Pixel Scroll 5/7/18 The File And The Pixel-Scroll Went To Space In A Runcible Manxome File

(1) LUKE CAGE CONTINUES. From Netflix, “Marvel’s Luke Cage – Season 2 Official Trailer.”

After clearing his name, Luke Cage has become a celebrity on the streets of Harlem with a reputation as bulletproof as his skin. But being so visible has only increased his need to protect the community and find the limits of who he can and can’t save. With the rise of a formidable new foe, Luke is forced to confront the fine line that separates a hero from a villain.

 

(2) NICHELLE NICHOLS’ HEALTH. “’Star Trek’ Star Nichelle Nichols Is Living With Dementia”Madamenoir has the story,

Nichelle Nichols, who is known for her iconic role as Uhura in “Star Trek” is living with severe dementia.

Nichols’ son Kyle Johnson says that his 85-year-old mother needs protection to prevent people from taking advantage of her.

According to TMZ, Johnson filed documents nominating 4 fiduciaries to become his mother’s conservators—giving them control of her finances and authority to make decisions regarding her health.

(3) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. At the next Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Tina Connolly & Caroline M. Yoachim. Date and time: Wednesday, May 16, 2018, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

  • Tina Connolly

Tina Connolly’s books include the Ironskin trilogy (Tor), the Seriously Wicked series (Tor Teen), and the collection On the Eyeball Floor and Other Stories (Fairwood Press). Her books have been finalists for the Nebula, Norton, and World Fantasy awards. She is one of the co-hosts of Escape Pod, and runs the flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake. Find her at tinaconnolly.com.

  • Caroline M. Yoachim

Caroline M. Yoachim is the author of over a hundred short stories. Her fiction has been translated into several languages, reprinted in best-of anthologies, and is available in her debut collection Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World & Other Stories. Her 2017 short story “Carnival Nine” is a Nebula and Hugo finalist. For more about Caroline, check out her website at carolineyoachim.com

The KGB Bar id st 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.), New York, NY.

(4) NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER. David Grinspoon, an astrobiologist who studies climate evolution and habitability of other worlds, and Alan Stern, the principal investigator of the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper belt, say “Yes, Pluto is a planet” in  Washington Post op-ed.

Three years ago, NASA’s New Horizons, the fastest spaceship ever launched, raced past Pluto, spectacularly revealing the wonders of that newly seen world. This coming New Year’s Eve — if all goes well on board this small robot operating extremely far from home — it will treat us to images of the most distant body ever explored, provisionally named Ultima Thule. We know very little about it, but we do know it’s not a planet. Pluto, by contrast — despite what you’ve heard — is.

Why do we say this? We are planetary scientists, meaning we’ve spent our careers exploring and studying objects that orbit stars. We use “planet” to describe worlds with certain qualities. When we see one like Pluto, with its many familiar features — mountains of ice, glaciers of nitrogen, a blue sky with layers of smog — we and our colleagues quite naturally find ourselves using the word “planet” to describe it and compare it to other planets that we know and love.

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) announced an attempted redefinition of the word “planet” that excluded many objects, including Pluto. We think that decision was flawed, and that a logical and useful definition of planet will include many more worlds….

 

(5) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. Because the International Space Station does not have a way to wash dirty clothes, astronauts shoot their laundry into the Earth’s atmosphere to be incinerated. Consequently, a crew of six can go through 900 pounds of clothing per year. (Source: Smithsonian.com)

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 7, 1950 Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles became the first new work of science fiction ever noted in the New York Times Book Review, breaking that glass ceiling via Rex Lardner’s “Fiction in Brief” column. As John King Tarpinian tells it, “Ray was not happy with Martian being described as Science Fiction but heck, who cares now…”

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lise Andreasen says the lesson learned from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal’s “Soulmate” is never build a dating website.

(8) AFROFUTURISM. A BBC profile: “Afrofuturism: Why black science fiction ‘can’t be ignored'”.

Afrofuturism is perhaps best summed up by the queen of contemporary afrofuturism herself — Janelle Monae.

Her futuristic music videos and radical aesthetic (she even calls her fans “fAndroids”) are seen by some as a key force for pushing afrofuturism into the mainstream.

“Afrofuturism is me, us… is black people seeing ourselves in the future,” she explains in a 30-second video clip for Spotify.

It is no surprise then that Janelle cites the movement as the inspiration for her new narrative film, Dirty Computer: Emotion Picture, a visual accompaniment to her latest album (which is currently trending on YouTube).

(9) CATCHING UP. Here are “Some Pragmatic Picks by Foz Meadows” a 2018 Shadow Clarke juror.

In compiling my personal Shadow Clarke shortlist, I’ve opted to forego the pressures of dutiful or adventurous reading, and have stuck to a selection of books which, for various reasons, I’d already planned to read. Partially, I’ve done so out of pragmatism: it’s hard enough at the best of times to force myself to read something in which I have little to no existing interest and whose premise doesn’t appeal to me, and if I can’t actually bring myself to read my selected works, there’s little point in being a shadow judge at all. At the same time, I’d argue that the parameters of the Clarke Award are such that the final selection of any judge or judges, whether shadow or otherwise, is always going to hinge on personal taste. The submissions list, as the name suggests, does not come pre-curated: in order to be in contention for the award, eligible works need only be submitted for consideration by their publishers. While there’s invariably a fascinating conversation to be had about which of their titles particular houses either forget, neglect or actively decline to submit in the first place, the impact of those choices is at best a process of curation by collective omission. That being so, the contents of the submissions list as is become something of a crapshoot, running the gamut from obvious, big-name contenders to self-published indies to midlist titles flung at the wall to see what sticks. But then, science fiction, when not broken down into subgenres, is a spectacularly broad mandate – how else can it be honestly navigated except through personal preference?

(10) WHERE DO THEY ALL COME FROM. “Cat Rambo’s Ideas For The Asking: A Guest Post!” at Sue Bursztynski’s blog.

Where do you get your ideas, my youngest brother asked as we were driving to dinner. I shrugged and said, Everywhere. He eyed me sideways, as though to say, it has to be harder than that.

But the truth is that I’ve always tried to look at the world in different ways. As a child, a favorite activity was looking at the ceiling and imagining what it would be like to live from that angle — not so different from our own life, but with much more inconvenient doors, for one. Or later, looking at public spaces to imagine what a superhero battle would be like staged there — where was cover, where the blind spots or perches? …

(11) RAMBO TRIVIA. Time to cram for the quiz:

(12) FAAN STATS. Click on the link to download Nic Farey’s FAAn Awards voting statistics and analysis publication.

(13) MINIATURE WORLDCON BID. Kate Secor (bid chair) and Michael Lee (bid treasurer) have announced a bid for “Worldcon 84: The Minimal Viable Worldcon” to be held in Charlottesville, VA in 2026. This is probably supposed to be funny.

W84 is targeting lovely Charlottesville, Virginia as a site. We will be capping attending memberships at 125 (not including staff) in order to fit in our chosen venue, the Charlottesville CitySpace. …

We are currently looking at dates in early October, so as to take advantage of Virginia’s long fall season and lovely natural scenery. We expect there to be sufficient hotel rooms to accommodate all our members at various price points. There will be no official con hotel, although W84 may be able to work with Charlottesville’s Visitor Bureau to change this.

…W84 will be administering the Hugos entirely online and via postal mail, and announcing the results via press release. Trophies will be mailed to the winners. W84 will be administering Site Selection largely via mail, but will accept hand-carried ballots and also allow on-site voting for all members even if they do not have attending memberships.

(14) MODERN WARRIOR. James Breakwell reporting:

(15) READY PLAYER THREE. And right after —

(16) GOOD DOG. At Middle-Earth Reflections, Olga Polomoshnova a series of posts finishes with “Reading Roverandom /// Chapter 5”.

The closing chapter of Roverandom is a good example of a happy turn of events when you least expect it. Moreover, it is where we can see the results of Rover’s moral journey and how he has changed over the course of the story.

Once out of the sea depths, Rover again addresses Artaxerxes with his request: to change him into his proper size and shape. He does not hesitate to use the word “please” abundantly. The wizard is happy to help the dog as he has become wiser and kinder, too, following his failure as PAM and the anger of mer-people.  But, alas, all his spells were destroyed at the bottom of the ocean. Artaxerxes is truly miserable, and he really means it being eager to change Rover back into his normal self. Things would have been pretty bad had it not been for the wizard’s shrewd wife. She kept some spells and now has exactly the one he needs to grant Rover’s request.

(17) DECODING HEINLEIN. Does the BBC know this was the source of the ship name in Citizen of the Galaxy? — “Sisu: the Finnish art of inner strength”.

“Sisu will get you even through granite,” my Finnish mother-in-law used to say. If you look at the enormous grey outcrops of granite scattered since the ice age through the Finnish countryside and forests, you’ll realise that getting through them is not just difficult, it is pretty well impossible.

‘Sisu’ in Finnish means strength, perseverance in a task that for some may seem crazy to undertake, almost hopeless. My mother-in-law experienced the bombings of the Winter War (1939-1940) when Finland was attacked by the much superior Soviet army but managed to mount a resistance to remain independent. The New York Times ran an article in 1940 with the headline “Sisu: A Word that Explains Finland”.

So, what is this almost mythical quality that appears to be so Finnish? “It is a special thing that is reserved for especially challenging moments. When we feel that we came to the end point of our preconceived capacities. You could say that sisu is energy, determination in the face of adversities that are more demanding than usual,” says Emilia Lahti, a researcher of sisu from Aalto University in Helsinki.

(18) CELEBRATING HEINLEIN’S BIRTHDAY.  A Barcelona club plans to celebrate Heinlein’s birthday on July 7. Juan Miguel de la Torre Quesada, Vice-President of Barcelona’s Otium Club sent out an English translation of their press release with the schedule. Here are a few highlights.

H-Day – Heinlein’s Day

Saturday, July 7nth, 2018 – from 10: 00 to 14:00.

Civic Center Joan Oliver “Pere Quart”

C/ Comandante Benítez, 6 – Barcelona (Spain)

About the event:

On the day of his 111nth birthday, this July, the seventh, we’re gathering to celebrate the life and work of Robert Anson Heinlein in a event we have baptised as “Dia H – Heinlein’s Day”. With this activity we wish to present to the greater audience, beyond the limits of fandom, this seminal autor and his influence within the genere of SF as well as in the cultural fabric of our times.

Robert Heinlein is considered one of the greatest and most essential writers in the SF cannon, not only because of his excellent narrative and literary qualities, but as a pioneer in the field, a paladin of critical thinking and of rational pragmatism, owing perhaps to his formation as an engineer, whose ideas and reflections, poured into a hundred Works, remain relevant today and are worth debating.

10:00 Introduction.

Ángel.F. Bueno, founder and President of the Otium Club will welcome the attendees with a brief exposition about the activities, presneting the author and his work, and then introducing the main guest speaker, Salvador Bayarri.

10: 20 – 11:40 Conference : “Robert Heinlein: a libertarian in science fiction”.

Salvador Bayarri, Doctor in Physics and Master Degree in Philosophy, as well as an SF writer, will expound on a complete exploration and biographical analysis on the thought, themes and work of the autor, in a light and humorous manner.

11:40 – 11:45 “The attendees will be invited to blow the candles on a birthday cake customised for the occasion”.

11:45 – 13:13 Screening of “Predestination” (2014) , The Spierig Brothers.

Salvador Bayarri and Ángel F. Bueno will introduce this excellent movie based on the short story “All you zombies!” (1958) by Robert A. Heinlein….

(19) TAGGING ALONG. The latest Mars mission has company: “WALL-E and EVE on their way to Mars with InSight”.

NASA’s InSight lander is on its way to Mars, after a successful launch on Saturday morning.

The lander was launched by an Atlas V rocket taking off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California shortly after 4 a.m. local time. It successfully separated from the upper stage more than an hour later.

Because InSight is a lander — not a rover — it will stay put on Mars as it carries out “an $813.8 million mission to study the interior of the Red Planet.”

Two CubeSats, or miniature satellites about the size of a briefcase, were launched by the same rocket, basically hitching a ride with the Insight. Named after the characters in the 2008 animated movie, WALL-E and EVE are each about the size of a briefcase or large cereal box. They popped out from the rocket’s upper stage after liftoff and are hightailing it to Mars, right behind InSight. This is the first time CubeSats have set sail for deep space.

[Thanks to Keith G. Kato, JJ, Cat Eldridge, ULTRAGOTHA, John King Tarpinian, Mark Hepworth, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Lise Andreasen, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 5/4/18 The Scroll Above The Pixel Was The Color Of An Old File, Tuned To A Dead DNS

(1) NOBEL ROLLOVER. The Associated Press reports “No Nobel literature prize this year but 2 prizes in 2019”.

Following weeks of internal bickering, sex-abuse allegations and a financial investigation by police, the body that hands out the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature announced Friday that no prize will be awarded this year.

Instead, the academy said two Nobel Prizes in Literature will be handed out next year, the 2018 prize and the 2019 prize. The decision was made Thursday at a weekly meeting of the Swedish Academy in Stockholm on the grounds that the group was in too deep a crisis to choose a Nobel winner properly.

“The present crisis of confidence places high demands on a long-term and robust work for change,” said Anders Olsson, the academy’s permanent secretary. “We find it necessary to commit time to recovering public confidence in the Academy before the next laureate can be announced.”

(2) WHEATON’S SPEECH ABOUT DEPRESSION. The actor has posted the text of his speech for NAMI Ohio’s statewide conference, Fulfilling the Promise: “My name is Wil Wheaton. I live with chronic Depression, and I am not ashamed.”

…My life is, by every objective measurement, very very good.

And in spite of all of that, I struggle every day with my self esteem, my self worth, and my value not only as an actor and writer, but as a human being.

That’s because I live with Depression and Anxiety, the tag team champions of the World Wrestling With Mental Illness Federation.

And I’m not ashamed to stand here, in front of six hundred people in this room, and millions more online, and proudly say that I live with mental illness, and that’s okay. I say “with” because even though my mental illness tries its best, it doesn’t control me, it doesn’t define me, and I refuse to be stigmatized by it.

So. My name is Wil Wheaton, and I have Chronic Depression….

(3) MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU.  For the Fourth, iFixit is doing a number of teardowns (inside hardware looks) of Empire/Jedi tech, like this lightsaber:

Do you have the death sentence on twelve systems? Do you frequent wretched hives of scum and villainy? Then you probably don’t want to see this saber firing up.

And by the way –

This teardown is not a repair guide. To repair your Lightsaber, use our service manual.

(4) SALLY FOURTH. SW Day Observation: “Heathrow pranks travellers with fake Star Wars departures board for ‘May the 4th Be With You’”The Sun has the story.

Destinations such as Tatooine, Kamino, Hoth and Jakku were up on the board in a tribute to Star Wars Day.

A note below the 11.40am flight to Jakku announced that it had been “delayed due to sandstorms”.

(5) FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. Saturday May 5 is Free Comic Book Day. Click here to find a participating location near you.

(6) PREVIEWING THE FREEBIES. NPR’s Glen Weldon presents “Free Comic Book Day 2018: A Guide To The Best Bets And The Best Avoided”,  a series of mini-reviews about the free comics being handed out on Saturday.

Free Comic Book Day has been an annual event for 17 years now. I’ve been writing up this guide to the FCBD books for the past 10 of those, so believe me when I say:

This year’s a good ‘un. The best yet. Don’t skip it.

There are more all-ages books in this year’s mix, more stories starring girls, women and people of color and a healthier, more robust selection of genres to choose from than ever before.

It’s also gratifying to see fewer publishers putting out FCBD offerings that amount to little more than samplers, offering readers only tiny snippets of stories from several different comics they publish. Happily, most of the books you’ll be able to pick on Saturday — even those that are simply excerpts from new or forthcoming graphic novels — make for solid, substantial, satisfying reads.

Here’s an example —

Title: Bongo Comics

Genre: TV Tie-In/Humor

The Gist: A perennially solid FCBD choice: Looks and feels like several episodes of (latter-day, it must be said) Simpsons.

Additional Info: Standout story is the lead one: Lisa takes over Krusty’s show and transforms it into an educational snore. (Yes, it’s just a riff on the season one episode “Krusty Gets Busted,” but it’s got primo Sideshow Mel content — he studied English Lit at Cornell!)

Verdict? Sure?

(7) FUNDS ROLL IN FOR BRADBURY STATUE. “Waukegan Ray Bradbury statue fundraising halfway to $125,000 goal” – the Chicago Tribune has the story.

A $ 5,000 donation from the National Gypsum Company has helped the Ray Bradbury Statue Committee reach and surpass its halfway-mark goal to erect a statue commemorating the life and works of world-renowned author and Waukegan native Ray Bradbury.

The proposed 12-foot-tall statue, which will sit on the grounds of the Waukegan Public Library on County Street in downtown Waukegan, was inspired by Bradbury’s poem “If Only We Had Taller Been” and will be created in stainless steel by acclaimed artist Zachary Oxman, depicting Bradbury astride a rocket ship.

(8) ROBOCOP. Another stfnal statue is landing in Detroit: “The Robocop statue finally finds a home”.

Back in 2011, a tweet to then-mayor Dave Bing led to a Kickstarter project that gained worldwide attention.

Project organizers announced yesterday that the Robocop Statue will land at the Michigan Science Center.

It’s been a long, strange trip for the 10-foot-tall bronze statue. From tweet to Facebook group to Kickstarter project to one small plan to one much larger vision. On the project update, organizers say, “From a humble thought of 3D scanning an action figure and blowing it up to 6 feet tall to pour in iron, we somehow found ourselves on a path to create a 10-foot-tall officially MGM-sanctioned bronze statue from a recreation of the original suit Peter Weller wore when he played RoboCop in 1987”.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian found what Chewie and Heathcliff have in common.
  • Workout fashions inspire humor at Off the Mark.
  • Speed Bump makes a genre reference into sports pun to get laughs.

(10) YA AUTHOR INTERVIEW. At NPR, author Dave Eggers talks about his new YA book Lifters: “In Dave Eggers’ New Book, Heroic Kids Do The Heavy Lifting”.

On having kids read his story

They’re astoundingly good editors. They will tell you exactly what’s working, exactly what’s not working. I took every last edit from every one of these kids. They are the purest readers. They do want to be entertained, and I’ll say that sometimes they are easier to please, for sure, than cynical adult readers, because it’s all new to them — so this might have been, like, the seventh chapter book some of these kids read, or the second or the third. So that’s why I feel honored to be part of their reading experience at such a young age, because I remember every last book I read in that era. I was not, like, a voracious reader, so I remember the one or two books a year that I read when I was ten and 11 and 12, because I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to a chapter book at that age.

(11) SHARKE TIME. Now that the official Clarke Award shortlist is out, Shadow Clarke juror Maureen Kincaid Speller takes stock in “Shortlisting Thoughts”.

The Shadow Clarke jurors have now all produced their reading lists, and the official Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist has been revealed. It’s time to reflect on everyone’s choices.

At this point, it is worth reminding everyone once again that the Shadow Clarke jurors are not in direct competition with the Arthur C. Clarke Award judges. Our projects are complementary but rather different. The Clarke Award judges have to choose a winner at the end of their judging process, and we, the sf reading public, are not privy to their deliberations, as is right and proper. The Shadow Clarke jurors, on the other hand, don’t have to choose a winner, hence our emphasis on choosing ‘reading lists’: lists of titles that interest us and will, we hope, promote some broader discussion about the state of science fiction in 2018. And we can talk about how we made our choices. As our introductions have shown, we’ve chosen our lists according to a wide range of criteria. And yes, in some instances we are playing against the system, so to speak, but we have a licence to explore the submissions list in a different way.

(12)DEAR OLD DAD. Son of Bigfoot Trailer #1.

A teenage boy journeys to find his missing father only to discover that he’s actually Bigfoot.

 

(13) WORD COINAGE. Here’s where it’s happening: “Feelinig litt? The five hotspots that are driving English forward”.

The English language is forever in flux, as new words are born and old ones die. But where do these terms come from and what determines whether they survive?

Charting linguistic change was once a painstakingly slow task, but a new analysis of nearly one billion Tweets – presented on 17 April at the Evolang International Conference on Language Evolution in Torun, Poland – now offers us an unprecedented glimpse of this process in action….

The researcher behind the study, Jack Grieve at the University of Birmingham, UK, analysed more than 980 million Tweets in total – consisting of 8.9 billion words – posted between October 2013 and November 2014, and spanning 3,075 of the 3,108 US counties.

From this huge dataset, Grieve first identified any terms that were rare at the beginning of the study (occurring less than once per billion words in the last quarter of 2013) but which had then steadily risen in popularity over the course of the following year. He then filtered the subsequent list for proper nouns (such as Timehop) and those appearing in commercial adverts, and he also removed any words that were already in Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Acronyms, however, were included.

(14) FAUX GYRO. Syfy Wire says “Aliasing illusion makes 3D sculptures wiggle and gyrate”:

Another effect is called “aliasing,” where something is moving in beat with the camera frame rate. The most common of these is when you watch a video of a car moving, and it looks like the wheels are spinning backward. They’re not! It’s just that the wheel spins almost all the way around in the time it takes the camera to take two frames of video, so in the second frame it looks like the wheel has turned backward a little bit. Do this many times in a row and you get that weird effect of the wheels looking like they’re spinning the wrong way. I wrote about this extensively when a video taken by a camera that fell out of a plane went viral. You can also use it to make what looks like a magic spiral of water.

So you can get really weird effects by accident. However, artist John Edmark has used this effect on purpose and to his advantage, creating stunning and mesmerizing videos. He makes sculptures with cyclic patterns in them, then records them spinning (he also uses a strobe light with timed pulses to mimic camera aliasing). What you wind up with is very cool:

 

[Thanks to Kip W., Rich Lynch, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mark Hepworth, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 4/29/18 First Step On Our New Homeworld. That’s One Small Pixel For A Fan, One Giant Scroll For Fankind

(1) AVENGERS KEEP THE REGISTER RINGING. The Hollywood Reporter has the numbers: “Box Office: ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Passes ‘Star Wars: Force Awakens’ With Record $250M U.S. Bow”

Disney and Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War kicked off the summer box office in high style over the weekend, opening to a record-setting $250 million in North America and $380 million overseas for a global total of $630 million, the top worldwide debut of all time. The superhero mashup accomplished the feat without China, where it doesn’t unfurl until May 11.

(2) HAPPY CUSTOMER. Doc at Sci-Fi Storm praises the new MCU film: “Avengers: Infinity War breaks records, looks at $250M opening; Non-Review”.

There is very little I can say about the movie that isn’t a spoiler, so I’ll limit myself to what little there is that isn’t. This movie is practically non-stop, with powerful action sequences and emotional points throughout. There are so many characters we know I’m amazed they were given the amount of time that they could!

(3) END OF A LUCKY STREAK. Abigail Nussbaum tells Asking the Wrong Question readers why Avengers: Infinity War” doesn’t work for her.

…So even though I wouldn’t say that I walked into Avengers: Infinity War with high hopes, I had certain expectations from it.  I’m not a great fan of any of the MCU’s team-up movies–I think Avengers is more impressive for being attempted than for its limited success; I get more annoyed with Age of Ultron whenever I think about it; and though I praised Civil War when I first watched it, it has aged very poorly for me, and I now remember mainly its risible politics and the fact that it has made me dislike Steve Rogers.  But for all that, I still believed that the question aroused by the Infinity War concept–how can Marvel rope together dozens of characters from multiple storylines into a battle against a single universe-destroying villain, and make a successful and entertaining movie out of it?–would be answered with the same definitive success as previous ones.  I didn’t expect to love Infinity War, but I expected it to work.

Instead, it is barely even a movie.  The answer to “how can you give each of these lovingly crafted characters the space and attention they deserve” turns out to be “you can’t”….

(4) KERMODE ON AVENGERS. Mark Kermode’s review for the BBC is spoiler free. But IanP notes: “However as he is not a dyed in the wool comic fan he didn’t manage to fully engage emotionally with the film, while fully understanding while fans will. Overall I think he admired what they’d managed to do without it actually working for him.”

(5) ALONG FOR THE RIDE. A Blue Origin New Shepard space vehicle was launched Sunday on a suborbital hop carrying a dummy astronaut. His name?  Mannequin Skywalker. Cnet has the story: “Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin launch used rocket, and fleas, to space”.

After a number of delays Sunday morning, a Blue Origin New Shepard rocket blasted off from the west Texas desert just after noon Central Daylight Time, sending a crew capsule carrying a dummy named “Mannequin Skywalker” on a brief trip to space.

For the eighth time, Jeff Bezos’ commercial space company successfully tested the system it hopes to use to send paying passengers on suborbital flights in the coming months.

The spacecraft reached an altitude of 350,000 feet (106,680 meters), or about 5 percent higher than previous New Shepard test flights. That height sent the rocket beyond the internationally accepted boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space, called the Karman Line.

(6) SATURN TESTS. In 1963, Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus wonders why it’s taking so long to get to the moon. Who knew we’d be asking that question again in 2018. “[Apr. 29, 1963] When a malfunction isn’t (the flight of Saturn I #4 and other space tidbits)”.

Enter the two-stage Saturn I, whose first stage has eight engines, like the Nova, but they are much smaller.  Still, altogether, they produce 1.5 million pounds of thrust — that’s six times more than the Atlas that will put Gordo Cooper’s Mercury into orbit next month.  The Saturn I’s second stage will likely also be the third stage on the Saturn V.

The Saturn I has had the most successful testing program of any rocket that I know of.  It’s also one of the most maddeningly slow testing programs (I’m not really complaining — methodical is good, and it’s not as if Apollo’s ready to fly, anyway).

(7) NEW VORKOSIVERSE NOVELLA ON THE WAY. Lois McMaster Bujold read part of this story on her last tour says ULTRAGOTHA – “The Flowers of Vashnoi bloom in May”.

I am pleased and somewhat surprised to report that a new Vorkosiverse novella is upcoming, probably in late May.

Title is “The Flowers of Vashnoi”, cover label is going to be “an Ekaterin Vorkosigan novella”, and the length is about 22,400 words, roughly the same as “Winterfair Gifts”.

As usual, no pre-order will be set up; you can just buy it when it goes live, at our usual three online vendors Kindle, iTunes, and Nook. I will certainly post the news when that occurs.

Final revisions are almost complete – it’s down to the stage where I spend all morning adding two sentences and all afternoon taking them back out, which is generally a sign to stop. The other part to be nailed down is the e-cover, still in development, so no sneak peek yet.

Possibly my shortest novella, this one has, oddly, taken the longest of anything to complete. My computer files claim I started the first draft back in November, 2011. (I could not even remember.) It ran along well for a while, then hit a brick wall and died on impact, I thought. I believed it was buried forever, but apparently it was just cryofrozen, because it came back to life a couple of months ago when I was trying and failing to boot up a new adventure for Penric and Desdemona. When my backbrain hands me a gift like that, I’ve found it’s better not to refuse it.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MOGUL

  • Born April 29, 1923  — Irvin Kershner. The Force was with him.

(9) MYTHIC CHOW. Atlas Obscura’s Anne Ewbank ponders “Why Do Fantasy Novels Have So Much Food?”.

Food in fantasy dates back to early myths and legends, which are full of symbolic, often menacing fare. The Greek goddess Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds in the underworld, consigning her to spend six months of the year with Hades, the god of death. European tales and poems abound with mystical fairies or elves using food to lure humans. In the poem “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” written in 1819 by Romantic poet John Keats, a knight falls in love with a fairy girl, who feeds him “roots of relish sweet, And honey wild, and manna-dew.” But one day, the knight wakes up to find himself abandoned and half-mad for what he lost. In 1859, poet Christina Rossetti wrote “Goblin Market,” about eerie, otherworldly creatures that sell fruit that, once tasted, drive people crazy for more.

The trope of dangerous fairy food still exists in modern fantasy, says Dr. Robert Maslen. Maslen is a senior lecturer at the University of Glasgow, where he founded one of the world’s first master’s degrees in fantasy literature. He gives two modern examples: the film Pan’s Labyrinth and Ellen Kushner’s novel Thomas the Rhymer. When food comes with consequences, it’s a sign that “we’re in a world where the rules are very different.”

(10) TAFF REPORT. Now you can pick up Jim Mowatt’s 2013 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund trip report – Where I Lay My Hat. Let Jim tell you about it —

After years of desperate procrastination the Taff report of my 2013 Taff trip to North America is now complete. It tells the tale of my visits to Toronto, Abingdon, Seattle, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Antonio (Worldcon) and New Orleans. It features art from (in order of appearance) Alan White, Al Sirois, Stu Shiffman, Carrie Mowatt, D. West, Taral Wayne, Brad Foster, Allison Hershey, Ulf Skei, Valeri Purcell, Julie McMurray and Anne Stokes. There are many fine full colour photos of frolicking fans and I’ve even shoved a few words in there. I’m recommending a donation to Taff of about 20 pounds (28 or 29 dollars) and you can donate using the Taff donations buttons at taff.org.uk. Email me,  jim (at) umor.co.uk or John Purcell at 2017taff2019 (at) gmail.com and we’ll post out a copy.

(11) CONTASTROPHE. Aja Romano’s “Great Con Disasters Of The Past: A Thread” begins here:

(12) DON’T BLOW YOUR CHANCE. Atlas Obscura shares “The Uncanny Delights of the World Balloon Convention”.

…This year’s WBC was held in mid-March, in San Diego, California. According to the official website, close to 900 people attended, from 52 countries. The best of the best participated in the Convention’s nine separate competitions, battling to take home titles in everything from “Large Sculpture” to “Balloon Hat.”

The competitors are incredibly skilled. (Most are “Certified Balloon Artists,” which means they have passed a qualifying exam.) Several categories require creating entire landscapes out of gas and latex. Incredible details are achieved with a limited palette of shapes. Sometimes the juxtapositions are funny: The winner of the “Fashion & Costume” category has reimagined a lightsaber as a long, floppy balloon. In the “Large Sculpture” winner, a tiger sports armor that, if you zoom in, looks like sausage links….

(13) APRIL SUMMATIONS BRING MAY FEATURES: Jason has summed Summation: April 2018 over at Featured Futures.

Ten of this month’s eleven noted stories (five recommended) come from the 50 (of just over 200,000 words) that I’ve read with a publication date between April 1 and April 28. Nature and Terraform had a good month with a recommended story and an honorable mention each. Some venues appeared for just the first or second time this year (Grievous Angel, On Spec (reviewed for Tangent), and Strange Horizons (with an especially strong story)), though some of the usual suspects (BCS, Clarkesworld, and Lightspeed) also pitched in. Aside from unusual venues, this month’s wombat is a relatively large number of SF (and no fantasy) honorable mentions.

The eleventh noted story is another first-time appearance. It comes from Slate’s “Future Tense Fiction” department and coverage of that is one of three changes in Featured Futures to report. The latest “Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up” caught up on the stories already released this year and future stories will be continue to be covered there.

Meanwhile, Lightspeed and Nightmare have been covered in the “Wrap-Ups” but will be covered as monthly issues beginning in May.

Lastly, Featured Futures is going to the final frontier: coverage of  short fiction in books. So far, there are a couple of collections and maybe an anthology I’ll see about covering in May.

(14) SHARKTICLE. Another Shadow Clarke juror tells what they will be reading: “Negotiating Cartography by Samira Nadkarni”.

 …As a small cross-section: I started reading Sami Schalk’s Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)Ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction—whose introduction discusses Jasbir Puar whose work I’m following for another project on queerness and warfare— while waiting for Janelle Monàe’s Dirty Computer to drop. Monàe’s vehemently queer 44-minute emotion picture will locate itself around a technocratic society in which citizens are termed “computers,” a section of whom are now on the run from an authoritarian government. Based on what we’ve seen of the three tracks dropped so far, the project is also fiercely Black, and strongly rooted in the political. It’s impossible not to think back to Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures: The Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race (followed by a film of the same name starring Monàe, Taraji P. Henson, and Octavia Spencer) which made evident the links between women (Black women in particular) and the history of computers. Knowing that early production units were called “kilo-girls” to denote the number of hours worked and that these women were called “computers,” Monàe’s choice of a return to “computers” as words for people in videos peopled almost exclusively by Black people, and heavily peopled by Black women in this futuristic melding of technology, activism, and talking back to an authoritarian regime feels poignant and part of an evolving expression of futurity located in historicity.

… All of this was with me when I sat down to make this shortlist. I’m hoping the explanation helps contextualise my interest in books that not only talk about power, but also may talk about the complications of power that may come even with resistance and reclamation.

(15) RON HOWARD EXPLAINS IT ALL. …In a new Solo: A Star Wars Story “Becoming Solo Featurette.”

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, ULTRAGOTHA, Mark Hepworth, Steve Bartlett, Jim Mowatt, Carl Slaughter, Jason, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mister Dalliard.]

Pixel Scroll 4/17/18 A Noun, A Verb, And Pixel Scroll

(1) UP ON THE ROOFTOP. Not the sort of thing you usually find on a New York rooftop, like a pigeon coop, or Spider-Man — “The Met Rooftop’s New Installation, ‘We Come in Peace,’ Has Landed”.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Roof Garden is now officially open for the season (along with its bar!), and this year’s site-specific commission is a powerful pair of imposing sculptures by Pakistani artist Huma Bhabha. Titled We Come In Peace (a phrase lifted from the 1951 sci-fi film The Day the Earth Stood Still), the work conjures up an ominous but open-ended narrative, inviting visitors to explore their own thematic interpretations: subjugation and supplication, respect, fear, and/or adoration; social upheaval and displacement; gender, power, and “memories of place.”

Bhabha forged the two pieces in her Poughkeepsie studio from ephemera and construction materials (cork, Styrofoam, plastic) which she then cast in bronze….

(2) TOUGH JOB. Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag, in “Conventions and problematic people” at Bloggity-Blog-Blog, reviews the latest news about ConCarolinas and Worldcon and concludes:

It’s enough to make a person swear off conventions. Certainly enough to make being on a concom a dangerous and scary job. I admit I admire those members of fandom who volunteer their time for such a thankless task even more after learning about these various problems.

(3) TOUGHER JOB. Naomi Kritzer and Alex Acks share their thoughts about panel moderation in two separate threads. Jump in by clicking on these tweets:

(4) ALASDAIR STUART. A Shadow Clarke juror tells how he’s going to do it: “Compass Bearings: Alasdair Stuart’s Picks”.

I really liked the thought process Nick talked about in his Reading List piece, and how the books he’s chosen are intended to serve as a cross section of SF as it currently stands. That helped crystallize my thinking on the subject, as did dispatching my duties as a Kitschies judge this week.

That was a really fun job, and one that contained substantially more hope than a lot of people tend to see in genre fiction. Both short lists were crammed full of books that had unique voices, did unique things and drove the field, and the conversation around it, forward. It also helped me give a very clear shape to the sort of things I’m looking for in the initial Shadow Clarke read. And that shape is a compass.

I’ve got a working familiarity with a lot of these books following the Kitschies and, if I wanted to, I could focus entirely on that. But what really excites me about this list is the opportunity it presents to push outside my boundaries. In addition, given how much I often rail against SF culture’s tendency to enthusiastically face backwards on the rocket, it would be completely remiss of me to just hug some books I already know a little bit tighter.

So, that’s my critical North in this situation. My critical South is to not overlook books that deserve to be talked about. Sometimes those will come from big names. Chances are, more likely, they’ll come from newcomers.

(5) TRUTH IN DANGER. At the hands of Dangerous’ ace reporter Jon Del Arroz, John Ringo’s decision not to go to ConCarolinas now becomes a “ban,” and people’s threats not to show up are transmogrified to threats of violence — “Author John Ringo Responds to SJW Assault That Led to Sci-Fi Convention Ban” [Internet Archive link.]

ConCarolinas initially didn’t respond to the nasty trolling and threats of boycotts, but after deliberating over the weekend, they sent Ringo an email disinviting him from the convention because, as the convention chair said on Twitter, “the con could not guarantee Ringo wouldn’t be walking into a hostile environment. John wanted to have fun. A reasonable request. The con could not guarantee that he wouldn’t be subject to people being ugly to him.”

Ringo recalls the interchange with the convention to be a bit more serious, stating he was asked not to attend because, “we were going to have to hire full time security guards and maybe off-duty police during peak hours.”

If the crowd is prone to be as violent as he suggests, and it has gotten increasingly worse over these last few years, why won’t the conventions do something to protect their conservative guests?

(6) LLEGAL ADVICE. This defendant in JDA’s lawsuit lives overseas.

(7) ON THE AIR. NPR reports that in Ann Arbor a bookstore’s public typewriter is the town conscience. And repository of fart jokes. “‘Notes From A Public Typewriter’ Muse On Everything From Cats To Commencement”

When it’s closing time at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, co-owner Michael Gustafson runs through a checklist that, for the most part, is pretty routine. First, make sure all the customers have gone, lock the doors and take out the garbage and the recycling. Shelve any stray books, adjust the tables, turn off the music.

Then, after closing out the registers, Gustafson descends one last time to the store’s lower level, the part of the bookstore stuffed with volumes on cooking and gardening, travel and history. And he sits down at an old typewriter to read the notes the day’s customers have left behind.

On busy days, there are dozens and dozens of them….

(8) TRASH MASTERS. Here’s the next job robots are taking over, and it probably won’t be much of a struggle: “How robots are reshaping one of the dirtiest, most dangerous jobs”.

Sorting trash is a dirty, dull, and dangerous job. Recycling workers are more than twice as likely as other workers to be injured on the job, and stubbornly high fatality rates make refuse and recyclable material collection one of the nation’s most dangerous occupations.

But with the rise of artificial intelligence, sophisticated trash-sorting robots are now turning up at recycling plants across the nation. Guided by cameras and computer systems trained to recognize specific objects, the robots’ arms glide over moving conveyor belts until they reach their target. Suction cups or oversized tongs attached to the arms snag cans, glass, plastic containers, and other recyclable items out of the rubbish and flick them into nearby bins.

(9) CANON FIRE. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “How ‘Solo’ rolls dice on a key piece of ‘Star Wars’ history”, says that in Solo the game of sabacc that Han Solo used to win the Millennium Falcon has been clarified. A.C. Crispin in her novel Rebel Dawn declared sabacc to be a dice game, but her novel has been ruled non-canonical and the official tie-in version of sabacc is a combination of dice and cards.

That would be the moment that flyboy Han Solo (played by Alden Ehrenreich) wins his beloved “bucket of bolts,” the Millennium Falcon, away from its previous owner, Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). Their face-off occurs during a climactic round of sabacc, the card game enjoyed by galactic citizens residing on every planet from Apatros to Yavin. And based on this Solo teaser, Han is quite clearly the underdog, while Lando is the top dog; in a hilarious moment, Solo reveals his cards to his sidekick, Chewbacca, and the Wookiee lets out a classic moan that doesn’t require any translation. (But allow us to translate anyway: “You’re screwed.”)

The sabacc sequence won’t just be Solo‘s answer to Casino Royale‘s classic poker game, though. It’s also going to firmly establish how the Millennium Falcon changed hands, a story that has gone through several permutations over the decades. It all started in The Empire Strikes Back, when Han (played by Harrison Ford) showed up in Cloud City and Lando (Billy Dee Williams) ribbed him over the Falcon’s poor shape. “What have you done to my ship?” he asked, to which Han protested: “Your ship? Hey, remember, you lost her to me fair and square.”

(10) BIG BLABBERS. Looper will see to it that the “Untold Truth of the Hulk” is untold no longer!!

The Incredible Hulk is one of Marvel’s oldest and most recognizable icons. Created by comics legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and first appearing in 1962’s Incredible Hulk #1, the Green Goliath spawned hundreds of comics, two live-action movies, a popular live-action TV show, and multiple animated series, films, and video games. And most importantly — big foam hands that make smashy sounds when you hit things with them. With so much Hulk over so much media, it’s almost impossible for even the most hardcore fans to keep up with all of the stories. Here’s the untold truth of the Incredible Hulk…

 

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

Pixel Scroll 4/14/18 The Adventures Of Scrolli And Pixelwinkle

(1) ISSUES IN SFF REVIEWING. Several interesting threads about reviews and reviewing in sff. Each tweet is the jumping off point for the thread.

  • Bogi Takács

  • Charles Payseur

  • Cecily Kane

  • Also, Jason Sanford did an overview which includes numerous links to reviewers.

(2) WORLD FANTASY AWARDS. John Joseph Adams advises that the 2018 World Fantasy Awards nominations have opened and voting continues until May 31.

The World Fantasy Awards will be presented in Baltimore, MD during the World Fantasy Convention (Nov. 1-4). Deadline for nominating is and ballots must be received by May 31, 2018.

All registered members of the 2016 World Fantasy Convention, the 2017 World Fantasy Convention, and the 2018 event in Baltimore will be eligible to vote before the deadline. If you didn’t attend one of the previously mentioned World Fantasy conventions, and you don’t plan to attend this year, you can still nominate by purchasing a supporting membership.

Already registered? Go and nominate your favorite works! Voting information is available on the World Fantasy Convention 2018 website.

(3) CODE OF OMELAS. Ursula Vernon tells about the ones who stagger away…

(4) SUPER TRAFFIC MONITOR. The Caped Crusader says, “Don’t get run over!” Or something like that. From the BBC: “Lost footage of Batman star Adam West to be screened”. [Video]

Previously lost footage of Batman star Adam West teaching road safety will be screened for the first time in more than 50 years.

The clip from May 1967 of Batman teaching children the Kerb Drill will be shown to an audience of TV professionals and enthusiasts in Birmingham to kick-off a hunt for 100 missing television clips.

Kaleidoscope, which specialises in finding missing television footage, recently discovered the segment, which was never screened outside of the UK.

It will be shown at Birmingham City University on Saturday, as the company launches its list of the UK’s top 100 missing TV shows that industry professionals most want to see recovered.

This includes early episodes of Doctor Who featuring Mark Eden as Marco Polo, Top Of The Pops and The Avengers.

(5) UTAH WESTERCON NEWS. Westercon 72 (July 4-7th, 2019 in Layton, Utah) has added Special Guest Eric Flint. Westercon also will host the 2019 1632 Minicon.

Eric Flint’s writing career began with the science fiction novel Mother of Demons. His alternate history novel 1632 has led to a long-running series with over thirty novels and anthologies in print. He’s also written many other science fiction and fantasy novels. He resides in northwest Indiana with his wife Lucille.

Along with Mr. Flint, we are also pleased to announce the 2019 1632 Minicon will be held in conjunction with Westercon 72. The minicon is the annual event that allows the 1632 fans and authors to get together. (Of course, in the case of 1632, fans and authors overlap substantially.) Each year the minicon is held “inside” a science fiction convention in a different part of the country. Many cons have agreed to host the minicon over the years. (Wording courtesy of https://1632.org )

(6) DISNEY PIXAR. A fresh trailer for Incredibles 2.

(7) TIN FOIL HATS FOR CATS. Did you know these were a thing? From the Archie McPhee catalog:

It’s a tin foil hat for conspiracy cats! They want to know what your cat is thinking. They want to control your cat’s thoughts. Not on our watch! We’ve made a Tin Foil Hat for Cats to make sure that kitty’s thoughts stay private. This mylar hat fits most cats, has a comfy felt lining and is held in place with an elastic strap. It even has holes for cat ears! Take that, Illuminati! Restores the dignity of your kitty. Very effective against MKUltra satellites, cat food company dream-insertion marketing, Guy Fieri, Soviet cat control protocols, psychic dogs, skull tapping, focused magnetic pulse and the neighbor’s labradoodle. Great for pictures! Fits most cats.

(8) BELL OBIT. Art Bell (1945-2018), the original host of the paranormal-themed radio program Coast to Coast AM, died April 13. At its peak in popularity, Bells show was syndicated on more than 500 radio stations and claimed 15 million listeners nightly

(9) TOWFIK OBIT. Sindbad Sci-Fi eulogizes an influential Egyptian sf writer: “Remembering Ahmed Khaled Towfik (1962 – 2018)”.

Ahmed Khaled Towfik is no longer with us. After a period of prolonged illness, he died of a heart attack on 2 April 2018 in El-Demerdash hospital, Cairo, at the age of 55.

By day, Dr Ahmed Khaled Towfik practised as a medical professor at Egypt’s Tanta University. Over time, he was an obsessively prolific writer who became the Arab world’s most prominent bestselling contemporary author of Sci-Fi, fantasy and horror genres. He is claimed to have written over 500 titles of which one third is science fiction, including his Arabic translations of English Sci-Fi.

(10) TODAY’S SFF BIRTHDAYS

  • April 14, 1936 – Arlene Martel. She played Spock’s betrothed, co-starred with Robert Culp in the Outer Limits Demon with a Glass Hand written by Harlan Ellison plus a couple of Twilight Zone episodes.
  • Born April 14, 1958 – Peter Capaldi
  • Born April 14, 1977 — Sarah Michelle Gellar
  • Born April 14, 1982 – Rachel Swirsky

(11) SWIRSKY CELEBRATED. Steven H Silver shares his appreciation in “Birthday Reviews: Rachel Swirsky’s ‘The Monster’s Million Faces’” at Black Gate.

Rachel Swirsky was born on April 14, 1982. To this point, her writing career has been focused on short stories, although in 2010 she co-edited the anthology People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy with Sean Wallace. Her stories have been collected in two volumes, Through the Drowsy Dark and How the World Became Quiet: Myths of the Past, Present, and Future.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

Courtesy of mlex:

(13) GOOD TO THE LAST DROP. Charles Payseur tests a new batch of short fiction: “Quick Sips – Strange Horizons 04/02/2018 & 04/09/2018”.

The short SFF from the first two weeks of April’s Strange Horizons looks at faith and education, memory and time, fiction and hope. The stories feature characters either revisiting their pasts or desperate to do so. They also feature relationships between parents and children, though in opposite directions (one with a mother as main character, the other with a son). And they explore memory and trying to rewrite the past with something better than the crushing weight of the present. The poetry looks at religion and education, at expectation and death. It’s a rather complex collection of pieces, but it makes for some compelling reading. So let’s get to the reviews!

(14) ARE YOU KIDDING? The Deseret News reports “Former FBI director James Comey is a fan of Utah author Brandon Sanderson”.

In an interview with The New York Times Book Review “By the Book” section, Comey said he’s an avid reader of fiction, “almost always (reading) something my kids are reading, so I can … pretend to be cool.”

When asked what books readers would be surprised to find on his shelf, Comey answered with “The Fault in Our Stars,” by John Green; the Mistborn series, by Brandon Sanderson, and the Red Rising series, by Pierce Brown.

(15) SFF HISTORY. Tom De Haven remembers what it was like to write for Byron Preiss in a memoir at Café Pinfold.

…I met Byron Preiss in the 1970s, near the start of both our careers—as I recall, it was at an art show that he’d curated in a small Manhattan gallery (somewhere up near Bloomingdale’s, I believe) that consisted of super-realistic, high-key paintings of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys (yes, the Beach Boys; don’t ask me why, although probably it was the first or second or third step in a scheme to produce a “Byron Preiss Book” sometime in the future). He was the most confident man I’d ever met. Soft spoken, slow moving, but confident as hell. Always well dressed.  Good clothes but they could get rumpled looking. For as long as I knew and saw him, and it was quite a while, Byron always had a hundred ideas for new projects and the sublime confidence they’d all make millions.

So far as I understood it, he worked like this: he’d pitch a slew of different ideas to a variety of book editors in New York City, ideas that (again, so far as I understood it) he’d dreamed up himself, ideas inspired by current trends in publishing or pop culture (U.S.S.A., for example, followed in the wake of the original Red Dawn movie). Whenever Byron got the go-aheads for specific packaging projects, he’d call up writers to do the actual writing. (He was also likely to call up cartoonists and illustrators since most of his books came illustrated. Later, when he was one of the first people to pionneer digital publishing, he probably called up programmers.)

For me, and no doubt for many other “midlist” authors like me, it was often a lifesaver to get a telephone call from Byron Preiss; he took a big cut of any advance, naturally, and the advances were never better than just okay, but when you were in-between books and fresh out of ideas, or in-between advances for novels of your own, or had a major house repair that you couldn’t afford, or there was a new baby on the way, you were glad—at least I was glad—for an offer from Byron….

(16) WILL ROBINSON REBOOTY. NPR’s Glen Weldon goes back and forth in “Will Robinson, Meet Danger; Danger, Will Robinson: The ‘Lost In Space’ Reboot”, props for competent women, points off for repetition.

The original Lost in Space, which ran on network television from 1965 to 1968, began as a straightforward, if high-concept, adventure show: A colony spaceship carrying a nuclear family, a dashing pilot and a sniveling doctor got stranded on a remote planet. They had adventures while wearing v-neck sweaters over their turtlenecks, presumably because Irwin Allen, who produced the show, imagined that the future would be a chilly place. Or maybe he got a deal on velour, who knows.

Over the course of its run, the focus of the show shifted from the family to that weaselly doctor. Looking back, it’s easy to see why: The family was a bunch of white-bread squares in matchy-matchy outfits, but the doctor – played with a sublimely mincing menace by Jonathan Harris, was a revelation. The character of Doctor Smith was vain, overdramatic (“Oh, the pain, the pain!”), selfish, self-pitying, self-aggrandizing – a campy, eminently hissable villain out of a Christmas panto, down to the clipped British accent (which was something the Bronx-born Harris sniffily affected).

(17) LOST ATTENTION. In contrast, the Boston Globe reviewer describes the robot and the series as “sleek, shiny, and boring”: “‘Lost in Space,’ we have a problem” (may be passworded soon).

The casting is a problem, except in one case — Parker Posey as Dr. Smith. Molly Parker, a favorite of mine from “Deadwood” and “Swingtown,” is OK as the logic-and-science-loving Maureen — but she can be so much better than OK. The writers try to give her a personal storyline, since she and husband John, played sternly by Toby Stephens, are dealing with a troubled marriage. But it’s hard to care about the fate of their relationship because they’re so bland and heroic. The rest of the Robinsons are bland too, with Will (Maxwell Jenkins) a sweet but dramatically inert presence. I didn’t worry about their safety during all of their dangerous missions because I just didn’t care enough about them. TV’s original Robinson family wasn’t particularly exciting, either, but at least whimpering Jonathan Harris’s Dr. Smith brought enough camp and cowardice to keep things entertaining.

(18) SHARKE BITES. Shadow Clarke juror Maureen Kincaid Speller shares her picks: “A Shadow Clarke 2018 selection box – six exciting centres”. First, what you won’t find in her box:

This year, inevitably, my decision-making process is going to be more focused and more self-conscious, so I’ve laid out a few ground rules for myself. First, I have tried to avoid seeing what the other jurors are choosing, so this selection process has been conducted in isolation. Second, my Shadow Clarke to-read list isn’t going to feature anything I’ve already read, although there are some titles there I’d dearly like to discuss with the other jurors: Nick Harkaway’s Gnomon, for example, which is very much my kind of novel – formally inventive, a challenging read, a great story. But Gnomon is among a handful of titles already touted as shoo-ins for the official Clarke shortlist, and I have also decided to avoid putting any of those on my to-read list. I’m going to read them anyway and at this stage I’d rather experiment in my reading and see what’s going on in sf. This may seem very perverse but I would remind you that this exercise is categorically not about attempting to second-guess the official shortlist. As such I have leeway to explore.

With those decisions made, things become both easier and more complicated. Critics and reviewers are mortals like the rest of the world, and we all have our prejudices. For example, as I’ve noted before, I dislike zombie novels and while I could test that prejudice by reading a zombie novel – there seems to be a prime candidate on the list – I’ve come to the conclusion that I am secure enough in my understanding of my active dislikes to avoid wasting everyone’s time by confronting them, because the chances of anything positive emerging from the encounter are unlikely.

(19) CALL FOR PAPERS. Sublime Cognition is a very catchy name for a conference:

(20) SOLO CARDS. I don’t think I covered this with the rest of the Denny’s Star Wars-themed advertising: “Solo: A Star Wars Story exclusive trading cards, available only at Denny’s!”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Camestros Felapton, JJ, Mark Hepworth, Chip Hitchcock, Michael O’Donnell, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, mlex, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 4/10/18 The Third Little Pixel Had Scrolled Beef

(1) TOLKIEN’S GONDOLIN. Tor.com carries the official word: “J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fall of Gondolin to Be Published as a Standalone for the First Time”. It will be published August 30.

HarperCollins UK announced today that it would publish The Fall of Gondolin, J.R.R. Tolkien’s tale documenting the rise of a great but hidden Elven kingdom and its terrible fall, for the first time as a standalone edition. Edited by Christopher Tolkien using the same “history in sequence” mode that he did for 2017’s standalone edition of Beren and Lúthien, and illustrated by Alan Lee, this edition will collect multiple versions of the story together for the first time.

Tolkien has called this story, which he first began writing in 1917, “the first real story of this imaginary world”; i.e., it was one of the first tales to be put to paper. The only complete version of The Fall of Gondolin was published posthumously in The Book of Lost Tales; however, different compressed versions appeared in both The Silmarillion and the collection Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth.

(2) POTTER ANNIVERSARY COVERS. Gwynne Watkins, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Accio ‘Harry Potter’ covers: See the dazzling new 20th anniversary artwork”, says the Harry Potter books are coming out with new covers by Brian Selznick, author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret (which was the basis for the movie Hugo). See all the covers at the link.

Do your well-worn Harry Potter books need a new look for spring? In honor of the 20th anniversary of  the U.S. publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Scholastic is releasing new paperback editions of J.K. Rowling‘s entire series, featuring gorgeous cover art by Brian Selznick. When the seven books are placed side by side, the intricate black-and-white illustrations form a single piece of art chronicling Harry’s adventures. Scroll down to see the covers, which are full of tiny details for readers to discover. (Can you spot the Hogwarts Express? How about Harry’s Patronus?)

(3) ABOUT THE SIMPSONS’ APU. The Simpsons creators can’t figure out how something people laughed at in the past became “politically incorrect.” (And isn’t that term always a signal flare preceding a complete lack of empathy…) Entertainment Weekly’s Dana Schwartz discusses “Why The Simpsons’ response to the Apu controversy was so heartbreaking: Essay”.

…In 2017, comedian Hari Kondabolu wrote and starred in a documentary called The Problem with Apu in which he examined the cultural significance of The Simpsons character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the Kwik-E-Mart owner, who speaks with a heavy, stereotypical Indian accent and is voiced by Hank Azaria, a white man.

Last night, The Simpsons offered its tepid reply.

The scene began with Marge reading a bedtime story to Lisa that had been neutered with social justice buzzwords. “What am I supposed to do?” Marge asks when Lisa complains.

“It’s hard to say,” says Lisa, breaking the fourth wall and looking directly at the camera. A photo of Apu on the nightstand helped make it very clear they were no longer talking about the fictional bedtime story. “Something that started decades ago and was applauded and inoffensive is now politically incorrect. What can you do?”

“Some things will be dealt with at a later date,” says Marge, also to the camera.

“—If it all,” Lisa concludes.

There’s something about the response that came across as not only tasteless but viscerally unsatisfying. In his documentary, Kondabolu initiated the complex conversation about what it meant to have a white actor voicing an Indian character (with a heavy, caricatured accent) during a time when there was little or no Indian representation in the media.

The Simpsons on-air response reveals that the minds behind the long-running animated series either entirely failed to grasp Kondabolu’s point or (perhaps, unfortunately, more likely) they were completely indifferent to it.

(4) VAST GALLERY OF SFF ART. Enjoy TheVaultofRetroSciFi — Lots and lots of SF images, from all sorts of media.

(5) PARANORMAL ROMANCE. Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green explains why it’s hard to “Know Your Genre – Paranormal Romance”. She disagrees with the definitions posted on some of the leading sites.

…So why the confusion about what a PNR is when checking the RITA nominees?

Simply put, that confusion rests solely with RWA. A quick check of their website shows this definition for paranormal romance: “Romance novels in which fantasy worlds or paranormal or science fiction elements are an integral part of the plot.” See, there it is. Science fiction elements.

This definition might have worked several years ago, before there was an increase in the number of science fiction romance titles. Now, it only confuses the issue and muddies the waters when it comes to readers and booksellers. “Paranormal” doesn’t send most readers into the realm of sf, no way and no how. Yet, for RWA’s purposes, science fiction romance mixes and melds with PNR.

Is this the only definition? Far from it. One site defines PNR this way, “For a novel to be a Paranormal Romance, a simple thing must occur: love must begin between a human and a supernatural being (whether wholly supernatural or partially, just as long as there are supernatural elements present)”

Another site has this to say: “Most people hear the words ‘Paranormal Romance’ and visions of sparkly vamps and bare-chested wares seeking virginal human mates spring like crack-addicted leprechauns from the recesses of their minds. While these have certainly been the topic of many a novel **cough** Twilight **cough**, there are so many more topics joining the ranks of Paranormal Romance today.  Among them: Shapeshifters—half-human, half-animal beings with the ability to transmute between forms on cue, Angels, Demons, Nephilim, Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, Ancient Greek mythology, and even the occasional Ghost or Alien thrown in for good measure. And I would be amiss in not mentioning the perennial time-traveling, kilt-wearing highlander with the rippling biceps and the heart of gold. His broadsword isn’t the only steely thing about him, if you know what I mean.” Where I have a dispute with the site and its definitions is when it say UF is a sub-genre of PNR. Nope, totally different.

(6) THE WASTELAND. The trailer for Future World has dropped:

In a post-apocalyptic world, where water and gasoline have long since dried-up, a prince from the oasis (one of the last known safe-havens) must venture out to find medicine for the ailing queen (Lucy Liu), but along the way he gets mixed up with the warlord (James Franco) and his robot Ash (Suki Waterhouse), which leads to a daring journey through the desolate wastelands.

 

(7) FOUNDATIONAL TELEVISION. From Deadline: “Apple Lands Isaac Asimov ‘Foundation’ TV Series From David Goyer & Josh Friedman”.

In a competitive situation, Apple has nabbed a TV series adaptation of Foundation, the seminal Isaac Asimov science fiction novel trilogy. The project, from Skydance Television, has been put in development for straight-to-series consideration. Deadline revealed last June that Skydance had made a deal with the Asimov estate and that David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman were cracking the code on a sprawling series based on the books that informed Star Wars and many other sci-fi films and TV series. Goyer and Friedman will be executive producers and showrunners. Skydance’s David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross also will executive produce….

The project shows a different level of ambition for Apple’s worldwide video programming team led by Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg. In November, they set their first scripted series, a morning show drama executive produced by and starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, with a two-season, straight-to-series order. Apple also has given straight-to-series orders to Amazing Stories, a re-imagining of the anthology from Steven Spielberg, a Ronald D. Moore space drama, a Damien Chazelle series, a comedy starring Kristin Wiig, world-building drama See from Steven Knight and Francis Lawrence, as well as an M. Night Shyamalan psychological thriller.

(8) TWO BUTLER FANS SEEK FUNDS TO ATTEND WORLDCON. Alex Jennings asks “Help Me and Amanda Emily Smith Get to Worldcon 76” via a YouCaring fundraiser. To date people have chipped in $285 of their $2,500 goal.

Last year, Amanda and I both submitted letters to be published in Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler. Octavia was a huge influence on both of us, and Amanda and I had met her separately before her death.

Both our letters were accepted for publication, and we were so pleased to be a part of such a wonderful project. This event was even more of a milestone for Amanda as this was her first professional sale in the science fiction field.

On April 2, the official announcement came down that Letters to Octavia has been chosen as a finalist for the Hugo Award in the category of Related Work! We literally jumped for joy. Honoring one of our greatest influences had lifted us up, as well!

The Hugo Awards are basically the Oscars of Science Fiction. Both Amanda and I have dreamed of attending Worldcon and the Hugo Awards all our lives, but we’ve never been able to before. Now that a book we are both in is a finalist, we feel we must get to Worldcon 76 in San Jose by any means necessary.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 10, 1953 — Feature length, full color, 3-D movie premiered: House of Wax starring Vincent Price.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born April 10, 1953 – David Langford

(11) CANDLE TIME. Steven H Silver lights up Langford’s birthday cake at Black Gate with “Birthday Reviews: David Langford’s ‘Waiting for the Iron Age’”.

Langford may be best known as the holder of twenty-one Hugo Awards for Best Fan Writer, including an unprecedented nineteen year winning streak. During that time he also won six Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine for Ansible and a Best Short Story Hugo for “Different Kinds of Darkness.” In 2012, he won his 29th and most recent Hugo for Best Related Work for The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition, edited with John Clute, Peter Nicholls, and Graham Sleight. Langford has tied with Charles N. Brown for the most Hugo Awards won.

(12) SOCIETY PAGES. Liz Bourke, Sleeping With Monsters columnist and 2018 Hugo nominee, announced the good news earlier this month:

(13) READY FOR HIS CLOSEUP. Neil Gaiman will appear on The Big Bang Theory this month. He’s guested on various TV series over the years, sometimes as an animated character, but this will be live action.

It’s kind of pathetic there are people tweeting responses that they never heard of him. Who cares?

(14) THIS DOCTOR IS NOW IN. ScienceFiction.com reveals that “Peter Cushing’s ‘Doctor Who’ Is Now Canon (Sort Of)”.

One of the biggest tasks an anniversary special has is to balance fan service with a story that can stand on its own merits. Among the many ways ‘The Day of the Doctor’ accomplished this rare feat was to feature appearances by multiple incarnations of the Doctor. Though only three were really sharing the spotlight, every version of the beloved Time Lord made at least a brief appearance, mostly through the use of archival footage. On top of this, Steven Moffat even took the opportunity to introduce a new incarnation in the form of the War Doctor, unforgettably brought to life by John Hurt.

And now he’s done it again.

In the newly released novelization of the fiftieth anniversary special, Steven Moffat has slyly worked Peter Cushing’s version of the Doctor into the series’ continuity

(15) OUTWARD BOUND. A new find pushes the date back: “Finger bone points to early human exodus”.

New research suggests that modern humans were living in Saudi Arabia about 85,000 years ago.

A recently discovered finger bone believed to be Homo sapiens was dated using radio isotope techniques.

This adds to mounting evidence from Israel, China and Australia, of a widespread dispersal beyond Africa as early as 180,000 years ago.

Previously, it was theorised that Homo sapiens did not live continuously outside Africa until 60,000 years ago.

(16) MODEST TRIBUTE. The BBC says “Belgrade’s ‘tiny head’ Gagarin statue causes dismay”.

The bust of Yuri Gagarin was ordered by the city council last year, and was put up on a street that bears his name, the Blic news website reports.

But its appearance – a tiny bust on top of a tall plinth – has been met by a hugely negative reaction, the paper says.

“The only way you can see it clearly is to launch yourself into the sky,” the Noizz website says. “While this is somewhat symbolic,” adds writer Ivana Stojanov, “there’s certainly no common sense on show”.

(17) IT’S NOT DEAD, JIM. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn tries to figure out what happened: “Cherry City Comic Con Confusingly Cancelled and then Uncancelled?”.

…Of course, as a Facebook video, it’s highly unlikely that anyone will really end up watching this. Which really does beg the question: if you uncancel a show no one knows was cancelled, did anything really happen at all? Because right now, most people have no idea.

Update 4/10, 12:00pm: In a strange series of events, Cherry City Comic Con has now been uncancelled. The announcement was made, again, with a Facebook video…

Of course, as a Facebook video, it’s highly unlikely that anyone will really end up watching this. Which really does beg the question: if you uncancel a show no one knows was cancelled, did anything really happen at all?

(18) QUICK FLASH. Charles Payseur turns his eye to “Quick Sips – Flash Fiction Online April 2018”.

Continuing the newer tradition of coming out with fairly thematically linked issues, Flash Fiction Online presents an April full of fools. Or maybe fooling. Also aliens. Yup, all three stories feature alien beings, and in most of them there’s also a vein of something…well, of someone pulling one over on someone else. Maybe it’s an actress tricking an alien monster to spare Earth, or a group of alien agents trying to set up first contact on the sly, or even the own paranoid post-drunken-weekend-in-Vegas thoughts of a man who might have just married an extraterrestrial. In any case, the stories are largely bright and fun, even when they brush against planet eating and possible invasion. So without further delay, to the reviews!

(19) ALL KNOWN BRITISH SFF. At THEN, Rob Hansen’s British fanhistory site, you can find scans of a 1937 British SF Bibliography. Once upon a time, the literary universe was a smaller place.

Edited by Douglas W. F. Mayer for the Science Fiction Association and dated August 1937, this was one of the earliest bibliographies to be produced by fandom and contains many titles that would be unfamiliar to a modern reader. A mimeographed publication, it was printed in purple-blue ink, had a soft card wraparound cover, and was stitch-bound. The particular copy scanned for this site includes its unknown previous owner’s checkmarks against many entries.

This is a list of books, only. However, it’s still an interesting coincidence that Mayer himself edited Amateur Science Stories #2, where Arthur C. Clarke’s first published story appeared in December 1937.

(20) JAWS. Or at least part of a jaw: “Ancient sea reptile was one of the largest animals ever”.

Sea reptiles the size of whales swam off the English coast while dinosaurs walked the land, according to a new fossil discovery.

The jaw bone, found on a Somerset beach, is giving clues to the ”last of the giants” that roamed the oceans 205 million years ago.

The one-metre-long bone came from the mouth of a huge predatory ichthyosaur.

The creature would have been one of the largest ever known, behind only blue whales and dinosaurs, say scientists.

(21) SUMMER MUNCH. The Meg is slated for release on August 10, 2018.

In the film, a deep-sea submersible—part of an international undersea observation program—has been attacked by a massive creature, previously thought to be extinct, and now lies disabled at the bottom of the deepest trench in the Pacific…with its crew trapped inside. With time running out, expert deep sea rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) is recruited by a visionary Chinese oceanographer (Winston Chao), against the wishes of his daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing), to save the crew—and the ocean itself—from this unstoppable threat: a pre-historic 75-foot-long shark known as the Megalodon. What no one could have imagined is that, years before, Taylor had encountered this same terrifying creature. Now, teamed with Suyin, he must confront his fears and risk his own life to save everyone trapped below…bringing him face to face once more with the greatest and largest predator of all time.

 

(22) AND DON’T FORGET THESE SHARKES. The Shadow Clarke jury’s Nick Hubble picked six books on the submissions list to review, and tells why in this post.

My criteria for the selection of these six titles this year – none of which I have read – was not what I think might be in contention or even necessarily what I think I will personally rate. Instead, I have chosen a range of books that I hope will enable some sort of literary critical discussion of the field as a whole in 2018 (although clearly this remains an entirely subjective choice on my behalf). Therefore, I have tried to mix first-time authors with established novelists, sequels with standalone works, and genre and mainstream literary texts; but I have married this with a practical policy of also choosing books that took my fancy for whatever reason.

I was also trying to pick a set of choices similar to the that offered by this year’s shortlist for the BSFA Award for best novel: Nina Allan’s The Rift, Anne Charnock’s Dreams Before the Start of Time,? Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, and Ann Leckie’s Provenance?. I thought this was a good list because there were different types of novels, all of which I enjoyed (and because I have read them, I have excluded them from my Clarke selection below even though all have been submitted). Despite large differences in approach, these novels share a focus on family relationships that perhaps tells us something about the preoccupations of our age. It would be trite to argue that they simply demonstrate a retreat from political and ideological uncertainty to take refuge in the personal sphere but perhaps they suggest different ways in which politics and relationships are both being reconfigured in an age of digital communication. It will be interesting to see what patterns emerge from the wider Clarke submissions list.

(23) ABOUT KRESS. Joe Sherry is not fully satisfied with the book, but it’s close: “Microreview [book]: Tomorrow’s Kin, by Nancy Kress”, at Nerds of a Feather.

Once we move past the conclusion of Yesterday’s Kin, the focus remains on Dr. Marianne Jenner as well as pushing in tighter on that of her grandchildren. This is character driven science fiction. Kress explores the impact of Earth’s interaction with a spore cloud that was initially described as a world killer, but she does so through the lens of characters who have become as familiar as family. To a reader not steeped in the nuance and minutiae of science, the unpinning science of Tomorrow’s Kin comes across as fully rigorous as anything in a more traditional “hard” science fiction novel. Kress does not engage in interminable info dumping. I read Tomorrow’s Kin not long after finishing the latest Charles Stross novel, Dark State (my review). There is no real point of comparison between the two novels, except that I generally love the ideas that Stross plays with and wish he did a better job at actually telling the story. That generally isn’t the case with Nancy Kress. She is a far more accomplished writer and is far smoother with her storytelling. Kress’s ideas are just as big and just as bold, but they are strongly integrated into the story.

(24) CATS STAR ON SFF. Moshe Feder has discovered the true identify of Number One!

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

Pixel Scroll 3/10/18 Great Scroll Title

(1) WIKIPEDIA. What an amazing coincidence (or not)! Amazing Stories is Wikipedia’s Featured Article today. I hope it gives Steve Davidson’s Kickstarter a boost.

(2) WISCON. The WisCon Member Assistance Fund is rising money through sales of t-shirts etc. with this design:

You’ve always been able to support the WMAF via our Donate page, during the Registration process, or by using our direct Paypal link.

But now you can take care of your own need for clothing and benefit the WMAF at the same time! Sam Haney Press has designed artwork based on an idea from Nicasio Andres Reed (inspired by Woodie Guthrie) and we’re making it available on t-shirts! (And on a tote bag, which you will probably need to…carry the multiple t-shirts you are going to want to buy.)

Buy shirts at this link.

(3) UNRECOGNIZED. Scott Bradfield explains why pop culture fame eludes Clark Ashton Smith in “The Bard of Auburn: Getting Weird in the Long Valley” for LA Review of Books.

WHEN IT COMES to being underrated, Clark Ashton Smith has long been a quadruple-threat. For more than a century, Smith has been unfairly disregarded as a poet, a short story writer, a painter, and even a sculptor; had he perhaps enjoyed just a little professional good fortune during his lifetime, he might have gone on to spend his twilight years being unfairly disregarded in numerous additional endeavors: prose poetry, novel writing, drama, screenwriting, you name it. Instead, he spent those last decades as a gardener and handy-man, never achieving the recognition of his friends and fellow Weird Tales contributors, H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. Almost unforgivably, no proper biography has yet been published about Smith — only a scattering of bibliographies and essays from small (but resolute) specialty presses.

In many ways, this ponderous, multi-generational neglect of Smith isn’t hard to understand. Unlike Howard (the stylish creator of Conan and Solomon Kane), Smith never wrote filmable series characters that could be played by the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vin Diesel….

(4) BOFFO B.O. Looper tells “Why Black Panther Blew Everyone Away At The Box Office.”

(5) AS SANDS THROUGH AN HOURGLASS. “Dune reboot will span two movies, take at least two years, says Denis Villeneuve” reports SyFy Wire.

We’ve known for a while that Denis Villeneuve is working on a reboot for Dune, Frank Herbert’s landmark sci-fi novel famously adapted for the big screen by David Lynch all the way back in 1984. But now we’re learning that Villeneuve has no plans to try to cram everything from the sprawling source material into just one movie.

Via The Playlist, Villeneuve recently told a crowd gathered for a Montreal film event that his adaptation of the 1965 novel “will probably take two years to make,” with a goal of making “two films; maybe more.” That bomb drop reaffirms Villeneuve’s long-haul commitment to what’s long been a passion project.

(6) WIKIMYSTERY. A scholarly paper posits the automatic generation of adventure games from open data such as Wikipedia articles, OpenStreetMap, and images from Wikimedia Commons: “Who Killed Albert Einstein? From Open Data to Murder Mystery Games”.

Every WikiMystery game revolves around the murder of a person with a Wikipedia article and populates the game with suspects who must be arrested by the player if guilty of the murder or absolved if innocent. Starting from only one person as the victim, an extensive generative pipeline finds suspects, their alibis, and paths connecting them from open data, transforms open data into cities, buildings, non-player characters, locks and keys and dialog options. The paper describes in detail each generative step, provides a specific playthrough of one WikiMystery where Albert Einstein is murdered, and evaluates the outcomes of games generated for the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

(7) CARTOON NETWORK. The Hollywood Reporter tells readers: “Cartoon Network Unveils Largest-Ever Slate of Content for 2018-19”.

Among the new shows is Diego Molano’s Victor and Valentino, a supernatural comedy about a pair of half-brothers who spend the summer with their grandmother in a mysterious town where Latin American folklore comes to life, and Owen Dennis’ Infinity Train, which has already developed a passionate following through the network’s Artist Program, about a girl who tries to find her way home from a train full of infinite worlds. Victor and Valentino is slated to release this year, while Infinity Train will reach viewers in 2019.

Other new Cartoon Network shows include buddy-comedy Apple & Onion, set in a world of anthropomorphic food; the surrealist animal adventure Summer Camp Island; and adventure comedy Craig of the Creek, which follows the expeditions of a group of best friends across a neighborhood creek.

And that’s not all!

(8) THE DORKEST HOUR. There’s something you don’t see every day — “Winston Churchill dancing like James Brown, played by Gary Oldman.”

(9) SHARKE WATCH. Shadow Clarke jury convenor Dr. Helen Marshall provides “A Means of Escape: A Round-Up of Our Posts So Far”.

As we eagerly await the end of the snows and the release of the submissions list, which will launch the first major phase of the Arthur C. Clarke jury’s deliberations, I thought it would be useful to pause for a moment and reflect upon the major threads introduced by our jury members so far. In assembling the jury, Maureen and I wanted to draw together reviewers from different backgrounds and with different ideas of what criticism might mean and what it ought to do. I’ve been delighted to see the range of approaches offered so far as well as the questions they open up. What follows then are my own impressions of some of the major threads that connect these approaches.

(10) SF ENCYCLOPEDIA CREATOR. Here’s the text of Peter Douglas Nicholls’ death notice that appeared in The Age of Melbourne on March 9.

Science fiction critic, encyclopedist, bon vivant, and pontificator. Died on 6th March 2018, aged 78, surrounded by family. Inspired adoration and exasperation in equal measure. Remembered with enormous love by his sister, Meg; children, Sophie, Saul, Tom, Jack, and Luke; grandchildren, Pia, Cassia and Uma; and his wife, Clare Coney.

My brain tells stories to itself
While I’m asleep. Last night
I smoked and talked, the dead replied
A party in my dreams.
What fun!

– Peter Nicholls

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 10, 1972 Silent Running premiered
  • March 10, 1997 — The Warner Brothers (WB) television network airs the inaugural episode of Joss Whedon’s, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

(12) ELLISON. Damien Walters posted his 2013 interview with Harlan Ellison last October, and linked to it on Facebook today.

DW: You famously described sci-fi fandom as an “extended family of wimps, twinks, flakes and oddballs.” But don’t the geeks kind of run the world now?

HE: I am a steadfastly 20th-century guy. I’ve always been pathologically au courant. Even today I can tell you the length of Justin Bieber’s hair. But it has now reduced society to such a trivial, crippled form, that it is beyond my notice. I look at things like Twitter and Facebook, and “reality TV”?—?which is one of the great frauds of our time, an oxymoron like “giant shrimp”?—?and I look at it all, and I say, these people do not really know what the good life is. I look at the parched lives that so many people live, the desperation that underlies their every action, and I say, this has all been brought about by the electronic media. And I do not envy them. I do not wish to partake of it, and I am steadfastly in the 20th century. I do not own a handheld device. Mine is an old dial-up laptop computer, which I barely can use?—?barely. I still write on a manual typewriter. Not even an electronic typewriter, but a manual. My books keep coming out. I have over 100 books published now, and I’ve reached as close to posterity as a poor broken vessel such as I am entitled to reach.

(13) PETS WHO SLEEP NEAR WRITERS. Mark-kitteh made sure we didn’t miss “13 Of The Most Adorable Pets Owned By Famous Writers” at Buzzfeed.

  1. J.K. Rowling’s endearing West Highland terrier named Bronte:

(14) DO THE LOCOMOTION. A BBC video shows a “Rollerskating robot to the rescue” (video)

Researchers in Zurich are teaching a robot how to balance on wheels attached to its four legs.

The goal is to help it complete search and rescue missions and other tasks in less time.

(15) BOOM, JAMES BOOM. The volcano used in You Only Live Twice is throwing off ash, lava and rocks – but no rocket launch parts: “Mount Shinmoedake: Warning over Japan’s James Bond volcano”.

(16) PURPLE HAZE? When they’re done, they have an educated guess: “Alien atmospheres recreated on Earth”.

“Clouds and hazes determine the temperature and the chemistry of the atmosphere, and also how deep we can look into a planet’s atmosphere,” explained Dr Helling.

“Exoplanet clouds can be made of sparkling minerals, in addition to the photochemical hazes just produced in the lab.”

While clouds form from the continuous cycling of material, much like the hydrological cycle on Earth, the process of producing hazes is “more of a one way trip” according to Dr Hörst.

The solid particles then remain in the planet’s atmosphere, where they can scatter light and affect the surface temperature, or travel to the surface via precipitation.

(17) ROBOTS BEHAVING BADLY. CNN Money gives a video demonstration: “Watch this robot get attacked by ransomware”.

Ransomware is not only a threat on phones or computers. It’s coming for robots, too. Researchers at security firm IOActive successfully conducted a ransomware attack on a SoftBank Robotics robot

(18) MOVIE THEOLOGY. The Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein finds Coco opens the way for a decreasingly religious America to discuss the idea of an afterlife for loved ones: “How the Oscar-winning ‘Coco’ and its fantastical afterlife forced us to talk about death”.

There is little solid data on the wide range of beliefs Americans have about post-death existence and how those views are changing. Much of what there is has to do with the words “heaven” and “hell” — amorphous for many. Seventy-two percent of Americans say they believe in heaven, and 58 percent in hell — numbers very slightly down since about a decade ago, according to the Pew Research Center.

People who work with the dying say these beliefs are fluid.

“Death opens you up,” said Aram Haroutunian, a longtime hospital and hospice chaplain in Denver. “And death is the great unknown. People are more open. And especially at the very end, they are very open.”

Haroutunian said he doesn’t think hammering out theology around the afterlife is a particularly common priority for the dying. However, he said, a common experience among hospice workers is hearing people who are dying start to speak of the deceased — long-dead family or friends — in the present tense, “like they’ve been talking with them.” Metaphors about travel are extremely common, he said: I’m getting on a train, taking a bus ride, packing my bags. “It’s uncanny,” he added.

(19) PRODIGY. Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal’s Prodigy, to be released March 13, is available for pre-order at iTunes.

Prodigy follows Dr. Fonda, a psychologist with a mysterious new patient. After being searched and issued warnings, he is taken to a cell where he finds Ellie, a young girl strapped in a straitjacket. Ellie immediately begins dissecting Fonda, revealing her genius-level intellect. Fonda holds fast, only faltering when Ellie claims to have killed her own mother. The team observing this interaction suggest Ellie is more dangerous than Fonda knows. She possesses “gifts” they wish to analyze — a process which will result in Ellie’s death. With the execution scheduled for the next day, Fonda must alter his strategy. He engages Ellie in a battle of wits, which results in Ellie’s telekinetic “gifts” revealing themselves. Objects hover, furniture topples, the foundation of the building quakes, but Fonda continues chipping away at Ellie’s tough facade. His methods begin to win over the experts, but he will need drastic results to prove the monster they see is actually a child worth saving.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 2/15/18 I Got 99 Problems But An Unscrolled Pixel Ain’t One Of Them

(1) MUCH MORE ON CHILDREN’S BOOK INDUSTRY HARASSMENT. At School Library Journal, Elizabeth Bird advises readers how to catch up on the fallout from Anne Ursu’s survey about sexual harassment in the children’s book industry (linked in yesterday’s Scroll, item 17) with her post “Sexual Harassment and Post-ALA YMA 2018 Thoughts (not necessarily at the same time)”.

If you have missed the current #metoo movement within the children’s and young adult literature industry, then I will break down the order in which you can catch up. While you could argue precisely where to start and where to end, the most necessary articles are as follows:

  1. Read the survey by Anne Ursu on sexual harassment in the children’s book industry
  2. Read the preceding SLJ article Children’s Publishing Reckons with Sexual Harassment in Its Ranks
  3. Read the comment section of that same SLJ article
  4. Read the Gwenda Bond article #metoo #ustoo Change Starts Now: Stand Against Harassment in the YA/Kidlit Community

(2) DASHNER APOLOGY. Comments at School Library Journal also implicated Maze Runner author James Dashner. Dashner tweeted an apology today. Deadline has the story: “‘Maze Runner’ Author James Dashner Tweets Apology Amid Harassment Allegations, Vows To ‘Seek Counseling’”.

Maze Runner author James Dashner, dropped earlier this week by his agent after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced, has tweeted an apology “to those affected” by his behavior and pledges to “seek counseling and guidance.”

“I have spent the recent days reexamining my actions and searching my soul,” Dashner writes (see the tweet below), adding he now believes he has been “part of the problem” with regard to sexual harassment and discrimination in the publishing industry.

“I didn’t honor or fully understand boundaries and power dynamics,” tweets the author, whose Maze Runner series has become a successful movie franchise. “I can sincerely say that I have never intentionally hurt another person. But to those affected I am so deeply sorry.”

Dashner was dropped by his literary agent, Michael W. Bourret, earlier this week after reader comments on the School Library Journal website named the writer, along with Thirteen Reasons Why author Jay Asher and others, of misconduct or harassment. Asher was subsequently expelled from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and dropped by the Andrea Brown agency.

(3) #METOO. Likewise, Myke Cole says he has “to own it”.

I am mentioned in the School Library Journal thread that names and shames men who have been inappropriate in their conduct with women in the field.

I wish I could say that the entire comment was false, but I would be lying to you and to myself. I have always prided myself on being “good”. I thought I had a good handle on what that was. It turns out I was wrong. And I have to be accountable to you and to myself. I have repeatedly abused my social power. I have made unwelcome advances in professional settings and that is not okay.

This is humiliating to write, but it is also necessary, because I believe in the #MeToo movement and I 100% support women coming forward to name men who have made them uncomfortable, or worse abused them.

(4) SHORT FICTION. Rocket Stack Rank’s ratings report for stories reviewed up to February 15 has been posted. Greg Hullender notes:

Because so many publications are on bimonthly schedules now, even-numbered months tend to be rather light.

The five-star story, “To Us May Grace Be Given,” by L.S. Johnson was published in 2017, so it’s eligible for this year’s Hugo awards. All the others are eligible for the 2019 awards.

(5) NEW ANTHOLOGY BENEFITS DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS. BookNest creator Petros Triantafyllou has just issued Art of War: Anthology for Charity. Proceeds will go to MSF (Doctors Without Borders). The book was just released and is available for sale in both digital and print formats. The print version includes 40 black & white interior art pieces.

The promotional text on Goodreads asks —  

How do you get forty fantasy authors to contribute short stories for a war-themed anthology without paying them? It sounds as if there should be a good punchline to that, but all Petros Triantafyllou did was twist the moral thumbscrews and tell them all the profits would go to Doctors Without Borders, a charity that works tirelessly across the world to alleviate the effects of conflict, sickness and poverty.

So, with clear consciences, several busloads of excellent and acclaimed fantasy authors have applied themselves to the task of penning a veritable mountain of words on the subject of The Art of War, expect bloodshed, gore, pathos, insight, passion, and laughs. Maybe even a wombat. Who knows. Anyway, as the original blurb said: “It’s good. Buy it.” -Mark Lawrence

The anthology collects works from authors that write within the genre including the grim dark sub-genre. The author list includes: Mark Lawrence, Ed Greenwood, Brian Staveley, Miles Cameron, John Gwynne, Sebastien De Castell, Mitchell Hogan, Stan Nicholls, Andrew Rowe, C.T. Phipps, Rob J. Hayes, Nicholas Eames, Mazarkis Williams, Ben Galley, Michael R. Fletcher, Graham Austin-King, Ed McDonald, Anna Stephens, Anna Smith Spark, RJ Barker, Michael R. Miller, Benedict Patrick, Sue Tingey, Dyrk Ashton, Steven Kelliher, Timandra Whitecastle, Laura M Hughes, J.P. Ashman, M.L. Spencer, Steven Poore, Brandon Draga, D. Thourson Palmer, D.M. Murray, Anne Nicholls, R.B. Watkinson, Charles F Bond, Ulff Lehmann, Thomas R. Gaskin, Zachary Barnes & Nathan Boyce.

(6) COMING TO AMERICA. The Tolkien, Maker of Middle-Earth exhibition discussed in yesterday’s Scroll will be making an American appearance next year, according to the FAQ.

Will the exhibition go on tour?

The exhibition will visit the Morgan Library in New York City from January to May 2019.

(7) SHARKE HUBBLE. Returning Shadow Clarke juror Nick Hubble tells why he reenlisted: “Literary Criticism and the 2018 Shadow Clarke: Introducing Nick Hubble”.

A key part of the purpose of the Shadow Jury last year was not just to comment on the award itself but also on its unofficial status as one of the key hubs, in the UK at least, for a critical articulation of the wider and deeper concerns of SFF fan, convention, and reviewing culture. I think we did achieve that to some extent but I hope that the tweaks to the format and emphasis this year will foreground that aspect of the project and help us avoid getting bogged down in controversies concerning the inclusion/exclusion of particular books from shortlists….

(8) IN VACUO. Joe Stech of Compelling Science Fiction invites readers to check out his personal blog where he provide gristly details about “What happens to animals in the vacuum of space?” Good chance to sort out science from fiction on this topic.

In the vast majority of modern shows, people sucked out into the vacuum of space freeze like popsicles in seconds. This is ridiculous. The reality is much more horrifying. In the 1960s there were several studies done on animals in high-grade vacuums that give us a real idea of exactly what would happen in the “oops, I forgot my spacesuit” scenario, and I’m going to walk you through the gory details, along with links to the original papers published in the 60s.

The first big thing to understand is how heat is transferred in space. You may remember that there are four main ways that heat can be bled off: conduction, convection, radiation, and phase change transfer (e.g. ‘enthalpy of vaporization’). When you’re in space, conduction and convection are out, because nothing cold is touching you (conduction) and there are no fluids to transfer heat away from you (convection). That leaves only radiation and phase changes that can cool you down. The infrared radiation leaving the human body is only about as much as a lightbulb, which is not going to drop your temperature extremely rapidly. You’ll also be cooled when the water in your skin boils away, but that’s only going to affect your outer layer. Your internals will be fine for a while, until they completely run out of oxygen.

So now that we’re clear that insta-freeze won’t happen, what are the actual steps in our grisly space demise? Here they are…

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 15, 1950 — Disney’s Cinderella premieres.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 15, 1935 — Grand Master Robert Silverberg

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian spotted a good Conan gag in Bliss.

(12) RETRO-HUGO TOOL. Nicholas Whyte has been working on an eligibility list for the “Best Series Retro Hugo 1943”.

….Obviously, since this category has not been awarded before, the strictures on previous winners and finalists are not relevant. But even so, the pickings are very slim. There are a number of series which started in 1942 but had not published 3 installments by the end of the year (eg Asimov’s Foundation). There are other series with many installments which however do not amount to 240,000 words (eg the Via and Adam Link sequences by Otto Binder, and I think also the Professor Jameson stories by Neil R. Jones). What I am left with is the following rather brief list…

(13) AFROFUTURISM. The CBC posted a video of author Nalo Hopkinson on the power of science fiction and why Black Panther is going to change everything — “Afrofuturism, sci-fi and why ‘it is a radical act for Black people to imagine having a future'”.

(14) THE ROAD TO HELL. Neil Gaiman tweeted some Good Omens set decoration.

(15) ARE WE THERE YET? Ironically, it may hit another planet, but not Mars. “Musk’s Tesla to stay in space for millions of years”.

The Tesla car that Elon Musk launched into space is likely to stay there for tens of millions of years before crashing into the Earth or Venus.

That’s the conclusion of an analysis by Czech and Canadian researchers.

They calculated that the roadster has a 6% chance of colliding with Earth and a 2.5% probability of hitting Venus over the next million years.

But there’s no cause for concern: if it eventually returns to Earth, most of the vehicle will burn up.

The team’s computer simulations suggest there is a very slim chance of the vehicle colliding with the Sun, but little to no chance of the car hitting Mars.

(16) AN ADMONITION. Steven Barnes wrote on Facebook

White people: please don’t go see BP this weekend: you will be denying a deserving POC a seat. If you MUST, and you are really “Woke” you’ll let said POC sit on your lap. Blocking your view. Your Liberal Guilt will be assuaged thereby.

(17) GAG ME. Paul Verhoeven preens about “How we made Starship Troopers” in The Guardian’s profile. Denise Richards is quoted, too.

Paul Verhoeven, director

Robert Heinlein’s original 1959 science-fiction novel was militaristic, if not fascistic. So I decided to make a movie about fascists who aren’t aware of their fascism. Robocop was just urban politics – this was about American politics. As a European it seemed to me that certain aspects of US society could become fascistic: the refusal to limit the amount of arms; the number of executions in Texas when George W Bush was governor.

It’s an idiotic story: young people go to fight bugs. So I felt the human characters should have a comic-book look. Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon auditioned, but I was looking for the prototype of blond, white and arrogant, and Casper Van Dien was so close to the images I remembered from Leni Riefenstahl’s films. I borrowed from Triumph of the Will in the parody propaganda reel that opens the film, too. I was using Riefenstahl to point out, or so I thought, that these heroes and heroines were straight out of Nazi propaganda. No one saw it at the time. I don’t know whether or not the actors realised – we never discussed it. I thought Neil Patrick Harris arriving on the set in an SS uniform might clear it up.

(18) WALKING DEAD WINE. Can’t beat a brand name like that, can you? And to make the vintage even more collectible, “New Walking Dead Wines Will Feature Augmented Reality Labels”.

A new Walking Dead wine will soon come to life in a store near you. We partnered with The Last Wine Company to create a Blood Red Blend and a Cabernet Sauvignon that not only taste amazing, but include some really awesome creative flourishes. Our bottles will have unique augmented reality labels that come to life when viewed through your smartphone. Each bottle is sealed with a collectible cork featuring Walking Dead artwork—walker heads, barbwire, etc.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Camestros Felapton, Dann, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 2/8/18 I’ve Got A Plan So Cunning You Could Put A Scroll On It And Call It A Pixel

(1) 4SJ. At the Classic Horror Film Board, the webmaster’s reminiscence about Forrest J Ackerman prompted a #MeToo response from Lucy Chase Williams, and since then “Forrest J Ackerman’s #MeToo Moment …” has generated 561 comments.

Speaking of “failures” (!), I guess this is the time to remind the boys here of #MeToo. I and other young women like me were subjected to a different kind of “Forry worship.” How differently would any of you have felt, when all you wanted was to talk about monsters with the “over eager editor” of your favorite monster magazine, if your Uncle Forry had forced wet kisses on you? If he had put his hands all over you, pinching your “naughty bottom” and squeezing your “boobies”? If he had enthusiastically related with a big grin how he wanted to strip off your clothes with everybody watching? And if, in the face of your total refusal of any of his attentions every single time you saw him in person, he never didn’t try again, and again, and again? And if for years, in between those times, he mailed you letters with pornographic photos, and original stories about how naughty you were, and how he wanted to hurt and abuse you, yet all the while make you weep and beg for more? And if he continued that behavior, despite written and verbal demands to cease, entirely unabashed for more than two decades? No, I can’t forget him either — or how he turned my childhood love of monsters into something adult and truly monstrous.

(2) STAUNCH PRIZE. Earl Grey Editing reports on an interesting new non-sff award:

Not strictly SFF or romance, but still within genre, The Staunch Prize has been created to honour crime thrillers where no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered. The shortlist will be announced in September and the winner will be announced on 25 November.

(3) STAR GORGE. Michael Cavna has a roundup of all the current Star Wars projects, with the news being that Disney is also planning a streaming Star Wars TV series for fans who just want more after Solo, Episode IX, the Rian Johnson trilogy, and the Benioff and Weiss trilogy: “A guide to every Star Wars movie and TV show that’s planned right now”.

  1. Potential spinoffs of other characters

Talk continues to swirl around Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Boba Fett getting their own films, according to such outlets as the Hollywood Reporter. At this point of galloping Disney expansion, who’s to say that each won’t one day get his own TV trilogy?

  1. The streaming TV series

Iger’s new announcement comes just several months after he first said a live-action Star Wars series would happen. Expect that TV menu to grow at a significant rate, as Disney gets set to launch its own entertainment streaming services by next year.

(4) MILSF KICKSTARTER. M. C. A. Hogarth says, “I stealth launched my newest Kickstarter yesterday to see if I could keep it from blowing past the goal, but it overfunded anyway. So I guess I’ll advertise it? laugh It’s fluffy first contact sf” — “Either Side of the Strand Print Edition”:

MilSF with an all female crew, in an “Old Star Trek” vein! Because we all love first contact stories, with octopuses.

Having already hit $1,241, when the original goal was $500, Hogarth is far into stretch goal territory —

So, some stretch goals! Just in case, even though this is only a week!

  • $750 – I do a bookmark, and everyone who gets a physical reward will receive it!
  • $1000 – the audiobook! This should open an audiobook reward level (details for that when/if it happens)
  • Over $1000 – I will wiggle a lot! And then tuck that money away to pay for the final Stardancer novel (currently in revision).

But Jaguar! You say. Why are your stretch goals so modest! Why don’t you do Alysha plushes! We would totally be on board with Alysha plushes! And Stardancer t-shirts!

Because, dear backers, I don’t want to fall down on this job for you, and that means humble goals. *bows*

I admit Alysha plushes would be adorbs though.

(5) NEW SFF PODCAST. MilSF Authors JR Handley and Chris Winder have unveiled they latest joint project; the Sci-Fi Shenanigans Podcast. JR and Chris are US veterans (US Army and USMC respectively) that focus on producing MilSF stories. They have released five episodes in the last 2 weeks:

(6) LEAVE THE WHISTLE UNBLOWN. Joe Sherry continues picking contenders in the “2018 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 4: Institutional Categories”. Although the criteria he gives below disregard the actual rules for the Best Fanzine category, most of his picks are eligible anyway – no harm, no foul.

This time we are looking at what are, for lack of a better term, the “nonfiction and institutional categories”: Best Related Work, Best Semiprozine, Best Fanzine and Best Fancast. Now, those who follow this blog know how cranky The G can get on the subject of certain categories and their bizarre eligibility guidelines–and we’ve got two of them today (Best Semiprozine and Best Fancast). Nevertheless, I will do my best to stay calm and stick to the rules, frustrating as they can be. I reserve the right, will, however, get a little snarky and passive-aggressive in the process.
There are, however, some sticky issues that made putting this list together a bit difficult. Knowing what does or does not constitute a “fanzine” in the era of blogs, for example–and given that we may already be on the downward slide of that era, it only promises to get more difficult as time passes. Nevertheless, we have tried to create clear and consistent guidelines for inclusion in this category. Thus, to qualify, a fanzine: (1) must be a fan venture (i.e. must not generate a significant amount of money, or pay professional rates for work); (2) must publish a lot of content in a given year; and (3) must publish “award worthy” content. We did not discount single-author blogs from consideration, but criterion #2 makes it difficult for most single-author blogs to  merit consideration. Consequently, while a couple made it, most did not–including some very good ones.

(7) SHADOW NOMINATIONS. The Australasian Horror Writers Association reminds that nominations are open for the Australian Shadow Awards until February 28. See eligibility and submission guidelines at the link.

The Australian Shadows Awards celebrate the finest in horror and dark fiction published by an Australasian within the calendar year. Works are judged on the overall effect of a work—the skill, delivery, and lasting resonance.

[Via Earl Grey Editing.]

(8) BARLOW OBIT. John Perry Barlow, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), died February 7. NPR paid tribute:“Cyber-Libertarian And Pioneer John Perry Barlow Dies At Age 70”.

A founding member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and former lyricist for the Grateful Dead, John Perry Barlow, has died at the age of 70, according to a statement issued by the Foundation.

Barlow was a poet, essayist, Internet pioneer and prominent cyber-libertarian. He co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 1990 after realizing that the government was ill-equipped to understand what he called the “legal, technical, and metaphorical nature of datacrime.” He said believed that “everyone’s liberties would become at risk.”

Barlow described the founding of the EFF after receiving a visit from an FBI agent in April 1990 seeking to find out whether he was a member of “a dread band of info-terrorists.” Shortly thereafter, Barlow and Mitch Kapor, the creator of Lotus 1-2-3, organized a series of dinners with leaders of the computer industry for discussions that would lead to the creation of the EFF.

And the BBC remembers

In 1996, he wrote the widely quoted Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, which asked governments of the world to stop meddling in the affairs of net-centred communities.

“You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather,” he wrote.

(9) POLCHINSKI OBIT. Multiverse theorist Joseph Polchinski died February 2 reports the New York Times.

Joseph Polchinski, one of the most creative physicists of his generation, whose work helped lay the mathematical foundation for the controversial proposition that our universe is only one in an almost endless assemblage that cosmologists call the “multiverse,” died on Friday at his home in Santa Barbara, Calif. He was 63. He had been treated for brain cancer since late 2015.

Dr. Polchinski was a giant force in the development of string theory, the ambitious attempt to achieve a “theory of everything,” which envisions the fundamental particles of nature as tiny wriggling strings. The theory has brought forth ideas and calculations that have opened new fields of study and new visions of a universe that is weirder and richer than astronomers had dreamed.

…After months of treatment [for cancer], Dr. Polchinski put his energy into writing his memoir, which he posted on the internet.

“I have not achieved my early science-fiction goals, nor explained why there is something rather than nothing,” he wrote in an epilogue, “but I have had an impact on the most fundamental questions of science.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 8, 1958Teenage Monster premiered at your local drive-in.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born February 8, 1828 – Jules Verne
  • Born February 8, 1908 — William Hartnell, the first Doctor Who.
  • Born February 8, 1942 – Stephen Hawking
  • Born February 8, 1969 – Mary Robinette Kowal

(12) KOWAL CELEBRATES. As part of her celebration Kowal pointed to a free read short story, “The Worshipful Society of Glovers” that came out last year in Uncanny Magazine. And on her blog she told about how she developed that story:

To begin… When I was writing Without a Summer I was looking at historical guilds as models for the Coldmongers. In the process, I ran across the Worshipful Company of Glovers, which is a real livery company that has been in existence since 1349. Kinda awesome, right?

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian finds Yoda remains in character even in this mundane situation, in Off the Mark.

(14) RETRO COMICS. Edmonton’s Hugo Book Club took a deep dive into the comic books that were published in 1942 and are eligible for the Retro-Hugos this summer. They suggest that in terms of Best Graphic Story “Some of the most exemplary works are little-remembered by the modern reader,” and encourage Hugo voters to consider a wide range of lesser-known works.

In 1942, the modern American comic book was still in its infancy. Sequential art published on pulp paper with gaudy CMYK illustrations was hitting the shelves at a furious pace, led by the success of best-selling books like Captain Marvel, The Spirit, and Archie. But for every Mort Meskin, Basil Wolverton or Jack Cole working in 1942, there were dozens more, often filling pages with inflexible five- and six-panel layouts, stilted dialogue, and rigidly posed figures….

Prior to 2018, the only time there was a Retro Hugo for Best Graphic Story was in 2016, when the Retro Hugos for 1941 were awarded. That ceremony saw Batman #1 take the trophy ahead of Captain Marvel and The Spirt, both of which are superior comic books. Joe Simon’s superb first 12 issues of Blue Bolt didn’t even make the final ballot.

Batman as a character may have had more popular appeal in the long-term, but those early stories are not as dynamic or innovative as The Spirit. Batman may have some science fiction elements today, but in 1940 Blue Bolt told better science fiction stories. Batman may be more popular today, but in 1940 Captain Marvel was the leading comic book character….

(15) STACKS OF FUN. The G takes “Altered Carbon, Episodes 1-3” for a test drive at Nerds of a Feather.

Netflix’s new science fiction show, Altered Carbon, is based on a novel of the same name by Richard K. Morgan. It’s basically a mashup of neo-cyberpunk, detective noir, milSF and techno thriller. Since I have particular interests in the first two parts of that equation, Altered Carbon looked to be right up my alley. So I decided to commit to 3 episodes, after which point I’d take stock. Three episodes in and I like it enough to continue. It’s not quite as good as I’d hoped, however.

Takeshi Kovacs is, or rather was, a kind of super soldier known as an envoy. Envoys were part of an insurrection against the hegemonic polity, the Protectorate. The insurrection failed and the envoys were “put in ice.” However, in the future your mind, memories and soul are stored on a “stack”–a kind of hard drive that is surgically inserted into your body. As long as the stack isn’t damaged, it can be taken out of a dead body and inserted into a new “sleeve” (i.e. a body). Religious types refuse to be re-sleeved, believing that it prevents the soul from ascending to heaven. Pretty much everyone else who can afford to do it, does.

(16) BUNDLE TIME. The latest Storybundle is The Black Narratives Bundle, curated by Terah Edun:

This month is groundbreaking for many reasons, it represents a clarion call to support and uphold cultural heritage, but more than that Black History Month is a time to celebrate accomplishments of the past and the future. From the moment I was asked to curate the Black Narratives bundle, I knew this one was going to be special. I didn’t want to just reach out to authors who were the pillars of the diverse speculative fiction community, but also the ingénues who were becoming stars in their own right.

(17) CANON TO THE LEFT OF THEM, CANON TO THE RIGHT OF THEM. Entertainment Weekly says “Firefly canon to expand with series of original books”.

It may sound like something out of science-fiction, but it’s true: More Firefly stories are on the way.

EW can exclusively report that Titan Books and Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products have teamed up to publish an original range of new fiction tying in to Joss Whedon’s beloved but short-lived TV series Firefly. The books will be official titles within the Firefly canon, with Whedon serving as consulting editor. The first book is due in the fall.

(18) DON’T YOU JUST TELESCOPE IT? At NPR, “How To Pack A Space Telescope” (text and time-lapse video).

As complicated as it as to launch and operate a telescope in space, it’s almost as complex to move a space telescope around here on Earth.

For the past 9 months or so, NASA has been testing the James Webb Space Telescope in a giant cryogenic chamber at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The $8.8 billion Webb telescope is the most powerful telescope NASA has ever built.

(19) SLICE OF LIFE. BBC tells about “Bodyhackers: Bold, inspiring and terrifying”.

Jesika Foxx has permanently purple eyeballs, and an elf-like ear. Her husband, Russ, has a pair of horns under his skin.

Stelarc, a 72-year-old Australian, has an ear on his arm. Soon he hopes to attach a small microphone to it so people can, via the internet, listen to whatever it hears.

Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow – yes, that’s his legal name – has the chip from his Sydney travel card implanted into his hand.

I met all these people during BodyHacking Con, in Austin, Texas.

Over the past three years, the event has become something of a pilgrimage for those involved in the biohacking scene – a broad spectrum of technologists, trans-humanists and performance artists. This year it also attracted the presence of the US military.

(20) FAUX COMPETITION. There should be a contest to caption this photo. My entry: “John Scalzi about to make one of his famous frozen garbage burritos.”

(21) SHARKE’S SECOND BITE. Shadow Clarke juror Maureen Kincaid Speller continues her self-introduction.

I find it difficult to talk about how I write critically because it is a thing I’ve learned mostly by doing. There was never a moment when I actively decided that I would become a literary critic. Rather, my critical practice came into being over a long period of time. Even now it is a work in progress. I always feel I could do better, and I’m forever trying to work out how.

What do I do? I read. And then I write about what I’ve read. It is as simple and as complicated as that. In ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’, an exploration of meaning in Plato’s ‘Phaedrus’, Derrida focuses on the word ‘pharmakon’, paradoxical because it means both ‘remedy’ and ‘poison’. Plato sought to argue that speech was superior to writing because it required an act of memory, an act which was weakened by the use of writing. Derrida prompts us to ask whether writing is a remedy, in that it helps you remember things; or a poison in that it enables you to forget things? And I am going to argue that critical writing is both poison and remedy, depending on how you use it.

(22) VENOM. Marvel’s Venom teaser trailer:

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, M.C.A. Hogarth, Dann, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat  Eldridge, Olav Rokne, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]

Pixel Scroll 2/7/18 In Space Nobody Can Hear Your Red Tesla’s GPS Scream “Recalculating!”

(1) ABIGAIL NUSSBAUM. Last year’s Best Fan Writer Hugo winner announced that she won’t accept a nomination this year.

Third, this is something that I was pretty sure I wanted to do last August, but I gave myself some time to consider it, and now I’m certain: I’d like it known that if I were to receive a nomination in the Best Fan Writer category for the 2018 Hugos, I would respectfully decline the nomination.

I’ve debated with myself about whether and how to make this announcement.  Not, to be very clear, because I’m uncertain about not wanting to be a nominee again.  Without sounding like I’m complaining–since it all turned out so wonderfully in the end–being a prospective and then actual Hugo nominee is one of the most stressful experiences I’ve ever had.  It certainly didn’t help that the period during which I became a viable candidate coincided so perfectly with the various puppies’ campaign against the awards, so that on top of the regular pressures of will I be nominated/will I win, I spent a lot of my time wondering whether my nomination would be scuttled by a fascist terror campaign (which is, in fact, what happened in 2015 and 2016).  By the time 2017 rolled around, I had been on the Hugo merry-go-round for four years, and it was pretty hard for me to enjoy the convention or the lead-up to the awards from wondering whether this was finally going to be my year.

So while I may one day want to be nominated for the Hugo again (and maybe in another category too, if I’m eligible), I have no interest in going through the whole rigmarole again so soon, and especially when you consider that there are several other great potential nominees whose crack at the Hugo was scuttled by puppy interference.  It seems like absolutely the right thing to stand back.

(2) GEORGE R.R. MARTIN. Martin, in his Hugo eligibility post, asks people not to nominate A Song of Ice and Fire for Best Series — but feel free to nominate “The Sons of the Dragon” for novella. (Following this excerpt, he has more to say about the Best Series category itself.)

The only writing I had published in 2017 was “The Sons of the Dragon,” which was published in THE BOOK OF SWORDS, Gardner Dozois’s massive anthology of original sword & sorcery stories. Like “The Rogue Prince” and “The Princess and the Queen” before it, “Sons” is more of my (fake) history of the Targaryen kings of Westeros. By length, it is a novella… but it’s not a traditional narrative. By design, it reads like history, not fiction; but since the history is entirely imaginative, it’s still fiction, even if dressed up as (fake) non-fiction.

It has been pointed out to me that the publication of “The Sons of the Dragon” makes the entirety of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE eligible to be nominated as Best Series. I suppose that’s so. All I can say to that is: please don’t. If you like fake history and enjoyed “The Sons of the Dragon,” by all means nominate the story as a novella… but it’s really not part of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, and sneaking in the entire series by means of a technicality seems wrong to me.

(3) TRADEOFFS. I was interested to see Abigail Nussbaum and I had the identical thought about this piece of news.

(4) FULLER BRUSH-OFF MAN. Two showrunners have left the building: “Apple’s ‘Amazing Stories’ revival loses showrunner Bryan Fuller”.

Apple has yet to launch any of the original shows funded by its $1 billion war chest, but it’s already losing part of its production team. Hollywood Reporter has learned that showrunner Bryan Fuller (of Star Trek and American Gods fame) has left Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories revival for the tech giant. The departure was “amicable,” according to sources, and stemmed from creative differences. Reportedly, Fuller wanted to make a Black Mirror-style show that wasn’t what Apple intended.

Fuller wasn’t new to the Amazing Stories continuation. He’d been around since 2015, when the series was attached to NBC and Spielberg wasn’t involved. He’s had some relatively short stints lately: he was booted from American Gods after the production company wanted to reduce the per-episode fee, and left Star Trek: Discovery over cost and casting issues with CBS.

The Hollywood Reporter source story has added this update:

Hart Hanson, who had partnered with Bryan Fuller on Amazing Stories, has also exited the anthology as Apple and producers Universal Television are now searching for a showrunner.

(5) HOOKED. K.M. Alexander argues “Your Fave is Problematic—That’s Okay”.

My favorite character from A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin’s fantasy epic, is Jaime Lannister, the heir to the Lannister family, Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, and an all-around terrible person. No, really. There are forum threads dedicated to his awfulness, and I don’t disagree with anything they say. He is awful; that’s not up for debate. But I don’t care; I still like him. There is something about his wit, his tenacity, his strange sense of honor, and his odd drive to do right by his family that draws me in as a reader. He’s my favorite.

In his Banquet Speech, William Faulkner observes good writing as “the human heart in conflict with itself.” I adore that line. As a character, Jamie embodies that for me. There is so much to loathe but a lot to like. It makes him complicated, and it makes him human. However, in some circles, my statement draws ire. How can I enjoy reading about someone so terrible? After all, he is someone who symbolizes the opposite of many values I hold dear. To those people, it doesn’t make sense; it feels two-faced and hypocritical.

These voices are nothing new. I remember hearing them as a kid from conservatives, and I’ve heard them as an adult from progressives. Recently they’ve become particularly pronounced on social media, shouting down and hunting those who dare explore life through the lens of problematic fiction. Over the last few years, I’ve seen several authors attacked—on social media, within articles, in reviews, and on blogs. Fans have gone after them for the problematic circumstances, events, and behavior of characters within their novels. It’s not surprising; it’s an extension of the same attitude we have seen play out in the social sphere. In addition to holding real-life humans accountable, fandom is now trying to hold fiction accountable….

(6) SIGNING OFF. The Geek Feminism Blog says they are “Bringing the blog to a close”. No specific reason given, but they did take a look back —

Alex Bayley and a bunch of their peers — myself included — started posting on this blog in 2009. We coalesced around feminist issues in scifi/fantasy fandom, open culture projects like Wikipedia, gaming, the sciences, the tech industry and open source software development, Internet culture, and so on. Alex gave a talk at Open Source Bridge 2014 about our history to that point, and our meta tag has some further background on what we were up to over those years.

(7) NEXT IN THE JURY BOX. A new Shadow Clarke juror greets the readers: “Introducing Samira Nadkarni”.

More than anything else, community as a space for discussion and critique forces an awareness of frameworks. A friend, Shabnam, once took a lot of time to point out to me that my excitement about a book that I believed destabilised gender and problematised caste in Indian contexts was, in fact, written to privilege the upper caste cis gaze. Her emphatic point at the time was that if someone mentions a gender and caste dystopia, I should look at whose interests are being played to, and that if the book couldn’t decenter the very idea of cis and caste-based constructs of gender, then this book was not innovative in its destabilisation at all. While this was applied to a specific book series, it was an excellent lesson to take away, learn from, and cross apply to future criticism: the fact that stepping away from standard representation itself is not enough until we think about who it privileges and what it says.

These are big questions for me, and I think also big questions more generally, about how inclusion can be kindness and violence all at once, and how navigating that critically can be fraught. For me in particular, I have strong feelings about postcolonial SFF writing in general (and this is primarily what I read in my spare time), and this also forces me to recognise how this is playing to a different set of privilege systems locally that can continue to foster violent hierarchies, or aren’t being dealt with or made visible enough yet. It’s complicated and I’m honestly not equipped to do it alone.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 7, 1940 — Walt Disney’s vision of Pinocchio debuted.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cath spotted a comic that perfectly fits out recent “Cats Sleep on SFF” theme in Georgia Dunn’s Breaking Cat News from 2016.

(10) SUPER BOWL BET. Here’s how the Boston Public Library paid off after losing its Super Bowl bet.

(11) FREE READS. Asimov’s has made four Locus-recommended stories available as free reads.

Congratulations to the authors of our stories on the Locus Recommended Reading List. We’ve posted the tales here for your enjoyment. If you’re voting in the Locus Poll and you haven’t read the stories or you’d like to refresh your memory please take a look at them now.

BEST NOVELETTE

The Discrete Charm of the Turing Machine, Greg Egan – Nov/Dec 2017
Wind Will Rove, Sarah Pinsker – Sept/Oct 2017

BEST SHORT STORY

Persephone of the Crows, Karen Joy Fowler – May/June 2017

An Evening with Severyn Grimes, Rich Larson – July/August 2017
Confessions of a Con Girl, Nick Wolven – Nov/Dec 2017

(12) BOARD MEETING. “Superdense wood is lightweight, but strong as steel” – Daniel Dern saw the story and asked, “How many existing sf/f ref’s does this conjure up? The first that comes to (my) mind is Howard Chaykin’s Ironwolf comic books… possibly also from Sean McMullen’s Moonworlds Saga, e.g. Voyage of the Shadowmoon.”

View the video

Newly fabricated superstrong lumber gives a whole new meaning to “hardwood.”

This ultracompact wood, described in the Feb. 8 Nature, is created by boiling a wood block in a water-based solution of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfite. The chemicals partially strip the wood of substances called lignin and hemicellulose, which help give wood its structure and rigidity. Then the block gets squeezed between metal plates heated to 100° Celsius at a pressure of 5 megapascals — about 50 times the pressure of sea-level atmosphere. That squashes the gaps between the cell walls in the wood, shrinking the block to about 20 percent its original thickness and making it three times denser.

Researchers found that the densified wood could withstand being stretched or pulled 11.5 times harder than its natural counterpart without breaking. That makes it about as strong as steel, even though it’s more lightweight. Stainless steel pellets fired from an air gun and moving at 30 meters per second easily busted through a typical wooden plank, but got lodged in a stack of densified wood sheets with the same total thickness.

(13) ASIMOV LAUNCHED. From The Verge I Iearned — “The Falcon Heavy test flight included a copy of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels”.

SpaceX has just successfully launched its new Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time, and just before launch, the company revealed on its live stream that inside the rather unique cargo of a Tesla Roadster, the company had placed an “Arch” storage system containing Isaac Asimov’s Foundation book series.

An Arch is a “5D, laser optical quartz storage device” that is meant to be able to survive even in the harsh conditions of space, built by the Arch Mission Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to preserve libraries of human knowledge for interstellar travel (and to protect information in the event of calamity to Earth itself). It’s a goal that the group says was inspired by Asimov’s novels, which see mankind working to write an “Encyclopedia Galactica” to protect mankind against a coming dark age.

(14) IT’S OFFICIAL. Netflix has released Marvel’s Jessica Jones – Season 2 Official Trailer.

Jessica Jones is back as New York City’s tough-as-nails private investigator. Although this time, the case is even more personal than ever before. Fueled by a myriad of questions and lies, she will do whatever it takes to uncover the truth.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Todd Dashoff, Mark Hepworth, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Cath, Kevin Mangan, Will R., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]