtles, to the Moon and back.

But now, Russian officials confirm, the Proton rocket will finally reach its end. In an interview with a Russian publication, Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin said production of the Proton booster will cease as production shifts to the new Angara booster. (A translation of this article was provided to Ars by Robinson Mitchell, a former US Air Force Airborne Cryptologic Language Analyst). No new Proton contracts are likely to be signed.

…With a capacity of 22.8 tons to low-Earth orbit, it became a dominant player in the commercial market for heavier satellites.

It remained so during much of the 2000s, but as Ars has previously reported, the lack of technical oversight began manifesting itself in an increasing rate of failures. At the end of 2010, one Proton plunged into the ocean because too much propellant had been mistakenly loaded into its upper stage. In 2013, another vehicle performed a fiery dance seconds after liftoff because flight control sensors were hammered into the rocket’s compartment upside down.

…Whether the Angara booster can capture anything close to the Proton’s once highly profitable share of the global launch market remains highly uncertain.

(21) LIZARD WRASSLIN’. In this tweeted photo set, a T-Rex finds it’s no match for Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock (Dwayne Johnson)

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

Pixel Scroll 6/23/18 And Now It’s Scrolling All Over the Land; I Still Can’t Seem to Understand

(1) COC ENFORCEMENT AT ORIGINS. Organizers of the Origins Game Fair have issued a statement telling how they will handle reported violations of their Code of Conduct at the 2018 convention, which ended June 17.

Tabletop Gaming overviewed the accusations: “Multiple reports of sexual harassment emerge from this year’s Origins Game Fair”.

Reports first surfaced during the weekend of the show, with one designer and senior member of a games publisher alleged to have asked multiple women to “play test his erect penis”.

In a separate incident, another woman was reportedly followed for multiple blocks back to her hotel.

Tabletop gaming personality Bebo used Twitter to raise awareness of the distressing events on behalf of the anonymous victims, adding: “Anyone who says harassment of women isn’t an issue in the industry can eat dirt.”

Both situations were reported to GAMA, the organiser of Origins, which is said to be taking appropriate action in response, although the company is yet to issue a public statement regarding the events.

Polygon’s story covers responses from the accused, and by Origins’ administering body, GAMA: “Accusations of sexual harassment rock the board gaming community”.

Origins Game Fair, which ran June 13-17 this year, is a tabletop gaming convention sponsored by the Game Manufacturer’s Association (GAMA). Its partner this year was Wizards of The Coast, known for Dungeons & Dragons and the Magic: The Gathering franchises. Other sponsors included a who’s who list of major publishers, including Rio Grande Games, Iello, Wizkids, Paizo and CMON.

Origins is an opportunity for fans to see the latest games, and for those in the industry to see each other and do some networking ahead of Gen Con, the nation’s largest tabletop gaming convention, which is held in Indianapolis each August. Many in the industry choose to mingle outside of the event, and that’s where at least one attendee says an exhibitor sexually harassed them. The allegations surfaced on a personal Facebook page and on Twitter, but were also sent to GAMA. The individual accused has denied the allegations….

GAMA’s official statement says in part:

An incident arose through social media at Origins this year pointing out some specific allegations of harassment. This illicit behavior is a clear violation of our show policies.

To ensure that a thorough review of any allegation is conducted, we must have statements from individuals with firsthand knowledge of the event. Unfortunately, that did not happen in this instance so gathering the information is taking more time. We understand that it can be difficult to come forward and share a statement after an incident occurs, but with the cooperation from individuals involved we can address these situations in a timely fashion.

As we demonstrated earlier this year, we take harassment very seriously and are committed to providing a safe, welcoming and fun environment for everyone at the show.

This serious allegation has not been taken lightly. We are committed to handling this in a thorough and professional manner. We are interviewing all parties involved and gathering statements from witnesses who viewed the incident firsthand. We owe all parties involved a fair process to gather the facts and discern as much as possible those confirmed elements before we act. The ramifications of an unjustified response are simply irreplaceably damaging….

The complete statement is at the Polygon link.

The accusations also prompted Katie Aidley, with several years of experience working for gaming companies and in booths at conventions, to release her post “The truth about sexual harrassment and boardgaming”.

(2) SPEAKING TO THE NEXT GENERATION. A passage from Liu Cixin’s The Micro-Age was utilized in the reading comprehension section of China’s national college entrance exam: “Excerpt of popular Chinese sci-fi writer Liu Cixin’s novel selected in gaokao”.

An excerpt of famous Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin’s novel was selected as reading comprehension material in the test paper for the Chinese gaokao exam, China’s National College Entrance Exam that took place on Thursday, which not only surprised many participants but also the writer. Liu later responded saying that science fiction meets the demand of people in this day and age.

After the exam in southwest China’s Sichuan Province ended, participants expressed their surprise at finding an excerpt of Liu’s novel “The Micro-Age” since this type of literature was rare in such a rigorous exam.

…Speaking about this year’s gaokao essay topics, Liu expressed that one of the topics was related to science fiction as it required students to write a letter to the generation of 2035 to elaborate on the big events that have occurred since the year 2000 in China.

He said that unlike previous essay topics which tended to focus on current affairs or the past, this year’s topics were more likely to focus on the future.

(3) DETECTIVE WORK. Carl Slaughter asks, “How can I resist a headline like this?” It absolutely belongs in the Scroll: “This insane golden chamber contains water so pure it can dissolve metal, and is helping scientists detect dying stars.” Business Insider has the story.

Hidden 1,000 metres under Mount Ikeno in Japan is a place that looks like a supervillain’s dream.

Super-Kamiokande (or “Super-K” as it’s sometimes referred to) is a neutrino detector. Neutrinos are sub-atomic particles which travel through space and pass through solid matter as though it were air.

Studying these particles is helping scientists detect dying stars and learn more about the universe. Business Insider spoke to three scientists about how the giant gold chamber works — and the dangers of conducting experiments inside it.

(4) HOW’S HE DOING? Eric Flint gave Facebook reader a health update.

I thought I’d bring everyone up to date on my medical condition, since I haven’t said anything about it for quite a while. That’s because it’s been… complicated.

On the positive side, there’s no indication that the lymphoma has come back. So, yay for homicide therapy, AKA chemotherapy.

On the down side, I started developing atrial fibrillation a year and a half ago, right around the same time the cancer was diagnosed. Whether there’s a causal relationship there or it’s just coincidence, nobody really knows….

Flint continues with full details.

(5) BABYLON FIFTH. In “‘Babylon 5’ is great, so why does it look so bad?”, Engadget’s Daniel Cooper describes in great technical detail the show’s digital origins and resulting challenges when aired using current technology.

Now that the series has made its way to Amazon Prime, it is ripe for a whole new generation of fans to discover it. Except that, if they do, they may find that the picture quality is highly variable, and some sequences are quite hard to watch. Now, it’s fair to say that the show is so good that it’s worth persisting with nevertheless. But how it ended up in this state is a tale of folks trying to plan for its future, only to be defeated by executive neglect…

How bad does it look?

We should probably begin by outlining how effects-heavy shows like Babylon 5 are made, albeit simplistically. There are three different types of shot that were put together to make an episode. You have live-action scenes, which are just actors talking in a room; composites, which have a mix of live-action and CGI; and pure-CGI scenes. In order to protect your suspension of disbelief, it’s important that you aren’t noticing the transitions between them.

A great sequence to explain Babylon 5’s problem is the monorail scene from the Season 2 finale, The Fall of Night, which originally aired on November 1st, 1995. We begin with an entirely live-action shot, where Captain Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) boards a monorail shuttle. And you can tell, because it’s framed properly and looks pretty good, even if the film is a little grainy because it hasn’t been restored or remastered….

(6) MURDERBOT’S ASPIRATIONS. Adri Joy delivers a fascinating character analysis in “A Robot Learns to Love Itself: Reflecting on the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells” at Nerds of a Feather.

There’s a moment near the start of Rogue Protocol, the third in Martha Wells’ Murderbot Diaries series (forthcoming August 7, 2018 from Tor.com Publishing), that quietly broke my heart. The self-proclaimed Murderbot, a rogue SecUnit (a human-robot hybrid “construct”) which hacked its own governor module after an unfortunate murder-based incident that was subsequently wiped from its memory, is trying to distract itself from the endless, stupid problems of humans by watching a new show. Unfortunately, the plot isn’t working out, and Murderbot is eager to get within range of a station so it can download something different. If only, it tells us, this terraforming horror series had a rogue SecUnit character who could stop the squishy humans from all getting horribly killed…

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. Murderbot watches rather a lot of shows – indeed, extensive media consumption is its most prominent character quirk – and it also does a lot of complaining, so the combination of the two is not exactly unusual. However, this is the first time it has articulated a desire to see itself represented positively in media.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock spotted a Library Comic about All Systems Red. Chip adds, “The author’s former strip used to recommend something (often genre) at least once a week, and most of them were good; nice to see him back at it.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 23, 1976 Logan’s Run debuted.
  • June 23, 1989 — Tim Burton’s Batman is released in theaters.
  • June 23, 1989 Honey, I Shrunk the Kids premiered.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 23 – Joss Whedon, 54. Known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, FireflyDr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Dollhouse, Avengers and Agents Of S.H.I..E.L.D. which is not a complete listing by any means.
  • Born June 23 – Selma Blair, 46. Scream 2 appears to be her first genre role, also Xena: Warrior Princess, Hellboy and Hellboy 2,  both of the Hellboy animated films, The Fog and most recently Lost in Space.
  • Born June 23 – Melissa Rauch, 38. Bernadette Rostenkowski in The Big Bang Theory, Harley Quinn in the animated Batman and Harley Quinn film, Summer in True Blood, and Wasp / Hope Pym  in the Ant Man animated shorts.

(10) FAITH OF THE FUTURE. Syfy Wire’s story “In modern science fiction, religion plays a vital, secular role” by Tricia Ennis examines how religion is treated on a handful of TV sf series — Battlestar Galactica—the reboot of the mid/late 2000’s; not the original, The 100, and Killjoys.

It’s easy to think that science fiction and religion are anathemas to each other. Science fiction is, after all, about imagining a scientifically advanced future where we have moved to the point of near magic, explaining through science things that modern understanding can only dream up. Religion, meanwhile, is about not explaining those things at all, instead choosing to rely on faith and parable and scripture to explain the mysteries of the universe and to comfort the minds of those who follow its teachings. Obviously, those two don’t really go together.

Perhaps science and faith don’t necessarily mesh—but if you’ve been keeping an eye on certain recent science fiction television series, you’ll notice a pattern. Sci-fi might still have trouble bridging the spiritual and the secular, but it certainly recognizes the importance of scripture to understanding our past — and protecting our future.

(11) REENACTORS. Nancy Kress introduced a highly amusing photo taken at Taos Toolbox:

George R. R. Martin and the Red Workshop. If a wedding, why not a writing seminar?

Walter Jon Williams identified the bodies:

Among the casualties were David DeGraff, Jo Miles, Brenda Kalt, Sarah Paige Hofrichter, Kevin O’Neill, Sherri Woosley, Gayle Schultz, Nancy Kress, Walter Jon Williams, Autumn Kalquist, Joey Yu, Liz Colter, Peri Fletcher, Amanda Helms, Carsten Schmitt, Gabrielle Harbowy, Harrison Lee, Kelli Fitzpatrick, Isabel Yap, and Elliotte Rusty Harold.

(12) MUSEUM VISITOR. Rick Riordan said the minerals on display reminded him of this —

(13) A HUGO VOTER IS HEARD FROM. Joe Sherry shares another section of his ballot in “Reading the Hugos: Novelette” at Nerds of A Feather. Ranked somewhere in the middle is this nominee —

A Series of Steaks: Since I’ve already written about the Short Story category, this is Vina Jie-Min Prasad’s second story on the Hugo ballot and it is a real standout. Besides everything, what I really enjoy about “A Series of Steaks” is the framing of forgery and what makes a good forger. Ultimately, that’s what “A Series of Steaks” is about. Helena semi-legally fabricates meat for restaurants that is otherwise undetectable for not being the real thing (ultimately, a forgery). She is offered a contract that she can’t refuse because it comes with a threat to expose her.

The rest of the story is a tense game of Helena (and her new assistant) trying to fulfill the order and somehow protect herself. Prasad’s writing is clear and pulled me right in. It’s a damn fine story and I’m going to be looking for much more from Vina Jie-Min Prasad.

(14) ON THE ROAD. John Scalzi has thrown the Theory of Evolution into doubt. Could this man’s primordial ancestors possibly have lived in trees without room service?

(15) TOON TOWN. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story, ”’Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ turns 30: How the toon-powered classic revolutionized Hollywood” interviews screenwriters Peter S. Seaman and Jeffrey price about the 30th anniversary of this film, first released on June 22, 1988.

According to the screenwriters, Zemeckis always had a grand vision for the Ink and Paint Club as a place where multiple cartoon characters — each of whom had its own bit of funny business — would fill the frame. A cursory glance around the nightclub reveals penguin waiters, an octopus bartender, and a vintage black-and-white cartoon heroine slinging drinks. “Bob wanted one of those almost Scorsese-like reveals, where you track in and all the stuff is happening,” Seaman remembers. “We did write gags for like the bartenders — he’s got eight arms, and he’s making these different cocktails. We’d write gags for the penguins, and everybody in there.”

(16) LUCKY PAIR. JSTOR Daily delves into “The Fairytale Language of the Brothers Grimm”.

There once were two brothers from Hanau whose family had fallen on hard times. Their father had died, leaving a wife and six children utterly penniless. Their poverty was so great that the family was reduced to eating but once a day.

So it was determined that the brothers must go out into the world to seek their fortune. They soon found their way to the university in Marburg to study law, but there they could not find luck from any quarter. Though they had been the sons of a state magistrate, it was the sons of the nobility that received state aid and stipends. The poor brothers met countless humiliations and obstacles scraping by an education, far from home.

Around this time, after Jacob had to abandon his studies to support his family, the entire German kingdom of Westphalia became part of the French Empire under Napoleon Bonaparte’s conquering rule. Finding refuge in the library, the brothers spent many hours studying and searching for stories, poems, and songs that told tales of the people they had left behind. Against the rumblings of war and political upheaval, somehow the nostalgia of stories from an earlier time, of people’s lives and language, in the little villages and towns, in the fields and forest, seemed more important than ever.

This then is the strange rags-to-riches tale of two mild-mannered librarians, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (affectionately known as the Brothers Grimm), who went hunting for fairytales and accidentally ended up changing the course of historical linguistics and kickstarting a whole new field of scholarship in folklore.

(17) LEND HER AN EAR. BBC invites you to “Meet Game of Thrones’ woman of weapons”.

It’s probably not a good idea to get into an argument with Natalia Lee.

The only female armourer working on Game of Thrones, she looks after all the show’s weapons, from flaming arrows to giant catapults.

She also played the fearsome Chella in season one, because they needed “a warrior who chops ears off” and then strings them around her neck.

But while she loves working with the actors, she gets worked up if anyone questions the fact that a woman is wielding swords and slingshots.

“I’m constantly told, ‘Women don’t want to see that, women don’t want to do that.’ It’s so frustrating,” says Australian-born Natalia, 35.

“We’re capable of handling weapons, I’ve proved I can carry all of them.

“My job’s a learned, technical skillset, so your gender has no bearing.”

(18) PANIC OR PATHOLOGY? Answering a pixel from 6/18: “WHO gaming disorder listing a ‘moral panic’, say experts”.

But biological psychology lecturer Dr Peter Etchells said the move risked “pathologising” a behaviour that was harmless for most people.

The WHO said it had reviewed available evidence before including it.

It added that the views reflected a “consensus of experts from different disciplines and geographical regions” and defined addiction as a pattern of persistent gaming behaviour so severe it “takes precedence over other life interests”.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge Carl Slaughter, Brian Z., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus, who took inspiration from yesterday’s lyric reference.]

Pixel Scroll 6/18/18 Nancy Pixel And The Scroll Of The Trademarked Cocky

(1) JEMISIN ON CNN. N.K. Jemisin is on episode 6 of W. Kamau Bell’s CNN program United Shades of America. In this episode he goes back to Mobile, Alabama, and brings her along for one of the segments.

(2) WRONG TURN. The bear and the maiden fair.

(3) DINO CHOW. Adweek supplies a new reason to burn a hole in your credit card: “These $25 Collector’s Edition Cereal Boxes Include Digital Screens Showing Jurassic World Video”.

Dinosaur-loving fans eagerly anticipate the arrival of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom this Friday, but now they can get in on the action a bit closer to home. Like … right at the breakfast table.

Kellogg’s has partnered with Universal Studios to develop limited-edition boxes of Keebler Fudge Stripes and Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes that come with a digital screen embedded into the box. Each screen airs an exclusive five-minute video of behind-the-scenes footage from the flick, showing fans how the dinosaurs are brought to life as well as additional special effects from the movie.

(4) THUNDER LIZARDS. The movie is already killing overseas: “China Box Office: ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ Rampages to $112M Debut”.

Universal and Amblin have claimed Hollywood’s fourth-biggest opening ever in China.

Universal and Amblin’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opened with a roar at the Chinese box office over the weekend, earning $111.9 million.

It was Universal’s second-biggest debut ever in the market, behind only The Fate Of The Furious. The opening was also considerably better than the $99.2 million that the first Jurassic World film earned in its first full week in Chinese cinemas in 2015 (openings were tallied by the week rather than weekend back then).

The dino tentpole also pulled in $10 million from 520 Imax screens. Altogether it claimed over 75 percent of the weekend’s total ticket revenue in China.

(5) NEW CATEGORY PROPOSED. Nope, not the Hugos: “Some Survivors Of Category 5 Hurricane Irma Want A Category 6”.

Tom Krall lives on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands on the west end of the island, high on a ridge. That’s where he was in September when Hurricane Irma roared through.

“We had the full blast,” Krall says. “Twenty of the 30 houses in my neighborhood lost their roofs or worse.”

The National Hurricane Center says Irma had sustained winds of 185 mph when it hit the Virgin Islands with gusts of 200 mph or higher. They were the most powerful winds ever recorded in that part of the Caribbean.

In his more than 30 years on St. John, Krall has hunkered down for many hurricanes, including other Category 5 storms. He says Irma’s winds were dramatically worse than other hurricanes. He knows what winds are like at 150 mph.

(6) NEED MORE PITCHFORKS. NPR concludes “It’ll Take More Than A Few Angry Villagers To Kill Off ‘Frankenstein'”. And also discusses changes between original (1818) and the version most of us know (1831).

Frankenstein has been popular for two centuries because every era since has felt like the end times to those in it, so every era needs a story unafraid to discuss annihilation.

(7) DO YOU WANT TO BE CURED? WHO classification: “Gaming becomes the latest addiction”.

The World Health Organisation’s classification of gaming disorder as a condition which is capable of debilitating addiction is an important moment in the shifting relationship between technology and society.

Concern among parents about the impact of smartphones in particular, and the response of technology firms to those concerns, has become a staple of the news agenda.

Apple’s much covered Digital Health initiative was derided in some quarters, with analysts and punters alike sceptical about the desire of that company to in any way reduce smartphone usage, given its still heavy reliance on smartphones for revenue.

(8) CAT OBITS. Condolences to three Filers who recently suffered the loss of a beloved cat. Two of these venerable SJW credentials featured in Cats Sleep on SFF.

  • Doctor Science

I had to say good-bye to Sneakers, my SJW credential, on Friday. You may recall him sleeping on Lady Trent.

  • nickpheas

Sadly I also have a loss to report.

Steerpike, by then having celebrated his 18th birthday, developed lymphoma and was wasting away before being put to sleep. He had a good innings and is missed.

  • Anne Sheller

Pepper, my oldest, died about 2 hours ago. I found her unconscious and unresponsive earlier in the evening. I opted not to make an emergency visit to the vet since she didn’t seem to be suffering but seemed too far gone to revive. It took her a few hours to stop breathing.

She was a tiny dark tabby, 15 years and about 7 1/2 months old. She’d been diagnosed with diabetes just over a year ago, and been to the vet for a checkup just this past week. I wasn’t expecting her to live a whole lot longer, but her death tonight was unexpected. I’ve had her since she was about 5 months old, and loved her very much.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 18, 1983 — Sally Ride became the first American woman in space.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 18 – Carol Kane, 66. Valerie in The Princess Bride, Myth in The Muppet Movie which looks to be her first genre role, Ghost of Christmas Present in Scrooged, and more recently as Gertrude Kapelput in Gotham. 
  • Born June 18 – Isabella Rossellini, 66. Thar in the ‘05 Earthsea series, Nimue in the ‘98 Merlin series, Athena in the ‘98 The Odyssey series and a number of other genre roles.
  • Born June 18 – Paul McCartney. Writer: “Come Together” episode of the Justice League animated series, actor in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. 
  • Born June 18 – Barbara Broccoli, 58. Producer or Director credit in at least fourteen Bond films which or may not be genre depending on how you view them. Her only acting role is as an uncredited Opera patron in The Living Daylights. 
  • Born June 18 – Kim Dickens, 53. Currently Madison Clark in Fear the Walking Dead, Jake’s Mom in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and roles in Flashforward and Lost.
  • Born June 18 — Richard Madden, 32. Rob Stark in Game Of Thrones and Agent Ross in Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

This is a true story, based on an actual sign in my local public library and the chaos my children wreak when we visit.

(11) LONELY PLANET. In “There’s at Least a 39 Percent Chance We’re Alone in the Observable Universe”, Motherboard has taken a look at a new paper (now in preprint or arXiv.org) by the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford that itself takes a look at the Fermi Paradox. By taking a probabilistic approach to the Drake Equation, that paper concludes:

…[W]e find a substantial probability that we are alone in our galaxy, and perhaps even in our observable universe (53%–99.6% and 39%–85% respectively). ’Where are they?’ — probably extremely far away, and quite possibly beyond the cosmological horizon and forever unreachable.

Note that since this is a preprint article it has not been peer-reviewed yet. Motherboard summarized their own take on the paper as:

These are sobering results, but the researchers caution against any kneejerk cosmic pessimism. “This conclusion does not mean that we are alone, just that this is very scientifically plausible and should not surprise us,” the researchers wrote. “It is a statement about our state of knowledge, rather than a new measurement.”

In other words, there’s no reason to despair—yet. The more we learn about the universe and our own planet, the more we will decrease the uncertainty latent in the Drake equation. For example, our inability to detect extraterrestrial civilizations over the decade can increase our certainty that we’re alone, but then again, the universe may be awash in extraterrestrial signals and we simply haven’t learned how to recognize them yet. For now, however, the researchers suggest that if there are aliens, they are “probably extremely far away and quite possibly beyond the cosmological horizon and forever unreachable.”

(12) WITHDRAWAL PAINS. JDA advertised on Twitter he was “Off Social Media Til 6/21” but he must have noticed we were enjoying it more than he was. Today he broke his fast early by posting “The White Male Initiative For Worldcon 76” [Internet Archive link] on his blog.

I, Jon Del Arroz, the leading Hispanic voice in science fiction, will review submissions and select recipients.  Please keep your statements under 500 words. I may ask follow-up questions, however.  If you’re a professional, links to examples of your work would be helpful.

We realize that marginalized majority groups have felt reticent about joining us, and understandably so. But we need more representation from the white male community in science fiction fandom! Bring it!

(13) WHO BROKE THE BANK? That wasn’t the only post JDA published today. Another tells how his plan to abandon Patreon has come a cropper – “The Biggest News Story You’ll Never Hear: Big Tech Strikes At Finances Of Political Opponents” [Internet Archive link].

As you know, I urged my fans and friends who are supporting this blog and my fiction work on a subscription basis to switch their pledges from Patreon to Freestartr because Patreon was removing right wing political commentators over their content.

This weekend, Freestartr was shut down by Stripe, the collections company used to process credit card transactions– a company set up as a paypal alternative because the latter was already known for trying to deplatform right wing personalities through demonetizing. From their website:

FreeStartr currently has lost the ability to collect funds for our creators. CEO Charles C. Johnson’s comments can be found here.

(14) REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY. Wouldn’t The Verge have done more to discourage people from buying this by ignoring it altogether, instead of cleverly badmouthing it? Survey says – Yes! “This unlicensed Harry Potter battery pack makes a bad pun out of an even worse product”. (Wait, was this frame actually written by the same guy who introduced the last two Scroll items?)

If you’ve read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — which I generally assume is most of the global population — you’re probably familiar with the Elder Wand, a powerful wand wielded by both Dumbledore and the dark wizard Voldemort over the course of the series.

The CELLder Wand is not the Elder Wand. Where one is a fictional, legendary magical artifact of ultimate power, the CELLder wand is a Kickstarter campaign for a possibly fictional hunk of plastic that surrounds a fairly ordinary 3,200 mAh USB battery pack.

(15) ABOVE AND BEYOND. Gizmodo enthuses: “This Video Made From Real Mars Data Will Make You Feel Like You’re Flying Over the Red Planet”.

There are lots of incredible things you can do with data. Like make this incredible animation of the Martian surface, for example.

This animation is the latest from visual artist Seán Doran, using real data taken by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (MRO) Of course, it’s not actual video footage, and required a lot of processing to achieve the realistic effect. But it does give the exciting impression that one is flying just above the Martian surface.

 

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “DIY–Behind the Scenes” on Vimeo explains how an animated film is made.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/16/18 And I Awoke And Found Me Here On The Scrolled Pixelside

(1) DOUG JONES’ NEW GIG. GeekTyrant points to the first installment of an sf video series premiering on Dust’s YouTube channel: “Dust Created a Cool 1930’s Sci-Fi Noir Series AUTOMATION with Doug Jones; Watch the First Episode Now!”.

In an alternate 1930’s Prohibition-era New York City, it’s not liquor that is outlawed but the future production of highly sentient robots known as automatons. Automata follows former NYPD detective turned private eye Sam Regal and his incredibly smart automaton partner, Carl Swangee. Together, they work to solve the case and understand each other in this dystopian America. Putting a science ?ction twist on the classic hard-boiled detective drama, Automata explores a dystopian alternative version of Prohibition-era New York City, similarly shaped by moral panic even though the alcohol ?ows freely here. In this universe, Prohibition doesn’t ban drinking, but the further production of sapient androids that have become prevalent by the 1920s. As a result, the existing androids, called automatons, are shunned by society, relegated to an untouchable caste of servants despite their near-human thought capability, and are frequently subjected to hatred and violence. It’s in this oppressive setting that human private detective Sam Regal (Basil Harris, “Grimm”) and his automaton partner Carl Swangee (Doug Jones, The Shape of Water) work together to solve cases for both communities, learning to see humanity in one another while trying to prove that justice is still worth serving.

 

(2) WILDERNESS TREK. Who doesn’t want one of these? Lost at E Minor introduces the world to “A tent that looks like a Star Trek shuttlecraft for all your camping missions”.

Canadian designer Dave Delisle, of Dave’s Geeky Ideas, has come up with a concept tent that resembles a Star Trek Federation shuttlecraft.

The two-person tent, though not able to travel to other galaxies, allows Trekkies to go on their ‘away missions’.

It features a hull that looks like the real spacecraft, with an entrance at the back. When you want to stow it away, the tent can easily fit inside one of its thrusters.

(3) I’M LOSING IT HERE. RedWombat strikes a blow for artistic freedom. The thread starts here.

(4) TECH VIRTUOSO. Ursula V’s Twitter stream is also where I found this:

(5) SPFBO 2018. Mark Lawrence, who announced the 2017 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off winner just the other day, wasted no time cranking up the next round of the contest:  SPFBO 2018 – A call to authors.

This is the call for authors wanting to enter books for the fourth Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off.

The contest will be open for entries until August 1st or when 300 titles have been entered, whichever comes first.

If 250+ titles are not gathered by August 1st the contest will be deferred for a year. I have no idea if there is a limit to how many years we can gather 250+ new self-published fantasy book 1s.

So far they have 101 entries. These bloggers will review and rate the submissions.

(6) ESSENTIAL SF. Factor Daily directs you to “Something for everyone: 5 essential science fiction anthologies you must read”. Don’t panic – only the first two were published over 30 years ago….

If you’re someone with a passing interest in science fiction who’d like to know the genre better or would like to experience all the many splendours it has to offer without having to read 300-page novels, one of the best ways is through an anthology. If you’re a hardcore science fiction reader who wants to discover new authors or get deeper into the genre’s history and trends, one of the best ways is through an anthology.

Here then, are five essential science fiction anthologies that will appeal to – and are recommended for – both, the seasoned sci-fi fan, and the casual reader who’d really like to know what the big fuss about science fiction really is. Whatever it is that you’re looking for – spaceships and robots, interstellar travel or the future of humankind, feminist stories, swashbuckling adventures, stories about love and loss, funny stories, stories to make you ponder, about politics, economics, about culture(s), stories about the future that are really a commentary on our present, stories about technology done right, of technology gone wrong – they’re all in here, and then some….

(7) QUICK SIPS. Charles Payseur’s Quick Sip Reviews catches up with “Strange Horizons 06/04/2018 & 06/11/2018 “.

The first two weeks of June’s Strange Horizons brings a pair of stories and a pair of poems. The fiction is a mix of fantasies, one with magic and ghosts and monsters and the other with a looser grasp on reality. Both feature characters charged with watching over a space through. For one, it’s through elaborate ritual. For the other, it’s by house sitting. In both, there’s a feeling of something being trapped, of something being infested, and of the characters having been wronged. The poetry deals with myths, with mythical creatures, and with longing and endings and beginnings. And all together it makes for a rather lovely but haunting collection of short SFF. To the reviews!

(8) SHORT ORDER. What screens ahead of Incredibles 2? (Besides half an hour of trailers, I mean….) Something that left an NPR interviewer impressed: “In Pixar’s First Female-Directed Short, A Dumpling Child Fills An Empty Nest”.

Moviegoers sitting down to see Incredibles 2 are in for a tasty treat in the form of an animated short called Bao. It tells the story of an empty nester who discovers joy — and sorrow — when a steamed bun she makes comes to life.

The story is pulled from the childhood of Domee Shi, who wrote and directed the Pixar film. Shi was born in China and raised in Toronto. She started working at Pixar as an intern in 2011, and now she’s the first woman to direct a Pixar short.

Pixar and the larger animation industry have been criticized for shutting female animators out of top jobs, but Shi says that culture is changing.

“You’re just seeing this gradual shift in the industry because, before, animation was predominantly white and male, but now in animation schools all over the country enrollment is now over 50 percent female. … I think just more and more girls are just getting into animation. And I hope that we’re going to see those numbers be reflected in the industry and not just in the animation schools.”

(NPR interviewed Shi before the announcement that Pixar’s co-founder, John Lasseter, would be leaving the company. Lasseter had been absent since November, when allegations of sexual harrassment surfaced.)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

On this day in 1960, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho has its world premiere in New York. Did you know: Paramount gave Hitchcock a very small budget to work with, because of their distaste with the source material. They also deferred most of the net profits to Hitchcock, thinking the film would fail.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born June 16 – John Cho, 46. Sulu in Star Trek, Star Trek into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond. First genre role appears to on Charmed, other shows includes Static Shock, Star Trek and Batman video games, Flashforward and the current season of The Exorcist.

(11) TIMOTHY THE TALKING CAT AND SUSAN THE TRICERATOPS. Camestros Felapton’s “The Bortsworth Mysteries: The Case of the Shifting Genre”, soon to be winning indie book awards near you….

“Wake up!” said Timothy the Talking Cat, a highly intelligent cat with a piercing intellect who was looking very dapper that bright morning in a yellow bow tie that deftly coordinated with his purple, velvety fur.

“I am awake,” said Susan.

“It is so hard to tell because you sleep standing up and also last night I painted eyes on your eyelids which was funny at the time but now I regret because when you close your eyes it looks like you are staring at me in a really angry way like you are about to stomp on me,” replied Timothy loquaciously (who was briefly surprised that of all the words the meat robot hadn’t spelt incorrectly “loquaciously” was one of them).

(12) HARDWICK UNPLUGGED.  “AMC Silences Chris Hardwick Talk Show & Comic-Con Panels After Abuse Claims”. Deadline quotes Hardwick’s denial, and speculates about the fate of his as-yet-unaired TV work.

A day after allegations of emotional abuse and sexual assault were leveled against Chris Hardwick by an ex-girlfriend, AMC has decided today to officially pull the plug on their long time host’s talk show and appearances at San Diego Comic-Con next month.

“We have had a positive working relationship with Chris Hardwick for many years,” said the home of The Walking Dead in a statement on Saturday, one day before Season 2 of Talking With Chris Hardwick was set to debut. “We take the troubling allegations that surfaced yesterday very seriously. While we assess the situation, Talking with Chris Hardwick will not air on AMC, and Chris has decided to step aside from moderating planned AMC and BBC America panels at Comic-Con International in San Diego next month.” …

(13) ERRATA. Locus Online’s item “Jemisin Wins 2018 BoBi” repeats Publishers Weekly’s mistake – the portion in quotes:

N.K. Jemisin will receive the annual Best of Brooklyn (BoBi) Award, and “is the first author of speculative fiction to win the BoBi.”

I omitted the quote when that news was reported in yesterday’s Scroll because the original Brooklyn Book Festival press release lists two authors of speculative fiction among the previous winners —

… Past honorees have included Colson Whitehead, Jacqueline Woodson, Jonathan Lethem, James McBride, Lois Lowry and Pete Hamill.

It’s still a fine honor for Jemisin.

(14) FREE READ. Stephen Lawson’s Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award winner “Homunculus” has been posted on the Baen Books website.

The yellow-orange tholin haze above Titan’s surface whirled around the chassis of a lighter-than-air research drone. A tiny carbon-fiber humanoid robot sat perched on its support structure, dangling his feet next to the drone’s camera as it took pictures of the rocky surface below. The dirigible, designed to carry sampling probes and communication equipment, barely registered the stowaway’s mass. Folded aramid-fiber wings fluttered on aluminum ribs on the bot’s back as the breeze swept over the drone’s chassis….

(15) EXPLORING FAN PHOTOS. Andrew Porter has been working on identifying people in the Jay Kay Klein photos posted by the UC/Cal/Riverside Collection. He sent out links to some of his finds —

(16) CLARKE LITERARY BIO. Gary Westfahl’s book Arthur C. Clarke will be published by the University of Illinois Press in July.

Already renowned for his science fiction and scientific nonfiction, Arthur C. Clarke became the world’s most famous science fiction writer after the success of 2001: A Space Odyssey. He then produced novels like Rendezvous with Rama and The Fountains of Paradise that many regard as his finest works.

Gary Westfahl closely examines Clarke’s remarkable career, ranging from his forgotten juvenilia to the passages he completed for a final novel, The Last Theorem. As Westfahl explains, Clarke’s science fiction offered original perspectives on subjects like new inventions, space travel, humanity’s destiny, alien encounters, the undersea world, and religion. While not inclined to mysticism, Clarke necessarily employed mystical language to describe the fantastic achievements of advanced aliens and future humans. Westfahl also contradicts the common perception that Clarke’s characters were bland and underdeveloped, arguing that these reticent, solitary individuals, who avoid conventional relationships, represent his most significant prediction of the future, as they embody the increasingly common lifestyle of people in the twenty-first century.

Westfahl, formerly of the University of La Verne and the University of California, Riverside, has now retired to focus exclusively on research and writing. His many books on science fiction include William Gibson and Hugo Gernsback and the Century of Science Fiction

(17) FEATHERED NERD RANKINGS. Joe Sherry’s “Reading the Hugos: Short Story” puts this one somewhere in the middle of his ballot.

“Fandom for Robots”: So, the original sentient AI discovers fan fiction and gets involved in the fandom for the anime Hyperdimension Warp Record. On its surface, “Fandom for Robots” is exactly what it seems to be – an AI learning about fandom, about shipping characters, about writing fan fiction and commenting on other stories. But, I wonder, is there a point here where Prasad is also talking about how fanfiction gives a greater opportunity to marginalized people to see themselves in stories where they are otherwise excluded? Is Prasad telling a story about how fanfiction can build community and inclusion?

“Fandom for Robots” was a lot of fun to read, but it’s a better story when I’m reading a bit deeper into what message may be baked into an otherwise basic story of an AI discovering fanfiction.

(18) PANDORA PREVIEW. The official Disney blog takes fans inside the technology: “Pandora – The World of Avatar Time Capsule: Imagineers Create the Most Advanced Audio-Animatronics Figure, the Shaman of Songs for Na’vi River Journey”

Guests can encounter the Shaman of Songs inside Na’vi River Journey, after they board a boat and are whisked away on an immersive journey deep into a bioluminescent rainforest on Pandora. There, the Shaman of Songs sits, sending positive energy out into the forest through the power of her movements and music.

But bringing her to life required the Imagineering/LEI project team to not only apply the latest technologies in robotics, but also develop an estimated 20 new technologies to bring this figure to life. The goal was to make the figure’s tech as hidden as possible, to make the shaman as lifelike as possible.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And a dragon!

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 5/12/18 Don’t Pixel Under The Kitten-Tree With Anyscroll Else But Me

(1) PLUG PULLED ON GAMING CON. The Dark Carnival Games convention in Denver was shut down by the hotel this weekend. Violence between some people on the premises seems to have been the cause – for example, see this video of a fight that purportedly occurred there.

Trae Dorn explains one of the con’s unusual characteristics in his post at Nerd & Tie.

Dark Carnival Games Con (or “Dark Carnival Game Con” according to some of the other official materials) isn’t exactly your typical gaming convention. It’s a game convention for Juggalos hosted by the Insane Clown Posse themselves.

In fact, after the shutdown, Insane Clown Posse issued a statement on Facebook:

…Juggalos…we love you. We appreciate you. And we acknowledge all your wonderful work and creativity in making DCG a Dark Carnival blessed and beautiful space that was truly For Juggalos, By Juggalos. However, due to circumstances that are beyond our control, the DCG Con Conventiion Hall has been shut down, to the tears and heartbreak of our wonderful 100% Juggalo-run staff and amazing attendees who put their hearts and souls into making this space for our beloved Juggalo Family. This was COMPLETELY out of our hands, ninjas. We here at Psychopathic Records apologize and we are with you, we will be here in the hotel, and we love you more than you will ever know….

(2) ARE CODES OF CONDUCT WORKING? Alisa Krasnostein has made available the results of her “Audit of Australian Science Fiction convention Codes of Conduct”. Her survey received 81 responses. Analysis and graphs at the link.

Executive Summary

After personally hearing recounts of a few very troubling incidents, I decided to conduct a survey of attendees at Australian SF conventions to assess the prevalence of harassment still being experienced there….

…Drilling down into the details of how these codes of conduct are being enforced, and how complaints are being addressed, raised some real issues for concern.

The successful enforcement of a code of conduct relies on a reporting process that is well publicised, accessible, supportive, safe and trusted.

Only 85% of the respondents were aware of the code of conduct. 70% knew whom to approach for assistance as per the code of conduct. All three of the main SF conventions inform attendees to report any incidents of harassment to the convention committee. Swancon includes WASFF board members as a point of contact. Only one of the conventions tells attendees how to identify these points of contact (by the colour of their con badge).

I find this to be grossly insufficient. It relies on convention attendees to know not only the names but also match them to the faces of organisers of the event they are attending, and to be able to locate them during a personally stressful or distressing time. Additionally, in my experience, both as a convention attendee and organiser, convention committee members are incredibly busy and not remotely accessible at the best of times. Let alone when you need a quiet and private moment to lodge an upsetting complaint….

(3) AS IF MILLONS OF VOICES SUDDENLY CRIED OUT. Inverse reports “That pesky Obi-Wan Kenobi movie might actually be happening” — “Obi-Wan ‘Star Wars’ Movie Rumored to Be in Secret Pre-Production”.

Since August of 2017, persistent rumors have suggested that a standalone Star Wars movie about Obi-Wan Kenobi, and starring Ewan McGregor is definitely going to happen. However, since then, there has been no official confirmation from Lucasfilm about this project. But, on Thursday, the day of the early Los Angeles premiere of Solo: A Star Wars Story, a new rumor surfaced that the Obi-Wan movie is already in secret pre-production.

…[A]ccording to an anonymous source who spoke to Fantha Tracks on Thursday, “The project is sufficiently along that an art department is now in full pre-production mode at Pinewood Studios, England…A number of concept artists, prop modelers, and storyboard artists are working as a team across the two locations on the film…”

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman says don’t miss a chance to  chow down on chive dumplings with Mary SanGiovanni in Episode 66 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast. Scott adds, “Warning: The post — though not the episode itself — include video of me strumming ‘Monster Mash’ on the ukulele!” Hm, I better see if my liability insurance covers that….

Did you listen to the 24-hour Scares That Care Telethon, hosted by Brian Keene and his cohorts from The Horror Show with Brian Keene podcast, which ended at noon today after having raised $21,591 for that 501c3 charity devoted to helping those coping with childhood illness, burns and breast cancer? If not, don’t worry. Because though its content was for the most part livestreamed only, never to be seen or heard again, I’ve got some of it for you right here.

Because once again, Eating the Fantastic invaded!

During last year’s telethon, as captured in Episode 34, I brought BBQ and chatted with that best-selling zombie author himself, while this year I picked up takeout from Viet Thai Cafe for dinner with Mary SanGiovanni.

Mary’s the author of The Hollower trilogy, the first volume of which was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, plus the recent novels Chills and Savage Woods. Her collections include Under Cover of Night, A Darkling Plain, and Night Moves. She’s also the host of the Cosmic Shenanigans podcast.

We discussed H. P. Lovecraft’s racism and sexuality (or lack thereof), how having grown up in New Jersey might have given her the toughness she needed to survive her early short story rejections, why she ended up writing horror instead of science fiction even though her father read her Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert when she was a kid, which novella she wrote that will never see the light of day, how watching The Exorcist III changed her life, why she’s no longer afraid of vampires, the reason her motto if she founded a religious cult would be “doorways are meant to be opened,” the first writer she met who treated her like an equal, the identify of “the George Carlin of Horror,” and much, much more.

(5) PREFERRED BOOKSTORES. N. K. Jemisin contributed to Lonely Planet’s list: “11 authors recommend US bookstores worth traveling for”.

WORD Books in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Recommended by NK Jemisin, author of The Stone Sky

WORD Books in Greenpoint is probably my current favorite. It’s tiny and cramped, yet they consistently manage to have at least one book that I absolutely HAVE to buy, every time I go there. And the downstairs event space makes up for the tight fit upstairs; I had the launch party for The Fifth Season there and it was lovely. There was even enough room for a homemade volcano! And readings, and talks and more. It’s on a gorgeous street with historic architecture and a little park, easily bike-able or train-able. All they lack is a bookstore cat. Why don’t bookstores do those anymore? Oh, allergies. Well, it’s perfect except for that.

(6) BUD PLANT OUT. One of the San Diego Comic-Con giants is going away: “Comic-Con Pioneer Vendor, Bud Plant, Calls it Quits After 48 Years”.

“I’m proud that we had as many as 11 booths up until 2008, 10 of new products and one with out-of-print material,” he said. “But since that disastrous year, when sales dropped by 40 percent, we’ve been downsizing in an effort to still make it work.”

Francis “Bud” Plant, 66, of Grass Valley noted how he spent “seven full days on the road” and 13-hour days at the annual July show.

He said event organizers had always treated him well, but “attendees these days are, in general, not our customers or they are not looking for books.”

(7) WHO’S WHO IN EOFANDOM. Fanac.org posted a scan of L.D. Broyles’ “1961 Who’s Who #1”. Lots of fans you never heard of before, I betcha. However, I did pretty well on page 4 – recognized 5 out of 9 fans listed, including Greg Benford and Ruth Berman. You might be intrigued by Roger Ebert’s entry, from before he made the big time —

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 12, 1988 Earth Girls Are Easy premiered on this day.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) WE INTERRUPT THIS WAKE… After Syfy cancelled The Expanse The Verge’s Andrew Liptak found a way to soften the blow: “The Expanse author James S.A. Corey is writing a new space opera trilogy”.

Coming off of this morning’s news that the Syfy channel was not going to renew The Expanse for a fourth season, there is some positive news for fans of the series: Orbit Books has announced that it has signed Expanse author James S.A. Corey for three books of a new space opera series.

Corey is actually two authors: Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who co-wrote The Expanse series, which is expected to run for nine novels, the last of which will hit bookstores in 2019. That series has become a popular hit with readers and was adapted as a television show on the Syfy channel that premiered in 2015 with Abraham and Franck as producers. The duo have written outside of the series before: they wrote a Star Wars novel about Han Solo in 2014, Honor Among Thieves. Abraham tells The Verge that Orbit is where James S.A. Corey really began, and I’m delighted that we have another projected queued up with them once The Expanse is complete.”

(11) DISNEY WORLD’S HOTTEST ATTRACTION – FOR ONE DAY. Syfy Wire has videos and stills — “WATCH: Maleficent the dragon bursts into flames during Disney World parade”.

We all know that dragons are supposed to breathe fire, not catch fire. Well,  Maleficent never got that memo.

Friday afternoon, during the Festival of Fantasy parade at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, an enormous animatronic float of Maleficent in dragon form caught fire. The fire occurred when the dragon arrived in Liberty Square, with about 15 minutes remaining in the parade. No one was injured, and the fire was extinguished quickly.

 

(12) A PENNY FOR YOUR VIKING THOUGHTS. Atlas Obscura delves into “The Mystery of Maine’s Viking Penny”.

On February 6, 1979, Kolbjørn Skaare, a Norwegian numismatist with a tall, wide forehead, walked into the Maine State Museum to see the coin. Just a few years earlier, he had published Coins and Coinage in Viking-Age Norway, a doctoral thesis that grew from the decade-plus he had spent as a keeper at the University of Oslo’s Coin Cabinet. The first specialist to examine the coin in person, he had just a day with it before Bruce J. Bourque, the museum’s lead archaeologist, had to address the national press.

Skaare saw “a dark-grey, fragmentary piece,” he later wrote. It had not been found whole, and the coin had continued to shed tiny bits since it was first weighed. A little less than two-thirds of an inch in diameter, it had a cross on one side, with two horizontal lines, and on the other side “an animal-like figure in a rather barbarous design,” with a curved throat and hair like a horse’s mane. In his opinion, it was an authentic Norwegian penny from the second half of the 11th century.

The mystery centered on its journey from Norway to Maine. It was possible to imagine, for example, that it had traveled through the hands of traders, from farther up the Atlantic coast, where Norse explorer Leif Eriksson was known to have built a winter camp. If the coin had come to America in the more recent decades, the hoaxer—presumably Mellgren, Runge, or someone playing a trick on them—must have been able to obtain a medieval Norse coin.

(13) FAMILIAR FIGURE. Here’s something else in silver that’s come from the mint a little more recently…. The New Zealand Mint has just introduced its very first Star Trek pure silver miniature: “Captain Kirk Takes the Silver”.

3D master sculptor Alejandro Pereira Ezcurra designed the Kirk miniature, which is available now in a limited worldwide production of only 1,000 casts. Produced from a minimum of 150g pure silver, it stands approx 10cm tall, is finished with an antique polish, and features a unique production number stamped into the base.

 

They want US$550 for the Captain. The New Zealand Mint is also offering some less expensive silver Trek collectibles. There’s a series of coin notes with images of the Classic Trek crew. Who knew the day would come when money would be issued with Lt. Uhura on one side and Queen Elizabeth II on the other?

Made from 5g of pure silver, the note’s reverse has images of Uhura and the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 and is coloured and engraved with Star Trek themes.

The obverse features the Ian Rank-Broadley effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and is legal tender in Niue.

(14) REPOPULATION TROPE. Wired headline: “How Hard Could It Be to Repopulate the Planet?” Editor Gordon Van Gelder addresses repopulating the Earth stories (including his collection Go Forth and Multiply), John W. Campbell, and much more in an episode of Wired’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy.

In the 1950s many science fiction writers explored the idea of a global disaster that leaves behind only a single man and woman, who would then have to carry on the human race. According to science fiction editor Gordon Van Gelder, a popular variant of this idea featured a twist ending in which the last man and woman turn out to be Adam and Eve.

“It was one of those stories that science fiction would lend itself to so readily, and newbies would be drawn to it, like ants going to a sugar cube,” Van Gelder says in Episode 308 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

The idea became so overused that magazines would specifically prohibit writers from submitting “Adam and Eve stories.” And while such stories would remain the bane of science fiction editors for decades, the theme of repopulation also produced a number of interesting thought experiments, many of which Van Gelder collected in his recent book Go Forth and Multiply. He says that despite obvious concerns about inbreeding, the idea of one man and one woman repopulating the world isn’t impossible.

(15) SWIMMING THE CHANNELS. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie says, “Unless you have one of those new-fangled colour television things with auto-record, this Thursday 9 p.m. gives us Brit SF fans a tough choice.” At that hour they have to pick between —

  • Channel 4 the new season of Humans:

  • Or BBC4 and the French SF series Missions:

(16) WHIRLYBIRD. BBC reports “NASA will send helicopter to Mars to test otherworldly flight”.

The Mars Helicopter will be bundled with the US space agency’s Mars rover when it launches in 2020.

Its design team spent more than four years shrinking a working helicopter to “the size of a softball” and cutting its weight to 1.8kg (4lbs).

It is specifically designed to fly in the atmosphere of Mars, which is 100 times thinner than Earth’s.

(17) WHERE DINOS TROD. In case you hadn’t heard, some people are idiots: “Utah tourists urged to stop throwing dinosaur tracks in lake”.

Visitors to a US state park in Utah have been destroying 200 million-year-old dinosaur tracks by throwing them into the water, park officials say.

While this has been an ongoing problem for many years, officials say the damaging behaviour has increased dramatically in the last six months.

The dinosaur tracks are one of the biggest draws to Red Fleet State Park and many have been irrevocably damaged.

Visitors have been throwing the tracks around as if they were merely rocks.

(18) USING SPACE. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna, in “Here’s why 2018 is a huge moment in the history of political cartoons”, studies the work of such prize-winning political cartoonists as Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, and Jen Sorensen and finds they are more like multi-panel comics than they used to be.

Many veteran political cartoonists occasionally create longer-form comics, but traditionally that work hasn’t garnered the mainstream awards. Now, formal recognition is catching up to both changing technology and new pools of talent.

“Without the space constraints print always had,” Sutton notes of drawing in an online era, “the number of panels in a cartoon is no longer the pressing issue it once was” — so more cartoonists can diversify their formats.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Destino:  Walt Disney & Salvador Dali (1945-2003)” is a short animated film on YouTube begun by Salvador Dali in 1945 and abandoned and ultimately completed by Disney in 2003.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Errolwi, Michael J. Walsh. Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Scott Edelman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day Andrew and Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 4/4/18 Scroll Me, Ray Pixelbury

(1) SFWA GIVERS FUNDRAISER. The SFWA charity auctions resume April 5. All auction proceeds will be earmarked for the SFWA Givers Fund which is used to disperse grants to deserving applicants, along with bolstering the existing Emergency Medical (EMF) and Legal Funds.

Available items this month include:

  • Gerrold Manuscript: The Thing on the Shelf
  • Gerrold Manuscript: The Bag Lady
  • Stewie as Robin T-shirt
  • Cooking Out of This World
  • 13th Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror signed by Ellen Datlow Advance Reading Copy
  • Signed Advance Reading Copy The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
  • Autographed copy of This Island Earth by Raymond F. Jones
  • Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman ARC
  • Sands of Mars by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Lord Valentine’s Castle by Robert Silverberg ARC

The bidding will begin April 5 on — : Ebay.com/usr/sfwa65

To learn more about the SFWA Givers Fund and what it supports, visit sfwa.org/donate. If you have items you would like to donate for future SFWA Charity Auction fundraisers, please contact Steven H Silver at steven.silver@sfwa.org for more information.

(2) PIERCE BROWN IN HUNGARY. The author will be coming to the International Book Festival in Budpest, a visit heralded by the English-language profile — “Interview: Pierce Brown – April 2018”

Pierce Brown, author of Red Rising, Golden Son, Morning Star and Iron Gold, is going to visit Hungary soon, during the 25th International Book Festival Budapest. (You can read more about the visit and the related events here.)

Due to this occasion, we discussed sci-fi and writing, meritocracy and graphic novels with him: interview by Dominik Szabó. Many thanks to Ferenc Benk? for the translation. Photo by Joan Allen.

I imagine Iron Gold to be the elaboration on the most difficult questions of Morning Star (What happens after the fighting ends? Who will rebuild the world?), not to mention that the Hungarian title (Years of Chaos) holds out little hope… Am I right if I say that you’re not a writer who prefers “happily ever after”-stories?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I don’t enjoy happy endings. I think some stories resound because of their happy endings, while some stories would be disingenuous if they ended on anything less than a bitter note.

The Red Rising world has always been defined by its shades of grey, rather than its black and white depiction of conflict. That is why I thought it appropriate to explore the inconvenient questions of what happens after Morning Star.

(3) ART PIRACY DISCOVERED. Westercon 72 chair Kate Hatcher apologized for using some art at their publicity tables the vendor did not have rights to:

As chair of Westercon 72, and the NASFiC Bid for 2019, I need to right a wrong concerning artwork and our fan tables. It was brought to our attention a tapestry purchased through rosegal.com that we used as decoration, is a piece of artwork which was illegally obtained by the manufacturer, according to the artist. Vetting of the company was not enough. It is troubling on a level I can’t express, how widespread the image is in over 650 sites, and the depth that purchasing needs to be checked to protect artists worldwide.

What I can do is express my regret at using this image and remove it from our systems. I also reached out through ASFA (The Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists) to the artist, Kazuhiko Nakamura, to let him know of the infraction and apologize as well for its use. I hope that the Science Fiction Community can continue to work together to inform and shut down pirated artwork, which has become a monumental problem far beyond what I understood.

I will continue with tools and information given me from ASFA and local artists to work better on this issue, inform our committee, and collaborate to protect artwork rights and expand awareness of this at our event (s).

(4) A SUIT AND TWO PAIR OF PANTS. If it’s successful, sue them. Variety reports “‘Stranger Things’ Creators Accused of Plagiarizing From ‘Montauk’ Short Film”. Of course, that’s because there tends to be no point in hiring lawyers to sue a money-loser.

The director of “Montauk,” a six-minute film about an incident on a Long Island beach, filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing the creators of “Stranger Things” of ripping off the idea.

Charlie Kessler says he made the short film in 2012 as a teaser for a feature film to be called “The Montauk Project.” He alleges that he pitched the idea to Matt and Ross Duffer, the co-creators of the Netflix sci-fi hit, when they met at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2014. Kessler says the idea went nowhere at the time, but the Duffer brothers used it as the germ for “Stranger Things,” which debuted in 2016.

The Duffer brothers’ attorney, Alex Kohner, issued a statement on Wednesday, calling the claim “completely meritless.”

“He had no connection to the creation or development of ‘Stranger Things,’” Kohner wrote. “The Duffer Brothers have neither seen Mr. Kessler’s short film nor discussed any project with him. This is just an attempt to profit from other people’s creativity and hard work.”

(5) JOEY YU SELECTED. Walter Jon Williams announced the winner of the Terran Prize.

The 2018 Terran Prize, founded by George R.R. Martin and consisting of a full tuition scholarship to the Taos Toolbox master class for writers of science fiction and fantasy, has been awarded to Joey Yu.

Joey Yu was born in Taipei, educated in Vancouver, and now works in Shanghai as a freelance creator.  He is the author of several novels published in Chinese, including The Sunlight Trilogy of futuristic fantasy novels, The Mirrored Truth, and The Locus, which won the Excellence Award of the Taiwan Fantasy Foundation.

(6) LONE STAR. Nnedi Okorafor will appear at Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio, TX on April 10.

(7) OUT TO LAUNCH. Hear Sam J. Miller in conversation with N.K. Jemisin at Miller’s Blackfish City Book Launch in Brooklyn in April 24. The event will run from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm at The Powerhouse Arena (28 Adams Street). Click for more information.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY IRON MAN

  • Born April 4 – Robert Downey, Jr.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) POSTCARD FROM MOUNT TBR. Lots of sf readers know how you feel:

(11) FEAST FOR THE EARS. Scott Edelman invites listeners to “Polish off Portuguese in Providence” with Victor LaValle in episode 63 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Victor LaValle

My story “That Perilous Stuff” was up against his “The Ballad of Black Tom” for a Bram Stoker Award in the Long Fiction category last year, and it was such a powerful piece of work, I was sure he was going to win. Well, neither of us won, but that doesn’t make his story any less amazing. In fact, it’s so amazing AMC recently announced it’s planning a TV adaptation, with LaValle as co-executive producer. Among his critically acclaimed novels are Big Machine—which won the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel in 2009, the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, plus an American Book Award in 2010—and The Changeling—which was selected as one of 2017’s ten best books by the New York Public Library.

We stole away on the Friday night of StokerCon for O Dinis, one of the many Portuguese restaurants in Rhode Island, which I’ve been told contains the largest Portuguese-American population in the United States. I was extremely impressed with the restaurant. The food was delicious, and our server took great care of us, making us feel like part of a family, as if we were in someone’s home, not a restaurant. It was my favorite food experience of the weekend, and I’ll definitely try to return the next time I’m in Providence. Their hospitality was much appreciated!

We discussed the lunch during which his editor and publisher helped make The Changeling a better book, the graphic novel which made him fall in love with the X-Men, which magazine sent him the best rejection letter he ever received, why reading Clive Barker’s “Midnight Meat Train” for the first time was glorious, the differing reactions his readers have depending on whether they come from genre or literary backgrounds, the unusual way a short story collection became his first publication, why he was so uncertain of his critically acclaimed “The Ballad of Black Tom” that he almost published it online for free, the reason so many writers are suddenly reassessing H. P. Lovecraft, how his graphic novel The Destroyer came to be, and much more.

(12) CONJUGATION. Today’s lesson:

(13) NEW FAKE NEWS TECH. You heard it yourself? Of course you did. “Can You Believe Your Own Ears? With New ‘Fake News’ Tech, Not Necessarily”.
Soon, we might not be able to believe our own ears.

New technologies for creating faked audio are evolving quickly in the era of active information campaigns and their use of “fake news.”

This has serious repercussions for politics: Influence-mongers could create fake clips of politicians to undermine them — or politicians could deny they said things they were really recorded saying, calling it fake audio.

A Montreal startup called Lyrebird has released a product which allows users to create an audio clip of anyone saying anything. Here’s the company using a fake clip of former President Barack Obama to market their technology.

(14) ANOTHER TOLKIEN BOOK? And speaking of…. This post is dated March 31, but some have cast doubt on it as an April Fool: The Tolkien Society reports another new Tolkien book is coming in August. For what it’s worth —

Keen-eyed Tolkien fans have discovered that some bookseller sites are advertising the release of a new Tolkien book later this year.

Two days ago the book was simply listed as Untitled, so there was some speculation amongst fans as to what the subject matter was, and if indeed it was a genuine new title.

Just as with Beren and Lúthien which was published on 1 June 2017, The Fall of Gondolin, is reported to be written by J.R.R. Tolkien, and edited by Christopher Tolkien.

The news has taken many people by surprise, because in the introduction of Beren and Lúthien, Christopher Tolkien gave a strong hint that that was likely to be his final contribution.

According to Amazon the book is reported (which they still list as Untitled) to be 304 pages in length, and is due to be published on 23 August 2018.  The book is advertised to be published both as a hardback and as a deluxe slipcased version.  Amazon also mentions the simultaneous publication of a large-type version.  However, Book Depository, which does include the name of the book, has 1 August as publication day.

(15) EXTREME EMPATHY. A real-world case of the peak of The Stars My Destination, “The Man with English”, etc.: “The doctor who really feels his patients’ pain”.

Joel Salinas rushes in to the hospital bathroom and throws up until he’s dry heaving. Washing his face, the third-year medical student stares at his pale reflection in the mirror and wills himself to live.

He doesn’t know it yet, but Salinas has a condition called mirror-touch synaesthesia. Any time he sees someone experience pain, or even just the sense of touch, his brain recreates the sensations in his own body. And on this day in 2008 he has just watched someone die.

“Someone had a cardiac arrest and it completely caught me off guard,” he says.

“I saw them getting chest compressions and I could feel my back on the linoleum floor and the compressions on my own chest. I felt the breathing tube scraping down the back of my throat.”

When the patient was declared dead 30 minutes later Salinas experienced an “eerie silence”.

(16) SAMPLING THE WARES. Rowan Atkinson returns in Johnny English Strikes Again. Teaser today, full trailer tomorrow.

JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN is the third installment of the Johnny English comedy series, with Rowan Atkinson returning as the much loved accidental secret agent. The new adventure begins when a cyber-attack reveals the identity of all active undercover agents in Britain, leaving Johnny English as the secret service’s last hope. Called out of retirement, English dives head first into action with the mission to find the mastermind hacker. As a man with few skills and analogue methods, Johnny English must overcome the challenges of modern technology to make this mission a success.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 4/3/18 You Got The Jong Number For That Pixel Scroll

(1) WHEN TROLLS ATTACK. The London Film and Comic Con told readers how they responded to a trolling attack.

Now to an important activity that really did affect us last week and it did catch us out for a few hours until we worked out what was going down.

Two days before the most recent big announcement, 15 new accounts were created on our forum and equally, multiple new Facebook members with brand new accounts started following our Facebook page. Then, on the announcement night, the users of these accounts started to aggressively and negatively comment and undermine the guest announcement. This was the ONLY thing they were set up to achieve.

This was not noticed by us at first and it took some time to look into these Facebook accounts. As we started to look a little closer, it was clear that we’d attracted a small vocal minority with a real and cynical agenda to purely undermine the guest announcement and belittle any fans or attendees showing any type of excitement.

I’ve since learnt this is known as ‘TrollJacking’, where internet trolls post or comment on a piece of content or an announcement to drum up negativity or just to damage the purpose of the thread. What a lovely thing to do.

This is something very new to us and it really did catch us out, in fact so much so we left the comments up online – as we believe in freedom of speech and opinion and there’s always the odd bit of negativity with every update or announcement.

To all the true fans out there, regardless of whether you are happy about the announcement or not – I am sorry that we did not pick up on it sooner and allowed this minority to cause friction at a time that should have been a time for great excitement and discussion for everyone….

This announcement on Facebook about the appearance of Christopher Eccleston seems to have been the target.

(2) CORALINE MEANING. The Guardian interviews Gaiman about the opera based on his book: “Neil Gaiman on Coraline the terrifying opera: ‘Being brave means being scared'”.

The button eyes are a macabre touch that places Gaiman’s story firmly in the Grimms’ Fairy Tales tradition. And there’s more than a touch of Hansel and Gretel in Coraline’s themes of parental abandonment, an initially appealing but evil mother figure, and a brave child who conquers her fears to win the day. “I’d wanted to write a story for my daughters,” says Gaiman in the introduction to the 10th-anniversary edition, “that told them something I wished I’d known when I was a boy: that being brave doesn’t mean you aren’t scared. Being brave means you are scared, really scared, badly scared, and you do the right thing anyway.”

(3) A NIGHT AT THE OPERA. And The Guardian comments on the performance: “Coraline review – creepy adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s tale will turn kids on to opera”.

The Royal Opera have certainly done it proud. The supernatural rubs shoulders with the mundane in Aletta Collins’s production, in which the two worlds are placed back to back as mirror images on a revolving stage. Magic consultants Richard Wiseman and David Britland have been drafted in to provide the special effects, which drew gasps from the audience on occasion on opening night, though Collins also has a knack of suggesting unease by the simplest of means. The scene in which Kitty Whately’s Other Mother produces syringes and surgical needles in an attempt to sew buttons over the eyes of Mary Bevan’s Coraline (“just a little incision under your eyelids”) had me squirming in my seat.

(4) DUFF. SF Site News covered the Down Under Fan Fund result:

Marlee Jane Ward won DUFF (the Down Under Fan Fund) in an unopposed race. She will travel to the US to attend Worldcon 76, to be held in San Jose from August 16-20….

(5) ALPHABET SOUP. James Davis Nicoll returns with: “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1970s, Part IV”. This time letter letters I and J, which include –

Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones was prolific and talented, which makes singling out a particular work as a starting point especially problematic. The fact she’s the subject of one of my review projects doesn’t help, as it only expands the number of worthy candidates. Although it is a bit of a cheat, what I would recommend is not a single novel but an omnibus: 2003’s The Dalemark Quartet. It is composed of four early secondary-world fantasy novels that recount the history of troubled Dalemark, from its age of legends to a quasi-medieval period thousands of years later.

(6) MLK. On the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death, here is N. K. Jemisin’s contribution to CNN’s post “Who is Martin Luther King Jr. to us, 50 years later?”

N.K. Jemisin: I pray it won’t take another 50 years

In 1963, as Martin Luther King Jr. sat in solitary confinement in Birmingham, he lamented the failures of white moderates, who at the time seemed to prefer “a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

It must have seemed clear to King that even white people who claim to support equality are unreliable allies — willing to talk the talk and walk a few steps, but only if their own anxieties are put first.

Which is why the civil rights movement made what progress it did by effectively shaming white moderates into doing the right thing. This makes me wonder what America is to do in 2018, when our society daily endures a shameless embarrassment of a President, abetted by his shameless party and the shameless media — and when, too often, some white liberals and moderates openly wonder if there’s some way to ease tension between themselves and … fascists.

I have no solutions to offer, other than to survive and to try and help as many others survive as possible. It saddens me that we’ve progressed so little in the 50 years since King’s death. I pray it won’t take another 50 years for all of us to know the presence of justice at last.

N.K. Jemisin is an author of speculative fiction. In 2016, she became the first black to win the Hugo Award for best novel for “The Fifth Season.” In 2017, she won Hugo for best novel again, for “The Obelisk Gate.”

(7) EXPANSE. The next Expanse novel will be out in December – Tiamat’s Wrath.

(8) THEY’LL BE BACK. The Hollywood Reporter brings word: “‘Riverdale,’ ‘Flash,’ ‘Supernatural’ Among 10 CW Renewals”.

The CW, fresh off news that it is expanding to a sixth night of originals for the 2018-19 broadcast season, has renewed nearly its entire lineup.

Returning for additional seasons are: Arrow, Black Lightning, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Legends of Tomorrow, Dynasty, The Flash, Jane the Virgin, Riverdale, Supergirl and Supernatural.

Still to be determined are the fates of midseason fare The 100, iZombie and Life Sentence and fall debut Valor. Official decisions on those four — as well as The CW’s new series orders — will be determined in May.

(9) FIGURING IT OUT. NPR’s Glen Weldon finds both style and substance in “‘Legion,’ Season 2: Welcome Back To The Weirdest Corner Of The Marvel Universe”.

Legion is the story of David Haller (a perpetually rumpled and vaguely confused Dan Stevens), the world’s most powerful mutant, who’s now free of the evil psychic parasite known only as the Shadow King, who last season assumed the form of his friend Lenny, played by Aubrey Plaza. David’s grown up believing himself to be schizophrenic, but came to realize his true nature when he was taken in by an organization seeking to train him — and to fight the Shadow King, who is in fact an ancient being known as Amahl Farouk (played, this season, by Navid Negahban).

(10) BEWARE SPOILERS. Martin Morse Wooster tells me, “Since you are having more troubles with computers I offer a show recap” —

Last night’s episode of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow began with a scene captioned ‘OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE–1979,”  The camera zooms in on the back of an African-American student’s head.  The student, suing an Olympia manual typewriter, dutifully types, “Obama.Political Science 100.”  We know that this scence is about Barack Obama when he was a freshman in college.  Obama looks out the window and sees a campus in springtime.

As the future president is typing, the window is smashed and a giant paw GRABS the president and holds him high in the air!  It is Grodd the gorilla, and he’s on a mission.

‘IT’S TIME TO MAKE AMERICA GRODD AGAIN!,” the beast thunders,

Fortuntately the Legends of Tomorrow show up and Grodd drops Obama, who runs off.  The Legends then blast the beast with flamethrowers, then shrink him and throw him in a Mason jar.  The future president then decides to party with the Legends on their time ship.  He holds out a hand to one of the women, saying, “Hi, my name is Barry.”  “You should call yourself ‘Barack,’ ” she responds.  Another woman swoons, “I miss you, Barry!”

I wish I could tell you how Obama gets back to California and somehow doesn’t remember how he was nearly killed by a giant talking ape and then partied with some time lords.  But this is the first of a two-part episode, so we will learn these answers next week

(11) SKYE STOMPERS. Why are the : “Dinosaur tracks on Skye ‘globally important'”? They date to the Middle Jurassic, for which there’s relatively little data.

Most of the prints were made by long-necked sauropods – which stood up to 2m (6.5ft) tall – and by theropods, which were the older cousins of Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Researchers measured, photographed and analysed about 50 footprints in a tidal area at Brothers’ Point – Rubha nam Brathairean – a headland on Skye’s Trotternish peninsula.

The footprints were difficult to study owing to tidal conditions, the impact of weathering and changes to the landscape but the scientists identified two trackways in addition to many isolated footprints.

(12) SMUGGLE BY WIRE. TeleCrunch reports “Chinese police foil drone-flying phone smugglers at Hong Kong border”:

Dozens of high-tech phone smugglers have been apprehended by Chinese police, who twigged to the scheme to send refurbished iPhones into the country from Hong Kong via drone — but not the way you might think.

China’s Legal Daily reported the news (and Reuters noted shortly after) following a police press conference; it’s apparently the first cross-border drone-based smuggling case, so likely of considerable interest.

Although the methods used by the smugglers aren’t described, a picture emerges from the details. Critically, in addition to the drones themselves, which look like DJI models with dark coverings, police collected some long wires — more than 600 feet long.

…So here’s what you do:

Send the drone over once with all cable attached. Confederates on the other side attach the cable to a fixed point, say 10 or 15 feet off the ground. Drone flies back unraveling the cable, and lands some distance onto the Hong Kong side. Smugglers attach a package of 10 phones to the cable with a carabiner, and the drone flies straight up. When the cable reaches a certain tension, the package slides down the cable, clearing the fence. The drone descends, and you repeat.

I’ve created a highly professional diagram to illustrate this technique (feel free to reuse):

(13) READ BUHLERT. Cora Buhlert has some new work available — “A Triple New Release and Some Thoughts on Cozy Space Opera”.

I have an announcement of my own to make. And it’s a big announcement, because I have not one but three new In Love and War stories to announce, two short stories and one short novel.

The first of the two short stories isn’t quite that new, because it has been available as part of the anthology The Guardian for a while now. However, if you want a standalone edition, here is your chance.

Like Dreaming of the Stars and Graveyard Shift, Baptism of Fire is a prequel to the In Love and War series proper, though it is listed as Part 2 at most vendors, because they don’t support prequels very well.

(14) BLOOM. The singer of “F*** Me Ray Bradbury” continues her TV career as someone who is late.

Rachel Bloom of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fame will be heading over to another CW show when she guest stars on an upcoming episode of iZombie.

Bloom will be portraying a “pretentious theater actor” whose death is investigated by iZombie’s Liv (Rose McIver) and Clive (Malcolm Goodwin), TV Line reported.

(15) GOING GREEN. The 2019 Worldcon committee wishes to apprise you of the availability of the “Finest Public Toilet in Dublin”. Or “Where All the Big Lads Hang Out…” as the post’s author Pádraig Ó Méalóid says:

It’s the middle of August 2019, and you’re in Dublin for Worldcon – a Stranger, if not in a Strange Land, at least in a strange city. A strange city with many secrets, which sometimes only the locals truly know about. You’ve heard all about our native literary giants – George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, and Flann O’Brien, to name but three – but even they were only human, prey to the wants and needs that mortal flesh is heir to. It’s only natural that you’ll want to know where they would have gone, and where you could go, too. So let me introduce you to one of the hidden architectural gems of my native city: the beautiful public toilets in the National Library of Ireland….

(16) GOING PINK. You could win this outfit and fight cancer —

Enter to win Deadpool’s Pink Suit and Send a Big F-You to Cancer at https://fox.co/DeadpoolPinkSuitYT Learn more about Fuck Cancer at https://LetsFCancer.com

 

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

Pixel Scroll 2/6/18 If Only The Contents Matched The Packaging

(1) WITH ADDED SHARKE. New Shadow Clarke juror Gary K. Wolfe gives his opening statement in “Conversations in a Noisy Room: Introducing Gary K. Wolfe”.

I initially came to SF criticism through academia, where matters of grace and clarity are not always the highest priority. My earliest publications were in scholarly journals or with university presses, at a time when everyone seemed enamored of structuralism as a theoretical model. (A few years later, of course, we escaped that cage, only to find everyone equally enamored of post-structuralism.) It was essentially a grammar of analysis and taxonomy, modeled largely on the language of the social sciences, and to the extent that it was evaluative at all, it was mostly in passing. It was also a language marvelously well-suited to disguising thinness of thought.

Then I was invited to begin writing for a now defunct magazine, Fantasy Review, for a very different kind of audience.  What models I had for SF criticism consisted of those early volumes by Damon Knight, James Blish, and even Kingsley Amis, and the succession of remarkable reviewers in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction – Judith Merril, Joanna Russ, Algis Budrys, and others. Budrys became a kind of mentor in my shift toward real-world reviewing and criticism. We disagreed a lot, but he showed me that while my opinions might be worthwhile, they were a lot more worthwhile if they had solid reasoning behind them, and if they described a context for the works under discussion….

(2) BEST SERIES. Now that voting has opened for Hugo nominations, keep in mind JJ’s tool: “Best Series Hugo: Eligible Series from 2017” and discussion thread.

To assist Hugo nominators, listed below are the series believed to be eligible as of this writing for the 2018 Best Series Hugo….

OTHER AIDS. JJ is also curating —

(3) BEST SERIES CAVILS. Martin P. advocates that voters impose additional criteria beyond the rules: “On the Hugo Award for Best Series”

…However, just because something can’t be legislated doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be kept in mind while nominating and voting. The standard I intend to apply is that to be worthy of a Best Series Hugo, a story must be fully satisfying even if no other installments are ever published. This does not necessarily mean a story must be conclusively over. For instance, while I can certainly imagine new installments in the Vorkosigan Saga, last year’s winner in the award’s trial run (and if Lois McMaster Bujold wants to write them I’d happily read them), my enjoyment of the series will not be diminished if Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen is ultimately the final installment. But I don’t think a series that is clearly incomplete is award-worthy, and I’m not inclined to grant credit for future work. Everybody can think of a series that started strong and then went off the rails. I’m not comfortable coming back in the future and saying “this received the Best Series Award but you need to ignore its conclusion”. I don’t even love new books getting a “Hugo-Nominated [or Hugo Winning] Series” stamp from their publisher when the Hugo electorate hasn’t had a chance to read the book yet, although I recognize that marketers are going to pull that kind of thing regardless.

I do not intend to nominate any series that does not meet this criteria, and I urge others to do likewise. I will also likely rank any clearly incomplete series nominated below No Award, although I might consider a series whose final installment is published in 2018 before the voting deadline, as such a series would be ineligible for future nomination. And yes, I fully anticipate that I will rank something I quite like below No Award.

…While it might be difficult to find satisfactory completed series every year, N. K. Jemisin’s exceptional Broken Earth trilogy is eligible for the 2018 Best Series Hugo. I’m nominating it. If you haven’t read it, I highly encourage you to do so.

(4) THANKS BUT NO THANKS. Despite endorsements like Martin P’s, author N.K. Jemisin, in “Hugo Nomination Rumination”, wants Hugo voters to leave her trilogy out when nominating in the Best Series category.

As I’ve mentioned on social media, I only have two works eligible for awards nomination from 2017: The Stone Sky, and my Uncanny short story Henosis. Last year was tough, so I didn’t get much writing done. I’m sure a lot of you can relate.

But since people have asked for my thoughts on this… Please, if you’re going to nominate The Stone Sky in any form, do so in the Novel category, rather than nominating the whole Broken Earth trilogy for Series. I mean, I can’t stop you from nominating it however you like — but let me point out, if you didn’t know, that The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate have both won Hugos already. This is awesome, but in my eyes, it simply wouldn’t be fair for those books to effectively get a second bite at the apple in the Series category. That this possibility exists has always been a potential problem of the category, IMO.

And here’s the thing: I understand that some folks believe I’d have a better chance at scoring a third Hugo in the Series category. I’m super-grateful to those of you who think about stuff like this, but as someone who never expected to get even one Hugo… y’all, I’m okay either way. If TSS doesn’t get nominated or win in the Novel category, and some other deserving work does win, then so be it. TSS is a New York Times and Locus bestseller and the series has been picked up for a TV show; I’m doin’ all right by most other measures. I’m not going to pretend I wouldn’t squee my head off if I won Hugo #3 at any point, but there won’t be any tears in my beer if I lose, either. (If for no other reason than that I don’t drink beer.)

(5) JUICY RUMORS. Been suffering from a lack of A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones gossip? Reddit’s ASOIAF discussion group delivered a spicy serving today.

(6) YET ANOTHER STAR WARS SERIES.  With Thrones creators D&D’s work on their HBO series ending, the pair have hooked up with Disney to make more Star Wars movies — “‘Game of Thrones’ Creators to Write, Produce New ‘Star Wars’ Series of Films”.

Game of Thrones” creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are going to write and produce a new series of “Star Wars” films, Disney announced on Tuesday.

The new series will be separate from the main episodic Skywalker saga that started with “Star Wars: A New Hope” and is slated to wrap up with 2019’s “Star Wars: Episode IX.” It will also exist independently from a Rian Johnson-helmed series that was announced last year.

“David and Dan are some of the best storytellers working today,” said Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, in a statement. “Their command of complex characters, depth of story and richness of mythology will break new ground and boldly push Star Wars in ways I find incredibly exciting.”

It also comes at a time of transition for Benioff and Weiss. “Game of Thrones,” their sprawling fantasy epic, will end its run on HBO in 2019.

(7) KEEPING READER TRUST. Sandra M. Odell shares tips on “Building The Disabled World” at the SFWA Blog,

I love intricate, detailed worldbuilding; it’s the backbone of science fiction and fantasy stories, even those set in the modern era.  Sadly, few things make me stop reading faster than the realization that a writer gave more thought to the description of a meal than they did to the how or why an accommodation for a character with disabilities came to be in a story. Inclusion and representation matter, and so do the supports that allow an individual with disabilities to interact with a writer’s world. You don’t need to include every last detail about the world on the page, but there should be enough detail and consistency in the presentation that I can trust that you know what you’re talking about.

When creating a world where individuals with disabilities play a role, you should answer four basic questions…

(8) CLOVERFIELD. Netflix put up The Cloverfield Paradox on Sunday. The trailer —

Yahoo! Entertainment has a spoiler-filled discussion: “How Does ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ Fit With the Other Two ‘Cloverfield’ Movies?”

One of the bigger developments of Super Bowl Sunday, aside from the game itself being outstanding, was the news that “The Cloverfield Paradox” (previously known as “The God Particle”) would be surprise  dropping on Netflix right after the game. It was a genius move from a marketing standpoint — the number of folks who watched the movie Sunday night probably far exceeded what the movie would have done at the box office. But now that we’ve seen it, it’s left a bunch of us scratching our heads.

Looper also has analysis (video) —

The Cloverfield movie-verse has now officially expanded into some wild new territory. Netflix surprised fans of the sci-fi film series by dropping the third installment, The Cloverfield Paradox, on Super Bowl Sunday without warning. Like the first two films, Cloverfield 3 offers a new perspective on why all of those giant monsters have appeared on Earth. If you haven’t seen it yet, you might want to click away now because we’re about to take a deep dive into outer space…

 

(9) CONAN UP THE AMAZON WITHOUT A PADDLE. According to Deadline, “Conan the Barbarian TV Series In Works At Amazon From Ryan Condal, Miguel Sapochnik & Warren Littlefield”.

Amazon is developing drama series Conan, based on the books by Robert E. Howard, Deadline has learned. The project hails from Colony co-creator Ryan Condal, Game of Thrones director Miguel SapochnikFargo and The Handmaid’s Tale executive producer Warren Littlefield, Pathfinder Media and Endeavor Content.

Created and written by Condal, Conan retells the classic character’s story via a return to his literary origins. Driven out of his tribal homelands, Conan wanders the mysterious and treacherous world of civilization where he searches for purpose in a place that rejects him as a mindless savage….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 6, 1947 – Eric Flint

(11) SALUTE TO THE BIRTHDAY BOY. At Black  Gate, Steven H Silver continues his series – “Birthday Reviews: Eric Flint’s ‘Portraits’”:

“Portraits” first appeared in The Grantville Gazette, an online magazine tied to Flint’s 1632 series, which allows various authors to discuss the setting and try their hand at fiction. When Baen decided to publish hard copies of some of the articles and stories, “Portraits” was reprinted as the first story in Grantville Gazette Volume I (2004) and provided the volume with its cover art. It was subsequently reprinted in Flint’s collection Worlds.

“Portraits” tells the story of Anne Jefferson, an American nurse posing for the Flemish artist Pieter Paul Rubens. The story assumes knowledge of the 1632 situation and characters Flint introduced three years earlier. This is a story which relies on its published context to be fully appreciated.

(12) LISTEN UP. Marvel New Media and top podcast listening service Stitcher have released the trailer for Wolverine: The Long Night. The 10-episode series airs weekly beginning March 12, 2018 exclusively on Stitcher Premium. It will see a wide release across all podcast platforms in fall 2018.

Listen to the trailer for Wolverine: The Long Night” here: www.WolverinePodcast.com

The “Wolverine: The Long Night” story is a captivating hybrid of mystery and the larger-scale fantasy of the Marvel Universe. It follows agents Sally Pierce (Celia Keenan-Bolger) and Tad Marshall (Ato Essandoh) as they arrive in the fictional town of Burns, Alaska, to investigate a series of murders and quickly discover the town lives in fear of a serial killer. The agents team up with deputy Bobby Reid (Andrew Keenan-Bolger) to investigate their main suspect, Logan (Richard Armitage). Their search leads them on a fox hunt through the mysterious and corrupt town.

(13) FALCON HEAVY. It worked: “Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy rocket launches successfully”. As of the time the BBC posted this article, two of the three first-stages were known to have detached and landed safely. They were still awaiting news of the third, which was making a sea landing.

It is designed to deliver a maximum payload to low-Earth orbit of 64 tonnes – the equivalent of putting five London double-decker buses in space.

Such performance is slightly more than double that of the world’s next most powerful rocket, the Delta IV Heavy – but at one third of the cost, says Mr Musk.

For this experimental and uncertain mission, however, he decided on a much smaller and whimsical payload – his old cherry-red Tesla sports car.

A space-suited mannequin was strapped in the driver’s seat, and the radio set to play David Bowie’s classic hit Space Oddity on a loop.

…Two came back to touchdown zones on the Florida coast just south of Kennedy; the third booster was due to settle on a drone ship stationed several hundred kilometres out at sea.

During the launch, the video signal from the drone ship was lost, so the fate of the third booster is not yet clear.

(14) FRESH CYBERPUNK. Speculiction’s Jesse Hudson finds a winner: “Review of Graft by Matt Hill”

Cyberpunk is now roughly forty years old.  With relevant works from writers like James Tiptree Jr. and John Brunner appearing in the 60s and 70s, it coalesced into a recognizable trend in the early 80s—the four decades since having seen a full exploration of the idea of ‘cyberpunk’ through hundreds of stories and books.  Thus, in 2016, how does a writer do something original with the form?  With its imagery and characters, settings and ideas well established, there is probably only one way: deliver unique prose combined with a competent package.  Matt Hill, in his 2016 Graft, does precisely this….

(15) SPEAKER TO ALIENS. At Quick Sip Reviews, Charles Payseur delivers “Quick Sips – Lightspeed #93″, reviews of four stories, including —

“Four-Point Affective Calibration” by Bogi Takács (1450 words)

No Spoilers: A person must undergo a special kind of mental exercise to calibrate a machine that might allow them to communicate with aliens. The piece dissects emotions and the supposed universality of certain “core” emotions, as well as looks at the idea of expectation, immigration, and appearance. Quick but dense with hope, fear, and the barriers of language.
Keywords: Aliens, Emotions, Transcript, Non-binary MC, Immigration, Communication
Review: For me, this story hinges on understanding and communication. The piece is framed as a transcript of a sort of mental calibration—part test, part measurement to set a baseline to allow the narrator to communicate with aliens. I many ways, though, I feel like the communication with the aliens isn’t the most important relationship being explored. Or, I guess I mean, what I keep getting out of the story is that for the narrator, it’s not communicating with the aliens that seems fraught or difficult—it’s communicating with other humans. Because of the barriers that humans erect between each other in order to try and ease communication, but in practice make things much more difficult for many people, especially those who don’t fit in well enough, for whom the burden of communication and understanding is always on appeasing the dominant voices, the dominant empathies. For the narrator, this seems another way that they have to grapple with ideas, “core” emotions, that they might not feel the same as others—because they are autistic, because they aren’t a cisgender person. These things that people take for granted the narrator cannot, nor do they react to this central frustration in the ways that people expect, in ways that are expected of them. And it’s a short but very complex and moving story about the hazards and difficulties of communicating, and of being understood. That there is this frantic kicking of thoughts, worries, fears, just under the surface of the narrator’s thoughts, laid bare here by this test in the hopes that they’ll be able to have this opportunity, to be allowed to have a conversation that excites them. It’s a wonderful read!

(16) SHIMMER PROGRAM. Another Chinese story in translation is available at Clarkesworld.

(17) ANSWER WITH A QUESTION. Steven H Silver reports this was “a triple stumper” on today’s Jeopardy!

(18) FOR SALE. Mel Hunter’s original art “Lunar landscape,” which appeared on the cover of the June 1960 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (with small painted rocket ships superimposed on the landscape), is offered by Illustration House. It is expected to bring $3,000-$4,000.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Nothing to do with sff whatsoever. Loved The Parking Lot Movie, recommend it highly. Here’s the trailer —

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