The Biggest Star on Broadway

By Rich Lynch: This January, as has been the case for most Januaries that Nicki and I have visited New York, there were several big-name actors and actresses who were appearing in Broadway shows.  Bryan Cranston and Tatiana Maslany were the leads in a new stage adaptation of the Oscar-winning film Network.  Ethan Hawke and Paul Dano were getting great reviews in a revival of Sam Shepard’s True West.  Singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles and Tony Award-winning actor Gavin Creel had taken on leading roles in Waitress.  And Jeff Daniels was starring in Aaron Sorkin’s stage adaption of To Kill a Mockingbird.  But, in spite of their prominence, none of these luminaries were actually the biggest star on Broadway.  That would be Kong.

Outside the Broadway Theatre on the evening of January 8th

King Kong is a recent addition to the Great White Way.  Even though it’s very New York-centric, at least in its final act, it had originally been adapted for the stage back in 2013 in Melbourne, Australia.  And it’s a musical! 

To be frank, I was a bit skeptical going in that it would work very well.  When you go to see a show about a literally larger-than-life stage character, you don’t do it because of the music.  And while that was true even for Nicki and me, we still found that the songs, though not memorable, were good compositions which did move the plotline along. 

But in the end, it was Kong that everybody came to see.  And we weren’t disappointed.  He didn’t make his initial appearance until about halfway through the first act of the show, and when he did he had his own talented assemblage of handlers – about a dozen people dressed all in black (listed in the show’s Playbill as the “King’s Company”) who were the manipulators.  And they were so expert in their machinations of controlling a 20-foot tall puppet that it was able to exhibit a broad range of nuanced facial expressions and body language.  Truly sophisticated.

Kong’s curtain call with his handlers.

And there was certainly considerable talent in the rest of the cast – in particular, Christiani Pitts (who played soother-of-the-savage-beast Ann Darrow), appeared to be a future Broadway superstar.  As a review on Yelp! put it, she “sang her butt off” and from our viewpoint she was the only one in the cast who succeeded in not being upstaged by Kong.  The professional reviewers, however, were not nearly as charitable, the worst of the lot being The New York Times, which described the show as “the Mess that Roared” and The Observer, which offered that “Broadway’s disastrous King Kong is a $35 million crime against puppets”.  We, however, beg to disagree.  When you go to see a Broadway musical, the one thing you don’t want to happen is to come away with a disappointing experience of an unmemorable production.  That was certainly not the case for King Kong.  It was a good show.

(This is part of a longer essay about New York that will be reprinted in December in My Back Pages 23.)

2018: A Space Essay

By Rich Lynch: It’s the final day of 2018 as I’m writing this, and the month of December has featured two news stories about space exploration.  The one of immediate interest is the New Horizons deep space probe, which is out at the edge of the solar system and will be whizzing past Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, otherwise known as “Ultima Thule”, this very evening.  But it’s the other story, about the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 manned mission to the moon, which captured people’s imaginations.  Or for me, ‘recaptured’, since I can recall very well all the news coverage about the event, including the memorable Christmas Eve television transmission when the three astronauts read from the Book of Genesis as they orbited the moon.

        But 1968 was even more memorable for me as a science fiction enthusiast for a different reason – it was the year that Stanley Kubrick’s epic film 2001: A Space Odyssey first appeared in movie theaters.  Kubrick, who had become intrigued by the possibility of extraterrestrial civilizations, had wanted to make “the proverbially good science fiction movie” and to do so he enlisted the collaboration of Arthur C. Clarke, who was then considered to be the preeminent writer of ‘hard’ (i.e., scientifically accurate) science fiction.  And it was inspired, in part, on what I consider the finest science fiction story ever written: Clarke’s “The Sentinel”, which (like the movie) is centered around the discovery of an alien artifact on the moon and what happens afterwards.

        I think it is still the best pure science fiction film ever made.  So much so that fifty years after its release, the science still holds up pretty well even though the title of the movie was far too optimistic on how much progress in astronautics would be made in a third of a century.  But something that the movie is noted for is what it didn’t do – it made no attempt to depict the alien beings who created the artifact.  This is probably due to the advice of astronomer Carl Sagan, who had consulted Clarke and Kubrick on this topic.  Sagan had urged them to use imagery which only suggested the presence of extraterrestrial intelligence, otherwise there would likely be “an element of falseness” perceived by the viewers of the movie.

        With all the painstaking care that was taken in making the movie, right down to the smallest details, one might expect that the reviews of the film would have been wildly enthusiastic.  And some were.  Roger Ebert, for example, wrote that the movie “succeeds magnificently on a cosmic scale”.  But others were much less impressed.  Pauline Kael, for instance, described it as “a monumentally unimaginative movie” while Renata Adler wrote that it was “somewhere between hypnotic and immensely boring”.  There was even a mixed response in the science fiction community.  The movie won the Hugo Award in 1969 for Best Dramatic Presentation so it’s probably fair to say that most science fiction fans had the same reaction as I did when I first saw it – it was the best science fiction film I had ever seen and a great cinematic experience.  But some of the science fiction authors who reviewed the film had a different opinion.  Lester Del Rey, for instance, found the movie less than inspiring, with a prediction that it “would be a box office disaster” and would “set major science fiction movie-making back another ten years”.  Harlan Ellison was even less kind, writing that: “2001 is a visually-exciting self-indulgent directorial exercise by a man who has spent anywhere from ten to twenty-five million dollars pulling ciphers out of a cocked hat because he lost his rabbit somewhere.”  And that: “It fails in the first order of story-telling: to tell a story.”

        In the end, Del Rey was wrong.  2001 not only turned a profit, it was also a direct influence on the next generation of notable film-makers such as George Lucas, Christopher Nolan, and Stephen Spielberg.  The American Film Institute has ranked 2001: A Space Odyssey as #15 in its list of the 100 greatest American movies of all time and it has achieved that gold-standard of cinematic immortality – even though it inspired a sequel, it has never been remade.  And there’s a reason for that, as George Lucas described back in 1977: “Stanley Kubrick made the ultimate science fiction movie, and it is going to be very hard for someone to come along and make a better movie, as far as I’m concerned.”

        And I, as a lowly science fiction enthusiast, have my own take on why 2001 is as exalted as it is, at least for me.  There are many good movies I’ve seen just once and it wouldn’t bother me if I never see them again.  And there are other good movies which I have enjoyed more than once.  But there are very, very few movies which I don’t think I’d ever get tired of seeing, and 2001 is one of them.  It is, really, a movie for the ages.

Harlan Ellison Remembrance Panel at Worldcon 76

By Rich Lynch: There were panels at Worldcon 76 which were so popular that the audience filled every seat, took every standing room place around the room, and even spilled out into the convention center hallway. For those you had to get there early as I found out to my dismay a couple of times. The one that possibly had the greatest audience overflow happened on the middle day of the convention – it was a remembrance of Harlan Ellison, who had died just a few weeks earlier.

As most of us know, Ellison had a very outgoing and at times provocative personality (to say the least!), and he often interacted with fans throughout his life partly because he was a science fiction fan before he became a professional writer. A show of hands indicated that most of the people in attendance had a personal Harlan story of some kind (Nicki and I included), but given how packed the room was and how limited the available time was (just 50 minutes were allotted) it was only the panelists who shared their memories about Ellison with the most entertaining ones, no surprise, coming from Robert Silverberg, who had been friends with him for more than 60 years.

Ellison was depicted as one of the great science fiction writers of all time, which he certainly was, and also someone who wasn’t averse to stirring up some controversy by his words and actions from time to time. Which he certainly did. The panelists appeared to me to show catharsis with all their Harlan stories, and in the end there was consensus that there was a pedestal somewhere out there that Mr. Ellison’s career and reputation would reside upon.

He was unique, and that was emphasized at the end of the panel by Silverberg when, after hearing the moderator say that we would not see Harlan’s like again, responded: “One was more than enough!” It brought the house down.

[This is an excerpt from Rich Lynch’s full Worldcon report, which he’s still drafting.]

Panelists Tom Whitmore, Robert Silverberg, Chris Barkley, David Gerrold, Christine Valada, Nat Segaloff.

Update: 09/06/2018: Closing quote changed to conform to version reported in Ansible.

Pixel Scroll 6/30/18 Pixels Like Us, Baby We Were Born To Scroll

(1) KICK ASTEROID! Bill Nye and the Planetary Society want funds to educate people about the threat of asteroid impacts. Their Kickstarter, “Kick Asteroid!”, has raised $27,884 of its $50,000 target, with 25 days left to go.

The Planetary Society is excited to partner with space artist and designer, Thomas Romer, and backers around the world to create Kick Asteroid—a colorful graphic poster that will illustrate the effect of past catastrophic impacts, and methods to deflect future asteroid threats. Compelling and scientifically accurate art will be created for posters and other “merch” that backers can use in their everyday lives to spread the word about planetary defense.

… Thomas is collaborating directly with the Society’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Bruce Betts, to depict the asteroid threat in a compelling and scientifically accurate way. Bruce has briefed Thomas on the current state of the science related to Near Earth Objects (NEOs), as well as on the most promising asteroid deflection techniques.

(2) WRITER’S BLOCK. “How do you handle writer’s block?” Rachel Swirsky shares her advice about blocks from two sources. The first kind is medical:

…I think one of the best solutions is to be gentle with yourself about it. Hammering yourself and making yourself feel guilty because of your health is in the way is only likely to make you miserable and increase your stress–which can make the health problem worse. It can be hard to be generous with yourself, especially when the illness is lasting a long time and you have deadlines. …

(3) TWELVE RULES. The Chicago Tribune’s Stephen L. Carter lists his “12 science fiction rules for life”.

Like so many other scribes, I have been inspired by psychologist Jordan Peterson’s fascinating book to sketch my 12 rules of life. But mine are different, because each is drawn from canonical science fiction. Why? Maybe because this is the literature on which I grew up, or maybe because I have never lost the taste for it. Or maybe because the sci-fi canon really does have a lot to teach about the well-lived life. Here, then, are my 12 rules. I cannot pretend that I always follow them, but I certainly always try.

  1. “An atom-blaster is a good weapon, but it can point both ways.” — Isaac Asimov, “Foundation.”

This is one of the clearest expressions of the basis of the liberalism of process. It matters not only whether one accomplishes an end but also how. Any tool available to the “good guys” today might be wielded by the “bad guys” tomorrow. One should always take this proposition into account when choosing a toolkit.

  1. “Happiness consists in getting enough sleep. Just that, nothing more.” — Robert Heinlein, “Starship Troopers.”

OK, happiness does consist of more than this — but getting enough sleep is indeed one of its key components. The larger point is that taking physical, emotional and spiritual care of the self is crucial to being truly happy….

(4) LANDING IN THE LAP OF LUXURY. Sarah Gailey ended up cruising through the skies with the 1%. See all the details in a Twitter thread that starts here.

(5) WRITERS OF THE FUTURE. If you’re curious what the experience is like for finalists brought to LA for the workshops and ceremony, Eneasz Brodski covers it all: “Writers of the Future vol 34 – The Award Ceremony & The People”.

Let’s start with the ceremony!

This was a delight. It was fun to be treated special and given an award and just the belle of the ball for a day! Of course, it was apparently pretty quickly that this award ceremony wasn’t really for us. It was for the Scientologists. This was their party, for them to say to each other “Look at us! We’re helping these people at the start of their career, and supporting the arts! We are doing good in the world.” And good on them for it! They are helping new artists, and contributing to the SFF world in a meaningful way. They can have as big a party they want to celebrate that, it’s their money. I didn’t mind at all being the excuse for that. It kinda felt what I imagine being a unicorn for a couple would feel like? The experience is primarily about them, but they couldn’t have it without me facilitating, and I’m happy to serve that role to bring them that. Of course that’s probably my super-idealized fantasy of unicorning. But /shrug. I got the literary-award equivalent of that fantasy, so I’m happy. 🙂

(6) I HAVE NO CATEGORY AND I MUST SCREAM. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett would like to tell you a Harlan Ellison story about the 1964 Hugos and the plan to omit the Dramatic Presentation category: “London Calling”. It includes this passage by Ron Ellik from the fanzine Vair-Iner.

…When I had lost perhaps half a dollar, Harlan phoned again. He read me a letter. He had talked to two dozen people since his trans-Atlantic call – other Study Committeemen, convention committeemen from past years, etc – and this letter, signed by Harlan, cited these several people as being, each, in at least passive agreement that London should not do this thing. In conclusion, Mr. Ben Jason and the group producing the physical Hugo trophies had agreed with him to withhold the trophies from the London convention.

We eagerly await news of London’s answer.

And there you have it folks, if you want to be a successful squeaky wheel then you need to really apply some of that old-fashioned elbow grease. Ah, I hear you ask, and was Harlan, that tiger of the telephone, a truly successful squeaky wheel? Well, yes….

(7) A PRIVATE MOMENT. And Bill provided a clipping from Ellison’s army days.

(8) WOULD YOU BELIEVE? What record has sold the most copies in 2018? “The Year’s Top-Selling Singer Isn’t Kanye — It’s Hugh Jackman”.

Halfway through a year filled with new work from some of the most popular artists alive, the best-selling album is the soundtrack to a movie musical with Hugh Jackman that never led the box office.

“The Greatest Showman’’ has sold almost 4 million copies for Atlantic Records, outpacing works from Kanye West, Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake. Music from the film based on the life of circus promoter P.T. Barnum has outsold the next most popular album of the year, Post Malone’s “Beerbongs & Bentleys,’’ by about 2-to-1.

(9) HUMP MONTH: At Featured Futures, the middle of the year doesn’t mean middling stories, as Jason has compiled another list of standout fiction gleaned from the SF magazines, plus links to reviews and other postings in Summation: June 2018.

This month produced nine noted stories (four recommended) from a total of forty-five (215 Kwds). Compelling made a strong and welcome return on its new semi-annual schedule. “Nightspeed” also contributed a couple of powerful tales.

(10) HUNTER OF THE SKY CAVE. Need a good laugh? Read Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag’s wonderful post “Inkwell and the Sky Raisin”.

…As anyone who has bothered to read this blog for any length of time knows, my husband and I are owned by a black cat named Inkwell. These are some of his recent adventures, mostly from Facebook and a few of his “Inkwell Sings the Blues” from his Twitter Feed.

This morning I woke up late, and my husband was already off running errands. I looked around the house for Inkwell, fearing he might have somehow gotten outside (he’s very much an indoor cat). I went from room to room looking for him, and when I opened the door to the garage, a fly (aka Sky Raisin) flew into the house. Eventually I found Inkwell by shaking his treats. He casually wandered out from wherever he was hiding to get his reward for being a cat from his mommy.

A half an hour later, he noticed the fly….

(11) TUNE IN. BBC Radio 4’s A Good Read this week included Gibson’s Neuromancer, plus had some other SF discussion. (Thanks for the share to Jonathan Cowie of Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation.)

Writers Juno Dawson and Pandora Sykes discuss favourite books Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan, Neuromancer by William Gibson, and The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett, with Harriett Gilbert. How will Juno and Pandora enjoy Harriett’s foray into science fiction? And how did Sagan’s novel, written at the tender age of 17, influence Juno’s writing for young adults?

(12) COLLINS OBIT. Four-time F&SF contributor Reid Collins died on April 19. See his Washington Post death notice at Legacy.com.

…In 1982 he succeeded Dallas Townsend to become anchor of “The CBS World News Roundup”- the longest running news broadcast in history. His passion, however, was space. He anchored live coverage of all the nation’s manned space flights for CBS News from Gemini up to the Space Shuttle, including all the Apollo flights to the moon. In 1985, Mr. Collins took “one giant leap” from radio to television and became an anchor for CNN, where he remained until his retirement in 1996. During retirement, he enjoyed golf, cigars on his front porch in Kensington, his 1977 Saab convertible and spending time fishing and relaxing on the East Rosebud River at his vacation home outside Roscoe MT. Arrangements will be private. If so moved, donations in his name may be made to the Montana Historical Society, P.O. Box 201201, Helena, MT 59620-1201.

Collins had four short stories in F&SF between 1978 and 1984.

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 30, 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory opened.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 30 — Vincent D’Onofrio, 59. Men in Black and the animated Men in Black series as well, genre series work including Emerald City, Daredevil and Ghost Wars.
  • Born June 30 – Molly Parker, 46. Currently on The Lost in Space series as Maureen, but genre roles on The Nightmare Cafe, The Outer Limits, HighlanderThe Sentinel, and Deadwood. Cat Eldridge says, “Ok the last may not be genre but it is a great love of Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Emma’s novel Territory reflects her passion for the Old West.”

(15) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian relays a warning from a well-known comic book hero delivered in Bliss.
  • Mike Kennedy shares how in Monty, robot sidekick EB3’s left arm had achieved a sentience of its own, was rebelling, and had to be replaced.  Doc and Monty found a use for the old arm…

(16) A FLUCTUATION IN THE FORCE. JDA’s Twitter followers had a market crash:

(17) HERETICAL PRONOUNCEMENT. Camestros Felapton dares to ask, “Is HAL 9000 a robot?”. Worse than that, he dares to answer!

So what about HAL? HAL presents as an AI. He’s talked about as a brain. He is shown as a computer. But what is he the brain of? Simple, HAL is the brain of the Discovery One and has control over the ship. Discovery One is HAL’s body. HAL is a robot.

Your Good Host has a meltdown in his comments section.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Synthetic Biology on Vimeo, Vasil Hnatiuk posits a future where giant bees race and living organisms became starships.

(19) RETRO FANDOM. Simpler times! A clipping courtesy of David Doering:

ACKERMAN  BEATS   BRADBURY   TO   A   PULP!

April 1, 1941 — Eyewitness account:

A low-flying, longstanding feud between the two would-be fun-rulers of Shangri-LA, Ray Bradbury and Forrest J Ackerman, broke into the open here late on the night of March 27 with serious injuries sustained by Bradbury — tangle occurred after a Club meeting — when Bradbury and FJA were leaving Cliftons and walked around the corner toward the newsstand. Each was playing the perennial game of trying to out-pun the other, when the now Stirring Science Stories was simultaneously spotted, Both fans leaped forward to secure the issue, Ackerman getting there first. So it was that Ackerman beat Bradbury to a pulp.

(20) BRADBURY AGAIN. Susan Sackett’s Inside Trek book promo site includes a small gallery of photos from a 1976 recording session.

In 1976, I suggested to my friend Ed Naha, A&R person for Columbia Records, that he should sign Gene to do a “spoken word” record. Gene loved the idea and wrote some great copy, inviting many science fiction luminaries to join him. “Inside Star Trek” was recorded at United Western Studios in LA, with Gene, Bill Shatner, and Ray Bradbury all present at this first session. (Isaac Asimov recorded his contribution in New York; DeForest Kelley and Mark Lenard’s sessions came later.) I was there too, of course, snapping pictures for posterity. As you can see from this shot, Gene, Bill and Ray were discussing something important. I call this Gene’s “shaggy dog” period.

(21) HOT OFF THE DIGITAL PRESS. The 20th issue of Rich Lynch’s personal fanthology My Back Pages is now online at the eFanzines website. [PDF file]

Issue #20 is a “getting closer to retirement” issue and has essays involving close-up magic and far-off business destinations, oppressive desert heat and refreshing evaporative cooling, fast cars and slow bicycles, large buildings and small details, Madisonian libertarianism and Rooseveltian progressivism, 1950s space ships and current-day space stations, famous cowboys and famous Missourians, posh hotels and run-down motels, first fans and First Fans, State Capitols and County Courthouses, steamy blues and cool jazz, hot barbecue and the Cold War, bronze statues and scrap metal constructs, large conventions and larger conventions, fan libraries and fanfiction, no reservations and “No Award”.  And colophons… Why did it have to be colophons?

(22) IN A CAST. “Jared Leto ‘joins Spider-Man movie universe’ as vampire Morbius” reports the BBC.

The 30 Seconds To Mars frontman would hop from DC to Marvel, having previously played The Joker in Suicide Squad.

Morbius is the third movie currently in production based on characters in the Spider-Man comic books.

After reports of the casting spread online, Jared shared some artwork of the character on Instagram.

(23) OVERRUNS. China Film Insider says it’s “This Year’s Most Expensive Summer Film”

When it comes to this year’s summer films in China, although Chinese audiences have been abuzz with Jiang Wen’s Hidden Man, Guo Jingming’s L.O.R.D: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties, and Xu Ke’s action movie Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings, the most expensive summer film is another one: Yang Zhenjian’s Asura. This film reportedly costs 750 million yuan ($115.5 million). Based on the current revenue-sharing model in China, it has to make at least 2.3 billion yuan ($350 million) in order to breakeven. In a recent interview with WeChat media outlet D-entertainment, the film’s director Yang Zhenjian explained that a big portion of the budget was allocated to hiring international technicians and visual effect teams. In addition, the film was made by a huge crew within a long period of time.

(24) DOCTOR WHO COMIC. Titan Comics and BBC Studios have announced Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor Vol. 0 – The Many Lives Of Doctor Who – a special primer edition, which celebrates the Doctor’s many lives, and leads directly into Titan’s brand-new Thirteenth Doctor comic series – launching this fall in the U.S. and UK.

It’s said that your life flashes before your eyes when you die, and the Doctor’s had many of them! As the Doctor regenerates from his twelfth incarnation to her thirteenth (as played by Jodie Whittaker), she relives unseen adventures from all her past selves from Classic through to New Who.

(25) THE JOHNNY RICO DIET. It’s not Heinlein’s Mobile Infantry powered armor, though it may be a step toward it. It’s not even in deployed use. But the US military does seem to be getting serious about testing powered exoskeleton for both upper and lower body uses. In Popular Science: “Power-multiplying exoskeletons are slimming down for use on the battlefield”.

…newly developed exoskeletons is starting to meet […] slimmed-down, stealth requirements  […] Among the most promising, and weird-looking, is the “third arm” that the U.S. Army Research Laboratory developed to help soldiers carry and support their weapons on the battlefield. The lightweight device, which weighs less than four pounds and hangs at a soldier’s side, stabilizes rifles and machine guns, which can weigh up to 27 pounds. This improves shooting accuracy and also minimizes fatigue. It can even be used while scrambling into position on the ground.

…In May, Lockheed Martin unveiled its lightest weight powered exo for lower body support. Dubbed ONYX, the form-fitting suit, which resembles an unobtrusive web of athletic braces, reduce the effort soldier’s need for walking, running, and climbing over varied terrain while carrying a heavy loads of up to 100 pounds.

The suit uses tracking sensors, mechanical knee actuators, and artificial intelligence-based software that predicts joint movement, all of which reduce stress on the lower back and the legs.…

(26) ALWAYS TO CALL IT RESEARCH. Sixth Tone is hot pursuit of the story: “Chinese Fantasy Show Accused of Stealing Harry Potter’s Magic”.

Harry Potter fans threaten to Avada Kedavra drama accused of plot-copying.

After “Legend of Fu Yao” premiered in China on Monday, some viewers pointed out that the television series appeared to have plagiarized “Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire,” the fourth installment in British novelist J.K. Rowling’s seven-part series. Twelve episodes have aired so far — and online clips from or related to the show had gained over 350 million views within a day of the season premier.

In the series, the heroine Fu Yao is a disciple at Xuanyuan, a Taoist school that teaches swordsmanship and sorcery. The story focuses on the Tiandou Competition, an event held every eight years. To join in the contest, hopefuls must throw a piece of paper dipped in their own blood into a bronze cauldron. Once they’re signed up, there’s no getting out of the three-round competition, which sees challengers fight against a buffalo-shaped mythical creature, among other tasks.

Loyal Potterheads were quick to notice the similarities with the fourth installment’s Triwizard Tournament, a competition held every five years between three wizarding schools….

(27) HUMANITY NEEDS SAVING AGAIN. The Predator opens in theaters September 14:

From the outer reaches of space to the small-town streets of suburbia, the hunt comes home in Shane Black’s explosive reinvention of the Predator series. Now, the universe’s most lethal hunters are stronger, smarter and deadlier than ever before, having genetically upgraded themselves with DNA from other species. When a young boy accidentally triggers their return to Earth, only a ragtag crew of ex-soldiers and a disgruntled science teacher can prevent the end of the human race.

 

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Jason, Bill, Rich Lynch, David Doering, Jonathan Cowie, Todd Mason, Brian Z., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

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

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

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

A: I can’t write poetry.

Q: What does your Google search cache look like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

Soon Lee and Hampus Eckerman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(13) APRIL FOOLS REDUX. Jabba the Sushi?

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 3/21/18 Where In The Scroll Is Pixel Sandiego?

(1) WHAT FILERS LOVE. Rocket Stack Rank’s Eric Wong put together a page summarizing the Filers’ Hugo nominations for the three short-fiction categories: “Annotated 2017 File 770 List for Short Fiction”. Here are some highlights:

In the Annotated 2017 File 770 List for Short Fiction, there were 34 stories with a tally of three or more nominations. Here are a few interesting findings from the 14 novellas, 10 novelettes, and 10 short stories:

  • 21 stories are free online(62%), including all novelettes and short stories. [Highlight free stories]
  • 4 stories are by Campbell-eligible writers. [Group by Campbell Year]
  • None are translated stories.
  • 14 publications are represented (including standalone novellas) with the top three being Tor novellas (9), Tor.com (5) and Uncanny (6). [Group by Publication]
  • RSR recommended 18, recommended against 4, and did not review 2. [Group by RSR Rating]
  • 25 of the 33 stories had a score > 1, meaning many were highly recommended by prolific reviewers, inclusion in “year’s best” anthologies, and award finalists. [Group by Score]

Greg Hullender adds, “Note how well we predicted the actual results last year” —

Last year, the top 55 novellas, novelettes and short stories nominated by Filers resulted in the following matches:

(2) DUBLIN 2019 FAMILY SAVINGS. The Irish Worldcon has a plan: “If you are bringing your family, a family plan might save you a bit of money”.

Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon has announced a new family plan for those members who are attending with members of their family. If you sign up for a family plan you will receive 10% off the total costs for the included memberships. This new plan can be used in conjunction with the recently announced Instalment Plan as long as the Family Plan is set up first.

The Dublin 2019 Family Plan enables fans to bring their whole family with them and save 10% on the total costs of memberships. A family plan will consist of  2 “Major” and at least 2 “Minor” Individuals.  A “Major” membership is an individual born on or before 15 August 2001 (18+ on the first day of the convention).  “Minor” memberships are individuals born between 16 August 2001 and 15 August 2013 (ages 6-17 on the first day of the convention). There is also a single parent variation. Details can be found on the website.

Under the Plan, you first buy a Supporting Membership and then fill in the Dublin 2019 Family Plan Request form. The registration team will then be in touch with your membership invoice. The charge for your family plan will be frozen at the time your application is received, accepted, and calculated.  If you have not chosen to apply for the instalment plan we will issue an invoice for the balance which you will have 30 days to pay. If that lapses without payment, then you will need to start the process over again, and costs will be calculated from the date of new application.

With the Attending Membership rates rising at 00:01 hours Dublin time on April 3, 2018, this is an ideal time to consider a Family Membership Plan and ensure that you and your family can attend Dublin 2019 at the current cost.

Full terms and conditions for the Dublin 2019 Family Plan can be found at www.dublin2019.com/family-plan/.

(3) JEOPARDY STRIKES AGAIN. Andrew Porter watched the first Jeopardy! contestant make a miss-take.

Wrong question: “What is Mars?”

Rich Lynch says a second contestant got it right.

(Thanks to Rich for the image.)

(4) AND ANOTHER GAME SHOW REFERENCES SF. Did I mention, The Chase is my mother’s favorite TV show?

(5) DON’T BITE WIZARDS. Middle-Earth Reflections continues its series with “Reading Roverandom /// Chapter 1”.

Rover’s adventures begin one day when he plays with his yellow ball outside and bites a wizard for taking the ball, which is not to the dog’s liking. The animal’s misfortune is that he has not got the slightest idea that the man is a wizard because “if Rover had not been so busy barking at the ball, he might have noticed the blue feather stuck in the back of the green hat, and then he would have suspected that the man was a wizard, as any other sensible little dog would; but he never saw the feather at all” (Roverandom, p. 41-42). Being really annoyed, the wizard turns Rover into a toy dog and his life turns upside down.

It is because of such poor control of emotions that Rover is bound to embark on an adventure of some kind in a rather uncomfortable form. There also seems to be a lack of knowledge on his behalf. It is not the only time when Tolkien uses the “if they knew something, they would understand a situation better” pattern in Roverandom, as well as in some other of his stories. These references can be either to existing in our world myths, legends and folktales, or to Tolkien’s own stories. In his mythology the character wearing a hat with a blue feather is none other than Tom Bombadil, who is a very powerful being indeed, so a blue feather seems to be a very telling sign to those in the know.

(6) ACCESSIBILITY ADVICE. Kate Heartfield tells “What I’ve Learned about Convention Accessibility” at the SFWA Blog.

Can*Con is in Ottawa, Canada in October. My job is pretty minor: I wrote our accessibility policy and revise it every year, and I advise the committee about how to implement it when we have particular problems or concerns. Most importantly, I’m there as the dedicated person to field questions or concerns.

Here are a few of the things I’ve learned…

The whole convention committee has to be on board. Programming policies affect accessibility. So do registration procedures, party plans, restaurant guides. If anyone involved shrugs it off, accessibility will suffer. From the beginning, every person on the committee of Can-Con, and every volunteer, has been entirely supportive of me and the policy. When I bring a concern to the committee, the response is always constructive and never defensive. There are limits to what we can do, as a small but growing convention, and so much depends on the physical accessibility of the venue itself. But I’m learning that the limits are actually a lot farther away than they might appear, and with good people working together, a lot is possible….

Accessibility is about inclusion, and it’s a broader topic than you might think. Mobility barriers are probably the first thing that comes to mind, and they’re hugely important, but they’re not the whole picture. Accessibility is also about making sure that everyone is called by the correct pronouns and has access to a washroom where they’ll be safe and comfortable. It’s about trying not to trigger allergies and sensitivities. It’s about making sure that people have the supports they need. One of the most frequent requests we’ve had is simply for quiet recovery space.

(7) IN THE BEGINNING. Sarah A. Hoyt, having finished her Mad Genius Club series defining various genres and subgenres thoroughly and accurately, has embarked on a specialized tour of different ways to start a story. Today it’s “The Atmospheric”. Very interesting, and besides, there’s a Bradbury quote!

…“In the year A.D. 400, the Emperor Yuan held his throne by the Great Wall of China, and the land was green with rain, readying itself towards the harvest, at peace, the people in his dominion neither too happy nor too sad.” – Ray Bradbury, The Flying Machine.

Look at those openings above. They’re obviously not “these people” because except for the first — and it’s not exactly people — there are no people to be “these”.

Is there action?  Well, sort of.  I mean things are happening.  But if those are the main characters of your novel they’re kind of weird, consisting of a hole in the ground, a light in the sky, noise and apparently the Emperor Yuan.

Of course these are atmospheric beginnings.

Atmospheric beginnings are hard to do.  It’s easy to get lost in writing about things in general, but will they capture the reader?  And while you — well, okay, I — can go on forever about the beautiful landscape, the wretched times, the strange events in the neighborhood, what good is that if your reader yawns and gently closes the book and goes to sleep?

To carry off an atmospheric beginning, too, you need impeccable wording, coherent, clear, and well… intriguing.  If that’s what your book calls for, a touch of the poetic doesn’t hurt either….

(8) THE BIT AND THE BATTEN. So much for security: “Teenager hacks crypto-currency wallet”.

A hardware wallet designed to store crypto-currencies, and touted by its manufacturer as tamper-proof, has been hacked by a British 15-year-old.

Writing on his blog, Saleem Rashid said he had written code that gave him a back door into the Ledger Nano S, a $100 (£70) device that has sold millions around the world.

It would allow a malicious attacker to drain the wallet of funds, he said.

The firm behind the wallet said that it had issued a security fix.

It is believed the flaw also affects another model – the Nano Blue – and a fix for that will not be available “for several weeks”, the firm’s chief security officer, Charles Guillemet told Quartz magazine.

(9) FINAL HONOR. BBC reports “Stephen Hawking’s ashes to be interred near Sir Isaac Newton’s grave”.

The ashes of Professor Stephen Hawking will be interred next to the grave of Sir Isaac Newton at Westminster Abbey, it has been revealed.

The renowned theoretical physicist’s final resting place will also be near that of Charles Darwin, who was buried there in 1882.

(10) SKY CEILING. In the Netherlands, “The world’s oldest working planetarium”, over two centuries old.

There was a beat of silence as the room’s atmosphere shifted from inward reflection to jittery disbelief. “How is that even possible?” said one visitor, waving a pointed finger at the living-room ceiling. “Is it still accurate?” asked another. “Why have I never heard of this before?” came the outburst from her companion. Craning my neck, I too could hardly believe it.

On the timber roof above our heads was a scale model of the universe, painted in sparkling gold and shimmering royal blue. There was the Earth, a golden orb dangling by a near-invisible, hand-wound wire. Next to it, the sun, presented as a flaming star, glinting like a Christmas bauble. Then Mercury, Venus, Mars, and their moons in succession, hung from a series of elliptical curves sawn into the ceiling. All were gilded on one side to represent the sun’s illumination, while beyond, on the outer rim, were the most-outlying of the planets, Jupiter and Saturn. Lunar dials, used to derive the position of the zodiac, completed the equation.

The medieval science behind the Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium is staggering, no matter how one views it….

(11) NIGHTLIGHT. The Independent tells readers: “Mysterious purple aurora dubbed ‘Steve’ by amateur stargazers spotted in Scotland”.

Stargazers were treated to a rare and mysterious sight named “Steve” as it lit up the night skies.

The unusual purple aurora was first discovered by a group of amateur scientists and astrophotographers who gave it the nickname, Nasa said.

Its striking purple colour and appearance closer than normal to the equator sparked interest in Scotland where it was visible from the isles of Lewis and Skye this week,

(12) NIGHTFLYERS. Here’s a teaser from the Syfy adaptation: “‘Nightflyers’: Syfy Unveils First Footage of George R.R. Martin Space Drama”.

A day after replacing showrunners, Syfy has unveiled the first look at its upcoming George R.R. Martin space drama Nightflyers.

Nightflyers is, without question, a big swing for Syfy. The drama, based on Game of Thrones creator Martin’s 1980 novella and the 1987 film of the same name, follows eight maverick scientists and a powerful telepath who embark on an expedition to the edge of the solar system aboard The Nightflyer — a ship with a small, tight-knit crew and a reclusive captain — in hopes of making contact with alien life. But when terrifying and violent events begin to take place, they start to question each other, and surviving the journey proves harder than anyone thought.

 

(13) JOB APPLICATION. A video of Shatner and Nimoy at Dragon Con is touted as “the funniest Star Trek convention of all time” by the poster.

William Shatner repeatedly asked Leonard Nimoy, “Why am I not in the movie?!”

 

(14) IMITATION IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY: Jason sends word that Featured Futures has added a couple of items regarding markets receiving accolades and magazines receiving coverage by prolific review sites.

Noted Short SF Markets: 2017 is the first variation on a theme:

The following is a list of short fiction markets which had 2017 short stories, novelettes, or novellas selected for a Clarke, Dozois, Horton, or Strahan annual or which appeared on the final ballot of the Hugos or Nebulas. They are sorted by number of selections (not individual stories, which sometimes have multiple selections).

This is a variant of “The Splintered Mind: Top Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazines 2017.” This only tabulates six factors over one year rather than the many factors over many years of the original. That version helps flatten out fluky peaks and valleys but this provides an instant snapshot of major accolades. (This version also includes whatever venue the stories come from while that version focuses on magazines.) I’d thought about doing this before but stumbling over that finally got me to do it.

The second variation on a theme is Magazines and Their Reviewers

This page presents a table of the science fiction, fantasy, and horror magazines covered by five “prolific review sites.” Its primary purposes are to help people find the coverage of the zines they want to read about and/or to help them see which zines are covered from multiple viewpoints.

This is a variant of Rocket Stack Rank‘s “Magazine Coverage by Reviewers.” There are two significant differences and a minor one. First, this lists all the magazines regularly covered by the reviewers. Second, the list of reviewers includes Tangent Online but not the editors of annuals who presumably read most everything but don’t maintain review sites (though Dozois, Horton and others do review recommended stories for Locus). The minor difference is just that there’s no number column because this isn’t being done for “stack ranking” purposes.

(15) UP TO SNUFF? Zhaoyun covers a feature available on Netflix in “Microreview [film]: Mute, directed by Duncan Jones” at Nerds of a Feather.

The name ‘Duncan Jones’ will immediately evoke, in the minds of the small but powerful(ly voiced) group of cine-nerds, the masterful 2009 film Moon, and/or the respectable cerebral (get it?!) thriller Source Code of 2011. Garden-variety meathead non-nerds, on the other hand, might recall him as the director of the 2016 video game-to-film adaptation of Warcraft—you know, the movie that absolutely no one was eagerly awaiting. No matter your nerd credentials, then, you probably associate Duncan Jones with a certain cinematographic pizzazz, and like me, your expectations were probably quite high for his latest brainchild, the only-on-Netflix 2018 futuristic neo-noir Mute. The question is, were those expectations met?

Nah. But before we get to the bad news, I’ll give the good news. The film is breathtakingly beautiful, leaving no rock of the delectably dirty futuristic Berlin unturned, and what’s more, it is full of quirky little visual predictions of what the world will be like in twenty years (you know, mini-drones delivering food through the drone-only doggy door on windows, etc.). Plus, Paul Rudd was, in my opinion, an excellent casting choice, as his snarky-but-harmless star persona helps mask the darkness lurking deep within his character here.

(16) PASSING THROUGH. Renay praises a book: “Let’s Get Literate! In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan” at Lady Business.

Portal fantasies feel like a staple of childhood. I missed most of the literary ones. I loved In Other Lands, but as much as it is a portal fantasy it’s also a critique of them, a loving celebration and deconstruction of their tropes and politics, and I probably missed 95% of everything this book does. Does it do what it set out to do well? Yes, says the portal fantasy newbie, whose experience with portal fantasy as a Youngster comes in the form of the following:

  • Through the Ice by Piers Anthony and Robert Kornwise
  • Labyrinth, starring David Bowie
  • The Neverending Story; too bad about those racial politics
  • Cool World starring Brad Pitt, which I watched when too young
  • Space Jam, the best sports movie after Cool Runnings

(17) X FOR EXCELLENT. Also at Lady Business, Charles Payseur returns with a new installment of “X Marks the Story: March 2018”, which includes a review of —

“The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington”, Phenderson Djèlí Clark (published at Fireside Magazine, February 2018)

What It Is: As the title of this short story implies, it is a history of sorts of the people behind the teeth that George Washington bought to use for his dentures. Structured into nine sections, the story builds up a wonderfully imagined alternate past full of magic, monsters, and war—even as it uncovers the exploitation and abuse lurking at the heart of the very real history of the United States of America. Each story explores a different aspect of the past through a fantasy lens, and yet the truth of what is explored—the pain and atrocities that people faced under the rule of early America—rings with a power that echoes forward through time, reminding us of the origins, and continued injustices, of this country….

(18) RUSS TO JUDGMENT. Ian Sales takes a close look at “The Two of Them, Joanna Russ” (1978) at SF Mistressworks.

…The depiction of Islam in The Two of Them would only play today on Fox News. It is ignorant and Islamophobic. Russ may have been writing a feminist sf novel about the role of women, but she has cherrypicked common misconceptions about women in Islamic societies as part of her argument, and ignored everything else. This is not an Islamic society, it’s a made-up society based on anti-Islamic myths and clichés….

There’s a good story in The Two of Them, and the prose shows Russ at her best. Toward the end, Russ even begins breaking the fourth wall and directly addressing the reader. The narrative also discusses alternative outcomes of Irene’s story, probabilistic worlds and events that would naturally arise out of the premise of the Trans-Temporal Authority. Her depiction of Irene, contrasting both her lack of agency in 1950s USA and her agency in the Trans-Temporal Authority, makes an effective argument. But the attempt to contrast it with Islam is a definite mis-step….

(19) AUDIENCES LOVE NEXT DEADPOOL. The Hollywood Reporter learned “‘Deadpool 2’ Outscores Original in Test Screenings”.

The Ryan Reynolds-fronted sequel has been tested three times, with the scores for the first two screenings coming in at 91 and 97. The final test, which occurred in Dallas, tested two separate cuts simultaneously, which scored a 98 and a 94. The 98-scoring cut is the version the team is using, a source with direct knowledge told THR.

The crew attended the final screenings in Dallas, and a source in the audience of the 98 screening describing the environment to THR as being electric and akin to watching the Super Bowl.

It’s worth noting the highest test screening the original Deadpool received was a 91, according to insiders. The film went on to gross $783 million worldwide and stands as the highest-grossing X-Men movie of all time.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Isle of Dogs: Making of: The Animators” is a look at how 27 animators and ten assistants used state-of-the-art animation to make – you guessed it — Isle of Dogs..

[Thanks  to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Rich Lynch, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Greg Hullender, Jason, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 3/17/18 Several Species Of Small Furry Filers Gathered Together In A Scroll And Grooving With A Pixel

(1) DISNEY EXTRACTS HAND FROM COOKIE JAR. Design Taxi reports “Disney Redesigns ‘Star Wars’ Posters After Getting Called Out For Plagiarism”.

Disney has unveiled a new set of posters for the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story after its previous artworks were called out by a French artist for plagiarism.

In this redesigned collection, Disney has amended the graphics whilst sticking to a similar color scheme.

Each character remains paired with a unique color. For instance, ‘Han’ is matched with an orange-red aesthetic, ‘Lando’ gets a blue hue, while ‘Q’ira’ receives a pink-purple scheme.

 

(2) SCRYING THE CRYSTAL CLARKE. Ian Mond takes his shot at predicting the Clarke Award shortlist in “Brief Thoughts on the Arthur C. Clarke Award 2018 Submissions List” at The Hysterical Hamster.

Mark Hepworth did the same in a comment here on File 770.

(3) MANO-A-MANO. Steven Barnes, while speculating about which characters will get killed off in the next Avengers movie, added an interesting cultural critique of the martial arts in Black Panther.

this is petty, and a trivial objection, but another missed opportunity was the battle between T’Challa and Killmonger during the ceremony. It relates to a complaint I had about Civil War (which I loved). This is from a life-long martial artist’s perspective, so I’m only partially serious. The problem is this: BP fought like everyone else in Civil War, and his technique looked very Asian. Korean in the kicks. Not what the Prince of Wakanda would use, because African arts are as lethal. But in BP, both T’Challa and Killmonger fought pretty much the same. I find it difficult to believe that Killmonger, never having been in Wakanda, would fight with techniques that look as if he had been trained by the same people who trained T’Challa. They could have had a fascinating clash of styles. But that is really nit-picking.

(4) PANTHER POLITICAL ANALYSIS. At Blog of the APA: In “Black Issues in Philosophy: A Conversation on The Black Panther”, Greg Doukas and Lewis Gordon discuss the politics and ethics of leading characters in the movie.

GREG DOUKAS: I am thoroughly perplexed by the reaction exhibited in some of my friends and colleagues, whose ideas I otherwise ordinarily agree with. The proposition they raise, and which I’ve been troubled by, is this: Over the duration of the film, our hero T’Challa [the Black Panther] makes a transformation from a nativist into a character representing a liberal politics of amelioration and liberalism more generally, while his nemesis Killmonger emerges as a distinctly Fanonian character in his own politics by presenting a radical critique of colonialism and racism. 

LEWIS GORDON: This is far from the case. First, Killmonger is not Fanonian. He is a tyrant. Fanon believed in radical democracy.  Wakanda is clearly a republic and possibly a constitutional monarchy in which each member of the society contributes as counsel and skilled citizen. It’s clearly a city-state or what in ancient Greek is called a polis, in which politeia (the thriving of citizens through activities cultivated by such a social space) is expected to occur. Killmonger is more like the case studies of colonial disorders in the later part of Fanon’s The Damned of the Earth. He is a tyrant because his relationship to everyone was asymmetrical, driven by resentment and hate, and his regard for life was nil. Think of how he killed his loyal girlfriend Linda and how he ultimately aimed to destroy or destabilize Wakanda—a functioning African state—with the now faddish Afropessimistic declaration of “burning it all down.”  His ego was such that he wanted to bar, through destruction of the special vibranium affected plant, the possibility of future Black Panthers emerging. Bear in mind also that T’Challa was not against fighting/violence. His point is that it should be used only when necessary, and he was doing so always on behalf of justice and a people in whose respect rested his legitimacy.  Killmonger didn’t care about respect from the people.  He also didn’t have respect for them. His “legitimacy” was like, say, Donald Trump’s: achieved purely from the strict adherence to the imperfect rules, though unlike Trump he actually defeated his opponent in fair combat. The people revolted against him not because he won the ritualistic battle but because his tyrannical rule defied the virtues the battle was to manifest. They fought against him in fidelity to the spirit of the rules.

(5) IMPRESSIVE. Rich Lynch actually came up with video of the Octavia Butler clue from Friday’s episode of game show Jeopardy! Click here: Jeopardy! Butler clue

(6) WHO AGAINST GUNS. Comics Beat updates readers: “Who Against Guns raises $16,000”.

We’ve been reporting on the fan-led effort known as Who Against Guns for several weeks now. Today, just over two weeks after the start of the campaign which launched February 26, organizers have announced that they’ve raised $16,000 for these gun violence prevention charities:  Community Justice Reform CoalitionMarch For Our Lives, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Moms Demand Action.

(7) TOLKIEN’S DOG STORY. Middle-Earth Reflections takes up J.R.R. Tolkien’s Roverandom.

Originally Roverandom was conceived in 1925 when the Tolkiens — Ronald and Edith with their sons John, Michael and Christopher — went on a family holiday to Filey, Yorkshire. They rented a cottage with the view of the sea and the beach to spend a big part of September there. At that time the Tolkiens’ second boy Michael, who was about five years old, had a small, black-and-white toy dog. The boy  was extremely fond of it to the extent that he never parted with it. It was an unfortunate loss of that beloved toy during a walk on the beach one day and unavailing search for it that led Tolkien to make up a story about the dog’s adventures to explain its disappearance to the saddened boy.

In 1936, when The Hobbit was accepted for publication by Allen & Unwin, Tolkien was asked for more children’s stories, so he sent in Roverandom together with  Mr Bliss and Farmer Giles of Ham. However, Roverandom was not published then: in 1937 The Hobbit came out, proved a tremendous success and the publishers demanded more Hobbit stories from the author. It was only in 1998 that Rover’s tale finally saw the light of day.

Just like some other stories written by Tolkien, Roverandom began as something told to the amusement (or, in this case, consolation was the initial motive) of his own family. But as the story began to grow, it inevitably drew in more aspects of Tolkien’s background and interests. From a simple children’s story it established connections with Tolkien’s own Legendarium, Norse mythology, Arthurian legends, folklore, history and real events which took place at the time when the story was being created and written down.

(8) SPOILER WARNING. In Zhaoyun’s “Microreview [TV series]: The Frankenstein Chronicles” for Nerds of a Feather, the spoiler isn’t what you think.

It’s one of the longest-running gags in show business: cast Sean Bean in your TV series and there is an extremely high chance his character will perish by the end of season one. If in a movie, he’ll probably die heroically, indeed motivationally, spurring the surviving heroes on to greater successes; in TV series, his specter looms over the remainder of the show, meaning everything that happens from then on occurs in the shadow of his sacrifice (since he is usually innocent of any wrongdoing but is executed/killed anyway). So when I finally watched The Frankenstein Chronicles, I knew to expect a gruesome end for Bean’s “John Marlott” at the end of season one. I don’t even feel the need to issue a spoiler alert so far, because Sean Bean’s near-inevitable death early in projects is a truth universally acknowledged.

(9) TENTH ANNIVERSARY. Kasma editor Alex Korovessis offers 10 Years of SF as a free download:

10 Years of SF! is an anthology featuring some of the best stories I have had the privilege to publish over the past 10 years, since Kasma’s inception in 2009. It is available freely by clicking the appropriate button below.

(10) THE MORE THINGS CHANGE. A fan lamented:

In the few months I have been an active member of fandom, I have found knit into its fabric a conglomeration of ego, hate, progressiveness, overbearing acts, belligerence, perversities, totalitarianism, crack-pot ideas and every good and bad thing that goes to make up the outside world.

Today on Facebook? No, these are the words of Clarence “Sully” Roberds, an Illinois fan writing in November of 1939. Think about that the next time you read a complaint that fandom isn’t what it used to be.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian passes along Drabble’s stfnal St. Paddy’s joke.
  • And Bizarro’s tribute to the Sasquatch.

(12) 2019 HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS. Coffee break’s over – back to work!

Click to see Renay’s 2019 Hugo Sheet (at Google Docs).

(13) OFTEN IMITATED. Inverse celebrated the release of Forbidden Planet on March 15 in “62 Years Ago Today, the Template for All Sci-Fi Movies Was Born”.

Nearly every science fiction story you know and love today owes it all to one movie that came out in 1956, a film that set the standard for how sci-fi stories work for the modern audience. Franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek might have defined sci-fi for generations, but Fred McLeod Wilcox’s Forbidden Planet basically created sci-fi as we know it.

There’s even an opening scrawl with yellow text more than 20 years before the first Star Wars movie.

(14) BALLS. “Ikea Is Developing The Meatball Of The Future” – no, it’s not made from ground-up Billy bookcases.

Ikea is the largest furniture retailer in the world. But did you know that it’s also likely the largest meatball retailer in the world? Across its 340 stores worldwide, Ikea feeds people 2 million meatballs each day. Which is why Ikea’s high-concept Space10 lab is experimenting with a meatball of the future–one that uses zero actual meat. They call it the Neatball.

…The Space10 team is careful to clarify that none of these items are coming to market, but it’s interesting to see Ikea’s thought process on the future of food all the same. After all, Ikea has already given us a veggie version of its famous meatballs that people seem to like. And Space10 released meatball concepts not long ago that have since gone from art project to fully cooked concept here–because that’s what Space10 does: It prototypes the future for Ikea.

(15) AMAZON VS. CONSERVATIVES. Vox Day finds that Amazon’s alleged massacre of conservative authors’ book reviews is highly exaggerated [Internet Archive].

Of course, the mere fact that there is a closed alliance of authors with personal relationships who pay very close attention to reviews may explain at least a reasonable percentage of these deletions, given the terms of service. I checked out my reviews and it looks like ten or fewer reviews were deleted across all my various book listings. Not only that, but several of the reviews were one-star fake reviews, so two of my average ratings actually increased. This made me suspect that the deleted reviews were likely in open violation of Amazon’s terms of service, which Amanda Green’s investigation appears to have generally confirmed.

He also says in a comment:

Don’t get Clintonian. It’s not tricky at all. Are they family? Are they close friends? Did they work on your book?

If so, then don’t review their books.

That being said, I think Amazon would be well advised to limit reviews to Verified Purchases in addition to whatever conflict-of-interest limitations they see fitting.

Let’s face it, the world doesn’t need any more reviews on the lines of “I am so-and-so’s mother and I can’t believe he wrote a whole book! It’s really good!”

(16) COMICS RANT. The comics artist Colleen Doran went on an epic Twitter rant about “diversity hires.”

It implies things about race, it implies things about sex, it implies things about sexuality. And because I can’t read your mind, I don’t really know what “diversity hire” means to you. But I know what it means to me. So tread that ground with care.

Start the thread here —

(17) THE FORCE IS WITH THEM. Pacific Standard profiles “The Jedi Faithful”.

Disambiguating real-world practices from the traditions that the Star Wars franchise established is not so much a passing curiosity as one of the central reasons the group of Jedi has assembled here for the weekend. Belief in the Force here on Earth is ultimately simple enough, a matter of faith that requires no greater suspension of disbelief than praying to any other life-force or deity. However, the practical extension of that belief, as demonstrated in the Star Wars canon—namely, that one can use the Force to exert mental influence on the external world—poses a larger problem: The cosmos, absent green screens, doesn’t so easily succumb to the will.

And so, for those following the Gospel of Lucas, life can often seem a battle of approximations. Lightsabers here on Earth aren’t in fact shafts of light, but an alloy of plastic and LEDs. Jedi on Earth have downgraded telekinesis for noetic sciences and a belief that collective thought can influence external change. And, as their possession of DVD box sets, plastic lightsabers, and Star Wars kitsch indicates, they, unlike their fictional counterparts, haven’t quite subscribed to an ascetic’s denial of worldly attachments

(18) MAGIC SCHOOLS. L. Jagi Lamplighter says Superversive SF’s Fantastic Schools and Where to Find Them blog is “just a fun thing a couple of us are doing–covering magic schools and schooling in general. We are open to posts from anyone who writes about Magic Schools. It’s just a labor of love kind of thing. Nothing big. (Or anyone who has an opinion on either magic schools or schools in general.)”

She penned their most recent post: “Which Magic School Is For You: Roke”.

How many of you ever wished you could attend Roke? I bet many readers don’t even know what Roke is.

Once upon a time, in the long-ago dream time of the 1970s and 80s, there were three fantasy series everyone read: Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, C. S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles, and Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea Trilogy. Everyone who read fantasy had read all three, and they were considered equally great.

I remember the day, some years ago now, when I realized that while Narnia and Lord of the Rings had made the grade, Earthsea had been basically forgotten. Many modern fantasy fans had never heard of the books. They didn’t even know that LeGuin had invented one of their favorite concepts: the magic school.

But Ursula Leguin’s magic school in Wizard of Earth Sea was the first time a fantasy writer thought “Gee, we see so many wizards in stories. Who trains them? Where do they go to school?”

And what she gave us was Roke.

(19) MUPPETS. Gwynne Watkins, in the Yahoo Entertainment story “Miss Piggy’s ‘a mess inside’: Frank Oz and puppeteer pals reveal Muppet secrets”, interviews several associates of Jim Henson who are promoting Frank Oz’s HBO documentary Muppet Guys Talking.

If I were thinking about, from a viewer’s perspective, which Muppet changed the most over time, I would say Miss Piggy

Oz: Yeah, probably so. But Piggy is a different situation. I’ve said this before: Her beginnings were in the women’s liberation movement, just by accident. And I don’t consciously change things, but the characters don’t interact with the world — I interact with my world. And I don’t interact in such a way where I say, “Oh, I’ve got to put that in my character.” I think because of the zeitgeist, it just kind of happens without me knowing it. But Piggy’s a little different. Piggy is such a mess inside, that I think as the years go on, she gets more and more emotional baggage. And that’s mainly why she changes. She keeps being rejected by the frog. She keeps trying and cannot do the things that she wants to, like tell jokes or dance. So I think she has this emotional baggage that hurts her more and more and more, and as a result she covers more and more and more. That’s what I think. 

[Thanks to JJ, Mark Hepworth, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, rcade, Cat Eldridge, David Doering, Carl Slaughter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ken Richards.]

Pixel Scroll 3/12/18 Dammit, Jim, I’m A Filer, Not A Pixel-Scroller!

(1) MOOMIN FAN.  She remembers the Moomin scape her father made for her: “My family and other Moomins: Rhianna Pratchett on her father’s love for Tove Jansson” in The Guardian.

I don’t remember the precise moment I was introduced to the Moomins. They were always just there; a cosy, comforting and slightly weird presence in my childhood that has stayed with me. My father called Tove Jansson “one of the greatest children’s writers there has ever been”, and credited her writing as one of the reasons he became an author.

My father’s family were the kind of postwar, no-nonsense British people who didn’t really do hugs or talk about their feelings. Instead, they showed their love by building things: toys, puzzles, go-carts, treehouses. It was a tradition that my father, still very much the awkward hugger himself, would continue during my childhood. He built me a market stall, a beehive (complete with toy bees), a stove and, most memorably, Moominvalley.

It was crafted out of wood and papier-mache – a staple of all art projects in the 70s and 80s. It had a forest and a river and even a dark cave. He also made the Moominhouse and crafted all the Moomin characters out of clay; then painted and varnished them. Many years later we would turn over an entire attic full of junk trying to find a box that I thought might contain a solitary hand-made Moomin. He’s still out there somewhere.

(2) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. Declan Finn says something’s missing from Amazon. It’s the reviews he’s written about people’s books, and some of the reviews others have written about his books. Why? He calls it “Amazon’s War on Users”.

Has Amazon declared war on authors?

It would seem so at first pass. Last week, I had 315 reviews spread out over my various and sundry projects. Honor at Stake, for example, had 63, 68 reviews.

Today, I only have 238 reviews over all of them. Honor at Stake in particular having only 45 now. When I ask Amazon via email, they know nothing. Could I be more specific? It’s literally EVERY BOOK. They need a road map?

The mystery depends when I looked at reviews that I myself have written. They’re all gone. Poof. Vanished.

What the Hell?

And I’m not the only one. In fact, one writer’s group I’m a part of has had a lot of the same problem.

The Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance.

Funny that. And the one person outside of CLFA who had also had problems is friends with three of us.

However, I’m not about to declare enemy action just yet. For that, I need your help, that of the average reader. Because there is a problem. We can’t ask people outside the group, that we don’t know, if they have the same problem. Why?  Because if we don’t know them, it’s hard to ask. And if we know them, it can be construed as guilt by association.

Camestros Felapton joined the investigation. The conspiracy-minded won’t find his thoughts nearly as pleasing as Finn’s: “Amazon Purging Reviews Again”.

(3) FEAST FOR THE EYES. A cover reveal for Latchkey by Nicole Kornher-Stace, sequel to Archivist Wasp. Art by Jacquelin de Leon.

(4) THE MONEY KEEPS ROLLING IN. BBC reports — “Black Panther film: ‘Game-changing’ movie takes $1bn”.

Marvel’s superhero film Black Panther has taken more than a billion US dollars (£794m) at cinemas worldwide.

It is the fifth movie based in Disney’s Marvel Universe to hit the milestone.

(5) WAKANDA. A group hopes to run Wakanda Con in Chicago, IL this summer. Right now they’re building a list of interested fans.

WAKANDA CON is a fan-driven, one-day celebration of Afro-Futurism, Tech, and Black superheroes in film, television, and comic books, and of course, Black Panther. Our event will be held in Chicago, IL in Summer 2018. Join fellow citizens of Wakanda for discussion, education, networking, and festivities.

Marvel’s Black Panther has ushered in a new wave of thought about issues surrounding the African Diaspora and a new future for Black people around the world. The image of an African country with advanced technology and equality has inspired some of the world’s greatest thinkers and all of Black Twitter to create, think, and respond. WAKANDA CON is chance to take the conversation about Black Panther offline and into the real world.

(6) BRING KLEENEX. John Scalzi gives people lots of reasons to want to see A Wrinkle in Time.

(And, you may ask, what do I think about the film’s multicultural and feminine viewpoint and aesthetic? I think it works very well, and it’s a reminder that things that are not designed specifically for one in mind may still speak significantly and specifically to one, if one is open to it. I would not have imagined A Wrinkle in Time the way DuVernay has — I seriously doubt I could have imagined it this way — and yet there I was crying my eyes out all the same. I do not need the world to be imagined as I would have imagined it. I want the world and the things in it to exceed my imagination, to show me things I cannot make for myself but can take into myself, hold precious, and make my imagination that much wider from that point forward. As I noted before, this movie was not, I think, made for me, and still here I am, loving it as much as I do.)

(7) HEARTFELT STORY. Charles Payseur is just as persuasive in getting people to read his short fiction reviews: “Quick Sips – GigaNotoSaurus March 2018”

GigaNotoSaurus offers up a beautiful short story for March that might have been a bit more appropriate for February and Valentine’s Day because it is adorable and wonderful and sweet and just good! I’m a sucker for romance, and so the focus of this story for me is refreshing, especially because it refuses to tread the same tired paths of angst and powerlessness that seem to dominate so many romantic story lines. It’s not without darkness or sadness, but it’s a story to me about the triumph of love and humans over despair, loss, and death. To the review!

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 12, 1971Andromeda Strain was first released theatrically.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock studied the canine cosmology in Pooch Cafe.

(10) COMEDIAN SECTION. Today’s relevant joke, from the just-late Ken Dodd: “Ken Dodd: 17 of his funniest one-liners”.

So it turns out that if you bang two halves of a horse together, it doesn’t make the sound of a coconut.

(Other 16 are NSF just about everything….)

(11) BEYOND THE FAIL FRONTIER. ScreenRant delights in finding these contradictions: “Star Trek: 17 Memes That Prove The Show Makes No Sense”. They begin with an infographic —

(12) INCLUSIVE OR NOT? Dave Huber, in The College Fix story, “MIT Librarian:  Tech Posters Plastered With Star Trek Posters, Other Geeky Stuff Is Non-Inclusive to Women,” says that MIT head librarian Chris Bourg has said that students should “replace Star Trek posters with travel posters…and generally just avoid geek references and inside nerd jokes” if they want to be inclusive for women.

Since the many incarnations of “Star Trek” are considered some of the most diverse shows in the history of television, not to mention that about half those attending Star Trek conventions are female, The College Fix contacted Bourg about this particular reference.

She responded by pointing out her advice “comes directly from the research,” and provided a link to the study: “Ambient Belonging: How Stereotypical Cues Impact Gender Participation in Computer Science.”

The 2009 study examined whether “stereotypical objects” like Star Trek posters “signal a masculinity that precludes women from ever developing an interest in computer science.” Or, as the authors dub it, how the “ambient belonging” of women is affected by tech-geek ware.

While conceding that the tech-geek “masculinity” in question may not refer to a “traditional definition” (think “strength, assertiveness, and sexual prowess”) the authors argue the “stereotypicality” of the group still has a “profound” effect on the ability to recruit people who do not see themselves as fitting that stereotype.

(13) PROPHET OF DOOM? “Tim Berners-Lee says net has ‘heaps of problems'”. [[Voice only]]

The inventor of the World Wide Web says the internet as we know it is “under threat” and faces “heaps” of problems.

Monday 12 March marks 29 years since Sir Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web. This year is expected to be the first time that more than half of the world’s population will have internet access.

Sir Tim spoke to the BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones about the challenges faced.

(14) ELON MUSK. More blue-skying? “Elon Musk: Mars ship test flights ‘next year'”.

A Mars colony, he said, would reduce the chance of an extended new Dark Ages if a nuclear conflict was to wipe out life on Earth.

But, aware of his reputation, he added: “Sometimes my timelines are a little… y’know.”

But enough about reality.

Elon Musk is unquestionably the most interesting businessman in Silicon Valley – arguably the world – thanks to his almost single-handed reignition of the space race.

(15) MONITORING TV. Rich Lynch says tonight’s “Literary L.A.” Category on Jeopardy! had a Bradbury clue. It even showed a photo of him.

The contestant got it right.

(16) TENT TECH. It’s not your grandfather’s yurt — “To Fight Pollution, He’s Reinventing The Mongolian Tent”.

In Gamsukh’s office those possibilities seem endless. Books, papers and sketches cover a desk and table. Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, Gamsukh, whose dark hair has a slight orange tint, comes off as artistic. But the sketches he produces are not dreamy musings. They are technical drawings supported by mathematical calculations. They are solid, like the sturdily built Gamsukh. Many are already being implemented, including a partially completed passive solar heated immobile ger that adds windows, insulation and solar collectors to the traditional model. Passive solar heating design uses windows, walls and floors to collect, store and distribute heat in the winter and reject it in the summer. Designs vary depending on the climate in which they are built, but shade can be used to block the sun in summer without taking away from warmth in winter because the sun is higher in summer.

When it is finished, Gamsukh plans to call it home. He is also testing another modified ger that uses solar power and those underground pipes he tried to dig in winter for heat.

(17) SHORT ORDER ROBOT. “Burger-flipping robot begins first shift” at Cali-Burger in Pasadena, CA. See a video of the robot in action, at the link.

Flippy, a burger-flipping robot, has begun work at a restaurant in Pasadena, Los Angeles.

It is the first of dozens of locations for the system, which is destined to replace human fast-food workers.

The BBC’s North America technology reporter Dave Lee saw it in action.

(18) BUSTED. To go with the recent Pixel on Iceland running out of energy due to Bitcoin generation: “Iceland police arrest suspected Bitcoin server thieves”.

Police in Iceland have arrested 11 people suspected of stealing more than 600 computers that were being used to mine crypto-currencies, reports AP.

The computers were stolen during four raids on data centres around Iceland.

The country is a popular location for data centres because almost 100% of the power generated there comes from renewable sources.

(19) THE OTHER JJ. ScreenRant says this JJ Abrams sketch was cut from Saturday Night Live for time.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Allen, John King Tarpinian, Mark Hepworth, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Rich Lynch, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 1/16/18 You Were Scrolling As A Pixel In A Sci-Fi File When I Met You

(1) VAN GELDER AUCTION BENEFITS PKD AWARD. Norwescon announced that Gordon Van Gelder, administrator for the Philip K. Dick Award, has put 18 sff books up for auction on eBay, including several first editions and signed editions (and some signed first editions), as a benefit for the award’s administrative fees. The Philip K. Dick Award, is presented annually to distinguished science fiction books published for the first time in the United States as a paperback original. The award ceremony is held each year at Norwescon.

(2) SECOND TAKE. Strange Horizons got some pushback about sexism in Adam Roberts’ review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and has now supplemented the original with an edited version —

Editor’s note: This review has been edited to remove sexist commentary about Carrie Fisher. The original version of this review can be read here. For additional background, please see this Twitter thread.

(3) TRUE GRIT. The BBC reports on “Transport Scotland’s fleet of gritters and their gritter tracker”. Contractors Bear Scotland ran competitions to name the various vehicles, and what roads they’re covering can be viewed online.

Thanks to social media, Transport Scotland’s fleet of light-flashing, salt-spraying kings of the road have become a bit of a sensation.

Followers have been glued to their screens following the roads authority’s Gritter Tracker.

They were surprised to find out the vehicles had humorous names like Sir Andy Flurry, Sir Salter Scott and Gritty Gritty Bang Bang….

The force was with the people of Ayrshire during Tuesday’s snow flurries, their roads were being protected by Luke Snowalker.

Along with strong snow-slaying names like the Ice Destroyer, Snow Queen and Ice Buster, more unassuming gritters like Fred, Jack and Frosty have also been out and about keeping the country moving.

Not forgetting Sprinkles, Sparkle and Ready Spready Go.

(4) ANOTHER HORRIFIC LESSON. Chloe N. Clark continues the excellent Horror 101 series with “Surrounded by Others–Anatomy of a Pod Person” at Nerds of a Feather.

As a child, two of my earliest film-related memories are watching the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and watching the John Carpenter version of The Thing. In both, what stuck with child me was the depiction of a monster who not only could be anyone, but also could be someone that you think you know so well: your crewmate, your friend, your lover. This early exposure to these two films led to a longtime obsession with pod people (which the Thing is not technically, but I’m extending my definition here to any monster who can appear in the exact visage of someone you know and trust). As a child, there was a visceral terror to the idea, because the world was one I trusted. As an adult, while I don’t think pod people are likely, they still strike a certain fear because the concept at the heart of pod people’s terror-making is very much real. In this edition of Horror 101, I’ll be diving into the anatomy of a monster (a thing I’ll do occasionally in this series).

(5) ABOUT THAT VENN DIAGRAM. Sarah at Bookworm Blues was caught up in a kerfuffle yesterday, and analyzes the underlying issues in “On Twitter and Representation”.

While most of the comments I received yesterday were displaying the righteous indignation I’m still feeling, there were a handful of others that made their way to me through various means that said something along the lines of, “I just love reading SciFi and Fantasy. I don’t pay attention to the gender of the author.” Or “Does the gender of the author even matter?”

Comments like that bother me about as much as, “I don’t see your disabilities.” Or “I don’t see color.”

As much as I don’t want to be defined by my chronic illness, or my disabilities, they absolutely are part of who I am, and by refusing to see them, you are, in a way, refusing to see me. You’re only seeing pieces of me. Not seeing my disability doesn’t make it go away. Putting me in a box will limit the reaches of my work, rather than expand it.

In another example, women tend to get paid less than men here in the good ol’ US of A, and not seeing the gender roles in that situation, is refusing to see the problem.

Representation matters. It matters for a hell of a lot of reasons. It is important to show young kids everywhere that they can be, do, accomplish whatever they set their minds to. Seeing disabled characters in literature normalizes disabilities in important ways. It provides education to those who might need it. It also gives me someone I can relate to in the books I read, and that right there is absolutely priceless.

This graphic that I posted yesterday doesn’t just have a dearth of female authors on it, but it also lacks any people of color, disabled authors, LGBTQ authors and basically any minority group at all. It’s a list of white male fantasy authors…

and Robin Hobb.

This is important because, I get pretty fed up with women authors putting out work that’s just as good, if not better, than their male counterparts and not getting equal recognition for it. This isn’t a Divide and Conquer thing, it’s a We’re all in it Together thing. Someone’s effort shouldn’t be seen or overlooked based on any of their minority or majority qualifiers. The fact that when asked for a list of fantasy authors the first ones someone gets are white male, says a whole lot. And the truth is, I think this inequality is so ingrained in our culture that it really isn’t even noticed until something like this happens. Maybe we don’t mean for this to happen, but in a way, the fact that this happens without malice or intent makes it just that much more insidious.

Women have basically cleaned the clock in the past few Hugo Awards, and where are they on charts like this? One of the most awarded, celebrated authors in our genre today is N.K. Jemisin, a black female fantasy author, and she deserves recognition for her accomplishments, but where is it in a list like this, and why in the world didn’t her name come up when someone was polling Twitter for fantasy authors? Nnedi Okorafor is getting her book Who Fears Death turned into a television show, and I’ve seen her name, her image, herself routinely cut off from many articles. Namely, when Vice News tweeted about this deal, and the graphic that followed wasn’t of the author who wrote the book, but of George R R Martin, and the book cover….

And today an alternate version is making the rounds –

(6) JACKET. Neil Gaiman’s cover reveal for the U.S. paperback.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 16, 1939 — The comic strip Superman first appeared in newspapers.
  • January 16, 1995 Star Trek: Voyager premiered.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 16, 1948 – John Carpenter celebrated his 70th birthday today – no matter what you may have read. Entertainment Weekly caught the competition’s mistake in listing him as deceased.

Happy birthday John Carpenter! Rotten Tomatoes has some bad news…

The mega-popular film review aggregation site mistakenly declared veteran film director dead Tuesday in a since-deleted tweet.

The 70-year-old horror icon is very much alive, though RT seemed to have a different impression when it honored the Halloween and The Thing director’s birthday…

(9) SEARCHING FOR A SIGN. Further Confusion was held this past weekend in San Jos and they have lost track of a convention icon —

(10) CATAPOSTROPHE. Apparently Kazakhstan is switching from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet, and the result is loaded with apostrophes, so the words look like they came from a bad SF novel. The New York Times has the story: “Kazakhstan Cheers New Alphabet, Except for All Those Apostrophes”.

In his 26 years as Kazakhstan’s first and only president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev has managed to keep a resurgent Russia at bay and navigate the treacherous geopolitical waters around Moscow, Beijing and Washington, keeping on good terms with all three capitals.

The authoritarian leader’s talent for balancing divergent interests, however, suddenly seems to have deserted him over an issue that, at first glance, involves neither great power rivalry nor weighty matters of state: the role of the humble apostrophe in writing down Kazakh words.

The Kazakh language is currently written using a modified version of Cyrillic, a legacy of Soviet rule, but Mr. Nazarbayev announced in May that the Russian alphabet would be dumped in favor of a new script based on the Latin alphabet. This, he said, “is not only the fulfillment of the dreams of our ancestors, but also the way to the future for younger generations.”

…The modified Latin alphabet put forward by Mr. Nazarbayev uses apostrophes to elongate or modify the sounds of certain letters.

For example, the letter “I” with an apostrophe designates roughly the same sound as the “I” in Fiji, while “I” on its own sounds like the vowel in fig. The letter “S” with an apostrophe indicates “sh” and C’ is pronounced “ch.” Under this new system, the Kazakh word for cherry will be written as s’i’i’e, and pronounced she-ee-ye.

(11) ON TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Rich Lynch says the game show Jeopardy! included an Asimov clue in the first round of tonight’s episode, mentioning the Hugo Award. The returning champ got it right!

(12) WHERE’S THE BEEF? Astronaut John Young, who recently died, once got in trouble for smuggling a corned beef sandwich on a space mission.

Gemini 3 had several objectives, from testing the effect of zero gravity on sea urchin eggs to testing orbital maneuvers in a manned spacecraft, which would aid the future moon landing. But another imperative was to test new space foods. Grissom and Young were sent up with dehydrated packets that they were meant to reconstitute with a water gun.

According to Young’s biography, “A couple of congressmen became upset, thinking that, by smuggling in the sandwich and eating part of it, Gus and I had ignored the actual space food that we were up there to evaluate, costing the country millions of dollars.” The House Appropriations Committee convened to mull over the sandwich incident, and one representative even harangued a NASA administrator, calling the sandwich stunt “just a little bit disgusting.”

Young was given a reprimand, the first ever for a member of a NASA space flight. He eventually regretted smuggling the sandwich into space, especially as the story came up over and over. But Grissom remembered it as “one of the highlights of the flight.” Grissom himself was in hot water for nicknaming Gemini 3’s spacecraft Molly Brown after the musical “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” (Grissom’s first space flight ended with his capsule sinking into the ocean after re-entry.) Grissom forced irritated NASA administrators to back down after he suggested the name “Titanic” as an alternative.

(13) STARGAZING. From the BBC, “Hubble scores unique close-up view of distant galaxy”.

The Hubble telescope has bagged an unprecedented close-up view of one of the Universe’s oldest known galaxies.

Astronomers were lucky when the orbiting observatory captured the image of a galaxy that existed just 500 million years after the Big Bang.

The image was stretched and amplified by the natural phenomenon of gravitational lensing, unlocking unprecedented detail.

Such objects usually appear as tiny red spots to powerful telescopes.

(14) RATS ACQUITTED! New simulations show “Black Death ‘spread by humans not rats'”.

“We have good mortality data from outbreaks in nine cities in Europe,” Prof Nils Stenseth, from the University of Oslo, told BBC News.

“So we could construct models of the disease dynamics [there].”

He and his colleagues then simulated disease outbreaks in each of these cities, creating three models where the disease was spread by:

  • rats
  • airborne transmission
  • fleas and lice that live on humans and their clothes

In seven out of the nine cities studied, the “human parasite model” was a much better match for the pattern of the outbreak.

(15) RARE CASES. BBC considers “The mystery of why some people become sudden geniuses”. Chip Hitchcock notes, “Readers of old-time SF may recall H. L. Gold’s ‘The Man with English.’”

But until recently, most sensible people agreed on one thing: creativity begins in the pink, wobbly mass inside our skulls. It surely goes without saying that striking the brain, impaling it, electrocuting it, shooting it, slicing bits out of it or depriving it of oxygen would lead to the swift death of any great visions possessed by its owner.

As it happens, sometimes the opposite is true.

After the accident, Muybridge eventually recovered enough to sail to England. There his creativity really took hold. He abandoned bookselling and became a photographer, one of the most famous in the world. He was also a prolific inventor. Before the accident, he hadn’t filed a single patent. In the following two decades, he applied for at least 10.

In 1877 he took a bet that allowed him to combine invention and photography. Legend has it that his friend, a wealthy railroad tycoon called Leland Stanford, was convinced that horses could fly. Or, more accurately, he was convinced that when they run, all their legs leave the ground at the same time. Muybridge said they didn’t.

To prove it he placed 12 cameras along a horse track and installed a tripwire that would set them off automatically as Stanford’s favourite racing horse, Occident, ran. Next he invented the inelegantly named “zoopraxiscope”, a device which allowed him to project several images in quick succession and give the impression of motion. To his amazement, the horse was briefly suspended, mid-gallop. Muybridge had filmed the first movie – and with it proven that yes, horses can fly.

The abrupt turnaround of Muybridge’s life, from ordinary bookseller to creative genius, has prompted speculation that it was a direct result of his accident. It’s possible that he had “sudden savant syndrome”, in which exceptional abilities emerge after a brain injury or disease. It’s extremely rare, with just 25 verified cases on the planet

(16) KEVIN SMITH’S RATIONALE. Sebastian Paris, in “‘Star Wars’: Kevin Smith Weighs In On The Backlash Against ‘The Last Jedi’” on Heroic Hollywood, says that Smith, in his Fatman on Batman podcast, says that one reason many fans were disappointed with The Last Jedi was that they expected Luke Skywalker to be like Obi-Wan Kenobi and were disappointed when he turned out to be someone else.

(17) 2017 IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. Rich Lynch’s 19th issue of My Back Pages [PDF file] is now online at the eFanzines.com website:

Issue #19 absolutely deplores the undearly departed 2017 as one terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year, and has essays involving historic mansions, convincing re-enactors, subway cars, Broadway shows, urban renewal, pub food, deadly duels, famous composers, iconic catchphrases, tablet computers, 1930s comic books, noir-ish buildings, foreboding edifices, unpaid interns, jams & singalongs, storm warnings, ancient palace grounds, Buddhist temples, worrisome fortunes, sushi adventures, retirement plans, and lots of Morris Dancers.

(18) MUNDANE COMMERCIALS, WHAT ELSE? Should you run out of things to watch, there’s always this collection of Dos Equis “The Most Interesting Man In the World” ads – at least 8 minutes worth.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Richard Williams–Animating Movement is a piece on Vimeo by the Royal Ocean Film Society that describes the techniques of the great Canadian animator whose best known work is the Pink Panther and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, IanP, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Greg Hullender, Martin Morse Wooster, Rich Lynch, ULTRAGOTHA, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 12/8/17 Is There A Hologram On My Shuttlecraft That Says ‘Dead Klingon Storage’?

(1) CHECK-IN. The 1954 Worldcon chair Les Cole and Esther Cole, who live in the vicinity of the Ventura, CA fires answered Rich Lynch’s query about how they are doing —

Thanks for asking. Les and I and doggies are OK. Fire went passed us. The air is heavy, so we stay indoors. Much of southern California is rough.

(2) HERBERT MAY BE HONORED BY HOMETOWN. Metro Parks Tacoma Public Information Manager Michael Thompson says a recommendation to name a local peninsula “Dune Peninsula at Point Defiance Park” and its loop trail “Frank Herbert Trail” probably will go to the Park Board for a vote in January. The proposal has been working its way through the system for some time. The News Tribune has an update: “‘Dune’ author Frank Herbert finally set to get his due in his hometown of Tacoma”:

While the Metro Parks Board will have the final say on the matter — and it’s the elected body’s prerogative to deviate or tweak — it’s clear that the public has spoken, and Metro Parks’ staff has attempted to listen. During a public outreach effort earlier this year, more than 500 possible names were submitted via an online survey. The majority of responses referenced Herbert or “Dune.”

“This name provides a simple, evocative identifier that highlights the uniqueness of the peninsula remediation and new park features,” according to the staff recommendation. “On a literary level, it honors the name of the book series by Frank Herbert, a famous Tacoma author, which was inspired by the environmental history of Tacoma’s Asarco copper smelter site, directly adjacent to the peninsula.”

Last month, Thompson helped a local radio reporter tour the peninsula with park commissioner Erik Hanberg. “‘Dune’ And The City Of Destiny: How Tacoma Inspired One Of The World’s Most Acclaimed Sci-Fi Authors”.

If you go to the base of Point Defiance in Tacoma and look east, you’ll see a finger of earth jutting into Puget Sound.

It formed as toxic slag spilled from a copper smelter during the city’s industrial heyday.

For years, it was a foreboding sliver of black, glassy material. Today, workers and machines roam the peninsula as they transform it into a grassy park with Puget Sound views.

Tacoma Metro Parks Commissioner Erik Hanberg has a space-age term for what’s going on there. He calls it “terraforming.”

(3) BACK TO THE STACK. Doris V. Sutherland does a good job framing the issues in “Rocket Stack Rumpus: Critics, Authors, and Non-Binary Science Fiction” accompanied by light analysis. Sutherland concludes:

Greg Hullender responded by writing an apology-cum-rebuttal in collaboration with Eric Wong and altering the offensive reviews. Despite this, he has paid a high price for his faux pas. Locus decided that he was unfit to recommend stories to readers and removed him from its reading list jury, making the following announcement on Twitter.

Thank you to those who brought their concerns about RSR to our attention. Greg Hullender will not be involved in the Locus Recommended Reading List. We support our wonderfully complex and diverse SF community, and hope for continued positive dialogue on these issues.

The reference to positive dialogue seems out-of-place. The Rocket Stack Rumpus marks a breakdown in communications all around, from a reviewer missing the point of the stories he was covering, to authors misreading his reviews in turn. Meanwhile, the issue of Rocket Stack Rank’s provincial approach to stories set against non-Western cultural backdrops–as flagged up by Rose Lemberg in this Twitter thread–ended up being lost alongside Hullender’s misunderstanding of non-binary SF, which is perhaps a secondary issue.

There may well be positive dialogue to come out of the controversy, but at the present moment, there is little of it to be seen.

(4) MEAT AND PROPER. Autocorrect is being blamed rather than legislators falling down on the job: ” Typo in Bill C-45 legalizes cannibalism instead of cannabis”.

Canada is one step closer to the accidental legalization of cannibalism after the House of Commons passed a typo-ridden Bill C-45, formerly known as The Cannabis Act.

“I think no one wanted to be the one to point out the error,” MP Sara Anderson said. “We all thought someone else would do it, and then they called the vote, and here we are, all voting to legalize cannibalism.”

(5) RADICAL CHANGE. If this catches on, Twitter will get awfully quiet.

(6) ANDERS STORY COLLECTION. At Locus Online, “Rachel Swirsky reviews Six Months, Three Days, Five Others by Charlie Jane Anders”.

Anders’s unique humor provides a uniting theme. Only some of the stories are explicitly comic, but all benefit from her linguistic wit and her quirky but generous characterization. Her stories seem to say with affection, “People. We’re weird. What can you do?” She’s particu­larly good at tailoring prose to her characters, revealing their lives through their diction. Char­acters go to “one of those mom-and-pop Portu­guese places” and “the kinda-sorta gay bar.”

(7) MCDUFFIE AWARD OPEN. The 4th Annual Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics is taking entries until December 31.

Please attach a link or a 15mb .PDF file of the work to be considered. When submitting work, we strongly suggest sending the first issue of a series. If submitting anything other than the first issue, a one-page synopsis of what came before must accompany the submission. Also, we suggest sending the first 25-30 pages or first chapter of a graphic novel. We cannot guarantee anything more will be considered. If one is available, please also attach a .JPG photo of the entrant to the email. Please do not include any further attachments.

The award’s three new selection committee members are Jennifer de Guzman, Jamal Igle and Mikki Kendall, who join Mark D. Bright, Joan Hilty, Heidi MacDonald, Kevin Rubio, Gail Simone, and Will J. Watkins.

(8) ELIGIBILITY POSTS. Cat Rambo is doing her annual award eligibility post round-up, this year including editors, publishers, and magazines: “2017 Award-Eligible Work Blog Posts & Roundups for F&SF”. Right now there are about 20 entries on the list. She will be doing daily updates.

(9) CLASS TOMORROW. Cat Rambo says there is still space, including a couple of free slots, in the December 9 class “Speculative Poetry with Rachel Swirsky”.

Next classes are Saturday, December 9 – 9:30-11:30 AM or Wednesday, February 7, 2018, 4-6 PM. (Each class is a separate session.)

Poetry requires intense linguistic control. Every word matters. Whether you’re a poet who wants to create fantastical verses, or a prose writer who wants to learn the finely tuned narrative power that poetry can teach, you’ll find something in this class.

(10) WRITER’S LIFE. A short interview with Ursula K. Le Guin at Shelf Awareness:

Who do you write your blog for? Do you ever read the comments, and if so, what do you learn from them, if anything?

I write them for anybody who wants to read them. (Writers live in hope.)

Yes, sure, I read all the comments. They’re mostly good-natured, and some are thoughtful and enlightening.

You say that dystopian literature is yang-driven, and its opposite–utopian literature–is also yang-driven. Is there a literature that presents a realistically complex vision of a world in balance? Or is that just fantasy?

Of course it’s just fantasy. That’s why I write fantasy…

(11) NOBODY LIKES BEING SLAPPED. Cat Rambo, talking about writers and audiences: “Nattering Social Justice Cook: This Is Not A Review”.

So why did this book hit me so hard in an unhappy place? Because it was so smart and funny and beautifully written and involved connected stories about a favorite city and magic, which are three of my favorite things. And because it had a chapter that was one of the best short stories about addiction that I’ve read, and that left me thinking about it in a way that will probably shape at least one future story.

And yet. And yet. And yet. Women were either powerful and unfuckable for one reason or another or else fell into the category marked “women the protagonist sleeps with”, who usually didn’t even get a name. Moments of homophobic rape humor, marked by a repeated insistence on the sanctity of the hero’s anus, and a scene in which he embraces being thought gay in order to save himself from a terrible fate, ha ha, isn’t that amusing. And I’m like…jesus, there is so much to love about this book but it’s like the author reaches out and slaps me away once a chapter or so.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 8, 1991 Hook premieres in Hollywood.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 8, 1950 – Rick Baker, the Monster Maker

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian saw that First Contact isn’t going too well in Close To Home.

(15) END OF THE MAZE. Maze Runner: The Death Cure comes to theaters January 26.

In the epic finale to the Maze Runner saga, Thomas leads his group of escaped Gladers on their final and most dangerous mission yet. To save their friends, they must break into the legendary Last City, a WCKD-controlled labyrinth that may turn out to be the deadliest maze of all. Anyone who makes it out alive will get answers to the questions the Gladers have been asking since they first arrived in the maze.

 

(16) CONTRARIAN. Go figure. While Patreon was in flames yesterday, Jon Del Arroz climbed aboard — “Jon Del Arroz Patreon Launch!”.

(17) EWW. It’s admittedly a mixed message when I say “Don’t look!” then put in a link anyway — “Here’s What It Looks Like When You Fry Your Eye In An Eclipse”.

“We were very surprised at how precisely concordant the imaged damage was with the crescent shape of the eclipse itself,” noted Dr. Avnish Deobhakta, a retina surgeon at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai in New York, in an email to NPR.

He says this was the most severely injured patient they saw after the eclipse. All in all, 22 people came to their urgent care clinic with concerns about possible eclipse-related damage, and most of them complained of blurred vision. Of those, only three showed some degree of abnormality in the retina. Two of them had only mild changes, however, and their symptoms have gone away.

The young woman described in this case report, at last check, still has not recovered normal vision.

(18) SUPPORTING SPACE EXPLORATION. Bill Nye says The Planetary Society’s latest collaboration with the Chop Shop store is mission posters for kids, like this one:

(19) TENTACLE TIME. In the garden: “‘Underwater city’ reveals mysterious octopus world”.

Once thought of as solitary creatures, scientists discover ‘underwater city’ full of octopuses living side by side

A couple of assumptions are often made about octopuses. First, that they are smart. There is truth in that: octopus behaviour such as tool use, predation techniques and puzzle-solving suggest a higher level of intelligence than other invertebrates. Everyone has watched an octopus unscrewing a jar.

Second, they have a reputation for being solitary. So solitary in fact that an official collective noun for octopuses doesn’t even exist (though ‘tangle’ has been suggested).

This may have to change, however. Over the last decade, scientists have discovered that octopuses aren’t always lone beasts. In fact, octopuses engage in rich, fascinating and unusual behaviours when they interact with each other.

(20) PATREON SURVIVOR, IF POSSIBLE. Cat Rambo is weathering the storm by asking readers how to add more value to her Patreon campaign (and also whether or not to bail from it): https://www.patreon.com/catrambo

Cat She says, “I’ve lost about 15% of my income from there so far, but I’m a very minor player. however if there is something the F&SF is not seeing from me but desperately yearns for, now’s the time to weigh in: “Patreon Changes”.

(21) FRONT PAGE NEWS. I have added to the File 770 sidebar a link to John Hertz’ review of The Glass Bead Game (Hesse), which has found a permanent online home.

(22) KRYPTON. SyFy has put out a teaser trailer for its series about Superman’s homeworld. ScienceFiction.com sums it up:

The series is set two generations before the destruction of the Man of Steel’s home planet. ‘Krypton’ follows Superman’s grandfather (Cameron Cuffe), whose House of El was ostracized and shamed, as he fights to redeem his family’s honor and save his world from chaos. The Seg-El name is both a nod to Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel and a reference to John Byrne’s 1980s miniseries, ‘The World of Krypton.’ Cameron Cuffe is set to play Seg-El alongside with Georgina Campbell as Lyta Zod.

 

(23) THE DARK SIDE. Charles Payseur turns his attention to dark fantasy and horror in “Quick Sips – The Dark #31”.

December brings a pair of stories to The Dark Magazine that focus sharply on observation and theater. In both, women drawn into roles where they are closely watched by men, and in both these experiences are further framed in terms of a sort of voyeurism. In one, a woman is filed, in the other, a woman is part of a play. Both feature stages and bring the reader in as spectators and in some ways as participants. We are the eyes that act as camera and as audience.

(24) BLOW BY BLOW. Sci-Fi Design has a gallery of “Comic Book Covers Recreated Using Balloons”.

Comic book cover art is awesome. They use a variety of styles, but have you ever seen comic book covers that are made from balloons? These awesome balloon sculptures as comic book covers were created by Phileas Flash. They take days to make and the pieces themselves fit into a 10 foot by 10-foot space. Then photoshop is used to add the letters which are also balloons. I love all of the detail that he gets with this unusual medium.

(25) POP CULTURE SUMMIT. Rolling Stone took notes: “Alice Cooper on His Dinner With David Bowie and Ray Bradbury”.

After Cooper’s initial meeting with Bowie in the late Sixties, they later forged a friendship. Once, they even had dinner together with Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury. “It was really interesting, because these guys were in outer space somewhere,” he says. “They were talking about quantum physics, and I’m going, ‘So … what kind of car are you driving?'” Cooper laughs.

(26) CAMERON PROJECT. Alita: Battle Angel Official Trailer.

From filmmakers James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez. Alita Battle Angel is in theaters July 20, 2018. Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Keean Johnson.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Cat Rambo, Greg Hullender, David K.M. Klaus, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Rich Lynch, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Darren Garrison.]