2019 Compton Crook Award

R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War has won the 2019 Compton Crook Award for Best Debut Novel presented by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society.

Members of BSFS chose The Poppy War by reading and rating debut novels published between Nov 1, 2017 and October 31, 2018. First, members selected six finalists and then gave The Poppy War their highest rating. The other finalists were:

•    S.A. Chakraborty – The City of Brass
•    Rebecca Roanhorse – Trail of Lightning
•    Rena Rossner – Sisters of the Winter Wood
•    Lauren Teffeau – Implanted
•    Nick Clark Windo – The Feed

BSFS will award R. F. Kuang with a check for $1,000 and an invitation to be the Compton Crook Guest at Balticon (the BSFS annual convention) for two years. This year Balticon will be held May 24-27, 2019 at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel. Baltimore, Maryland.

BSFS has presented the Compton Crook Award for best first novel in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres since 1983. Past winners have included Donald Kingsbury, Elizabeth Moon, Michael Flynn, Wen Spencer, Maria Snyder, Naomi Novik, Paolo Bacigalupi, Myke Cole, Charles Gannon, and Ada Palmer. Last year’s winner was Nicky Drayden for Prey of Gods.

Kuang may be the youngest winner of the award. She started writing The Poppy War while still a student at Georgetown University and was only 22 when Harper Voyager published it. The sequel, The Dragon Republic, will be published this summer.

BSFS named the Compton Crook Award in memory of Towson State College Professor of Natural Sciences Compton Crook, who wrote under the name Stephen Tall, after his death in 1981. Professor Crook, an active member of BSFS, was a staunch champion of new works in the speculative genres.

BSFS is a 501(c)(3), non-profit, charitable, literary and educational organization, dedicated to the promotion of, and an appreciation for, science fiction in all of its many forms. BSFS was launched on January 5, 1963 and has been holding its convention, Balticon, since 1967.

Pixel Scroll 4/13/19 No Matter Where You Scroll, There You Are

(1) SCHOEN LEAVES SFWA BOARD. Earlier this week Lawrence M. Schoen announced he was “Resigning from the SFWA Board of Directors”:

Effective as of 10am today, April 10th, 2019, I am resigning my position as a member of the SFWA Board of Directors.

We live in a world where appearance often carries more weight than intention. Recent controversies, and my perceived involvement in them, have increasingly made it difficult for me to effectively perform the responsibilities for which I’d been elected. Accordingly, it makes sense for me to step aside and allow someone else to continue the work.

Today’s decision notwithstanding, I remain committed to the ideals and goals of SFWA, perhaps best expressed by the statement the Board composed at last year’s Nebula Conference: “We are genre writers fostering a diverse professional community committed to inclusion, empowerment, and outreach.”

It has been my privilege to be of service to this organization and our community. I encourage you all to pay it forward.

Schoen’s statement does not specify what “recent controversies” he is perceived to be involved in. They may relate to Jonathan Brazee’s 20Booksto50K Nebula recommendation list. Schoen’s novelette “The Rule of Three” is one of the stories on the list that made the Nebula ballot. Brazee responded to criticism by apologizing for the list.

(2) NICHOLS ON SPACE COMMAND. Marc Zicree told fans, “Today’s shoot with Nichelle Nichols went great! Here’s a behind the scenes clip, with more to come.”

To help with the GoFundMe to pay for their efforts, click on “Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols Space Command Scene!”. At this writing they’ve raised $2,310 of their $15,000 goal.

(3) LUCAS’ FINGERPRINTS. IGN explains “How George Lucas Helped Finish Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”.

The new teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker features quite the surprise: as the trailer comes to a close, the screen cuts to black and our ears are filled with the cackling of Emperor Palpatine. It’s a laugh cold enough to send shivers down your spine and a character inclusion crazy enough to make your head spin. He met his electrifying end in Return of the Jedi, after all. IGN talked to director and co-writer JJ Abrams at Star Wars Celebration Chicago about how the iconic villain came to be a part of the film, and his answer included a meeting with the Maker himself, George Lucas.

“This movie had a very, very specific challenge, which was to take eight films and give an ending to three trilogies, and so we had to look at, what is the bigger story? We had conversations amongst ourselves, we met with George Lucas before writing the script,” Abrams revealed. “These were things that were in real, not debate, but looking at the vastness of the story and trying to figure out, what is the way to conclude this? But it has to work on its own as a movie, it has to be its own thing, it has to be surprising and funny and you have to understand it.”

(4) COPING. Sarah Hughes, TV critic at The Guardian, tells how Game of Thrones helped her cope with her cancer diagnosis. “Game of Thrones, cancer and me…”

…Best of all, while I might not find out how Martin himself intends to finish his series (there are still two long-awaited books to come), I will almost certainly see the TV series of Game of Thrones return for its brutal, no doubt bloody and hopefully rewarding conclusion this month. As for Tottenham Hotspur winning the league in my lifetime, that remains too great a step for even the most benign of gods to arrange.

(5) CLFA VOTING BEGINS. At the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance “The 2019 Book of the Year ballot is now open!”

Ready to cast your vote for CLFA Book of the Year 2019?  Go here to support your favorite!

(6) YAKFALL. We only thought we’d figured out the subject for Ursula Vernon’s next Hugo acceptance speech. Hilarious thread starts here.

Another great thread about their Tibetan explorations begins here.

(7) THE ESSENTIALS. Can a fannish kitchen be complete without a set of “Star Trek Klingon Alphabet Fridge Magnets”? ThinkGeek takes the “No” side of the debate.

  • A fun way to teach anyone the basics of pIqaD (the Klingon alphabet)
  • For use on magnetic surfaces, like your fridge or your ship’s hull

…This set contains the entire alphabet, with multiples for the more frequently used, plus a few apostrophes.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 13, 1937 Terry Carr. Lifelong fan and long after he turn pro, he continued to be active in fandom, hence was nominated five times for Hugos for Best Fanzine (1959–1961, 1967–1968), winning in 1959, was nominated three times for Best Fan Writer (1971–1973), winning in 1973, and was Fan Guest of Honor at ConFederation in 1986. He worked as an Editor, first at Ace where he edited The Left Hand of Darkness. After a fallout with Wollheim, he went freelance where he developed Universe and Best Science Fiction of the Year, the latter on a remarkable four publishers. He was nominated for Best Editor Hugo thirteen times and won twice. He wrote three novels, one with Ted White, and three collections of his stories in print. (Died 1987.)
  • Born April 13, 1943 Bill Pronzini, 76. Mystery writer whose Nameless Detective has one genre adventure in A Killing in Xanadu. Genre anthologist, often with Barry N Malzberg, were many and wide ranging, covering such things as Bug-Eyed Monsters (with Malzberg), Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural (with Greenberg and Malzberg) and Arbor House Necropolis. As Robert Hart Davis, he wrote “The Pillars of Salt Affair”, a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novella that ran in the The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine.
  • Born April 13, 1951 Peter Davison, 68. The Fifth Doctor and one that I never came to be fond of. Just seemed too lightweight for the role. I thought he put more gravitas into the voice of Mole he did for The Wind in the Willows animated special Mole’s Christmas. For twenty years now, he has reprised his role as the Fifth Doctor in myriad Doctor Who audio dramas for Big Finish.
  • Born April 13, 1954 Michael Cassutt, 65. His notable genre TV work includes executive producing, producing or writing, or both, for Strange Luck, Seven DaysOuter Limits, Eerie, Indiana, and The Twilight Zone. He was also story editor for the Max Headroom series which I loved.
  • Born April 13, 1959 Brian Thomsen. Editor, writer and anthologist. He was founding editor of Warner Books’ Questar Science Fiction, and later served as managing fiction editor at TSR. He co-wrote the autobiography of Julius Schwartz. Strangely enough, I’ve actually read one of his anthologies, A Yuletide Universe, as I remember it from the cover art. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 13, 1950 Ron Perlman, 69. Hellboy in a total of five films including three animated films (Hellboy: Sword of StormsHellboy: Blood and Iron and Redcap). He’s got a very long association with the genre as his very first film was Quest for Fire in which he was Amoukar. The Ice Pirates and being Zeno followed quickly Captain Soames in Sleepwalkers and  Angel  De La Guardia in Mexican horror film Cronos. Several years later, I see he’s Boltar in Prince Valiant, followed by a hard SF role as Johnher in Alien Resurrection and Reman Viceroy in Star Trek: Nemesis. And I should note he was in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as Gnarlack, a goblin gangster if I read the Cliff notes to that correctly.  No, I’m not forgetting about his most amazing role of all, Vincent in Beauty and The Beast. At the time, I thought it was the most awesome practical makeup I’d ever seen. And the costume just made look him amazing. 
  • Born April 13, 1962 Stephen Holland, 57. I’m a deep admirer of those who document our genre and this gentleman is no exception. In handful of works, he’s created an invaluable resource for those interested in SF published in paperback. British Science Fiction Paperbacks and Magazines, 1949-1956: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide and The Mushroom Jungle: A History of Postwar Paperback Publishing certainly look to be essential reading, and his Fantasy Fanzine Index: Volume 1 also sounds useful.

(9) WHAT A TANGLED WEB THEY WEAVE. Rebecca F. Kuang’s thread about the Game of Thrones tapestry starts here.

Through July 28 the public can “see Game of Thrones® immortalised in a giant, 77-metre long Bayeux style tapestry at the Ulster Museum.”

(10) THRONE CHOW. Delish says that in the UK, “TGI Friday’s Is Celebrating The Game Of Thrones Premiere With A Menu Inspired By The Series”.

In honor of the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones—which premieres in just three days, people!!!—TGI Friday’s has released a limited-edition menu inspired by the series. However, vegetarians and vegans may want to steer clear of the “Dragon Slayer Feast.” It’s definitely a meat-heavy selection….

You can also order up Dragon Fire Hot Wings and the Bucket of Beast Bones, which is a combo of ribs and Friday’s famed glazed wings. However, as far as we know, the GOT special is currently a U.K. exclusive. The meat-filled feast will kick off April 10.

(11) ALTERNATE ASTRONAUTS. Camestros Felapton continues working his way through the finalists: “Hugo Novels: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal”.

The Calculating Stars has a more grounded aesthetic than it’s predecessor, and aims to present a plausible alternative history where the space program is accelerated and is also a more international collaboration. In the centre of this effort is Dr Elma York who desperately wants to go into space but who must also navigate through the complexities of 1950s America.

It’s an engaging fictional autobiography of a remarkable person — the kind of multi-talented character that you find in accounts of America’s space program. Drive, talent, brains and luck conspire to put Elma in a spotlight but the attention that comes with it reveals Elma’s greatest weakness: social anxiety in crowds when she is the focus of attention. Ironically the press characterising her preemptively as ‘The Lady Astronaut’ complicates her attempts to actually become an astronaut.

(12) CREDIT WHERE DUE. Misty S. Boyer’s long Facebook post provides further detail about who contributed to the newsmaking black hole photo.   

…The photo that everyone is looking at, the world famous black hole photo? It’s actually a composite photo. It was generated by an algorithm credited to Mareki Honma. Honma’s algorithm, based on MRI technology, is used to “stitch together” photos and fill in the missing pixels by analyzing the surrounding pixels.

But where did the photos come from that are composited into this photo?

The photos making up the composite were generated by 4 separate teams, led by Katie Bouman, Andrew Chael, Kazu Akiyama, Michael Johnson, and Jose L Gomez. Each team was given a copy of the black hole data and isolated from each other. Between the four of them, they used two techniques – an older, traditional one called CLEAN, and a newer one called RML – to generate an image.

The purpose of this division and isolation of teams was deliberately done to test the accuracy of the black hole data they were all using. If four isolated teams using different algorithms all got similar results, that would indicate that the data itself was accurate….

(13) POST MORTEM. What happened? “Beresheet spacecraft: ‘Technical glitch’ led to Moon crash”.

Preliminary data from the Beresheet spacecraft suggests a technical glitch in one of its components caused the lander to crash on the Moon.

The malfunction triggered a chain of events that eventually caused its main engine to switch off.

Despite a restart, this meant that the spacecraft was unable to slow down during the final stages of its descent.

(14) BIG STICK. “Internet Archive denies hosting ‘terrorist’ content”.

The Internet Archive has been hit with 550 “false” demands to remove “terrorist propaganda” from its servers in less than a week.

The demands came via the Europol net monitoring unit and gave the site only one hour to comply.

The Internet Archive said the demands wrongly accused it of hosting terror-related material.

The website said the requests set a poor precedent ahead of new European rules governing removal of content.

If the Archive does not comply with the notices, it risks its site getting added to lists which ISPs are required to block.

(15) BULL MARKET. Science reports “Beliefs in aliens, Atlantis are on the rise”. (Full text restricted to subscribers.)

Beliefs in “pseudoarchaeology”—ancient aliens, Atlantis, and other myths—are on the rise. In 2018 41% of Americans believed that aliens visited Earth in the ancient past, and 57% believed that Atlantis or other advanced ancient civilizations existed. These outlandish beliefs have been circulating for decades, and archaeologists are now mobilizing to counter them. They are taking to Twitter, blogs, podcasts, YouTube, and newspapers to debunk false claims and explain real archaeological methods, and they plan to compare notes this week during a symposium at the Society for American Archaeology meeting. 

(16) IT’S ALL JUST FUN AND GAMES UNTIL… Never forget that Quidditch is a field sport: “For Some Quidditch Players, The Magic Wears Off As Injury Risks Grow Clearer”.

It happened in a split second, and Vanessa Barker doesn’t remember any of it. She doesn’t remember dropping to the field, nor does she remember how she got hit.

When she came to, she was sitting on the sidelines with an EMT, being evaluated for what turned out to be her first concussion. Over the next two years, she’d suffer another two more while out on the field — hardly what she expected when she decided to start playing quidditch.

…”If I ever have any others, I’ll have to stop playing,” she said.

(17) PLAYING A TATTOO. For the next four weeks you can listen online to BBC4’s production of “Ray Bradbury – The Illustrated Man”, dramatized by Brian Sibley.

A young traveller encounters a vagrant on the road, who claims that his tattoos come to life after dark and tell the future. Starring Iain Glen and Elaine Claxton.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Black Hole:  Based on Stephen Hawking’s Reith Lecture” on YouTube is an animation done for BBC Radio4 of an excerpt of a Stephen hawking lecture where Hawking says it’s not hopeless if you fall into a black hole.

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

2019 IAFA Crawford Award

The winner of the 2019 Crawford Award, presented annually by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts for a first book of fantasy, is R.F Kuang for her novel The Poppy War (Harper Voyager).

The other finalists on this year’s Crawford shortlist are The Black God’s Drums, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com), Armed in Her Fashion, Kate Heartfield (ChiZine), The Breath of the Sun, Rachel Fellman (Aqueduct), Half-Witch, John Schoffstall (Big Mouth House), and Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga).

Participating in this year’s nomination and selection process were previous Crawford winner Candas Jane Dorsey and former IAFA president Farah Mendlesohn, as well as Cheryl Morgan, Niall Harrison, Karen Burnham, and Mimi Mondal.

The award will be presented March 16 at the 40th International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando, Florida.

Also, the IAFA’s Distinguished Scholarship Award will be presented to the conference’s guest scholar, Mark Bould.

AudioFile’s Best Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks of 2018

AudioFile, a print and ezine, reviews audiobooks to “recommend good listening, top-notch performances and dynamic listening experiences.” The editors annually honor their choices of the best audiobooks across a variety of categories.

This year File 770 is partnering with AudioFile to announce the winners of the 2018 Best of Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Horror Audiobooks. They are listed here with links to the AudioFile reviews. To see the winners in all the other categories, page through the AudioFile 2018 Best Audiobooks ezine.

2018 Best of SCI-FI, FANTASY & HORROR Audiobooks

ARMISTICE by Lara Elena Donnelly, read by Mary Robinette Kowal

SPACE OPERA by Catherynne M. Valente, read by Heath Miller

SPINNING SILVER by Naomi Novik, read by Lisa Flanagan

THE OUTSIDER by Stephen King, read by Will Patton

THE POPPY WAR by R.F. Kuang, read by Emily Woo Zeller

WHO IS THE BLACK PANTHER? by Jesse J. Holland, read by Ken Jackson and a Full Cast

Exclusive Narrator Videos on YouTube

  • Lisa Flanagan, narrator of SPINNING SILVER

Pixel Scroll 7/22/18 Insert Self-Referential Pixel Scroll Title Here

(1) THE BARD OF MARS. Tickets are on sale for “MARTIANS – An Evening With Ray Bradbury”, to be staged at the Whitefire Theater in Sherman Oaks, CA beginning September 7.

Ray Bradbury speaks directly to the audience weaving Martians stories both humorous and harrowing, bringing his characters to life on stage right before your eyes. Characters like Bob and Carrie, a young couple struggling to turn the cold, dead Mars into an Earthly garden. Theres Beck and Craig, two soliders of fortune searching for the legendary Blue Bottle of Mars! Father Nivens religious faith traps a shapeshifting Martian in the form of Christ! Emil Barton is the alst man on Mars with only recordings of his younger self to keep him company, or drive him mad!

As Ray creates his stories we come to know the mind and heart of the great writer who believes that humanity can only survive by carrying our culture out into the Universe!

Most of the text is taken from Rays own words, from interviews and books hes written on the art of writing, as well as adaptations of his Martian stories The Strawberry Window, The Blue Bottle, The Messiah and Night Call, Collect.

Ray Bradbury is played by co-creater Charlie Mount who played him in a production of The October Country and produced Rays Irish play Falling Upward with Pat Harrington, Jr, both staged at Theatre West in association with Rays Pandemonium Theatre Company…

(2) STEAMPOSIUM UP IN SMOKE. There will be no Alaska Steamposium this year. Its chair, Tess, announced on Facebook what the future holds:

We attempted to adapt, to go with the flow, and pull off a hail Mary. And I think our track record of hail Marys is pretty good. (Anyone remember the year we had more vendors and staff than attendees?) But the honest truth is, we don’t want to half ass it. We like to whole ass all of our endeavors.

There were many reasons we chose this as the best path, and a good portion of that was how to keep our booth spaces and ticket prices affordable for everyone. If anyone has paid money, it is being refunded as I type.

We’re going to take a year and reorganize, and restructure, and in general change the way we do things. We completely understand if we loose some of you to anger and frustration. But we hope with all our hearts that you stick with us. We have even greater hope that some of you will join our Staff. We have far too few people to run an event of this size. Dedicated, (A small portion of the reason for our postponement for a year)

Many, many of you have concerns, comments, and suggestions moving forward. Please post them here. As with all difficult decisions, the responsibility stops with me. I wear the big bustle. My staff has worked hard, tirelessly, and even spent their own money in an attempt to make this year possible. If you need somewhere to place blame or vent anger, you direct to toward me, and me alone….

(3) NOVIK PRAISED. Constance Grady reviews the new book for Vox: “With Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik cements her status as one of the great YA fantasy authors”.

Spinning Silver is a spiritual successor to Novik’s 2015 novel Uprooted, for which she won the Nebula for best science fiction and fantasy novel. While the books don’t take place in the same universe, they’re both set in fantasy lands with Eastern European influences, and they both play with fairy-tale tropes without becoming literal retellings. (Novik got her start in fanfiction, which means she comes by her ability to deconstruct tropes honestly.)

The novels also both revolve around the same romance trope, in which a feisty young girl is kidnapped by an immensely powerful older man whom she must change for the better. The power dynamics here are questionable, to say the least, but the way Novik insists on her heroine’s agency makes the story palatable, and the conclusion is undeniably satisfying. What makes the trope more or less work in the end is that Novik’s girls are not just heroines. They are also monsters, even if they have their reasons for what they do.

(4) LOOKING THROUGH THE LENDING WINDOW. John Scalzi, a flagship author at Tor, weighs in on “That Tor Library eBook Lending Thing”.

  1. Tor says that it is noting a general impact on ebook sales because of library lending (its initial statement was more adamant about it, it appears, than some followups). I haven’t seen anyone’s sales numbers but mine, but I do know Tor’s data game is pretty strong — we use it to maximize my own sales and we’ve done a pretty good job there. Its data-mining history has some credibility for me.
  2. Tor has not been a troglodyte either in how it proceeds with ebook tech (remember that it was one of the first major publishers to offer ebooks DRM-free) or in sales/marketing. It’s taken risks and done things other publishers didn’t/wouldn’t do, sometimes just to see what would happen. I have my own example of this: Tor’s ebook-first serialization publication of The Human Division and The End of All Things helped provide Tor with much of the data it used to build its successful Tor.com novella line.

So with all that noted, let’s go back to my first blush statement. I don’t think having day-and-date ebook library lending has had a detrimental effect on my own sales situation. I’m also aware I’m not in the same situation as most authors with regard to sales and attention. Tor has a financial and fiduciary duty to sell books, for itself and for its authors. If Tor wants to try a pilot program to window ebook library lending to find out what impact it has on its sales in general, as much as I don’t think it makes sense for me or my books, I also recognize I don’t see all the data Tor sees across its entire line. I’m also willing to believe, based on previous experience, that Tor is neither stupid, excessively greedy, nor unwilling to make changes if the data tells it something different than what it expects.

(5) ALDRIN FAMILY VALUES. Buzz Aldrin told Florida Today (“Buzz Aldrin explains why he was a no-show at Apollo gala”) why he stayed away from a gala at Kennedy Space Center “kicking off a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, even though the event is an important fundraiser for his foundation and he typically is the star attraction.” It was due to a legal fight within his family and disagreements over the direction of Buzz Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation. His son, Dr. Andrew Aldrin, serves as the President of the Buzz Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation.

“I will not be attending the Gala tonight. While initially looking forward to it, due to the present course of events related to my space initiative, also current legal matters linked to the ShareSpace Foundation, I have decided not to attend at this time…

…the Foundation is, in my view, now being used to promote quite different objectives. I was recently advised by way of a letter from an attorney for my son, Andrew Aldrin, that I was not to hold myself as being part of the Foundation.”

The Orlando Sentinel reported on the suit when it was filed in June: “Buzz Aldrin sues 2 of his children, claiming slander over dementia”.

Aldrin’s lawsuit filed earlier this month in a Florida state court came a week after his children, Andrew and Janice, filed a petition claiming their father was suffering from memory loss, delusions, paranoia and confusion. They asked for the court to name them his legal guardians

KVEO’s article “Gala opens countdown to 50th anniversary of 1st moon landing” adds:

Andrew and Jan Aldrin, as well as business manager Christina Korp, are on the foundation’s board and attended the gala. Aldrin’s oldest son, James, isn’t involved in the legal fight.

Andrew Aldrin acknowledged his father’s absence during the gala.

“We’re sorry dad can’t be here, I know some of you are disappointed,” Aldrin said. “Ultimately, what we’re about is creating the first generation of Martians.”

(6) STARTING YOUNG. Kayla Randall has a profile in the Washington City Paper of Rebecca F. Kuang, whose first novel, The Poppy War, is out from Harper Voyager.  Kuang just graduated from Georgetown University this year. “How a Georgetown Student Published Her Epic Fantasy Debut—Before She Turned 22”

Kuang began writing the book when she was 19 and managed to start, finish, and publish the book all before turning 22. She graduated from Georgetown this spring and will enter Cambridge’s modern Chinese studies program in the fall.

“I never really thought about age being a barrier,” she says. She had read Eragon by Christopher Paolini, who started writing that book at the age of 15 and published it when he was 19. “It always seemed possible that you could write fantasy and get published at a ridiculously young age,” Kuang says.

A gap year between her sophomore and junior years allowed her to finish the book. She lived in Beijing and taught debate to high school students. Before she moved to China, she’d had very little contact with her grandparents but when she returned, she had long conversations with them and learned her family’s history in China. “I was steeped in that family legacy and decided I wanted to do something with it,” she says. The “something” evolved into the plot of The Poppy War, with some supplemental fantasy elements.

(7) FORTNITE ADDICTS. In the Washington Post, Sam Fortier says that many professional coaches are worried that athletes are spending so much time playing Fortnite that they’re not getting enough sleep and are doing a poor job at game time — “Are pro athletes playing too much Fortnite? Some teams are worried.”

The fear of the Capitals is that games such as Fortnite could erode a foundational practice of their developmental system: eight to 10 hours of sleep per night. Before last season, the Capitals instructed Olie Kolzig, the former Capitals goalie who is now a coach with their minor league affiliate in Hershey, Pa., to monitor players’ cellphone usage. The organization knew some junior-hockey players had “a problem” because looking at screens less than an hour before bed affected their sleep. This coming season, management trusts Kolzig’s players will know the same concern applies to Fortnite.

Yet Kolzig finds himself in the same predicament any parent faces because video games are integral to his players’ culture. So he will ask they discipline themselves to about an hour a day and not to play before bed.

“It’s a big issue, and it could affect performance,” Kolzig said. “But they’re grown men. .?.?. You can’t hold their hand and force-feed them [advice]….”

(8) BRAND MALFUNCTION. Inverse says “Stan Lee Did a Legitimate Cameo in a DC Movie”.

…Stan Lee makes a cameo appearance in pretty much every single Marvel movie, and for good reason, since the co-creator of Spider-Man, the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and more is in many ways Marvel’s public face. He never did any work for rival DC Comics, though, which explains why Lee has never made a cameo in a DC movie… until now.

Lee makes his DC debut in Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, which opens on July 27. The long-running Cartoon Network series’ first big-screen adventure is chock-full of meta-humor that puts Deadpool to shame, as it’s all about making a blockbuster superhero movie and skewering the entire industry/genre in the process….

(9) WENDEL OBIT. 3rd Rock from the Sun actress Elmarie Wendel has died. Syfy Wire posted a career retrospective.

Her other genre roles included: Fallout 4 (Video Game, 2015), The Lorax (2012), Rumpelstiltskin (1995), Weird Science (1994, 1 episode), Knight Rider (1982, 1 episode).

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur shows that, like Westworld, nothing can go wrong during a chat with Alexa….

(11) SIDESHOW. Gizmodo’s io9 takes you to the winner of the Franchise Wars at SDCC (“Taco Bell’s Demolition Man Restaurant Gave Us Nacho Fries, Happy Feelings, and Seashell Butts”). The pop-up “Taco Bell 2032” was something between a restaurant and an art installation set up near Comic-Con, though non-attendees were welcomed too. (One has a hard time imagining why any non attendee would have wanted to wait in the hours-long line.) The io9 writer was impressed with the effort put into the look and feel of the place, much evoking the Taco Bell featured in Demolition Man (Sylvester Stallone, Sandra Bullock, Wesley Snipe). The food? Well, it certainly looks fancy and was said to taste pretty good, but it is a Taco Bell.

So, were the three seashells in the restroom? Yeah, looks like they were… but carefully sealed in a clear box with a scrolling electronic sign that seemed to read “out of order.” What people would have done with them had they been accessible does not bear close thought.

(12) DRAX DEFENDS JAMES GUNN. One of his actors spoke out in his defense: “Dave Bautista, Others Defend James Gunn: ‘I Am NOT OK With What’s Happening’” at Yahoo! Entertainment.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” actor Dave Bautista came out strongly in defense of James Gunn Friday after Disney fired him from his role as director of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.”

“I will have more to say but for right now I will say this,” Bautista, who plays Drax in both “Guardians” movies and in “Avengers: Infinity War,” wrote on Twitter. “James Gunn is one of the most loving, caring, good natured people I have ever met. He’s gentle and kind and cares deeply for people and animals. He’s made mistakes. We all have. I’m NOT ok with what’s happening to him.”

(13) PETITION TO BRING BACK GUNN. A Change.org petition calling for Marvel to Re-Hire James Gunn already has over 106,000 signatures. The petition’s author says —

I’m smart enough to know this most likely won’t change anything but hopefully, this could get Disney to realize the mistake they made and not do it again in the future.

I agree on the point that if people say a bunch of stupid shit while working for a studio, the studio has full right to fire him over the possible controversy. This situation is very different though as he made these jokes years before he was working for Disney and also the fact that they were jokes. I agree with most, including Gunn himself that the jokes were shitty and un-funny but they were still jokes, it wasn’t an opinion or a statement, it was just a bad attempt at being funny.

(14) WHAT WAS SO BAD? Not everyone has read examples of Gunn’s tasteless jokes? Bill linked to numerous samples in this comment – and be warned, a lot of it is quite foul.

(15) NO COMING BACK. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna analyzes why “For James Gunn, there’s no return to being a major mainstream filmmaker”.

On Thursday, Gunn apologized in a series of tweets to his nearly half-million Twitter followers, trying to explain that he attempted such social-media “jokes” back when he viewed himself as “a provocateur” whose humor and horror movies alike were “outrageous and taboo.”

Joking in a taboo manner about such subjects as rape and pedophilia didn’t hurt Gunn’s filmmaking career back when he was a lesser-known indie director releasing such low-budget, industry-admired movies as “Slither.” But now that he is mainstream, there is, of course, no way a major studio creating all-ages entertainment can keep even a beloved franchise director in a leadership role.

Walt Disney chairman Alan Horn said Friday in a statement: “The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values, and we have severed our business relationship with him.”

The irony here, of course, is that Disney simply had to know about Gunn’s history of offensive online remarks when they hired him for 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” – the first film in a franchise powered largely by Gunn’s bent sense of humor and love of classic rock songs.

(16) CERNOVICH. SFGate invites readers to “Meet Mike Cernovich, the Right-Wing Provocateur Who Got James Gunn Fired”.

Right-wing provocateur Mike Cernovich claimed another scalp online Friday when Disney fired James Gunn from its “Guardians of the Galaxy” series because of old tweets that Cernovich helped publicize.

(17) SKRUTSKIE NOVEL REVIEWED. NPR’s Caitlyn Paxson sees “Muscle And Bone Meet Machinery In ‘Hullmetal Girls'”:

Hullmetal Girls embraces teen angst in the form of bionic mech suits and the girls who meld with them to save humanity.

Aisha Un-Haad has been working hard as a janitor to take care of her two younger siblings, but when one of them falls ill with a deadly fever that’s sweeping through all the ships that make up the Fleet, she makes the decision to become Scela, a bionic super-soldier created to protect and serve the Fleet’s rulers. There’s no going back once her body is sliced and diced to make room for the mechanical parts that make up her new artificially intelligent “exo,” and her mind is welded permanently to its will and those of the other Scela in her squad. But it will all be worth it if she can advance far enough in the ranks to earn a salary that will keep her siblings safe….

(18) ONE WORD. NPR’s Korva Kolman looks at “Beowulf In The Suburbs? ‘The Mere Wife’ Is An Epic Retelling”:

There’s a vitally important word in the epic tale of Beowulf and, according to Maria Dahvana Headley, it’s been translated incorrectly for a very long time. The word is aglæca/æglæca — no one’s entirely sure how to pronounce it – and, as Headley explains, that same word is used to describe Beowulf and his three antagonists: Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon.

“In the early English translations it was translated for Beowulf as ‘hero’ and for Grendel as ‘monster,’ and for Grendel’s mother as ‘wretch of a woman’ or ‘hag,’ ” Headley says. “But it’s the same word.”

(19) ROBO FETCH. They’re going from viral video to market: “Boston Dynamics Is Gearing Up to Produce Thousands of Robot Dogs”.

Boston Dynamics, maker of uncannily agile robots, is poised to bring its first commercial product to market — a small, dog-like robot called the SpotMini.

The launch was announced in May, and founder Marc Raibert recently said that by July of next year, Boston Dynamics will be producing the SpotMini at the rate of around 1,000 units per year.

The broader goal, as reported by Inverse, is to create a flexible platform for a variety of applications. According to Raibert, SpotMini is currently being tested for use in construction, delivery, security, and home assistance applications.

The SpotMini moves with the same weirdly smooth confidence as previous experimental Boston Dynamics robots with names like Cheetah, BigDog, and Spot.

(20) BIG CONSTRUCTION. BBC covers “The mega-machines helping China link the world”. Includes an ordinary diagram, and animations of two extraordinary track layers.

China is creating a network of ambitious land- and sea-based transport links to connect its booming economy with those of Europe and Africa. And it’s wasting no time – designing incredible bespoke construction machines to get the job done fast.

President Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched in 2013, aims to connect two-thirds of the world’s population across 70 countries through a network of land links (the “belt”) and sea routes (the “road”).

Officials talk about lifetime investments worth trillions of dollars, sourced from banks, participating countries and the Chinese government.

The scheme is not without controversy. Critics point out that it burdens poor countries with billions of dollars of Chinese debt, and dismiss it as a projection of Chinese foreign policy…

(21) THE ORVILLE AT COMIC-CON. The Season 2 Trailer for The Orville debuted at Comic-Con.

The Orville: Follows the crew of the not-so-functional exploratory ship in the Earth’s interstellar fleet, 400 years in the future.

 

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