SPFBO 2018 Winner

By Dann: The 2018 Self Published Fantasy Blog-Off has concluded. After the dust settled, Orconomics: A Satire, by J. Zachary Pike, was proclaimed the SPFBO champion with an average score of 8.65. Four of the ten reviewers also gave it their highest rating.

Orconomics was first published in 2014. It is the first book in The Dark Profit Saga trilogy. The final entry in the series, Dragonfired, should be issued in 2019.

Retweeting this announcement from Mark Lawrence gets you in the running for a signed copy of the book.

SPFBO began with a 300-book longlist, and every finalist was the top pick out of 30 reviewed by the participating bloggers.

Past winners include:

This year’s SPFBO was particularly competitive as four of the finalists ended up with average ratings of 8.00 or better. In past years, only the winner achieved that mark.

Ed McDonald Called Victim of False #MeToo Charges

Last weekend’s SPFBO FB group announcement that a reviewer accused of harassing behavior had been dropped attracted comments raising a similar issue about Ed McDonald (not mentioned in the File 770 story). Today several bloggers issued public statements saying they now are convinced the charges against McDonald were fabricated — including two who did much to publicize them.

The Fantasy Book Critic blog today defended McDonald: “Recent Me Too Allegations & Ed McDonald”.

Fantasy Book Critic has now seen irrefutable evidence that the allegations against Ed McDonald have been falsified. 

We are now aware that Ed McDonald has been targeted for online harassment and abuse, and there is also irrefutable evidence of this. The evidence proves beyond all doubt that one or two individuals have utilized multiple social accounts with the express purpose of spreading malicious rhetoric against Ed McDonald, and making it appear that ‘reports’ are coming from numerous sources, where in fact they all come from a single source. This source has never met Ed McDonald….

At The Fantasy Inn a blogger known as Book Wol apologized for spreading the allegations, and also claims to have participated in uncovering their falsity: “BookWol: Regarding Ed McDonald Allegations”.

I am writing to publicly retract any allegations that I have been party to against Ed McDonald, and to offer my apologies to him for any distress this has caused him.
Myself and another member of the community were sent allegations against Ed McDonald by a number of social media accounts. These allegations made their way onto the internet and social media.I have been provided with hard evidence that proves beyond doubt that the allegations were falsified. 

…With this knowledge, for the purpose of the investigation, I was expressly instructed to behave as normal, continue to show public and if necessary, private support for the individual being investigated. I was to allow public conversations about Ed McDonald to continue and to allow and encourage the individual behind the allegations to feel emboldened by public support for them as evidence was gathered….

…Ed McDonald also provided me with this statement that I may share with you:

“The hurt that was done to me, and the attempt to attack my career and persona has been incredibly hard to bear, but I am glad that the truth has finally come to light. Where people have been deceived and lied to, I ask that they be treated with sympathy, and it be acknowledged that given the extreme nature of the levels of deceit, falsehood and misrepresentation that have been plotted carefully over the period of a year on a scale that nobody could possibly have imagined until the evidence came to light, I bear no ill will to those that were deceived in this way. Please be kind to one another and continue to promote a message of positivity.”

Esme at The Weatherwax Report, who had solicited #MeToo stories from readers, explains in ”About Ed McDonald” why she was deceived:

I was led to believe over a long period of time that Ed McDonald had repeatedly preyed on women he perceived as vulnerable, then discarded them and defamed them afterward. I believed this in its entirety because I was told this over, and over, and over again from seemingly different accounts from totally separate people. They had family histories. They had different profile pics. They had different personas and webpages dedicated to them. They were active accounts that truly appeared to be different entities. I was contacted by a third party investigator several days ago and after listening to what they had to say, I decided to cooperate and hand over evidence I had of these allegations. I no longer believe I was contacted by multiple women, and the feeling it gives me is horror.

The person who’s done this has made a mockery of real victims. One of the HARDEST parts about getting justice for those who have been victimized is just how emotionally straining it is for those who have been hurt to come forward and name someone. When BookWol and myself sent out that tweet asking for your stories, we weren’t inundated with dozens of names with just one or two accusers each. We had two names. With many, many people behind each name. It looked so genuine. One was real. The other was not. This does such terrible, terrible damage to the image of people coming forward. The fact that it was so elaborate and over such a long period of time is nothing short of mind-blowing….

Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off founder Mark Lawrence, gave the news a signal boost on Reddit, but also cautioned —

It’s also important not to let the fact that this was a hoax make us deaf to others who speak up about such things in the future.

Esme added there that she will be shuttering her blog for awhile in anticipation of being doxxed, and concerns about her personal safety.

I’ve actually just made my public statement that I’ll be closing down for at least a few months, possibly permanently.

From what I understand Ed’s involvement with this person was only 3 weeks of online talk… and they took years out of their lives building this web of lies around him. I can only imagine wtf they will try and do to Wol and myself for exposing it all.

I’ve made the statement on my blog about having the financial means to take them to court if they try anything – and I will also pay for Wols legal fees if she needs any assistance. It would be very unwise if they tried anything but I’ve been told that someone is sniffing around for our real names. We are both preparing for a doxxing event. I’ve been advised it would be wise to lay low for a while, and so I shall. In a few months, maybe after the summer passes, I’ll decide if it’s “safe” for me to pop back up.

[Thanks to Dann for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 3/25/19 Oh, The File At The Heart Of The Pixel, Wins More Rocketships Than Asimov Or Clarke

(1) NAME THAT FAHRENHEIT TEMP. “Chinese Govt. Burns Call of Cthulhu Supplement” claims Lovecraftian news site Yog-Sothoth. The main content is in the video at the link, but the intro sums up the problem this way:

For many years, various publishers in the Americas and Europe have had their books printed in China as a cost-saving measure (including many in the RPG field). Often the primary downside of this has simply been the time taken for the books to arrive, but it appears there can also be another problem, as the publishers of The Sassoon Files (a Cthulhu-based RPG supplement) have announced that all print copies of their book have been destroyed by the Chinese Government – for unspecified reasons.

The Sassoon Files is a collection of Cthulhu Mythos scenarios and campaign resources set in 1920s Shanghai (for both Call of Cthulhu and Gumshoe systems) and was Kickstarted back in September 2018, raising some $24,000 USD from more than 500 backers. The volume was due to ship from the printers very shortly. As a result of this recent turn of events, the publishers, Sons of the Singularity, have released a video statement. …

(2) SPOILERIFFIC DISSECTION.  Abigail Nussbaum analyzes Jordan Peele’s “Us” at Asking the Wrong Questions.

…If Get Out was an arrow aimed straight for the heart, Us is firing in all directions. This doesn’t make it a bad film—it is, in fact, a rich and heady stew, anchored by a stunning double performance from Lupita Nyong’o. But it does make it messy, in a way that a director who wasn’t riding high off a genre-defining success like Get Out probably wouldn’t be able to get away with. I found myself thinking that Us might have worked better as a miniseries, not only to give its various storylines and characters room to breathe, but so that it could do more work to spin out and elaborate on the various symbols and recurring images it keeps dropping into the narrative.

(3) PACKAGING ISSUE EXPLAINED. Greg Machlin gives readers a good handle on the reasons for the current tension between Hollywood writers and agents. Thread starts here.

And Machlin got a shout-out from N.K. Jemisin:

Machlin calls David Simon’s “But I’m not a lawyer. I’m an agent.” required reading.

…If, on the other hand, you are my brother or sister in the Writers Guild of America — East or West, it matters not when we stand in solitarity — or conversely, if you are a grasping, fuckfailing greedhead with the Association of Talent Agents, then you might wanna hang around for this:

Here is the story of how as a novice to this industry, I was grifted by my agents and how I learned everything I ever needed to know about packaging.  And here is why I am a solid yes-vote on anything my union puts before me that attacks the incredible ethical affront of this paradigm. Packaging is a racket. It’s corrupt. It is without any basis in either integrity or honor. This little narrative will make that clear. And because I still have a reportorial soul and a journalistic God resides in the details, I will name a name wherever I can.

… Why bother to fight for 10 percent of a few dollars more for this story editor or that co-executive producer of some actor or director when to NOT do so means less freight on the operating budgets of the projects that you yourself hope to profit from?  Why serve your clients as representatives with a fiduciary responsibility and get the last possible dollar for them, when you stand to profit by splitting the proceeds of a production not with labor, but with management — the studios who are cutting you in on the back end?  Why put your client’s interest in direct opposition to your own?

No reason at all.

(4) SPFBO DROPS TIVENDALE. Facebook’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off group posted a “PSA: Concerning James Tivendale & his removal”.

This post is to inform everyone about James Tivendale’s removal as a blogger from Fantasy Book Review as well as from the SPFBO judging group. James has been accused by over a dozen people of harassment in several forms. This wasn’t something that was done spur of the moment but thanks to Esme Weatherwax & Book Wol’s efforts, several folks came forward to report James’ behavior (inappropriate touching, intimidation, etc.)”

SPFBO is Mark Lawrence’s contest to pick the top indie fantasy novel from 300 entrants based on ratings given by book bloggers. Fantasy Book Review is one of the 10 blogs, and Tivendale was one of its writers. The PSA continues:

Many of these folks didn’t want their names published as they feared reprisal for their books or careers. These accusations were sent to Lee David Sibbald (the owner of Fantasy Book Review) and special thanks to Ryan Lawler for helping coordinate these efforts. Ultimately Lee took this decision keeping everyone’s safety in mind. Mark Lawrence has also been alerted about this. For the remaining part of this SPFBO edition, Fantasy Book Review will be managed by Adam & Emma. For the future, the decision will be taken by Lee and the rest of the team.

I along with Esme, Wol, Lee & a few others wanted to make this public so everyone knows what happened exactly without any confusion or rumor-mongering. If you have ever been harrased by James in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact Esme or me. I want to reiterate that while James is a gifted blogger and I considered him my friend. His behavior wasn’t excusable and neither were his health issues. We all hope that he gets the help he needs. If you have any queries or wish to clarify anything. I’m more than happy to resolve them.

Tivendale has since shut down his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

(5) SHAZAM! The Hollywood Reporter’s Frank Scheck says the movie benefits from terrific performances: “‘Shazam!’: Film Review”.

The DC Comics universe has definitely taken to heart the criticism that its movies have been too dark and foreboding. The more lighthearted approach worked beautifully with Wonder Woman and was carried to a wackier level with Aquaman. Now comes their latest effort, based on a relatively little-known comic book character, that proves so determinedly ebullient you begin to think they’re pumping laughing gas into the auditorium. The most kid-friendly DC movie so far, Shazam! is thoroughly entertaining. But much like its central character, a 14-year-old boy able to transform himself into a superhero by uttering the titular incantation, often the pic gives the impression of a kid playing in the adult leagues.

(6) HANG UP FOREVER. Charles Stross was quoted in a Washington Post piece by Avi Selk about the increasing problem of spam phone calls: “Spam has taken over our phones. Will we ever want to answer them again?”

The sci-fi author Charlie Stross once posited a future in which spam becomes so good at mimicking human interaction it becomes self-aware –the ‘Spamularity.’  Is that what awaits us if the phones don’t shut up?

(7) ANIME BUZZ. Petréa Mitchell covers 14 shows in her “Spring 2019 SF Anime Preview” at Amazing Stories:

Welcome once again to the oncoming wave that is a new season of anime barrelling in our direction. It’s smaller than usual, owing to a drop in the overall number of new shows and an unusually low percentage of them being sf. (If you’re wondering what hot trends you’re missing out on, they’re baseball shows and comedies about high school students who are bad at studying.) As always, click on the titles to go to the official sites to see promo videos and more!

(8) IMMERSIVE PLAY. It’s called Escape Hunt.

Escape Hunt noun Def: The name given to 60 minutes of pure, unadulterated excitement, during which you and your teammates lose yourselves in an incredible experience, working together to follow a series of fiendishly clever clues and escape a locked room.

The pressure’s on, the clock’s ticking, the adrenaline’s pumping. Escape Hunt isn’t something you watch, it’s something you experience from the heart of the action. After the buzz of Escape Hunt, other entertainment just feels flat.

And there’s a Doctor Who themed version at six cities in the UK:

The Doctor needs you: a tear in space and time has been detected, and the Cybermen are about to break through!

Step into the future. Enter the offices of ChronosCorp HQ, where eccentric billionaire Alastair Montague’s efforts to develop commercial time travel have caused a tear in the fabric of space and time. The Cybermen are ready to take advantage and attack Earth.

You, the Doctor’s friends, must investigate the incident. The remains of Montague, his prototype time engine and the extensive collection of time-related artefacts acquired over the course of his experiments, are all that you have to work with.

(9) PALLADINI OBIT.  Artist David Palladini (1946-2019) died March 13. Jane Yolen wrote on Facebook:

I have just heard that David Palladini, that brilliant artist who illustrated my first three fairy tale collections, has died. RIP dear David. He also did many record jackets, Stephen King’s only middle grade novel, a tarot deck much prized by many who love them. RIP dear David.

The death notice in the New York Times begins:

David Palladini, widely renowned artist and illustrator, and regarded as one of the country’s most recognized astrological art illustrators, passed away on March 13, 2019 after a long illness at his home in Corona Del Mar, California at the age of 72. Some of his most widely held work includes the illustrations from Stephen King’s best-selling book, “Eyes of the Dragon”, and numerous children’s books, including the Jane Yolen series. His iconic astrological Aquarian & Palladini Tarot card art decks remain the most frequently preferred tarot card decks worldwide.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 25, 1989 Quantum Leap premiered.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 25, 1916 Jean Rogers. Rogers is best remembered for playing Dale Arden in the science fiction serials Flash Gordon and Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars, both released in the Thirties. Kage Baker would’ve have loved them as she was a great fan of such cinema and wrote a series of essays for Tor.com that turned into  Ancient Rockets: Treasures and Trainwrecks of the Silent Screen. (Link for review of Ancient Rockets.) (Rogers died 1991.)
  • Born March 25, 1920 Patrick Troughton. The Second Doctor of who I’ll confess I’m not the most ardent fan of. The Fourth Doctor is my Doctor. Troughton had a long genre resume starting with Hamlet and Treasure Island early on before preceding to such works as Scars of Dracula and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell later on. Tellie wise, I see him on R.U.R. Radius playing a robot, on a Fifties Robin Hood show being that character, and on The Feathered Serpent. This is children’s series set in pre-Columbian Mexico and starring Patrick Troughton as the scheming High Priest Nasca. H’h. (Died 1987.)
  • Born March 25, 1939 D. C. Fontana, 80. Though best known for her work on the first Trek series, she was a story editor and associate producer on the animated series as well. During the 70s, she was staff for such series as Six Million Dollar ManLogan’s Run and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. She later wrote for the fanfic Star Trek: New Voyages series.
  • Born March 25, 1947 Elton John, 72. He appeared in Tommy, UK version as the Pinball Wizard, a perfect role for him. I see he appeared on The Muppet Show as the guest of the week and showed in Kingsman: The Golden Circle as himself.
  • Born March 25, 1950 Robert O’Reilly, 69. Best known I’d say for his appearance in the Trek franchise for a decade in his recurring role on Next Gen and DS9 as Chancellor Gowron, the leader of the Klingon Empire.  He made one further appearance in the Trek verse as Kago-Darr in the Enterprise “Bounty” episode. Other genre series he appeared in include Fantasy Island, Knight Rider, Incredible Hulk, MacGyver, Max Headroom and the first version of The Flash. I’ll let y’all tell me your favorite films with him as cast. 
  • Born March 25, 1964 Kate DiCamillo, 55. She is just being one of six people to win two Newbery Medals, noting the wonderfulness of The Tale of Despereaux and Flora & Ulysses. The first I’ve encountered, the tale of a swords mouse in making, the latter I’ve not. Her Mercy Watson series is about the adventures of a fictional pig, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen.

(12) A LITTLE TINGLE. Chuck Tingle has expanded his repertoire to short videos.

His non-moving pictures are still funny, too:

(13) WORTH THE EFFORT. Pippa reviews A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine” at Fantasy-Faction.

…Arkady Martine gives us an impressive sci-fi debut, with intricate worldbuilding and a compelling plot. Court intrigue and political manoeuvring play a large role and Martine writes these elements very well. You never fully know who to trust and the way Martine slowly unveils information creates a wonderfully suspenseful atmosphere. It does take a little while for the story to get going but stick with it as it does pick up after a couple of chapters. Once I was fully invested, I didn’t want to put it down.

(14) THAT CAT MUST BE SKY HIGH. Camestros Felapton presents “Tim’s Signs of the Zodiac”.

December 21 to January 21: You are Aqua-Goat! The very quickly cancelled 1980’s cartoon superhero who was a wise-cracking sea goat who solved sea-mysteries with his gang of friends who lived on a boat. Your friends were a cheap knock-off of the Scooby gang and the Archies. Your catchphrase was ‘Time to solve this sea mystery Aqua-Goat style!’ That sounds a bit sad but unlike all these other signs at least you HAVE friends even if one of them is a badly drawn version of Jughead mixed with Shaggy.

(15) TOMORROW’S NOT THAT FAR AWAY. CW released its midseason trailer for DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

The Legends continue their new mission to protect the timeline from temporal aberrations – unusual changes to history that spawn potentially catastrophic consequences. When Nate, the grandson of J.S.A. member Commander Steel, unexpectedly finds himself with powers, he must overcome his own insecurities and find the hero within himself. Ultimately, the Legends will clash with foes both past and present, to save the world from a mysterious new threat.

(16) CRANIAL RETENTIVE. BBC reports research that shows “New brain cells made throughout life”.

People keep making new brain cells throughout their lives (well at least until the age of 97), according to a study on human brains.

The idea has been fiercely debated, and it used to be thought we were born with all the brain cells we will ever have.

The researchers at the University of Madrid also showed that the number of new brain cells tailed off with age.

And it falls dramatically in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease – giving new ideas for treating the dementia.

Most of our neurons – brain cells that send electrical signals – are indeed in place by the time we are born.

Studies on other mammals have found new brains cells forming later in life, but the extent of “neurogenesis” in the human brain is still a source of debate.

(17) MILESTONE. “The first all-female spacewalk” — story is item #4 at the link.

Two astronauts, Christina Koch and Anne McClain, will conduct a spacewalk to replace batteries powering the International Space Station on Friday. It’s expected to last for about seven hours.

Nasa says they didn’t deliberately set out to pair Ms Koch and Ms McClain on the spacewalk, since missions are determined by scheduling issues and ability.

But of all the people who have been in space, fewer than 11% are women – so this mission is seen as a significant moment for women in space.

(18) HAVE A GUINNESS. “Harry Potter: Tonna fan bags memorabilia world record” – BBC has the story.

A Harry Potter superfan has managed to “Slytherin” to the record books after collecting thousands of pieces of memorabilia.

Victoria Maclean, of Tonna, Neath Port Talbot, has 3,686 individual JK Rowling-related items.

This earned her the Wizarding World Collection world record – which includes the Fantastic Beasts series.

YouTuber Mrs Maclean, 38, said: “I screamed a lot – it was so incredible after all these months.”

She was presented with her world record certificate by Guinness World Records on Wednesday.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Man Sitting Next To You” on Vimeo, Ali Ali tells us why going to the movies can be a nightmare.

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

SPFBO 2018 Finalists

Mark Lawrence has posted the ten Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2018 finalists. SPFBO began with a 300-book longlist, and every finalist was the top pick out of 30 reviewed by the bloggers named in parentheses.

Here’s are the finlaists in alphabetical order by author’s name. To see the current scores, click the link above.

  • Ruthless Magic (Conspiracy of Magic Book 1) by Megan Crewe
  • Sowing (The Purification Era Book 1) by Angie Grigaliunas
  • The Gods of Men by Barbara Kloss
  • Out of Nowhere (The Immortal Vagabond Healer Book 1) by Patrick LeClerc
  • We Ride the Storm (The Reborn Empire Book 1) by Devin Madson
  • Symphony of the Wind (The Raincatcher’s Ballad Book 1) by Steven McKinnon
  • Orconomics: A Satire (The Dark Profit Saga Book 1) by J. Zachary Pike
  • Sworn to the Night (The Wisdom’s Grave Trilogy Book 1) by Craig Schaefer
  • Aching God (Iconoclasts Book 1) by Mike Shel
  • The Anointed by Keith Ward

They’re now in phase 2 of the contest, where the participating bloggers are allowed up to 6 months to read and score the other 9 finalists, review their favorite, and lastly, review the winner.

Mark Lawrence started the SPFBO self-published fantasy book contest four years ago.

The SPFBO exists to shine a light on self-published fantasy. It exists to find excellent books that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. It exists to help readers select, from the enormous range of options, books that have a better chance of entertaining them than a random choice, thereby increasing reader faith in finding a quality self-published read.

The bloggers are —

[Thanks to Dann for the story.]

Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2018 Finals Begin

Yesterday Mark Lawrence unveiled the page where he’ll track the 2018 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off Finals. Keep in mind this is not a sprint but a marathon.

Phase I began in June and runs through December. Ten participating bloggers have been chewing through the 300 entries to decide which book each of them will advance to the finals. The bloggers are —

The list of entries is here.

Lawrence explains how the first phase works —

This does not mean they have to read all the books. My own agent would go through that number in a day. But hopefully they will read part of all of them and all of some.

Then they have to post a review of their chosen title.

As of today, bloggers have eliminated 136 of the 300 entries. Follow their progress at this post.

In Phase 2, which also lasts five months, the bloggers —

  1. Read and score all 9 finalists from the other blogs.
  2. Review their favorite.
  3. Review the winner.

The final result will be revealed early in summer 2019.

Filers will be interested to know there are links to a large number of book reviews at the post for the first phase of the Blog-Off.

Pixel Scroll 6/21/18 It’s A World Of Fiction, A World Of Smiles, It’s A World Of Pixels In Daily Files

(1) THE FRUITS OF VICTORY. Mark Lawrence posted a photo of the award being sent to the winner of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off: “Where Loyalties Lie wins the PRESTIGIOUS SPFBO Selfie Stick!”

Yes, that time has come again. Following Where Loyalties Lies’ defeat of 299 other fantasy books in SPFBO 2017, it remained only for me to commission the fabled craftspeople of somewhere with low labour costs to fashion the third SPFBO Selfie Stick award.

This exquisite award, carved by hand from finest polymer resin has no association whatsoever with any wizarding school. So shut up.

(2) MORE SPFBO FUN. David H. introduced Filers to the “SPFBO title generator” in a comment:

My favorite titles generated were “The Legacy Shadow of the Legacy Shipwreck” and “The Brutal Raven of the Last Faces.” Someone got “The Foolish Oath of the Necromancer,” which sounds great, too.

I gave it a whirl and got The Spinning Kingdom of the Rise

(3) SFF IN TURKEY. The Economist explores “Why Turkish students are turning to speculative fiction”.

…In this difficult climate, speculative fiction has thrived as students turn to magical worlds to understand the grimness of the real one. A hundred books in the genre are being published in the country each year. Fantasy Fiction clubs continue to grow as students gather together to wage good against evil in unfettered realms. Istanbul University Science Fiction and Fantasy Club (BKFK), resurrected in the autumn of 2016, now claims more than 150 members. Fantasy has so far avoided the censors’ displeasure, though two men were indicted for “publicly denigrating” president Recep Tayyip Erdogan by likening him to Gollum, a character in “The Lord of the Rings” (one has since been acquitted).

“Despite what the name suggests, this genre is very interconnected with life,” writes Asli, the editor of Siginak, a fantasy-fiction magazine run by students (throughout this piece we refer to students only by their first names in the interests of their safety). In her story, titled “R-09 and Pluto”, two artificially intelligent robots contemplate the limits of their brains. Humans, the bots agree, are afraid of their creation’s potential power, so rules are designed to limit the use of their full intellect and to keep them from questioning authority. What could happen, one bot suggests, if they broke those rules and freed their minds?

(4) DANGEROUS VISIONS. Jonathan Cowie draws attention to BBC Radio 4’s new season of Dangerous Visions SF dramas: “Dangerous Visions: back… with a difference!” They include –

  • A 5-part drama (45 minute episodes) called First World Problems in which Britain fractures into civil war and a family with a Down’s syndrome teenager has to make some tough decisions.
  • A one-off 45 minute play called Freedom.

Marian has always told her son, Jamie, that it is fine to be gay, fine to be who you really are and that, in years to come, of course it will be possible for him to marry another man or adopt children.

All this changes when a newly elected coalition government decides political correctness has got out of hand and passes a Freedom Law that licenses both the freedom to say whatever you like, however hateful, and the right not to be offended. Now Jamie has to decide how to be true to himself in a society where intolerance has become acceptable, and Marian confronts what she might need to do to keep him safe.

An absorbing play about the political becoming personal and how an apparently liberal society can threaten those who don’t conform.

  • A one-off 45 minute play called Speak.

Lucian has a vocabulary that is limited to a core 1500 words, but Clara wants to teach him those that are forbidden. A dystopian love story about the power of words, set in a near future where the language spoken is Globish – a reduced version of English.

The OED lists 171,476 English words in current use. The average adult native English speaker has an active vocabulary of about 35,000 – 50,000 words. But studies suggest our vocabularies are shrinking.

Globish is a real international business language, developed in 2004, made up of the most common 1500 English words. It is designed to promote international communication in the global economy. ‘Speak’ imagines a future in which Globish has become the official language.

A gripping two-hander about the power of words; how words – and even more, the absence of words – can control, confine, leach emotion and trap minds.

(5) INKLINGS BEGINS. Brenton Dickieson recounts a bit of literary history with the help of a Lewis biographer: “The First Meeting of the Inklings, with George Sayer”.

For years no regular event delighted Jack more than the Thursday evening meetings of the little group of friends called the Inklings. His was the second group to use this name. Its predecessor was founded in about 1930 by a University College undergraduate named Tangye Lean. Members met in each other’s rooms to read aloud their poems and other work. There would be discussion, criticism, encouragement, and frivolity, all washed down with wine or beer. Lean’s group consisted mainly of students, but a few sympathetic dons were invited to join, including Tolkien and Jack, who may have been Lean’s tutor. Lean graduated in June 1933, and that autumn Jack first used the name the Inklings to describe the group that had already begun to meet in his rooms.

It was always utterly informal. There were no rules, no officers, and certainly no agenda. To become a member, one had to be invited, usually by Jack. Nearly all members were his friends.

(6) BABY’S BIRTHDAY. BBC recalls “The ‘Baby’ that ushered in modern computer age”.

A machine that took up an entire room at a laboratory in Manchester University ran its first programme at 11am on 21 June 1948.

The prototype completed the task in 52 minutes, having run through 3.5 million calculations.

The Manchester Baby, known formally as the Small-Scale Experimental Machine, was the world’s first stored-program computer.

(7) GOLDEN AGE. Steven H Silver celebrates an author’s natal day in “Birthday Reviews: Cleve Cartmill’s ‘Huge Beast’” at Black Gate.

Cleve Cartmill was born on June 21, 1908 and died on February 11, 1964. Cartmill also used the name Michael Corbin when he had two stories appearing in the same issue of Unknown Worlds in 1943.

He is perhaps best known for his story “Deadline,” which appeared in the March 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The story was discussed at Los Alamos, where Edward Teller noted that Cartmill had described aspects of their research in detail. The discussion led to an FBI investigation into Cartmill, Campbell, and some other science fiction authors. Cartmill is said to have had a low opinion of the story, himself.

(8) OCTAVIA BUTLER GOOGLE DOODLE. Google is honoring Octavia Butler’s birthday, June 22, with this artwork:

(9) IN THE BACK YARD. Jeff VanderMeer is not a gardener’s typical customer:

(10) OUT OF THE TOOLBOX. Nancy Kress shared these humorous highlights from the Taos Toolbox critiques:

At Taos Toolbox, Carrie Vaughn gave a great talk on goal setting and handling a long series. We also had two lectures, Walter’s and mine, and critiqued four manuscripts — a long day. Memorable quote from the critiques:

“I love when she stuffs the alien pterodactyl shell down her bra.”

“Space seems to have been colonized only by Germans.”

“You can’t really hide a pulsar.”

“It needs to be clearer that the starfish and the librarians are different species.”

“I love that she gave away Mars.”

“WTF did I just read — in a good way!”

“It’s Guardians of the Galaxy meets House of Usher.”

“There are too few bicycles in fantasy. Gandalf would have ridden a Cannondale.”

“You might want to put some people on the planet who aren’t dumb as stumps.”

(11) THE SKY’S NOT THE ONLY LIMIT. Multiple record-holding astronaut Peggy Whitson is retiring from NASA, in large part because she’s been in space so long (over several missions) that she’s hit her lifetime radiation limit. Among other things, Whitson, holds the U.S. record for the most cumulative time in space. She’s been the oldest female astronaut in space (57), the oldest female spacewalker, and has the record for the most spacewalks by a woman (10). She was also the first female chief of the Astronaut Office—she stepped down from that in 2012 so she could fly more missions.

SYFY Wire says “Everyone should know Peggy Whitson’s name”.

This doesn’t come as a huge shock; there’s actually a very good, practical reason that Whitson stepped down. Anyone that is outside the protection of the Earth’s atmosphere is exposed to higher levels of radiation. There are yearly exposure limits, as well as lifetime limits, established by NASA. Whitson is so well-traveled that this has become a problem. “I have hit my radiation limit,” she told Business Insider. As a result, she can no longer fly in space through NASA

A BBC News video story about what she had to overcome — “100 Women: Astronaut Peggy Whitson on being told she’d never go to space”.

Quoting the NASA press release, “Record-Setting NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson Retires”:

“Peggy Whitson is a testament to the American spirit,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Her determination, strength of mind, character, and dedication to science, exploration, and discovery are an inspiration to NASA and America. We owe her a great debt for her service and she will be missed. We thank her for her service to our agency and country.”

Whitson, a native of Beaconsfield, Iowa, first came to NASA in 1986 as a National Research Council Resident Research Associate at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. She served in a number of scientific roles, including project scientist for the Shuttle-Mir Program and co-chair of the U.S.-Russian Mission Science Working Group, before her selection to the astronaut corps in 1996.

“It has been the utmost honor to have Peggy Whitson represent our entire NASA Flight Operations team,” said Brian Kelly, director of Flight Operations at Johnson. “She set the highest standards for human spaceflight operations, as well as being an outstanding role model for women and men in America and across the globe. Godspeed, Peg.”

As an astronaut, Whitson completed three long-duration missions to the International Space Station, setting records on each. She made her first trip in 2002 as part of Expedition 5, during which she took part in 21 science investigations and became NASA’s first space station science officer. In 2008, Whitson returned on Expedition 16 and became the first female commander of the space station.

During her most recent mission, spanning Expeditions 50, 51 and 52 from November 2016 to September 2017, Whitson became the first woman to command the space station twice (Expedition 51). She also claimed the title for most spacewalks by a woman – 10 spacewalks totaling 60 hours and 21 minutes – and set the record for most time spent in space by a U.S. astronaut at 665 days.

(12) RETURN OF SARAH CONNOR. Any dedicated Terminator fans in the house? You guys have your own website!

TheTerminatorFans.com has pictures from the set of the upcoming Terminator movie showing Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor: “Exclusive First Look at Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator (2019)”.

(13) MASS DEFECT. Today’s issue of Nature reports some (just some) of the universe’s missing mass seems to have been found.

(14) SEA LEVEL. Another Nature comment paper (open access) assesses whether “Sea-level rise could overwhelm coral reefs” [PDF file]. Research paper abstract here, also behind a paywall if you’re not a Nature subscriber.

(15) LAST JEDI REMAKERS. ULTRAGOTHA asks: “Have you seen this? Some, er, I can’t actually call them fans, are evidently attempting to raise money to re-make a DISNEY property. Presumably to get rid of POC and Girl Cooties. Or maybe they’re not raising money and some ‘Producers’ have pledged to pay for this?  What producer in his right mind would think he could get away with meddling with a Disney property, or that Disney would agree to this?”

Chuck Wendig has some questions for them in this Twitter thread.

Travis Clark, in “‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ director Rian Johnson taunted a campaign to remake the movie” on Business Insider, says somebody on Twitter using the account Remake The Last Jedi claims to have enough money to remake Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a claim mocked by many, including Rian Johnson:

(16) GENRE BLENDING. “Hong Kong sci-fi film mixes robots and Chinese opera” (video).

Featuring flying warrior robots and guitar-toting opera singers, Hong Kong animation Dragon’s Delusion aims to break stereotypes of Chinese culture.

Its producers are now making a feature-length film after a successful crowdfunding exercise.

[Thanks to rob_matic, John King Tarpinian, Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, ULTRAGOTHA, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Lurkertype, Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, and David H. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 6/17/18 Come Away, O Meredithed Book, To The Kindle And The Nook

(1) ADVICE AND DISSENT. When Elon Musk described himself as “…a utopian anarchist of the kind best described by Iain Banks” on Twitter he got plenty of pushback. Soon Lee and Rob Thornton report that the pushers included Charles Stross, Hal Duncan, Cory Doctorow, and —

For those who need an introduction, Edward Champion’s 2013 essay “The Culture Novels of Iain M. Banks” looks promising:

When not committing his considerable energies to such intense Bildungsromans as The Wasp Factory or bleak-humored narratives like The Crow Road, Banks inserts an M into “Iain Banks” and writes science fiction novels. Most of these speculative volumes concern the Culture, a utopian-anarchist society that extends across a sizable cluster of the universe. These Culture vultures gambol across the galaxy in ships with such eccentric names as Don’t Try This at Home and Serious Callers Only. Culture citizens live for centuries, and can even change their appearances if they grow discontent with their corpora. These conditions encourage these civilized sybarites to have more fun than a flighty Dalmatian discovering a chiaroscuro sea of spotty companions. Never mind that there’s always an intergalactic war going on.

(2) DOLLAR BLAST. Just as you’d expect superheroes to do: “‘Incredibles 2’ crushes animation box office record”.

The Disney and Pixar film premiered to an estimated $180 million at the domestic box office this weekend. The sequel to the popular 2004 computer animated film soared past the record for biggest animated film opening in box office history by $45 million.

That record belonged to another Pixar film, “Finding Dory,” which opened to roughly $135 million two summers ago.

So far the film brought in $231.5 million around the world.

(3) BIG CAT. Should an owner discourage the ambitions of an SJW credential?

(4) HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED LEX. Some fantastic beasts who practice law in Hollywood are sowing darkness across the land: “Warner Bros. Crackdown Puts Dark Mark Over Harry Potter Festivals”.

Warner Bros. is cracking down on local Harry Potter fan festivals around the country, saying it’s necessary to halt unauthorized commercial activity. Fans, however, liken the move to Dementors sucking the joy out of homegrown fun, while festival directors say they wll transfigure the events into generic celebrations of magic.

“It’s almost as if Warner Bros. has been taken over by Voldemort, trying to use dark magic to destroy the light of a little town,” said Sarah Jo Tucker, a 21-year-old junior at Chestnut Hill College, which hosts a Quidditch tournament that has coincided with an annual Harry Potter festival in suburban Philadelphia.

Philip Dawson, Chestnut Hill’s business district director, said Warner Bros. reached out to his group in May, letting them know new guidelines prohibit festivals’ use of any names, places or objects from the film series. That ruled out everything from meet-and-greet with Dumbledore and Harry to Defense Against the Dark Arts classes.

(5) WELL ABOVE MINIMUM WAGE. Owen King tells readers of The New Yorker about “Recording Audiobooks For My Dad, Stephen King”.

My father gave me my first job, reading audiobooks on cassette tape. He had caught on to the medium early, but, as he explained later, “There were lots of choices as long as you only wanted to hear ‘The Thorn Birds.’ ” So, one day, in 1987, he presented me with a handheld cassette recorder, a block of blank tapes, and a hardcover copy of “Watchers,” by Dean Koontz, offering nine dollars per finished sixty-minute tape of narration.

This was an optimistic plan on my father’s part. Not only was I just ten years old, but when it came to reading aloud I had an infamous track record. My parents and I still read books together each night, and I had recently begun demanding an equal turn as narrator. Along our tour through Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Kidnapped,” I had tested their love with reckless attempts at a Scottish accent for the revolutionary Alan Breck Stewart, whom the novel’s protagonist, David Balfour, befriends. Even as they pleaded for me to stop, I made knee-deep haggis of passages like the following:

“Do ye see my sword? It has slashed the heads off mair whigamores than you have toes upon your feet. Call up your vermin to your back, sir, and fall on! The sooner the clash begins, the sooner ye’ll taste this steel throughout your vitals.”

Despite this, my father enlisted me to narrate “Watchers.”

(6) WHAT A RUSH. It’s not going to take long for Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2018 to fill up –

(7) ARCHEOVIDEOLOGY. Echo Ishii returns to the history of TV sff in “SF Obscure: Ace of Wands.

Ace of Wands is an ITV fantasy show broadcast in 1971 to 1972. It’s technically a children’s/ family show, but it’s fairly sophisticated and one that held my interest. Ace of Wands ran for three series, however, only the third series remains. At the time, ITV wiped old series due to the high cost of production materials and storage.

(8) CATCHY TITLE. Anna-Marie Abell gave her novel an irresistible name — Holy Crap! The World is Ending!: How a Trip to the Bookstore Led to Sex with an Alien and the Destruction of Earth. For the next couple of days it’s a 99-cent special on Amazon. If somebody reads it they can tell the rest of us whether it lives up to the promise of the cover.

Anna-Marie Abell grew up in a trailer park. Well, several actually. Her trailer was on wheels so she got to experience the Pacific Northwest’s vast array of mobile home parks as her parents moved her from one to the other. Somewhere along the way, she got totally into UFOs. Probably because she was hoping extraterrestrials would come and abduct her. But they never did. Luckily for her she was smart, because her only hope of escaping trailer life was college and a full scholarship. Moving to sunny California on her almost full ride to Chapman University, she was well on her way to her new life. Two bachelor degrees later (Film and Television Production and Media Performance), and several honors and awards for her accomplishments, she managed to start working in an almost completely unrelated industry from her majors: infomercials.

It was in college that she got bit by the “ancient alien” bug after listening to Zecharia Sitchin on Coast to Coast AM. In her pursuit to uncover the truth, she has spent the last twenty years researching the ancient Sumerian culture—in particular their “gods” called the Anunnaki—and their connection to the creation of the human race. What she found changed her life, her beliefs, and her understanding of the universe and everything beyond. Her humorous science fiction trilogy, The Anunnaki Chronicles, is a culmination of all her research, her borderline obsession for all things paranormal, and approximately 2,300 bottles of wine.

(9) FRONT, PLEASE. Dorothy Grant’s “Cover caveats” at Mad Genius Club is a great introduction to the process.

So where do you find your cover art and cover designer? Well, you can search the premade options put together by artists and designers, so you know exactly what it’ll look like when you get the “Your Title” swapped out for your actual title, and “Author Name” swapped for your pen name or real name.

Or you can get one designed for you. If you have no idea what you want or need, this can involve writing up a short description of the book or sending the book to the designer. Be aware that a busy professional designer probably will not read your entire book, but is skimming for worldfeel, character descriptions, possibly an iconic scene.

Or, if you’re a little more artistically inclined, you’ll send the designer / artist basically three sets of URLs.

First, links to bestselling books in the same subgenre that have covers similar to what you want. (send 3, so they can get a feel for what’s standard to that subgenre vs. particular to that single cover.)

Second, Send them URLs from stock photo sites that say “models like this”

Third, URLs from stock photo sites saying “backgrounds like this”

Artists think in pictures, not words, so communicate in visuals as much as possible.

(10) IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. I watched the first part of Live Slush Session 2 and was intrigued to hear Baen’s publisher and a contributing editor give candid reactions to authors’ manuscripts.

Baen Books’ Publisher Toni Weisskopf and “Slushmaster General” Gray Rinehart read the openings of volunteer submissions to give writers some insight into the evaluation process.

 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian saw how Deadpool celebrates Father’s Day at Brevity.
  • And Ben Solo’s dad featured in yesterday’s Brevity.
  • Mike Kennedy sent along Pearls Before Swine’s suggestion for how to get people to read. (He didn’t say it was a good suggestion….)

(12) ALDEBURGH FESTIVAL. The Stage’s George Hall reviews the opera based on a Silverberg story: “To See the Invisible review at Britten Studio, Snape – ‘a musical patchwork’”.

New at this year’s Aldeburgh Festival, Emily Howard’s chamber opera To See The Invisible has been freely adapted by playwright Selma Dimitrijevic from a taut and distinctly Kafkaesque short story by the American sci-fi writer Robert Silverberg.

The central character has been found guilty of the crime of coldness and is sentenced to a year’s invisibility, during which he is completely ignored by (almost) everyone he meets.

In Dimitrijevic’s libretto the character’s isolation remains severe, though he now has a family consisting of a mother, father and sister. His encounters with them and other individuals – in court, in a public gardens and a brothel – ameliorate his plight while also allowing some of Silverberg’s focused purity to dissipate.

In the opera he also has a kind of shadow in the shape of what the libretto describes as The Other Invisible – Anna Dennis’ female soprano regularly in synch with Nicholas Morris’ baritonal male. The character’s dual vocality is undoubtedly one of the more successful features of Howard’s score….

(13) IT’S NOT EASY BEING MEAN. Olga Polomoshnova analyzes the villain who gave evil a bad name — “On Sauron’s motives” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

Being the chief villain of the Second and Third Ages, Sauron sparks numerous questions concerning his motives. How did he become the evil figure we know him to be? Why did he run the risk of transferring a great amount of his inherent power into the One Ring knowing that it could lead to his destruction? Let us look at his downfall and motives through Tolkien’s own stories and letters.

Having risen like the shadow of Morgoth, Sauron was nevertheless different from his former lord. His downfall arose out of good motives, nor was he the beginner of discord. Sauron belonged to the Maiar — spirits created from Ilúvatar’s thought. He came into existence before the physical world took shape. Originally Sauron, who was known as Mairon (the Admirable) at that time, was associated with the people of Aulë, so he was a very skillful smith….

(14) EATON PHOTOS ONLINE. Andrew Porter labors on, identifying people in Jay Kay Klein’s photos. At the 1967 Worldcon, NYCon 3, this shot of a panel audience showed Walt Liebscher, Ray Fisher, Arnie Katz, Lee Hoffman, and Bob Tucker:

(15) A PENNYFARTHING FOR YOUR THOUGHTS. Ninety years ago, when Frank R. Paul painted his cities of the future, he didn’t include any bicycles at all. Now the BBC is asking — “Tomorrow’s Cities: Will the bike become an urban must-have?”

Fifteen years ago there were just four bike-sharing schemes in cities around the world, but now there are close to 1,000.

Most require you to pick up and leave a bike at a designated area, but new “dockless” schemes from China are coming to cities around the world – and proving controversial.

(16) THE MUMMY DIET. There’s a blog devoted to mummies, and Michele Brittany’s Musing on Mummies is up to “Episode 11: Sokushinbutsu and the Mummification Method Not Often Discussed”.

Ii-wey! Natural or intentional is usually what comes to mind when discussing the process of mummification. Certain environments, deserts, high altitudes or arid cold for example, will naturally dry the deceased, arresting the process of decay as a result. Intentional mummification requires human intervention after a person has died and most often, the Egyptian mummies come to mind. However, there is a third process that is not as well known.

Sokushinbutsu is a Japanese term that refers to a Buddhist mummy that remained incorrupt, or without decay after death….

(17) RADIO FREE BRADBURY. Listen to Ray Bradbury’s Tales of the Bizarre on BBC Radio 4. Four episodes are available online, with three more to come.

(18) NOT THIS WAY. “Astronaut Chris Hadfield says the rockets from NASA, SpaceX, and Blue Origin won’t take people to Mars” — Hadfield told Business Insider why he’s skeptical.

…NASA’s Space Launch System, which is slated to debut in the 2020s, will power its engines with a combination of liquid hydrogen and solid chemical fuels. Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Jeff Bezos, is also looking to use liquid hydrogen. SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, is staking its future on burning liquid methane, which the company believes it can generate on the Martian surface.

Like other experts, Hadfield doesn’t doubt that any of the vehicles could actually get to Mars; his issue is about the safety of any humans on board. Explosions, radiation, starvation, and other problems would constantly threaten a mission.

“We could send people to Mars, and decades ago. I mean, the technology that took us to the moon back when I was just a kid, that technology can take us to Mars — but it would be at significant risk,” he said. “The majority of the astronauts that we send on those missions wouldn’t make it. They’d die. Because the technology is still quite primitive.”

(19) EMMY TREK. Star Trek: Discovery submitted a long list of material to the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in over 20 categories. The full list is available at the linked GoldDerby story: ”’Star Trek: Discovery’ Emmy Submissions: How Many Will it Win?”.

That post also links to a separate story showing Trek Emmy winners from the past series.

The original “Star Trek” series ran from 1966-1969 and didn’t win any Emmys, but it was nominated 13 times, including twice for Best Drama Series (1967-1968). “Star Trek: The Next Generation” followed two decades later and aired for seven seasons from 1987 to 1994, during which time it won a whopping 19 Emmys, all in Creative Arts categories. “TNG” struggled in top races, however, and wasn’t nominated for Best Drama Series until 1994 for its final season.

(20) DON’T QUIXOTE. Terry Gilliam’s tragedy-plagued project is still plagued but it may not be his anymore. Io9 reports: “Terry Gilliam Has Lost the Rights to The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”.

Well, this is a strange new chapter in one of the strangest stories in modern film. For decades, famed genre director (and former Monty Python, uh, snake) Terry Gilliam struggled to make The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, his own surreal take on the classic Spanish novel. He succeeded, finally, with a rendition starring Adam Driver, and the film premiered this year at Cannes Film Festival.

Except, uh, apparently Terry Gilliam just lost the rights to it. Yes, that’s correct: as reported by Screen Rant, the Paris Court of Appeal just ruled in favor of the film’s former producer, Paulo Brancho, who sued for rights to the project on the grounds that Gilliam made the film illegally.

(21) OH NOOO…. When will they make an end? Comicbook.com is spreading the alarm, er, the — “Rumor: ‘Star Wars’ Actor Claims 9 Movies in Development, Including More ‘Story’ Stand-Alones”. Voice actor Tom Kane is said to have claimed there are nine Star Wars movies in some stage of development. Kane has provided voices for Star Wars video games (starting with Shadows of the Empire in 1996), TV shows (Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels), and several of the more recent movies (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi).

Only six of the projects are known:

Disney-owned Lucasfilm also has plans for fan-favorite Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi and famed bounty hunter Boba Fett, who will reportedly receive his own stand-alone from 3:10 to Yuma and Logan director James Mangold.

Lucasfilm is also said to be developing an all-new trilogy under The Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson, which will be unconnected to the Skywalker saga depicted in the episodic installments and set in an unexplored corner of the galaxy.
Johnson’s producer, Ram Bergman, recently gave an update on the “completely new trilogy,” saying, “It’s all new characters. Everything is new.” The project, he added, is “just in the early stages.”

Abrams’ Episode IX, Johnson’s planned three-movie series, and two new anthologies in Obi-Wan and Boba Fett make six, leaving three supposed projects on the docket.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/16/18 And I Awoke And Found Me Here On The Scrolled Pixelside

(1) DOUG JONES’ NEW GIG. GeekTyrant points to the first installment of an sf video series premiering on Dust’s YouTube channel: “Dust Created a Cool 1930’s Sci-Fi Noir Series AUTOMATION with Doug Jones; Watch the First Episode Now!”.

In an alternate 1930’s Prohibition-era New York City, it’s not liquor that is outlawed but the future production of highly sentient robots known as automatons. Automata follows former NYPD detective turned private eye Sam Regal and his incredibly smart automaton partner, Carl Swangee. Together, they work to solve the case and understand each other in this dystopian America. Putting a science ?ction twist on the classic hard-boiled detective drama, Automata explores a dystopian alternative version of Prohibition-era New York City, similarly shaped by moral panic even though the alcohol ?ows freely here. In this universe, Prohibition doesn’t ban drinking, but the further production of sapient androids that have become prevalent by the 1920s. As a result, the existing androids, called automatons, are shunned by society, relegated to an untouchable caste of servants despite their near-human thought capability, and are frequently subjected to hatred and violence. It’s in this oppressive setting that human private detective Sam Regal (Basil Harris, “Grimm”) and his automaton partner Carl Swangee (Doug Jones, The Shape of Water) work together to solve cases for both communities, learning to see humanity in one another while trying to prove that justice is still worth serving.

 

(2) WILDERNESS TREK. Who doesn’t want one of these? Lost at E Minor introduces the world to “A tent that looks like a Star Trek shuttlecraft for all your camping missions”.

Canadian designer Dave Delisle, of Dave’s Geeky Ideas, has come up with a concept tent that resembles a Star Trek Federation shuttlecraft.

The two-person tent, though not able to travel to other galaxies, allows Trekkies to go on their ‘away missions’.

It features a hull that looks like the real spacecraft, with an entrance at the back. When you want to stow it away, the tent can easily fit inside one of its thrusters.

(3) I’M LOSING IT HERE. RedWombat strikes a blow for artistic freedom. The thread starts here.

(4) TECH VIRTUOSO. Ursula V’s Twitter stream is also where I found this:

(5) SPFBO 2018. Mark Lawrence, who announced the 2017 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off winner just the other day, wasted no time cranking up the next round of the contest:  SPFBO 2018 – A call to authors.

This is the call for authors wanting to enter books for the fourth Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off.

The contest will be open for entries until August 1st or when 300 titles have been entered, whichever comes first.

If 250+ titles are not gathered by August 1st the contest will be deferred for a year. I have no idea if there is a limit to how many years we can gather 250+ new self-published fantasy book 1s.

So far they have 101 entries. These bloggers will review and rate the submissions.

(6) ESSENTIAL SF. Factor Daily directs you to “Something for everyone: 5 essential science fiction anthologies you must read”. Don’t panic – only the first two were published over 30 years ago….

If you’re someone with a passing interest in science fiction who’d like to know the genre better or would like to experience all the many splendours it has to offer without having to read 300-page novels, one of the best ways is through an anthology. If you’re a hardcore science fiction reader who wants to discover new authors or get deeper into the genre’s history and trends, one of the best ways is through an anthology.

Here then, are five essential science fiction anthologies that will appeal to – and are recommended for – both, the seasoned sci-fi fan, and the casual reader who’d really like to know what the big fuss about science fiction really is. Whatever it is that you’re looking for – spaceships and robots, interstellar travel or the future of humankind, feminist stories, swashbuckling adventures, stories about love and loss, funny stories, stories to make you ponder, about politics, economics, about culture(s), stories about the future that are really a commentary on our present, stories about technology done right, of technology gone wrong – they’re all in here, and then some….

(7) QUICK SIPS. Charles Payseur’s Quick Sip Reviews catches up with “Strange Horizons 06/04/2018 & 06/11/2018 “.

The first two weeks of June’s Strange Horizons brings a pair of stories and a pair of poems. The fiction is a mix of fantasies, one with magic and ghosts and monsters and the other with a looser grasp on reality. Both feature characters charged with watching over a space through. For one, it’s through elaborate ritual. For the other, it’s by house sitting. In both, there’s a feeling of something being trapped, of something being infested, and of the characters having been wronged. The poetry deals with myths, with mythical creatures, and with longing and endings and beginnings. And all together it makes for a rather lovely but haunting collection of short SFF. To the reviews!

(8) SHORT ORDER. What screens ahead of Incredibles 2? (Besides half an hour of trailers, I mean….) Something that left an NPR interviewer impressed: “In Pixar’s First Female-Directed Short, A Dumpling Child Fills An Empty Nest”.

Moviegoers sitting down to see Incredibles 2 are in for a tasty treat in the form of an animated short called Bao. It tells the story of an empty nester who discovers joy — and sorrow — when a steamed bun she makes comes to life.

The story is pulled from the childhood of Domee Shi, who wrote and directed the Pixar film. Shi was born in China and raised in Toronto. She started working at Pixar as an intern in 2011, and now she’s the first woman to direct a Pixar short.

Pixar and the larger animation industry have been criticized for shutting female animators out of top jobs, but Shi says that culture is changing.

“You’re just seeing this gradual shift in the industry because, before, animation was predominantly white and male, but now in animation schools all over the country enrollment is now over 50 percent female. … I think just more and more girls are just getting into animation. And I hope that we’re going to see those numbers be reflected in the industry and not just in the animation schools.”

(NPR interviewed Shi before the announcement that Pixar’s co-founder, John Lasseter, would be leaving the company. Lasseter had been absent since November, when allegations of sexual harrassment surfaced.)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

On this day in 1960, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho has its world premiere in New York. Did you know: Paramount gave Hitchcock a very small budget to work with, because of their distaste with the source material. They also deferred most of the net profits to Hitchcock, thinking the film would fail.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born June 16 – John Cho, 46. Sulu in Star Trek, Star Trek into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond. First genre role appears to on Charmed, other shows includes Static Shock, Star Trek and Batman video games, Flashforward and the current season of The Exorcist.

(11) TIMOTHY THE TALKING CAT AND SUSAN THE TRICERATOPS. Camestros Felapton’s “The Bortsworth Mysteries: The Case of the Shifting Genre”, soon to be winning indie book awards near you….

“Wake up!” said Timothy the Talking Cat, a highly intelligent cat with a piercing intellect who was looking very dapper that bright morning in a yellow bow tie that deftly coordinated with his purple, velvety fur.

“I am awake,” said Susan.

“It is so hard to tell because you sleep standing up and also last night I painted eyes on your eyelids which was funny at the time but now I regret because when you close your eyes it looks like you are staring at me in a really angry way like you are about to stomp on me,” replied Timothy loquaciously (who was briefly surprised that of all the words the meat robot hadn’t spelt incorrectly “loquaciously” was one of them).

(12) HARDWICK UNPLUGGED.  “AMC Silences Chris Hardwick Talk Show & Comic-Con Panels After Abuse Claims”. Deadline quotes Hardwick’s denial, and speculates about the fate of his as-yet-unaired TV work.

A day after allegations of emotional abuse and sexual assault were leveled against Chris Hardwick by an ex-girlfriend, AMC has decided today to officially pull the plug on their long time host’s talk show and appearances at San Diego Comic-Con next month.

“We have had a positive working relationship with Chris Hardwick for many years,” said the home of The Walking Dead in a statement on Saturday, one day before Season 2 of Talking With Chris Hardwick was set to debut. “We take the troubling allegations that surfaced yesterday very seriously. While we assess the situation, Talking with Chris Hardwick will not air on AMC, and Chris has decided to step aside from moderating planned AMC and BBC America panels at Comic-Con International in San Diego next month.” …

(13) ERRATA. Locus Online’s item “Jemisin Wins 2018 BoBi” repeats Publishers Weekly’s mistake – the portion in quotes:

N.K. Jemisin will receive the annual Best of Brooklyn (BoBi) Award, and “is the first author of speculative fiction to win the BoBi.”

I omitted the quote when that news was reported in yesterday’s Scroll because the original Brooklyn Book Festival press release lists two authors of speculative fiction among the previous winners —

… Past honorees have included Colson Whitehead, Jacqueline Woodson, Jonathan Lethem, James McBride, Lois Lowry and Pete Hamill.

It’s still a fine honor for Jemisin.

(14) FREE READ. Stephen Lawson’s Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award winner “Homunculus” has been posted on the Baen Books website.

The yellow-orange tholin haze above Titan’s surface whirled around the chassis of a lighter-than-air research drone. A tiny carbon-fiber humanoid robot sat perched on its support structure, dangling his feet next to the drone’s camera as it took pictures of the rocky surface below. The dirigible, designed to carry sampling probes and communication equipment, barely registered the stowaway’s mass. Folded aramid-fiber wings fluttered on aluminum ribs on the bot’s back as the breeze swept over the drone’s chassis….

(15) EXPLORING FAN PHOTOS. Andrew Porter has been working on identifying people in the Jay Kay Klein photos posted by the UC/Cal/Riverside Collection. He sent out links to some of his finds —

(16) CLARKE LITERARY BIO. Gary Westfahl’s book Arthur C. Clarke will be published by the University of Illinois Press in July.

Already renowned for his science fiction and scientific nonfiction, Arthur C. Clarke became the world’s most famous science fiction writer after the success of 2001: A Space Odyssey. He then produced novels like Rendezvous with Rama and The Fountains of Paradise that many regard as his finest works.

Gary Westfahl closely examines Clarke’s remarkable career, ranging from his forgotten juvenilia to the passages he completed for a final novel, The Last Theorem. As Westfahl explains, Clarke’s science fiction offered original perspectives on subjects like new inventions, space travel, humanity’s destiny, alien encounters, the undersea world, and religion. While not inclined to mysticism, Clarke necessarily employed mystical language to describe the fantastic achievements of advanced aliens and future humans. Westfahl also contradicts the common perception that Clarke’s characters were bland and underdeveloped, arguing that these reticent, solitary individuals, who avoid conventional relationships, represent his most significant prediction of the future, as they embody the increasingly common lifestyle of people in the twenty-first century.

Westfahl, formerly of the University of La Verne and the University of California, Riverside, has now retired to focus exclusively on research and writing. His many books on science fiction include William Gibson and Hugo Gernsback and the Century of Science Fiction

(17) FEATHERED NERD RANKINGS. Joe Sherry’s “Reading the Hugos: Short Story” puts this one somewhere in the middle of his ballot.

“Fandom for Robots”: So, the original sentient AI discovers fan fiction and gets involved in the fandom for the anime Hyperdimension Warp Record. On its surface, “Fandom for Robots” is exactly what it seems to be – an AI learning about fandom, about shipping characters, about writing fan fiction and commenting on other stories. But, I wonder, is there a point here where Prasad is also talking about how fanfiction gives a greater opportunity to marginalized people to see themselves in stories where they are otherwise excluded? Is Prasad telling a story about how fanfiction can build community and inclusion?

“Fandom for Robots” was a lot of fun to read, but it’s a better story when I’m reading a bit deeper into what message may be baked into an otherwise basic story of an AI discovering fanfiction.

(18) PANDORA PREVIEW. The official Disney blog takes fans inside the technology: “Pandora – The World of Avatar Time Capsule: Imagineers Create the Most Advanced Audio-Animatronics Figure, the Shaman of Songs for Na’vi River Journey”

Guests can encounter the Shaman of Songs inside Na’vi River Journey, after they board a boat and are whisked away on an immersive journey deep into a bioluminescent rainforest on Pandora. There, the Shaman of Songs sits, sending positive energy out into the forest through the power of her movements and music.

But bringing her to life required the Imagineering/LEI project team to not only apply the latest technologies in robotics, but also develop an estimated 20 new technologies to bring this figure to life. The goal was to make the figure’s tech as hidden as possible, to make the shaman as lifelike as possible.

 

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

Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2017 Winner

Where Loyalties Lie by Rob J. Hayes is the winner of Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2017. The scoring matrix is at the link.

SPFBO began with a 300-book longlist. There were ten finalists, each the top pick among 30 books reviewed by one of the participating bloggers (named in parentheses.)

Here’s how the finalists ranked after being scored by all the bloggers:

  • Where Loyalties Lie by Rob J. Hayes (Fantasy Book Review)
  • Sufficiently Advanced Magic by Andrew Rowe (Bookworm Blues)
  • Crimson Queen by Alec Hutson (Fantasy Book Critic)
  • Devil’s Night Dawning by Damien Black (Kitty G)
  • Jack Bloodfist:Fixer by James Jakins (Lynn’s Books)
  • The Way into Chaos by Harry Connolly (Ventureadlaxre)
  • The War of Undoing by Alex Perry (Pornokitsch)
  • Chaos Trims My Beard by Brett Herman (Fantasy-Faction)
  • Tiger Lily by K. Bird Lincoln (Qwillery)
  • Pilgrimage to Skara by Jonathan Pembroke (Booknest)


Mark Lawrence started the SPFBO self-published fantasy book contest three years ago.

Pixel Scroll 1/12/18 If You’ll Be My Pixel, I Can Be Your Long Lost Scroll

(1) TERRAN AWARD. George R.R. Martin, in “Aliens In Taos”, announces he has created a scholarship to bring an sf writer from a non-English speaking country to Taos Toolbox.

When astronauts look down on Earth from orbit, they don’t see borders, national boundaries, or linguistic groups; they see one world, a gorgeous blue globe spinning in space, streaked with clouds. I don’t know if humanity will ever reach the stars (though I hope we will), but if we do, it won’t be Americans who get there. It won’t be the Chinese or the Russians or the British or the French or the Brazilians or the Kiwis or the South Africans or the Indians or the folk of any other nation state either. It will be humanity; in the language of the SF of my youth, it will be Terrans or Earthlings or Earthmen. The future belongs to all the peoples of the world.

With that in mind, I want to announce that I am sponsoring a new scholarship, to bring an aspiring SF writer from a non-English-speaking country to the Taos Toolbox, the graduate level writing workshop that Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress run every summer in the mountains of northern New Mexico. The TERRAN AWARD, as I am calling it, will be given annually, and will cover all tuition and fees to the Toolbox (travel and meals not covered, alas). Applicants will need to speak and write in English, but must be from from a country where English is not the primary language. Walter Jon and Nancy and the Toolbox staff will select the winner. For more information on applying for the workshop, and the scholarship, contact WJW at wjw@taostoolbox.com

(2) MARKET REPORT. David Steffen has compiled the “SFWA Market Report for January” for the SFWA Blog,

(3) VISIT QO’NOS. The first Klingon tourist center has opened in Sweden.

Humans! tlhlngan maH [we are Klingons]

The Klingon Institute of Cultural Exchange demand your presence at our Terra-Friendly© presentation of Klingon culture and customs at Turteatern on Terra, Alpha Quadrant.

You will get the possibility to try cuisine, listen to opera, and a chance to acquire useful lifesaving tips in your everyday interaction with Klingons and Klingon customs, so that you may plan your holiday to our great empire and the First City on the planet Qo’noS without risking any discomfort and/or premature death.

This live-act presentation is brought to you by Visit Qo’noS, the tourist department of the Klingon high council.”

(4) OPINION RECONSIDERED. Teresa Jusino goes in an unexpected direction at The Mary Sue with “Internalized Sexism and Star Wars: My Long-Overdue Apology to Luke Skywalker”.

It would be tempting to “blame” all this on the prequels adding in new information after the fact, but as the video essay goes to great lengths to point out, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda teach Luke the same lessons about burying his feelings in the original trilogy. The difference between Anakin and Luke?

Luke consistently bucks his Jedi training in favor of giving in to his emotions and saving people.

Luke cares about others, even if they’ve “fallen to the Dark Side,” and so whether it’s to save his sister and his friends or to try to redeem Darth Vader, he follows his emotions in spite of the warnings he gets from his mentors, and he’s heroic because of it. This is why, to me, the Luke we meet in The Last Jedi is Peak Luke. He’s at his most emotional, his most vulnerable … and ultimately, at his most heroic

(5) WHEATON. Think Tank tells about supernovas in “When Stars Go Boom.”

Why do some stars end their lives in a supernova explosion? And how does that lead to forming planets and life like us? A science expert (Jerrika Hinton) explains by hooking her hapless assistant (Wil Wheaton) up to a Thought Visualizer, a machine that allows anyone to see his thoughts. With Ed Wasser.

 

(6) MORE VIDEO ARCHEOLOGY. Fanac.org has posted the restored video of the “Weird and Horror Genre Luncheon Panel” from MidAmeriCon, the 1976 Worldcon.

MidAmeriCon, the 34th World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Kansas City in 1976. This excerpt from the discussion held at the Weird and Horror Genre Luncheon features (L-R) Poul Anderson, Charles Grant, Ted White, Kirby McCauley (mod), Tom Reamy and Stuart Schiff talking about ghost stories, fairy tales, and why they are attracted to the genre. There are some spots where the film is damaged. Video and video restoration provided by David Dyer-Bennet and the Video Archeology Project.

 

(7) FLAME ON. HBO dropped a teaser trailer for Fahrenheit 451.

HBO Films presents Fahrenheit 451. In a terrifying care-free future, a young man, Guy Montag, whose job as a fireman is to burn all books, questions his actions after meeting a young girl…and begins to rebel against society. Starring Michael B. Jordan, and Michael Shannon.

 

(8) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to share flash-fried cauliflower with Sheila Williams in episode 57 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Sheila Williams

Sheila has worked for Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine since 1982, became its editor in 2004, and went on to win the Hugo Award for Best Short Form Editor in 2011 and 2012. She also co-edited A Woman’s Liberation: A Choice of Futures by and About Women with Connie Willis, as well as numerous other anthologies.

We chatted about her first day on the job more than a third of a century ago, meeting Isaac Asimov at an early Star Trek convention when she was only 16, which writer intimidated her the most when she first got into the business, what she learned from working with previous Asimov’s editors Shawna McCarthy and Gardner Dozois, the most common problems she sees in the more than 7,000 stories that cross her desk each year, the identities of the only writers she’s never rejected, what goes through her mind in that moment she reads a manuscript and arrives at “yes,” and much more.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 12, 1933:  Dr. Moreau adaptation Island of Lost Souls opens in New York City.
  • January 12, 1940:  Universal’s Invisible Man returns in The Invisible Man Returns! The Department of Redundancy Department approves.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY EYEBALL

  • Born January 12, 1992 or 1997 – HAL 9000. In the film 2001, HAL became operational on this date in 1992. The Wikipedia says the activation year was 1991 in earlier screenplays and changed to 1997 in Clarke’s novel.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) MASSIVE EFFORT. Pornokitsch reviews all ten Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2017 finalists in a single glorious post – “SPFBO2017: The Finalists Reviewed (All of ’em!)”.

But, for now, here are this year’s ten finalists, in no particular order, with my – somewhat arbitrary – scores. Thanks again for all the writers, readers, judges and administrator (singular!) for participating, and please check out the other judges for other perspectives!

(13) CON OR BUST. Kate Nepveu’s Con or Bust newsletter lists many opportunities for fans of color/nonwhite fans to get memberships and other assistance to attend upcoming sf events. For example —

The following cons have recently donated assistance or memberships to Con or Bust:

  • JoCo Cruise 2018, February 18-25, 2018, departing from San Diego, CA, USA. JoCo Cruise has donated at least five cabins, which accommodate two to four people, and which come with lodging, meals and drinks (except not alcohol or soft drinks), and access to all programming. Please see the blog post for important details.
  • The 2018 SFWA Nebula Conference, May 17-20, 2018, Pittsburgh, PA, USA. The SFWA Givers Fund has awarded $4,000 to Con or Bust to enable people of color/non-white people attend SFWA Nebula Conference; funds can be requested during February 1-10, 2018.
  • Beach City Con, October 12 – 14, 2018, Virginia Beach, VA, USA (@beachcitycon). Beach City Con is a Steven Universe fan convention; it donated four weekend passes, which can be requested during February 1-10, 2018.
  • Scintillation, October 5-7, 2018, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Scintillation is a small literary focused SF convention with program by Jo Walton; details at its Kickstarter page. It donated three memberships and $100, which can be requested during February 1-10, 2018

(14) LAST JEDI ANALYZED. Under some circumstances, Foz Meadows might like to take a red pen to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”. BEWARE SPOILERS, if you still need to.

Based on this, it seems clear that The Last Jedi is intended to parallel The Empire Strikes Back, both structurally and thematically. All the same elements are in play, albeit recontextualised by their place in a new story; but where Empire is a tight, sleek film, The Last Jedi is middle-heavy. The major difference between the two is Poe’s tension-and-mutiny arc, which doesn’t map to anything in Empire.

And this is the part where things get prickly. As stated, I really love Rose Tico, not only because she’s a brilliant, engaging character superbly acted by Kelly Marie Tran, but because she represents another crucial foray into diverse representation, both in Star Wars and on the big screen generally. There’s a lot to recommend Vice-Admiral Holdo, too, especially her touching final scene with Leia: I still want to know more about their relationship. I am not for a moment saying that either character – that either woman – doesn’t belong in the film, or in Star Wars, or that their roles were miscast or badly acted or anything like that. But there is, I suspect, a truly maddening reason why they were paired onscreen with Finn and Poe, and that this logic in turn adversely affected both the deeper plot implications and the film’s overall structure.

(15) NO EMISSION CONTROL. NPR says “Researchers Spot Massive Black Hole In Double ‘Burp'”.

A giant black hole located at the center of a galaxy 800 million light-years from Earth has been caught on camera letting out not one, but two massive “burps” of highly charged particles.

It is the first time astronomers have viewed the phenomenon twice in the same black hole.

Images released Thursday and credited to the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory were presented at the American Astronomical Society’s winter meeting in National Harbor, Md., outside Washington, D.C.

“Black holes are voracious eaters, but it also turns out they don’t have very good table manners,” Julie Comerford, an astronomer at the University of Colorado Boulder, said during a news conference Thursday, according to Space.com. “We know a lot of examples of black holes with single burps emanating out, but we discovered a galaxy with a supermassive black hole that has not one, but two burps.”

(16) PADDINGTON 2 VERDICT. NPR’s Andrew Lapin sees “‘Paddington 2’: A Story That Bears Repeating”.

If only all of us could see the world the way Paddington sees London. The furry little bear in a raincoat looks around his adopted home and finds, in the smiling faces of his neighbors, nothing but joyful spirits and good intentions. There are no “no-go zones”; even a prison full of roughnecks can be a chance to help people in need. Forget the fact that he’s a talking bear from Darkest Peru. It’s Paddington’s impenetrable spirit, his striving to do right by the world, to “always see the good in people,” even those who wish him harm, that is the biggest wish-fulfillment of 2018.

(17) SHE GETS MAIL. Ursula Vernon cannot comfort the youth of America —

(18) MORE EYES IN THE SKY. BBC reports on a UK satellite, launched by India, to make movies from space, (first of a planned cluster, like ICEYE satellites sent yesterday).

A British satellite has gone into orbit on an Indian rocket to acquire full-colour, high-definition video of the surface of the Earth.

The demonstrator is expected to pave the way for a series of at least 15 such spacecraft, which will be operated by the Guildford-based company Earth-i.

The small, low-cost UK mission was one of 31 payloads riding on the Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

It lifted off from the Satish Dhawan spaceport in Andhra Pradesh.

(19) BLACK WIDOW APPROACHING. According to Variety, “Marvel’s Standalone ‘Black Widow’ Movie Gains Momentum With Jac Schaeffer Writing”.

Marvel is finally pushing ahead with the highly anticipated “Black Widow” standalone movie starring Scarlett Johansson, with Jac Schaeffer penning the script.

Sources say this is still very early development, as the film has no greenlight, but naming a writer is the closest the studio has come to moving forward on a standalone pic. Marvel President Kevin Feige met with several candidates before tapping Schaeffer, and Marvel execs met with Johansson to discuss what they wanted from a “Black Widow” writer.

In case you need a reminder, watch this scene from Iron Man 2 of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow in action.

(20) BLUE MAN CULTIST. Here’s the official trailer for Cold Skin.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Hampus Eckerman, Andrew Porter, Kathodus, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]