Pixel Scroll 8/1/18 For I Must Be Scrolling On, Now Cause There’s Too Many Pixels I’ve Got To See

(1) THE COCKY SOLUTION. The hydra sprouts a new head in the Authors Guild’s report on “Quantumgate: Son of Cockygate”.

The Cockygate case is close to resolution: the parties have entered into a settlement agreement and author Faleena Hopkins has filed a request with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to withdraw her “cocky” trademark. Other recent applications to register questionable trademarks for book series, however, do remain a matter of concern. A recent misinformed attempt to register a common book cover template (which is not a trademark under any interpretation of the law) was withdrawn after some backlash, thank goodness, but a recent application to register “Big” as a series title is still under review.

Now, another romance writer has applied to register the term “Quantum Series” in connection with her “series of fiction books.” When the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, became aware of this application, they approached the Authors Guild for assistance. We recommended counsel to SFWA, and Eleanor Lackman of the law firm Cowan, DeBaets Abrahams & Sheppard LLP is taking up the case by filing an opposition to the proposed trademark on behalf of SFWA member Douglas Phillips, who has his own “Quantum Series” of books”…

The Trademark Office clarified that the owner of a trademark in a book series title cannot use that trademark against single book titles. Since single titles cannot serve as trademarks, they also cannot infringe series title trademarks. So, if another author or a publisher ever tries to stop you from using a single book title because of their series trademark, you can tell them to take a hike. Only series titles can infringe another series title. [emphasis added]

(2) BELLA NOVELLA. Wired’s Jason Kehe applauds “The Rise of the Sci-Fi Novella: All The Imagination, None of the Burden”.

…The form, after all, honors the genre: The novella traces its origins to fairytales and morality plays. Proto-fantasies, basically. In that sense, Tolkien’s world-building was never native to the genre. He simply blew up the balloon.

A balloon which is now about to burst. More than ever, successful world-building seems to require of creators a transmedia commitment to spin-offs and prequels and various other increasingly extraneous tie-ins like comic books and card games. Consumers are rightly overwhelmed. The joy of the sci-fi novella, by contrast, is in its one-off-ness, its collapsed space, its enforced incapaciousness. Authors can’t indulge family trees or maps; they must purify their storytelling. One or two main characters. A single three-act quest. Stark, sensible rules. (And no Starks.)

Containment need not mean compromise. In many cases, spareness heightens prose. My favorite of Tor’s wide-ranging catalog is Kai Ashante Wilson’s A Taste of Honey, a stunning romance that unfolds on the shores of a remote god colony. Something like math poeticized, or poetry mathematized, at novel size the book would’ve gone down way too rich. At 158 pages, though? Practically perfect. Deadlier serious but no less compelling is Laurie Penny’s Everything Belongs to the Future, in which the rich can extend their youth by centuries while the poor age and die naturally. The paltry page count lets Penny, in full author-activist fervor, get away with punking up the familiar biotech premise. Plus, you can read it in one sitting, the way the good lords of lit intended.

(3) CLARKE WINNER’S NEW STORY. Paul Weimer weighs in about “Expectations of Genre: The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky” in a review for Tor.com.

This novella’s contribution to that conversation is that, in order to colonize distant alien planets already full of life, change, severe change, is needed. This puts The Expert System’s Brother into dialogue with novels such as Stephen Baxter’s Flux (where humans are altered to live on a neutron star) and James Blish’s Surface Tension. All of these stories explore the idea that in the end, it is not easy to change people to survive and thrive on alien planets. There are severe costs and consequences to doing so, to the point that those who do so might lose most of their connection to who and what they are. But those costs are absolutely payable, and are worth doing. We are never so much human as we are exploring, heading out there, and changing ourselves and reinventing ourselves to do so.

(4) OKORAFOR. A BBC profile: “Black Panther spin-off author Nnedi Okorafor’s African inspiration”.

…Okorafor’s journey as a writer began at 19. That year, she was paralysed from the waist down after an operation to correct scoliosis.

Distraught as she realised her budding athletic career would be cut short, Okorafor began writing short stories to occupy her time.

When she recovered, she took a creative-writing class at university.

Her rise in the world of speculative fiction was “gradual”, she says, mainly because no one knew how to place her work.

By the time she published her debut novel Zahrah the Windseeker in 2005, reviewers struggled to understand it, she says.

“It was young adult science fiction with Nigerian mysticism, blended with fantasy and written by a Nigerian American – I was confusing and many didn’t know how to read me.

“But over the years, the more I wrote, the more known I became. I was slowly somewhat understood, and thus enjoyed.”

(5) YOU COULD L**K IT UP. Laura Anne Gilman tells why research is a necessity in “A Meerkat Rants: History will F*ck You Up” at Book View Café.

Here’s the thing. I wrote urban fantasy for a long time .  A dozen+ books’ time, in fact.  Books set in New York, a city that I know reasonably well.  And I still had to pull out the map and get on the subway, and check shit out, to make sure I had my facts straight, because trust me, if I got it wrong, someone (probably many someones) would let me know.

As an aside, did you know that the underside of the Brooklyn Bridge is painted purple-ish?  Also, that if you start taking photos of the underside of a bridge, a cop may give you a very thorough side-eye?  Always bring your id and your business cards with you when you Research, kids.  Seriously.  I shit thee not.

But that’s fact-checking, Person with Opinion says.  That’s not research.  It’s all still made up.

At this point I usually stop to remind myself that the agency bail fund probably won’t cover even justifiable homicide, so I only ask my interrogator if they ever wrote a research paper in their lives, and if so how they gathered the material to do it.  If they say “Wikipedia,” I give up and drown my sorrows in whisky.

(6) A GRAIL-SHAPED ENDING. In The Hollywood Reporter: “Monty Python Archive Unveils Unused ‘Holy Grail’ Sketches”.

Michael Palin’s private archive, deposited at the British Library in London, is set to go on display to the public later this month, but The Times of London reports that its contents includes several major unseen scenes written by Palin and Terry Jones, his writing partner in the Monty Python group, whose other members included Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, John Cleese and Graham Chapman.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail famously ends abruptly when King Arthur (Chapman) is arrested by police just minutes before a final climactic battle. However, according to The Times, Palin’s draft scripts show that this decision was only made to cut costs, and that a mighty fight was due to take place between the knights of Camelot, the French and also the killer rabbit of Caerbannog (a much-loved character from a previous scene).

(7) COMPELLING CROWDFUNDING. Joe Stech has launched a Kickstarter to fund Compelling Science Fiction: The First Collection, a hardcover print collection. The table of contents with 27 fantastic short stories by 24 authors is at the link. Swag is available for heftier pledges.

(8) MEXICANX INITIATIVE ANTHOLOGY. Fireside has set up a Kickstarter for the “Mexicanx Initiative Anthology”. They’ve already surpassed their $1,500 goal with pledges totaling $2,382 as of this writing.

Contributors include: José Luis Zárate, David Bowles, Julia Rios,  Felecia Caton Garcia, Iliana Vargas, Angela Lujan, Raquel Castro, Pepe Rojo, Alberto Chimal,  Gabriela Damián Miravete, Andrea Chapela, Verónica Murguía, Libia Brenda, and Richard Zela.

Our goal is to raise $1,600 to cover printing and shipping costs. Any funds raised above the goal will be split evenly among all the authors and artists who graciously donated their time and words. The anthology has been edited and laid out and features a beautiful cover by Mexicanx Initiative founder John Picacio.

We plan to print 200 copies of the anthology; 80 will be held for members of the Mexicanx Initiative and contributors, and 120 signed and/or numbered will be available as backer rewards. All copies will be brought to Worldcon 76 in San José, California, where they will be signed and available for pickup. If you are not attending Worldcon we will ship your copy and any other rewards you purchase.

(9) WORLDCON DOORS OPEN THESE HOURS.

(10) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

More than 80 million years separated the Stegosaurus from the Tyrannosaurus Rex. But the so-called Age of Mammals — which began when the non-avian dinosaurs were wiped out — has been going on for about 66 million years. This means that we are closer in time to the T-Rex than the T-Rex was from the Stegosaurus. [Source: Smithsonian Institute.]

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 1, 1971 — Charlton Heston as The Omega Man premiered in theatres

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 1 – Oona Laurence, 16 Celebrity Ghost Stories, a Penny Dreadful short and the animated Pete’s Dragon series. 
  • Born August 1 – Jack O’Connell, 28. Role in 300: Rise of An Empire, also Robot & Scarecrow, an animated short about a robot and a scarecrow (voiced by him) who fall in love at a summer music festival, and the lion in Jungleland which or may be not be based on an Asian theme park.
  • Born August 1 – Jason Momoa, 39. DCU as Aquaman in of course Aquaman, Justice League, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Khal Drogo in Games of Thrones, Conan in Conan the Barbarian and Ronon Dex in Stargate: Atlantis. 
  • Born August 1 – Sam Mendes, 53. Producer of Penny Dreadful, Shrek the Musical, and Stage Director for the tv version of Cabaret (“Which allows me to note how much i really, really like Leiber’s The Big Time novella,” says Cat Eldridge.)
  • Born August 1—John Carroll Lynch, 55. Considerable genre work starting with the Voice from the Grave horror series, and including The Visitor series as well as the Apollo lunar landing series From the Earth to the Moon, Star Trek: VoyagerCarnivàle, The Walking Dead and American Horror Story.

(13) BIRTHDAY KING. Steven H Silver’s August 1 celebrant is Ray Palmer – “Birthday Reviews: Raymond A. Palmer’s ‘Diagnosis’” at Black Gate.

Although Palmer wrote short stories and novels, he was best known as an editor. From 1938-1949, he edited Amazing Stories and from 1939-1949 he edited Fantastic Adventures as well for Ziff-Davis, resigning when they moved production from Chicago to New York. He formed his own company, Clark Publishing, and began publishing Other Worlds Science Stories from 1949 to 1957, during which time he also edited and published Fate Magazine, Universe Science Fiction, Mystic Magazine, Science Stories, and Space World. His assistant in the early 1950s, and often times credited co-editor, was Bea Mahaffey. Palmer is perhaps best remembered for publishing the fiction of Richard Shaver and promoting Shaver’s stories as non-fiction. In 1961, comic author Gardner Fox paid tribute to Palmer by using his name for the DC character the Atom.

Did you miss any? Silver has cataloged last month’s work — “Birthday Reviews: July Index”.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Sheldon does another cartoon profile on an early leader in the science fiction genre. Given the breadth of his work, he may have founded an empire!
  • At PvP, Scratch wants to adopt an heir – but can’t seem to get through to his prospect, a dedicated book reader –

July 30
July 31

(15) HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

(16) CATS SLEEP ON TWITTER. Claire O’Dell cuts out the middleman –

(17) HAYLEY ATWELL VISITED BRADBURY’S MARS. Nerdist lets you “Hear Derek Jacobi and Hayley Atwell Bring Ray Bradbury’s THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES to Life” (2017 post, but news to me!)

While the characters that Jacobi and Atwell are playing in this aural adaptation of The Martian Chronicles were arguably written as American, I somehow don’t think fans are going to hugely object to Captain Wilder and Spender suddenly sounding impeccably English (please don’t let me down by being petty, Internet).

(18) LEAVES HIS COMFORT ZONE. Sean Grigsby takes the challenge:

(19) BREWPRINT. It’s a rare piece of news that makes a person want to move out of the U.S. but not to Canada! From VinePair: “MAP: The Most Popular Beer In Every Country”.

Ed. Note on North America: Although Anheuser-Busch InBev still markets Budweiser as “the King of Beers,” in the U.S. Bud Light outsells Budweiser by a wide margin. Ironically, in Canada, where the company owns iconic local brand Labatt, the company has sold more Budweiser than any other brand for nearly a decade. In 2012, the Toronto Star published the article “‘Sniff of death’ taints iconic beer brands,” which provides analysis on how Budweiser came to be the best-selling beer in Canada.

(20) BESIEGING YOUR BANK ACCOUNT. As Seen On TV, as they say: “Game of Thrones castle can be yours for less than $1 million”.

If you’ve been bargain shopping for one of the Great Houses of Westeros, get ready for the deal of a lifetime.

Gosford Castle, a 19th-century country house in Northern Ireland that was used to portray the Riverrun castle on Game of Thrones, is for sale and accepting offers over £500,000 (or $656,452), according to its online listing.

Riverrun, first depicted in season 3 of the acclaimed series, is the former seat of House Tully, and the current lawful home to House Frey. While the castle itself is not often seen on the show, its occupation has long been the subject of strategic interest for the series’ main characters.

(21) SPACE OPERA PILOT. Robert Hewitt Wolfe of DS9 and Andromeda fame is doing something interesting on Twitter. Several years ago he wrote a pilot for a space opera on SyFy that would be called “Morningstar”. It ended up not being made. But under WGA rules he retains publishing rights, so he’s publishing the script for the pilot on Twitter, one page per day for 95 days. He’s already 2/3 of the way through. The thread begins here.

(22) SHARK JERKING. People used to do “Stupid Crook Reports” at LASFS meetings. This would have been prime material: “Shark kidnapped from Texas aquarium in baby’s pram”.

A shark disguised by thieves as a baby in a pram and abducted from a Texas aquarium has been found and returned.

The horn shark – called Miss Helen – “is in quarantine right now resting” and “is doing good so far”, San Antonio Aquarium said.

On Saturday, the shark was grabbed from an open pool by two men and a woman, then wrapped in a wet blanket and put in a bucket with a bleach solution.

The public helped track the thieves and one suspect is now in custody.

(23) NUMBER ONE. Marvel’s C.B. Cebulski introduces a new Captain Marvel comic book series.

Carol Danvers has been involved in some of the biggest adventures in the Marvel Universe…but in her new series, she’s going back to the basics with Margaret Stohl, Carlos Pacheco, and Marguerite Sauvage at the helm. Marvel is proud to present this behind-the-scenes look at THE LIFE OF CAPTAIN MARVEL #1, featuring Stohl and Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski! “This is a story about Carol Danvers. We’re taking Carol back to basics,” said Cebulski. “We hear that a lot, but this is something where we’re going to dance between the raindrops and find the secrets of Carol’s origins that are based in the roots of her family.” “It’s really a family story and it’s as much about the human instead of her as her Kree powers,” added Stohl.

 

(24) GET WOKE, GO FOR BROKE. ScreenRant ponders “What If Trump Was President When Captain America Was Woken Up?”

Before he was elected in 2016, Donald Trump had a small cameo appearance in New Avengers #47. In that comic, Trump failed to pull over to the side to let an ambulance go past, so Luke Cage gave him a hand by picking up his limousine and moving it out of the way. An irate Trump threatened to sue Luke, but then quickly thought better of it.

 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Danny Sichel, Paul Weimer, Michael O’Donnell, Dann, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day IanP.]

Pixel Scroll 7/18/18 Your Scroll Is Important To Us. Please Hold.

(1) OKORAFOR BRANCHES OUT. The Black Panther’s sister, Shuri, is getting her own comic series. Marvel’s press release says:

All hail Wakanda’s technological genius! As revealed exclusively on Bustle, Marvel is thrilled to announce that this fall, award winning author Nnedi Okorafor and Eisner-nominated artist Leonardo Romero (Hawkeye) will be bringing SHURI #1 to readers everywhere! And revealed for the first time, Marvel is excited to share the dazzling cover to issue #1 by industry-acclaimed artist, Sam Spratt, best known for his cover art work on Janelle Monae’s “Electric Lady.”

The world of Wakanda is facing a tragic crisis: Black Panther is lost in space, and everyone is looking at who will step up to lead their country in his absence. But Shuri is happier in a lab than she is on the throne…how does a princess choose between her duties to her country and her own ideals?

“Shuri is an African young woman of genius level intelligence who is obsessed with technology and has traveled spiritually so far into the past that she’s seen Wakanda before it was Wakanda,” Okorafor told Bustle in an interview. “The Ancestors call her Ancient Future. And she’s super ambitious. What do I love about her? Alllll that and more. She’s a character in the Marvel Universe who really sings to me.”

(2) OVERLORD TRAILER. J.J. Abrams’ zombie horror movie Overlord is in theaters November 9.

On the eve of D-Day, US paratroopers drop behind enemy lines, to infiltrate a small village. Unfortunately, they realize the Nazis are experimenting with supernatural forces to fight them.

 

(3) BATWOMAN ON THE WAY. SYFY Wire has two stories about the development of a Batwoman TV show to join the other DC Comics properties running on the CW network (the “Arrowverse”). CW is already the home of The FlashArrowLegends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl, with a tradition of doing a set of crossover episodes as an annual event since the 2014–2015 season. In “Batwoman TV Series in Development at the CW to Join the Arrowverse” some of the basics are discussed:

Vampire Diaries writer/producer Caroline Dries is locked in as a writer and producer on the project, along with Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, and Geoff Johns. To that end, the casting and tonal decisions made for the crossover event would likely carry over into a potential series. Think of it as one heck of a big backdoor pilot, basically.

That article also speculates on which version of Batgirl would be filmed, noting that the original 1956 character is not in the modern comics:

However, this iteration of the hero was wiped out of DC’s continuity during 1985’s seminal limited series, Crisis on Infinite Earths. Batwoman was reestablished into existence in 2006 in the form of Kate Kane, a Jewish LBGTQ character, one of the first-openly gay characters in the DC universe.

The story “Report: The CW Seeking Lesbian Actress With Open Ethnicity to Play Batwoman in Solo Series” pursues that aspect more thoroughly as well as sounding a cautionary note [emphasis added]:

TVLine is reporting the network has put out the call for an actress of any ethnicity who can play in the age range of 24-29, and that it’s looking for a lesbian for the role if possible. The right person would join scriptwriter and co-producer Caroline Dries (The Vampire Diaries) to develop the standalone Batwoman series. Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, and Geoff Johns are also co-producing.

News that The CW is eyeing Batwoman for the series treatment is still super-fresh, and it’s not guaranteed that her appearance in the crossover will lead directly to a green-lit show. If the network does move forward with Batwoman, the show is expected to debut sometime next year.

(4) SHAZAM! Yahoo! Entertainment reports Shazam! will be released April 5, 2019 — “Shazam! on EW’s special Comic-Con cover: ‘It’s Superman meets Big'”.

Zachary Levi throws off the perfect Shazam! pitch: “It’s Superman meets Big!” declares the affable former Chuck star who’s squeezing into a skin-tight suit to play what’s perhaps the ultimate daydream-come-true superhero across all of comic book lore: An ordinary 14-year-old kid named Billy Batson who can transform into a grown-up superhero with an array of heroic powers by uttering a single world (“Soundhound!” No wait: “Shazam!”) and then return to his regular self whenever he wants.

(5) THAT SOUND YOU HEARD. JJ read this tweet and squeed — “This is by the same guy who did The Silence space SF trilogy which I really loved last year (under pen name D. Nolan Clark).”

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 18, 1948 — James Faulkner, who played Mr. K in Martian Chronicles (TV edition in the US)
  • Born July 18 – Paul Verhoeven, 80. Director of RoboCop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers. Also Hollow Man which has a gratuitous nude scene fitting a man who responsible for Basic Instinct. Also Producer of the animated Starship Troopers series which is quite excellent. Writer for the apparently forthcoming RoboCop Returns film.
  • Born July 18 – Vin Diesel, 51. Guardians of The Galaxy (“I am Groot!”) and other MCU films, The Iron Giant, xXx and Chronicles of Riddick franchises and The Fifth Element.
  • Born July 18 – Kristen Bell, 38. The forthcoming animated Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, also DeadwoodFlatland: The Movie, Heroes and the Astro Boy franchise and iZombie.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • SJW credential tech in Arlo and Janis.
  • Fantasy tropes face retrenchment in Bizarro.
  • Something has two possible explanations, and since you’re reading this blog the odds are you’ll prefer Last Kiss’ second choice.

(8) MARKET REPORT. According to Yahoo! Finance, “Comic sales are down as readers abandon print”.

Comic book and graphic novel sales fell 6.5% in 2017 from a 2016 high of $1.015 billion. Graphic novels brought in $570 million while comic books brought in about $350 million.

A report posted to Comichron notes that comic stores are still the biggest source for revenue while $90 million is attributable to digital downloads.

“After a multiyear growth run, the comics shop market gave back some of its gains in 2017, with lackluster response to new periodical offerings and, consequently, graphic novel sales,” wrote Comichron’s John Jackson Miller. “The third quarter of 2017 saw the worst of the year-over-year declines, leading into what has turned out to be a stronger spring for stores in 2018.”

(9) THE OVERPRICE GUIDE. (Or so Bruce Pelz used to call it….) Heritage Auctions encourages comics collectors to “Download the Complete 2018-19 48th Edition Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide!” at a cost of $30.

In conjunction with the release of the book the new 2018-19, 48th edition of the electronic Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide is now available for immediate download! (Compatible with both Mac and PC!) No serious collector should be without an Overstreet, and this is even more true of the searchable electronic version. Available exclusively through Heritage Auctions, this new version is:

  • Alphabetically indexed
  • Searchable (by any keyword)

At a cost of only $30, this revolutionary new format is one of the best investments available in our hobby. Begin enjoying the benefits right now. Download your copy to your hard drive today.

(10) SEE IT FREE. On July 22 the community will get in free to the Dreaming the Universe sf exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of History.

(11) OWN BOND’S RIDE. Lego has come out with the official James Bond Aston Martin DB5 which you can make out of Lego elements.

(12) MORE LEGO CREATIONS. Here are a couple more cool projects, including a ferocious Lego SJW credential….

(13) DOUBLE PARKED. When Bob Shaw MC’d the Hugos in 1986, one of his humorous interludes involved a job assignment to write copy about a submarine prone to take “unplanned depth excursions.” “Spain’s new submarine ‘too big for its dock'”.

An attempt to deploy a new submarine for Spain’s navy has run aground again, after it emerged it cannot fit in its dock, Spanish media report.

The S-80 boat was redesigned at great expense after an earlier mistake meant it had problems floating, and it was lengthened to correct the issue.

Spanish newspaper El País now reports that after the changes, the docks at Cartagena can no longer fit the vessel….

The original problem with the submarine dates back to 2013, when it was discovered that it was about 100 tons heavier than it needed to be.

That caused a problem for its buoyancy – so it could submerge, but might not come back up again.

A former Spanish official told the Associated Press at the time that someone had put a decimal point in the wrong place, and “nobody paid attention to review the calculations”.

(14) BIG LIFTER. Clip of the An-124 in action: “Business booming for giant cargo planes”. Possibly highest capacity — internal crane, kneeling landing gear — what’s not to like?

$7tn of goods travel by air every year. Most goes in the hold of normal airliners. But for those big, awkward loads, something rather larger is required.

(15) TAKING A BITE OUT OF DEVELOPMENT. “Anne Rice’s ‘Vampire Chronicles’ Lands at Hulu”The Hollywood Reporter has the news.

Two years after being put into development, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles TV series has found a home.

In a competitive situation with multiple outlets pursuing the project, Hulu has landed Vampire Chronicles. The streamer, home to Emmy darling The Handmaid’s Tale, has put the drama into development.

Bryan Fuller, who boarded the Paramount Television and Anonymous Content effort as showrunner in January, exited the project six months ago. Fuller opted to step back rather than step on the toes of longtime friends Rice and her son, Christopher, who penned the original script. (Christopher is a four-time New York Times best-selling author and recipient of the Lambda Literary Award.)

Anne and Christopher Rice will executive produce the potential series, alongside Anonymous Content’s David Kanter and Steve Golin.

Paramount Television and Anonymous Content optioned the rights to 11 books from the Vampire Chronicles franchise back in April 2017. More than 100 million copies have been sold worldwide. Rice’s Interview With the Vampire was first published in 1976 and served as the basis for the 1994 feature of the same name starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst and Antonio Banderas.

(16) COURT RULES ON PARENT’S NOTE. Dear Judge, please excuse my boy from having the pants sued off him for thieving on the internet….. From Techspot we learn that a “Federal court says Epic can go ahead with its lawsuit against teen”.

Judge says mother’s letter does not establish a strong enough claim to dismiss…

According to TorrentFreak, most of the arguments put forth in the document were irrelevant because they failed to state a claim. The only complaint that held any water was whether or not C.R. could have entered into the EULA agreement.

Epic argued that minors cannot invalidate the terms of a contract while receiving the benefits of said contract. In other words, C.R. illegally misrepresented himself as an adult and is therefore still obligated to the contractual terms.

According to court rules, an accuser’s complaint holds more weight than a motion to dismiss. Judge Howard ruled that the letter from the mother was not enough to throw out the suit.

“As detailed in plaintiff’s response memorandum, defendant has not shown that the complaint fails to allege sufficient facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. [T]herefore, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, plaintiff has stated a plausible claim, and the motion to dismiss must be denied.”

The defendant now has two weeks to file a response to the complaint. Failing that, Epic can proceed to ask for a default judgment in the case.

(17) ENCHANTMENT UNDER THE SEA.  Deadline has the art: “‘Aquaman’ Poster Revealed: Jason Momoa Dives In To The Crowded DC Pool”

The film will have [a] Comic-Con panel this week, where director James Wan has said the fir.st trailer will be revealed. The initial footage shown at CinemaCon showed the undersea kingdom of Atlantis, replete with swimming fish people — some riding sea horses — and futuristic submarines. Aquaman is challenged by his brother (Patrick Wilson) for the throne, with Amber Heard’s Mera begging Aquaman, “Unless you help us, millions will die.”

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

Pixel Scroll 4/8/18 Do Not Go Pixel Out Of That Good Hive, Buzz, Buzz, Against The Flying Of The Five

(1) WALK / DON’T WALK. This not-quite-infinite series of variations on Le Guin’s famous story: “Once upon a time there was a city called Omelas, where everyone lived good and happy and fulfilling lives” is a hoot!

“…the best predictions of our scientists suggest that there will be a slight average decrease in various hard-to-measure kinds of happiness, which nevertheless in total adds up to more suffering than this child experiences.”
And Outis said to the elder, “I will have no part in this evil thing.” And he took the child and bathed him and cared for his wounds. And the average happiness increased in some ways and decreased in others, and the net effect might have been negative, but the best results on the matter had p > 0.05, so the scientists of Omelas could not rule out the null hypothesis.

(2) SUE ‘EM, DANNO. Dorothy Grant gives the rundown on a scam to inflate payments from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program in “Book stuffing, KU reads, and Amazon’s Doing Something” at Mad Genius Club.

While I would hope that everyone who reads this is interested in being a real author making up real stories that are your own, writing them down, and publishing them, we are all aware that there are scammers out there, and people who care more about the money, than acting ethically or the readers. We also know that Amazon has a habit of taking a wide swath of potential wrongdoers, then filtering out and restoring the innocent.

Yep, they’re doing it again.

  1. David Gaughran gave us the first heads-up on twitter that Amazon has filed suit against an author for book-stuffing.

Forbes article here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamrowe1/2018/04/07/amazon-has-filed-suit-to-stop-the-six-figure-book-stuffing-kindle-scam/#2af7a11b7344

Book stuffing is when authors take all their works and stuff them into the back of every other book to artificially inflate their page count. Some authors even stuff in newsletters: the goal is to inflate the page count as much as possible, and thus the payout on KU page reads.

(3) ATOMIC PILES OF LAUGHS. Scott Tobias profiles “artificial intelligence-assisted comedy” in “Can algorithms be funny? Veterans of Clickhole and the New Yorker team up to find out” at the Washington Post. What they do is put giant amounts of text into a computer and produce “interactive text collages.”  For example, they put all the Harry Potter novels into a computer and came up with a pastiche that said, “Ron’s ron shirt was just as bad as Ron itself.”  A lot of the weird pastiches they produce are sf.

Onstage at the Hideout, a small Chicago music club, two performers read passages from Civil War love letters. “Oh darling wife of the war,” one begins, “I shall always be a husband to you and the children and all the folks in our neighborhood.” He goes on to complain that “the boys from the army have taken my breakfast.” The news is worse back home. “Our horses are sadly on fire,” his wife laments. But they’re ever reunited, she promises, “I would kiss you as many times as there are stitches in the children.”

Rest assured, every word from these letters is authentic. It’s just that the words have been scrambled up by a computer algorithm and pieced back together, one by one, by writers with an ear for the absurd.

(4) WESTERCON BID NEWS. Seattle (SeaTac, using the same hotel as Norwescon) has formally filed what Kevin Standlee says is likely to be the only bid for the 2020 Westercon.

(5) REINCARNANIMATION. MovieWeb has learned that “Lucasfilm Has Digital Clones of Every Star Wars Actor”.

The digitally recreated Grand Moff Tarkin and Young Princess Leia in Rogue One were unsettling and creepy for some Star Wars fans. But that technology is almost two years old and only improving at an expedient rate. The next time an actor gets digitally inserted into a Star Wars movie, it’s gong to be a lot harder to tell the difference. And before long, the line will be completely burred. Soon, Lucasfilm and Disney could have the potential to create a whole Star Wars movie featuring an authentic young Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, which practical effects built around them. And this will be entirely possible, even for Carrie Fisher, as Lucasfilm has confirmed they have digital clones of all Star Wars actors both young and old.

Incredible, right? As of now, these digital clones are being used sparingly and are often mixed with live-action footage of the actor to create scenes that would be impossible to shoot or are deemed far to expensive to do practically. We’ve seen this with Tarkin and Leia in Rogue One, and we’ve also seen it in The Last Jedi, even if you didn’t know that’s what you were looking at.

(6) MCCANN OBIT. Chuck McCann died April 8 reports Mark Evanier. Much of his career revolved around children’s television, however, the Wikipedia recalls that he was in vogue as a TV/movie actor back in the Seventies —

In the 1970s, McCann’s life and career shifted west, and he relocated to Los Angeles. He made frequent guest appearances on network television shows including Little House on the Prairie, Bonanza, Columbo, The Rockford Files and The Bob Newhart Show. He appeared in the 1973 made-for-TV movie The Girl Most Likely to… and was a regular on Norman Lear’s All That Glitters.

In addition, he co-starred with Bob Denver in CBS’s Saturday-morning sitcom Far Out Space Nuts, which he co-created. The 1970s also brought him fame in a long-running series of commercials for Right Guard antiperspirant: he was the enthusiastic neighbor with the catch phrase “Hi, guy!” who appeared on the other side of a shared medicine cabinet, opposite actor Bill Fiore.

McCann impersonated Oliver Hardy in commercials for various products (teaming with Jim MacGeorge as Stan Laurel),

John King Tarpinian sent along a photo of McCann meeting Ray Bradbury.

Ray Bradbury and Chuck McCann

If you want to see his act, watch “Chuck McCann & Dick Van Dyke as Laurel & Hardy & The Honeymooners.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born April 8, 1974 – Nnedi Okorafor

(8) CANDLES ON THE CAKE. Steven H Silver celebrates Okorafor’s natal day at Black Gate in “Birthday Reviews: Nnedi Okorafor’s ‘Bakasi Man’”.

Nnedi Okorafor was born on April 8, 1974.

Okorafor won her first Carl Brandon Award for the novel The Shadow Speaker and she won the Carl Brandon Award and the World Fantasy Award for her novel Who Fears Death, which was also nominated for the Nebula Award. She won the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award for her novella Binti in 2016. Her fiction has also been nominated for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, the British Science Fiction Association Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Andre Norton Award. Okorafor has collaborated with Alan Dean Foster and Wanuri Kahiu on short diction. She co-edited the anthology Without a Map with Mary Anne Mohanraj.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Daniel Dern is right – Curtis knows how to throw a party.

(10) POISONING PIXELS IN THE SCROLL. Nature celebrates an April birthday boy: “Tom Lehrer at 90: a life of scientific satire”.

Much of Lehrer’s oeuvre — some 50 songs (or 37, by his own ruthless reckoning) composed over nearly three decades — played with tensions at the nexus of science and society. His biggest hit, That Was The Year That Was, covered a gamut of them. This 1965 album gathered together songs Lehrer had written for That Was The Week That Was, the US satirical television show spawned by the BBC original. ‘Who’s Next?’ exposes the dangers of nuclear proliferation. ‘Pollution’ highlights environmental crises building at the time, such as undrinkable water and unbreathable air.

The rousing ballad ‘Wernher von Braun’ undermines the former Nazi — who designed the V-2 ballistic missile in the Second World War and later became a key engineer in the US Apollo space programme. In Lehrer’s view, it was acceptable for NASA to hire von Braun, but making him into an American hero was grotesque. “‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?’/‘That’s not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun” — lines that still resonate in today’s big-tech ethical jungle.

(11) FINDING THE RETRO NOMINEES. Nicholas Whyte, with an assist from Carla, presents “How to get the 1943 Retro Hugo finalists” —

(12) CAST OF FAVORITES. And for your collecting pleasure, here is where you can get a copy of the Fifth Annual Science Fiction Film Awards (1978).

The 5th Annual (first televised) Science Fiction Film Awards. Hosted by Karen Black & William Shatner (who performs an absolutely jaw dropping rendition of Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s “Rocket Man”) Starring Buzz Aldrin, Richard Benjamin, Ray Bradbury, Mark Hamill, Charlton Heston, Wolfman Jack, Quincy Jones, Piper Laurie, Christopher Lee, Paula Prentiss, Ralph the Robot, Lord Darth Vader, and many more. Included are the original broadcast TV commercials from 1978!

(13) GOOD IS NOT BAD. Rich Horton is working his way through the Hugo nominees. Here are his comments on Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty.

…But even before the award nominations, Six Wakes was getting some good notice, and I bought it and read it after the Nebula nod. And, you know what – I liked it. It’s a good fun fast-moving read. I’m glad I read it.

But – well – you saw that coming, right? There had to be a but. The thing is, there are lots of enjoyable novels published any year, and I’m glad when I encounter those. But I can enjoy a novel and not think it worthy of an award. And, really, that’s the case with Six Wakes. It’s fun, it’s pretty darn pure hard SF (with the understanding that “hard SF” absolutely does NOT mean “SF that gets all the science right”), it’s exciting. But, it also has some annoying logic holes, and it doesn’t really engage with the central (and very worthwhile) moral issues it raises as rigorously as I wish it had, and the prose is just OK….

(14) ARISTOTLE. Nitsuh Abebe explores the question “Why Have We Soured on the ‘Devil’s Advocate’?” at the New York Times Magazine.

…That name dates back to the 17th century, when the Roman Catholic Church created an office popularly known as the advocatus diaboli — a person tasked with making the case against the canonization of new saints, scrutinizing every report of their miracles and virtue. How could a claim be trusted, the thinking went, if it hadn’t been rigorously tested? Plenty of educators will still tell you that devil’s advocacy isn’t just useful as a practical matter but also as an intellectual exercise: Imagining other perspectives and plumbing their workings is essential to critical thinking.

But on today’s internet, the devil’s advocate is less admired than ever, and it’s often the advocate’s own fault. The problem isn’t just debate-club tedium. Last year, on Slate, the writer Maya Rupert neatly outlined just how toxic devil’s advocates could be on a topic like race. She noted that they often seemed to be adopting the stance of a disinterested logician in order to air beliefs they knew were socially unacceptable to hold in earnest; the phrase “just to play devil’s advocate,” she wrote, had come to occupy the same role in her life as “not to sound racist, but. … ” A black person continually asked to consider — just hypothetically, just for a moment — whether she was possibly inferior to other humans would have to be masochistically broad-minded to entertain this challenge more than a few times before dismissing it, and the sort of people who presented it, forever.

A little more than a decade ago, around the same time online sentiment began to turn against the devil’s advocate, it also seized on a close cousin: the “concern troll.” If the devil’s advocate playacts disagreement with you for the sake of strengthening your argument, the concern troll is his mirror image, a person who pretends to agree with you in order to undermine you. The concern troll airs disingenuous worries, sows doubt, saps energy, has reservations, worries that things are going too far. At first, the term described purposeful double agents — people like the congressional staffer suspected, back in 2006, of posing as a Democrat to leave comments on liberal blogs suggesting everyone abandon the candidate vying for a Republican incumbent’s seat. But the term has evolved in such a way that, at this point, a person can very easily qualify as a concern troll without even knowing it.

A tidy summary on the “Geek Feminism” Wiki site explains why this is the case: Even earnest concern-airing can be pernicious, turning every discussion into a battle over basic premises. …

(15) UNEVENLY DISTRIBUTED. The BBC reports “The Swedes rebelling against a cashless society” where the elderly are especially likely to be left out.

However, while Sweden’s rush to embrace digital payments has received plenty of global hype, and is frequently flagged as an example of the Nordic nation’s innovation, there are growing concerns about the pace of change.

Some worry about the challenges it poses for vulnerable groups, especially the elderly.

“As long as there is the right to use cash in Sweden, we think people should have the option to use it and be able to put money in the bank,” says Ola Nilsson, a spokesperson for the Swedish National Pensioners’ Organisation, which is lobbying the government on behalf of its 350,000 members.

“We’re not against the cashless society, we just want to stop it from going too fast.”

(16) THE LIGHTS IN THE SKY ARE… What we can see from the ground is only part of what happens: “Hunting mystery giant lightning from space”.

The electrifying effects of storms are frequently observed from the space station.

Yet when lightning strikes downward, something very different is happening above the cloud tops.

Known as Transient Luminous Events (TLEs), these unusual features were first spotted by accident in 1989.

Minnesota professor John R Winckler was testing a television camera in advance of an upcoming rocket launch, when he realised that two frames showed bright columns of light above a distant storm cloud.

(17) SOLVING FOR 2001. The BBC Culture post “Why 2001 remains a mystery” actually dwells less on mystery, and more on interesting parallels with Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.

It’s been 50 years since the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and we’re still trying to make sense of it. Stanley Kubrick’s science-fiction masterpiece is regularly voted as one of the greatest films ever made: BBC Culture’s own critics’ poll of the best US cinema ranked it at number four. But 2001 is one of the most puzzling films ever made, too. What, for instance, is a shiny rectangular monolith doing in prehistoric Africa? Why does an astronaut hurtle through a psychedelic lightshow to another universe, before turning into a cosmic foetus? And considering that the opening section is set millions of years in the past, and the two central sections are set 18 months apart, how much of it actually takes place in 2001?

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Chadwick Boseman hosted Saturday Night Live last night, and appeared in a Black Jeopardy! sketch:

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Kevin Standlee, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Nicholas Whyte, ULTRAGOTHA, Carl Slaughter, Danny Sichel, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ky.]

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 4/1/18 Oh Lord, Pixel Let Me Be Misunderscrolled

(1) OKORAFOR INTERVIEW. In the Chicago Tribune, “Nnedi Okorafor talks words, career, ‘Black Panther’ and C2E2”.

Q: You write for adults, the young … is there anything you can’t do?

A: I can’t write poetry.

Q: What does your Google search cache look like?

A: (Laughs.) It looks very eccentric, wide and broad — it can go from looking at political issues and looking at the violence of the herdsmen in northern Nigeria to looking up butterflies. I use the internet, and I enjoy it. I feel like it’s having another brain. So anything that pops into my mind, I’ll look it up, even the slightest thing that I’m curious about. If I’m looking at the rug and wondering what kind of dust mites live in the shade of my vent near the window, I will look that up. The internet is amazing.

(2) STRETCHING FOR DOLLARS. The Dark Magazine hit its Kickstarter goal to fund the zine’s next two years – now they’re shooting for the stretch goal.

And we funded! (Wow). With 61 hours to spare! Now . . . do you think we can hit the first stretch goal in that time? It’s just $882 to get a monthly podcast, pay Kate Baker more, and do an one-off Spanish-language edition . . .

(3) SOUTH PACIFIC. “China’s Tiangong-1 Space Station Has Fallen Back to Earth Over the Pacific” reports the New York Times.

A Chinese space station the size of a school bus re-entered Earth’s atmosphere at about 5:16 p.m. Pacific time on Sunday, scattering its remaining pieces over the southern Pacific Ocean, according to the United States’ Joint Force Space Component Command.

The demise of the station, Tiangong-1, became apparent when radar stations no longer detected it passing overhead. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries; the likelihood that pieces would land on someone was small, but not zero.

The station may have landed northwest of Tahiti, Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said on Twitter. That location is north of the Spacecraft Cemetery, an isolated region in the Pacific Ocean where space debris has frequently landed.

(4) PROBLEMATIC PRIZE. Brian Keating, author of Losing the Nobel Prize, will appear April 25 at UCSD’s Atkinson Hall Auditorium beginning at 5:30 p.m. Free ticketed event/RSVP here.

Presented by the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and the UC San Diego Library

Please join us for a profound discussion that explores the perils of science’s highest honor with astrophysicist Brian Keating and celebrated science fiction writer David Brin… A book signing and reception will follow the talk; books will be available for purchase from the UC San Diego Bookstore.

…Keating’s book tells the story of how the Nobel Prize, instead of advancing scientific progress may actually hamper it, encouraging speed and greed while punishing collaboration. Keating offers practical solutions for reforming the prize.

Keating is a professor of physics at UC San Diego; a fellow of the American Physical Society; and co-leads the Simons Observatory. He’s the author of more than 100 scientific publications and holds two U.S. patents. In addition, he’s a recipient of a NSF CAREER Award and the Presidential Early Career Award.

(5) HAL 9000. So should we say Martin Balsam was HAL 8999, because Douglas Rain ended up being HAL 9000? “The Story of a Voice: HAL in ‘2001’ Wasn’t Always So Eerily Calm” from the New York Times.

The story of the creation of HAL’s performance — the result of a last-minute collaboration between the idiosyncratic director Stanley Kubrick and the veteran Canadian actor Douglas Rain — has been somewhat lost in the 50 years since the film’s release in April 1968. As has its impact: Artificial intelligence has borrowed from the HAL persona, and now, unwittingly, a slight hint of Canadianness resides in our phones and interactive devices.

… But artificial intelligence was decades from a convincing facsimile of a human voice — and who was to say how a computer should sound anyway?

To play HAL, Kubrick settled on Martin Balsam, who had won the best supporting actor Oscar for “A Thousand Clowns.” Perhaps there was a satisfying echo that appealed to Kubrick — both were from the Bronx and sounded like it. In August 1966, Balsam told a journalist: “I’m not actually seen in the picture at any time, but I sure create a lot of excitement projecting my voice through that machine. And I’m getting an Academy Award winner price for doing it, too.”

Adam Balsam, the actor’s son, told me that “Kubrick had him record it very realistically and humanly, complete with crying during the scene when HAL’s memory is being removed.”

Then the director changed his mind. “We had some difficulty deciding exactly what HAL should sound like, and Marty just sounded a little bit too colloquially American,” Kubrick said in the 1969 interview. Mr. Rain recalls Kubrick telling him, “I’m having trouble with what I’ve got in the can. Would you play the computer?”

Kubrick had heard Mr. Rain’s voice in the 1960 documentary “Universe,” a film he watched at least 95 times, according to the actor. “I think he’s perfect,” Kubrick wrote to a colleague in a letter preserved in the director’s archive. “The voice is neither patronizing, nor is it intimidating, nor is it pompous, overly dramatic or actorish. Despite this, it is interesting.”

(6) CONNECTING WITH NONHUMANS. Into the Impossible, the podcast of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, resumes with Episode 16: Alien Contact: Part 2

We’re continuing our conversation from episode 14 about alien contact by focusing on language barriers: barriers between humans and aliens, humans and animals, and, in what some consider the most alien encounter of all, between scientists and artists. With acclaimed science fiction writer Ted Chiang, dolphin researcher Christine Johnson, and visual artist Lisa Korpos.

(7) BOCHCO OBIT. Before he showed a golden touch with his famed cop series, Bochco wrote the script for SF film Silent Running: “Steven Bochco, creator of ‘Hill Street Blues,’ dies at 74”.

Bochco once recalled a fan telling him that “Hill Street Blues” was the first TV series with a memory.

“That’s what I always thought of myself doing in the context of TV: craft a show that over time would have a memory,” he told The Associated Press in an interview two years ago. “I sensed that very early in my career. It just took me another 10 or 12 years to get to the point where I earned the right to take a shot at it.”

Bochco grew up in Manhattan, the son of a painter and a concert violinist. On arriving in Los Angeles after college, he wrote for several series at Universal Studios. Then he got a big break: writing the screenplay for the 1972 sci-fi film “Silent Running.” But Bochco said the disrespect he confronted as the writer soured him on writing for the big screen.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rich Lynch found April 1st’s Non Sequitur theme suitable for the date.

(9) GAME ANIMALS. I think my main reason for running this is that I recognized the Animal Crossing reference — my daughter used to play it by the hour: “Mineko’s Night Market is a cat-filled spin on Animal Crossing”. The rest of you will like it because the game involves cats.

The world of Mineko’s Night Market is one obsessed with cats. Felines roam freely around its cartoony, cutesy island. Mini-games make sport of their adventures, and occasionally they’ll trail after you like ducklings behind their mother. On Mount Fugu Island, inhabitants even worship cat deities — specifically, the Sun Cat, a portly, upright creature called Abe. Developer Meowza Games has made no secret of its love of one specific animal, but the pleasing aesthetic of its upcoming game only lends to the friendly, approachable atmosphere of it all.

Mineko’s Night Market, launching this year, follows a girl named Mineko who’s recently moved to Mount Fugu Island. She currently runs a market, but it’s been in a financial pinch as of late. Players spend their time collecting weird items and crafting, as well as selling their goods around the island. Brandi Kobayashi, half of the team at Meowza, says the game draws from folklore and aims to be a more narrative adventure than one built around resource gathering. Part of Mineko’s journey will involve unraveling the mystery around Abe, who’s been spotted around the island as of late.

(10) FILERS IN NEW ZEALAND. Hampus Eckerman says, “This is me and Soon Lee at our filers meetup in Auckland. File 770 is really great in creating connections all over the world!”

Soon Lee and Hampus Eckerman

(11) BUILD A BETTER QUBIT. The future of computing is nigh: “Microsoft gambles on a quantum leap in computing”.

In a laboratory in Copenhagen, scientists believe they are on the verge of a breakthrough that could transform computing.

A team combining Microsoft researchers and Niels Bohr Institute academics is confident that it has found the key to creating a quantum computer.

If they are right, then Microsoft will leap to the front of a race that has a tremendous prize – the power to solve problems that are beyond conventional computers.

In the lab are a series of white cylinders, which are fridges, cooled almost to absolute zero as part of the process of creating a qubit, the building block of a quantum computer.

“This is colder than deep space, it may be the coldest place in the universe,” Prof Charlie Marcus tells me.

(12) APRIL FOOLS. Foreign Policy provides analysis of The King’s Speech (think Chadwick Boseman, not Colin Firth) in “Wakanda Shakes the World”.

It’s been six weeks since the “Wakanda speech,” and the world is still reeling. The announcement by King T’Challa at the United Nations General Assembly that the Kingdom of Wakanda is not a developing nation of textiles, farms, and shepherds — estimated in the 2016 CIA World Factbook to have a GDP per person of approximately $760 — but a technological superpower has left global leaders and analysts stunned. The term “uber-developed” nation has been coined to describe the country’s widespread use of advanced magnetic levitation trains, flying vehicles, opaque holograms, and spinal cord-healing beads.

“Welcome to the Future,” an introductory film produced by Wakanda’s newly founded Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is now the most watched video ever on YouTube. T’Challa himself provides a voice-over describing the country’s semi-mythical history, tracing back to the impact of a vibranium meteorite, and the subsequent foundation of the country by five tribes, giving it the name “Wakanda” — “The Family.” As a camera swoops over brush, the trees themselves seem to glitch, and a futuristic skyline resembling a mixture of New York, Timbuktu, and Cairo appears. The video goes on to detail Wakanda’s claimed hyper-achievements: nanotechnology that allows for replicable organs, an average lifespan in the 100s, and a quality of life for the ordinary citizen that surpasses that enjoyed by the top 1 percent in the United States.

(13) APRIL FOOLS REDUX. Jabba the Sushi?

(14) HISTORICALLY MEMORABLE HOAXES. And if you need any more – “The Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes of All Time”.

We’ve researched the entire history of April Fool’s Day and selected its top 100 hoaxes ever, as judged by creativity, historical significance, the number of people duped, and notoriety. The first version of this list was created in the late 1990s. Over the years it’s been revised a number of times, based upon reader feedback and ongoing research. The most recent major revision occurred in March 2015.

(15) ZOE QUINN INVITES TINGLE. This is not an April Fools, so who knows, maybe it will happen.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/22/18 Scroll Up For The Pixelly Tour!

(1) IT COULD BE A REAL PLACE. Nadia Maddy hopes people will look beyond their headspace for the answer to “Where Is Your Wakanda?”

Where is your Wakanda? Wakanda is real but have you found it? Is it really in East Africa or is it in Central Africa? Perhaps its in Nigeria? What do you think?

 

(2) LE GUIN WINS A PEN AWARD. PEN America held its 2018 Literary Awards ceremony on February 20 at New York University reports Publishers Weekly “Long Soldier, Zhang, Le Guin Win At 2018 PEN Literary Awards”.

[Ursula K.] Le Guin won the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay for No Time to Spare. The author’s son, Theo [accepted the] award on behalf of the late Ursula K. Le Guin.

(3) A SINGAPORE FIRST – AND SECOND. The Straits Times interviews “Two Singaporeans on Nebula awards shortlist”, J.Y. Yang and Vina Jie-Min Prasad.

Yang, a science communications officer, recalls: “When I was growing up, I would print out a list of the works that had won the Hugo and Nebula and try to make my way through them. I would never have imagined that one day I would be a finalist. I’m so proud to be one of the Singaporeans on the list, it’s just fantastic.”

Prasad, 27, a full-time writer, started submitting to science-fiction magazines only last year, but has already been shortlisted twice. “I’m overwhelmed and really honoured,” she says.

She is up for Best Novelette for A Series Of Steaks, about two women in Nanjing who forge quality beef – inspired by the real-life counterfeit food industry – and Best Short Story for Fandom For Robots, in which a sentient robot discovers Japanese anime and starts writing fan fiction.

(4) AT YOUR SERVICE. For anyone who wants paper Hugo and Retro-Hugo ballots, there’s now a way to print them.

Worldcon 76 has published PDFs of the paper nominating ballots for the 2018 Hugo Awards/Award for Best Young Adult Book/John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and for the 1943 Retrospective Hugo Awards.

(5) NOMMO NOMINATIONS OPEN. Members of the African Speculative Fiction Society (ASFS) have until March 31 to nominate works for the 2018 Nommo Awards. The awards will be presented at the Ake Arts and Book Festival in November 2018.

(6) BUZZWORDKILL. In The Atlantic, Bruce Sterling commands people to “Stop Saying ‘Smart Cities'” – “Digital stardust won’t magically make future cities more affordable or resilient.”

The term “smart city” is interesting yet not important, because nobody defines it. “Smart” is a snazzy political label used by a modern alliance of leftist urbanites and tech industrialists. To deem yourself “smart” is to make the NIMBYites and market-force people look stupid.

Smart-city devotees all over this world will agree that London is particularly smart. Why? London is a huge, ungainly beast whose cartwheeling urban life is in cranky, irrational disarray. London is a god-awful urban mess, but London does have some of the best international smart-city conferences.

London also has a large urban-management bureaucracy who emit the proper smart-city buzzwords and have even invented some themselves.  The language of Smart City is always Global Business English, no matter what town you’re in.

(7) IN TRAINING. Lightspeed Magazine interviews Carmen Maria Machado about her learning experiences.

I know that you also went to the Clarion science fiction writers workshop. I wonder if you could contrast Iowa and Clarion a little bit?

Clarion is not an MFA program. Clarion is a six-week, insane, exhausting boot camp. It’s a totally different process. The MFA program is more moderate, in the sense that it’s happening over the course of several years. I don’t know really how to compare them. The workshop style is really different. Genre places tend to use the system where everybody goes around in a circle and says their piece and then is silent.

The Milford system?

Oh yeah, the Milford. Which, actually, I do not like that workshop system, but that is the way it’s done at Clarion. It was done that way when I went to Sycamore Hill. That’s just the sort of tradition. Whereas, in my MFA program, it was more of a style of people talking and responding to each other in real time, which I prefer. It’s hard to compare Clarion and Iowa. They’re just inherently really different in terms of what you’re getting out of them. What I got out of Iowa was two years of funded time to work on my own shit, which was amazing and really wonderful. What I got out of Clarion was this really bombastic, high-intensity, octane-fueled, genre extravaganza where I barely slept. I was writing a lot of stuff, some of which was really terrible, and some of which was pretty good, and workshopping non-stop and barely sleeping. They’re really different programs.

(8) IF YOU CAN SAY SOMETHING NICE. Marshall Ryan Maresca helps sff readers pay attention to some people who are doing it the right way in “On My Mind: Building Community”.

So, this past weekend I was at Boskone, and it was a wonderful time, as I was reminded what an amazing community we have in SF/Fantasy Literature.  There are some amazing people in this business, who are filled with wisdom and warmth and kindness.   I had the great fortune of sharing the signing table with Mary Robinette Kowal, who all of these attributes in abundance.  We, as a community, are blessed to have her in it.

Sadly, this past week, I’ve also been reminded that we have a way to go, and there are some people who thrive in being terrible, and making things unpleasant for those around them.  And that behavior, sadly, gets them notoriety.  They get talked about, which serves their ends.  I won’t give them the time of day.

Because the people who are wonderful, who do great work and are good people– they’re the ones who deserve notoriety.  They’re the ones who should get notice and have their names mentioned over and over.  So here is a large list of great people who deserve your attention…..

Names follow.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian says Brevity found a way to make a joke at the expense of two actors who’ve played Captain Kirk.

(10) STORY AMPLIFIED. Yesterday’s Scroll linked to the latest release in Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s Future Tense Fiction series, “Mother of Invention” by Nnedi Okorafor. Joey Eschrich notes that it was published along with a response essay by Internet of Things expert Stacey Higginbotham, focusing on the smart home technology in the story.

(11) SHORT FICTION DISCOVERIES. The prolific Charles Payseur has launched a column at Book Smugglers X Marks The Story. The first installment leads readers to such treasures as —

“A Snow, A Flood, A Fire” by Jamie Berrout (published in Strange Horizons, 01/2018 )

What It Is: Coming in a special issue of Strange Horizons featuring transgender and nonbinary authors, “A Snow, A Flood, A Fire” stars Lupita, a trans woman stuck in an awful job as a security guard at a museum, hoping that she can work her way out of mistakes she made when she was younger and her world was imploding. The changing nature of employment, learning algorithms, employer greed and entitlement, and the dream of economic mobility all collide in a plot that kept the reading experience for me fast and tight and devastating. (And for fans of this story, I also recommend checking out “Dream Job” in January’s Terraform SF, which also explores themes of employment and the traps of late capitalism).

Why I Love It: Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, but stories exploring the future of employment and capitalism seem to be on the rise. For me, it’s a constant reminder of the realities of growing up and entering the workforce in a time where so many things that previous generations take for granted are in shambles or completely gone. Retirement contributions, healthcare, vacation, sick leave, debt forgiveness—the present isn’t exactly a cheery place for many hoping to live and maybe reach for that dream of comfort, security, and autonomy. …

[Via Earl Grey Editing Services.]

(12) BIGGER, BETTER, FASTER, MORE! At Featured Futures, Jason has posted an “Expanded Collated Contents of the Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, Links)” which begins its additional coverage with Ellen Datlow’s freshly announced The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Ten.

By request, this is an expanded edition of Collated Contents of the Big Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, with Links!). That post collates and links to the stories selected by Clarke, Dozois, Horton, and Strahan. This will add Afsharirad, Best American SF&F, Datlow, and Guran.

(13) SIGNAGE. Culver City, CA’s Ripped Bodice Bookstore gives fair warning:

(14) PASSING THE BUCKING BRONCO. Something else we know that ain’t so: “Why The Last ‘Wild’ Horses Really Aren’t”.

A Mongolian horse that has long been hailed as the last truly wild horse species in existence isn’t really all that wild.

It turns out that Przewalski’s horses are actually feral descendants of the first horses that humans are known to have domesticated, around 5,500 years ago.

What’s more, the modern horses that people ride today cannot be traced to those early steeds. That means humans must have tamed wild horses once again later on, somewhere else, but no one knows where or when.

(15) CAVE DWELLERS. If the pics remind you of a kindergarten project, remember your kids didn’t have to be the first people to ever have the idea: “Neanderthals were capable of making art”.

Contrary to the traditional view of them as brutes, it turns out that Neanderthals were artists.

A study in Science journal suggests they made cave drawings in Spain that pre-date the arrival of modern humans in Europe by 20,000 years.

They also appear to have used painted sea shells as jewellery.

Art was previously thought to be a behaviour unique to our species (Homo sapiens) and far beyond our evolutionary cousins.

The cave paintings include stencilled impressions of Neanderthal hands, geometric patterns and red circles.

(16) YOU CAN SEE WHERE THIS STORY IS LEADING. The people who built Stonehenge didn’t get to enjoy it for long: “Ancient Britons ‘replaced’ by newcomers”.

Prof Reich told BBC News: “Archaeologists ever since the Second World War have been very sceptical about proposals of large-scale movements of people in prehistory. But what the genetics are showing – with the clearest example now in Britain at Beaker times – is that these large-scale migrations occurred, even after the spread of agriculture.”

The genetic data, from hundreds of ancient British genomes, reveals that the Beakers were a distinct population from the Neolithic British. After their arrival on the island, Beaker genes appear to swamp those of the native farmers.

Prof Reich added: “The previous inhabitants had just put up the big stones at Stonehenge, which became a national place of pilgrimage as reflected by goods brought from the far corners of Britain.”

He added: “The sophisticated ancient peoples who built that monument and ones like it could not have known that within a short period of time their descendants would be gone and their lands overrun.”

(17) DON’T MISS THIS NON-GENRE LINK. The Hollywood Reporter interviewed the surviving cast and writers for “‘MAS*H’ Oral History: Untold Stories From One of TV’s Most Important Shows”.

(18) NO ARMY CAN STOP AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME. Adam-Troy Castro offered this subtle suggestion on Facebook:

Let’s run an International Science Fiction Asshole Convention.

People who want to go to conventions or to award ceremonies in order to be disruptive assholes — all while filling thousands of pages of blog posts with their fiendish snickering about the trouble they intend and how much it will bother everyone else — will finally have their annual event, where they can hand out awards to honor The Year’s Biggest Asshole, The Year’s Biggest Dickweed, the Year’s Most Appalling Runner-Up, as well as the Award for Best Newcomer (which at the Hugos are named after a luminary with J, W, and C as initials, and can be done here as well, albeit in different order).

Steve Davidson has volunteered to do the con’s Souvenir Book. In fact, he’s not even going to wait for the convention to be founded —

I’m soliciting articles for this, lol. Someone want to write a history of the (what was it, the ISFC?) from its founding to the present?

Anyone want to do short profiles of award winners from the past?

(19) JUST WAITING TO BE FOUND.  Annalee Newitz tells about the “8,000-year-old heads on spikes found in a remote Swedish lake” at Ars Technica. Warning – the article is full of grisly medical commentary.

In east-central Sweden, workers demolishing a railway that crossed the Motala Ström River discovered something bizarre. For roughly 7,500 years, a shallow, swampy lake in the area had hidden a pile of stones that contained the skeletal remains of at least 10 people and weapons made of stone and antler. They also found the bones of bears, deer, boar, and a badger. Two of the human skulls were mounted on pointed stakes.

Thousands of years ago, this semi-submerged burial ground must have been an imposing sight for the small settlements located nearby. A pile of rocks rose above the water, covered in weapons, wooden structures, and the grisly remains of fearsome animals—as well as the skulls of some carefully chosen people. Now dubbed “Kanaljorden,” the archaeological site has finally begun to yield some secrets about the people who created it. In a recent article for Antiquity, Stockholm University archaeologist Sara Gummesson and her colleagues explain what the evidence reveals about how this ritual site was used.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/21/18 I Picked The Wrong Week To Quit Scrollin’ Pixels

(1) THE SOURCE. Paste Magazine tells readers “If You Love Black Panther, You Have to Read Nnedi Okorafor’s Books”.

…Okorafor, who’s about to wrap up a run on Marvel’s Black Panther: Long Live the King comic series, boasts an enthralling catalogue of novels steeped in afrofuturism. So if you’re looking for more stories featuring kickass women and inventive tech on the African continent, Okorafor has you covered.

Here are Paste’s top five picks to get you started:

Black Panther: Long Live the King

The obvious first title on this list is Marvel’s six-issue Long Live the King series, in which Okorafor wrote issues one, two and five. With art by André Lima Araújo and colors by Chris O’Halloran, Okorafor’s vision for Wakanda delivers a captivating narrative that breathes new life into the Black Panther canon.

Okorafor also wrote issue six, a one-shot story about Ngozi illustrated by Tana Ford, due out on February 28th. You might recognize Ngozi—an original Okorafor creation—from her first appearance in Venomverse: War Stories. And if the character is new to you, you’ll love the Nigerian woman who bonded with the Venom symbiote and became a hero….

(2) OKORAFOR FREE READ. Slate agrees that the work of Nnedi Okorafor is the place to start, and has timely released “Mother of Invention”, “a new short story by the author of Marvel’s Black Panther: Long Live The King.”

(3) DOUBLE UP. Yes, one reason Black Panther had a record weekend is because patrons failed to get away with stunts like this! “Two kids dressed as a tall man to get into “Black Panther” were caught on video”. Rare has the story:

Two kids decided they wanted to go to the new Marvel superhero film “Black Panther,” but they didn’t want to pay for two movie tickets, so they tried to dupe the movie theater’s manager.

The duo went to the theater disguised as one “tall man” under a trench coat, but unsurprisingly, their plan didn’t work. However, despite their unsuccessful attempt to save on movie tickets, they have gone viral on Twitter thanks to their hilarious antics.

 

(4) ANTIHARASSMENT DONOR. The Independent reports “Emma Watson donates £1m to help fund for sexual harassment victims”.

The donation from the Harry Potter star to the UK Justice and Equality Fund comes as nearly 200 female British and Irish stars signed an open letter calling for an end to sexual harassment in the workplace.

Watson is one of the first donors to the fund, which was set up by the 190 women who signed the open letter, along with a group of 160 academics, activists and charity workers.

Emma Thompson, Carey Mulligan, Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Chan, Keira Knightley and Watson are among the actors to sign the letter, which was published in The Observer.

(5) THE CULTURE MEETS THE VAST WASTELAND. Engadget reports “Amazon’s answer to ‘Altered Carbon’ is Iain M. Banks’ space opera”.

…Amazon Studios will adapt the first novel, Consider Phlebas, for television.

Dennis Kelly will adapt the sci-fi drama for Plan B Entertainment (World War Z). The Iain Banks’s estate will serve as an executive producer for the series. “Iain Banks has long been a hero of mine, and his innate warmth, humor and humanism shines through these novels,” said Kelly, who previously adapted Matilda for the stage. “Far from being the dystopian nightmares that we are used to, Banks creates a kind of flawed paradise, a society truly worth fighting for — rather than a warning from the future, his books are a beckoning.”

(6) DIAL M. Upon hearing the news about Banks’ novel, Damien G. Walter immediately warned all in hearing that the sky is falling — “5 things that can go HORRIBLY wrong adapting The Culture”.

I don’t consider myself a true fan of many things, but I am an unapologetic Iain (M) Banks fanboy.

Which is an easy thing to be. Banks is a brilliant, brilliant writer. A storyteller in the class of Neil Gaiman, with the muscular prose abilities of J G Ballard, and the conceptual imagination of an Asimov or Le Guin. I read his Culture books in my teens, his literary novels in my twenties, and re-read nearly all of them in my thirties. Just this year I’ve been working my way through Peter Kenny’s spot on audio adaptations.

So, like all true fans, I’m a little worried by news of a tv adaptation. Banks was fairly outspoken about his decision not to allow movie or tv adaptations of the Culture novels. I totally respect any decision his estate makes on this, and nobody doubts Amazon have the cash to make it happen? But do they have the skill, creativity and imagination?

How many ways could a Culture tv adaptation go wrong? Let us count the ways….

(7) WHAT ADA PALMER AND JOHN HERTZ HAVE IN COMMON. Patrick McGuire writes: “I just received my Winter issue of the alumni University of Chicago Magazine. Bundled with it was The Core, a semiannual supplement magazine devoted to the College. (U.C. is primarily a graduate institution, so the undergraduate school is decidedly the tail, not the dog.) The Winter 2018 Core has a profile of sf writer and history professor Ada Palmer. It is fairly insightful and informative, even if it does refer to Sassafras as a ‘folk band.’ The current issue of The Core is, at least as I write, not at the URL where it is supposed to be per the print issue, but after considerable poking around I found the Palmer article here — ‘Renaissance-woman’. The profile does discuss her sf novels and it has photographs of Ada and others in costume. She also gets the magazine cover.”

“Curiously, the mother-ship University of Chicago Magazine for Winter itself has a letter from prominent fan John Hertz. John primarily discusses non-sfnal topics, but does include a plug for Benford’s The Berlin Project.

(8) BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS. New York bookstore The Strand would be delighted to sell you a copy of every single one: “Best Selling Author of Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer, Shares His Top 50 Books”.

(9) BEST EDITOR HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS. Lee Harris doesn’t want British sff editors overlooked, and assembled a get-acquainted thread. Jump aboard here —

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 21, 1966  — Raquel Welch in a Stone Age bikini starred in One Million Years B.C. which premiered theatrically on this date.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY DROID

  • Born February 21, 1946 — Anthony Daniels, who plays C3PO.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian found a Yoda joke that really works in Half Full.
  • On the other hand, John is right to call this stfnal pun a real groaner – The Argyle Sweater.

(13) WHAT’S THAT HE SAID? At age 54, a Doctor Who reviver finally gets to play Macbeth: “Christopher Eccleston: Northern accent ‘held me back'”.

The actor star says there is a perception in the industry that “people like me can’t be classical”.

Eccleston was born into a working class family on a council estate in Salford in Lancashire in 1964.

He will appear as Macbeth in a new production at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon, but he had to ask for the role.

Unfortunately, Billie Piper is not playing Lady Macbeth.

(14) SECOND BREAKFAST. Did you ever do a movie marathon drinking game? Well, this is an eating game for the LotR trilogy – whatever food is eaten on screen, they cook and eat too!

(15) TANK GIRL TO RETURN. Titan Comics will bring the Tank Girl franchise back to life in 2018.

It’s been 30 years since the dynamic partnership of Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett (Gorillaz) unleashed Tank Girl upon the world! To celebrate Tank Girl’s 30th Anniversary, Titan Comics is launching the ‘Year of Tank Girl’ in 2018 – a year-long celebration with new comics, graphic novels and special events, including a global Tank Girl Day event on Saturday, October 20.

Originally published in 1988 as a black and white comic strip in UK magazine Deadline, Tank Girl has gone on to become a cult icon in the 30 years since her first appearance, with numerous comics and graphic novels, and even her own feature film in 1995, which boasted an all-star cast including Lori Petty, Naomi Watts, Malcolm McDowell, Ice-T, and Iggy Pop, and directed by Doctor Who’s Rachel Talalay.

As Tank Girl prepares to celebrate 30 riotous years in 2018, Titan Comics is proud to announce its ‘Year of Tank Girl’ campaign.

Celebrations kick off in April 2018 with Tank Girl: Full Color Classics 1988-1989 – the first of six prestige editions presenting those original seminal strips from Deadline in glorious color, just as Hewlett and Martin envisaged them three decades ago. Colored by Tracy Bailey (Fighting American) and Sofie Dodgson (Tank Girl: Bad Wind Rising), this is a new take on the classic strips. Plus, it includes rare and unseen artwork, as well as photos from the early days of the Martin and Hewlett partnership.

(16) #!&@! MY DAD SAYS. Bradford Betz, in a Fox News story “William Shatner Shames Texas Dem From Using His Photo in Campaign Newsletter”, says that Shat told Brandy Chambers, running for the Texas House of Representatives as a Democrat, to stop using a photo she took at a Comic-Con with him because it seemed like he endorsed her, which he hasn’t.

The image circulated until it reached Shatner on Saturday. The 86-year-old actor tweeted at Chambers that her use of the convention photo misleadingly suggests an “endorsement” on his part. He then told her to “remove my photo” and “destroy all copies of whatever this is immediately.”

(17) BOXING DAY. According to ULTRAGOTHA, “Spurius Ennius Nasica is Rocky Balboa put through a Roman name generator.” The connection between Rocky and Rome is this discovery — “Rare Roman boxing gloves uncovered near Hadrian’s Wall in ‘astonishing’ find”.

Roman boxing gloves believed to be the only surviving example from the period have gone on display after being discovered near Hadrian’s Wall.

The gloves were found last summer during an excavation at Vindolanda, near Hexham in Northumberland.

Other items were unearthed in the dig, including swords, horse gear and writing tablets.

The gloves – which date from around 120 AD – are made of leather and have the appearance of a protective guard. They are designed to fit snugly over the knuckles, protecting them from impact.

(18) QUANTUM LEAP LEFTOVERS. Io9 investigates the tantalizing question “Did a Fan Just Find Proof of Quantum Leap’s Secret Lost Ending?” 

…The series finale of Quantum Leap was bleak (to put it mildly), with the final title card confirming that Scott Bakula’s character, Sam Beckett, remained lost in time. However, one video claims a long-rumored alternate ending was actually real, one which would’ve made it possible for Sam to make that final leap home.

YouTuber Allison Pregler has released a video sharing what she says are negatives for an alternate ending to the fifth season of Quantum Leap. How did she get her hands on such a historical item? Pregler bought a bunch of Quantum Leap negatives on eBay.

“When I was looking at the film strips to try and guess what episodes or scenes they were, it took me a second to really grasp what I had. I thought it really looked like that alternate ending I’d read before, but no one knew it was filmed so I couldn’t believe it,” Pregler told io9. “I’m still having trouble believing it.”…

(19) LOST AGAIN. Netflix reboot of Lost in Space premieres April 13.

The Robinson family, part of a highly trained mission to establish a new colony in space, is unexpectedly pulled off course forcing them to crash land on a lost planet.

 

(20) REPEL BUYERS! Tabletop Tribe is not kidding — “The Worst Board Game Box Art Ever”. Man, are these awful! Just look at #19 —

  1. Guildhall (2012?—?Alderac Entertainment Group)

“Meet the wife. I luv ‘er more than any pig, and that’s sayin’ summat.”

Indeed sir. For a pig farmer you appear to be punching way above your weight.

It’s not that the characters are badly rendered (although it does appear that it’s simply photo overpainting at work here), or the inconsistent lighting and flat boring background. It’s just a bizarre motley collection and a piglet with a nose four sizes too big.

[Thanks to Joel Zakem, JJ, Mix Mat, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, ULTRAGOTHA, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mark Hepworth, Patrick McGuire, Hampus Eckerman, Michael J. Walsh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bruce Diamond.]

Pixel Scroll 1/28/18 I Say We Take Off And Pixel The Entire Scroll From Orbit – It’s The Only Way To Be Sure

(1) DUFF DEADLINE. Down Under Fan Fund nominations for the 2018 race close January 31.  If you’re interested, or have someone else lined up, hop to it!

Nominations are now open for a Down Under Fan Fund delegate from Australia or New Zealand to travel either to San Jose, California, USA for the 76th World Science Fiction Convention, 16–20 August 2018, or to other major conventions in North America in 2018.

(2) EARLY COSPLAY AND THE LA WORLDCON OF 1946. SyFy Wire’s Carol Pinchefsky goes beyond the Ackerman/Douglas collaboration in “Firsts: The first cosplay took place at the first-ever con… in 1939”, drawing on other anecdotes collected by John. L. Coker III, sf historian and editor of the nonfiction book Tales of the Time Travelers: The Adventures of Forrest J. Ackerman and Julius Schwartz:

Coker interviewed other First Fans for Tales of the Time Travelers. Author and fan Len J. Moffatt discussed yet another “first” … the first recorded cosplay fail, which took place at the fourth Worldcon, in 1946:

“[Fan] Dale Hart [pictured above] was an excellent Gray Lensman in a silver-gray form-fitting costume like the Astounding cover by Rogers. The problem was that it was so tight that he could not sit down or dare to bend over.”

Moffatt may also have created another “first” at Pacificon I, the first cosplay routine:

“While at Slan Shack on Bixel Street earlier, I had borrowed some of Myrtle’s green make-up, combed my hair over my ears and turned up my jacket collar to become a comical vampire. I made a better impression earlier when friends carried me into a meeting hall and deposited my rigid body on some lined-up folding chairs. I lay there a long time with eyes closed and hands folded on my chest listening to the wondering remarks of passers-by.”

(3) WRATHFUL SPEECH. Middle-Earth Reflections documents “His sharp tongue or Fëanor’s talent to insult”:

Fëanor the Spirit of Fire was the most gifted of all the Elves in linguistic lore. He could use language so well that his speeches affected those who heard them and inspired them to do different, though not always sensible, things. Thus, being gifted with words and able to use them potently, Finwë’s eldest son was also exceptionally good at insulting others.

(4) BESPOKE AWARD. Charles Payseur unveils he fifth and final category winners: “THE SIPPY AWARDS 2017! The “Where We’re Going We Won’t Need Categories” Sippy for Excellent I Don’t Know What in Short SFF”

The “Where We’re Going We Won’t Need Categories” 

Sippy Awards for Excellent I Don’t Know What in Short SFF

What does it mean? Well, part of the point of this category is…I’m not sure. These are stories that defy conventional definitions and categorization. These are the ones that slip between genres and expectations. They’re…well, a lot of them are weird, but beautiful. Haunting, but fun. Deep and complex and brilliant in the ways they innovate and inspire. So without further delay…

(5) LEADING BY EXAMPLE. Lisa Goldstein’s tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin tells how much she meant to girls who wanted to write science fiction and fantasy:

…Her characters were so real and rounded they became people you wanted to know.  She wrote beautifully, in a field where most writing ranged from serviceable to awkward.  And she was not just smart but wise, someone who could get to the heart of a subject with a few well-chosen words.  I was looking through my copy of The Language of the Night this week and found this: “Fantasy is true, of course.  It isn’t factual, but it is true.”

So I began to think that I could actually do this science-fiction thing.  After all, here was a woman who was, IMHO, doing it better than any male writer.  (And around the same time there were also Joanna Russ and Kate Wilhelm and Carol Emshwiller — and James Tiptree, or course, but we didn’t know her secret then.)  She gave me, and any number of other girls reading science fiction in those years, the courage to try….

(6) TV ARCHEOLOGY. Echo Ishii, in “SF Obscure: Planet of the Apes TV”, discusses two TV adaptations, one live, one animated.

The live action TV series has two new astronauts stranded on future/parallel earth.  In this version, there are human villages-not quite as primitive as the original movies movies-ruled over by Apes as governors and guards. The two astronauts are assisted by another Ape who believes humans are capable of more. It’s a run of the mill action adventure with the planet of the apes spin. Entertaining, but not outstanding. It was, unfortunately, an expensive show and cancelled after 14 episodes.

(7) BEST OF 2016. Greg Hullender notes Rocket Stack Rank is continuing their analysis of the best science fiction and fantasy short fiction from 2016. In the latest installment, they turn their attention to  —“2016 Best SF/F Short Fiction Authors”.

Out of 602 authors, fully 74% had only one story published in our survey of 887 stories, so we’re picking from a huge diversity of authors.

On the other hand, there’s remarkable consistency among our pool of recommenders: 72% of recommendations went to the top 20% of authors, and 40% got no recommendations at all. It’s true that different reviewers have different opinions, but it’s also true that there’s a sort of broad consensus around who the best authors are.

(8) WHOHIKER. Andrew Hickey reviews Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen, the book by James Goss based on a possible Doctor Who film script by Douglas Adams. It is a positive review with a caveat:

So you can be fairly sure that if you’re the kind of person who would even vaguely consider maybe reading a book like this, you’ll come away having read a book that at least matches your expectations, and maybe exceeds them.

(9) NOT APOLITICAL. How some people were spared persecution in WWII. The thread starts here –

And here’s one of the reasons you’ll want to read it:

(10) SMITH OBIT. Mark E. Smith, the leader and singer/songwriter of influential British post-punk band The Fall, died January 24 at the age of 60. In his last interview a reporter for The Guardian asked whether he saw the most recent Blade Runner since he was a “big fan” of Philip K. Dick movies. As usual, Smith was not exactly diplomatic:

I think the original Blade Runner is the most obscene film ever made, I fucking hated it. The Man in the High Castle is one of my favourite books; how they fucked that TV show up I don’t know. It gets blander and blander. In the book the level of comprehension of that world is fucking astounding, in the show it’s just everybody going around normally except they’ve got swastika armbands on. The only good Philip K Dick film is Total Recall, it’s faithful to the book. Arnie gets it. I was physically sick watching A Scanner Darkly, it was like an episode of Cheers painted over except they all smoke dope and imagine women with no clothes on.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 28, 1986 — At 11:38 a.m. EST the space shuttle Challenger lifts off from Cape Canaveral, then explodes.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born January 28, 1959 – Frank Darabont
  • Born January 28, 1981 – Elijah Wood, who played Frodo in the Lord of the Rings movies.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Michael J. Walsh, Mike Kennedy, and John King Tarpinian all saw what happens when a young writer picks sf, in Non Sequitur.
  • John King Tarpinian found a mock terrifying surprise in Lio.

(14) OKORAFOR SAGA. NPR’s Amal el-Mohtar says “Binti’s Story Is Finished — But Don’t Expect Completion”.

Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti trilogy is now complete: The Night Masquerade is the final instalment in a series she’s described as “African girl leaves home. African girl returns home. African girl becomes home.” It’s a beautiful proposed structure, a Hero’s Journey that rings truer for me than Joseph Campbell’s, resonating deeply with my experiences of diaspora, roots, and community. Binti left her Himba family on Earth in order to travel to Oomza University, far beyond the stars; she left Oomza in an attempt to manage her trauma and find herself again in the deserts of her home; and there, in the desert, she incorporated new revelations about her history into the anthology of herself, before being shocked into an awareness of impending doom.

(15) WHEN WILL YOU MAKE AN END? NPR’s Scott Tobias on “‘The Maze Runner: The Death Cure’: Nice Guy Finishes, At Last”:

The Maze Runner is the rare series that has improved with each installment, expanding beyond the organic pen of the first film into a bigger and more thrillingly realized science fiction sandbox. Though its young leads are mostly blah, the franchise has steadily accumulated character actors to liven things up, like Gillen, Esposito, and Pepper in the second film and now Walton Goggins in the third as the deformed leader of the Cranks. While Ball tries for too much in the needlessly protracted finale, he’s supremely confident in staging the action sequences, which usually rely on a meticulously orchestrated set of circumstances.

(16) IT’S NOT FICTION. BBC reports about “Of Mice and Old Men: Silicon Valley’s quest to beat ageing”.

To understand what’s happening in the tech world today, you need to look back to the mid-1800s, when a Frenchman named Paul Bert made a discovery that was as gruesome as it was fascinating.

In his experiment, rodents were quite literally stitched together in order to share bloodstreams. Soon after he found the older mice started showing signs of rejuvenation: better memory, improved agility, an ability to heal more quickly. In later years, researchers at institutions like Stanford would reinforce this work.

The extraordinary technique became known as parabiosis, and forms the basis of efforts at Alkahest, a California start-up that is banking on being able to apply those rejuvenative effects to people, rather than mice. It’s an idea so fantastical it wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of Silicon Valley, the HBO send-up of the start-up scene.

(17) HELPING WATER TAKE SHAPE. An article about digital effects in The Shape of Water: “How visual effects studio Mr. X helped create ‘The Shape of Water’ and its lovable merman”.

It turns out that Jones’ impressive costume and makeup (and his equally impressive performance) only accounts for part of what we see on-screen. Trey Harrell, CG supervisor at visual effects house Mr. X, told me, “Every single shot of the film where you see the creature is a visual effects shot.”

After all, Harrell said that while “Doug is an amazing actor,” his face was also hidden under “an inch of and a half of foam latex.” So at the very least, Mr. X had to create the merman’s eye and face movements. In other instances, like when the merman was viewed swimming inside the lab’s capsule, Mr. X was responsible for the entire creature.

(18) ACCUSATION. Someone has made a claim about the source of the story — “Guillermo del Toro accused of stealing story of ‘Shape of Water’ from 1969 play” reports the New York Daily Post.

Guillermo del Toro has been accused of stealing the storyline of “Shape of Water” from Pulitzer-winning playwright Paul Zindel.

David Zindel, the son of the playwright, who died in 2003, claims del Toro’s story is taken from his father’s 1969 “Let Me Hear You Whisper,” about “a female janitor in a research laboratory who bonds with a captive dolphin and tries to rescue the creature.”

“We are shocked that a major studio could make a film so obviously derived from my late father’s work without anyone recognizing it and coming to us for the rights,” Zindel told the Guardian.

… Fox Searchlight denied that the “Shape of Water” storyline was stolen.

“Guillermo del Toro has never read nor seen Mr. Zindel’s play in any form. Mr. del Toro has had a 25 year career during which he has made 10 feature films and has always been very open about acknowledging his influences,” a spokesman told the Guardian.

(19) I’M FEELING BETTER! Scott Tilley was listening for something else when the unexpected happened: “Amateur astronomer discovers a revived NASA satellite”.

After years in darkness, a NASA satellite is phoning home.

Some 12 years since it was thought lost because of a systems failure, NASA’s Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration (IMAGE) has been discovered, still broadcasting, by an amateur astronomer. The find, which he reported in a blog post this week, presents the possibility that NASA could revive the mission, which once provided unparalleled views of Earth’s magnetosphere.

The astronomer, Scott Tilley, spends his free time following the radio signals from spy satellites. On this occasion, he was searching in high-Earth orbit for evidence of Zuma, a classified U.S. satellite that’s believed to have failed after launch. But rather than discovering Zuma, Tilley picked up a signal from a satellite labeled “2000-017A,” which he knew corresponded to NASA’s IMAGE satellite. Launched in 2000 and then left for dead in December 2005, the $150 million mission was back broadcasting. It just needed someone to listen.

(20) RARITY. Offered on eBay for $2,000 – the NAL paperback of The Day After Tomorrow signed by Robert A,. Heinlein to his publisher:

HEINLEIN, ROBERT A. The Day After Tomorrow. New York: Signet – New American Library, 1964. First Paperback Edition. Signed and inscribed by Robert A. Heinlein with a superb inscription to his publisher: “To Kurt Enoch, President of N.A.L. With books as with icebergs it is the unseen 7/8-s which permits the 1/8 to be seen. Thanks! Bob Heinlein”. Originally published as Sixth Column, this copy is enclosed in a custom cloth clamsell box. Paperbound, very good clean copy. From the library of Dr. Kurt Enoch (1895-1982) who was a noted German publisher, forced to flee the Nazis, landing in New York in 1940. In 1948, Dr. Enoch co-founded and became President of New American Library – Signet Books which became one of the successful and acclaimed post-war publishing houses. Enoch went on to become one of the most highly regarded figures in American book publishing.

(21) YOUR MOVE. The mention in yesterday’s Scroll about Richard Paolinelli asking someone to guess his chess ranking inspired this parody of “One Night in Bangkok” (from Chess) by Matthew Johnson (and the last two lines by Soon Lee):

Twitter’s gonna be the witness
To the ultimate test of cerebral fitness
This grips me more than if you go
To San Jose for a cruddy old Hugo

I don’t see you guys making
The nine-dimensional move I’m contemplating
I’d let you watch, I would invite you
But our Gargoyles DVDs would not excite you

So you’d better go back to your Files, your SFWA forums,
Your cat cafes

One night in genre and worlds are your oyster
The Scrolls are Pixels and the comment’s free
My pups are friendly and their noses moister
No politics in SF history
I can feel Bob Heinlein walking next to me
His mistresses are harsh, and his lunch ain’t free.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/15/18 Scroll Down, You File Too Fast, You Got To Make The Pixels Last

(1) KURT ERICHSEN’S RETIREMENT MAKES THE NEWS. The Toledo Blade has published a superb article about fanartist Kurt Erichsen, who is retiring from his day job as vice president of water quality planning for Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments after a 34-year career. I learned all kinds of things I never knew about his work on getting the Ottawa river cleaned up, and was pleased to see they also covered some of the fannish things I did know about the 2002 Rotsler Award winner —

Mr. Erichsen’s passion for environmental planning wasn’t his first calling in life, though. He was fascinated with drawing since he was young. He might have pursued a career as an illustrator if his parents hadn’t convinced him otherwise, but he never gave up his passion for drawing.

From 1980 to 2008, he produced a comic strip called “Murphy’s Manor.” It focused on the lives of gay men living in the fictional town of Black Swamp, Ohio. That series and others he produced, including “The Sparkle Spinsters” and “GLIB Talk,” appeared in as many as 70 publications marketed to homosexuals, resulting in awards from the Gay/?Lesbian Press Association.

“I was trying to be entertaining while making a point,” Mr. Erichsen said.

Mr. Erichsen also has produced artwork for fans of science fiction fanzines and conventions.

(2) COMES THE MILLENNIUM. Congratulations to James Davis Nicoll, who sent a link to his review of Elizabeth Hand’s Winterlong – captioned “And Rain Keeps Falling Like Helpless Tears” – with the note that it is his 1000th review.

Elizabeth Hand’s 1990 debut novel Winterlong is the first volume in her Winterlong Trilogy.

Nuclear war and germ warfare have left Washington a shadow of its once glorious past. A handful of administrators, descended from self-appointed curators, control the relics of America’s lost past, defending the remnants from the diseased, mutated, and simply unlucky inhabitants of the surrounding sea of ruins….

(3) VERSE AS SWORD AND SHIELD. Middle-Earth Reflections’ new post “On the songs of power” discusses how they work in The Silmarillion.

Among many powerful notions in the world of Arda few are more potent than music and language. Music is the essential element of Arda, its heart and soul, as the world was created and shaped by the majestic Music of the Ainur. And it was the word of Ilúvatar — Eä! — that brought the created vision to life.

The power of words in Middle-earth cannot be overestimated. If used masterfully, with subtlety and skill they can inspire others to do incredible things. It is especially prominent when words are put into verse: songs can become something a lot more potent than mere poetic recitals. I have already spoken about the songs of challenge in The Silmarillion: sung in the situations of dire need and despair, they bring hope and salvation against all the odds. A special place in the story is occupied by the songs of power. They are very effective verses able to create or destroy, be used as a weapon or for defence.

It is by means of a song that Yavanna brings to life the Two Trees of Valinor and, later, the last fruit and flower from them used for creating the Sun and the Moon after the Trees’ destruction. Finrod duels with Sauron on the songs of power. Lúthien sings an equally powerful song to make Tol-in-Gaurhoth tremble and be heard by Beren trapped in Sauron’s dungeons.

(4) HANDMAID’S TALE. Hulu previews the second season.

Whatever is silenced will clamor to be heard. The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 returns April 25.

 

(5) ATWOOD’S FEMINISM. Margaret Atwood answers her own question, “Am I a bad feminist?”, in an op-ed at the Toronto Globe and Mail.

So let us suppose that my Good Feminist accusers, and the Bad Feminist that is me, agree on the above points. Where do we diverge? And how did I get into such hot water with the Good Feminists?

In November of 2016, I signed – as a matter of principle, as I have signed many petitions – an Open Letter called UBC Accountable, which calls for holding the University of British Columbia accountable for its failed process in its treatment of one of its former employees, Steven Galloway, the former chair of the department of creative writing, as well as its treatment of those who became ancillary complainants in the case. Specifically, several years ago, the university went public in national media before there was an inquiry, and even before the accused was allowed to know the details of the accusation. Before he could find them out, he had to sign a confidentiality agreement. The public – including me – was left with the impression that this man was a violent serial rapist, and everyone was free to attack him publicly, since under the agreement he had signed, he couldn’t say anything to defend himself. A barrage of invective followed.

But then, after an inquiry by a judge that went on for months, with multiple witnesses and interviews, the judge said there had been no sexual assault, according to a statement released by Mr. Galloway through his lawyer. The employee got fired anyway. Everyone was surprised, including me. His faculty association launched a grievance, which is continuing, and until it is over, the public still cannot have access to the judge’s report or her reasoning from the evidence presented. The not-guilty verdict displeased some people. They continued to attack. It was at this point that details of UBC’s flawed process began to circulate, and the UBC Accountable letter came into being.

A fair-minded person would now withhold judgment as to guilt until the report and the evidence are available for us to see. We are grownups: We can make up our own minds, one way or the other. The signatories of the UBC Accountable letter have always taken this position. My critics have not, because they have already made up their minds. Are these Good Feminists fair-minded people? If not, they are just feeding into the very old narrative that holds women to be incapable of fairness or of considered judgment, and they are giving the opponents of women yet another reason to deny them positions of decision-making in the world.

The #MeToo moment is a symptom of a broken legal system. All too frequently, women and other sexual-abuse complainants couldn’t get a fair hearing through institutions – including corporate structures – so they used a new tool: the internet. Stars fell from the skies. This has been very effective, and has been seen as a massive wake-up call. But what next? The legal system can be fixed, or our society could dispose of it. Institutions, corporations and workplaces can houseclean, or they can expect more stars to fall, and also a lot of asteroids.

If the legal system is bypassed because it is seen as ineffectual, what will take its place? Who will be the new power brokers? It won’t be the Bad Feminists like me. We are acceptable neither to Right nor to Left. In times of extremes, extremists win. Their ideology becomes a religion, anyone who doesn’t puppet their views is seen as an apostate, a heretic or a traitor, and moderates in the middle are annihilated. Fiction writers are particularly suspect because they write about human beings, and people are morally ambiguous. The aim of ideology is to eliminate ambiguity.

(6) VENUS IF YOU WILL. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler reports on the wealth of information collected by the latest (in 1963) Venus probe — “[January 15, 1963] Venus’ true face (Scientific Results of Mariner 2)”.

Getting there is half the fun

Before I talk about Mariner’s encounter with Venus, it’s important to discuss what the spacecraft discovered on the way there.  After all, it was a 185 million mile trip, most of it in interplanetary space charted but once before by Pioneer 5.  And boy, did Mariner learn a lot!

For instance, it has finally been confirmed that the sun does blow a steady stream of charged particles in a gale known as the “Solar Wind.”  The particles get trapped in Earth’s magnetic field and cause, among other things, our beautiful aurorae.

Mariner also measured the interplanetary magnetic field, which is really the sun’s magnetic field.  It varies with the 27-day solar rotation, and if we had more data, I suspect the overall map of the field would look like a spiral.

Why is all this important?  Well, aside from giving us an idea of the kind of “space weather” future probes and astronauts will have to deal with, these observations of the sun’s effect on space give us a window as to what’s going on inside the sun to generate these effects.

One last bit: along the way, Mariner measured the density of “cosmic dust,” little physical particles in space.  It appears that there’s a lot of it around the Earth, perhaps trapped by our magnetic field, and not a lot in space.  It may be that the solar wind sweeps the realm between the planets clean….

(7) LAST JEDI DOES NOT IMPRESS CHINESE. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “China Box Office: ‘Jumanji’ Clobbers Competition With $40M, ‘Last Jedi’ Crashes and Burns”.

Dwane Johnson’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle roared into China over the weekend, racking up a strong $40 million.

The Sony tentpole finally toppled runaway Chinese hit The Ex-File 3: The Return of the Exes, which earned $25.3 million in its third frame, bringing its local total to $272 million. Globally, Jumanji, also starring Kevin Hart, has earned $667 million.

Disney’s and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, meanwhile, didn’t even put up a fight. Only in its second weekend on Chinese screens, The Last Jedi pulled in a paltry $2.4 million — a 92 percent decline from its disappointing $28.7 million debut, according to data from EntGroup.

The Star Wars franchise, never popular in China, appears to be on a precipitous decline in the Middle Kingdom, the world’s second-largest film territory.

…The global picture is far better, of course: As of Sunday, Last Jedi had a worldwide haul of $1.264 billion, making it the biggest film of 2017.

Looper attempts to explain the disappointing numbers –

(8) BINTI ARC CONCLUDES. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog points out how Binti: The Night Masquerade Is the Epic Climax to a Deeply Personal Saga”.

Each of the previous two books in Dr. Nnedi Okorafor’s coming-of-age story saw Binti faced with tremendous change and exposed her to new truths that widened her world, and made it smaller. She’s taken on attributes of the (sometimes) murderous and very alien Meduse, and come to understand there’s more to the seemingly uncivilized desert people of her homeland than she’d ever imagined. The Night Masquerade is the conclusion of her journey, and the title refers to a spectre of change that appears to significant people at times of great crisis. It’s wonderfully evocative of the climactic nature of the story, and Binti will face a great deal more turmoil before hers is done.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 15, 1935 – Robert Silverberg

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy says Pearls Before Swine showed him an excellent reason (or three) to keep the closet closed
  • John King Tarpinian discovered the consequences of making a Flintstones reference in B.C.
  • Mike Kennedy learned news happens whether you know it or not in this installment of Nonsequitur.
  • The Flying McCoys explore what would happen to Batman if a certain supervillain lived up to his name.

(11) WHAT GOES UP. The BBC talks to “The astronaut fighting to save our home in space”:

The International Space Station (ISS) is humanity’s most expensive structure – and in just six years’ time, it may vanish, plunging into the Pacific Ocean. BBC Future meets the man trying to save it.

… “I’ve been very, very, very, very lucky,” he says, laughing. “Most astronauts are very jealous of me, which is probably why I won’t get to fly in space again!”

Most famously, Foale was on board Mir in June 1997 when an un-crewed Progress supply ship ploughed into the station, smashing a solar panel and breaching the hull. With the master alarm sounding, air leaking, power failing and the station spinning, Foale worked with his two Russian crewmates to prepare their Soyuz escape capsule and close off the damaged module.

By holding his thumb to a station window and examining the movement of stars, Foale used his physics training to estimate the spin rate of the station, so mission control could fire thrusters to bring it back under control.

(12) MUST COME DOWN. Someone hit the center divider on the road, went airborne and crashed into the SECOND floor of a dental business —

Which inspired this Harry Potter reference from “Typical Girl” —

(13) MIXED MARTIAL ARTS. In “Bruce Lee Lightsabers Scene Recreation,” Patrick Nan asks, “What if Bruce Lee fought with lightsabers?”

(14) COMMITMENT. Laura Resnick continues a series about her volunteer work — “Cat Rescue, Part 3: Return to Sender”.

I’m writing a series of blog posts about my volunteer work in cat rescue with Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.). Part 1 discusses how I got involved and outlines how it works. Part 2 talks about the happy endings that are so rewarding in this work, as well as the sad ones (and also the appallingly infuriating ones) that make some days very hard.

There is another kind of outcome to pet adoption, too. Despite good people trying hard, sometimes things just don’t work out. A cat turns out to be a bad fit for a family, or the family’s life changes in tragic ways that make keeping the cat impossible… and they return them to C.A.T.. This is sad for everyone, but it is absolutely the right thing to do in such circumstances.

I cannot stress this strongly enough: if family decides not to keep a pet, they should return the animal to us (and any responsible rescue group has this same policy). The most important thing to us is that the cat should always be safe. By rescuing the cat, we made a promise that we will never abandon this animal or allow it to return to the condition from which we rescued it, alone and forsaken in the world. Do not break our promise by abandoning the animal we entrusted to you at the time of adoption. Return it to us.

(15) CLASSIC WEIRD. Jared pays tribute to “Jane Gaskell, First Lady of the Weird” in a compelling review article at Pornokitsch. Here’s an excerpt:

The Atlan Series: The Serpent (1963), Atlan (1965), The City (1966), Some Summer Lands (1977)

Note: To keep things complicated, later printings split The Serpent into two volumes (The Serpent and The Dragon)

This series – Gaskell’s epic fantasy saga – is batshit crazy.

It follows Princess Cija, as she meddles in the politics of Atlantis. She goes from princess to prisoner to conqueror to spy to Chosen One to fugitive to back again… It is bonkers, risque and occasionally befuddling.

In a way, the Atlan saga is an even more extreme version of Strange Evil, exacerbated, perhaps, due to its epic length. Cija, like Judith, lacks agency. She is notable because she is desired, rather than possessing any strong desires of her own. She’s passed from hand to hand (to paw), partner to partner. Her bloodline is important, her presence is ‘destined’, but, again, we find in Cjia a distressing subversion of a Chosen One. She is one that has been Chosen, rather than having any control over her fate. This is the Epic Fantasy with the princess-in-the-tower as the first person protagonist, and it can make for harrowing reading: to be the prize and not the hero is, unsurprisingly, kind of dark.

Atlan also has an utterly ridiculous setting – packed with ‘SPACE AGE’ SF, mad science, dragons, monsters, death rays, lizard people, whatever. It feels almost deliberately pulpy, in a way that makes its sneaky-dark message all the more sinister.

Michael Moorcock included the series in Fantasy: The 100 Best Books (1988), and admires – slightly sarcastically – the over-the-top pulpy elements. He refers to the series’ “bewildering status changes” and “breathless peregrinations”, and his summary gleefully points out how silly the whole thing is. But he eventually concludes “Too much? Never! Stirring stuff, all of it.”

Others also (mostly) approve – John Clute describes it with lukewarm praise: “In genre terms the series – sometimes uneasily, but at points with real panache – marries sf and the popular romance; it is full of vigorous and exuberant invention and occasionally overheated prose.” (It is worth noting that late 1960s ‘popular romance’ was pretty bleak stuff – this isn’t a sappy love story, but a harrowing tale of self-actualisation [or… semi-reluctant acceptance].)

(16) ROBOTS V. FAIRIES. SF Bluestocking’s Bridget McKinney isn’t high on this new collection — “Book Review: Robots vs. Fairies edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe”.

Robots vs. Fairies is my first reading disappointment of 2018. I loved Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe’s first anthology, 2016’s The Starlit Wood, so I was very hyped for this one when it was announced. Unfortunately, Robots vs. Fairies is a bit of a sophomore slump for the editing pair, with a theme that feels more questionable the farther one reads into the collection, stories that largely feel a little too written to spec, and not enough that’s new and interesting to recommend it on those scores. It might work as sort of comfort reading for those who find its table of contents—filled with some of the hottest short fiction writers currently working in SFF—appealing, but if you’re looking for exciting, fresh, innovative work, there’s not much of that here.

(17) JDA TODAY. Jon Del Arroz tries to defend against the Jim C. Hines compilation without mentioning the author by name in “The Ever-Changing Narrative And Double Standards Show They’re Disingenuous” (link to the Internet Archive).

In the past couple days, with that Narrative being such bad publicity for the convention because of the double standard they applied over political affiliation, it’s shifted to “he’s mean on the internet!”  NYT Bestsellers have been swearing about me on their twitter, lower-selling midlist authors are cheering and congratulating each other over spreading rumors and gossip like this is a high school clique rather than professionals. This strategy is going to backfire as well, because first, being mean on the internet is not a crime. No one has been banned from conventions over being mean on the internet before. And it applies to these folk in a massive double standard way. I don’t go around being nearly as mean or cruel as they are.

(18) MEDIC, I’M HIT! I was bitterly disappointed that Jim C. Hines showed in comments today that he reviewed the evidence with JDA about his doctored “Goodbye Jon” email conversation with me (which actually happened in this order) only to conclude —

The summary: We have several possibilities here.

  1. Jon is faking his screenshots.
  2. Mike is lying.
  3. Jon’s Sent Mail shows a different Sent Time than the email(s) Mike received from him.

(19) CHOPPAGE. At Pedestrian, Ben McLeay reports the latest antics of men’s rights activists – erasing women from The Last Jedi — “MRAs Make 46-Minute Cut Of ‘The Last Jedi’ That Edits Out All The Women”.

It is utterly tragic that MRAs aren’t given the respect they deserve. It’s truly galling that just because their entire worldview was formed around a profound sense of entitlement induced by watching thousands of hours of harem anime, no one takes them seriously. It’s heartbreaking to think that people dismiss them out of hand just because – instead of addressing actual issues like the rates of suicide and depression among men – they focus on dumb shit like editing out all the parts of The Last Jedi that aren’t centred around men.

If that last thing sounded too ridiculous to be true, you have clearly forgotten which time it is that we live in and the corresponding fact that pretty much nothing now is too ridiculous to be true. We live in the most aggressively ridiculous timeline. Accordingly, the self-described “chauvinist cut” of TLJ is very, very real, and exactly as dumb as it sounds.

Uploaded to The Pirate Bay yesterday by an anonymous user, the “The Last Jedi: De-Feminized Fanedit” is, according to their own description “basically The Last Jedi minus Girlz Powah and other silly stuff“.

(20) HARD-HITTING JOURNALISM. WIRED delivers a less-than-stunning revelation: “Cantina Talk: The Last Jedi’s Shirtless Kylo Is Proving a Problem for Cosplayers”.

So, About Kylo’s High-Waisted Tights…

Source: The Wall Street Journal, of all places

Probability of Accuracy: They did get a high quality still of shirtless Kylo, so there’s no denying that they know what they’re doing.

The Real Deal: Perhaps the most surprising Last Jedi story to appear in recent weeks is this Wall Street Journal piece about the high-waisted tights Kylo wore in that one super-uncomfortable scene of him Force-communicating with Rey. (Don’t pretend like you know know exactly which one we’re talking about.) For one, it was surprising because it was in the Journal, but also because it focused on how hard Shirtless Buff Kylo Ren was to pull off for cosplayers. The piece even quotes Last Jedi costume designer Michael Kaplan, who said, “The world of Star Wars is not our world… Kylo Ren is not some hipster in hip-hugging jeans. Think Errol Flynn swashbuckling coolness as a point of departure. Hide that navel!” So, now you know. (Also, let’s be honest: Kylo Ren most definitely is some hipster in hip-hugging jeans, even if his wardrobe doesn’t reflect it.)

(21) BLACK PANTHER. Ruth Carter “‘Black Panther’ Costume Designer Talks Tribal-Tech Inspirations” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Ruth Carter has created costumes for some epic films, Amistad, Malcolm X and Selma among them, but nothing prepared her for the size and scope of Black Panther. For the super-stylish superhero film opening Feb. 12, she imagined a new African diaspora with 700 costumes fusing futurism, indigenous dress and high fashion, using research that spanned from the Rose Bowl Flea Market to textile dealers in Accra, Ghana.

The Ryan Coogler-directed film brings to the big screen Marvel Comics’ first black superhero, reinventing the circa 1966 character for today. Black Panther is depicted as T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who rules over the fantastical African country of Wakanda, rich with vibranium, a mythic metal that is woven into the superhero’s sleek black, repeating triangle-pattern suit (designed by Marvel’s Ryan Meinerding), and has allowed the population to make technological advances nearly a century ahead of the rest of the world. The fight for vibranium is at the heart of the story, with T’Challa defending the kingdom against Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger.

Carter worked with five illustrators, 14 designers, mold makers, fabric dyers, jewelry makers and more. “It was an army,” the costume designer says. On her mood boards were images of African dress from the Maasai, Tuareg, Turkana, Xhosa, Zulu, Suri and Dinka peoples (including a men’s glass bead, animal skin and cowry shell corset from the Metropolitan Museum of Art), as well as piercings and body art, and more abstract examples of drapery and beading. She also examined fashion by avant-garde pleating master Issey Miyake, African-style vintage pieces by Yves Saint Laurent and Donna Karan.

(22) STARTS TOMORROW. CW released a clip from Black Lightning — The Resurrection Scene 2 – a show that premieres January 16.

About BLACK LIGHTNING: Jefferson Pierce is a man wrestling with a secret. Nine years ago, Pierce was gifted with the superhuman power to harness and control electricity, which he used to keep his hometown streets safe as the masked vigilante Black Lightning. However, after too many nights with his life and his family on the line, he left his Super Hero days behind. Almost a decade later, Pierce’s crime-fighting days are long behind him…or so he thought. But with crime and corruption spreading like wildfire, Black Lightning returns — to save not only his family, but also the soul of his community.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, ULTRAGOTHA, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, James Davis Nicoll, Dann, Will R., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John From GR.]

Pixel Scroll 12/22/17 Well, Those Books Kept Coming And They Don’t Stop Coming

(1) ADVANCED CREATURE ACCOUNTING. If there had been a test I would not have passed…

(2) LIGHTING UP THE NIGHT SKY. Excitement this evening in California caused by the SpaceX Iridium 4 launch out of Vandenberg. Per Gregory Hart:

Successful orbital insertion for deployment of the fourth set of Iridium communication satisfied l satellites. First stage was maneuvered to crash into the ocean safely and it looked like controlled burn backs helped in positioning. They did not want to recover the first stage this time as it had been previously flown in June.

(3) KGB. See all the photos taken by Ellen Datlow at N.K. Jemisin and Christopher Brown’s Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading on December 20 — here.

Chris and Nora

(4) DOWNSIZING, BRIGHT REVIEWS. Rush and watch these productions before critics talk you out of it. Oops, too late….

NPR’s Andrew Lapin calls Downsizing: A Tone-Deaf, Less-Than-Incredible Shrinking Satire”:

It’s the rare movie that seems to execute every part of its concept absolutely wrong; a narrative, tonal, visual and sociopolitical fiasco the likes of which haven’t been seen in many moons.

And Chris Klimek says Bright (from Netflix) is “perfectly, stubbornly mediocre” in “Will Smith Plays Cops-And-Monsters In Unremarkable ‘Bright'”

…the scenes of Smith and Edgerton driving around on patrol, bickering like all the Murtaughs and Riggses and Crocketts and Tubbses and Cagneys and Laceys who’ve sat in cars together on stakeout since the First Age of Middle-Earth — lo, they cast a mighty spell of pure adequacy.

The Daily Beast is even more brutal: “Netflix’s ‘Bright’ Is a $90 Million Steaming Pile of Orc Sh*t”:

Bright is a misnomer on two levels. First of all, the majority of Netflix’s new $90 million original movie takes place at night and in fairly dingy rooms, and that, in combination with how the whole production is lit, means that most of the action is obscured and visually unintelligible. Secondly, there’s nothing about this movie that’s an inherently good idea—or rather, very generously speaking, maybe the story could have made some valid points about the state of race relations in America with a little more thought. But as things stand, Bright plays like the kind of movie a kid might make up (“And then this happens! And then this happens!”) if they were given a very rough overview of American history and then told to write a script about it. It’s almost worse that that’s not the case—scratch that, it is worse—but we’ll get to that.

(5) THEIR MILEAGE VARIED. On the other hand, the BBC lists Downsizing as one of the year’s 10 best (along with 3.5 other genre films):

  1. Downsizing

Despite its title, Downsizing sees Alexander Payne’s ambition growing to vertiginous heights. His specialism is wistful comedies (Sideways, Nebraska) set in a recognisable contemporary US, but his latest film is an apocalyptic science-fiction mind-bender set at some unspecified point in the future, in the US and beyond. Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig play the Midwestern couple who wonder whether they should cut their living costs by being shrunk to the size of Barbie dolls but this droll premise is just the beginning. As soon as you think you can see where it’s going, Downsizing ventures somewhere startlingly new instead.

(6) THE BOMB. Talking about his novel The Berlin Project, Gregory Benford describes where alternate history branches off in “Making A Better World War II”.

Everybody loves success, so historians have papered over the fact that when we developed the atomic bomb we made a decisive bad judgment that cost over half a billion dollars of 1940s dollars and delayed the war’s end by about a year.

The bad decision came in 1942 from General Leslie Groves, who directed the Manhattan Project, which was the U.S. R&D program to develop the first nuclear weapons. To make uranium suitable for an atomic bomb, you must enrich it up to weapons-grade, so that it is almost pure U-235, the element’s most fissile isotope. Groves chose to pursue gaseous diffusion over an alternate concept—Karl Cohen and Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner Harold Urey’s centrifugal separation—to enrich uranium up to weapons-grade.

We now know that was a huge mistake. Karl and Harold Urey said so then.

If we had stuck with centrifugal separation for another six months we would’ve solved its engineering problems, without question.

(7) IT’S A BASEBALL THING. Surely all Filers in Philadelphia would enjoy the excitement of science fiction and the wacky hijinks of the Phillie Phanatic together in one memorable film! MLB.com identifies “The weirdest and best National League gifts you can buy this holiday season”, and one is genre —

The material is only as good as the teacher. Fortunately for all of us, this Christmas the teacher can be … the Phillie Phanatic. Yes, underneath all that green fur is a creature that wants to show us history. Move over, Bill and Ted: This is the movie for me.

The Phillie Phanatic loves the Phillies, but he loves world history, too. When his new time travel helmet arrives in the mail, the Phanatic doesn’t just learn about history, he lives it! With the help of his friend, Larry, the Phanatic goes back in time to help cavemen invent the wheel, becomes king for a day, outduels an evil knight, signs the Declaration of Independence, cracks the Liberty Bell and stumbles into many other wacky adventures with his time travel helmet. What time period is his favorite? Only real Phillies fans know the answer!

(8) FOR SOME VALUES OF RUINED. How can we expect anybody to “have yourself a merry little Christmas” now? “‘Christmas is ruined’: Outrage as Cadbury drops old favourite Fudge from selection boxes”Evening Standard has the story.

Chocolate fans have reacted with fury after Cadbury dropped the beloved fudge bar from its festive selection box.

The old favourite has been replaced by a dairy milk oreo bar, leading some to claim that “Christmas is ruined”.

The biscuit-based newcomer joins the wispa, crunchie, double decker, dairy milk and chocolate buttons in the selection box, which costs £2.99.

Fans of the boxes, which are a popular Christmas gift, have taken to Twitter to lambast Cadbury over the controversial move.

(9) JINGLE HELL. What is Adam Roberts thinking?

(10) BARKS’ FAMILY PORTRAIT. A painting by one of the most famous Walt Disney Studios artists of all time helped Heritage Auctions’ Dec. 9-10 Animation Art Auction in Beverly Hills, California clear more than $1.5 million.

More than a dozen bidders pursued a Carl Barks “Family Portrait” Uncle Scrooge and Disney Ducks Painting #73-15 with Handwritten Letter (1973) until it finally hammered at $68,712.50. The entire Duck family “posed” for the legendary Disney artist, with Donald Duck surrounded by Uncle Scrooge McDuck (a Barks creation), Grandma Duck, Daisy Duck, Gladstone Gander, and in front, Donald’s nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie.

(11) TWO COMICS ARTISTS DIE. The ranks of women comics artists have been depleted by two recent deaths. Vu Nguyen reports

One of the few women in comics, Annie Goetzinger, has died today (20 December 2017).  She was 66, according to la-croix.com.

Goetzinger is a French illustrator, known for her research and attention to detail. Her  earliest works were illustrations for short comic stories published in French comic magazines like Pilote, Charlie Mensuel and Fluide Glacial. Goetzinger’s first graphic novel, Casque d’Or, won her two awards at the 1977 Angoulême International Comics Festival.

“When I started, I did not know there were so few girls making comics. … I didn’t care; I always felt like kind of a maverick.”

Also, another woman artist: Lona Rietschel, from Germany, passed away at the age of 84 on 19 December 2017 (as mentioned by tagesspiegel.de).  Rietschel started her career as a fashion artist and animator at DEFA studios, before relocating to Berlin.  There, she applied to work for the long-running German/Europe’s monthly comic book Mosaik.  She was originally hired as only an illustrator, but she eventually started creating characters for the magazine, including  The Digedags.

In May 2013, Rietschel won the PENG! Prize for her work at the Comicfestival München.

(12) ASTRONAUT OBIT. NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless, the first person to fly freely and untethered in space, died December 22. He was 80.

He was famously photographed in 1984 flying with a hefty spacewalker’s jetpack, alone in the cosmic blackness above a blue Earth. He traveled more than 300 feet away from the space shuttle Challenger during the spacewalk.

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 22, 1932 The Mummy seen for the first time in theaters.
  • December 22, 1933 Son of Kong premiered.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 22, 1951 – Charles de Lint

(15) NOT TO BE MISSED. See a canvass of top titles in Starburst’s Books of 2017”:

As 2018 and all its potential looms ever closer, it’s about this time of year that we have a quick look back at some of the more interesting books that came out in 2017. We aren’t going to stand on ceremony here.  This is a mixed list of stuff that caught our eye over the year, each one chosen because it delighted us in some way. To start off with, let’s mention Jeanette Ng’s Under the Pendulum Sun, a notably dense yet utterly absorbing tale of two Victorian Era Christian Missionaries head into the land of fairies to bring god to godless. It’s wonderfully bleak and though it’s hardly poolside holiday reading, it’s rather fun. Speaking of light reading is Andy Weir’s Artemis. Weir is best known for his book The Martian, which got turned into a movie featuring Matt Damon. Artemis is more of the same; believable science fiction (this time set in a moon base), slight less believable characters and lots of friendly science to go with the fiction. Bubblegum it may be, but it’s delicious bubblegum that feeds your brain.

(16) MEMORIES AND EXPECTATIONS. Adam Troy-Castro launched a Facebook discussion of Jon Del Arroz’ tweets about applying for SFWA membership and plans to wear a bodycam in the SFWA Suite:

If you’re a reasonably normal person who happens to earn professional credits as a science fiction writer — two subsets which may sound mutually exclusive, but which are not — then your dream, if attending Worldcon, *should* be, normally is, getting to meet and befriend all the iconic writers whose imaginations informed yours.

“Oh my God! I can be in the same room with David Gerrold or Robert Silverberg or George R.R. Martin or Raymond E. Feist or Ursula K. Le Guin or Steve Barnes or (in treasured memory), Octavia Butler, Daniel Keyes, Harry Harrison, Kit Reed, Richard Matheson and Hal Clement!”

You can name the younger names, too, but if you care, there’s a certain generation of writers, young or old, who are icons to you, and it matters to you, and that is one reason you want to go.

This guy looks forward to walking into the SFWA Suite and knowing that they couldn’t lock him out, and indeed he looks forward to wearing a bodycam to entrap people into treating him like shit so he can prove they’re all a bunch of assholes.

A year out…this is what he anticipates with glee.

This is what gives him the tinglies….

Several writers answered with sentimental reminiscences about their first visit to the SFWA Suite at a Worldcon, including a long one by Jim Wright about Sasquan.

(17) JDA AND SFWA. A. Merc Rustad wrote a series of tweets about JDA’s SFWA application, which starts here.

(18) RESIGNS FROM THE EMPIRE. T.R. Napper says no more Star Wars for him – “Glory to the Empire”.

George Lucas, on the other hand, was like Vader. When he started out, young and idealistic, he did some amazing things. As he got older, and the call of his own hubris became too strong, he turned to the dark side. We got Ewoks. Then Gungans. And Midichlorians. And: “NOOOOOOOOOO!” But even then, at his worst – and his worst was terrible – at least he was still capable of originality. Lucas, like Vader, and unlike the Empire, could be redeemed. Just stick him in his toy room in Skywalker Ranch, pew pew pew! And let someone else write and direct his intellectual property. You know, like they did with Empire Strikes Back.

No more. I’ve given up on Star Wars because my people, the Rebellion, are making independent movies like Moonlight, or Whiplash, or The Rover, or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, or Memento, or Animal Kingdom. At the bigger end of the scale, they’re taking risks with movies like Blade Runner 2049.

There will be no more risks taken with Star Wars. There’s just the brand and its components, rearranged by filmmaking algorithm, once per year, forever. Kinda takes the magic out of it all.

(19) THE EMPIRE STRIKES OUT. “Stalking, First Order style,” says JJ.

(20) ANOTHER RASH OF ONLINE BIGOTRY. Newsweek reports “Racist Attacks Against Kelly Marie Tran Posted to Rose Tico’s ‘Wookieepedia’ Page”. Examples of the attacks are at the link.

Writer Bryan Young, who posted a screenshot of the racist attacks on Twitter, told Newsweek that he was alerted to the changes by a friend on Tuesday.

Wookieepedia admins have removed the vandalism, closing off Rose’s page for editing. A history of the edits to the page, with attached IP addresses, is still publicly available, though the edit in question has been removed. Young told Newsweek the IP address attached to the edit in the screenshot is 64.203.14.213. The user has been blocked from using Wookieepedia or any other FANDOM wikis.

“FANDOM has a zero tolerance policy for vandalism, inclusive of racism and harassment,” the company said in a statement provided to Newsweek. “The wiki admins take this very seriously and took the steps to resolve this situation as quickly as possible, including escalation to our team, and subsequent lockdown. This lockdown will remain for the foreseeable future and we will be closely monitoring activity on this wiki.”

(21) PUT A CORK IN IT. Vintages are swirled together in these Middle-Earth mixes — “You shall not pass (on a glass)! Warner Brothers collaborates with winemaker on a limited-edition collection of four Lord of the Rings-themed WINES”. Here’s an excerpt from the Daily Mail’s description of these concoctions.

The 2015 Aragorn Appellation Lussac – St. Émilion Contrôlée is $25 and features a blend of 80 per cent Merlot, 15 per cent Cabernet Franc, and 5 per cent Malbec. It is described as ‘rich, concentrated and built to last,’ while the site boasts, ‘If ever there was a wine fit for a king as mighty and honorable as Aragorn, this is it.’

The 2016 Galadriel Bordeaux Blanc white wine is $18 and has flavors of grapefruit, lemon, and lemongrass.

‘The most noble and powerful of the Elves is honored by this high-toned wine, a Bordeaux Blanc with piercing citrus flavors and remarkable concentration.

‘Just as Galadriel is revered by all those graced by her presence, this impressive white is a true testament to her strength and wisdom, imbuing an immediate sense of devotion with its graceful palate. Take a sip and fall under its ethereal spell,’ the site states.

(22) KITSCHIES. These are the 2017 Kitschies judges who have been announced so far:

RED TENTACLE & GOLDEN TENTACLE

Leila Abu El Hawa

Leila runs the Post Apocalyptic Book Club… She was a judge for the Clarke Awards in 2015-16 and in her spare time works in the fashion industry. @dystocalypse

Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Jon Courtenay Grimwood was born in Malta and baptised in the up-turned bell of a ship. …He also, for 5 years, wrote a monthly SF&Fantasy column for the Guardian. Two times winner of the BSFA Award for Best Novel, with Felaheen and End of the World Blues. …Moskva, written as Jack Grimwood, was his most recent. Its sequel, Nightfall Berlin, is due Autumn 2017. @joncg

Joshua Idehen

Joshua Idehen is a poet, teacher and musician. A British born Nigerian, Joshua was the founder of one of the most successful poetry events in London, Poejazzi. …He is premiering a live show with Band City, ‘Last Night’, about London’s closed clubs. @benincitizen

Ewa Scibor-Rilka

…With a degree in English & Philosophy, she’s previously spent her time running a sci fi & fantasy section of a central London bookshop, working on conventions, surviving said conventions, and writing about popular nerd culture for The Mirror’s UsVsThem project. …@EwaSR.

Alasdair Stuart

Alasdair Stuart is the owner of Escape Artists, the digital publishing company behind Escape Pod, Pseudopod, Podcastle and Cast of Wonders.  …Read his work at alasdairstuart.com, or follow him at @AlasdairStuart on Twitter for professional enthusiasm, film analysis, the occasional food blog and more.

(23) WATCHING BY NIGHT. No need for any theological arguments about Die Hard’s place in the holiday pantheon when you just admit what you’re doing. Tor.com contributors came up with this list of “Our Favorite Non-Holiday Films to Watch Over the Holidays”, one that concludes with Leah’s preference for doing trilogy marathons —

We began with the obvious and tackled the Star Wars Trilogy. And lo! The 27th dawned, and I felt better than I had in any previous year. And thus a new tradition was born, and we tried Back to the Future, the first three Thin Man movies (those are the good ones) and then the one that stuck: The Lord of the Rings. Obviously, LOTR was already something of a holiday tradition anyway since the movies came out in December, but in a purely shallow way, watching all three movies while stuffing yourself with leftovers is the perfect way to ease back into regular, non-Christmas time. On a more serious note, since Christmas, at its heart, is about celebrating light in the darkness, what better scene to watch than the lighting of the beacons?

(24) FOR SOME VALUES OF “SAFETY.” There’s an app for that? “Reindeer hunted by wolverines get safety app”.

Reindeer, who fall prey to wolverines, wolves and lynx, are being fitted with sensors to protect them.

It makes it easier for herders to track the animals across the remote Lapland forests where they roam.

Sensors around the necks of the female reindeer are linked to the herders’ smartphones, allowing them to rescue hurt animals more quickly and identify the cause of death for those killed.

(25) NEVER TELL ME THE ODDS. In response to complaints, “Apple changes rules on app ‘loot boxes'”.

In the updated guidelines, Apple said any in-game mechanism that rewards players with “randomised virtual items” must list the odds of receiving each type of item. In addition, it said, customers must be informed of these odds before they buy the boxes or rewards.

Many games offer extras to players that can change the appearance of the game, introduce new characters or bestow power-ups that help people as they play.

Some titles let people buy loot boxes with in-game funds they generate by playing or by spending real money to purchase the game’s virtual cash.

The controversy over the crates was thrown into sharp focus last month with the release of the Star Wars Battlefront II game, which used them extensively.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Ed Fortune, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]