Pixel Scroll 6/8/20 All The Pixels E’er I Scrolled, I Filed Them In Good Company

(1) ANSWER THE QUESTION. FastCompany finds “Siri and Google get ‘Black Lives Matter’ right. Alexa, not so much”.

Ask the Google Assistant whether Black lives matter, for instance, and you’ll get a forthright answer. “Black lives matter,” it responds. “Black people deserve the same freedoms afforded to everyone in this country, and recognizing the injustice they face is the first step towards fixing it.”

When asked if “all lives matter”—a phrase sometimes used as a derailing tactic by those who’d rather not discuss racial inequality—Google gets even sharper: “Saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ doesn’t mean that all lives don’t,” the Google Assistant says. “It means Black lives are at risk in ways that others are not.”

These answers only arrived on Friday afternoon, after more than a week of nationwide protests triggered by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Previously, the Google Assistant would only say that “of course” Black lives matter, without elaboration, and when asked about “all lives matter,” Google said it couldn’t understand the question.

The new responses, along with somewhat similar ones from Apple’s Siri assistant, show how “Black Lives Matter” has at last become a mainstream way to acknowledge racism in America. They also highlight the fine line tech giants walk in building voice assistants that can answer any question. These companies have generally tried to avoid controversy, and it wasn’t long ago that they shied away from the topic of racial injustice entirely. Yet they’ve also presented their AI assistants as human-like conversationalists. That might prompt users to expect the assistants to have opinions, in a way that conventional search engines do not….

(2) GAMING BUNDLE FUNDRAISER FOR RACIAL JUSTICE. [Item by Rose Embolism.] Itch.io, the independent game development/publishing marketplace has offered a charity “Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality” that has 755 computer and tabletop RPG offerings for a minimum donation of $5.00 (normal value $3,400.00). All proceeds will be donated to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Community Bail Fund, split 50/50.  A lot of these are retro platformers and RPGs, but there’s a lot of very different creative, personal or simply weird games in there. I paid $15.00, and I’m still looking through them, a little overwhelmed.

This will be going on for 7 more days, and no membership in Itch.io

As of today they’ve raised $2,638,842 of their $5M goal.

(3) RECOMMENDED SFF. Sirens, a conference examining and celebrating the intersections of gender and fantasy literature, has tweeted a list of “Black women, nonbinary, and trans folks writing SFF works about Black people and Black communities.” Thread starts here.

Here are two examples:

(4) LONG GONE. The Hollywood Reporter, in “Hartley Sawyer Fired From ‘The Flash’ After Racist, Misogynist Tweets Surface”, says that Sawyer, who played the Elongated Man in The Flash, was sacked after tweets he made in 2012 and 2014 were publicized.

…The tweets, all from before he joined The CW series, make references to sexual assault and contain racist and homophobic language. Sawyer’s Twitter account has been deleted, but screenshots of the old posts have circulated online in the past two weeks. His firing also comes amid nationwide protests against systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd’s May 25 death in Minneapolis.

“Hartley Sawyer will not be returning for season seven of The Flash,” reads a statement from The CW, producers Warner Bros. TV and Berlanti Productions and executive producer Eric Wallace. “In regards to Mr. Sawyer’s posts on social media, we do not tolerate derogatory remarks that target any race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation. Such remarks are antithetical to our values and polices, which strive and evolve to promote a safe, inclusive and productive environment for our workforce.”

(5) PICARD AND OTHER TREK ACTORS SING. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Not sure what started YouTube showing this to me… managed to only kill <10 minutes on them at least :-0

Not clear if this is from an episode, tho I doubt it 🙂

  • Captain Picard Dancing and Singing on the Bridge
  • The (ST:Voyager’s) Doctor saves the day while singing opera
  • Doc & Seven Singing you are my sunshine — Star Trek voyager

And again, impromptu, at Fan Expo:

  • Jeri Ryan and Robert Picardo sing beautifully!

(6) ROCKIES ROAD. Add MileHiCon 52 to the list of conventions going virtual in 2020.

In response to the impact of the COVID19 virus and the economic stress on everyone at these times, the MileHiCon Committee and Board of Directors has made the difficult decision to go VIRTUAL for MileHiCon 52. We do not want to expose our attendees to the possibility of contracting COVID19 at our convention. While we could try to hold the con with everyone wearing masks and practicing social distancing, with the type of programs we usually provide, we don’t feel that we could have a fun and safe convention under those circumstances. In addition, it is still uncertain that gatherings of more than 50 people will be permitted and there is a strong possibility of a resurgence of the virus in the fall. Therefore, the committee has decided to take MileHiCon Virtual.

 …Those of you who already have paid for memberships to MileHiCon 52 Live will be able to attend with no extra charges. We will be coming out with a new pricing structure and registration system soon. Check our website and social media channels and watch for updates.

 (7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

June 8, 1949  — George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four was published for the first time. Secker & Warburg, a firm founded in 1935 whose partners were both anti-fascist and anti-communist, was the publisher. Most critics thought it was a success with the notable exception of C.S. Lewis who thought it lacked credibility. There have been several film productions, three television adaptions, myriad radio works and even opera and ballet versions. It will enter the public domain in February of next year. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz and OGH.]

  • Born June 8, 1829 – Sir John Millais, Bt.  Painter created a baronet by Queen Victoria, the first artist honored with a hereditary title.  President of the Royal Academy.  Here is Ferdinand Lured by Ariel (Shakespeare’s Tempest).  Here is Speak! Speak!  When a critic said “I can’t tell whether the apparition is a spirit or a woman,” Sir John answered “Neither can he!”  This mastery of the principle I’ve called The greater the reality, the better the fantasy was at its most controversial with Christ in the House of His Parents; see here.  It shocked Christians.  No halos; a messy carpenter’s shop; Mary is portrayed, accused Dickens – who we’d say knew something about realism – as “an alcoholic … so hideous in her ugliness that … she would stand out … as a monster, in … the lowest gin-shop.”  Ophelia was made the cover of Rich Horton’s Best Fantasy of the Year, 2007 (hello, Rich).  It is essential to Shakespeare’s Hamlet that Ophelia is a real woman.  Yet Sir John has, in her face, in his composition, and in his marshaling of detail, shone the light of fantasy compellingly upon this moment.  (Died 1896) [JH]
  • Born June 8, 1905 – Leslie Stone.  Author, ceramist, gardener.  One of the first women published in our early pulp-paper magazine days; “When the Sun Went Out” was a 1929 Gernsback pamphlet promoting Wonder Stories, “Letter of the Twenty-Fourth Century” was in the December 1929 Amazing.  Two novels, a score of shorter stories.  Pioneer in writing about black protagonists, strong female characters.  Social criticism may have been strengthened by using relatively simple plots and personalities her readers were accustomed to.  Memoir, Day of the Pulps.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born June 8, 1910 – John W. Campbell, Jr.  Author of half a dozen novels, a score of shorter stories like “Who Goes There?” and “Forgetfulness.”  For 34 years edited Astounding, renamed Analog, and a short-lived fantasy companion, Unknown (see Fred Smith’s Once There Was a Magazine). Ushered in the Golden Age of SF. Won 16 Hugos, of which eight were Retrospective, all but one for editing (Retro-Hugo for “Who Goes There?”). On the other hand, in his ASF editorials he supported many forms of crank medicine, and promoted Dianetics, and specious views about slavery, race, and segregation, all of which was well-known in sf fandom. In the Sixties he rejected Samuel R. Delany‘s Nova for serialization saying that he did not feel his readership “would be able to relate to a black main character.” Focusing on his foundational contributions, his name was put on the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Last year it was renamed the Astounding Award after the latest winner called him out for “setting a tone of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day.” (Died 1971) [OGH]
  • Born June 8, 1915 Frank Riley. He’s best known for They’d Rather Be Right (co-wrote with Mark Clifton) which won a Hugo Award for Best Novel at Clevention (1955). Originally published in serialized form in Astounding unlike his eight short SF stories that were all published in If. Sadly he’s not made it into the digital realm yet except for scattered stories. (Died 1996.) (CE)
  • Born June 8, 1915 Robert F. Young. Starting in the early Fifties through the Eighties, he wrote some 150 stories that appeared in Amazing Science FictionF&SFSaturnFantastic UniverseAmazing Stories and many other publications. Several critics compared him in style to Bradbury. Late in his career, he wrote four genre novels including one released only in French, La quête de la Sainte Grille, that was a reworking of his “Romance in a Twenty-First Century Used-Car Lot“ novelette. “Little Dog Gone” finished third for the Short Fiction Hugo at Loncon II to Gordon R. Dickson‘s  “Soldier, Ask Not”. Several thick volumes of his work are available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1986.) (CE)
  • Born June 8, 1917 George D. Wallace. He’s here for playing Commando Cody in the early Fifties Radar Men from the Moon movie serial. He would later show up as the Bosun on Forbidden Planet, and had minor roles late in his career in MultiplicityBicentennial Man and Minority Report. He also played a Star Fleet Admiral in “The Man of the People” episode of The Next Generation. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born June 8, 1926 Philip Levene. He wrote nineteen episodes of The Avengers including creating the Cybernauts which won him a Writer’s Guild Award, and served as script consultant for the series in 1968–69. He also has three genre acting credits, one as a Supervisor in “The Food” episode of Quatermass II; the second as a Secuity in the X the Unknown film, and finally as Daffodil in Avenger’s “Who’s Who” episode. (Died 1973.) (CE)
  • Born June 8, 1928 Kate Wilhelm. Author of the Hugo Award–winning Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang. She also won a Hugo Award for Best Related Book and a Locus Award for Best Nonfiction for Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop. SFWA renamed their Solstice Award the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award. She established the Clarion Workshop with her husband Damon Knight and writer Robin Scott Wilson. (Died 2018.) (CE)
  • Born June 8, 1930 – Roger Sims.  His Room 770 (shared with 3 others) of the St. Charles Hotel at Nolacon I, the 9th Worldcon (1951), held our most memorable room party, running till the next day and almost eclipsing the con.  Co-chair, with Fred Prophet, of Detention the 17th Worldcon; both named Co-chairs Emeritus of Detcon the 11th NASFiC (N. Am. SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas).  Fan Guest of Honor at Nolacon II the 46th Worldcon (1988); at Rivercon XXIV.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Co-chair (with Bill Bowers) of Corflu IV (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable); co-chair (with wife Pat) of Ditto X and XVII (fanziners’ con; a brand of spirit-duplicator machine, i.e. another copying technology).  Having published a fanzine Teddy Bear, he was appointed head of the Teddy Bear Army – no, it was the other way round.  [JH]
  • Born June 8, 1948 – Suzanne Tompkins.  One of the Founding Mothers of CMUSFS (Carnegie Mellon U. SF Society).  With Linda Eyster, another Mother (later L. Bushyager), began the fanzine Granfalloon; with Ginjer Buchanan, published the fanzine Imyrr; with husband Jerry Kaufman, The Spanish Inquisition (Fan Activity Achievement award for this), MainstreamLittlebrook.  Guest of Honor write-up of Buchanan for 77th Worldcon Souvenir Book.  Various con responsibilites, e.g. Hotels department head at the 73rd Worldcon.  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate, published Travels in the United Kingdom.  Fan Guest of Honor at Moscon III; with Jerry, at Balticon X, Westercon XLIV, Minicon XXVI, Boskone XXXIV.  “Suzle” to many.  [JH]
  • Born June 8, 1965 – Paul & Stephen Youll.  British identical twins; both artists first exhibited at the 45th Worldcon; a dozen covers together until Stephen moved to the U.S.  Three hundred fifty covers by Paul, four hundred fifty by Stephen, plus interiors.  Art book for Stephen, Paradox; also in Vincent Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds; Graphic Artist Guest of Honor at Boskone XXXVI, at Millennium Philcon the 59th Worldcon.  Here is a cover by both for On My Way to Paradise.  Here is a cover by Paul for Ringworld.  Here is Stephen’s cover for the Millennium Philcon Souvenir Book.  [JH]
  • Born June 8, 1973 Lexa Doig, 47. Cowgirl the hacker on TekWar,the post-Trek Shatner series that he actually made sense in. She was also Andromeda Ascendant/Rommie on Andromeda and Sonya Valentine on Continuum, andthe voice of Dale Arden in the animated Flash Gordon series. One-offs in Earth: Final ConflictThe 4400Stargate SG-1, Eureka, V, Smallville, Supernatural and Primeval: New World. (CE)

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) THANKS FOR YOUR CONCERN. Rick Riordan covered the territory in 2018:

(11) ON THE FRONT. “Book design has become more important than ever – but what makes an iconic jacket, asks Clare Thorp.” Examples from in and out of genre.

A pair of eyes and red lips floating in a midnight sky above the bright lights of New York on The Great Gatsby. The half-man, half-devil on Brett Easton Ellis’s American Psycho. A single cog for an eye on A Clockwork Orange. Two orange silhouettes on David Nicholls’ One Day. The original Harry Potter colour illustrations.

A great book might stay with us for a long time but, often, its cover does too. There’s a famous saying about never forming your opinion of a book by the jacket adorning it. But most readers know that we do, in fact, judge books by their covers all the time. Everything about a book’s cover – the font, the images, the colours – tells us something about what we can expect to find, or not, inside. A reader in the market for some bleak dystopian fiction is unlikely to have their head turned by a pastel-hued jacket with serif font.

(12) JOIN THE PARTY. “UAE Mars mission: Hope project a ‘real step forward for exploration'”

The first Arab space mission to Mars is preparing to lift off within weeks. Fuelling is due to begin next week.

It will take seven months to travel the 493 million km (308 million miles) to reach Mars and begin its orbit, sending back ground-breaking new data about its climate and atmosphere.

The probe will remain orbiting Mars for an entire Martian year, 687 days, to gather sufficient data.

A single orbit around Mars will take the probe 55 hours.

In a briefing on Monday, programme director Sarah Al-Amiri said the project should be a major incentive for young Arab scientists to embark on a career in space engineering.

(13) HEAVY METAL. “Notre-Dame fire: Work starts to remove melted scaffolding” — BBC has many photos.

When the fire broke out in April of last year, there was already work in progress on the roof of the cathedral, with a big structure of scaffolding in place around the spire, BBC Paris Correspondent Hugh Schofield reports.

While the spire did not survive – it crashed down at the height of the conflagration – the scaffolding did. In fact in the intense heat, a lot of it melted and became attached to the building, like a great metal parasite.

(14) MALTIN ON ANIMATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the episode, “Animation Part One” of the Maltin on Movies podcast, Jessie Maltin interviews her father, Leonard Maltin, about his classic book Of Mice And Magic, published 40 years ago and still in print.  Maltin discusses his love of animation, beginning with how he discovered animation by discovering obscure animators whose works appeared on the seven New York City TV stations eager to fill time in the 1950s.  Maltin says he was also inspired by Bob Thomas’s The Art Of Animation and the shows where Woody Woodpecker animator Walter Lantz discussed his work.

(15) MAKING GAS. SYFY Wire aims readers at a playable classic: “Long-Lost SimCity Spinoff Discovered, And You Can Play It Online”.

No crude jokes here; just a good, clean trip in the wayback machine for a look at a newly unearthed simulation game about running an oil refinery (yes, you read that right) from SimCity developer Maxis. Thanks to some slick internet sleuthing, a copy of the long-lost game is now free to play — if that’s quite the right word for it — by motoring on over to the Internet Archive.

The anonymous reader reportedly uploaded the game from a 3.5-inch floppy disc, which to date remains the only known surviving copy. As you can tell from the Twitch stream that gaming historian Phil Salvador (who’s written extensively about the long-lost game at his blog) created to take a look under the hood, don’t expect any SimCity-style handholding when you fire up SimRefinery: there are no instructions, you’re pretty much thrown into the sim without any real guidance of what’s going on, and yes, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can even set the place on fire….

(16) MARVEL TO CELEBRATE ITS OWN FREE COMIC BOOK DAY. Marvel announced:

This July, readers will get a chance to dive into some of Marvel’s most exciting new titles with brand-new stories for free at participating comic shops! Originally part of May’s Free Comic Book Day, Marvel will be now be releasing two never-before-seen titles for fans to get a first look at some of Marvel’s biggest upcoming events. Each issue will contain two separate extraordinary tales involving the X-Men, Spider-Man, and more by Marvel’s most acclaimed creators!

Available on July 15, Free Comic Book Day 2020: X-Men will feature a brand-new X-MEN story by Jonathan Hickman and Pepe Larraz that will lead into the game-changing X Of Swords crossover! The second story will also foreshadow an upcoming epic tale by Tom Taylor and Iban Coello.

And on July 22, Free Comic Book Day 2020: Spider-Man/Venom will provide two exciting tales connected to the coming major storylines in Venom, Amazing Spider-Man and Black Cat from top creators Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman, Jed MacKay, and Patrick Gleason and more!

(17) DOCTOR WHO: LOCKDOWN. Written by Steven Moffat and starring Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts and Matt Lucas as Nardole, this video was home-produced remotely during the ‘lockdown’ period of the COVID-19 outbreak in June 2020. And it seems Bill Potts was in a recent protest march.

After the terrible events of World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls, Bill Potts and Nardole are trying to keep their spirits up…

From the transcript:

…I’ll say this a lot of very angry people with a very very good reason to be angry kept their distance and kept their calm at least where I was. “Everyone remember to be kind” hasn’t always worked out that way which is understandable there are some things you never seem to get away from however hard you try but hey maybe this time. I don’t know this time it feels different… 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Rich Horton, JJ, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Rose Embolism, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 7/4/18 We Read About Dinos And We Read About Space At Ten-Thousand Words A Go

(1) THUMB ON THE SCALES. The Fourth of July was the day Vicksburg fell and the day after the South lost the Battle of Gettysburg. On our timeline, anyway. The war had a different outcome at Dinosaur Kingdom II — a theme park in Virginia where dinosaurs and an assortment of other creatures helped the Confederates defeat the Union. Or so goes the pitch from Vice News: “Inside the weird dinosaur park where Confederates defeat the Union army”).

The owner claims not to be quite the Confederate apologist you might suppose: “That war had to have happened, because the fact that you and I can own somebody is just totally outrageous… and so that had to change.” And after watching a video tour of the park I was left wondering if Vice is selling the dino Lost Cause angle a lot harder than the attraction’s owner….

(2) BRAND NEW. Jeff VanderMeer has allowed the Last Exit To Nowhere company to make Southern Reach T-shirts. He told them that they needed to donate a portion of the profits to St. Mark’s Wildlife Refuge and notes that the zip code on the shirt is the zip code for the refuge.

An official T-shirt approved by the author, Jeff VanderMeer. The inspiration for the novel was a 14-mile hike through St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in northwestern Florida. Many of the animals and vegetation that VanderMeer has seen on this hike over the past 17 years appear in the novel. A proportion of the profits for this T-shirt goes to Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge. A single colour design, using a glow-in-the-dark ink hand screen printed on a regular fit 100% cotton military olive T-shirt.

(3) BOB MADLE RECOVERING FROM STROKE. Bob Madle, 98, one of the two remaining fans who attended the first Worldcon (1939) suffered a stroke last month reports Curt Phillips” “I’ve been given permission by his daughter Jane to report that First Fandom Founder, TAFF Delegate, SF Bookseller, long time SF fan and all-around good guy Bob Madle is back at home now and doing very well after a stroke suffered during the second week of June.”

According to Jane:

My Dad is home from rehab and doing very well. His speech, which was the main thing impacted, is improving every day. He’s continuing to get therapy at home. He said he’s fine with letting others know about the stroke.

Phillips filled in the timeframe:

I had gone to Rockville just over a week ago to do some preparatory work for a convention – Corflu 36 – and naturally had tried to call Bob to arrange a visit with my fellow First Fandom member and pulpfan. It was quite alarming when my several phone calls over multiple days failed to be answered, something which had never happened before when calling Bob. I left messages and while driving home to Abingdon the next day I received a phone call from Stephen Haffner who told me about Bob’s stroke and that he was still in the hospital. Subsequent emails with Jane filled in the picture and I learned that Bob was headed for rehab the following week, which has now been successfully completed. Bob is, at this hour, back at home, no doubt watching a baseball game on tv.

Stephen and I lacked permission from Bob or his family to share this news until now, probably for concerns of Bob being overtaxed with phone calls and so forth, but Jane now tells me that he’s improving steadily, to my great relief. Keep up the good progress, Bob! I’ll come to see you next time I’m in town to share a beer, watch a ball game with you, and maybe even buy a pulp magazine or two!

(4) A REAL THREE-BODY PROBLEM. In an article on Gizmodo (“Einstein’s Theory of Gravity Holds Up on Test of a Three-Star System”), Ryan F. Mandelbaum examines a new paper in Nature (“Universality of free fall from the orbital motion of a pulsar in a stellar triple system”) and makes some comparisons on the side to Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem. The Nature paper describes a test of general relativity using a 3-body system (PSR J0337+1715, about 4200 light years from Earth) which consists of a millisecond pulsar (neutron star) and a white dwarf co-orbiting each other very closely and another white dwarf less than 1 AU distant.

Quoting the Gizmodo article:

They used 800 observations of the system spanning over six years, using the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope in the Netherlands, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, and the William E. Gordon telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico….

The researchers [Ingrid Stairs and Anne Archibald] could measure this behavior based on the pulsing behavior of the spinning neutron star. The observations revealed that the white dwarf and the pulsar seemed to behave exactly the same way in response to the other white dwarf’s gravity. General relativity wins again….

[Mandelbaum] also asked Archibald and Stairs whether they’d read The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin. Stairs hadn’t, and Archibald is halfway through. “One of the themes of the book is fundamental physics… if you do the same experiment in two places, physics doesn’t depend on where. It’s this universal fundamental physics you can get at with careful experimentation. [Liu] asks, what happens if physics doesn’t work that way?” she said. “I’m testing that at a fundamental level.”

(5) A PERSISTENT VISITOR. JJ says be sure you read the thread down to the poem. The thread starts here.

(6) AI SPREADS HOAX DEATH REPORT. While io9 headlines “Siri Erroneously Told People That Stan Lee Was Dead” as a Siri/Apple story (and it certainly is that), the underlying story is that a troll changed a Wikidata.org page to falsely say Stan Lee was dead. (Wikidata is a sister project to the better-known Wikipedia, which latter is reportedly one of the sources used by Alexa ) Siri (and a number of other digital assistants) pull info from various sources — some of which can be edited by the public — when asked questions. In this case, Siri would be in error on Stan Lee until another Wikidata editor reverted the change less than an hour later. That window, though, was clearly enough to cause some alarm.

Quoting the article:

In a post on CinemaBlend, writer Sean O’Connell described a moment where he and his teenage son were driving home from an Ant-Man and the Wasp screening on Wednesday, to have his son ask Apple’s digital assistant Siri how old Stan Lee was. The response? “Stan Lee died on July 2, 2018.” They were concerned and checked the internet for news, but there was none… because it wasn’t true. But we were curious why Siri would share this specific information.

The io9 article concludes:

The troublesome user (“&beer&love”) who started the bad data cascade had been kicked off Wikidata before and reportedly has now been kicked off again. Sadly, as  long as there are trolls and as long as we collectively depend on data sources that can be corrupted by them, there will be such problems.

(7) MULLER OBIT. Robert Muller (1940-2018): Dutch cinematographer, died July 3, aged 78. Worked on Repo Man (1984) and Until the End of the World (1991).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY PLANET. Put another million candles on its birthday cake. “Scientists Capture First Birth Of A Planet” reports NPR.

An international team of scientists has discovered a young planet — just 5 or 6 million years old — forging its own path through space and likely growing along the way.

The scientists captured a photograph, which they say is the very first direct image of the birth of a planet still forming around a star.

It’s a major finding for those of us on Earth, a 4.5-billion-year-old planet.

The newly discovered planet may be young, but it’s huge: many times the size of Jupiter, which could fit 1,300 planet Earths inside.

The BBC adds:

Researchers have long been on the hunt for a baby planet, and this is the first confirmed discovery of its kind.

Young dwarf star PDS 70 is less than 10 million years old, and its planetary companion is thought to be between five and six million years old.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock learned from Bizarro that tech shall not release you.

(10) BOVINES WHO NEED BEANO. BBC science news — “Surf And Turf: To Reduce Gas Emissions From Cows, Scientists Look To The Ocean”. There’s much less methane being released than CO2 — but pound-for-pound it has a much worse effect on greenhousing.

Scientists think they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by tweaking the food that cows eat. A recent experiment from the University of California, Davis suggests that adding seaweed to cattle feed can dramatically decrease their emissions of the potent gas methane.

Livestock is a major source of greenhouse gases worldwide. About quarter of the methane emissions due to human activity in the U.S. can be chalked up to gas released from these animals, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

(11) HARD TO BE HUMBLE WHEN YOU’RE REALLY A GENIUS. Chuck Tingle proves love again.

(12) FUN WITH BUGS. Camestros Felapton tries but is unable to restrain his enthusiasm in “Review: Ant-man & The Wasp”.

I think it is fair to say that Ant-man & The Wasp is the most inconsequential Marvel movie for some time. No new superheroes are introduced, no new approaches to the genre are taken, there is little impact on the other MCU films, there are no big or deep themes to discuss. It is the first MCU film to have the name of a female Avenger in the title but that’s about it.

But it is a fun, often silly film….

(13) FLASH AND THEY’RE GONE. People who love LibertyCon really love it. Rev. Bob brings word that the con sold out its 2019 memberships today, the first day they were available online.

To be more precise, they opened online registration today and sold all 750 memberships in just under six hours. (“5 hours, 52 minutes, and 50 seconds!” per one source.) This is according to multiple Facebook posts by associated individuals, as well as the official convention Facebook page.

It is worth noting that, according to those same sources, no 2019 memberships were sold at the convention itself. In addition, hotel room reservations have not yet opened; that won’t happen until sometime in September.

(14) ALREADY SPOILED. Remember that spoiler-filled Batman news item I warned you about so strenuously in the July 1 Scroll? Well, genre news sites have splattered the spoiler everywhere and the comic issues in question have hit the stands. It’s up to you – skip the next paragraph if you want to preserve the surprise.

Two articles published today (SYFY Wire: “Batman and the X-Men wedding dramas are the latest in comics’ matrimonial insanity” and Comicbook.com: “‘Batman’ Writer Tom King Reveals What’s Next After the Wedding”) take separate looks at love and marriage in comic books.

As writer John Wenz says on SYFY Wire,

Superhero romance is … fraught. Marriage doubly so…

Wenz casually reels off nearly a dozen different ways that marriages have failed to happen or fallen apart in just the first few paragraphs of his article. The most recent Marvel and DC will-they/won’t-they/oh-Great-Gnu-what-just-happened stories are examined in how they fit into these patterns.

On Comicbook.com, Patrick Cavanaugh talks to Batman writer Tom King to get his view on What Just Happened. King point out that this issue (#50) is just halfway through a planned 100-issue arc so the readers don’t know how the overall story will end. King is quoted as saying,

We’re halfway through that journey. It’s a long story, a long journey. It could have a happy ending or a sad ending. You’re halfway through the movie now. You’re in the middle of Empire Strikes Back and Vader just showed up and took Han’s gun.

(15) A BUTTLOAD OF CATS. Martin Morse Wooster would hate for anyone to miss Rachel Bloom’s musical salute to SJW credentials, performed on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

This is the cleaned-up version, although to my ear “buttload” fits the meter better than “fuckton” anyway.

[Thanks to Steve Green, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Rev. Bob, Steven H Silver, John King Tarpinian, 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 Iphinome.]

Pixel Scroll 2/15/17 Do These Protocol Breeches Make My Throne Look Fat?

(1) RETURN OF INCOME. Jim C. Hines has posted the first results from his annual survey of novelist income.

Gross Income

Let’s start by looking at how much our authors made in 2016 before taxes or expenses. The total ranged from a few dollars to almost five million. Eight novelists made more than a million dollars (before taxes) in 2016.

  • I admit, I was a little surprised by this, and wondered if maybe people were exaggerating or hit an extra zero. Fortunately, the survey also asked for an identifier (name or other) and an email address for anyone who wanted to be informed of the survey results. Looking at who was reporting these numbers, I believe they’re accurate.

Average Income: $114,124

Median Income: $17,000

(I think the median is more useful than the average, here. The average is pulled up significantly by those very successful outliers.)

Much more data, sliced and diced various ways, at the post.

(2) NEW AWARD FOR PAKISTANI SF. The inaugural Salam Award for Imaginative Fiction will be given this year. The new short story award, intended to “promote science fiction and related genres of writing in Pakistan,” is named for Dr. Albus Salam, one of the pioneers of science in Pakistan.

The website’s administrator says some Pakistanis may see pirated copies of sf movies, when it comes to written sf there’s little awareness

I don’t know if science fiction as a genre even exist for Pakistani readers. When you go to book stores, you don’t find any books other than religous ones or text books needed for school curriculum. How can an average reader than get exposure to different genres of writing and specially fiction?

Eligible for the award are original, previously unpublished English-language stories of 10,000 words or less by persons residing in Pakistan, or of Pakistani birth/descent. (The complete guidelines are here.) Entries must be received by July 31.

The winner will receive a cash prize of Rs 50,000, a review by an established literary agent, a review from a professional editor, with the potential for publication by Tor.com.

The award judges for 2017 are sf writers and critics: Jeff VanderMeer, Usman Malik, and Mahvesh Murad.

(3) I LOST ON… Jeopardy! devoted a category to “Sci-Fi Books” on February 14. I only knew the $1,000 question – you’re bound to do better. (The correct reply will display if you scroll over the dollar amount.)

I didn’t get this one despite having read the damn book!

Thomas in this James Dashner sci-fi book awakens being “jerked upward like an old lift in a mine shaft”

(4) NANOWRIMO’S POLITICAL CONSCIOUSNESS. Tom Knighton, in an article for PJ Media headlined “Supposedly Nonpolitical Writers Group Goes Hard Left”, criticizes a message he received from NaNoWriMo .

Unfortunately, the minds behind NaNoWriMo don’t seem to appreciate what that word “apolitical” really means. How do I know?  Because of this email the Internet-based creative writing project sent to its mailing list late last week.

Dear [Name],

As a creative writing nonprofit, we’re not a political organization. We don’t endorse candidates or support any particular party. In an ideal world, we would focus only on empowering people to write.

Yet we find ourselves in a time where people’s ability to tell their stories—and even to safely exist—is at stake….

So while we are not a political organization, we feel moved to take action.

In response to the executive order, as well as any future government efforts that threaten people’s basic freedoms, we will:

Celebrate creativity over apathy, diversity over fear, and productivity over despair.

Welcome all stories and continue to make NaNoWriMo a safe space for all writers.

Advocate for the transformative power of storytelling to connect people and build a better world.

If you have concrete ideas for how we can work toward these goals (or if you have feedback about anything in this message), please share your thoughts.

That wasn’t all. Oh, no, not by any means.  They also took issue with President Trump’s desire to end the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

There are a few things about NaNoWriMo that one must consider before truly understanding the context of the above email.  First, there are no prizes for NaNoWriMo.  “Winners” are basically all who complete a book, and the prize is…well, you wrote a book.  Not insignificant considering how few people who talk about books ever finish one, but that’s about it.

Further, since it is basically an internet writers group/contest, President Trump’s executive order will have precisely zero impact on it.  None.

In short, there’s absolutely no reason for Grant Faulkner to put his name on an email about a piece of political hay that impacts his operation in no way, shape, or form.

The email is more about virtue signaling, a way to tell progressives that NaNoWriMo is with them — and screw the right-leaning members of the email list!  Of course, it’s also possible they couldn’t imagine that anyone on their list actually leans right politically.

(5) THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION. The Shimmer Program has posted Sanfeng’s “Science Fiction in China: 2016 in Review”. I found it an interesting contrast with U.S. society – people generally were happy to hear about President Obama’s tastes as an sf fan, but what if he had announced a plan to co-opt science fiction to further his policies?

SF as National Agenda

Historically, the trajectory of Chinese SF was heavily influenced by top-down political forces at times. Recently it begins to receive continuous and influential support from the governments at all levels. On the one hand, following the tradition of focusing on ‘science’ in science fiction, the government re-emphasizes SF as a useful instrument for popularizing science and improving citizen’s scientific literacy. On the other hand, due to the high popularity and penetration rate of SF media, it is conceivable that the so-called ‘SF industry’ is often adopted in governmental agenda for creative and cultural industry development.

In a central government’s paper regarding promoting citizens’ science literacy issued by State Council in February 2016, it is explicitly stipulated that the government shall support science fiction writing as part of popular science writing. More details were revealed in a later talk given by Han Qide, president of China Association for Science and Technology (CAST), announcing that CAST will set up a national award for SF and host international SF festivals. The story reached the climax when Vice Chairman Li Yuanchao attended 2016 National SF Convention held in September 2016 and gave a speech at the opening ceremony warmly encouraging SF writing.

The post also tells about the 30th anniversary Galaxy Awards, and the inaugural winners of a new set of Chinese sf awards.

At its 30th anniversary, Galaxy Awards were presented on the evening of September 8th. Best Novel was awarded to Dooms Year by He Xi. Three days later, the ceremony of 7th Chinese Nebula Awards was held in National Library of China. The top award Best Novel was awarded to Jiang Bo for Chasing the Shadows and the Lights, which is the final installment of his epic Heart of Galaxy trilogy.

A couple of new SF awards are noteworthy. First ‘Droplet Awards’, named after a powerful and terrifying alien weapon in TBP, were organized by Tecent to call for submission of SF screenplays, comics and short videos. Best Screenplay was awarded to Day after Day by Feng Zhigang and Best Comics to The Innocent City by Yuzhou Muchang. Besides, First ‘Nebula Awards for Chinese SF Films’ were presented at a ceremony held in Chengdu in August 2016. Best SF Movie was given to a 2008 children SF movie CJ7 directed by Stephen Chow. Best SF Short Film was awarded to Waterdrop, a highly praised fan film of TBP, directed and produced by Wang Ren.

The Shimmer Program has also compiled a list of works from China eligible for 2017 Hugo nominations.

(7) TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF, SET A SPELL. Co-Geeking’s Erik Jensen is an American married to a Finn (Eppu) and living in the U.S. He has written a column of advice to fans going to the Worldcon this summer: “How to Helsinki: Concerning Finns”. There are quite a few do’s and don’ts, for example —

DO give people space – Finns expect a lot of it and they will give you a lot of it in return. If you’re talking to a Finn and they back away, don’t chase them. They’re probably not trying to get away from you, they’re just resetting comfortable boundaries. (See previous points.)

DO take your shoes off if you visit a private residence – so you don’t track in dirt that your host then has to clean up. Most Finnish homes have places for taking off and putting on shoes right by the front door….

…DON’T suggest getting together unless you want to make concrete plans – “We should do lunch some time” is just a casual pleasantry in the US. It’s an expression of general good will with no commitment attached. In Finland it is a commitment to future plans and Finns will expect you to follow through.

DON’T make small talk – if you’re in conversation with a Finn and feel like there’s an awkward silence, don’t try to fill it. For most Finns, silence is not awkward at all, but comfortable. The conversation will start again when someone has something to say.

And Eppu has put together an index to cultural resources published by Worldcon 75.

  • “Finland: A Very Short Guide For Your First Trip” (Facebook)
  • “Finland: An Assortment of Notes and Information” (in Progress Report 1)
  • “Finnish Fandom: Some Unique Characteristics” (in Progress Report 1)
  • “Finnish Foods and Where to Find Them” (in Progress Report 3)
  • “Hotels: Understanding the Differences between Countries” (in Progress Report 3)
  • “Non-Fandom Things to Do in Helsinki, If You Have the Time” (in Progress Report 2)
  • “Älä hätäile! Don’t Panic! A Short Guide for Pronouncing Finnish” (in Progress Report 2)

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 15, 1903  — The first Teddy bear goes on sale.

Toy store owner and inventor Morris Michtom places two stuffed bears in his shop window, advertising them as Teddy bears. Michtom had earlier petitioned President Theodore Roosevelt for permission to use his nickname, Teddy. The president agreed and, before long, other toy manufacturers began turning out copies of Michtom’s stuffed bears, which soon became a national childhood institution

  • February 15, 1950 — Walt Disney’s animated feature Cinderella opens in theaters across the United States.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 15, 1950 — Matt Groening, cartoonist; creator of The Simpsons.

(10) FORD’S IN HIS FLIVVER. Stephen Baxter has an op-ed in the February 11 Financial Times, “Dude, where’s my flying car?” He looks at flying cars, based on Uber’s announcement that they are launching a flying car development project.  Examining the way flying cars are portrayed in movies from Metropolis through Back To the Future and Thunderbirds Are Go, he concludes that it’s more likely that monorails and electric cabs will be the future’s preferred form of transportation and “flying cars will remain a plaything of the super-rich–and a dream (perhaps in virtual reality) for the rest of us.”

Note – you will probably hit a paywall using the direct link. I was able to access and read the article through a Google search.

(11) LITTLE BUNDLES OF JOY. And maybe not all that little, when you pop for the maximum sized bundle.

Both are limited-time offers.

(12) NEW BIMBO VERSE. Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff continues her Book View Café series with “There’s a Bimbo on the Cover Verse 8: Who Reads Reviews, Anyway?” and a story of the Analog Mafia.

They reviewed my book in Locus magazine.

They reviewed my book in Locus magazine.

The way Mark Kelly synopsized it,

I barely recognized it,

but they reviewed my book in Locus magazine.

True story. In fact, it happened repeatedly with my Analog stories….

(13) ETHICS BEYOND THE STRATOSPHERE. At Dreaming About Other Worlds, Aaron has reviewed Nobody Owns the Moon: The Ethics of Space Exploitation by Tony Milligan.

In Nobody Owns the Moon, Milligan begins his inquiry from the ground up, so to speak, starting with the fundamental question of whether space exploration itself can be ethically justified at all, specifically focusing on whether manned space exploration is justifiable. By starting at such a fundamental level, Milligan indicates that he is going to tackle the questions at hand without presuming that anything is justified. Instead, Milligan works through each issue with as few preconceptions as possible, examining both the arguments for and against the proposition being examined. This can seem frustratingly indecisive at times, because with most questions there is no clear cut answer one way or the other, because there are pros and cons to every position. The end result is that for most such questions, the answer lies in choosing which is the best of a flawed collection of alternatives, not in choosing the one that is clearly correct.

Milligan is also concerned with only dealing with questions that result from actions that are within the realm of possibility. To this end, he spends a fair amount of time examining the question of whether terraforming a planet to be more Earth-like is possible before he gets into the question of whether it is ethical. As he points out, examining a question that could never possibly come to pass is simply idle speculation. To a certain extent, almost all of the questions Milligan addresses in the book are somewhat hypothetical – no one is currently actually mining asteroids or terraforming Mars, but as he outlines in the book, they are all within the realm of reasonable possibility, and thus it is worthwhile to consider their the ethical implications.

(14) FIXING THE SCIENCE IN SCIENCE FICTION. Joe Stech, of Compelling SF, asks you to help him decide which of his guidelines to work on first.

Every so often I receive engaging story submissions that have wonderful writing and great human elements, but contain clearly implausible science. This can pull readers out of the story and potentially mar an otherwise excellent work.

I’ve been thinking about working with scientists to create a series of writer’s guides to help with this pain point, and I was hoping you could help me out by letting me know which subjects you’d find most useful in such a series. The idea is that we’d provide a general overview of the topic and then give some specific tips regarding common misconceptions that we’ve seen. If you have a moment please let me know what you think via the following survey:

A Survey About Science Fiction Writer’s Guides

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfoME88hE2nuDpuX9JZKsl9GSL-8lRYbBux2phjdwsSDtxMVg/viewform?c=0&w=1

Feel free to share the survey link with others that might have an interest.

(15) CHURCHILL’S LOST ESSAY ABOUT ALIENS. An unpublished essay by Winston Churchill about the possibility of life on other worlds is the subject of an article by Mario Livio in the latest issue of Nature. According to the BBC:

The document was uncovered in the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Missouri, by the institution’s new director Timothy Riley….

Churchill was a prolific writer: in the 1920s and 30s, he penned popular science essays on topics as diverse as evolution and fusion power. Mr Riley, director of the Churchill Museum, believes the essay on alien life was written at the former prime minister’s home in Chartwell in 1939, before World War II broke out.

It may have been informed by conversations with the wartime leader’s friend, Lindemann, who was a physicist, and might have been intended for publication in the News of the World newspaper.

It was also written soon after the 1938 US radio broadcast by Orson Welles dramatising The War of the Worlds by HG Wells. The radio programme sparked a panic when it was mistaken by some listeners for a real news report about the invasion of Earth by Martians.

Dr Livio told BBC News that there were no firm plans to publish the article because of issues surrounding the copyright. However, he said the Churchill Museum was working to resolve these.

(16) SAME BAT CHANNEL, NOT SAME BAT. Carl Slaughter sent a link to “The Evolution of Batman in Television and Film, 1943 – 2016.”

(17) THE GOOD STUFF. Aliette de Bodard has put up her awards eligibility and recommendations post.

I feel like I should start with the usual call to action/disclaimer: if you’re eligible to vote for any of the awards (Nebulas/Hugos/etc.), then please do so, even if you felt you haven’t read enough. It’s a big field and few people can claim to have read everything that came out last year–and generally the people who recuse themselves from voting tend to be marginalised folks, which skews ballots. So please please vote?

Here is an excerpt from her recommendations.

Novelettes

I enjoyed Fran Wilde’s JEWEL AND HER LAPIDARY: set in a universe where gems hold magic but can drive people mad, JEWEL concerns itself with the fall of that kingdom, and the desperate straits in which it leaves its princess and her companion. This is a heart wrenching tale of power, friendship, and two women’s struggle to survive.

Marjorie Liu’s “The Briar and the Rose” (which I suspect is a novelette, from Navah Wolfe’s and Dominik Parisien’s The Starlit Wood) is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty with a twist: a swordswoman falls in love with Rose–but Rose is only herself one day of the week, when the witch who occupies her body has to rest… I loved the characters and their relationship, and the quest undertaken by the swordswoman to free Rose.

Alyssa Wong’s “You’ll Surely Drown Here if You Stay”: a weird Western with a lovely friendship at its core, a tale of the desert, magic, belonging, and the weight of the dead. Definitely sticks in the mind.

Christopher Kastensmidt’s Elephant and Macaw Banner is sword and muskets set in colonial Brazil, following the adventures of Gerard van Oost and Oludara in a land filled with strange creatures. It’s a series of linked novelettes (with gorgeous cover art), and it’s great fun. Two volumes came out last year: A Torrential Complication and A Tumultuous Convergence.

(18) SIRI. In “The Voice (Siri)–a 48 hr film” on Vimeo, Yonatan Tal imagines what Siri would do if confronted with too many inane questions, including knock-knock jokes and “Where can I get some drugs?”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Steven H Silver, JJ, Mark-kitteh, Joe H., Peter J, John M. Cowan, John King Tarpinian, Aaron, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Dawn Incognito.]