Pixel Scroll 5/23/19 Cirque Du Scroll

(1) A NICE ROUND NUMBER. Air New Zealand just might take up George R.R. Martin’s suggestion to fly a bunch of his fans to next year’s Worldcon, CoNZealand.

(2) CONZEALAND. Here’s an interview with the 2020 Worldcon chair recorded not long ago, but before the events in the first item.

We are back with our video coverage from Wellygeddon 2019, this time we talked to Norman, one of the awesome people behind CoNZealand, the 78th World Science Fiction Convention, which is happening on 29th July – 2nd August 2020, and they are looking for volunteers!

(3) NO CHESSIECON THIS YEAR. Chessiecon 2019 has been cancelled. The convention had been planned for November 29-December 1, 2019 in Baltimore. Refunds are promised. The committee says the con will return in 2020. Chair Joshua Kronengold explained:

None of us wanted this outcome. However, lack of responsiveness from the hotel, combined with information from current and former staff about its current state, has led us inexorably to a lack of confidence that the Red Lion is capable of hosting a convention to our standards. This hotel has been used by first Darkover since 1988 and Chessiecon from the start, but over the years we have received an increasing number of complaints about it, and this year the problems have become untenable. The committee discussed the options in considerable depth before reaching this decision, but see no way to continue for 2019 without sacrificing the quality of our convention. We decided it would be more productive to focus our energies on future years….

(4) THEY’LL BE BACK. Terminator: Dark Fate comes to theatres November 1, 2019.

Welcome to the day after Judgment Day. …Linda Hamilton (“Sarah Connor”) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (“T-800”) return in their iconic roles in Terminator: Dark Fate, directed by Tim Miller (Deadpool) and produced by visionary filmmaker James Cameron and David Ellison. …Also stars Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, and Diego Boneta.

(5) NEXT KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Chuck Wendig and Keith R.A. DeCandido on Wednesday, June 19th.

Chuck Wendig

Chuck Wendig is the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Aftermath, as well as the Miriam Black thrillers, the Atlanta Burns books, Zer0es/Invasive, and Wanderers coming in July 2019. He’s also written comics, games, film, and more. He was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, an alum of the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, and served as the cowriter of the Emmy-nominated digital narrative Collapsus. He is also known for his popular blog, terribleminds.com, and books about writing such as Damn Fine Story. He lives in Pennsylvania with his family.

Keith R.A. DeCandido

Keith R.A. DeCandido is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his fiction writing career. His media tie-in fiction — which earned him a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009 — covers 33 different universes, from Alien to Zorro. His original work includes stories set in the fictional cities of Cliff’s End and Super City, as well as the somewhat real locales of New York and Key West. His 2019 novels include Mermaid Precinct, the latest in his fantasy police procedural series; Alien: Isolation, based on the classic movie series; and A Furnace Sealed, launching a new urban fantasy series taking place in the Bronx, where Keith currently lives with assorted humans and felines.

The event takes place Wednesday, June 19, starting 7 p.m. at KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs), New York, NY

(6) DOLLARS AND SENSE. Patch O’Furr winds up a three-part series in “How furries resist a commercialized fandom (Part 3)”.

“Resistance” can mean something unintentional, like friction. It doesn’t necessarily mean a deliberate anti-commercial mission. At the roots of fandom, noncommercialism probably meant doing DIY things the mainstream wasn’t doing. Now, when some furries make a living from business with other fans, you can call it organically indie. That’s not exactly a coordinated alternative, like socialistic co-ops….

How commercialism creeps in and complicates the fandom: There’s an exchange when fandom had roots in the mainstream, built an alternative place, and then influences the mainstream back. To win over fans as consumers, outsiders might tiptoe up to a line between respectable and weird, but not cross it. They may get resistance while the line protects independence. In fandom or out, engaging can be shaky for projects that need serious support (like a movie that needs a budget to get made right.) Worthy projects can fail because you can’t please all the people all of the time. Others can succeed by pleasing people while scamming or exploiting the base that made it possible.

If furry is commercializing, it can be seen in success of furry game devs, Youtubers, or Esports stars (like SonicFox). On the outside, furries show up in commercials/ads and music videos of non-indie artists. Psuedo-fursuits at Walmart or cheap knockoffs at DHGate may rise closer to fandom quality….

(7) AMONG THE STARS. The Harvard University Press does a “Q&A with Jo Dunkley, author of Our Universe: An Astronomer’s Guide”, which includes a shout-out to a Dublin 2019 guest of honor:

The book features many of the great names we would expect to see—the Galileos and Einsteins—but you also draw attention to unheralded and underappreciated astronomers, many of them women. Is it fair to say that some of the lost remarkable work done over the past 100 years has been done by women, either as individuals or in teams, like the Harvard Computers?

They have had a huge impact. The Harvard Computers in the early twentieth century, including Annie Jump Cannon, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, and later Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, were responsible for making sense of the different types of stars, understanding how to measure vast distances in the universe, and figuring out what stars are actually made of. Other pioneering women include Vera Rubin, who solidified the evidence for invisible dark matter, and Jocelyn Bell Burnell. She discovered an entirely new type of spinning star that is so dense that a teaspoonful would weigh as much as a mountain.

(8) FANAC FOR THE MASSES. SF fan Louis Russell Chauvenet coined the word “fanzine” in 1940. It has since permeated popular culture – witness  the LA Zine Fest (happening May 26) which encourages people “make a fanzine about a band, artist, activist, organizer, writer…anyone who inspires you!”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 23, 1921 James Blish. What was his best work? Cities in FlightA Case of Conscience? I’d argue it was one of those works. Certainly it wasn’t the Trek novels though he pumped them out — nearly ninety all told if I’m reading ISFDB right. And I hadn’t realized that he wrote one series, the Pantropy series, under a pen name (Arthur Merlyn). (Died 1975.)
  • Born May 23, 1933 Joan Collins, 86. Edith Keeler in the “City of the Edge of Forever” episode — initial script by  Harlan Ellison with rewrites by Gene Roddenberry, Steven W. Carabatsos and D. C. Fontana. I see she’s done a fair amount of other genre work including being Baroness Bibi De Chasseur / Rosy Shlagenheimer in the “The Galatea Affair” of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Siren Lorelei in the “Ring Around the Riddler” and “The Wail of the Siren” episodes of Batman
  • Born May 23, 1933 Margaret Aldiss. Wife of Brian Aldiss. She wrote extensively on her husband’s work including The Work of Brian W. Aldiss: An Annotated Bibliography & Guide. He in turn wrote When the Feast is Finished: Reflections on Terminal Illness, a look at her final days. She also co-edited the A is for Brian anthology with Malcolm Edwards and Frank Hatherley. (Died 1997.)
  • Born May 23, 1935 Susan Cooper, 84. Author of the superb Dark is Rising series. Her Scottish castle set YA Boggart series is lighter in tone and just plain fun. I’d also recommend Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children which is quite excellent.  
  • Born May 23, 1979 Brian James Freeman, 40. Horror author. Novels to date are Blue November Storms, This Painted Darkness and Black Fire (as James Kidman). He’s also done The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Book which he co-authored with Bev Vincent and which is illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne. He publishes limited edition books here.
  • Born May 23, 1986 Ryan Coogler, 33. Co-writer with Joe Robert Cole of Black Panther which he also directed, as he will Black Panther 2. Producer, Space Jam 2 (pre-production) 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brevity comes up with another delightfully dreadful Game of Thrones-themed pun.

(11) THE GODFATHER MEETS THE FAIRY GODMOTHER. The way Steph Post sees it, “Fairy Tales Are Really Just Hard-Boiled Crime Stories” – at CrimeReads.

…Modern crime fiction has nothing on the ingenuity, brutality and sheer bizarreness of the offenses committed in classic fairy tales. Moreover, fairy tales are ruthless. Our contemporary crime novels have the monopoly on moral ambiguity, true, but fairy tales take no prisoners and often offer no redemption. Mercy is not a hallmark of the genre and even the kindest, most benevolent maid-turned-princess isn’t afraid to take out her wicked stepmother.

(12) SYMBOLS OF THE RENAISSANCE. Mlex writes, “I recently had an opportunity to interview Prof. Arielle Saiber, author of Measured Words.” Hear what they had to say in this podcast — “On Measured Words: Computation and Writing in Renaissance Italy”.

A conversation with Arielle Saiber, Professor of Romance Languages at Bowdoin College. Covering topics that range from hallucinatory landscapes to Dante’s primum mobile, our conversation touched on the quest for harmony between the computational aspects of math and the physical aspects of writing, printing, and typography. Based on the lives of four scholars who lived during the Italian Renaissance, we explore their use of symbols and codes, their modes of teaching and expression, and the interdisciplinary nature of their work.

(13) THE SOUND OF ONE HAND CLAPPING. At Death Is Bad, Eneasz Brodski explains his reasons for thinking the “Final Episode of Game of Thrones was kinda good, in a way”.

…But when you take it all together–the amazing series, the precipitous decline, and the absolute travesty of Season Eight… it final episode comes through as a good mood piece. This episode was the final death rattle of a show we once loved. It was a funeral for vision and beauty. Everything was dark and dreary and awful, and even the sunny day at the end was basically a spiteful sun-god laughing at all men’s follies; rather than cheerful.

(14) CUTTING OUT THE MIDDLE (AND EVERY OTHER) MAN. This robotic delivery concept is making news today:

Ford is teaming up with Agility Robotics to explore how the company’s new robot, Digit, can help get packages to your door efficiently with the help of self-driving vehicles. Not only does Digit work collaboratively with self-driving vehicles, but it can also walk up stairs and past unexpected obstacles to get packages straight to your doorstep.

(15) EXECUTIVE CREDENTIALS. BBC recalls “The cat who saved a Japanese rail line”.

Not only did Tama’s sweet nature and photogenic features make her popular with commuters on the Kishigawa railway, but the ‘cat master’ became so famous she was knighted.

On a bright May morning at Japan’s Idakiso train station, a small cat basked in the sun as her photo was taken by a group of tourists before getting a tummy tickle from a toddler. While the white, tan and black kitten purred and meowed in the arms of a visitor, one of the station workers looked on with a grin, interjecting only to gently reposition the cat’s brimmed conductor hat whenever it threatened to slip over her eyes.

“Having her around the station makes everyone happy,” he said, as the cat playfully swiped at a tourist’s iPhone. “I sometimes forget that she is my boss.”

Meet Yontama, the latest in a line of feline stationmasters that has helped save the Kishigawa railway line in Japan’s Wakayama prefecture, a largely mountainous and rural part of the country famous for temple-studded hillsides and sacred pilgrimage trails.

This story began in the late 1990s with a young calico cat called Tama. The kitten lived near Kishi Station – the final of 14 stops on a 14.3km line that connects small communities to Wakayama City, the region’s hub ­– and would frequently hang out by the railway, soaking up affection from commuters.

(16) A MOST ROBORATIVE BEVERAGE. Archeologists anticipated two possible outcomes when they did this — “Israeli researchers brew ‘ancient beer’ with antique yeast”.

Israeli researchers have unveiled a “breakthrough” beer made from ancient yeast up to 5,000 years old.

Researchers from the Antiquities Authority and three Israeli universities extracted six strains of the yeast from old pottery discovered in the Holy Land.

It is believed to be similar to beverages enjoyed by the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt.

The team said it hoped to make the drink available in shops one day.

“I remember that when we first brought out the beer we sat around the table and drank… and I said either we’ll be good or we’ll all be dead in five minutes,” said Aren Maeir, an archaeologist with Bar-Ilan University. “We lived to tell the story”.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Anvil on Vimeo, Geriko tells about a young woman downloading her brain in preparations for the afterlife.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/21/19 The Pixelyon Fifth Project Was The Last Best Hope For Scrolls. It Filed

(1) STICK A FORK IN IT. The second official trailer for Toy Story 4 dropped today. Features Keanu Reeves, who adds Canadian content to the movie as stuntman Duke Caboom. The film comes to U.S. theaters on June 21.

Woody has always been confident about his place in the world and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. But when Bonnie adds a reluctant new toy called “Forky” to her room, a road trip adventure alongside old and new friends will show Woody how big the world can be for a toy.

(2) ARF SAYS SANDY. The Dick Tracy strip seems to be starting an arc involving Annie and Daddy Warbucks. Daniel Dern says, “I’ve been following sundry daily strips via GoComics but it appears to have started a week ago here.”

(3) SFWA’S AGENT. Michael Capobianco penned “An Appreciation of Eleanor Wood” for the SFWA Blog.

SFWA thanks Eleanor Wood and Spectrum Literary Agency for more than twenty years of service to the organization….

I still vividly remember how much Eleanor helped when SFWA’s auditor found a serious discrepancy in how Pocket Books was paying royalties for Star Trek books exported to the UK and Australia – they weren’t paying anything, contrary to the language in their boilerplate contract. SFWA complained to Pocket but was met with repeated demurrals; it was only when Eleanor took over that they capitulated, not only paying a fair compensation to all the authors affected, but getting the contract changed to more fairly pay authors in the future….

(4) THE SPIDER SYNDROME. Maurice Broaddus delivers today’s “The Big Idea” at Whatever.

The Usual Suspects is a bit of a departure for me. It’s a middle school detective novel (think “Elmore Leonard for kids” or, as it was pitched, “Encyclopedia Brown meets The Wire”), because I work a lot with children who want to read what I write and, frankly, most of my stuff isn’t “age inappropriate.” In fact, I originally wrote the book to both entertain my oldest son and chronicle some of my children’s antics (it’s the only thing of mine he’s read and he still refers to himself as my original editor). The premise of the story is The Big Idea: when something goes wrong in the school, they round up The Usual Suspects….

(5) AI AT BARBICAN. This is from a review by Simon Ings behind the Financial Times paywall of the “AI:  More Than Human” exhibit now showing at London’s Barbican Centre through August 26.

AI is part of the Barbican’s ‘Life Rewired’ season of films, workshops, concerts, and talks.  What is emerging from the project is less that we must learn how machines think and create, and more that we must stop carelessly running down our own abilities.  Human values and practices persist well beyond the moment we learn to automate them.  Music has been produced algorithmically since Bach’s, and Mozart wrote generative algorithms to power street organs.  Chess computers do nothing but encourage the playing of chess.

The first tented spaces in the Barbican’s gallery do a good job of exploring and to some degree disarming our anxieties about being taken over by thinking machines.  We are shown how the west, under the shadow of Rabbi Loew’s 16th century Golem, adopted a strictly instrumentalist view of human intelligence.  The US science fiction writer Isaac Asimov can be heard channeling the Abrahamic tradition when he insists that ‘A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.’

(6) INSIDE THE SUIT. Patch O’Furr continues a deep dive into furry fandom with “How furries resist a commercialized fandom (Part 2)”.

Furry fandom often has DIY ethics (intentional or not). That can mean nonprofit volunteer-led events, and directly supporting each other’s art instead of just consuming corporate products. A Daily Beast reporter asked about it and I shared lots of info that didn’t all make the news — so here’s a followup in 3 parts.

Fandom is big business in the mainstream – but furries have their own place apart. Why does this fandom grow independently? Let’s look at unique expression at the heart of it. Of course furries do a lot more things than this story can look at, but one aspect brings insight about decentralized structure.

Some subcultures rise and fall with media they consume. But the influences seen in Part 1 didn’t make one property in common for every furry. They didn’t rise with a movie like Zootopia. Instead, this fandom is fans of each other….

(7) GHOST OF COLAS PAST. This is hilarious. Food & Wine reports “‘New Coke’ Is Coming Back This Summer, Thanks to ‘Stranger Things'” – a product I definitely feel no nostalgia for, at all.

Season three of the spooky Netflix series takes place in 1985, the year of the soft drink brand’s most infamous product launch.

What Crystal Pepsi was to the 1990s, New Coke was to the ’80s. With the cola wars in full swing, the competition to out-do one another meant multi-million dollar, celebrity-filled ad campaigns and some less-than-successful product innovations. In 1985, the Coca-Cola Company made an ill-fated attempt to improve its core product by changing the formula up….

Starting at 5 p.m ET on Thursday, May 23, 12-ounce cans of New Coke will be available as a gift with purchase at CokeStore.com/1985, which will also feature limited-edition, numbered Stranger Things-themed glass bottles of Coca-Cola and Coke Zero Sugar.

(8) CELEBRITY CREDENTIALS. Ten cats from SFF movies made Business Insider’s list — “RANKED: 15 of the best movie cats of all time”.

15. Jonesy in “Alien” (1979) and “Aliens” (1986) is a survivor.

In the space thriller “Alien,” Jonesy the orange tabby cat is a source of comfort for protagonist Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) as her spaceship and crewmates are viciously attacked by an elusive alien creature called a Xenomorph.

Toward the end of the film, Jonesy and Ripley remain as the lone survivors on the spaceship, which means Jonesy is one tough cat.

Jonesy also made a reappearance in the sequel “Aliens” after he and Ripley traveled in hypersleep for 57 years, officially making him the oldest fictional cat on this list.

(9) ALIEN SPOTTED. A UFO will beam up this rare creature any moment now.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

Another big day in genre movie history.

  • May 21, 1971 Escape from the Planet of the Apes premiered in theaters
  • May 21, 1980 Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back hit theaters.
  • May 21, 1981 Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior debuted in theaters.
  • May 21, 2009 Terminator Salvation opened theatrically.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 21, 1889 Arthur Hohl. He’s Mr. Montgomery, the man who helps Richard Arlen and Leila Hyams to make their final escape in Island of Lost Souls, the 1932 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau which is considered the first such filming. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 21, 1903 Manly Wade Wellman. I remember reading the John the Balladeer collectionKarl E. Wagner did and then seeking out the rest of those stories. Amazing stuff! Read the Complete John Thunstone a few years back — strongly recommended. What else by him should I read? (Died 1986.)
  • Born May 21, 1917 Raymond Burr. Speaking of lawyers, we have the Birthday of the man who played Perry Mason.  It looks the 1949 film Black Magic with him playing Dumas, Jr. was his first genre performance. Bride of the Gorilla was his next with Lou Chaney Jr. co-starring and Curt Siodmak directing. He goes on to be Grand Vizier Boreg al Buzzar in The Magic Carpet before being Vargo in Tarzan and the She-Devil. And finally he’s in a Godzilla film, Godzilla, King of the Monsters! To be precise, as Steve Martin. And unfortunately he played the same role in Godzilla 1985 which earned him a Golden Raspberry Award. (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 21, 1945 Richard Hatch. He’s best known for his role as Captain Apollo in Battlestar Galactica. He is also widely known for his role as Tom Zarek in the second Battlestar Galactica series. He also wrote a series of tie-in novels co-authored with Christopher Golden, Stan Timmons, Alan Rodgers and Brad Linaweaver. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 21, 1974 Fairuza Balk, 43. She made her film debut as Dorothy Gale in Return to Oz. She later Aissa in The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Mildred Hubble in The Worst Witch.

(12) KNITTING UP THE STEEL WOOL. Cora Buhlert does an exhaustive review of GoT’s conclusion: “And the Iron Throne Goes to…”. The executive summary is —

…So in short, Game of Thrones got a better ending than at least I expected. It’s maybe not the ending most fans wanted or expected, but it is an ending and a surprisingly satisfying one.

(13) GAME OF GROANS. Daniel Dern asks, “Given GoT’s dragon-strafing episode, combined with family tree revelations, is/was Jon Snow referring to Daenerys as ‘Aunt Misbehaving’?”

(14) CONFESSIONS OF A DRAGON RIDER. Sarah Larson, in “Daenerys Tells All!” in The New Yorker, has an extensive interview with Emilia Clarke, including how whoever had the Starbucks cup on the set wasn’t a member of the cast (they don’t drink Starbucks) and telling children named Daenarys, “Work it, girls!”

“I see this vision, this angel, this incredible woman float towards me,” Clarke recalled the other day. “I can’t quite control myself. And Beyoncé says to me, ‘Oh, my goodness, it’s so wonderful to meet you. I think you’re brilliant.’ I just couldn’t handle it! I was on the verge of tears. I could see myself reflected in her eyes. I could see her go, ‘Oh, no. I misjudged this. This girl is crazy and I’m not going to have a real conversation with another celebrity. I’m having a conversation with a crazed fan who’s looking at me like a rabbit in the headlights.’ Which is exactly what I was. I said, ‘I’ve seen you live in concert and I think you’re amazing and wonderful! Wonderful!’ And all I wanted to scream was ‘Please, please still like me even though my character turns into a mass-killing dictator! Please still think that I’m representing women in a really fabulous way.’ ”

(15) FROM GRRM HIMSELF. George R.R. Martin shared a few of his feelings about “An Ending” at Not A Blog. Here are a couple of the less spoilery lines —

..Book or show, which will be the “real” ending?   It’s a silly question.   How many children did Scarlett O’Hara have?

How about this?  I’ll write it.   You read it.  Then everyone can make up their own mind, and argue about it on the internet.

(16) GOOD TO THE LAST BOOK. Bustle knows the way to work this dilemma for some clicks: “The New ‘Game Of Thrones’ Book May Not Be Finished, But These 15 Fantasy Series Definitely Are”.

If you’re a fan frustrated by the incompletion of one of the fantasy series listed above, or you’re waiting on the return of a different series entirely, this list will help you choose your next reading project. All of the fantasy series on the list below have been completed, which means you won’t have to wait to read the next book — unless you want to.

(17) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. You would be hard pressed to find a household that doesn’t have a microwave. But do you know how the beloved appliance came to be? In 1945, a Raytheon engineer was walking around a radar test room with a chocolate bar in his pocket. The bar began to melt when he got too close to a magnetron tube. His curiosity was peaked and he began experimenting with other things like kernels of corn and eggs. Soon after, Raytheon employees began sampling “microwaved” food and thus began the evolution of what we now know as the microwave. (Source: Business Insider)

Jon King Tarpinian includes a postscript: “A family friend worked at Raytheon, in Chatsworth/Canoga Park.  Her family had one before they were offered commercially.  Everybody raved about a grey steak.”

(18) BEYOND BAKING SODA. More than a science-fair project: “To Safely Study Volcanoes, Scientists Bring The Blast To Them” (includes video.)

Volcanoes have been crucial to life on earth. Oozing lava helped form the earth’s land masses. Gasses from volcanoes helped create our atmosphere. But despite the growing field of volcanology, there’s still a lot we don’t understand about volcanic eruptions.

That’s partly because volcanoes aren’t easy to study. Getting the right equipment into remote locations under unpredictable circumstances can be difficult. More importantly, studying active volcanos can be dangerous.

Which is why a group of 40 scientists and engineers from all over the world came together to simulate volcanic eruptions. We tagged along with them as they conducted their experiments at the University at Buffalo’s Geohazards Field Station, a former ballistics test site for military weapons in upstate New York.

The scientists simulated volcanic eruptions by detonating underground explosives. They wanted to study what happened during rapid fire eruptions in a safe and controlled environment. Although big eruptions are often what make the news, small rapid-fire volcanic eruptions are far more common.

(19) SPAM FROM THE CAN. BBC introduces us to “The pun-loving computer programs that write adverts”.

Machines are now writing advertising copy as well as basic news reports, but are their efforts any good and can they be taught to be more inventive?

“Have a suite stay” read an ad for a hotel offering all-suite rooms. A neat – if obvious – pun you might think.

But what made this ad noteworthy was that it was created by an automated copywriting programme developed by Dentsu Aegis Network, the marketing giant.

The firm launched its natural language generation algorithm last year to increase output after changes were made to Google’s advertising system, explains Audrey Kuah, the firm’s managing director.

The programme creates 20 to 25 full ads a second in English and is “trained” by feeding it thousands of the kind of ads it is meant to produce, she says.

(20) ARCHIE MCPHEE. What does this have to do with sff? If you know, leave your answer in comments.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Perspective on Vimeo, Fernando Livschitz dreams of really odd forms of transportation.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/20/19 My name Is Elmer J. Fudd, Millionaire. I Own A Pixel And A Scroll

(1) I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT. You know what they say about the love of money. Patch O’Furr’s “How furries resist a commercialized fandom (Part 1)” begins a three-part series at Dogpatch Press.

Fandom roots were growing independently. Influential fans of these times included Fred Patten, who helped import anime to America, founding a fandom for it, mingling it with science fiction fans and their conventions. Anime was a breath of fresh air with robots, monsters, science fiction and serious adult stories. Patten was also a bridge for funny animal artists with self-published APA’s and zines. In the early 80’s, Steve Gallaci put furries in military science fiction illustration that energized these artists.

At conventions, there was a certain social split among artists and fans. Serious-minded artists wanted to launch respectable careers, while orbiting ones hoped to ride along. But others looked to themselves as sources for fandom for its own sake — and respectability to outsiders wasn’t the main point. While other fandoms took different paths, this one branched off towards a subculture.

At 1980’s sci-fi conventions like Baycon in the San Francisco Bay area, the split was felt with separate room parties (separated by elitism or even cliquish mocking at “skunkfvckers”). It eventually spun off into the first furry con, ConFurence 0 in 1989, a test put together by fans in Southern California. (Mark Merlino, cofounder of Confurence, told me about the fan split in a long email exchange in 2017.) Others spun off from Chicago (Duckon), Philadelphia (Philcon) and elsewhere when furry fans wanted cons of their own….

Tomorrow, Part 2 will look more at how fandom grows with free expression, its own cottage industry and independent media, while making a certain fandom identity. Then Part 3 will look at how fandom can work like counterculture (or even punk) and how commercialism creeps in and complicates it.

(2) X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS. The late Len Wein gets a lot of love in the video that launches this series – “The History of the X-Men Part 1.”

Starting today through the end of May, Marvel will release the four-episode series online to celebrate the X-Men series that changed the Marvel Universe forever: Giant-Size X-Men, 1991’s X-Men #1, Age of Apocalypse, and New X-Men. Sponsored by this summer’s blockbuster HOUSE OF X and POWERS OF X series, these new retrospectives will take both longtime and new X-Men fans back to some of the greatest moments in the Marvel Universe, setting the scene for the most important story in the history of mutantkind.

Each of these shorts will feature voices from Marvel’s past and present – including legendary creators like Adam Kubert, Chris Claremont, Larry Hama, Jonathan Hickman, Al Ewing and more – as they look back and share their thoughts (and inside looks) into the most influential moments that redefined and reignited the X-Men, leading to bold new directions that drew in generations of fans around the world.

X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Series Release Schedule:  5/20 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 1: Giant-Size X-Men (1975);   5/22 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 2: X-Men #1 (1991);  5/24 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 2: Age of Apocalypse (1995);  5/28 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 2: New X-Men (2001)

(3) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. Ingvar (of Trigger Snowflake fame) livetweeted his tour of the Sweden Solar System, starting near the Sun and ending right by Mars, “Using just feet and public transport, it takes about three hours to go from the Sun to Mars.” The thread starts here.

(4) PINNACLE OF SFF. The winners of the 2019 Colorado Book Awards were announced on May 18. (Via Locus Online.)

  • Juvenile Literature
    Del Toro Moon by Darby Karchut (Owl Hollow Press)
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy
    While Gods Sleep by L. D. Colter (Tam Lin Publishing)

(5) HIGHER AND HIGHER. Did you know that Godzilla suffers from inflation? Bloody Disgusting has a lovely diagram: “Artist’s Epic Godzilla Size Chart Highlights How Much the King of the Monsters Has Grown Over the Years”.

…Artist Noger Chen put together this epic size chart in advance of King of the Monsters, putting every single live-action Godzilla (from 1954-2019) side by side, in order of height.

Godzilla measured just 50m tall when he first debuted on the scene, and here in 2019, he’s grown to a staggering 119.8m – the largest Godzilla, in front of Shin Godzilla, ever on screen!

(6) DOWN THE RIVER. Casting choices are named for a new sff movie in “Cannes: Anne Heche, Thomas Jane Join Sci-Fi Film ‘Salvage'” at The Hollywood Reporter.

Salvage will tell the story of two couples fighting to survive on a houseboat as it moves down river in a post-apocalyptic America: Everyone is out for their own survival, nothing is as it was and brutality is the new normal. Each of the characters discover sides of themselves they never knew existed, some valiant and some violent.

The film also boasts an original score composed by Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains.

(7) CROWDSOURCED STAFFING. [Item by Dann]. Grimdark Magazine is losing their cover artist. They are asking fans who are subscribed to their Patreon to help them select their next cover artist.

Help us shortlist a new GdM cover artist

Right-o grimdark horde! I need your input to decide upon a shortlist for a new cover artist to replace our outgoing legend Jason Deem.

When I put out the word for a new artist we got a very tall pile of entries–fifty or sixty or so. I had to cut most of them either for their art not being aligned with what I want on our covers, or their rates being a bit too far out of budget, and got the list down to four. I’d love to get your opinion on them.

The artists are:

(8) DC SAYS STOP WONDERING. After the comic debuted a lawyer letter arrived —“DC Sends Cease And Desist Demand Over Wonder Woman AOC Cover”Bleeding Cool has the story.

This week, Devil’s Due published the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez & The Freedom Force: New Party, Who Dis? comic book. A number of comic book retailers ran exclusive retailer covers, including this one for NY Collector Cave by Carla Cohen which Bleeding Cool posted a couple of weeks ago. In which AOC bears a stunning resemblance to Wonder Woman. Too stunning it seems for DC Comics whose legal team, after reading the article on Bleeding Cool (Warner Bros IP traffic spiked in the days after we posted that article), sent a cease-and-desist notice to DEvil’s Due and the NY Collector Cave demanded that the comic in question not be distributed, but recalled and returned or destroyed.

(9) PUSHING THE NARRATIVE. Is Grumpy Cat dead, or already reincarnated as Craig Martelle? Camestros Felapton has a few quotes from the 20BooksTo50K leader that raise the possibility: “Wrapping up the LMBPN Kerfuffle and the Nebulas”. Martelle told his FB group —

…Six indies nominated for Nebula awards last night and zero indie winners. What matters most is which stories resonate best with the readers and which ones will lead to new stories bringing more readers on board. Who is going to be the most professional of the authors? Out of our six finalists? Only one is not a full-time author and that is by choice.

I am not talking down about any winners or any other authors – being a full-time writer comes with great risk….

Camestros follows up with some earthy opinions of his own.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 20, 1911 Gardner Francis Fox. Writer for DC comics who created The Flash, Adam Strange and The Atom, plus the Justice Society of America. His first SF novel was Escape Across the Cosmos though he wrote a tie-ie novel, Jules Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, previously. (Died 1986.)
  • Born May 20, 1928 Shirley Rousseau Murphy, 91. Author of the Joe Grey series of mysteries. It’s a cat who solves mysteries. Surely that’s genre. Excellent series. She also did some genre, none of which I’ve encountered, the Children of Ynell series and the Dragonbard trilogy.
  • Born May 20, 1946 Cher, 73. In The Witches of Eastwick which is her main genre credit. She did appear as Romana on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in “The Hot Number Affair” and she voiced herself in the “The Secret of Shark Island” of The New Scooby-Doo Movies which despite the name was actually a series, but that’s it. 
  • Born May 20, 1960 John Billingsley, 59. Phlox on Enterprise, a series I really liked despite the fact it seems to have many detractors. His first genre role was in A Man from Earth as Mr. Rothman, a film in which the scriptwriter riffed off the immortality themes from the “Requiem for Methuselah” episode he did for Trek. He’d later reprise that role in The Man from Earth: Holocene. He’s had one-off appearances on The X-Files, Stargate SG-1, Duck Dodgers, Twin Peaks, Lucifer and The Orville. He had a recurring role on Stitchers as Mitchell Blair. 
  • Born May 20, 1961 Owen Teale, 58. Best known role is Alliser Thorne on the just concluded Game of Thrones. He also was Will Scarlet in the superb Robin Hood where the lead role was performed by Patrick Bergin, he played the theologian Pelagius in 2004 King Arthur, was Vatrenus in yet another riff on Arthurian myth called The Last Legion, was Maldak in the “Vengeance on Varos” episode in the Era of the Sixth Doctor, and was Evan Sherman in the “Countrycide” episode of Torchwood. He’s currently playing Peter Knox in A Discovery of Witches based on the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, named after the first book in the trilogy.
  • Born May 20, 1992 Jack Gleeson, 27. Joffrey Baratheon on the just concluded Game of Thrones. Earlier genre roles are all nameless but are Reign of Fire, Batman Begins and Shrooms, the latter being an Irish horror film. 

(11) IN THE LID. Alasdair Stuart says The Full Lid for May 17 includes a visit to the UK’s phenomenally good National Video Game Museum, a review of Vylar Kaftan’s excellent new novella and a look at Directive, a short run podcast with endless tricks up its sleeve. The Hugo Spotlight this week is Foz Meadows. Here’s an excerpt about the museum —

…Some of them are demos or in beta testing like Lightmatter, which I spent a lot of time with. You’re visiting a science facility built into a mountain when the science becomes Science. Guided out by the grumpy Cave Johnson-alike whose project it is, you have to manipulate your surroundings to stay in the light. Because every shadow will kill you. It’s got that Portal ‘feral science’ feel to it mixed with a great, monochrome graphic palette that throws stark light and shadow everywhere. Once this is done, I’m going to pick it up.

So that’s a game I would never have known existed. That’s still being built. And you can play for free in a museum….

(12) AZAD SFF REVIEWED. NPR’s Caitlyn Paxson says “Language Has Magic In ‘The Candle And The Flame'”.

A fantastical silk road city comes to life in Nafiza Azad’s richly detailed debut novel, The Candle and the Flame.

Fatima works as a messenger in the melting pot of Noor, a bustling desert city where humans and djinn live side by side. Once Noor was only a human city, but an attack by a chaotic tribe of djinn called the Shayateen wiped out the entire population — all except for Fatima and her adoptive sister and grandmother. After the massacre, a new maharajah took charge of Noor and turned to the Ifrit, powerful djinn who strive to keep order in the world, to help drive out the Shayateen and keep the city safe, for its new human and Ifrit inhabitants alike.

(13) AVOID BLOGGER BURNOUT. Fine advice from The Little Red Reviewer: “Dear Book Bloggers, I’m worried about you”

Dear book bloggers of the world:  I’m worried about you. Please be kinder to yourselves.

Book blogging is not and was never meant to be something you are required to do every day or three times a week or on any arbitrarily defined schedule.

Book blogging is not and should not be about keeping up with other bloggers. There isn’t some prize for reading the most books, or downloading the most eARCs from Netgalley or getting the most ARCs in the mail.

Book blogging should not be something that comes before selfcare, or before your family, or before the big things in your life. Some days watching TV should come before book blogging, because we all do #selfcare differently….

(14) BEFORE LIGO. NPR looks at a “Billion-Dollar Gamble: How A ‘Singular Hero’ Helped Start A New Field In Physics”.

Imagine spending 40 years and more than a billion dollars on a gamble.

That’s what one U.S. government science agency did. It’s now paying off big time, with new discoveries about black holes and exotic neutron stars coming almost every week.

And while three physicists shared the Nobel Prize for the work that made this possible, one of them says the real hero is a former National Science Foundation staffer named Rich Isaacson, who saw a chance to cultivate some stunning research and grabbed it.

“The thing that Rich Isaacson did was such a miracle,” says Rainer Weiss, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the 2017 Nobel laureates. “I think he’s the hero. He’s a singular hero. We just don’t have a good way of recognizing people like that. Rich was in a singular place fighting a singular war that nobody else could have fought.”

Without him, Weiss says, “we would’ve been killed dead on virtually every topic.” He and his fellow laureate Kip Thorne recently donated money to create a brand-new American Physical Society award in Isaacson’s honor.

(15) WESTEROS’ FOURTH ESTATE. Esquire’s Gabrielle Bruney suspects a bunch of writers are going to have to get real jobs now that the show’s ended: “Game of Thrones Created a Vast Media Ecosystem. We Talked to the People at Its Center.”

…”I think that when the show first started, it was the book reader base that really got it going,” said David “Razor” Harris, editor of Thrones news, recap, and discussion website Winter is Coming.

“This is a show that both debuted and ran in an era where live-tweeting, after episode breakdowns, and podcasts are the norm,” said Myles McNutt, a media studies expert and assistant professor at Old Dominion University, who reviews the show for The AV Club. Twitter was barely five years old when the program debuted; Instagram would make its appearance six months after Thrones did. Earlier generations of web-savvy fans had been consigned to wikis and message boards, corners of the internet the uninitiated found easy to overlook. But instead, Thrones content was “popping up in your YouTube related videos, on the the Apple front page of top podcasts,” said McNutt.

“It sort of feels like it’s part of your feeds and your daily existence online,” he continued. “I do think there’s ubiquity to it that has encouraged people to jump onboard that might not have otherwise.”

(16) SIREN SONG. Air New Zealand encourages George R.R. Martin to finish the books — after flying to the country on one of their planes.

(17) NOT THIS FUTURE? BBC’s Jane Wakefield analyzes “The Google city that has angered Toronto”. Key quote vs. genre: “The smart city model is all about hype. They believe that if we have enough data we can solve all our problems, and we need to be skeptical about those claims.”

It was meant to be a vision of how we will all live in future – a smart city built from the internet up – offering citizens the chance to experience the very latest technology.

That would include autonomous cars, innovative ways to collect rubbish and shared spaces for communities to come together in new ways.

Sidewalk Labs, a sister company to Google, had acquired disused land in Toronto, Canada for this bold urban experiment, which it hoped would become a model for other cities around the world.

The fact that it would be collecting a lot of data from sensors placed all around the harbourside development unsettled some.

Now many are asking whether a private firm should take charge of urban improvement at all….

(18) NOT SO FAST! Indications that another much-touted idea doesn’t work to spec — “Warning over using augmented reality in precision tasks”.

People who use augmented reality headsets to complete complex tasks fare worse than those with no high-tech help, a small study suggests.

In addition, those fitted with headsets over-estimate how well they perform.

The discovery might limit the usefulness of augmented reality, which has been finding a role in medical and engineering jobs.

The problem arose because of the way that human eyes focused, researchers said.

(19) FACING THE FUTURE. “Hershey’s Tries to Woo the Youths With Emojis”MyRecipes tells how.

…Are the emojis just an attempt to sell more chocolate to youths? Probably. But they’re also designed to do the one thing that advertisers and brand managers speaking at industry conferences love most: starting a conversation. The press release states that the selected emojis were chosen because they “feature meanings that would help to spark a conversation.” The idea that chocolate could get people talking was based on market research which concluded that 87% of kids would want to share chocolate that features emojis with others.

(20) WESTWORLD SADDLES UP AGAIN. The third season trailer has dropped — Westworld III – HBO 2020.

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