Pixel Scroll 3/22/19 Dial P For Pixel

(1) LABORS OF LOVE. The Hugo Award Book Club has completed its series of articles on the depiction of labor unions in science fiction. Olav Rokne sent the links with a note, “I welcome any feedback, and appreciate being informed of any omissions.” 

At their peak in 1954, unions represented almost a third of workers in the United States, and it was easy to take their existence — and their action as a counterbalance to the power of capital — for granted. Even employees in non-union workplaces enjoyed gains because employers had to keep up with union shops to retain and recruit labour.

But despite their prevalence in society, labour unions were largely absent from science fictional narratives during the Golden Age, and their few portrayals in the genre are usually either comedic or antagonistic.

As labour activist and science fiction author Eric Flint pointed out atWorldCon76, the major contributors to the development of science fiction — from the dawn of the Golden Age of Science Fiction through this era of union organizing and stability — were largely drawn from academic circles or the upper middle class. Despite working for a living, these authors and editors did not see themselves as part of the proletariat, and thus based their narratives on assumptions that their privileged working relationships allowed them to hold.

Cory Doctorow has been one of the leading lights of the genre’s reappraisal of the role of employment in society and the relationship between workers and employers. Tackling such subjects as employment precarity, labour mobility, and income inequality, Doctorow’s work consistently shows a strong understanding of the labour union world.

Of particular note is his 2010 novel For The Win which depicts a unionization drive amongst workers who are paid to gather resources in a World Of Warcraft-style online game. This depiction shows the necessity of worker organization in the face of capital overreach, and is informed by knowledge of the systemic flaws in traditional labour organizing.

The first unmistakable labour union in science fiction cinema that we were able to find is the Textile and Garment Workers Union depicted in the 1951 Ealing Studios comedy The Man In The White Suit. The film revolves around the invention of an indestructible fabric by a mild-mannered chemist played by Sir Alec Guinness, and the subsequent attempts by business and labour unions to suppress the invention. The depiction of unions in this movie is broad and largely inaccurate, depicting them as collaborating with management and encouraging industrial sabotage.

Despite these inaccuracies about how unions operate, we will be endorsing The Man In The White Suit for 1952 Retro Hugos, . It is in most ways a superb and thoughtful piece of science fiction about the introduction of a new technology, and is elevated by witty dialogue and star-worthy performances (Guinness was nominated for an Academy Award that year for a different comedy from the same studio).

(2) COLD READING. Wil Wheaton has done a free audiocast of a 1931 story from Astounding, “The Cave Of Horrors” by Captain S.P. Meek at Soundcloud.

I needed to get out of my comfort zone, so I went to Project Gutenberg, clicked through a few bookshelves until I got to classic Science Fiction, and decided to do an unrehearsed, essentially live narration of a story that was published in Astounding Stories of Super Science in 1931.

It’s not the greatest story I’ve ever read (if I’d read it before I narrated it, I wouldn’t have chosen it), but it’s a fine representative of that era’s genre fiction writing. I had some fun doing my best impression of someone reading it in 1931, and I recorded it to share with any of you who are interested in this sort of thing.

(3) DAYS OF YORE. Rob Hansen has added reports, photos, and publications from “Brumcon 2 – The 1965 Eastercon” to his British fanhistory site THEN. Charlie Winstone’s conreport sets the stage:

It all started some fifteen months ago, – the Brummies, in a fit of derring-do, talked Ken Cheslin into standing up and calling for the 1965 Convention venue to be Birmingham. This he did, not without some misgivings. After all the British Science-Fiction Association’s Committee was also centred upon Birmingham. Still, there were plenty of Brummies (Easter Brummies, as they were christened by Archie Mercer) around – it was surely not an impossible task to put on a Convention.

(4) THE FINAL COURSE. Scott Edelman welcomes you to dig into dessert with Parvus Press publisher Colin Coyle in Episode 91 of Eating the Fantastic

Colin Coyle

This episode of Eating the Fantastic almost didn’t happen, and not just because it was recorded somewhat spontaneously. No, the reason this episode almost didn’t happen was because instead of digging into dessert, we were afraid we might be spending the night being interrogated by the Secret Service. And if that had occurred, the blame would be entirely on Parvus Press publisher Colin Coyle.

It was all due to his afternoon mission to visit the White House and fulfill Kickstarter rewards relating to his recently released anthology If This Goes On, edited by Cat Rambo. And because that title contains my short story “The Stranded Time Traveler Embraces the Inevitable,” I decided to tag along. We had an off-the-record lunch at Jaleo, but once we we’d completed our mission, we debriefed what we’d just done over dessert at Art and Soul.

We discussed the reason we were glad we got to record the episode rather than spend the night in jail, how the tragic events of Charlottesville inspired him to hire Cat Rambo to assemble the If This Goes On anthology, why he switched over to the Kickstarter model for this book and what surprises he discovered during the process, the reason his company isn’t publishing horror even though he’d like to, the surprising shared plot point slush pile writers used to indicate future American culture was failing, what an episode of West Wing taught him about launching Parvus Press, what he isn’t seeing enough of in the slush pile, the acting role of which he’s proudest from back in his theater days (hint: you’ve probably seen Danny DeVito do it), the advice he wishes he could have given himself when he started out as a publisher, and much more.

(5) RIGHTS GRAB. Peter Grant flags “Another Attack on Author Rights” at Mad Genius Club. He points to an Authors Guild report that the “Los Angeles Times Wants Rights to Books Written by Staff”, which begins –

One of the nation’s leading newspapers is attempting an unprecedented rights grab, according to its writers. In the midst of contract negotiations with its newsroom staff, the Los Angeles Times, purchased last year by biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shionghas proposed that its journalists, as a condition of employment, cede control of any books or other creative works made outside of their daily journalistic duties.

The Los Angeles Times Guild, a trade union representing some 400 newsroom staffers, has called the proposal “a new low in the newspaper industry,” pointing out that no other major newspaper has such strict copyright restrictions. “If we have a book idea related to our work,” according to the Times Guild, “the company wants unfettered power to claim control over whether it gets written, who owns the copyright and what we might get paid for it.”

 In a comment Dorothy Grant asks whether the AG complaint should be taken at face value:

Several thoughts on that: first, we’re not seeing the actual contract clause, we’re seeing what one party to the negotiations has taken public in an attempt to pressure the other side. Which means that the ratio of truth to hyperbole is… unknown.

(6) GO RIGHT TO THE SOURCE. “Many of the short stories that inspired Love, Death + Robots are free online” says The Verge’s Andrew Liptak in a post that supplies the links.

(7) PUNCHING IN. Charlie Martin touts “The Power of Pulp” at PJ Media.  

But have you read any “quality” fiction recently? Between making sure that all the right demographics are presented in the exact right way, and the tendency of “quality” fiction to still be about nothing, most of it is not much fun. In fact, there’s even a technical term for reading that’s supposed to be fun: it’s called ludic fiction. It’s characterized by a particular experience: you get lost in it. You forget you’re reading and you’re engrossed in the vicarious experience.

Have you noticed that the people who stress the importance of “fun” rarely sound like they’re having any?

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 22, 1920 Ross Martin. Best known for portraying Artemus Gordon on The Wild Wild West. I watched the entire series on DVD one summer some decades back include the films in less than a month from start to finish. Now that was fun! It looks like Conquest of Space, a 1955 SF film, in which he played Andre Fodor was his first genre outing. The Colossus of New York in which he was the brilliant Jeremy ‘Jerry’ Spensser came next, followed by appearances on Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond, The Twilight Zone, Zorro, The Immortal, Night Gallery, Invisible ManGemini Man (a far cheaper version of Invisible Man), Quark (truly one of the worst SF series ever), Fantasy Island and Mork & Mindy. (Died 1981.)
  • Born March 22, 1930 Stephen Sondheim, 89. Several of his works were of a fantastical nature including Into The Woods which mines deeply into both Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault for its source material. And there’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street which is damn fun even if it isn’t genre. 
  • Born March 22, 1931 William Shatner, 88. Today is indeed his Birthday.  I could write a long, detailed Birthday entry but y’all know everything I could possibly say here. Suffice it to that I did enjoy him on Trek for the most part and actually found his acting on TekWar where he was Walter H. Bascom to be some of his better work. Now the short-lived Barbary Coast series featuring his character of Jeff Cable was the epitome of his genre acting career. 
  • Born March 22, 1946 Rudy Rucker, 73. He’s certainly best known for the Ware Tetralogy, the first two of which, Software and Wetware, both won Philip K. Dick Award. Though not genre, I do recommend As Above, So Below: A Novel of Peter Bruegel.
  • Born March 22, 1950 Mary Tamm. She’s remembered for her role as Romana, the companion to the Fourth Doctor in “The Key to Time” story. It seemed liked she was there longer only because another actress, Lalla Ward, played her in the following season. This actress was soon to be married to Tom Baker. She also appears briefly in the 20th Anniversary special The Five Doctors through the reuse of footage from the uncompleted story Shada. Tamm had only one other genre gig, to wit as  Ginny in  “Luau” on the Tales That Witness Madness series. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 22, 1969 Alex Irvine, 50. I strongly recommend One King, One Soldier, his offbeat Arthurian novel, and The Narrows, a WW II Detroit golem factory where fantasy tropes get a severe trouncing. He’s also wrote The Vertigo Encyclopedia which was an in-house project so, as he told me back then, DC delivered him one copy of every Vertigo title they had sitting in the warehouse.  For research purposes. And he’s written a fair number of comics, major and minor houses alike.  
  • Born March 22, 1978 Joanna Page, 41. Queen Elizabeth I in the first episode of “The Day of the Doctor” on Doctor Who in which the Tenth Doctor, Eleventh Doctor and the War Doctor all make appearances. Other genre appearances are scant but she did play María on Bedlam, a British supernatural series, she was Gladys in a film adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, and she also played of Ann Cook in  the film adaptation of Alan Moore’s From Hell.  

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • In Baldo someone has come up with a good trick for increasing their reading time.
  • Cats’ fascination with laser pointers is the basis for the science fictional humor in Grimmy.
  • Arctic Circle has a gag inspired by Chang’e-4.
  • A retro tech joke in Bizarro. (How many Filers remember when these were sold in the backs of comic books?)
  • BBC’s article “How a bookshop wolf handles awkward customers” includes lots of illos.

We’ve all heard of the saying “the customer is always right” but when you work in service industries, what can you do to vent your frustration when the customer is rather annoying?

Whether it’s children running riot, requests for the most obscure information, or just plain rude customers, Australian bookshop worker Anne Barnetson has faced it all. But she’s come up with a rather novel way of dealing with such awkward situations.

Anne is the creator of Customer Service Wolf, a comic found on Instagram and Tumblr. It gives a humorous anthropomorphic take on life dealing with strangers turning up in bookshops with strange requests.

(10) PLAYING IN OVERTIME. Tolkien and Hubbard are not the only prolific deceased authors in our midst. See “Isaac Bashevis Singer from Beyond the Grave” in The Paris Review.

As if in fulfillment of his own prophecy, Isaac Bashevis Singer has been astonishingly prolific in death. An untranslated magnum opus, Shadows on the Hudson, was translated into English in 1998, followed by a sequel collection of reminiscences of pre-1914 Jewish Warsaw, More Stories from My Father’s Court, followed by a steady, enviable beat of short stories, either unpublished or published in Yiddish but never translated, stories steadily adding to and enriching Singer’s great twin themes: the magical Yiddishkeit cosmos wrecked in World War II and the scattered, wandering survivors of that wreckage. In the past two years, Singer’s stories have been published in Harper’s and The New Yorker. Another, “The Murderer,” appears in the current spring issue of The Paris Review. Every few months, it seems, there is a Singer dispatch from beyond the grave, another unlabeled bottle floating in on the tide. Reading his bibliography, one would never guess he has been dead nearly three decades. And there will be more Singer for the foreseeable future, as the editor of his estate told The New Yorker: “There are novels, short stories, memoirs, even plays—some of which appeared in Yiddish and some of which … exist only as handwritten manuscripts.” Heaps of Singer’s words are wheeling blindly about in library archives, at the bottoms of desk drawers, manuscripts translated by hand on magazine tear sheets, unilluminated microfilm vibrantly uncollected and unclassified. He and his oeuvre refuse to be still. They seem to wend their way to the surface with something like the residue of Singer’s consciousness, or rather with the uncanny pseudoconsciousness of an automaton, set in motion by a now-dead hand.

(11) GAME IN THE WORKS. Rad Magpie’s mission is to “Support underrepresented creators and radical interactive media.” Their first in-house studio is working on the first Sri Lankan fantasy game to exist called Sigiriya with Mary Anne Mohanraj

Sigiriya is a mobile game set in the ancient Sri Lankan fortress of the same name. Our interactive experience marries heart-centered, narrative-driven gameplay with both fantastical and historical elements.

Our team is working to bring this game to life, and we are currently in the early production phases.

(12) YOU ASKED FOR IT, WE GOT IT.  “Toyota to Help Develop Moon Rover” says the headline, though Daniel Dern comments, “In my initial glimpse I thought it said “Moon River” and wasn’t sure if it was about the song, or they were going ‘Lunar Duckboats!’”

Toyota will be adding some depth to its development prowess when it partners with Japan’s space agency to create a manned lunar rover powered by fuel cell technologies.

According to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), though Japan has no plans to send humans into space at this time, the rover could serve as a building block to eventually get them there.

(13) DRAGON LADY. In her New Yorker article “A Battle for My Life”. Emilia Clarke, TV’s Daenerys Targaryen, reveals she had two surgeries for brain aneurysms after season 1 and season 3 of Game of Thrones, and discusses that people should be urgently treated if they have brain or stroke problems.

Just when all my childhood dreams seemed to have come true, I nearly lost my mind and then my life. I’ve never told this story publicly, but now it’s time.

(14) ABOVE THE STORM. BBC admires this photo taken by Juno: “Planet Jupiter: Spectacular picture of Jupiter’s storms”.

This beautiful picture of Jupiter was assembled from three separate images acquired by Nasa’s Juno spacecraft as it made another of its close passes of the gas giant.

The probe has a colour camera onboard and citizen scientists are encouraged to play with the data to make their own views of the planet.

This one, which is colour-enhanced, was produced by Kevin M Gill.

The US space agency has dubbed it “Jupiter Marble” – a reference to the full disc pictures of Earth captured by satellites down the years that have been called “Blue Marble”.

(15) LOOK OUT, IT’S A JUGGERNAUT! From BBC we learn – “Autonomous shuttle to be tested in New York City”.

A self-driving shuttle service is to be deployed in New York City by the middle of the year.

Boston start-up Optimus Ride will run vehicles on private roads at the Brooklyn Navy Yard site located on New York’s East River.

The shuttle will help workers get around the large site.

(16) CALL FOR A VERDICT. The question is: “Can you murder a robot?” The BBC story covers a lot of ground.

Back in 2015, a hitchhiker was murdered on the streets of Philadelphia.

It was no ordinary crime. The hitchhiker in question was a little robot called Hitchbot. The “death” raised an interesting question about human-robot relationship – not so much whether we can trust robots but whether the robots can trust us.

The answer, it seems, was no.….

Hitchbot is not the first robot to meet a violent end.

Dr Kate Darling, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), encouraged people to hit dinosaur robots with a mallet, in an workshop designed to test just how nasty we could be to a machine.

She also conducted an experiment with small bug-like robots.

Most people struggled to hurt the bots, found Dr Darling.

“There was a correlation between how empathetic people were and how long it took them to hit a robot,” she told BBC News, at her lab in Boston.

“What does it say about you as a person if you are willing to be cruel to a robot. Is it morally disturbing to beat up something that reacts in a very lifelike way?” she asked.

The reaction of most people was to protect and care for the robots.

“One woman was so distressed that she removed the robot’s batteries so that it couldn’t feel pain,” Dr Darling said.

(17) MERGER MASHUPS. Chris Hemsworth on Instagram celebrated the Disney-Fox merger by wearing a Deadpool outfit with a Viking helmet.  Ryan Reynolds marked the merger by wearing mouse ears on his Deadpool outfit on his Instagram post.

View this post on Instagram

Our love child #thor #deadpool @vancityreynolds

A post shared by Chris Hemsworth (@chrishemsworth) on

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Feels like the first day of ‘Pool.

A post shared by Ryan Reynolds (@vancityreynolds) on

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Why Do Flat-Earth Believers Still Exist?” on YouTube, John Timmer of Ars Technica shows the increasinly flimsy evidence flat earth followers have for claiming the earth is flat.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/8/19 It’s Just A Pixel To The Left, And A Scroll To The Right

(1) TAPPING MORE REVENUE STREAMS. Peter Grant has his own spin on the recent “day job” meme in “Disruption and the business of writing” at Mad Genius Club.

…In essence, we have to stop looking at each book as an income generator, and start thinking about multiple income streams.  Very few authors, indie or otherwise, make a living out of their writing.  Most of us have to have a “day job” as well.  I think we need to look at our writing as a series of small “day jobs”.  Writing a book alone won’t be sufficient;  we need to leverage that fan base into more income opportunities.  Some are already common.  Others will have to become so.  Examples:

  • Open some sort of support account (e.g. Patreon, etc.) where your serious fans can support you over and above buying your books.  It may be a small, slow start, but it’s something on which one can build.
  • Consider podcastingIt’s a growing trend, and it can be a money-maker if it’s handled correctly.
  • A tip jar on your blog or social media account can be a useful way for fans to offer support.
  • Consider offering appearances in your work to your fans.  They can have their names used for a character, and pay for the privilege (anything from a few dollars for a very minor character, appearing once, to a higher price for a major character with more “face time”).  This will probably only work if you’re an established writer, of course – it needs that sort of fan base.

And that’s just the first four of his seven bullet points.

(2) SOCK IT TO ME. Here’s how Rod Serling was supplementing his income back in the day:

(3) A BROADER PORTRAIT OF THE COUNTRY. Victor LaValle’s “Stories That Reclaim the Future” at The Paris Review is an excerpt from A People’s Future of the United States, edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams.

My father and I saw each other only three times before he died. The first was when I was about ten, the second was in my early twenties, and the last doesn’t matter right now. I want to tell you about the second time, when I went up to Syracuse to visit and he tried to make me join the GOP.

Let me back up a little and explain that my mother is a black woman from Uganda and my dad was a white man from Syracuse, New York. He and my mother met in New York City in the late sixties, got married, had me, and promptly divorced. My mother and I stayed in Queens while my dad returned to Syracuse. He remarried quickly and had another son with my stepmother. Paul.

When I finished college I enrolled in graduate school for writing. I’d paid for undergrad with loans and grants, and debt already loomed over me. I showed up at my dad’s place hoping he’d cosign for my grad-school loans. I felt he owed me since he hadn’t been in my life at all. Also, I felt like I’d been on an epic quest just to reach this point. I got into Cornell University, but boy did I hate being there. Long winters, far from New York City, and the kind of dog-eat-dog atmosphere that would make a Wall Street trader sweat. But I’d graduated. And now I wanted to go back to school. More than that, I wanted to become a writer. Couldn’t my dad see me as a marvel? Couldn’t he support me just this once?

Nope….

(4) SECOND VIEW. Amal el-Mohtar for NPR says “‘Black Leopard, Red Wolf’ Is A Beast Of A Book”.

I was once driving, alone and at dusk, down a dark and winding road that hugged a mountain thick with woods. I saw a black bear cross the road, from fields on the left to the mountain on the right.

I had never seen a bear so close before. Excited, I pulled the car up and parked near where I saw the bear vanish, and had my hand on the door before I came back to myself and thought, what am I doing? It’s a bear! I drove away unharmed.

There are things in one’s life that are best appreciated from a distance, and this book is one of them.

Meanwhile, the book’s film rights have been acquired: “Michael B. Jordan, Warner Bros. Nab Film Rights to ‘Black Leopard, Red Wolf’” reports Variety.

Michael B. Jordan’s Outlier Society and Warner Bros. have nabbed the film rights to “Black Leopard, Red Wolf,” a buzzy new fantasy novel by Marlon James.

“Black Leopard, Red Wolf” draws on African mythology to tell the story of Tracker, whose acute sense of smell leads him to be hired to find a missing child against a backdrop of warring kingdoms and political chaos. The child he seeks may be the heir to an empire, something that complicates matters. James referred to the often bloody epic as an “African ‘Game of Thrones,’” but later said he was joking. Still, it includes plenty of the elements that made that HBO show a water-cooler phenomenon including witches, a shape-shifting leopard, a killer hyena, and conjoined twins.

(5) SHRUNKEN TROPES. James Davis Nicoll explores “SF Stories That Cut the Vastness of Space Down to Size” at Tor.com.

…Then there’s the ever-popular “we found these abandoned transit stations” scenario. If humans aren’t the builders of the system, they probably don’t know how to expand it or change it. Because Ancients are notorious for their failure to properly document their networks, humans and other newcomers have to explore to see where the wormholes/tunnels/whatever go. Explorers are like rats wandering through an abandoned subway system. Examples…

(6) ANOTHER READING TOOL. Rocket Stack Rank has posted its annual  annotated Locus Recommended Reading List. Eric Wong says, “New this year is merging the Locus list with RSR’s 2018 Best SF/F list, with Locus stories highlighted in red.”

By pivoting the merged list on category (novella, novelette, short story), publication, new writers, or author, and browsing the results, some noteworthy observations jump out visually.

  • Overlooked stories include “The Independence Patch” by Bryan Camp (score 8), “What is Eve?” by Will McIntosh (score 8), “Carouseling” by Rich Larson (score 7), each of which got recommendations from 5 prolific reviewers.
  • The traditional paid-only magazines (Analog, Asimov’s, F&SF, Interzone) had between 0%-6% of their stories in the Locus list, versus many free online magazines at 9%-16%, or Tor.com and Tor novellas which had a remarkable 31%-33% of their stories recommended by Locus.
  • There were 13 stories in the Locus list by Campbell Award-eligible writers.
  • Matthew Hughes, Robert Reed, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch each had 4 broadly recommended stories in RSR’s aggregated list, but none were in the Locus list. By comparison, Kelly Robson had 4 stories in the merged list and all 4 were recommended by Locus.

More details are available in the article, plus RSR features for flagging/rating stories that make it easy to track your progress when reading stories from a big list.

(7) FINNEY OBIT. Albert Finney (1936-2019): British actor, died today, aged 82. Genre appearances include: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1959), Scrooge (1970), Looker, Wolfen (both 1981), The Green Man (mini-series, 1990), Karaoke, Cold Lararus (connected mini-series, both 1996), Delivering Milo (2001), Big Fish (2003), Corpse Bride (2005, voice). His final movie appearances were in 2012, for opposing camps in the superspy genre: The Bourne Legacy and Skyfall. 

(8) OREO OBIT. I managed not to know there was a model for the character until it was too late — “Oreo the raccoon: Guardians of the Galaxy model dies aged 10”.

Oreo the raccoon, the real-life model for Guardians of the Galaxy character Rocket, has died aged 10.

The news was announced on the comic book superhero team’s Facebook page. “Oreo passed away in the early hours of this morning after a very short illness,” it reads. “Many thanks to our wonderful vets for their compassion and care.”

Rocket the raccoon was voiced by Bradley Cooper in the 2014 film and its 2017 sequel.

Oreo died after a short illness early on Thursday morning, the Facebook post says “You have been an amazing ambassador for raccoons everywhere,” it reads. “You were perfect.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 8, 1819 John Ruskin. Much to my surprise, this English art critic and pretty much everything else of the Victorian Era is listed by ISFDB as having a genre writing, to wit The King of the Golden River, or The Black Brothers: A Legend of Stiria. Anyone ever read. (Died 1900.)
  • Born February 8, 1828 Jules Verne. So how many novels by him are you familiar with? Personally I’m on first hand terms with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the SeaJourney to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in Eighty Days. That’s it. It appears that he wrote some some sixty works and a lot were genre. And of course his fiction has become the source of many other fictions in the last century as well. (Died 1905.)
  • Born February 8, 1932 John Williams, 87. Composer of the Star Wars series, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, one of the Superman films, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the Indiana Jones franchise,  Hook, the first two Jurassic Park films and the first three Harry Potter films.
  • Born February 8, 1953 Mary Steenbergen, 66. She first in a genre way as Amy in Time After Time. She followed that up by being Adrian in A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy which I suppose is sort of genre. She shows up next in the much more family friendly One Magic Christmas as Ginny Grainger. And she has a part in Back to the Future Part III as Clara Clayton Brown which she repeated in the animated series. And, and keep in mind this is not a full list, she was in The Last Man on Earth series as Gail Klosterman.
  • Born February 8, 1969 Mary Robinette Kowal, 50. Simply a stellar author and an even better human being. I’m going to select out Ghost Talkers as the work by her that I like the most. Now her Forest of Memory novella might be more stellar. She’s also a splendid voice actor doing works of authors such as John Scalzi, Seanan McGuire and Kage Baker. I’m particularly pleased by her work on McGuire’s Indexing series. So let’s have Paul Weimer have the last words this time: “I thought it was Shades of Milk and Honey for a good long while, but I think Calculating Stars is my new favorite.”

(10) JOHN WILLIAMS BIRTHDAY. Steve Vertlieb sent a link to a retro review he wrote at the request of the premier John Williams web site, JWFAN, following Maestro Williams Summer, 2012 appearance at The Hollywood Bowl — John Williams – Hollywood Bowl 2012 (Review, Photos & Video) « JOHN WILLIAMS Fan Network – JWFAN

 (11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman calls on fans to pig out on pork belly tacos with Alan Smale in episode 88 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Alan Smale

My guest this episode is Alan Smale, who has published short fiction in Asimov’s, Realms of Fantasy, Abyss & Apex, and other magazines. He won the 2010 Sidewise Award for Best Short-Form Alternate History for “A Clash of Eagles,” about a Roman invasion of ancient America. That’s also the setting for his trilogy, which includes the novels Clash of Eagles, Eagle in Exile, and Eagle and Empire, all published by Del Rey in the U.S. and Titan Books in the UK. When not writing, he’s a professional astronomer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

We met for lunch at Mad Chef Kitchen & Bar, a gastropub which opened recently in Ellicott City, Maryland’s Turf Valley Towne Square. We were looking for something equidistant from both of us with good food, and based first on my research and then our experience, we definitely found it.

We discussed why an astrophysicist’s chosen field of fiction is alternate history rather than hard science, how his fascination with archeology and ancient civilizations began, the reason he started off his novel-writing career with a trilogy rather than a standalone, the secrets to writing convincing battle sequences, the nuances of critiquing partial novels in a workshop setting, how his research into Roman and Native American history affected his trilogy, what steps he took to ensure he handled Native American cultures appropriately, that summer when at age 12 he read both War and Peace and Lord of the Rings, one of the strangest tales of a first short story sale I’ve ever heard, how and why he joined forces with Rick Wilber for their recent collaboration published in Asimov’s, and much more.

(13) LATINX STORYBUNDLE. Now available, The Latinx SFF Bundle curated by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Latin American science fiction and fantasy occupy an odd in-between space. The commercial categories we denominate fantasy, science fiction and horror don’t traditionally exist in Latin America. Instead, the fantastical is either simply called literature or receives the moniker of magical realism.

This means finding speculative fiction is trickier and more complex in this part of the world. It also means that Latinx authors may derive their SFF canon from a very different well than their Anglo counterparts. While science fiction and fantasy are normally associated with Tolkien or Asimov, a Latinx writer might be more inclined to think of Isabel Allende or Julio Cortázar. At the same time, it is not unusual for Latinx authors to have also been exposed to Anglo pop culture, fantasy and science fiction. Finally, since Latin America is a large region, the history, culture and folklore of Latinx writers may be radically different from one another.

The result is a wild, eclectic field of the fantastic, which is reflected by the selections in this bundle.

Read more about the bundle here.

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Virgins & Tricksters by Rosalie Morales Kearns
  • The Haunted Girl by Lisa M. Bradley
  • Lords of the Earth by David Bowles
  • The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria by Carlos Hernandez

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus SEVEN more!

  • Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias
  • The Closet of Discarded Dreams by Rudy Ch. Garcia
  • Mrs. Vargas and the Dead Naturalist by Kathleen Alcalá
  • Soulsaver by James Stevens-Arce
  • High Aztech by Ernest Hogan
  • Salsa Nocturna by Daniel José Older

(14) MORE TREK TECH. Nature advises: “Forget everything you know about 3D printing — the ‘replicator’ is here”. Rather ?than building objects layer by layer, the printer creates whole structures by projecting light into a resin that solidifies.

They nicknamed it ‘the replicator’ — in homage to the machines in the Star Trek saga that can materialize virtually any inanimate object.

Researchers in California have unveiled a 3D printer that creates an entire object at once, rather than building it layer by layer as typical additive-manufacturing devices do — bringing science-fiction a step closer to reality.

Attached pic of The Thinker replicated.

(15) STOP LIGHT. Nature discusses another almost-SF concept: “A traffic jam of light”.

A technique that harnesses energy loss has been used to produce a phase of matter in which particles of light are locked in place. This opens a path to realizing previously unseen exotic phases of matter.

When light passes through matter, it slows down. Light can even be brought to a standstill when it travels through carefully designed matter. One way in which this occurs is when the velocity of individual particles of light (photons) in a material is zero. Another, more intriguing, way is when photons, which normally pass through each other unimpeded, are made to repel each other. If the repulsion is strong enough, the photons are unable to move, and the light is frozen in place.

The ability to engineer quantum states promises to revolutionize areas ranging from materials science to information processing… The robustness and generality of this scheme will ensure that, as it is refined, it will find a home in the quantum mechanic’s toolbox.

(16) SOCIALGALACTIC. Vox Day is creating a more pliable form of Twitter – or is it a version of Gab that will obey him? (Didn’t Mark Twain say that the reason God created man is that he was disappointed in the monkey?) “Introducing Socialgalactic” [Internet Archive link].

Twitter is SJW-controlled territory. Gab is a hellhole of defamation and Nazi trolls. So, after many of Infogalactic’s supporters asked us to provide something on the social media front, the InfoGalactic team joined forces with OneWay and created a new social media alternative: SocialGalactic.

Free accounts have 140-character posts and 1MB storage, which is just enough for an avatar and a header. We’ll soon be making Pro accounts available at three levels, which will provide posts of 200, 480, and 999 characters, and image storage up to 500MB. Sign up and check it out!

(17) GAME V. INFINITY. Dakota Gardner and Chris Landers, in “Would Thanos’ Finger Snap Really have Stopped Baseball In Its Tracks?”  on MLB.com, have a pro and con about whether Thanos really wiped out Major League Baseball (as a shot of a devastated Citi Field in the Avengers: Endgame trailer shows), with one writer arguing that baseball would be doomed by Thanos and the other arguing that MLB would fill its rosters with minor leaguers after thanos wiped out half of the major leaguers because baseball always comes back.

Ask yourself this: Do you honestly believe baseball would simply stop if Thanos dusted half of all of MLB’s players, managers, front office staff, stadium personnel and fans? Do you think that if the universe had been placed into an existential funk, that baseball wouldn’t be even more necessary than it is today? Do you honestly believe that Alex Bregman or Clayton Kershaw or Mookie Betts, if they survived the snap, would be totally fine sitting on their butts and doing nothing for the rest of time?

(18) SAVING THE WORLD WITH LOVE TAPS. Tim Prudente in the Baltimore Sun profiles researchers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory who are creating a satellite called DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) which, for the first time, will test to see if it’s possible to smash a satellite into an asteroid to deflect the asteroid from a course with earth: “An asteroid could destroy humanity like it did dinosaurs. A Hopkins team has a plan to save the world”.

…They plan for DART to reach speeds as fast as 15,000 miles per hour. The crash in October 2022 will fling debris from the asteroid moon. A small satellite will accompany the DART spacecraft to measure the effect.

The team wants to hit the asteroid moon with enough force to bump it, but not break it apart. The moon orbits the asteroid at a speed of about seven inches per second. They hope to change the speed by about a centimeter per second.

“We’re just going to give it a love tap,” said Andy Rivkin, the mission’s other co-lead and planetary astronomer at APL.

In theory, a series of taps over time could deflect an asteroid off a course for Earth.

(19) WHY LILLY WASN’T LEIA. Among other career goals, actress and writer Evangeline Lilly says she wanted to be Leia. It turned out that someone else had a lock on the part. (SYFY Wire: “Why Evangeline Lilly loved The Hobbit, was meh on the Lost ending, and wanted to be in Star Wars”).

“Several years ago, when I found out that J.J. Abrams was remaking, or rebooting, the Star Wars franchise, it was the only time in my career that I’ve ever put a call out,” she admits. “I wanted to be Leia. If I got to be a woodland elf [Tauriel in The Hobbit] and Kate from Lost and Leia, that would cover it. And then I got to be the Wasp! That’s all the big franchises.

“I was so in love with Leia when I was a little girl. Those were my two fantasies – to be a woodland elf and to be Leia tied to Jabba the Hutt in her sexy bikini. But then they called me back and said, ‘Well, there’s a little-known actress called Carrie Fisher who will be playing Princess Leia.’ Well, FINE, I guess that’s OK.”

While much better know for her acting, she says about her writing, “I see myself as a writer who has a fantastic day job.” Her children’s book series is The Squickerwonkers.

“I don’t know many stories that have lived with someone as long as this has lived with me,” she says. “I was a reclusive young woman and a bit of a loner. I was somebody who came to literature very late, and when I did, I just fell in love with such a passion that I kind of became very focused on not just reading but writing as well. And seriously, that was my idea of a great Friday night at 14 – staying home and writing by myself.

“I was a big fan of Dr. Seuss, believe it or not. Where most people come to him at four, I was reading him at 14,” she continues. “And I think the adult side of me realized what he was doing. The subtlety of the messages he’d thread into these simple, silly poems really struck me as meaningful. And I realized that this adult took the time to put these sophisticated, important messages into my childhood stories.”

(20) SHARED WORLD. George R.R. Martin pointed to this recently uploaded Wild Cards authors video:

In August 2017, a large group of Wild Carders assembled at my Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe for a mass signing, and we interviewed them about the up and downs of writing other people’s characters, and having other people write yours.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steve Green, JJ, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Eric Wong, Paul Weimer, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day C.A. Collins.]

Pixel Scroll 11/23/18 Have Fun Scrolling The Pixel!

(1) REAL LIFE RULES. Aliette de Bodard has come forward with her own rules for writing. Thread starts here.

(2) TOM BAKER WRITES DOCTOR WHO NOVEL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] RadioTimes.com tells us that “Tom Baker has written a brand-new Doctor Who novel” based on a script idea he and Ian Marter had during the Fourth Doctor era. The book will be published by BBC Books (in the Penguin Random House family) with a publication date of January 24, 2019. It is already available for pre-order.

Just over a year after he made an unexpected comeback as the Fourth Doctor in a Doctor Who DVD project, iconic star Tom Baker has made another surprise return to the world of the BBC sci-fi series by penning a new novel starring the Time Lord.

Called Scratchman, the book began life in the 1970s during Baker’s tenure as the beloved Fourth Doctor, when between scenes he kicked around ideas for a new story for the series alongside Ian Marter (who played Harry Sullivan in Doctor Who), later writing them up into a script.

Gizmodo/io9 also chimes in on the book (“Tom Baker Is Turning His Wild Idea For a Doctor Who Movie Into a Novel”):

Back in the ‘70s, Tom Baker and Ian Marter—who played the Fourth Doctor’s companion Harry Sullivan—had a truly bonkers idea for a Doctor Who movie. They even wrote a script for it, but it never got made. Now, Baker himself is taking what could’ve been and turning it into a new novel.

The official synopsis of the novel has been made available:

What are you afraid of?

The Doctor, Harry and Sarah Jane Smith arrive at a remote Scottish island, when their holiday is cut short by the appearance of strange creatures – hideous scarecrows, preying on the local population. The islanders are living in fear, and the Doctor vows to save them all. But it doesn’t go to plan – the time travellers have fallen into a trap, and Scratchman is coming for them.

With the fate of the universe hanging in the balance, the Doctor must battle an ancient force from another dimension, one who claims to be the Devil.

Scratchman wants to know what the Doctor is most afraid of. And the Doctor’s worst nightmares are coming out to play…

(3) GOT TO READ. It’s time for “6 Books with Sarah Chorn” at Nerds of a Feather.

  1. Is there a book you’re currently itching to re-read?I’ve had a bit of a hankering to re-read K.J. Parker’s Engineer Trilogy recently. Parker is one of my all-time favorite authors. I love his prose, how he plays with words, and how smart his books are. The Engineer Trilogy were my first Parker books I came across, and I fell in love with them. I haven’t read them for some time, but I’ve got an itch for some smart, morally gray characters and he seems to fit the bill.

(4) STRAIGHT FROM WALTER CRONKITE. Yesterday Galactic Journey, which follows the history of the field day-by-day 55 years in the past, reached November 22, 1963 and the assassination of President Kennedy. Its contributors did a series of reaction posts, beginning with “[November 22, 1963] President Kennedy has been assassinated]”.

(5) THE GAME OF SOCIAL LIFE. “The Black Mirror Episode ‘Nosedive’ Has Become A Board Game” and ScienceFiction.com explains how it works.

Fans of ‘Black Mirror‘ now have a new way to enjoy the show with their friends in the form of a board game! The social media nightmare is known as “Nosedive” is now something you can experience first hand with your friends! If you don’t remember the episode off the top of your head it was a satire of social media which had Bryce Dallas Howard as Lacie in the third season premiere episode. The goal of the board game is just like that of the episode, to “get the highest Social Score possible” but here you’ll be competing with 3-6 players.

In the game, you’ll be collecting Lifestyle cards to try and create a perfect life. It isn’t all going to be luck though as your competitors will be rating their experiences in a way that can have an impact on your social score. You’ll also all need to have your smartphones handy in a gameplay element that requires you to download the app to play.

(6) A HUNK OF BURNING. Mad Genius Club’s Peter Grant, after reading about fire-devastated Paradise, California, outlines “A lesson re-learned from disaster”.

I’ve been taking the time to read reports of how computer and document backups were, or were not, adequate to safeguard important records during and after the fire.  Most of the reports are dismal, to say the least.  From online conversations and other sources, here are just some of the incidents that have been discussed:

  • Computer data backed up on thumb drives, stored in a “fireproof” box, were indeed protected from the flames;  but the heat inside the box rose so high that the drives simply melted, becoming unusable.
  • Documents in a similarly “fireproof” file container were charred into unrecognizable black ash, even though the container remained nominally intact.
  • In many cases, fireproof safes and filing cabinets were badly warped by the heat, rendering them incapable of opening.  Many people have not yet been able to return home to see what survived the flames, but some who have claim that they had to use angle grinders with cutting wheels, the “jaws of life“, or other heavy-duty equipment to open them….

(7) THIS LAND IS HERLAND. Adri Joy’s commentary is a very good survey of the topic, though members of the patriarchy should be sure to fasten their seatbelts — “Feminist Futures: Feminist Separatism in Science Fiction” at Nerds of a Feather

Content Warning: This essay tackles multiple texts which conflate sex and gender, and erase trans and intersex people.

Men, eh. What a mess they make. What a bother it is, to have this whole category of people on the planet who march around like they own the place yet mess it up at every opportunity, can’t change a baby, can’t do their own laundry, can’t even get in touch with their own emotions unless it involves some form of anger or violence. What trouble they cause for the rest of us – especially if you fit into that other big category of “women”. Why, wouldn’t it just be better if they weren’t around us any more? Wouldn’t it make our lives, those of us in that other big category of “women”, just so much easier and safer and nicer if we could put that category of “men” to one side, to do whatever it is they are compelled to do without getting in our way. Wouldn’t that be lovely. If only it were possible.

Fear not, beleaguered sufferer of the patriarchy: feminist speculative fiction has got your back. As long as you are from the category of “women”. And were recognised as such when you were born….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 23, 1963 Doctor Who first aired on this day.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • November 23, 1887 – Boris Karloff, Actor famous for horror movies, whose real name was William Henry Pratt. His first genre role was when he portrayed Frankenstein’s monster in the 1931 Frankenstein, a part which he played twice more, in Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939). Without listing all of his genre roles, I will single out his superb work as Dr. Fu Manchu in The Mask of Fu Manchu, which benefited from being pre-Hayes-code, and as Baron Victor von Frankenstein in the 1970 Frankenstein, which is terribly campy. His greatest role is no doubt as The Narrator in How the Grinch Stole Christmas – indeed, he received a Grammy Award in the Spoken Word category for the album, which Is the only major performing award of his career! (Died 1969.)
  • November 23, 1908 – Nelson S. Bond, Writer, Editor, Critic, and Member of First Fandom who also wrote for radio, television, and the stage, but whose published fiction work was mainly in the pulp magazines in the 1930s and 1940s. He’s remembered today mainly for his Lancelot Biggs series and for his Meg the Priestess tales, which introduced one of the first strong female characters in SF back in 1939. As a fan, he attended the very first Worldcon, and he famously advised Isaac Asimov, who kept arguing with fans about his works in the letter columns of magazines, “You’re a writer now, Isaac. Let the readers have their opinions.” He was named a Nebula Author Emeritus by SFWA in 1998. (Died 2006.)
  • November 23, 1914 – Wilson “Bob” Tucker, Movie Projectionist and Theater Technician, Writer, and Member of First Fandom. He became involved in fandom in 1932, publishing two fanzines: The Planetoid, and, from 1938 to 2001, Le Zombie, which lasted for more than 60 issues over the course of 60+ years, and was later revived as a webzine, and won a Retro Hugo in 2018. (The title came from the fact that, on several occasions, false reports of his death were made). He also won a Hugo and a Retro Hugo as Best Fan Writer. In 1941, Tucker’s first professional short story, “Interstellar Way Station”, was published by Frederik Pohl in the May issue of Super Science Stories. His most productive period for fiction was in the early 1940s and early 1950s, when he published around 20 short works; during the latter part of that period, he also produced several novels. His most well-known novel is considered to be be The Year of the Quiet Sun; it was a finalist for the Hugo and the Nebula Awards, and later received a special retrospective Campbell Memorial Award. From 1955 to 1996, he was responsible for eight separate editions of The Neo-Fan’s Guide To Science Fiction Fandom, which covered the first five decades of fandom and the evolution of fan slang; the eighth and final edition remains in print under the auspices of the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society. He was honored with the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, two Phoenix Awards, and a special Nebula Author Emeritus Award. He is credited with creating the term “space opera”, and his custom of using the names of friends for minor characters in his fiction led to the term ”Tuckerization”. (And yes, I’ve been been tuckerized: you’ll find a Cat Eldridge, an ethnomusicologist, in Jane Yolen’s The One-Armed Queen, which is the conclusion to her Great Alta Trilogy. I found her a folklore book she wanted, and that was my reward.) (Died 2006.)
  • November 23, 1916 – Michael Gough, Actor from England who is best known for his roles in Hammer Horror Films from the late 1950s, and for his recurring role as Alfred Pennyworth in all four films of the Tim Burton / Joel Schumacher Batman series from 1989 to 1997. Hammer usually cast him as the evil villain, and I mean EVIL! Not to mention SLIMY, in such films as Horrors of the Black Museum, The Phantom of the Opera, The Corpse, Horror Hospital, and Satan’s Slave. Gough appeared on Doctor Who as the villain in “The Celestial Toymaker” in 1966, and again as Councillor Hedin in “Arc of Infinity” in 1983. In the mid 1960s, he also played Dr. Armstrong in “The Cybernauts” in The Avengers, returning the very next season as the Russian spymaster Nutski in “The Correct Way to Kill”. A favorite of Burton’s, his last roles were in Sleepy Hollow and as character voices in Corpse Bride and Alice in Wonderland. (Died 2011.)
  • November 23, 1955 – Steven Brust, 63, Writer of Hungarian descent, something that figures into his fiction, which he says is neither fantasy nor SF. He is perhaps best known for his series of novels about the assassin Vlad Taltos, one of a scorned group of humans living on a world called Dragaera. All are great reads. His recent novels also include The Incrementalists and its sequel The Skill of Our Hands, with co-author Skyler White. Both are superb. His finest novel? The Dragearan prequel Brokedown Palace. Oh, just go read it. It’s amazing. And no, I don’t love everything he’s done. I wrote a scathing – scathing! – review of Cowboy Feng’s Space Bar and Grille; he told us at Green Man Review that he might be the only person who liked the novel. Freedom & Necessity, with Emma Bull, is decidedly different but good nonetheless, and his unofficial Firefly novel, My Own Kind of Freedom, stays true to the characters in that series. He’s quite the musician too, with two albums with Cats Laughing, a band that includes Emma Bull, Jane Yolen (lyrics), and others. The band, in turn, shows up in Marvel comics. A Rose For Iconoclastes is his solo album, and he says “The title, for those who don’t know, is a play off the brilliant story by Roger Zelazny, “A Rose For Ecclesiastes,” which you should read if you haven’t yet.” Quoting him again, “Songs From The Gypsy is the recording of a cycle of songs I wrote with ex-Boiled-in-Lead guitarist Adam Stemple, which cycle turned into a novel I wrote with Megan Lindholm, one of my favorite writers.” The album and book are quite amazing!
  • November 23, 1951 – David Rappaport, Actor from England. I remember him best as Randall, the leader of the gang of comically-inept dwarves in Time Bandits who steal the map to Universe. I’m reasonably sure that it’s the only thing of a genre nature for which he’ll be remembered, having looked up his other works and found them to be decidedly minor in nature. Most of them, such as The Bride, a low-budget horror film, were artistic and commercial disasters. It is said that his death by suicide in 1990 is one of the reasons cited by Gilliam for there not being a sequel to Time Bandits.
  • November 23, 1966 – Michelle Gomez, 52, Actor from Scotland who is best known to genre fans as Missy, a female version of The Master, on Doctor Who from 2014 to 2017, for which she was nominated for a BAFTA TV Award for Best Supporting Actress. I admit, having grown up with Roger Delgado as The Master, that later performers playing this role took a bit of getting used to, but she made a fine one. Other guest roles were in episodes of Gotham and the short-lived spinoff Highlander: The Raven. She is currently playing a main role as Mary Wardwell in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
  • November 23, 1967 – Salli Richardson-Whitfield, 51, Actor, Director, and Producer whose best-known genre role is as Dr. Allison Blake on Eureka (which is apparently in syndication now as A Town Called Eureka… H’h?). Her first genre roles were in the fantasy film Prelude to a Kiss and in the “Second Sight” episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but she also charmingly voiced the main human character on the animated Gargoyles series! Other appearances included parts in episodes of Stargate SG-1, The Pretender, and the short-lived Secret Agent Man. She had a main role as Maggie Baptiste in Stitchers, a series that, against all odds, lasted through three seasons. Her most recent work has included directing episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Luke Cage, and Black Lightning.
  • November 23, 1970 – Oded Fehr, 48, Actor from Israel whose most well-known genre roles are as the mysterious warrior Ardeth Bay in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, and as Carlos Oliveira (or his clone) in three of the Resident Evil films: Apocalypse, Extinction, and Retribution. (His Mummy roles no doubt led to his casting in voice roles in Scooby-Doo in Where’s My Mummy? and as The Living Mummy in the animated Ultimate Spider-Man and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.) On Charmed, he played the demon Zankou, the main villain of the show’s seventh season. He’s had an impressively long list of appearances on TV series, including recurring roles on Once Upon A Time, Stitchers, V, and The First, a series about the first mission to Mars, which just premiered in September. He has also voiced characters on numerous other animated features and series.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) LAST NIGHT ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter had his eye on the tube:

  • Answer: Roger Ebert: This film “works as science fiction, it’s sometimes as scary as a monster movie & at the end…not a dry eye in the house.”
  • Wrong questions: “What is “2001”? What is “Alien”?
  • Correct response: What is “E.T.”?

(13) #NOTME. New research says “Humans ‘off the hook’ for African mammal extinction”, contradicting theories that we ate them…

Today, only elephants, hippos, giraffes and white and black rhinos fall into this category.

But the three-million-year-old human relative “Lucy” (Australopithecus afarensis) shared her East African habitat with three species of giraffe, two species of rhino, a hippo and four elephant-like species.

The results of the analysis showed that over the last seven million years, some 28 lineages of large mammal went extinct in Africa.

Furthermore, the onset of the herbivore decline began roughly 4.6 million years ago, and the rate of decline did not change following the appearance of Homo erectus, one of the earliest human ancestors that could have contributed to the extinctions.

(14) THE MARS SHOW. Here’s your reminder that the next Mars lander is scheduled to touch down Monday and you can watch it “live” (Vox: “NASA is landing InSight, a robot geologist, on Mars”). The current time delay for radio communications from Mars to Earth is about 8 minutes, so “live” will be delayed by at least that long.

A major feat of interplanetary space travel is about to take place on Monday, November 26. That’s when NASA’s InSight lander is expected to land on Mars and begin its two-year study of our neighboring planet’s core. It will be the first NASA Mars landing since the Curiosity rover touched down in 2012.

The lander is expected to touch Mars around 3 pm Eastern time, and you can watch the live stream in the NASA link below. But because it’s so far away, NASA’s mission scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California won’t get to pilot it. Their radio transitions to the lander are delayed by several minutes. Like the Curiosity rover, InSight will have to land itself in only 6.5 minutes.

The live programming from NASA TV will begin at 2 pm Eastern Monday.

(15) VESS AND GAIMAN. Titan Comics has issued Charles Vess’ Book of Ballads and Sagas

Beautifully illustrated by Charles Vess and featuring adaptations by Neil Gaiman – Vess’ collaborator on the hugely successful Stardust – and a host of famous fantasy writers, this new edition also boasts never-before-seen art and an amazing gallery of sketches!

(16) VIEW FROM THE ISS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The European Space Agency has posted a time-lapse video—taken from the ISS—showing a Russian Progress capsule loaded with supplies for the ISS rising above the limb of the Earth as background stars arc behind it. You can even see what appears to be the blazing reentry of one of the rocket stages. (Motherboard: “Watch a Spaceship Leave Earth in Stunning ISS Video”)

This is an especially significant launch since it uses essential the same rocket stack as the crewed Soyuz launch that aborted earlier this year and the Progress launch took off from the Baikonur cosmodrome, also the same as the Soyuz. This, then, would appear to represent concrete progress toward getting a new Soyuz launch off in time to relieve the current ISS crew.

We’re so used to seeing perfectly-rendered CGI depictions of outer space in movies and video games that seeing the real thing can sometimes feel underwhelming. This is not one of those times.

On Thursday, the European Space Agency (ESA) published a video taken from the International Space Station (ISS) by astronaut Alexander Gerst. The video shows time-lapse footage of the Russian Progress MS-10 cargo spacecraft that launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on November 16. The footage is almost unbelievable as it shows the spacecraft, on a resupply mission to the ISS, arcing into orbit. The camera pans slowly and follows the unmanned Russian craft, revealing Earth’s curvature in epic scale.

 

(17) SATANIC SETTLEMENT. The New York Times reports the infringement suit is over: “Satanic Temple Settles Lawsuit Over Goat-Headed Statue in ‘Sabrina’”.

The Satanic Temple said on Wednesday that it had settled its lawsuit accusing Warner Bros. and Netflix of copying the temple’s goat-headed statue in their new “Sabrina” series.

The lawsuit was “amicably settled,” Lucien Greaves, a co-founder of the temple, wrote in a blog post on the Patheos religion-themed website.

The temple will be acknowledged in the credits for episodes of “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” that have already been filmed, Mr. Greaves wrote. The rest of the settlement, including details on what will happen in future episodes of the show, is confidential, according to Bruce Lederman, the temple’s lawyer.

(18) TIME MARCHES BACKWARDS. As a trufannish site we try not to discuss science fiction here but sometimes it creeps in. Like when Camestros Felapton explains that “I thought of a different form of time travel”. It started when he was reading Gregory Benford’s Timescape.

… That message from the future got me thinking. Practically there’s obviously no way to send an electrical signal down a wire into the past (i.e. this I’m engaging with fiction here not an actual proposal). I suppose that information arriving at a destination before it left its starting point violates the speed of light but looked at just in terms of distance traveled over elapsed time it doesn’t….

(19) USE CASE. Nothing could possibly go wrong with an AI being developed to run planetary outposts and assist astronauts, right? (Space.com: “This HAL 9000-Inspired AI Simulation Kept Its Virtual Astronauts Alive”; paywalled source material at Science Robotics: “CASE: A HAL 9000 for 2021“) CASE (“cognitive architecture for space agents”)—developed by Pete Bonasso, et al., at TRACLabs Inc.—has already run a simulated planetary base and is moving along to testing on analogs.

“Our colleagues and NASA counterparts are not concerned that our HAL might get out of control,” Bonasso told Space.com. “That’s because it can’t do anything it’s not programmed to do.”

In experiments, CASE managed a simulated planetary base for about 4 hours. However, the researchers stressed more work is needed before it can run an actual base.

Moreover, “though CASE is impressive, it’s not the fully realized HAL from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ nor is it Lt. Commander Data from ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,'” Bonasso said. “Its capability is very narrow, focused on events occurring on a planetary base. While it can keep the life support systems running, it has no idea who won the last presidential election.”

The scientists are now working with what NASA calls analogs — places where volunteers pretend they are living on a distant world. In the long term, the aim is to incorporate CASE into the analogs to see how the software can help improve future space expeditions.

(20) TWO GUYS IN THE CAST. Patrick Stewart makes a great anecdote from the gaffes he committed the first time he met Sting.

Patrick Stewart explains how he really had no idea who Sting was when meeting him on set on David Lynch’s Dune.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Olav Rokne, 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 Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 8/10/18 This Pixel Scroll Title Has Been Used Before

(1) TARDIS MAKEOVER. Doctor Who Today has this leaked photo of a new TARDIS design.

(2) ANOTHER BIG $ALE. The Hipsters of the Coast report that the “Art for Chandra, Torch of Defiance SDCC Promo Sells for $35,000”.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance, the third of the five San Diego Comic Con promotional planeswalker paintings by Terese Nielsen, has sold for $35,000. The final bid all but doubled in the closing minutes of the auction that ended on eBay Sunday evening.

…Chandra, Torch of Defiance blew past the final prices of Liliana, Untouched by Death ($22,950) and Nissa, Vital Force ($25,600), eclipsing the highest total by almost $10,000. I did not expect Chandra to surpass these two, and I’m not sure that anyone, even Terese herself, might have guessed she would either.

(3) CHICAGO 8. The Book Smugglers feature an Uncanny Kickstarter promo about Chicago by the hosts-in-waiting of Uncanny TV: “Eight Nerdy Chicago People and Organizations We Love By Matt Peters and Michi Trota (Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter shout out)”

Our home nerd community in Chicago has countless examples of nerdy groups and individuals using their own geeky passions to inspire and shape incredibly diverse and wide-ranging projects. Their work reminds us why stories matter, and wanting to talk with creators like them and hear their own stories is a primary reason we’re so excited for the potential of Uncanny TV. Chicago is one home among many to geeky creators from all walks of life, and our hope is that Uncanny TV will have a chance to visit as many of those communities as possible. We couldn’t possibly name all of the nerds and geeks we know whose art and activism are fueled by their geeky loves, but here are eight based in Chicago who provide a snapshot of the inspiring work being created in fandom.

Acrobatica Infiniti Circus

“Cosplay” and “circus” aren’t two things we would have thought of putting together before but thankfully someone did! Acrobatica Infiniti Circus, also known as “the Nerd Circus,” was created several years ago by Tana “Tank” Karo, who had a background in dance and design but had wanted to create something that allowed her to merge her love for circus and geekery. The resulting collaboration among extraordinarily talented and undeniably nerdy jugglers, acrobats, aerial artists, contortionists, and object manipulators is delightful and surprising each time: Leeloo performing mind-boggling contortionist poses, Totoro juggling sootballs, Harley Quinn on a trapeze. The fact that the group has a rotating cast allows the performers to stay fresh and provides continuous opportunities for new performers to come in and join the show. And rather than approaching the performance scene as a competition, AIC often works in collaboration with similar performance groups to encourage more artistic development and positive ties within the community….

(4) LITTLE-KNOWN WORLDCON BUSINESS. I must have missed this on my first read-through of the agenda. The thread starts here.

(5) 2007 BUSINESS MEETING. Kevin Standlee has uploaded four videos of the 2007 WSFS Business Meeting in Yokohama.

It took him awhile to do it. Kevin says, “My upload bandwidth at home is so poor that I could only upload one file per night overnight.”

(6) SIMULATING MARS. NBC News posts a video (“The human factor: What it will take to build the perfect team for traveling to Mars”) about a simulated mission to Mars that didn’t turn out as planned.

Hi-SEAS in Mauna Loa, Hawaii is a simulated Mars habitat that’s meant to facilitate the study of human behavior. A group of four-to-six participants is selected from a pool of hundreds of astronaut aspirants to make up the crew for each mission. So far five missions have been conducted successfully. Mission VI began earlier this year but things didn’t go exactly as planned.

The Atlantic thoroughly reviews what happened in the article “When a Mars Simulation Goes Wrong”.

… In February of this year, the latest batch of pioneers, a crew of four, made the journey up the mountain. They settled in for an eight-month stay. Four days later, one of them was taken away on a stretcher and hospitalized….

(7) ACROSS THE WALL. Cora Buhlert writes from the divided Germany of 1963 at Galactic Journey“[August 10, 1963] The Future in a Divided Land, Part 3 (An Overview of Science Fiction in East and West Germany)”.

In the last two entries in this series, I gave you an extensive overview of West German science fiction. Now let’s take a look across the iron curtain at what is going on in East Germany. For while the inner German border may be nigh insurmountable for human beings, mail does pass through. A lot of us have family in the East, including myself, and are in regular contact with them via letters and parcels. Parcels from West to East Germany usually contain coffee, nylons, soap, canned pineapple and all sorts of other consumer goods that are hard to come by in Communist East Germany.

Unfortunately, we cannot send books and magazines, cause they will probably be seized at the border for fear of “dangerous” ideas spreading. East Germans, on the other hand, are free to send books and magazines to relatives and friends in the West. And since my love for reading in general and for “space books” in particular is well known to my aunts in East Germany, the occasional science fiction novel from beyond the iron curtain has found its way into my hands.

…However, the most exciting of those voice from beyond the iron curtain is not German at all, but a Polish writer, Stanislaw Lem, whose work I encountered via East German translations. I particularly enjoy Lem’s humorous stories about the adventures of a space traveller named Ijon Tichy, which have been collected as Die Sterntagebücher des Raumfahrers Ijon Tichy (The Star Diaries of the Spaceman Ijon Tichy).

Lem’s more serious works include the novels Eden with its fascinating portrayal of a truly alien society, Planet des Todes (Planet of Death), which was even filmed in 1960, and the generation ship story Gast im Weltraum (Guest in Space), which is currently being filmed in Czechoslovakia.

(8) MASSIVE ROUNDUP. Todd Mason has an ambitious collection of more than three dozen links to recent reviews and essays in “Friday’s ‘Forgotten’ Books and more: the links to the reviews” at Sweet Freedom.

(9) STEAMIN’ WORLDCON. Included in The Steampunk Explorer’s “Steampunk Digest – August 10, 2018”:

Worldcon, the World Science Fiction Convention, will be held August 16-20 in San Jose, within shouting distance of The Steampunk Explorer’s International Headquarters. The program lists several steampunk-themed panels, including “Carriger & Adina Talk Steampunk (tea and silliness optional)” with authors Gail Carriger and Shelley Adina; “The Victorian & Edwardian Tech Tree” with Steve Frankel; and “Defining Steampunk” with Elektra Hammond, Anastasia Hunter, William C. Tracy, Diana M. Pho, and Jaymee Goh. We plan to be there, and for the benefit of attendees, we’ll be posting stories about steampunk-related attractions in San Jose and elsewhere in Silicon Valley.

(10) LOOKING FOR BOOKS. Donations needed –

(11) WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN AT WAR WITH EAST BAYSIA. The Digital Antiquarian remembers the big brawl between Apple and Microsoft in “Doing Windows, Part 8: The Outsiders”.

…Having chosen to declare war on Microsoft in 1988, Apple seemed to have a very difficult road indeed in front of them — and that was before Xerox unexpectedly reentered the picture. On December 14, 1989, the latter shocked everyone by filing a $150 million lawsuit of their own, accusing Apple of ripping off the user interface employed by the Xerox Star office system before Microsoft allegedly ripped the same thing off from Apple.

The many within the computer industry who had viewed the implications of Apple’s recent actions with such concern couldn’t help but see this latest development as the perfect comeuppance for their overweening position on “look and feel” and visual copyright. These people now piled on with glee. “Apple can’t have it both ways,” said John Shoch, a former Xerox PARC researcher, to the New York Times. “They can’t complain that Microsoft [Windows has] the look and feel of the Macintosh without acknowledging the Mac has the look and feel of the Star.” In his 1987 autobiography, John Sculley himself had written the awkward words that “the Mac, like the Lisa before it, was largely a conduit for technology” developed by Xerox. How exactly was it acceptable for Apple to become a conduit for Xerox’s technology but unacceptable for Microsoft to become a conduit for Apple’s? “Apple is running around persecuting Microsoft over things they borrowed from Xerox,” said one prominent Silicon Valley attorney. The Xerox lawsuit raised uncomfortable questions of the sort which Apple would have preferred not to deal with: questions about the nature of software as an evolutionary process — ideas building upon ideas — and what would happen to that process if everyone started suing everyone else every time somebody built a better mousetrap.

(12) NAVIGATING THE AMAZON. Peter Grant relates more “Lessons learned from a trilogy, Part 2: the impact on sales of rapid releases, and other factors” at Mad Genius Club. He discovered several benefits from releasing a trilogy of new novels in a short timeframe.

You can see at once that sales rose a little per volume after each launch, but not spectacularly so.  What did rise very strongly were KU [Kindle Unlimited] “borrows”.  The triple “bounce” is obvious to the naked eye, even without numbers.  It seems that, once they were aware of the series, KU readers jumped on it, and read each volume in turn (sometimes “binge-reading” all three within a week).  That drove the series’ sales ranks higher, and is still doing so, long after I’d have expected the earlier books’ ranks to drop by much more.  As I write these words, all three volumes are still ranked in the top three-tenths of one percent of all books in the Kindle Store.  Needless to say, I find that very satisfying.

(13) DID THEY GAME THE SYSTEM? Six writers who have been booted from Amazon say they can’t understand why: “Amazon self-published authors: Our books were banned for no reason” at Yahoo! Finance.

In recent weeks, Amazon (AMZN) has taken down e-books written by at least six self-published novelists who say they did nothing wrong and depend on the platform to make their living, those six novelists told Yahoo Finance.

The six authors published many of their books through Amazon’s online self-publishing platform Kindle Direct Publishing Select, and they expressed shock and frustration over losing their livelihoods without understanding why.

Amazon, for its part, has been cracking down on KDP Select authors who supposedly game the system in order to get paid more. But the authors Yahoo Finance spoke to insist they haven’t engaged in this kind of fraud, and that Amazon banned them without sufficient explanation of wrongdoing.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 10 — Rosanna Arquette, 59. Amazon Women on the Moon as well as voice work in Battle for Terra, appearances in Medium and Eastwick.
  • Born August 10 — Antonio Banderas, 58. Genre work in Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, the Spy Kids franchise, voice work in Puss in Boots and Shrek 2, appearances in the forthcoming The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle and The New Mutants.
  • Born August 10 — Suzanne Collins, 56. The Hunger Games trilogy which became a film series as well and The Underland Chronicles, a epic fantasy series.
  • Born August 10 — Angie Harmon, 46. Barbara Gordon in the animated Batman Beyond series and voice work in the current Voltron series, appeared on Chuck. 
  • Born August 10 — Joanna Garcia Swisher, 39. Quite a bit genre work including the From the Earth to The Moon miniseries, the animated The Penguins of MadagascarAre You Afraid Of The DarkThe Astronaut Wives Club,  Kevin (Probably) Saves the World and Once Upon a Time series. 

(15) SHORT FICTION REVIEWS. Charles Payseur sells Ceaseless Sips by the seashore: “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #257”.

I am sorely tempted to guess that the link between the two latest stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies is that their both authored by a Christopher. Because, at first glance, these two pieces are very different in terms of character, tone, and theme. Looking closer, though, and the stories seem paired not because of how well they work in harmony, but in how well they contrast, showing two sides of the same coin. On one, we get to see a man on a quest realize that he’s in danger of losing something of himself and pause, take stock, and find comfort and guidance in another person. In the other story, though, we find a man who has fully embraced his quest, regardless of who he needs to destroy or hurt. Both stories feature mostly conversations and philosophy, but in one a lesson is learned, and in the other it is utterly destroyed. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

(16) PICK SIX. Grow your TBR pile by reading “Six Books with Sam Hawke” at Nerds of a Feather.

  1. What upcoming book you are really excited about?Probably Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett is the one I’m looking forward to the most. He wrote one of my favourite fantasy trilogies of recent years (the Divine Cities) and Foundryside has the thieves and heists in city state, Locke Lamora kind of vibe that I dig. Special mention to The Monster Baru Cormorant (because the Traitor was amaaaaazing) though I am scared of how much it is going to hurt me.

(17) POWER ARRANGERS. Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams surprises with his deep interest in the meanings of Lord of the Rings: “Master of his universe: the warnings in JRR Tolkien’s novels” in New Statesman.

…Yes, Sam is an idealised version of a socially ambivalent and archaic stereotype. Forget this for a moment and look at his instinctive realisation that fantasies of high-octane power, celebrity and control are poisonous. He is anything but perfect: his stubborn parochialism and his taunting of Gollum are failings, with bad consequences. But he retains some fundamental instinct of moral realism. This helps him share Frodo’s burden without collapsing. Frodo’s empathy for Gollum (rooted in a shared understanding of the Ring’s terrible seduction), finally leads to a genuinely shocking denouement; but Gollum, furious, alienated by Sam, recklessly greedy for the Ring, saves Frodo from his self-inflicted catastrophe and dies as a result.

Somehow, the tangled web of interaction between these three ends in “salvation”. Some force overrules and rescues them – but only through the weaving together of a whole set of flawed agencies, mixed motives, compassion, prejudice, courage and craving. Tolkien is seeking to model the way in which the creator works not by intervening but by interweaving. It is this starkly unexpected conclusion to the quest and the journey that makes the book most clearly a Christian fiction.

But even for the non-religious reader, this diagnosis of power is a reason for treating Tolkien more seriously than many are inclined to. Look beyond the unquestionable flaws: the blandly patriarchal assumptions, the recurrent patronising of the less “elevated” characters, the awkwardness of the would-be High Style of narrative and dialogue, the pastiche of Scott or Stevenson at their worst; beyond even the fantastically elaborated histories and lores and languages of Middle Earth.

The work is ultimately a fiction about how desire for power – the kind of power that will make us safe, reverse injustices and avenge defeats – is a dream that can devour even the most decent. But it is also a fiction about how a bizarre tangle of confused human motivation, prosaic realism and unexpected solidarity and compassion can somehow contribute to fending off final disaster. Not quite a myth, but something of a mythic structure, and one that – in our current climate of political insanities and the resurgence of varieties of fascistic fantasy – we could do worse than think about.

(18) UP YOUR UPLOAD. BBC discovered “This rigged charger can hijack your new laptop”. “Who ran a sewer through a recreation area?” is joined by “Who put charging on a data line?”

A neat feature of many modern laptops is the ability to power them up through the USB port. Unlike the rectangular USB ports of old, the newer type – USB-C – can carry enough power to charge your machine.

That’s great news: it means you don’t need to add a separate port just for charging. And when the USB port isn’t being used for power, it can be used for something useful, like plugging in a hard drive, or your phone.

But while you and I may look at that as an improvement, hackers see an opportunity to exploit a new vulnerability.

One researcher, who goes by the name MG, showed me how a Macbook charger could be booby-trapped. Modified in such a way it was possible to hijack a user’s computer, without them having any idea it was happening.

(19) SENT BACK LIKE GANDALF? “Gladiator 2: The strangest sequel never made?” — Maximus resurrected by Jupiter to fight a rebel god, then sent time-travelling through wars of the ages.

At the time, [Nick] Cave had written just one produced screenplay, John Hillcoat’s Ghosts… of the Civil Dead, and he was concentrating on his music career. But he couldn’t resist when Crowe offered him the Gladiator 2 job, despite one obvious misgiving. “Didn’t you die in Gladiator 1?” he asked. “Yeah, you sort that out,” replied Crowe.

And that’s what he did. Cave’s Gladiator 2 screenplay opens with Maximus waking up in the afterlife. To his disappointment, it isn’t the sun-kissed Elysium he dreamt of in Gladiator, but an endless rain-sodden netherworld where wretched refugees huddle on the shores of a black ocean. With the help of a ghostly guide, Mordecai, Maximus treks to a ruined temple where he meets Jupiter, Mars and five other diseased and decrepit Roman deities. Jupiter explains that one of their number, Hephaestus, has betrayed them, and is now preaching the gospel of another god who is more powerful than all of them. Just to quibble for a moment, Hephaestus is a Greek god, not a Roman one, so Cave should really have named him Vulcan. But the screenplay compensates for this slip with some writing to relish….

(20) DO YOU REMEMBER WHO KILLED SUPERMAN? At SYFY Wire“An oral history of the original Death and Return of Superman, 25 years later”.

…Jurgens fittingly enough would be the artist who drew that final image of a battle-weary Superman finally succumbing to battle with Doomsday, cradled in Lois Lane’s arms, with Jimmy Olsen forlorn in the background.

Jurgens: As for that final double page splash, well… it first appeared as a triple page spread at the end of Superman #75. I don’t think it has ever been reprinted that way, with a double page spread that then folds out into a triple pager. We spent an extraordinary amount of time getting it to work properly and I think it really helped bring Superman #75 to an appropriate close.

Superman #75 would go on to sell millions copies over multiple printings, reaching sales figure that were bolstered in no small part by the mainstream attention the death of this international icon had attracted.

Ordway: Coincidentally, the public’s actual reaction mirrored what we did in the comics — they suddenly came out in numbers, professing their love for Superman. That was what we wanted all along, though of course none of us had any idea it would sell. We had hopes that people would respond, maybe comic shops might order more Superman comics.

Jurgens: There is no way we, DC or anyone was prepared for the reaction to our story. We were simply trying to tell a good, dramatic story that said something about the nature of a great character.

Carlin: I still can’t believe people believed Superman would be gone forever. Reporter after reporter came up to DC and asked “Why are you killing Superman?” and my standard answer was “When was the last time you bought a Superman comic? Hell, when was the last time you bought ANY comic?” And every reporter said they hadn’t bought a Superman comic since they were kids, to which my response was: “Then you’re the one who killed Superman!” And most of these reporters, men and women, said that they were reporters because of Clark and/or Lois’s inspiration!

For the creative team, the story they yearned to tell was not the slugfest that led up Superman’s death, but the stories of loss afterward.

Bogdanove: In what seemed like no time, we’d written most of “Funeral for a Friend,” which was where the real meat of the story was. I think we accomplished exactly what Louise spoke of. Through the eyes of Metropolis and the world, via the reactions of heroes, villains and the friends and family he knew, I think we got to say a lot about why Superman matters.

Certain scenes stand out in my memory: Bibbo (Bibowski, a supporting character who idolized the Man of Steel) saying, “It shoulda’ been me!” Ma and Pa Kent watching the funeral of their own son on television, all alone by themselves. Some of these scenes we talked about that day still make my eyes tear up just thinking about them.

(21) JOIN THE SPACE FORCE. Commander Fred Willard comes out of retirement to enlist in Trump’s Space Force.  “We’re going to build a big, beautiful wall and those filthy Neptunians are going to pay for it.”  “When there’s trouble in space, we’re on the case.” From the Jimmy Kimmel Show. Fast forward to 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Kevin Standlee, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, David Doering, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, and Hyman Rosen for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Actor Award

  • Chadwick Boseman *WINNER

Best Movie Award

  • Black Panther *WINNER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

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

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

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

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

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

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

Rpt: STAY OUT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The GOOD

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

(15) SOUNDTRACKS. Courtesy of Carl Slaughter:

  • Hobbit soundtrack

  • Lord of the Rings soundtrack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 5/25/18 The Prospect Of Incontinent Hobgoblins

(1) FANX FLOUNDERS ON. How long will FanX’s Bryan Brandenburg’s “indefinite leave” be?

FanX’s other leader, Dan Farr, now has added his own statement and apology.

I, Dan Farr, apologize fully for any instances in which a participant has felt unsafe. We do not condone these behaviors, from anyone.

It is not our role or responsibility to judge any individual nor to disparage or use inflammatory language about any participant in our conference. It is our role to do all within our power to keep our participants safe. Our conversation with the author resulted in a mutual agreement that he will not be participating in our future events. With this agreement, we consider the matter resolved.

Additionally, my partner and cofounder, Bryan Brandenburg has made a personal and heartfelt apology for his remarks on social media that were insensitive about our attendees’ sexual harassment concerns.

However, continued postings in social media and the press have shown energy and anger to a level that Bryan has decided that his continued participation, for now, is a distraction from the goals we are striving to uphold.

Beginning immediately, Bryan Brandenburg is taking an executive leave that he hopes and believes will help to dispel the negative energy that is taking us away from our greater mission and goals. While he has not suggested a timeframe, this leave may not be permanent. We hope to see Bryan at our September event with his wife and new son.

As for Brandenburg stepping back from social media – well, he’s stepped back from where the public can see it, but he’s still busy posting – see the screencaps in this set of tweets.

Yesterday’s latest Salt Lake Tribune coverage quoted from one of the screencaps that showed Brandenburg justifying how FanX dealt with the Richard Evans harassment complaint:

The comments were later deleted, but not before screengrabs circulated on Twitter.

“We absolutely could not publicly ban [Evans],” Brandenburg wrote. “We had no proof. We would be sued for libel and defamation from Richard. Then it would get out that you would be banned and humiliated from FanX for kissing a guest on the cheek and touching her. We would be out of business. Nobody would care to read the details. We did not see it happen. It would be her word against his.”

Hale has questioned whether organizers attempted to talk to people who may have witnessed the interaction, and whether Brandenburg’s statement means that allegations won’t be looked into if they weren’t witnessed by FanX employees.

FanX’s new harassment policy promises that every report of harassment will be investigated.

Howard Tayler’s Twitter thread deconstructs the Brandenburg rationale, quoted in the Tribune. The thread starts here:

And includes these comments:

(2) OH, THE NONHUMANITY! Here’s an admirable idea for a listicle: “The 12 Most Gratuitous Robot Deaths in Sci-Fi” at Tor.com.

Sometimes it feels like robots only exist to be abused, you know? We love them and the window they provide on the human condition, but science fiction is usually pretty mean to them overall. It loves to torment robots (and when we say “robots” we’re really talking about any form of android or A.I. or sentient toaster or what-have-you) with the constant threat of obsolescence or deactivation or destruction. And some of these deaths are just plain gratuitous, leaving us betrayed, bewildered, and otherwise bereaved.

Here are the worst of them….

(3) MORE POOH. Here’s is Disney’s Christopher Robin Official Trailer. In theaters August 3.

In the heartwarming live action adventure Disney’s “Christopher Robin,” the young boy who shared countless adventures with his band of lovable stuffed animals in the Hundred Acre Wood is now grown up and living in London but he has lost his way. Now it is up to his childhood friends to venture into our world and help Christopher Robin rediscover the joys of family life, the value of friendship and to appreciate the simple pleasures in life once again.

 

(4) NEWSLETTER SIGNUP INCENTIVE. Get to know seven authors and fill a shelf with science fiction and fantasy — The SFF Grand Newsletter Giveaway is a chance to win a dozen signed books. The seven writers in this international group range from debut to established, and from near-future thrillers to high fantasy — Aliette de Bodard, SL Huang, Beth Cato, Kate Heartfield, Jim C. Hines, Kate Elliott, and JY Yang.

Between May 25 and June 25, readers can enter the giveaway once for each author, for up to seven entries. For each author, entrants will have the choice of subscribing to that author’s newsletter to enter (signing up for the newsletter is not required to be entered in the giveaway). Existing subscribers to an author’s newsletter can simply choose the giveaway-only option to receive an entry for that author.

The contest is open worldwide. One winner (chosen at random) will receive signed, physical copies of all the books:

  • The first three Tensorate novellas by JY Yang
  • The complete Court of Fives trilogy by Kate Elliott if the winner has a U.S. address, or a choice of one of the following by Kate Elliott if the winner has a non-U.S. address: Court of Fives, Cold Magic, Black Wolves, or Spirit Gate
  • Terminal Alliance by Jim C. Hines
  • Breath of Earth by Beth Cato
  • Zero Sum Game by SL Huang and The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist (novelette) by SL Huang
  • The Tea Master and the Detective and The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
  • Armed in Her Fashion and Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield

Everyone who uses this page to sign up for ANY of our newsletters before June 25 will be entered into the giveaway! You can enter once for each author, for up to 7 entries. From among ALL entries we’ll draw ONE lucky winner — who will receive SIGNED BOOKS from every one of us! A chance to win a dozen or more signed books — a whole shelf of new SFF!

(5) WRITER V. CHARACTER. Ian Sales, in “His master’s voice”, defends his criticism of a Clarke Award finalist.

So, a couple of days ago I tweeted a short quote from the book I was reading, one of this year’s Clarke Award finalists, and remarked that I was surprised to find the position expressed in the quote in a genre novel published in 2017. Most people who saw my tweet were as dismayed as I was – although, to be fair, they saw only my quote.

Which changes things. Apparently.

The book in question is Sea of Rust by C Robert Cargill, and the exact quote was “Gender is defined by genitalia”, which is spoken by the book’s narrator, Brittle, a robot, in a paragraph in which “she” admits that robots have no gender, it is not something “she” has ever thought about, but she henceforth chooses to define herself as female.

Two people I consider friends – very smart people both, and genre critics whose opinions I respect* – decided to insult my intelligence by questioning by understanding of how narrative works. Because the offending phrase – and it is offensive – was spoken by a character, they stated, that does not mean it reflects the author’s sensibilities. As another friend pointed out, I have myself written fiction featuring Nazis – and I have: ‘Wunderwaffe’ – but that obviously does not make me a Nazi. This is indeed true. Cargill has written a novel about robots, in which the first person narrator is a robot… but obviously he is not a robot himself. I never claimed this.

But the people arguing against my comment were themselves making the same assumption about me they were accusing myself of making against Cargill. Except, I think my position is backed up by the narrative.

…So yes, I do understand how narrative works. I also understand how writing works. And while I may not be as accomplished at writing as others… and I may place a higher value on narrative rigour than most people… I stand my original position:

Unless the narrative evidences a foundation for a sensibility or attitude, then it’s reasonable to assume it is a sensibility or attitude of the author that has leaked through into the narrative.

(6) MARY SHELLEY BIOPIC. NPR’s Mark Jenkins says “‘Mary Shelley’ Is Less Than The Sum Of Its Parts”

Given the familiarity of the material, the makers of Mary Shelley would have been smart to find a new approach. Philosophically, they sort of do, giving Mary more credit than usual for both her work and her choices.

Stylistically, though, the movie is all too typical of the 19th-century British literary/romantic drama. It presents London circa 1815 as misery for the poor, the young, the female, and the liberal-minded — and yet picturesque enough for a tourist brochure, suffused with dappled sun-, lamp- and candlelight and swathed in yearning music.

(7) BAIN OBIT. Meredith marks the passing of “John Bain, also known as TotalBiscuit, the Cynical Brit, who died yesterday after being diagnosed with inoperable cancer in 2015. He was a popular gaming YouTuber and started out by covering the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion before moving on to wider coverage, including a lot of indie games. He championed games on the PC and was always honest about his opinions of games, beginning in a time when that was far less common.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 25, 1953 It Came From Outer Space appeared in theaters, a movie based on a story by Ray Bradbury.
  • May 25, 1977Star Wars premiered.
  • May 25, 1983Return of the Jedi opened in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MUPPETEER

  • Born May 25, 1944 – Frank Oz

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cat Eldridge says “I’ve had dozens of emails telling me about the organization and how it’s complying with GDPR.” And now Xkcd is getting in on the act.

(11) NATAL DAY. Steven H Silver celebrates: “Birthday Reviews: Vera Nazarian’s ‘Salmon in the Drain Pipe’” at Black Gate.

Nazarian was nominated for a WSFA Small Press Award for her short story “Port Custodial Blues” in 2007. The following year she received a nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “The Story of Love.” She also received a Nebula nomination in 2009 for her novella The Duke in His Castle. In addition to writing, Nazarian has worked as the editor and publisher of Norilana Books since the company’s founding in 2006.

(12) KNOWS ALL, HEARS ALL, TELLS ALL. The Guardian asks “Alexa, when did the Church of England become so tech-savvy?”

The Amazon assistant can now help you with your Anglican needs. Just don’t expect answers to the really big questions…

Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer was well ahead of its time when in 1549 it addressed “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be opened, all desires known, and no secrets hid” – but it would take nearly five centuries for the church to turn this vision into technology. For now there is a Church of England “skill” – a set of canned responses – on , Amazon’s virtual assistant which can give its answer to 30 religious questions. It doesn’t answer the interesting ones though. “Alexa, ask the Church of England how can I be saved?” produces a silence easily interpreted as baffled, and I don’t think this is because the Church of England long ago decided that I couldn’t be….

(13) SFF IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Here’s another list to pick apart, BBC Culture’s “The 100 stories that shaped the world”. Homer’s Odyssey is number 1.

Chip Hitchcock celebrates that “SFF cracked the top 5,” and he tentatively identifies the stories with these rankings as SFF: 3, 4, 15, 16, 44, 67?, 71, 72, 73? 83?

(14) THEY WERE THERE. “How ancient DNA is transforming our view of the past” the “pots not people” (cultural exchange) view is giving way to knowledge that there were huge population shifts, e.g. Stonehenge builders disappearing under flood of Beaker People.

…Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, studies of ancient DNA from our own species were highly contentious because of observations that skeletal remains were easily contaminated by the DNA of living people.

As such, there were always nagging doubts about whether a genetic sequence belonged to the long-dead individual being studied or to an archaeologist involved in excavating the remains, a museum curator who had handled them, or a visitor to the lab where they were being analysed.

However, crucial progress in overcoming these obstacles began in the late 90s with the effort to sequence DNA from Neanderthals, which was led by Professor Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

Pääbo’s group developed a set of protocols to prevent contamination slipping through, including having the same samples sequenced in two laboratories by different teams….

But the field experienced a revolution with the emergence of so-called next-generation sequencing technology. When an organism dies, the DNA in its cells begins to break down – over time it splits into smaller and smaller chunks, as well as accumulating other forms of damage.

It also gets contaminated with vast amounts of microbial DNA from the wider environment. The new sequencing machines could be used to isolate the human genetic material from bacterial DNA and then stitch together the tiny fragments into a readable sequence….

(15) ROADBLOCK. Traffic came to a standstill when….

(16) SFWA GAME CHAT. The inaugural episode of SFWA Game Chat aired this week on YouTube, hosted by Cat Rambo with Monica Valentinelli.

Did you know that SFWA now admits science fiction and fantasy game writers? Cat Rambo introduces a new show that discusses sci-fi/fantasy game writing!

 

(17) GAMING PIONEER. The Great Big Story has released a piece on the woman behind the design of the early 80’s text-based computer/adventure game, The Hobbit. Veronika Megler fell out of contact with the company that developed the game and went for many years without knowing how successful it was and how many lives it touched: “The Hunt for ‘The Hobbit’s’ Missing Hero”.

The six and a half minute video is great and the story of how (now) Dr. Megler has seized upon the lasting power of the game to help address gender balance in computer science is affecting.

 

(18) NOT AGENT 86. Missed out on this shoephone revival:

T-Mobile’s Sidekick gets a remake! Inspired by the past but stepping boldly into the future, it has revolutionary AI, headphones that double as chargers, personalized GPS guidance by John Legere, and more!

 

(19) SECOND OPINION. NPR’s Justin Chang calls Solo “A High-Speed, Low-Energy Intergalactic Heist”:

It was a good sign when Alden Ehrenreich, the terrific young actor from “Tetro” and “Hail, Caesar!” was cast as Han and also when Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the merry comic daredevils behind “The Lego Movie” and “21 Jump Street,” were hired to direct. But then Lord and Miller were fired last year due to apparently irreconcilable creative differences. And you could sense the iron will of Lucasfilm asserting itself. God forbid anyone should try to inject a little wit or personality into this surefire cash cow.

The directors were replaced by the much more risk-averse Ron Howard. And as a consequence, what might have once been a fresh and funny tour de force has devolved into bland, impersonal hackwork.

(20) CANTINA CHOW. Extra Crispy’s Tim Nelson was not impressed with the Solo/Denny’s promotional campaign, launched in April, that included trading cards and (not so) special menu items.

In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Obi Wan Kenobi warns Luke Skywalker that “you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy” than Mos Eiseley, home to the cantina where viewers first meet smuggler and scoundrel Han Solo. It’s also a fitting way to describe any Denny’s located within stumbling distance of a bar after 11 p.m.

…With proceeds from trading card purchases going to help fund nonprofit organization No Kid Hungry, the whole thing seems inoffensive enough. But if some leaked information posted on a Star Wars forum is true, some of the Solo-themed menu items seem a bit silly.

There’s the “lightspeed slam,” a healthy dish that looks more like something from a depressed nutritionist’s Instagram than a meal fit for the Star Wars universe. While Denny’s earns some points for the inclusion of “Crystal Crunch Rocks” in a milkshake and a stack of pancakes, that looks to be the closest the menu gets to anything outside the universe of the diner chain’s typical fare.

As with past Star Wars-food tie-ins, one has to wonder what purpose putting ghost pepper sauce on a bacon cheeseburger and passing it off as something Han Solo might eat ultimately serves. Why not at least serve pancakes shaped like Chewbacca’s face?

(21) NO RECIPE FOR SUCCESS? Mad Genius Club’s Peter Grant made the point that “Writing books is not like frying shrimp”, inspired by the hilarious commercial linked below.

Trouble is, some new entrants into the book-writing and -publishing business think that their ambitions can be realized in a very similar fashion.  Just set up everything, add pre-set ingredients according to some arcane recipe, strike a spark, and voila!  It’s done!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Meredith, Chip Hitchcock, SL Huang, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, JJ, IanP, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Elisa.]

Pixel Scroll 9/8/17 The Heinlein Appertainment Collision: Pixel, The Cat That Walks Through Scrolls

(1) HINES ARC GIVEAWAY TO SUPPORT DISASTER RELIEF. Jim C. Hines is doing a giveaway of an advance copy of Terminal Alliance to encourage people to donate to flood/hurricane relief: “Disaster Aid and Terminal Alliance Giveaway”:

Two weeks ago, Sophie received advance review copies of Terminal Alliance. I’ve been meaning to do a giveaway, but I was struggling to come up with a good way to do it.

Then I started seeing the damage reports come in from hurricanes and flooding. The devastation they’ve left in their wakes, and the devastation yet to come. A million people without power in Puerto Rico. Record-breaking rain and flooding in the southwest U.S. 41 million affected by flooding and landslides in South Asia.

And now I know how I want to do this giveaway. You want to win an autographed ARC of Terminal Alliance? There are two things you need to do.

  1. Donate to one of the organizations helping with disaster relief.
  2. Leave a comment saying you donated.

(2) USE YOUR OWN DARNED IMAGINATION. Bestselling fantasy writer Mark Lawrence tells his fans “Why you’re not getting a map”.

A question posed to me on this blog.

Q: When are you going to draw a map for Book of the ancestors series? I’m dying to read Red Sister but can’t bring myself to do it without a map.

A: I’m not going to. If you can’t read a book without a map I guess it’s not a book for you.

I’m often asked: “Did you draw the map first or as you wrote the book.” This is frequently by people who haven’t read any of my books.

There is an assumption there … fantasy books have maps. Which is odd, since I have read hundreds (possibly thousands) of novels without maps, many of them set in regions I’m unfamiliar with. The fact is that for a great many works of fiction maps are irrelevant, they are about what people are doing in their lives, if Sarah goes to visit her uncle in Vostok it is sufficient for me to know it took her several hours on the train and when she got there the forests were covered in snow. I don’t need to look it up on a map. It doesn’t matter.

(3) SELLING SHORT. Charles Payseur begins a new series of posts with “MAPPING SHORT SF/F: Part 1, A Key to the Kingdom” at Nerds of a Feather.

Really, the reasons I want to do this can be broken down thusly:

  1. To provide a tool for readers to break down short SFF into meaningful, manageable chunks that will help them locate stories they will hopefully love.
  2. To counter the narrative that short SFF is either too massive, too disparate, or too opaque to be successfully navigated.
  3. To talk about short SFF, which is one of my great loves.
  4. To highlight publications, authors, and trends within short SFF.

…One last thing before I close this down. People often come to me to ask how to find stories. How to refine their search. While I hope to help through this series, there are some tools that are available to you right now, and I find that not everyone thinks of this when they’re considering where to look as readers for particular genres/styles/etc. Your best resource as a reader is…submissions guidelines. Yes, they are written for writers, but if you want to know what a publication is interested in, submissions guidelines are where to look. Skip the About Us section of publications. Read what they want. See if they have a diversity statement. Check to see what other tactics they might have to encourage marginalized writers to submit. This is a really easy “cheat” for readers to get a feel for a publication without checking out reviews or reading sample stories. And using a tool like The Submissions Grinder at Diabolical Plots allows you to search by genre, by length, by basically whatever you want. It’s not what it was designed for, but it is amazing for searching out venues and stories to read.

(4) SINGULARITY SINS. Rodney Brooks has written an excellent article explaining in detail why the future of AI isn’t going to be quite as scary or as exciting as most SF stories would have you think: “The Seven Deadly Sins of Predicting the Future of AI”. Here’s an excerpt from one of his seven main points.

Some people have very specific ideas about when the day of salvation will come–followers of one particular Singularity prophet believe that it will happen in the year 2029, as it has been written.

This particular error of prediction is very much driven by exponentialism, and I will address that as one of the seven common mistakes that people make.

Even if there is a lot of computer power around it does not mean we are close to having programs that can do research in Artificial Intelligence, and rewrite their own code to get better and better.

Here is where we are on programs that can understand computer code. We currently have no programs that can understand a one page program as well as a new student in computer science can understand such a program after just one month of taking their very first class in programming. That is a long way from AI systems being better at writing AI systems than humans are.

Here is where we are on simulating brains at the neural level, the other methodology that Singularity worshipers often refer to. For about thirty years we have known the full “wiring diagram” of the 302 neurons in the worm C. elegans, along with the 7,000 connections between them. This has been incredibly useful for understanding how behavior and neurons are linked. But it has been a thirty years study with hundreds of people involved, all trying to understand just 302 neurons. And according to the OpenWorm project trying to simulate C. elegans bottom up, they are not yet half way there. To simulate a human brain with 100 billion neurons and a vast number of connections is quite a way off. So if you are going to rely on the Singularity to upload yourself to a brain simulation I would try to hold off on dying for another couple of centuries.

(5) LUCASFILM HELPS DESIGN REAL WORLD MISSION PATCH. In space no one can hear you squee.

Taking a modern twist on a longstanding spaceflight tradition of mission patch design, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) partnered with Lucasfilm to blend iconic images from the Star Wars franchise with a real-world space station for its latest mission patch.

BB-8 meets ISS

Though it should come as no surprise that the intersection of space science and science fiction fans is quite large, it isn’t often the two areas come together in such overt fashion, even with something as basic as a patch. Indeed, mission insignia are usually designed by astronauts or engineers involved with a particular mission, not an outside organization.

CASIS, however, has a history of engaging third parties to influence – or outright design – its ensigns. Before the current collaboration with Lucasfilm, CASIS worked with Marvel to design its 2016 mission patch. That work featured Rocket Raccoon and Groot from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy looking upwards toward the International Space Station (ISS).

(6) TECHNOLOGY AND FREEDOM. Coming September 17 at the Brooklyn Historical Auditorium: “Structures of Power: Politics, Science Fiction, and Fantasy presented by the Center for Fiction”

Science fiction and fantasy are uniquely positioned to explore structures of power. Four authors examine how power struggles impact individuals and collectives, intersections between technology and politics, and methods of resistance to oppressive governments and technologies. N.K. Jemisin (The Stone Sky), Eugene Lim (Dear Cyborgs), Malka Older (Null States), and Deji Bryce Olukotun (After the Flare) will discuss how science fiction and fantasy respond to our hopes and fears for the future, offers alternatives to conventional politics, and examines how technology affects freedom. Moderated by Rosie Clarke.

(7) BRADBURY ALL THE TIME. Here’s the first of “11 Deep Facts About The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms” from Mental Floss.

  1. THE MOVIE WAS PARTLY BASED ON A RAY BRADBURY STORY.

It all started with a roar. One night, while he was living near Santa Monica Bay, legendary sci-fi author Ray Bradbury was awakened from his sleep by a blaring foghorn. Moved by the mournful bellow, he quickly got to work on a short story about a lovelorn sea monster. Called The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (later retitled The Foghorn), it was published in The Saturday Evening Post on June 23, 1951.

At roughly the same time, Mutual Films was developing a script for a new action-packed monster movie. The finished product would ultimately bear more than a slight resemblance to a certain Saturday Evening Post story. For instance, both of them feature a scene in which a prehistoric titan lays waste to a lighthouse. According to some sources, Mutual had already started working on its marine creature flick when studio co-founder Jack Dietz happened upon Bradbury’s yarn in the Post. Supposedly, he contacted the author without delay and bought the rights to this tale.

But Bradbury’s account of what happened behind the scenes is totally different. The other co-founder of Mutual was one Hal Chester. Late in life, Bradbury claimed that when a preliminary script for what became Beast had been drafted, Chester asked him to read it over. “I pointed out the similarities between it and my short story,” Bradbury said. “Chester’s face paled and his jaw dropped when I told him his monster was my monster. He seemed stunned at my recognition of the fact. He had the look of one caught with his hand in the till.”

In any event, Bradbury received a $2000 check and a shout-out in the movie’s opening credits.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Star Trek Day

[The anniversary of when the first episode aired in 1966.]

“I haven’t faced death. I’ve cheated death. I’ve tricked my way out of death and patted myself on the back for my ingenuity; I know nothing.” ~ James T. Kirk, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Long ago, in the depths of the cold war, America had a prophet arrive. He spoke not of religious texts and damnation, but instead provided us with a vision of the future so hope-filled, so compelling, that it has indelibly marked the imaginations of man-kind ever since. Star Trek Day celebrates that vision, and the man who created it, Gene Roddenberry.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 8, 1966 — Original Star Trek series debuted on television.
  • September 8, 1973 Star Trek: The Animated Series premiered. (Talk about coincidences.)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock rightly says, “Today’s Rhymes With Orange is for the strong of stomach.”
  • John King Tarpinian found a funny about cosplay – today’s Lio.

(11) YOU’RE FROM THE SIXTIES. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler is giving out his annual Galactic Stars – this time in the TV category: “[Sep. 8, 1962] Navigating the Wasteland (1961-62 in (good) television)”. These awards are not limited to sff – Route 66 and The Andy Griffith Show made the list – but The Twilight Zone a couple other genre series made the list.

Other stand-outs include:

Mr. Ed 1960-: despite being overly rooted in conventional gender roles, one can’t ignore Alan Young’s charm, the fun of the barbed banter between Young’s married neighbors, or the impressive way they make a horse appear to talk.

Supercar 1961-62: this British import is definitely kiddie fare, but it’s still fun to watch Mike Mercury and his two scientist associates defeat criminals and triumph over natural disaster.  Of course, the acting’s a bit wooden…

(12) WHEN BRUCE WILLIS ATTENDS YOUR OFFICE PARTY. Io9 reports “The Best Christmas Movie of All Time Is Being Turned Into a Must-Have Children’s Book”. I was thinking, A Christmas Story? Miracle on 34th Street? I was wrong….

It’s unfortunate that Die Hard, the best Christmas movie of all time, isn’t really a film you can watch with your kids. But this year, instead of suffering through Elf once again, you can spend some quality time with your PG-rated family members by reading a new holiday children’s book based on the adventures of John McClane.

A Die Hard Christmas: The Illustrated Holiday Classic, written by comedian Doogie Horner, and illustrated by JJ Harrison, was inspired by the classic Christmas poem, Twas the Night Before Christmas. But instead of detailing Santa’s attempts to deliver presents to good boys and girls, the book tells the timeless tale of a New York police officer single-handedly taking down a gang of European terrorists.

(13) THE IT FACTOR. The children’s movie about a clown with a red balloon did well. SyFy Wire says “The weekend’s only starting, and IT has already broken 4 box office records”.

According to Deadline, the R-rated IT’s record-breaking take of $13.5 million means it had:

  • The largest gross for a horror pre-show gross.
  • The largest gross for a R-rated preview gross.
  • The largest gross for a September preview, ever.
  • The largest gross for a movie based on a Stephen King novel.

This Thursday night preview kicked the stuffing out of the R-rated Deadpool, which only earned $12.7 from its pre-show screenings. Experts are predicting more record-shattering as the weekend progresses.

(14) KOWAL SIGNED FOR NARRATION. Parvus Press has contracted with Mary Robinette Kowal to perform the audiobook narration for the upcoming title Flotsam by R J Theodore. The book will be released in digital, print, and audio on January 30, 2018.

“We are incredibly excited to be able to work with a world-class talent like Mary Robinette Kowal on this title,” said Colin Coyle, Publisher at Parvus Press. “We know that this book is going to find a dedicated fan base and we want to bring it to as many readers and listeners as possible.”

…R J Theodore couldn’t be more pleased with Parvus’ choice for FLOTSAM‘s narrator. She says, “Mary’s voice is a complex bourbon that bites with a wry humor on the way down. I am very excited to hear it applied to FLOTSAM’s narration.”

Cat Rambo, author of “Beasts of Tabat”, describes FLOTSAM as “Combining the best elements of steampunk and space opera,” and promises “[P]laced in a lavishly detailed and imagined world, Flotsam will hold you firmly till the final page.”

…Mary Robinette Kowal, a professional puppeteer, also performs as a voice actor (SAG/AFTRA), recording fiction for authors including Seanan McGuire, Cory Doctorow, and John Scalzi. She lives in Chicago with her husband Rob and over a dozen manual typewriters.

(15) NEXT TURN OF THE WHEEL. Although the blog has devoted years to teaching indie authors how to put together and market their books, Mad Genius Club’s Peter Grant has a new message: “It’s time to face facts: online lending and streaming media is, increasingly, the future of books”.

I’ve written before about the threat that streaming media poses to traditional book sales.  I’ve had a certain amount of pushback about that, particularly from those who don’t like the thought of their income from writing declining to such an extent.  Some have even refused to make their books available on streaming services such as Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.  Now, however, the signs are clear.  We have to face up to the reality of streaming media in our future – or be swept aside.

Those signs are most clear in other areas of the entertainment industry.  Let’s not forget, that is our industry, too.  We’re not selling books.  We’re selling entertainment, and our products (books and stories) are competing with every other avenue of entertainment out there – movies, TV series, music, games, the lot.  If we don’t offer sufficient entertainment for consumers’ dollars, they’re going to spend them on another form of entertainment – and we’re going to starve.

(16) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. At Phys.org they ask: “Are we being watched? Tens of other worlds could spot the Earth”.

Thanks to facilities and missions such as SuperWASP and Kepler, we have now discovered thousands of planets orbiting stars other than our sun, worlds known as ‘exoplanets’. The vast majority of these are found when the planets cross in front of their host stars in what are known as ‘transits’, which allow astronomers to see light from the host star dim slightly at regular intervals every time the planet passes between us and the distant star.

In the new study, the authors reverse this concept and ask, “How would an alien observer see the solar system?” They identified parts of the distant sky from where various planets in our solar system could be seen to pass in front of the sun – so-called ‘transit zones’—concluding that the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) are actually much more likely to be spotted than the more distant ‘Jovian’ planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune), despite their much larger size.

“Larger planets would naturally block out more light as they pass in front of their star”, commented lead author Robert Wells, a PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast. “However the more important factor is actually how close the planet is to its parent star – since the terrestrial planets are much closer to the sun than the gas giants, they’ll be more likely to be seen in transit.”

(17) THE MARTIAN HOP. Stephen Baxter is featured in “Tell Us 5 Things About Your Book: A Sequel to ‘The War of the Worlds’” at the New York Times.

What’s the most surprising thing you learned while writing it?

The work that Wells put into the original; the development it went through. There are some surviving drafts, at the University of Illinois. What really surprised me was how the narrator evolved. In the initial drafts, he’s a much more competent character, much more purposeful. He loses his wife to the Martians; they destroy the town he lived in. He becomes enraged and wants revenge, so he falls in with the resistance, and he’s going to blow up the Martians, like a suicide bomber.

But Wells clearly wasn’t happy with that. In the final draft, the narrator is burned, wounded, but he follows the Martians in a way that’s more “get it over with.” Then he goes into a fugue, a kind of three-day dropout. I think Wells was groping for a prediction of shell shock, which wasn’t a recognized condition until the First World War, 20 years later. So it’s a tremendous prediction, which I think is underrated by critics. That discovery, of how much Wells worked on the book, was a real revelation for me.

(18) ANOTHER GLIMPSE. Victor Fernando R. Ocampo, in “My Late Post regarding the 2017 Hugo Awards”, shares  great photos from the ceremony.

(19) BEARS DISCOVER EMAIL. End of a bizarre story: “Judge dismisses email invention claim”. The plaintiff was looking not for royalties on email but for libel damages for a story doubting his claim to have created the “definitive” email program — the modern equivalent of claiming to have invented fire?

Shiva Ayyadurai sued news website Tech Dirt earlier this year after it published several articles denying his claim….

Mr Ayyadurai’s controversial claim revolves around a program he wrote in 1978, called EMAIL, that was used by staff at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. He was granted a copyright for this program in 1982.

Many news websites have published detailed rejections of his claim.

Tech Dirt was one of the most vocal critics of Mr Ayyadurai’s campaign to establish his software as the definitive version.

Technology history suggests that modern email programs have a lot of influences, but much of the work was done prior to 1978 by many different developers.

Ray Tomlinson is widely acknowledged as the programmer who, in the early 1970s, first used the “@” symbol as a way to describe a particular user on a particular network.

(20) RIDE WEST, YOUNG MAN. Adweek tells about this bit of fictionalized history: “Lyft Travels Back to 1836 With Jeff Bridges in First Brand Work From Wieden + Kennedy”.

Man invents the wheel. Man walks on the moon. Man calls a car to the East Village on a Friday night, when you can’t flag a yellow cab to save your life.

These are some of the major developments in the history of human transportation, according to Lyft, whose big new brand campaign is set to debut during NFL games this Sunday.

…W+K made a splash with a summer activation in which Lyft “took over” an Los Angeles car wash, but the new work is even more ambitious. In the first spot, “Riding West,” Jeff Bridges relays a few lessons about the importance of choice that are as relevant today as they were to the wagon trains of the early 19th century.

 

There are a few more videos at the link. I also like this one:

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Greg Hullender, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Steven H Silver, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 3/1/17 Old Man Pixel, He Just Keeps Scrollin’ Along

(1) HELSINKI NEWS. Worldcon 75 is holding an Academic Poster competition and would very much like participation from as many university students and researchers as possible.

We are hosting a science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) poster competition for undergraduate students, graduate students and post-doctoral researchers. The competition is also open to posters that explore the connections between STEMM subjects and SF/fantasy/horror. There will be a €100 prize for the poster that best communicates research to the general public.

Presenters will be able to share their research with an audience that is very interested in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine, but where many audience members will not have been formally educated in STEMM subjects. In addition, presenters will be invited to give five minute mini-talks on Saturday 12th August 2017 explaining their research. Taken together, the posters and mini-talks represent an exciting opportunity for the presenters to practice research communication, and for audience to learn about cutting-edge research.

If you are interested in displaying a poster then fill in our web form below or follow this direct link to the form.

The deadline for applications is 1st May 2017 and we will inform you of our decision by mid-June.

(2) DREAM FULFILLED. Phil Kaveny, who I know from the Mythopoeic Society, announced the script for his play “The Munitions Factory” is available from Amazon Kindle.  He calls it “My project of a lifetime.”

The Munitions Factory is a play about love, money, revolution, and the military industrial complex. Set in Imperial Germany in 1917 during the worst winter in German history, The Munitions Factory is really about our world in the 21st century. It is a hard driving play that will jar you out of your complacency, and it is also a compelling love story about characters who walk the razor’s edge between desperate love and repulsion that is common in wartime.

(3) DOWN TO THE WIRE. In comments Jonathan Edelstein pointed out that “a team headed by the heroic Jake Kerr is putting together a 2017 Campbell-eligible anthology.”

The submission form is here for any Campbell-eligible authors (first pro publication in 2015 or 2016) who want to submit a sample of last year’s work.

(4) ODDS FAVOR THE HOUSE. The Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance opened voting today for the CLFA Book of the Year Awards.

CLFA an online group of readers, authors and other creative individuals who want to see more freedom-friendly storytelling in the marketplace. We provide our members with networking opportunities as well as a safe, friendly and open environment for both political and creative discussions. We are currently at over 1300 members strong, with new participants joining us on a daily basis….

CLFA Book of the Year Awards, now in their third year, seek to recognize the best in freedom-friendly fiction. To qualify for entry in the CLFA 2017 Book of the Year contest, the work has to be over 50k words and first published in any form in 2016. Our members voted to arrive at the Top 10 list, which is now open to the public for the final vote.

Voting is open until midnight on March 31, 2017. Winners to be announced in April 2017. Voting happens here.

The finalists are:

  • Iron Chamber of Memory by John C. Wright
  • Discovery by Karina Fabian
  • Set to Kill by Declan Finn
  • By the Hands of Men, Book Three: The Wrath of a Righteous Man by Roy M. Griffis
  • Murphy’s Law of Vampires by Declan Finn
  • Chasing Freedom by Marina Fontaine
  • Domino by Kia Heavey
  • Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge by John Ringo
  • Souldancer by Brian Niemeier
  • Brings the Lightning by Peter Grant

At the moment Peter Grant’s novel from Castalia House is leaving the field behind. He’s got 50 votes to 25 votes for John C. Wright’s novel (also from Castalia House). Last year’s Dragon Award-winning Souldancer by Brian Niemeier has one vote so far.

(5) INJUSTICE. Australia writer Tom Taylor, of Injustice Gods Among Us and Injustice 2 comics, told his Facebook readers he won’t be at Emerald City Comic Con this week and or other U.S. events.

Sadly, I won’t be attending Emerald City Comicon in Seattle this week.

I have also turned down all other US signing and convention invitations so far this year.

I know I’m far from the only person concerned about traveling to the States at this time, but I wanted to explain my decision.

I want to start by saying this decision was incredibly difficult. I was really looking forward to this trip. I have traveled to the US regularly since 2009. This year, I have four different books with three different publishers, and a TV series to promote. Beyond this, I have fans and colleagues I was looking forward to meeting. I also have many good friends in the States, and I was looking forward to catching up with all of them. Truth be told, I’m missing them.

But America, through no fault of most of its citizens, doesn’t feel like a safe or welcoming travel destination at this moment.

There have been reports of interrogation, phone data downloads, requests for social media accounts, returns and five-year travel bans and everyone from children to the elderly being detained. All of this has many people I’ve spoken to reconsidering or cancelling their US travel plans.

I’ve had friends and people I work with suggest I leave my phone at home, or delete my twitter account for a month before I come.

I refuse those terms.

My twitter account isn’t complimentary towards the current administration, but it’s far from inflammatory and shouldn’t need to be scrutinized to gain entry to a country where free-speech is so highly valued.

Traveling fifteen hours on a plane is bad enough. Travelling towards uncertainty, half-worried about being caught in limbo by overzealous border security, with my wife and children wondering why I haven’t called, is nightmare fuel…..

(Via Comicsbeat.)

(6) PENRIC SEQUEL. Lois McMaster Bujold’s latest novella Mira’s Last Dance (Penric & Desdemona Book 4) is out.

(7) VOTE FOR PAUL WEIMER. Ten days ‘til Down Under Fan Fund voting closes. The deadline is midnight, March 10 (PST). Our Paul Weimer is the only candidate for the trip to the Australian National Convention, but the contribution of $5 or more accompanying your vote will help keep the fund going during and after Paul’s trip. Click here to get started.

CANDIDATE PLATFORM

Paul Weimer

I’m a podcaster for the Skiffy and Fanty podcast, the SFF audio podcast, a noted SF/F book reviewer and a regular panelist at local cons. I am also an amateur photographer. I have only been to one international con, the Worldcon in London in 2014, and would love to broaden my international fandom connections. If I have the honor of being selected, I aim to build the links I already have with Australian fandom (in things like being a prior participant in The Australian SF Snapshot) into face to face interviews, meetings, and more with fans and genre folk at Continuum and elsewhere in Australia. Have camera and recorder and ready to travel!

Nominators: North America: Mike Glyer, Arref Mak, and Jen Zink. Australasia: Gillian Polack and Alexandra Pierce.

(8) GLOWING REVIEWS. Jason continues to burn the midnight oil and has melted down another month of online science fiction and fantasy offerings into a shiny list of favorite stories in “Summation of Online Fiction: February 2017” at Featured Futures.

Thirteen February pro-rate webzines (the same as last month’s list except that a new bimonthly issue of Compelling replaced the defunct Fantastic) produced forty-three stories of 196,912 words. I most appreciated six (amounting to 14% of the whole)…

(9) SMALL WORLD, BIG NEWS. ChiZine Publications has cut an illustrated book deal with George A. Romero, creator of The Night of the Living Dead. They have acquired The Little World of Humongo Bongo, an illustrated book, originally published in French.

The Little World of Humongo Bongo is the tale of fire-breathing giant Humongo Bongo, who lives on the tiny planet of Tongo. Gentle and curious, his world is thrown upside down when he encounters a race of tiny people named the Minus, who initially worship him as a God but then turn on him when they succumb to fear, greed and the lust for power….

The Little World of Humongo Bongo will be published in Fall/Winter 2017, in association with Dave Alexander’s Untold Horror, a multi-media brand dedicated to exploring the greatest horror stories never told.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 1, 1692 — The Salem Witch Trials began in Massachusetts with the conviction of West Indian slave, Tituba, for witchcraft.

(11) CALLING ALL SMOFS. Kevin Standlee shared the news that as of yesterday there was still no bid for the 2019 Westercon, to be selected this July in Tempe.

Any site in Western North America (or Hawaii) is eligible. (Nobody filed by the end of December 2016, so the exclusion zone is suspended.) The filing deadline for the ballot is April 15, 2017. If no bid files by then, site selection won’t have any bids on the ballot, and I probably will have to ask Tempe for a larger room and longer time slot for the Westercon Business Meeting.

So here’s your chance to host a Westercon!

The bidding requirements are in the Westercon Bylaws, Article 3. The bylaws are on the Westercon web site at http://www.westercon.org/organization/business/

It’s approximately the same as Worldcon, with minor differences. The outline is the same: file bidding papers, and if the voters at the administering Westercon select you, you get the bid. If nobody wins, the Business Meeting decides.

(12) SLCC UPDATE. Here’s Bryan Brandenburg of the Salt Lake Comic Con appearing before the Utah Legislature (to the right of the flag). In his address, Bryan emphasized that their intent is to fill the void and not replace the other commercial events.

(13) ROBOMALLCOP. Francis Hamit is sufficiently impressed with the company that he bought some stock. “I thought this might be of interest. Securitas is the largest provider of contract human security officers in the world. Knightscope is a new company with a unique robotic system that does not replace human officers but does greatly extend their range.” And they have some good news.

Knightscope, developer of advanced physical security technologies focused on significantly enhancing US security operations, and Securitas AB (SECU-B.ST), the world’s second largest private security company, announced today that the parties are extending their channel partner agreement through February 2020. The agreement gives Securitas Security Services USA, Inc., a subsidiary of Securitas, rights to offer Knightscope’s technologies to its significant existing customer base, while Knightscope continues to develop new technologies and provide operational support.

Hamit adds:

Any resemblance to the Daleks is strictly coincidental. I am sure.

(14) UNDERSTANDING FUTURISM. New from McFarland, Science Fiction and Futurism: Their Terms and Ideas by Ace G. Pilkington.

Science and science fiction have become inseparable—with common stories, interconnected thought experiments, and shared language. This reference book lays out that relationship and its all-but-magical terms and ideas. Those who think seriously about the future are changing the world, reshaping how we speak and how we think.

This book fully covers the terms that collected, clarified and crystallized the futurists’ ideas, sometimes showing them off, sometimes slowing them down, and sometimes propelling them to fame and making them the common currency of our culture.

The many entries in this encyclopedic work offer a guided tour of the vast territories occupied by science fiction and futurism.

Beware, it will help multiply the number of books on your TBR pile. In his Foreword, David Brin says, “Provocative and enticing? Filled with ‘huh!’ moments and leads to great stories? That describes this volume.”

(15) RING THAT BELLE. John Ostrander talks about The Other in “The Face in the Mirror” at ComicMix.

The most recent issue of Entertainment Weekly featured an article about and interview with Emma Watson, playing Belle in the upcoming live-action Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. She may be best known for playing Hermione in the Harry Potter films. In addition to being very talented, Ms. Watson is also very smart and very articulate. As the article notes, she has also been a leader in feminist causes.

In the article, she’s asked why it is hard for some male fans to enjoy a female hero. (Witness the fanboy furor at the all-female remake of Ghostbusters and the female leads in the last two Star Wars films.) She replied: “It’s something they [some male fans] are not used to and they don’t like that. I think if you’ve been used to watching characters that look like, sound like, think like you and then you see someone [unexpected] up on the screen, you go ‘Well, that’s a girl; she doesn’t look like me. I want it to look like me so that I can project myself onto the character.’. . .for some reason there’s some kind of barrier there where [men] are like: ‘I don’t want to relate to a girl.’”

That sounds right to me. We’ve seen that attitude prevalent not only in movie fans but comic fans as well. There’s a wish fulfillment, a fantasy fulfillment, in comics and comics-related TV and movies, in fantasy as well and we want to be able to easily project ourselves into that. For some male fans, a woman doesn’t cut it. The bias also can extend to seeing someone of a different race as the hero. I think it’s certainly true about sexual identity as well. To appeal to a certain demographic, the hero, the lead, cannot be female, or black, or gay. And heaven forbid they should be all three; tiny minds might explode….

Are you Arab? Do you wear a turban? Are you black? Are you gay? Are you female? Then you are not like me, you are “Other.” And that is inherently dangerous. We cannot be equal. It comes down to “zero-sum thinking” which says that there is only so many rights, so much love, so much power to be had. If I have more of any of these than you, I must lose some for you to gain.

Some of the people feel they don’t have much. I remember a line from Giradoux’s one-act play The Apollo of Bellac: “I need so much and I have so little and I must protect myself.” Sharing is not gaining; sharing is losing what little you may have.

Except it’s not. If for you to keep your power intact, you must deny someone else the power to which they have a right, it’s not really your power. It’s theirs and it’s been stolen.

Pop culture has its part to play. Putting women, blacks, gays, Latinos, and others in the central role helps normalize the notion of equality. Mary Tyler Moore did it; Bill Cosby (gawd help me) did it, Rogue One does it. However, pop culture can – and has – also re-enforced negative stereotypes. So – how do we engage it for more positive results?

Denny O’Neil, many years ago, when he was editing a special project I was working on told me, “You can say anything you want but first you have to tell a story.” That’s your ticket in. “Tell me a story” appeals to the very roots of who we are as human beings. It’s how we explain and codify our world. If you want to open a closed mind, go through the heart. Don’t lecture; engage. Show, don’t tell. Showing women, blacks, LGBTQ, Latinos, Asians, and so on as heroes, as something positive, normalizes the notion. If I can be made to identify with them then The Other is no longer strange; they are me and, thus, not other.

(16) BRADBURY ASSOCIATIONAL ITEM. I’d tell you to start shaking the change out of your piggy bank except that will only work if you filled it with gold sovereigns. Still available on eBay, Ray Bradbury-owned oil painting by Raymond Bayless. Price: $15,000.

Ray Bradbury personally owned Raymond Bayless painting, titled, “War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells”. Art depicts the famous naval battle from the story between a martian “Tripod” weapon and English ironclad, the HMS Thunder Child. Cityscape along the horizon is on fire, and the ship also goes up in flames with a cloud of black smoke, the martian chemical weapon, rising from it. Painting features a color palette of predominantly light blues and greys, accented in orange, black and white. Signed, “Raymond Bayless 91,” at lower left. A sticker on verso is also signed by the artist. Oil on Masonite painting is framed to an overall size of 18.75″ x 24.75″. Near fine. With a COA from the Bradbury Estate.

[Thanks to David Doering, Cat Eldridge, Francis Hamit, JJ, Jonathan Edelstein, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John From GR.]

Pixel Scroll 7/8/16 Scrolled Pixels Are All Alike; Every Unscrolled Pixel Is Unscrolled In Its Own Way

(1) BRIANNA WU’S BOSTON GLOBE OP-ED. “We can all do something to stop this cycle of violence”.

It feels obscene to stare at these videos of black Americans being killed by police. It feels obscene to ignore them. It’s also vital to honor the police who were gunned down in Dallas, and yet I worry that retaliation will cost even more black lives. I feel overwhelmed by conflicting emotions — a sense of powerlessness and an urge to somehow stop this wave of violence.

But the stakes are too high to indulge in white guilt. This isn’t about our feelings, it’s about our responsibility. As noted feminist Ijeoma Oulo said, white people have to act today, and we have to act tomorrow. We have to act like our lives depend on it, because black lives actually do.

Given the carnage in Dallas, it’s important to note that the vast majority of police are willing to give their lives to protect the communities they serve. Rather than disparage law enforcement as a profession, our anger should be levied at the political systems that continually erase the wrongdoing of the small minority of police who dishonor their badge. Police operate in the framework we the citizens have built. They act in our name, according to the laws we ask them to enforce.

(2) COMMENT ON DALLAS. If not for the title, “4GW in Dallas”, would you have guessed the author of this analysis is Vox Day?

As of November, 1024 people were killed by police in 2015, 204 of them unarmed. For all that the police almost uniformly claimed to have been fearing for their lives, only 34 police were shot and killed during the same period. The public may be collectively stupid, but they’re not incapable of recognizing that statistical imbalance or that the police are trained to lie, obfuscate, and pretend that they are in danger when they are not.

Unless and until the police give up their military-style affectations, “us vs them” mentality, and most of all, their legal unaccountability, they’re going to find themselves fighting a war against the American people. And it is a war they simply cannot win.

What happened in Dallas may be shocking, but it isn’t even remotely surprising. Many people have seen it coming; what will likely prove the most surprising aspect of this incident is how many people will remain utterly unsympathetic to the Dallas police and their bereaved families. The police may consider themselves above the law, but they are not beyond the reach of an increasingly outraged public.

(3) I’M SORRY, I’LL READ THAT AGAIN. However, the post evidently didn’t set well with a lot of his followers, so Vox wrote a follow-up characterizing his position as merely a prediction fulfilled.

In the aftermath of the Dallas police shooting, it is understandable that many Americans are shocked, scared, and upset. The post-Civil Rights Act America has not turned out to be the society they thought it was, indeed, it is becoming increasingly obvious that those terrible racist Southern segregationists were correct all along. Targeted assassinations of authority figures are not a sign of a stable, well-ordered society.

But I have neither patience nor sympathy for those who have been emailing, commenting, and Tweeting to say that they are shocked by my comments with regards to Dallas and the overly militarized US police. I have said nothing I have not said many times before. My position has not changed one iota on the subject for over a decade. I have repeatedly predicted such events would take place, nor am I alone in that, as William S. Lind repeatedly warned about it as a consequence of 4GW coming to America in his book of collected columns, On War.

(4) THE SULU REVEAL. Adam-Troy Castro makes a case for “Why George Takei, Of All People, Is Now Wrong about Hikaru Sulu”.

George is absolutely right to have his preferences, ironic as they are. And I absolutely understand why he takes it so seriously. For an actor to do his job well, the role must hijack some of his gray matter, becoming a virtual person inside the real one; a person who may be evicted when the role goes away and another one must be prepared for. Part of George Takei has been Hikaru Sulu for decades; it is likely impossible, and to a large degree undesirable, for the scrutable helmsman he imagined to be evicted, in any real way, now. This is why he famously took a genuine, personal pride in the revelations over the years that Sulu’s first name (never mentioned on the original series) was officially Hikaru, or that he had advanced in his career to become Captain in the Excelsior, or that he had a daughter who also joined Starfleet. This is why Jimmy Doohan felt violated when the screenplay of a late STAR TREK film required Scotty to do a slapstick head-bonk in the corridor. The actors know the difference between reality and fantasy, but characters that near and dear to their hearts blur that line mightily, and this is for the most part a good thing.

However, he’s wrong on this, and this is why….

(5) CANON VOLLEYED AND THUNDERED. Peter David affirms the idea of making Sulu gay, while offering a lighthearted explanation why that fits the canon.

Some fans are crying foul, including George himself, declaring that it flies in the face of Trek continuity. Well, as the guy who wrote “Demora” in which Sulu is most definitely not gay, I’m here to say:

The fans are wrong. Even, with all respect, George is wrong.

In 79 episodes and all the movies, there is simply nothing to establish that Sulu is hetero. Yes, he has a daughter. Neil Patrick Harris has kids, too, so so much for that argument. He only displayed hetero leanings in exactly one episode: “Mirror Mirror” in which he is coming on to Uhura. But that wasn’t our Sulu. That was the Sulu of the mirror universe, and if the mirror Sulu is aggressively straight, then I suppose it makes sense that our Sulu would be gay, right? He’s the opposite, after all.

(6) A FORCE FOR GOOD? Peter Grant argues against “Publishing’s scary self-delusion” at Mad Genius Club.

I wasn’t surprised (but I was disappointed) to read this statement from Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle:

“Publishing is undeniably a force for good. But working in an industry that is inherently a service to society, we risk subscribing to the notion that this is enough. It’s not. We ought to do more—and we can—by taking advantage of our capacity as Penguin Random House to drive positive social, environmental, and cultural change, locally and globally.”

The statement was accompanied by a video message to PRH employees.

The scary thing is, Mr. Dohle undoubtedly believes his statement – yet, equally undoubtedly, it’s catastrophically wrong…..

There’s also the question of why PRH (and, by extension, other publishers) should do more.  Surely their emphasis, their focus, should be on increasing their profitability, and thereby the returns to their shareholders and investors?  The latter could then use some or all of the profits on their investments to support causes, activities and individuals  with whom they agree or are in sympathy.  For a corporation to play fast and loose with its owners’ money, in order to undertake or promote activities that have little or nothing to do with its core commercial activities, is, to put it mildly, disingenuous…..

(7) THE MAP OF LOST DISNEY ATTRACTIONS. Yahoo! Movies has a gallery of “22 Lost Disney Rides, From the Maelstrom to Mission To Mars”.

When the new Disney World attraction Frozen Ever After opened at Epcot Center recently in Orlando, eager families waited in line for up to five hours for their turn to see Anna and Elsa in the animatronic flesh. But sprinkled in amongst the jubilant throngs were some unhappy faces mourning the loss of the ride that the Frozen gang replaced: the Maelstrom, a log flume that had entertained visitors since 1988. It’s a reminder that almost every time a new ride debuts at the Happiest Place on Earth, another one twinkles out of existence. From Phantom Boats and Flying Saucers to a World of Motion and an ExtraTERRORestrial Encounter, we’ve assembled this gallery of some rides that are no longer in operation at Disney World and/or Disneyland in Anaheim.

(8) PORTRAIT COMPETITION. Nick Stathopoulos points out that critic Christopher Allan of The Australian predictably hated his entry in the annual Archibald Prize competition. (Can’t figure out why Nick’s link from FB to The Australian works, and the direct link hits a paywall, so I’ll link to him.) Nick has been a finalist several times, and anyway has a thick hide.

At least the massively oversized heads remain, like last year, in retreat. There are a few horrors, such as massive works by Abdul Abdullah, Nick Stathopoulos and Kirsty Neilson, which also reveal the nexus between size and the other bane of the Archibald, the reliance on photography. Stathopoulos’s work is suffocating in its obsessive rendering of the inert photographic image, and Neilson in her portrait of actor Garry McDonald has painstakingly rendered each hair in her sitter’s beard while failing to deal adequately with the far more important eyes.

(9) MY GOSH SUKOSHI. Another conrunner-for-profit has bit the dust, reports Nerd & Tie.

Sukoshi Con’s “Louisville Anime Weekend” was originally scheduled for July 29th-31st at the Ramada Plaza Louisville Hotel and Conference Center in Louisville, KY. With less than a month to go before the convention though, on Tuesday Sukoshi Con deleted their Facebook pages, pulled down their websites, and announced via Twitter that the event (and all future Sukoshi Con events) were cancelled.

https://twitter.com/sukoshicon/status/750419804234756096

It’s been a strange year and a half for James Carroll’s Sukoshi Con. Some of you may remember the weird saga of their Anime Southwest convention (in Denver oddly enough), where the con had to relocate hotels, multiple guests cancelled, and drama abounded — but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In the last year and a half, the organization has cancelled four of their eleven planned events — including last years Louisville Anime Weekend.

We’ve heard rumblings of financial issues within the convention, though they have yet to be confirmed. It’s safe to say though that none of Sukoshi Con’s events are likely to come back.

(10) TWO HERMIONES. Emma Watson posted photos of her with Noma Dumezweni on Facebook of the two Hermiones meeting at a preview of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stageplay.

Yesterday I went to see the Cursed Child. I came in with no idea what to expect and it was AMAZING. Some things about the play were, I think, possibly even more beautiful than the films. Having seen it I felt more connected to Hermione and the stories than I have since Deathly Hallows came out, which was such a gift. Meeting Noma and seeing her on stage was like meeting my older self and have her tell me everything was going to be alright, which as you can imagine was immensely comforting (and emotional)! The cast and crew welcomed me like I was family and Noma was everything I could ever hope she would be. She’s wonderful. The music is beautiful

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 8, 1947 – The first press reports were released on what has become known as the  Roswell UFO incident.

The sequence of events was triggered by the crash of a Project Mogul balloon near Roswell. On July 8, 1947, the Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) public information officer Walter Haut, issued a press release stating that personnel from the field’s 509th Operations Group had recovered a “flying disc”, which had crashed on a ranch near Roswell.

The military decided to conceal the true purpose of the crashed device – nuclear test monitoring – and instead inform the public that the crash was of a weather balloon.

(12) STUNT DOUBLE BUILDINGS. “Ivan Reitman Looks Back at the Original Ghostbusters ‘ L.A. Locations”in LA Weekly.

There’s no doubt that the attitude of the original Ghostbusters is inherently New York (though you could certainly imagine the scenario at Tavern on the Green playing out that way at certain Los Angeles restaurants). The truth, however, is that only about 35 minutes of what appears on screen in Ghostbusters was filmed in Manhattan. The remaining 1 hour and 10 minutes of screen time of the beloved movie that asked “Who Ya Gonna Call?” was shot on a Burbank studio lot and at practical downtown L.A. locales, including one of the most famous movie locations of all time: the Ghostbusters firehouse.

Now, before you start thinking, Wait a minute, I’ve visited that firehouse in New York. Yes, you may have stood outside Hook & Ladder 8, that mecca of movie locations on N. Moore Street in Lower Manhattan. The interior of the Ghostbusters firehouse, however, is old Fire Station No. 23, a decommissioned firehouse located at 225 E. Fifth St. in downtown Los Angeles.

(13) THE FUNNIES. The Wizard hits the celebrity autograph line at Wizardcon in yesterday’s Wizard of Id comic strip.

And today, the Wizard got taken in the dealer’s room.

(14) NONE IS THE LONELIEST NUMBER. Critic Jon Jon Johnson’s review implies a play aimed at the general public mentioned the Puppies. “The Greatest Science Fiction Show (No One’s Ever Seen)” was produced for the 2016 Capitol Fringe.

The Greatest Science Fiction Show (No One’s Ever Seen) provides no shortage of giggles, paired with some heartwarming moments. Part love letter to a old-school science fiction, part middle finger to the Sad Puppies of the Hugo awards, and part affection for geek culture, Grain of Sand’s show serves as a pleasant Fringe offering to delight fans of the genre and fans of the theatre.

(15) VANDYKE REPLIES. Peter J. Enyeart ranks the Hugo-nominated novelettes on the Stormsewer LiveJournal. Number Five wrote back.

  1. “What Price Humanity” by David VanDyke Space pilots fighting a war against invading aliens wake up in a strange simulation. Well, these military SF stories start to blur together after a while, don’t they? This was very Ender’s Gamey, with stylistic hallmarks reminiscent of Brad Torgersen (I’m thinking specifically of “The Exchange Officers,” which has a female character named “Chesty;” this one has a black character named “Token” (just because it was funny in South Park doesn’t mean it will work for you, bud)). It does have a bit of twist- a twist that you can see coming an astronomical unit away. And having an infodumpy prologue to a story this length is just narrative sloth. Boo.

David VanDyke, author of “What Price Humanity,” responded in a comment.

Kudos for you noticing “Token,” which is meant as a piece of deliberately painful, somewhat underhanded satire. My son-in-law of African ancestry, who flies fighters for the U.S. military, was given that nickname in training, as the only person of color in his class.

It’s both an indication of how far our society has come (the class members were well aware of the irony and were supportive, in the usual needling manner of combat operators) and an indictment of how far we have to go (if we could find 992 Tuskeegee Airmen, why can’t we recruit more minorities into the elite strata of today’s military?).

Placing such a subtle and unexplained item in a shorter story has its risks, particularly if a reader is predisposed to believe ill of an author, especially one that happens to have been published through Castalia House, but I try to start from a position of faith in the intelligence, imagination and good will of the reader, and hope for the best.

(16) COMPUTER-ASSISTED COMICS. M. D. Jackson’s wonderful series on comic book publishing technology continues at Amazing Stories — “Why Was Early Comic Book Art so Crude? Part 5: The Digital Revolution”.

Apple’s Macintosh was immediately adopted by graphic artists. With such programs as MacPaint and MacDraw, computer assisted art and design was born. The next year saw the introduction of the very first major comic book to be produced on a computer.

First Comic’s Shatter was created by writer Peter B. Gillis and artist Mike Saenz. Shatter was the story of a cop named Sadr al-Din Morales. The storyline of the comic was much in-line with works like Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner and Gibson’s Neuromancer. Threads of the story, such as distrust of corporations, the Film Noir feel of the project, and especially the artwork, would place it firmly in the genre of ‘cyberpunk.’

More importantly, the comic title, however much of a gimmick it may have started out as, showed that the potential for computer assisted comic book art was real. Using MacPaint and a mouse (this was before the invention of the tablet and stylus interface) artist Mike Saenz created each image as well as the lettering. The resulting pages were printed on a dot-matrix printer and then colored in a traditional way, but only because at the time the Macintosh was strictly a black and white machine.

(17) THE ARABELLA TRAILER. David D. Levine’s new novel, unveiled in a one-minute video.

Since Newton witnessed a bubble rising from his bathtub, mankind has sought the stars. When William III of England commissioned Capt. William Kidd to command the first expedition to Mars in the late 1600s, he proved that space travel was both possible and profitable. Now, one century later, a plantation in a flourishing British colony on Mars is home to Arabella Ashby, a young woman who is perfectly content growing up in the untamed frontier. But days spent working on complex automata with her father or stalking her brother Michael with her Martian nanny is not the proper behavior of an English lady. That is something her mother plans to remedy with a move to an exotic world Arabella has never seen: London, England. However, when events transpire that threaten her home on Mars, Arabella decides that sometimes doing the right thing is far more important than behaving as expected. She disguises herself as a boy and joins the crew of the Diana, a ship serving the Mars Trading Company, where she meets a mysterious captain who is intrigued by her knack with clockwork creations. Now Arabella just has to weather the naval war currently raging between Britain and France, learn how to sail, and deal with a mutinous crew…if she hopes to save her family remaining on Mars. Arabella of Mars, the debut novel by Hugo-winning author David D. Levine offers adventure, romance, political intrigue, and Napoleon in space!

 

[Thanks to Steven H Silver, Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Stoic Cynic.]

Pixel Scroll 6/10/16 Sevenfives

(1) TURING POPCORN TEST. “Movie written by algorithm turns out to be hilarious and intense” promises Ars Technica, where it’s free to view.

Knowing that an AI wrote Sunspring makes the movie more fun to watch, especially once you know how the cast and crew put it together. Director Oscar Sharp made the movie for Sci-Fi London, an annual film festival that includes the 48-Hour Film Challenge, where contestants are given a set of prompts (mostly props and lines) that have to appear in a movie they make over the next two days. Sharp’s longtime collaborator, Ross Goodwin, is an AI researcher at New York University, and he supplied the movie’s AI writer, initially called Jetson. As the cast gathered around a tiny printer, Benjamin spat out the screenplay, complete with almost impossible stage directions like “He is standing in the stars and sitting on the floor.” Then Sharp randomly assigned roles to the actors in the room. “As soon as we had a read-through, everyone around the table was laughing their heads off with delight,” Sharp told Ars. The actors interpreted the lines as they read, adding tone and body language, and the results are what you see in the movie. Somehow, a slightly garbled series of sentences became a tale of romance and murder, set in a dark future world. It even has its own musical interlude (performed by Andrew and Tiger), with a pop song Benjamin composed after learning from a corpus of 30,000 other pop songs.

After viewing, Pat Cadigan begged to differ, “Actually, it was neither hilarious nor intense. It was incoherent. And non-intense.”

(2) BAREFOOT CONTESTED. Aaron Pound reported “obnoxious and surly” behavior by hotel security at Balticon 50 including the now-famous “Shoe Cop” who was “enforcing their previously unannounced policy that shoes had to be worn at all times.”

Longtime fan Hobbit, whose preference is to go barefoot, was particularly upset.

I and a traveling companion were some of the first casualties … we only made through less than a day there before simply bailing out. While the barefoot issue was only about a third of what pushed me over my limit by the time we put it all in the rearview, I complained bitterly to Marriott’s customer-care department [as Renaissance is one of their brands] about the way we were treated.

Hobbit has posted the complaint letter and corporate replies.

I would like to lodge a formal complaint against your property at Renaissance HarborPlace, in Baltimore.  I was there for an event scheduled through this past Memorial Day weekend, May 26 – 30 2016, to help with its technical setup and operations.  The event was a science fiction convention named Balticon, in fact its fiftieth year in existence, put on by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS). This was its first year at this particular hotel property, and may well be the last.

Within mere minutes of arriving to unload gear and begin building our technical infrastructure, I and several of my colleagues were harassed by the hotel security staff for not wearing shoes. Some number of my crew generally work without shoes for an extensive set of positive reasons, including but not limited to increased agility, comfort, *safety*, and situational awareness.  While perhaps a bit unusual in the relevant activities, it is our personal right and freedom to enjoy and presents no unacceptable risk or concern to either ourselves or the venues we occupy.  The many health *benefits* of going barefoot are also well known.  We accept full responsibility for our own care and safety, and at that level it is not up to any other entity to dictate to us about it either way.

The harassment continued and escalated through that evening, even after our staff offered a temporary compromise by confining our activities to our assigned function space and slipping on shoes to go elsewhere on the property. The only shoes I had with me were effectively light-duty slippers which would cause me to be significantly *less* surefooted and safe while working, and thus were not a viable option.  This was also true of our other staff, who only had open-toe sandals and other seasonally-appropriate footgear on hand.  Ultimately I was unable to continue working the convention setup, and wound up simply leaving the entire event prematurely because it seemed like the only reasonable option left open to me….

Hobbit also has barefoot advocacy information online.

In early 2016 I began to correspond with some of the other online barefoot advocates in my area, and participate in various group activities like hikes and dinner gatherings.  I viewed this as further support in my own journey, particularly with helping bring awareness and reason to typically stodgy organizations that harbored some unreasoned sixties-holdover fear and loathing for bare feet.  In keeping with my own personal tradition of advising any number of companies on best customer-facing practices in the online world, it seemed a short step to use those same techniques and reach out to them to discuss customer and client policy decisions about footwear in an escalated fashion.

While my past efforts to inform have met with an entire spectrum of successes and failures, I’ve chosen this point in time to start bringing it to the web and chronicle some of the major interactions

(3) UNDER CONSTRUCTION. The Digital Antiquarian begins an opus about “god-game” development with “SimCity Part 1: Wil Wright’s City in a Box”.

This description subtly reveals something about the eventual SimCity that is too often misunderstood. The model of urban planning that underpins Wright’s simulation is grossly simplified and, often, grossly biased to match its author’s own preexisting political views. SimCity is far more defensible as an abstract exploration of system dynamics than as a concrete contribution to urban planning. All this talk about “stocks” and “flows” illustrates where Wright’s passion truly lay. In other words, for him the what that was being simulated was less interesting than the way it was being simulated. Wright:

I think the primary goal of this [SimCity] is to show people how intertwined such things can get. I’m not so concerned with predicting the future accurately as I am with showing which things have influence over which other things, sort of a chaos introduction, where the system is so complex that it can get very hard to predict the future ramifications of a decision or policy.

When SimCity was finally released, the public, including plenty of professionals in the field of urban planning who really should have known better, credited Wright’s experiment with an authority it most definitely didn’t earn. I’ll return to this point in my next article, in the course of which we’ll try to figure out what so many thought they were seeing in Wright’s simplistic take on urban planning.

After working on the idea for about six months, Wright brought a very primitive SimCity to Brøderbund, who were intrigued enough to sign him to a contract. But over the next year or so of work a disturbing trend manifested. Each time Wright would bring the latest version to Brøderbund, they’d nod approvingly as he showed all the latest features, only to ask, gently but persistently, a question Wright learned to loathe: when would he be making an actual game out of the simulation? You know, something with a winning state, perhaps with a computer opponent to play against?

(4) SEASONING. Life eventually taught Alma Alexander what her younger self had needed to know about “Madness and the Age of Innocence” (at Book View Café.)

Back when I was nineteen years old and steeped up to my innocent ingenue ears in the Matter of Britain, I dreamed up a story – technically a novel, I guess, seeing as it was over 40,000 words, but not much over. It was a solid chunk of writing, though, pretty much written over a year or so when I was about 18, and it told the story of Queen Guenevere….

Andre Brink, South Africa’s pre-eminent novelist, started his report thusly:

“This is an impressive piece of writing, especially if it is taken into account that it was written by a 19-year-old. I have no doubt that this young woman will be a major writer one day.”

But…

You heard the but coming, didn’t you?…

He went on to say that the story was too tame, especially given the subject matter of lust and adultery and multi-layered betrayals. There was plenty of drama, he said, but there was none of… oh, let me quote him again… “…it lacks what Kazantzakis calls ‘madness’.”

Today, I know of this madness. I understand it from within. I take no issue with his comments, not from this side of the bridge of time, because he was probably right – my story was one of innocence rather than guilt and machinations, my Queen was a child caught up in an adult world, much as I was at the time. But when he wrote this report, I had yet to read Kazantzakis. I had heard of Zorba the Greek, but I had not read the book, nor seen the movie at that time.

(5) DEPRESSION ART. MD Jackson reminds you of everything you’ve forgotten (or never knew) to answer the loaded question: “Why was Early Comic Book Art so Crude? (Part 1)”, at Amazing Stories.

A friend of mine recently asked why it is that the artwork in comic books has gone from being so crude and rudimentary in the beginning to being so much more photo-realistic today. Well, I thought that was a good question, so I am setting out to answer it. And although the question seems simple, the answer is not, and it will take more than one post to fully cover.

Were the early comic book artists untalented hacks? Or did the early limitations of printing technology hamper their creative expression? The answer, in my view, boils down to: a bit of both.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • June 10, 1922 — Judy Garland

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born June 10, 1928 Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak

(9) DINO DUDES. Den of Geek has “Jurassic Park 4: new concept art from lost film”.

Artist Carlos Huante recently shared concept art from a much earlier take on Jurassic Park 4…

If you Frankensteinized the DNA of the Hulk, Wolfman and a velociraptor in a petri dish, you’d get Raptorman. He was due to appear in a Jurassic Park film, but ltimately it wasn’t meant to be.

Raptorman was part of a screenplay envisions by John Sayles and William Monahan when they were penning an earlier take on Jurassic Park 4, featuring genetically enhanced soldier-o-saurus reptiles created by a corporation to be mercenaries that are supposed to wrangle the rogue dinos trampling North America.

(10) DELANY. From Shelf Awareness: Image of the Day: NYS Writers Hall of Fame.

NYS Hall of fame COMP

Samuel R. Delany, Roz Chast and Roger Angell

For the seventh year, the Empire State Center for the Book inducted a group of diverse writers into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame. Honorees Samuel R. Delany, Roz Chast and Roger Angell (pictured, l.-r.) attended the June 7 event at New York City’s 3 West Club, where Maya Angelou, Jean Craighead George, Grace Paley and Don Marquis were recognized posthumously. Stephen Sondheim was not able to attend due to illness. In his acceptance remarks, science fiction writer Delany told of his fondness of fellow inductee Don Marquis’s famed characters Archy and Mehitabel.

(11) INDIEGOGO. Scholar Kenneth James wants to raise $60,000 of support for his work on “Autumnal City: The Journals of Samuel R. Delany”.

Currently I am compiling and editing Delany’s personal journals.  The journals will be published by Wesleyan University Press in what is projected to be a series of at least five volumes, with each volume covering approximately one decade’s worth of material.  I have recently completed the first volume, In Search of Silence; this volume is now in the final stages of production at Wesleyan and is slated to appear at the end of this year. It covers the period from Delany’s teenage years in the late 1950s to the end of the 1960s, during which time Delany established himself as a major figure in what came to be called New Wave science fiction.  The second volume, Autumnal City, will present Delany’s journals from the 1970s, during which time he wrote the bulk of what many consider the pivotal work of his career, Dhalgren (1975), as well as Trouble on Triton (1976), the first volume of the Nevèrÿon tetralogy (Tales of Nevèrÿon [1979]), and many works of criticism.

In this campaign I am seeking funding to produce the second volume.  If I secure this funding, the project – which involves researching, compiling, transcribing, editing, and annotating the text – will take two years to complete.  The total amount I am seeking, for two years of full-time work on the project, is $60,000.

There has been $1,355 pledged to date, and the appeal has 2 months to run.

(12) JOURNAL EYEWITNESS. Matthew Cheney enthsiastically endorses the project.

I’m just back from spending a few days at the Delany archive at Boston University, and I’ve looked through a few of the 1970s journals. They’re truly thrilling for anybody interested not only in Delany the writer, but in the writing and thinking process in general. They’re especially interesting for those of us who think that after 1969, Delany’s work only got more brilliant. They are working journals, not really diaries as we generally think of them, and they clarify a lot of questions of when particular things were written, and why, and how. That makes them, if nothing else, of immense scholarly value. But they’ve also got material in them that just flat-out makes for good reading.

(13) ENVIRONMENTAL MESSAGE SF. “Sharman Apt Russell Guest Post–‘BFF: Science Fiction and the Environmental Movement’” at Locus Online.

In 1864, a hundred years after the start of the Industrial Revolution, the American scholar George Perkins Marsh wrote about the impact of a society rapidly cutting down its forests, destroying its topsoil, and polluting its water. Marsh thundered, “The ravages committed by man subvert the relations and destroy the balance which nature has established, and she avenges herself upon the intruder by letting loose her destructive energies.” He predicted an impoverished Earth with “shattered surface,” “climatic excesses,” and the extinction of many species, perhaps even our own.

In his own way, Marsh was an early science fiction writer.

(14) DO YOU WANT TO GET PAID? Peter Grant’s Mad Genius Club post “Writing your passion…or not?”  makes an argument for avoiding saturated markets. The commenters overall favored passion-directed writing.

In the same way, I see authors trying to ‘break in’ to the market in a particular genre and getting discouraged.  That may be because it’s a crowded genre (e.g. romance and/or erotica) where there are already lots of books and authors and it’s hard to get noticed;  or it’s a field where there are relatively few readers in relation to the overall book market (e.g. those interested in the domestic life of the Polynesian parrot!);  or it’s a moribund genre which hasn’t attracted interest or support from either publishers or big-name authors for some time (e.g. Westerns).  To authors facing such challenges, my advice is:  Why not try to write in a genre where you will be noticed, and where you can offer a quality product that will attract reader interest?  You may not be passionate about that genre, but is that any reason not to try your hand at it?

(15) OLDERS Q&A. “Malka Older and Daniel José Older Discuss Infomocracy, Cyberpunk, and the Future!” — Leah Schnelbach covered the event for Tor.com.

There was already a nice crowd gathered for the concatenation of Olders at Greenlight Bookstore, and by the time the reading began, the seats were full, and many people already had copies of Malka Older’s debut novel, Infomocracy. The novel takes us into the near-future, twenty years after Information, a powerful search engine monopoly, guided the world in a shift from a fractious collection of nation-states to global micro-democracy. Now the world is entering another election year, and idealists, policy wonks, spies, and rabble-rousers are all struggling to see which democracies will come out on top.

Older read, and then her brother, Bone Street Rumba series author Daniel José Older, joined her in front of the crowd for a lively interview and Q&A. You can read the highlights from their conversation below!

(16) SILENT MOVIE. Here’s a video documenting what Mystery and Imagination Bookshop looked like on June 9, 2016.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]