Pixel Scroll 11/9/18 But The Pixel Has Passed, And It’s Daylight At Last, And the Scroll Has Been Long — Ditto Ditto My Song

(1) FIRE WATCH. The Westworld sets are casualties of the Woolsey Fire – Variety has the story: “‘Westworld’ Location at Paramount Ranch Burns Down”.

The historic Western town area at Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills, Calif., where productions including “Westworld” have shot, burned down Friday in the Woolsey fire, according to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area’s Twitter feed.

Westworld” uses the Western town set to shoot its Main Street scenes. The HBO series is also shot at the Melody Ranch in Santa Clarita and in Utah and other locations.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Taste the tiramisu with Vina Jie-Min Prasad in episode 81 of Scott Edelman’s podcast Eating the Fantastic.

Vina Jie-Min Prasad has been a multiple awards finalist with fiction “working against the world-machine” published in Clarkesworld, Uncanny, Fireside Fiction, Queer Southeast Asia, and HEAT: A Southeast Asian Urban Anthology. Her short story “Fandom for Robots” and her novelette “A Series of Steaks” were both finalists for the Nebula, Hugo, and Sturgeon Awards, and she was also a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

We discussed why she didn’t start writing any fiction until the release of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot, the reason food has such a prominent place in her fiction, why she might never have become a writer if the Internet hadn’t existed, the lessons she took away from her fan fiction days, what she meant when she wrote in her bio that she’s “working against the world-machine,” why her multi-nominated story “A Series of Steaks” was her first submission to a speculative fiction magazine, her fascination with professional wrestling and wrestling fandom, why her story “Pistol Grip” needed a warning for sexual content but not violence (and what Pat Cadigan called her after reading that story during the Clarion workshop), the reason she likes working in the present tense, and much more

(3) FANTASTIC BEASTS. The BBC’s roundup of critical reaction: “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald gets mixed reviews”.

The latest Fantastic Beasts film The Crimes of Grindelwald has earned mixed reviews from critics.

It has a number of three-star reviews with suggestions that the plot is “overburdened” with details and preparing for future adventures.

There is praise for the “vibrantly drawn” characters and Jude Law is highlighted for his performance as young Dumbledore.

Many agree JK Rowling’s imagination is “as awe-inspiring as ever

The second of five planned Fantastic Beasts films by JK Rowling also earns praise for its special effects.

(4) KNOW YOUR BEASTS. Merriam-Webster.com sets a challenge: “Here Be Dragons: A Creature Identification Quiz”. I scored 8/13, which isn’t good, but is better than I’ve done on some other quizzes….

You are an amateur cryptozoologist, setting out on an adventure to evaluate evidence of monsters around the world. On your plane ride to your first destination, we recommend you bone up on your monster lore here.

(5) ANIMAL PHYSICS. Kathryn Schulz’ article in the November 6, 2017 New Yorker, “Fantastic Beasts and How to Rank Them”, discusses imaginary creatures and how they continue to persist in the imagination. (Martin Morse Wooster sent the item with an apology: “Yes, I am 11 months behind in reading the New Yorker. You may report me to the Reading Control Board.”)

Although Walt Disney is best remembered today for his Magic Kingdom, his chief contribution to the art of animation was not his extraordinary imagination but his extraordinary realism.  ‘We cannot do the fantastic things, based on the real, unless we first know the real,’ he once wrote, by way of explaining why, in 1929, he began driving his animators to a studio in downtown Los Angeles for night classes in life drawing. In short order, the cartoons emerging from his workshop started exhibiting a quality that we have since come to take for granted but was revolutionary at the time:  all those talking mice, singing lions, dancing puppets, and marching brooms began obeying the laws of physics.

It was Disney, for instance, who introduced to the cartoon universe one of the fundamental elements of the real one:  gravity.  Even those of his characters who could fly could fall, and, when they did, their knees, jowls, hair, and clothes responded as our human ones do when we thump to the ground.  Other laws of nature applied, too.  Witches on broomsticks got buffeted by the wind. Goofy, attached by his feet to the top of a roller-coaster track and by his neck to the cars, didn’t just get longer as the ride started plunging downhill; he also got skinnier, which is to say that his volume remained constant.  To Disney, these concessions to reality were crucial to achieving what he called, in an echo of Aristotle, the ‘plausible impossible.’  Any story based on ‘the fantastic, the unreal, the imaginative,’ he understood, needed ‘a foundation of fact.’

(6) FINLANDIA. The Finlandia Prize is the premiere award for literature written in Finland, awarded annually to the author of the best novel written by a Finnish citizen (Finlandia Award), children’s book (Finlandia Junior Award), and non-fiction book (Tieto-Finlandia Award). It has had its eyes on stfnal books before: in 2000 Johanna Sinisalo (GoH at the Helsinki Worldcon) won it with her fantasy novel Not Before Sundown. Tero Ykspetejä’s news blog Partial Recall reports this year’s Finlandia award also has some nominees of an stfnal character: “Finlandia Award Nominees 2018”:

Magdalena Hai’s Kolmas sisar is a nominee for best children & YA novel, and the general literature category nominees announced today include Hunan by J. Pekka Mäkelä.

(7) THE SATANIC VERSUS NETFLIX. Not everyone believes the axiom that “all publicity is good publicity.” “The Satanic Temple Files $50 Million Copyright Infringement Suit Against Netflix And ‘Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina’”ScienceFiction.com has the story:

The Satanic Temple has made good on threats made by co-founder Lucien Greaves on Twitter about two weeks ago, and filed a $50 million lawsuit against Netflix for their use of a statue of the pagan deity Baphomet as a set piece on its new series ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’.  Greaves claims that the creators of ‘Sabrina’ stole its design of the statue from the Satanic Temple, which placed a copyright on their design, which depicts the goat-headed deity with two children by its side, looking up at him.  On ‘Sabrina’, the statue is never referred to by name but is a focal point at the Academy of Unseen Arts, where young witches and warlocks go to hone their magical abilities.

The Satanic Temple is not only seeking financial compensation but wants Netflix and Warner Brothers to stop distributing ‘Chilling Adventures…’ or further distributing it, meaning releasing it on DVD or Blu-Ray.

(8) FAST OUT OF THE STARTING GATE. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog has a fine list of the “50 of the Greatest Science Fiction & Fantasy Debut Novels Ever Written”. It includes —

Tea with the Black Dragon, by R.A. MacAvoy (1983)
R.A. MacAvoy’s debut is pitch-perfect in its light use of fantasy elements. Martha Macnamara is a middle-aged, free-spirited musician who meets Mayland Long, an older Asian man with elegant manners and a lot of money—who also claims to be a 2,000-year old black dragon in human form. Their conversation (over tea, naturally) hints that he was an eyewitness to momentous events throughout history, and counts as close friends many long-dead historical figures. He and Martha strike up a thoroughly charming, adult relationship, instantly and believably drawn to one another as the story morphs into a mystery. It’s the sort of novel that floats between genres, never precisely one thing, never entirely another. It’s an achievement many writers never manage; MacAvoy nailed it on her first try.

(9) HAWKING AUCTION. “Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair, thesis fetch $1 million at auction”DW has the story.

A motorized wheelchair and a thesis belonging to Stephen Hawking have sold at auction for more than $1 million. The sale raised money for two charities, including one belonging to the British physicist.

(10) MARVEL ACTION DOLLS.  The entire line-up of Hasbro’s Marvel Rising Action Dolls is available exclusively at Target. They’ll feature on the covers of some Marvel comics soon –

The next generation of super heroes have arrived! To celebrate, Marvel is excited to present Marvel Rising Action Doll Homage variants, hitting comic shops this December!

Featuring Marvel Rising characters such as Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, America Chavez, Ghost Spider, and Quake stepping into their predecessor’s shoes, each of the five covers is a homage to a classic cover from years past.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 9, 1921Alfred Coppel. Have I ever mentioned how much I love pulp? Everything from the writers to the artwork to the magazines themselves are so, so cool. And this writer was one of the most prolific such authors of the fifties and sixties. That he was also sf writer is an added bonus. Indeed his first science fiction story was “Age of Unreason” in a 1947 Amazing Stories. Under the pseudonym of Robert Cham Gilman, he wrote the Rhada sequence of galactic space opera novels aimed at a young adult market. Wiki claims he wrote under the name A.C. Marin as well but I cannot find any record of this. (Died 2004.)
  • Born November 9, 1946Marina Warner, 72, Writer, Historian, and Mythographer from England who is known for her many nonfiction books relating to feminism and myth. She has written for many publications, and has been a visiting professor, given lectures and taught on the faculties of many universities. Her nonfiction works From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers and No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling, and Making Mock have garnered several Mythopoeic Award nominations and a win, and a host of non-genre awards as well. In 2017, she was elected president of the Royal Society of Literature (RSL), the first time the role has been held by a woman since the founding of the RSL in 1820. She was honored with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.
  • Born November 9, 1962Teryl Rothery, 56, Actor who is best known for her role as Dr. Janet Fraiser on Stargate SG-1. She can also be found as ISN reporter, Ms. Chambers, in the Babylon 5 movie Voices in the Dark, and has appeared in many genre series including The X-Files, The Outer Limits, Jeremiah, M.A.N.T.I.S., Kyle XY, Eureka, and the Battlestar Galactica prequel, Caprica.
  • Born November 9, 1973Eric Dane, 45, Actor who stars currently as Captain Tom Chandler in the The Last Ship series, and played James Arthur Madrox, aLso known as the Multiple Man, in X-Men: The Last Stand. He also played a character named Jason Dean on the superb original Charmed series, and Nick Pierce in the Painkiller Jane film.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) ROCKS AROUND THE CLOCK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Three NEOs will make relatively close approaches to Earth this Saturday (Newsweek: “Three Asteroids to Whizz Past Earth in One Day—And One Will Come Closer Than The Moon”). The first one (2018 VS1) will pass by about 861,700 miles from Earth at 9:03AM (Eastern time). The second (2018 VR1) will be significantly further away at over 3 million miles, about 15 minutes later. The third (2018 VX1), though, will pass only about 238,900 miles from Earth at 1:26AM.

The three objects are relatively small—variously estimated to be from 43 to 98 feet wide—but big enough that they could cause widespread destruction if they were a wee bit (by astronomical standards) closer on a future pass. In the US, Near Earth Objects are the province of CNEOS—NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies.

(14) A LABOR OF LINGO. The legacy of a 15th-Century noblewoman lives on in the form of collective nouns used to describe groups of animals across the world: “Why a Group of Hippos Is Called a Bloat”.

As it turns out, these scintillating nouns are neither coincidence nor misnomer, but rather the result of centuries of linguistic evolution.

People have been coming up with terms to describe animal groupings for hundreds of years, but it wasn’t until The Book of St Albans, written by Juliana Berners, a 15th-Century Benedictine prioress from England, that they were recorded extensively. Also known by the title The Book of Hawking, Hunting and Blasing of Arms, Berners’ 1486 publication of this gentlemen’s catalogue of wildlife and hunting included 165 collective nouns for animal species, and is said to make her one of the earliest female authors writing in the English language.

(15) DISNEY HIRES LOKI. His show will be part of Disney’s new streaming service — “Tom Hiddleston to return as Loki in new TV series”. When was the last time a villain got their own series?

(16) DIGGING MARS. BBC says “ExoMars: Life-detecting robot to be sent to Oxia Planum”

The robot rover that Europe and Russia will send to Mars in 2020 will be targeted at a near-equatorial site on the Red Planet known as Oxia Planum.

The area was recommended by an expert panel meeting at Leicester University.

Oxia is rich in clays and other minerals that have resulted from prolonged rock interactions with water.

The ExoMars vehicle will carry a drill and sophisticated instruments to this ancient terrain to look for signs of past or even present life.

(17) THE ONLY WAY TO WIN. “The gamer who spent seven years in his dressing gown” has created a game to wean people from game addiction.

It’s a role-playing board game for small groups.

Players meet once a week over a period of weeks or months, improving their social skills as they play.

No equipment is needed aside from a pen and paper, but additions can include dice and character descriptions.

The idea is the participants play themselves, earning points by achieving certain tasks.

They can improve their “characters” and get extra points in between sessions by taking on a challenge in the real world.

Participants have to prove they have completed the tasks and share the details in an online group set up for each game

(18) YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN NOW. Maybe they couldn’t compete with YouTubers free game videos? Variety reports “Video Game Strategy Guide Publisher Prima Games Is Shutting Down”.

The imprint’s guides all feature in-depth content, detailed screen captures, quick-reference tips, and professional strategies. They were a godsend to many gamers of a certain age, back before internet walkthroughs and wikis became de rigueur. Prima Games later tried adapting to an increasingly digital world by offering eguides filled with interactive maps, streaming video, searchable apps, and more.

(19) NEWS FAKER. Yet another job—newsreader—is under threat from Artificial Intelligence (Popular Mechanics: “This AI Reporter Would Never Get Kicked Out of Press Briefings”). Chinese media, already tightly controlled, appears to be in the process of becoming even more buttoned down. (Original source Xinhua.net: “World’s first AI news anchor makes ‘his’ China debut”)

With a state-run media like China’s, there’s already some concern that newscasters are little more than puppets. After an AI news anchor debuted at the World Internet Conference in China this week, we’re one step closer to that reality.

The anchor was created in a partnership between Xinhua News Agency, China’s official state-run media outlet, and sogou.com, a Chinese search engine company. The Chinese news, of course, is thrilled and impressed, claiming that the character “can read texts as naturally as a professional news anchor.” Two versions of the AI anchors are now available on Xinhua through their apps, WeChat account, and online news channel.

(20) NUCLEAR CHRISTMAS GIFT. You can now order Threads on Blu-ray, called “The most influential film about nuclear war ever made.”

Directed by Mick Jackson (The Bodyguard) and written by Barry Hines (Kes).

Threads shocked the nation when it first aired on BBC Two in 1984 at the height of Cold War nuclear paranoia, and became one of the most significant and iconic films ever produced by the BBC.

It was nominated for seven BAFTAs in 1985, winning four including Best Single Drama.

Threads was one of the first films to depict the full consequences of global nuclear war when a bomb hits the city of Sheffield. It is uncompromising in its display of the tense weeks leading up to the bomb dropping, the attack, and the bleak years of nuclear winter that are left in its aftermath.

(21) VISIT FROM A DINO. There’s a giant, animatronic dinosaur roaming around BBC…

(22) CHAMPION MAGICIAN. Gizmodo promises “The Winning Trick at the World Championships of Magic Might Fry Your Brain Like an Egg”.

But Chien’s ‘Ribbon’ routine is a non-stop barrage of lightning-quick illusions, leaving you with little time to figure out what you just saw before his next trick baffles your brain all over again.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Karl-Johan Norén, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Errolwi, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 10/13/18 I Can Hear The Pixels Singing Each To Each

(1) GREAT AMERICAN READ UPDATE. Right now five of the top 10 books are sff, as Shelf Awareness alerts readers that the “Great American Read Voting Deadline Nears”:

The deadline is approaching to cast votes for the country’s best-loved novel, and organizers of The Great American Read have released a Top 10 list of the leading candidates thus far. The project’s “Grand Finale” episode will air October 23 on PBS stations nationwide to reveal the number one book.

To date, more than 3.8 million votes have been cast. Viewers can vote for their favorite titles each day through October 18 using hashtag voting via Facebook and Twitter, SMS texting with the dedicated book hashtag, and toll-free by phone. All methods can be found here.

Entering the final week, the current top 10 books, in alphabetical order, are:

• Charlotte’s Web
• Chronicles of Narnia series
• Gone with the Wind
• Harry Potter series
• Jane Eyre
• Little Women
• Lord of the Rings series
• Outlander series
• Pride and Prejudice
• To Kill a Mockingbird

(2) GENRE CROSSOVERS. Claire O’Dell, in “Crime In The Land of Gods and Monsters” on Crimereads, recommends eight sf/mystery crossovers, including works by Aliette de Bodard, Malka Older, and Nnedi Okorafor.

Aliette de Bodard, The Tea Master and the Detective (Subterranean Press)

Ever since the original Watson and Holmes stories first appeared, other authors have experimented with their own takes on the genius detective and his faithful friend. De Bodard has set her own pastiche in her Xuya universe (a far future space age initially dominated by Asian powers). Here we have a Watson who is a mindship named The Shadow’s Child, and who brews psychotropic teas for her customers. Long Chau is our Holmes, and just as abrasive and given to self-medication as the original.

Of course, there is a mystery. Long Chau initially comes to The Shadow’s Child because she wants to locate a corpse in space—for scientific reasons, she says—but she needs a specific concoction to ensure her mind still functions in the Deep Spaces. Chau and The Shadow’s Child do locate a corpse, but when Chau deduces that this was no accident, but a murder, the two embark on an investigation together.

(3) SAWYER ON ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. Reuters conducted a wide-ranging interview with Robert J. Sawyer about the future of AI — “Judging artificial intelligence on its prospects for judging us”. This is just a sample —

ANSWERS: Do you think we will achieve artificial general intelligence (AGI) this century? If so, how do you see it taking shape? And how can it be contained and managed by humans?

ROBERT J. SAWYER: …There is no inner life whatsoever, to that AI or any other AI in the world right now as far as we’ve been able to determine; not any inkling of what we would call consciousness.

The reason for that is very simple. We don’t know what gave rise to it in humanity. Therefore, reproducing it in lines of code is the same thing as saying to a programmer (no matter how good that programmer is), “Reproduce artistic genius for me. Reproduce poetic inspiration for me. Reproduce romantic love for me.”

We don’t know how to do it, so we don’t know how to code it. In that sense, I think we’re nowhere near having artificial general intelligence in the strong AI sense, the way academics use it to refer to machines capable of experiencing consciousness, of having an inner life. Not Watson, not Deep Blue, you name your favorite one, it ain’t doing it. There’s nobody home.

In the weaker sense of being able to perform any intellectual or cognitive task that a human being can perform, absolutely we will have AGI. In the near future, it will be a reality for sure. There’s no question that, with computer growth being exponential as described by Moore’s Law, we are absolutely going to have AGI and in a horizon for which business and the general public should be concerned right now.

(4) FINAL PAPER. Engadget reports “Stephen Hawking’s last paper on black holes is now online”.

Stephen Hawking never stopped trying to unravel the mysteries surrounding black holes — in fact, he was still working to solve one of them shortly before his death. Now, his last research paper on the subject is finally available online through pre-publication website ArXiV, thanks to his co-authors from Cambridge and Harvard. It’s entitled Black Hole Entropy and Soft Hair, and it tackles the black hole paradox. According to Hawking’s co-author Malcolm Perry, the paradox “is perhaps the most puzzling problem in fundamental theoretical physics today” and was the center of the late physicist’s life for decades.

The information paradox arose from Hawking’s theoretical argument back in the 1970s that black holes have a temperature. As such, they’re bound to evaporate over time until there’s nothing left, releasing energy now called the “Hawking Radiation.” See, it’s believed that when an object enters a black hole, its information gets preserved on its surface forever even if it vanishes from sight. If a black hole evaporates, though, then so will that information. That creates a paradox, because according to the rules of quantum physics, information can never be destroyed.

The new paper shows how that information can be preserved by photons called “soft hair” surrounding the edge of black hole, which you might know as the event horizon. According to Hawking, Perry, Andrew Strominger and Sasha Haco, a black hole’s temperature changes when you throw an object (say, a planet’s atoms) into it. The hotter it gets, the more its entropy (its internal disorder) rises. That entropy is what’s preserved in a black hole’s soft hair.

(5) FISTREBUFFS. The Hollywood Reporter says this Marvel show is leaving the air: “‘Iron Fist’ Canceled After Two Seasons at Netflix”.

The first Marvel drama has been canceled at Netflix.

Iron Fist, the fourth in the original four-show deal between the streaming giant and Disney’s Marvel, will not return for a third season.

“Marvel’s Iron Fist will not return for a third season on Netflix. Everyone at Marvel Television and Netflix is proud of the series and grateful for all of the hard work from our incredible cast, crew and showrunners. We’re thankful to the fans who have watched these two seasons, and for the partnership we’ve shared on this series. While the series on Netflix has ended, the immortal Iron Fist will live on,” reps for Netflix and Marvel said in a statement to THR late Friday.

(6) SIGNS OF THE TIMES.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • October 13, 1939 – Melinda Dillon, 79, Actor who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the Hugo finalist Close Encounters of the Third Kind. She also played roles in Harry and the Hendersons, Spontaneous Combustion, the Matt Salinger version of Captain America, and had guest roles on The Twilight Zone and the miniseries adaptation of James Michener’s Space.
  • October 13, 1954 – Stephen Gallagher, 64, Writer and Producer. He wrote more than a dozen genre novels and several dozen shorter fiction works, largely science-fictional horror, mostly in the 80s and 90s, as well as 4-part Doctor Who TV serials for both the Fourth and Fifth Doctors, and adapted his novels Chimera and Oktober into TV miniseries. He has received several British Fantasy, World Fantasy, Stoker, and International Horror Guild Award nominations; his collection Out of His Mind won a BFA, and his short story “The Box” won an IHG Award.
  • October 13, 1956 – Chris Carter, 62, Emmy-Nominated Writer, Director, and Producer, best known as the creator of The X-Files, which has accumulated more than 200 episodes during its initial run from 1993 to 2002 and its renewed run from 2016 to 2018, as well as the spinoff series The Lone Gunmen and the series Millennium (no connection to the John Varley work) and Harsh Realm. He shares a credit with Elizabeth Hand for one of the X-Files tie-in novels entitled Fight the Future.
  • October 13, 1959 – Wayne Pygram, 59, Actor from Australia who played quite possibly one of the best-developed villains in genre series history, in the role of Scorpius on the Farscape series. He also appeared as Governor Tarkin in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, and had guest roles on the TV Series Lost, Time Trax, and The Girl from Tomorrow.
  • October 13, 1962 – Patrick McMurray, 56, Conrunner and Fan. He is an Irish-born resident of the UK who chaired Mancunicon (the 2016 UK Eastercon National Convention), and has served on a number of other Eastercon and Worldcon committees. He has been a member of several fan groups, and for several years maintained the Memory Hole Annex, a paper archive of printed convention materials. He attended the Australian Natcon in 2004 as the GUFF delegate.
  • October 13, 1963 – Hiro Kanagawa, 55, Actor and Playwright from Japan who emigrated to Canada and has become a go-to actor for character roles in genre TV shows and films. He has had recurring roles in Salvation, Altered Carbon, Legends of Tomorrow, Heroes Reborn, The Man in the High Castle, The 100, and Caprica, with guest roles on dozens more, as well as parts in genre films such as Elektra, The Day the Earth Stood Still remake, and Doomsday Prophecy.
  • October 13, 1964 – Christopher Judge, 54, Actor, Writer, and Producer best known to genre fans as the Jaffa warrior Teal’c in more than 200 episodes of the Hugo-nominated Stargate SG-1, for which he received a Saturn nomination, with a guest appearance on Stargate: Atlantis, and a reprise of that role lending his magnificent voice to the Stargate videogames.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Good grief! A Halloween legend gets out of hand in Bacon.
  • You’ll never guess who joined the National League in Over the Hedge.
  • Can you pass the bookstore entrance exam in this Non Sequitur?

(9) KERMODE. First Man — it’s not a film about a shark (makes sense in context).

Mark Kermode reviews First Man. A biopic of Neil Armstrong and the legendary space mission that made him the first man on the Moon.

 

(10) BAD WEEK FOR SPACE TELESCOPES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] ABC News reveals: “Another NASA space telescope shuts down in orbit”. Damn, it must be catching… first the Hubble loses a gyro, now what Chandra?

Another NASA space telescope has shut down and halted science observations.

Less than a week after the Hubble Space Telescope went offline, the Chandra X-ray Observatory did the same thing. NASA said Friday that Chandra’s automatically went into so-called safe mode Wednesday, possibly because of a gyroscope problem.

Hubble went into hibernation last Friday due to a gyroscope failure.

Both orbiting observatories are old and in well-extended missions: Hubble is 28, while Chandra is 19. Flight controllers are working to resume operations with both.
NASA said it’s coincidental both went “asleep” within a week of one another. An astronomer who works on Chandra, Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted Friday that “Chandra decided that if Hubble could have a little vacation, it wanted one, too.”

Launched by space shuttles in the 1990s, Hubble and Chandra are part of NASA’s Great Observatories series. The others are the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, which was also launched in the 1990s but eventually failed and was destroyed, and the Spitzer Space Telescope, launched in 2003 and still working. Each was intended to observe the cosmos in different wavelengths.

(11) ARK PARK. Jamie Lee Curtis Taete’s byline by itself is more interesting than this religious theme park in Kentucky: “This $100 Million Noah’s Ark Theme Park Is a Boring, Homophobic Mess” at Vice.

[Owner Ken] Ham has previously blamed multiple factors for the underwhelming performance of the attraction. From local business owners to atheists. But is there a simpler explanation? Is it possible that people don’t want to visit the Ark because it sucks?

Then it’s on to the living quarters—a series of rooms showing how Noah and his family might have lived. There’s a sign as you enter explaining that they’ve had to take artistic license while designing the area, because the Bible doesn’t give much info on this topic.

They could’ve used that artistic license to make something cool, like Biblical Wakanda. But instead, they made up a name for Noah’s wife (Emzara) and created an exhibit on looms, the single least entertaining object on earth.

IS IT FUN ENOUGH TO CONVERT YOU TO A CREATIONIST BELIEF SYSTEM? No. You can see fake bedrooms and living rooms in an IKEA for free. And you don’t have to read a single word about looms while doing it.

(12) ANTI-DRONE WEAPON. BBC profiles a security technology —“Sky battles: Fighting back against rogue drones”.

Rogue drones have nearly caused air accidents, have been used as offensive weapons, to deliver drugs to prisoners, and to spy on people. So how can we fight back?

…Drones are also being used by so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq as offensive weapons. On one occasion, a small number of drones carrying hand grenades were able to take out an entire Russian weapons depot….

So what can be done to prevent drones from flying places they shouldn’t?

Several companies, including Droptec, OpenWorks Engineering, and DroneDefence have developed hand-held or shoulder-mounted “guns” that fire a net to trap a suspect drone.

They’ve already been used to protect heads of state on foreign visits and other dignitaries at international meetings.

(13) UK COMICS LAUREATE. She’s the third person to hold the title: “Hannah Berry: New UK comics laureate to harness ‘untapped’ potential”.

New comics laureate Hannah Berry has said she wants to use the position to remove some of the “stigma” that still surrounds graphic novels and comics, and harness their “untapped” potential.

Berry is the award-winning creator of graphic novels Adamtine and Livestock.

“There are still a lot of people who think comics are just superheroes throwing stuff at each other.

“With the enormous, diverse, wealth of subjects out there, there’s a graphic novel for everybody,” she said.

“There’s nothing wrong with superhero comics, but I think if people were aware, maybe the stigma could be removed.”

(14) LEAPS AND BOUNDS IN SCIENCE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Phys.org’s article “Numerous boulders, many rocks, no dust: MASCOT’s zigzag course across the asteroid Ryugu” discusses findings from the German “hopping” lander on Asteroid Ryugu (deployed from Japan’s Hayabusa2).

Six minutes of free fall, a gentle impact on the asteroid and then 11 minutes of rebounding until coming to rest. That is how, in the early hours of 3 October 2018, the journey of the MASCOT asteroid lander began on Asteroid Ryugu – a land full of wonder, mystery and challenges. Some 17 hours of scientific exploration followed this first ‘stroll’ on the almost 900-metre diameter asteroid. The lander was commanded and controlled from the MASCOT Control Centre at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) site in Cologne in the presence of scientific teams from Germany, France and Japan. MASCOT surpassed all expectations and performed its four experiments at several locations on the asteroid. Never before in the history of spaceflight has a Solar System body been explored in this way. It has now been possible to precisely trace MASCOT’s path on Ryugu’s surface on the basis of image data from the Japanese Hayabusa2 space probe and the lander’s images and data….

“We were expecting less than 16 hours of battery life because of the cold night, says MASCOT project manager Tra-Mi Ho from the DLR Institute of Space Systems. “After all, we were able to operate MASCOT for more than one extra hour, even until the radio shadow began, which was a great success.”

…Having reconstructed the events that took place on asteroid Ryugu, the scientists are now busy analysing the first results from the acquired data and images. “What we saw from a distance already gave us an idea of what it might look like on the surface,” reports Ralf Jaumann from the DLR Institute of Planetary Research and scientific director of the MASCOT mission. “In fact, it is even crazier on the surface than expected. Everything is covered in rough blocks and strewn with boulders. How compact these blocks are and what they are composed of, we still do not know. But what was most surprising was that large accumulations of fine material are nowhere to be found – and we did not expect that. We have to investigate this in the next few weeks, because the cosmic weathering would actually have had to produce fine material,” continues Jaumann. [Emphasis added.]

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

Pixel Scroll 6/10/18 Ascroll Just Off The Pixels Of Langerhans

(1) LICENSE TO THRILL. Steven H Silver spotted an unusual collectible in traffic the other day —

I was unaware that Illinois issued such event specific license plate until I saw this one today (June 6).  The text around Superman indicates it is for the 40th Annual Superman Festival in Metropolis, Illinois from June 7-10.  On the right you can see that the plate expires on June 10, 2018.

(2) SATISFYING SPACE OPERA. Abigail Nussbaum delivers insightful and fascinating sff analysis in “A Political History of the Future: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente”, at Lawyers, Guns & Money.

To which the answer is, because talking about Space Opera gives me an opportunity to point out a glaring lacuna in almost all the works we’ve discussed so far—the way that nearly every one of them leaves out the centrality of culture, and particularly popular culture, in shaping a society and reflecting its preoccupations.

When I say “culture”, I’m talking about several different things, each integral to the believability of any invented world. Culture can mean shared cultural touchstones, classic and modern, that give people a common frame of reference, like humming a pop song or quoting the Simpsons. It can mean characters who are artists, professional or amateur. It could refer to the way that culture can become a political battleground, as we were discussing just a few days ago in response to the news that conservatives want their own version of SNL. Or it could be a discussion of material culture—fashion, design, architecture—and how it allows people to express themselves in even the most mundane aspects of their lives.

It’s very rare, however, to see science fiction try to engage with any of these aspects of culture. Even as it strives to create fully-realized worlds, art—high and low, functional and abstract, popular and obscure, ridiculous and serious—tends to be absent from them. So are artists—try to remember the last time you encountered a character in a science fiction or fantasy story who had an artistic side, even just as a hobby. Even worse, few characters in SFF stories have any kind of cultural touchstones.

(3) KILL YOUR DARLINGS. Delilah S. Dawson tells what she thinks is the real meaning of that traditional writerly advice “kill your darlings.” The thread starts here —

(4) IN THE BEGINNING. The International Costuming Guild presents its research into what fans wore to the masquerade at the Second Worldcon (1940) — “Convention Costuming History: The Pre-WWII Years – Pt. III”.

The earliest Worldcon masquerades were more like informal costume contests, with several well known authors of the time participating. The costumes worn were a mix of original designs, interpretations of literary characters and what would come to be known as media recreations. 1940 – Chicon I

Following the novelty of Ackerman’s and Douglas’ costumed appearance the previous year, a “Science Fiction Masquerade Party” was featured as part of the convention programming.(1) By Forrest Ackerman’s count, there were 25 people in costume there. The co-host masters of ceremonies were fans and writers Jack Speer and Milton Rothman. Judging from the accounts of the party, the occasion was informal – there was no stage, but there were one or two skits, including one by Ackerman and “Morojo” (Douglas) wearing their outfits from the previous year.

There were several reports of who was there for the first official costumed event. Among that first group of convention costuming contestants were…

(5) ICG IN PASSING. The International Costuming Guild’s in memoriam video, presented at Costume-Con 36 (2018) to recognize those in the community lost in the previous year, is posted on YouTube.

(6) WITH CAT IN HAND. Yoon Ha Lee will be doing an Ask Me Anything on June 12.

(7) THIEVES LIKE US. A recent movie premiere inspires B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog’s listicle “12 Fantasy Heist Novels”.

There are genre tropes, and then there are those archetypes that are mainstays of not just science fiction and fantasy, but of popular culture in general. One of the best examples is the character of the Gentleman Thief (who doesn’t always have to be a gentleman). These rogues are witty, engaging, and will rob you blind with a rakish wink and a smile. You can’t help but be charmed by them. From Robin Hood to Danny Ocean, the character is a permanent favorite in books and on film….

The Holver Alley Crew, by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Maresca’s interconnected Maradaine books (multiple series examining life in the same fantasy city) are a real treat. The latest series is about the Holver Alley crew, a ragtag group of formerly retired thieves are forced to return to a life of crime when their new, respectable shop burns down. When they learn the fire was no accident, they are forced to take desperate measures. All of the Maradaine books are a treat, but this one really stands out because of the especially strong characters. In fine Oceans tradition, Asti and Verci are both brothers and ringleaders, and must assemble a skilled crew to pull of a job to rob a gambling house that took everything from them.

(8) HAWKING OBSEQUIES. Are any of you trying to get in? “Stephen Hawking: Ballot opens for Westminster Abbey service”.

The public is being offered the chance to attend a service of thanksgiving for Professor Stephen Hawking, who died in March aged 76.

It will take place in Westminster Abbey on 15 June and up to 1,000 tickets are available in a ballot.

During the service, the scientist’s ashes will be interred between Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

His daughter, Lucy Hawking, said she wanted to give some of her father’s admirers the chance to remember him.

(9) LAST DAYS. Christopher Stasheff’s son, Edward posted the following to his Facebook page on June 9:

My father, Christopher Stasheff, is currently in hospice and expected to die from Parkinson’s Disease within the next two weeks, quite possibly this week. If anyone would like to say goodbye to him, post it as a response here, and I’ll read it to him the next time I see him (I visit him in the nursing home daily). Thanks.

The most recent reports are suggesting that he may only have a day or so left.

Update:  His son reports Stasheff died this evening.

My father Christopher Stasheff died at 6:45 PM on June 10th, 2018, surrounded by his wife and two of his children. The other two were able to phone in and say goodbye before he passed. He is survived by hundreds of his students and uncountable fans, and his legacy will live on in all the lives he touched.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born June 10, 1952 – Kage Baker

(11) VOLLEYED AND THUNDERED. Edmonton’s Hugo Book Club just put out a new blog post, “Is that The Canon in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”, in which they muse about literary awards and their relation to posterity and questions of enduring value. Is science fiction the new Western Canon?

It is worth noting that Harold Bloom’s 1993 list of The Western Canon included only two works that are traditionally categorized as science fiction: Ursula Le Guin’s Hugo Award winner The Left Hand of Darkness and George Orwell’s 1984.

But of Bloom’s list, I would argue the majority of the works cited are less relevant to the broad public – and to a concept of cultural literacy – than the recent Hugo Award winners and popular works of science fiction.

For example, references and allusions to Wolfram von Eschenbach’s 13th century poem Parzival are lost on the broader public, while Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One protagonist Parzival is familiar to many.

(12) ICE NINE. Galactic Journey’s Victoria Lucas has just read the new Vonnegut release – in 1963: “[June 10, 1963] Foma: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics (Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s Cat’s Cradle)”

When a friend lent Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s newest novel, Cat’s Cradle to me, I thought, “Oh, I know this book!” because I saw, as I flipped through it, the “ice-nine” and “Bokonon” I’d heard people buzzing so much about.  So I was glad to read it and understand the phenomenon.

But that’s where my joy ended.  Vonnegut is a fine writer.  His style is idiosyncratic, askew; this is a novel novel.  But no one would accuse him of being optimistic or hopeful about the human future.  No Pollyanna he….

(13) BBC RADIO STAR TREK DOCUMENTARY. BBC Radio 4 has just re-broadcast “Star Trek – The Undiscovered Future”, first aired December 2017. It’s available to listen to online right now.

How far have we voyaged towards Star Trek’s vision of the future and what of it is likely to be fulfilled or remain undiscovered in the next 50 years?

Kevin Fong presents archive material of the likes of Leonard Nimoy (Spock) and Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura) talking about the inception and filming of the original Star Trek series, and their thoughts about Roddenberry’s vision of the future and its impact in the United States at the time.

For example, Nichols relates how she had a chance encounter with Martin Luther King the day after she had told Roddenberry that she intended to leave Star Trek after the first series. King told her he was her number fan and almost demanded that she didn’t give up the role of Uhura, because she was an uniquely empowering role model on American television at the time.

For a perspective from today, Kevin also talks to George Takei who played Mr Sulu. Takei laments the ethnically divisive politics of the United States in 2016.

He meets Charles Bolden – the first African American to both command a shuttle mission and lead NASA as its chief administrator. In the age of the International Space Station, he compares himself to the ‘Admiral of Star Fleet’. But the former astronaut also talks about the anger he first felt in 1994 when he was asked to fly the first Russian cosmonaut ever to board an American space shuttle.

Kevin also talk to cultural broadcaster and Star Trek fan Samira Ahmed about the sexual and racial politics of the Original series.

(14) ST:D SEASON TWO. Comedian and new Star Trek: Discovery cast member Tig Notaro opened her set on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert poking fun at her inability to understand any of the tech talk from her Trek dialog. See “‘Star Trek: Discovery’: Tig Notaro Talks Technobabble” at Comicbook.com.

Tig Notaro is one of the new additions to the cast of Star Trek: Discovery in the show’s second season and while she’s excited to be a part of the Star Trek universe she doesn’t exactly speak the language.

Notaro was a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to promote her new comedy special Happy to be Here. She greeted Colbert by saying his theater was “like a room full of pleasant subspace particles wrapped in a tachyon field of good vibes.”
The comment is obviously a reference to her role on Discovery, though she admits “I have no idea what I’m saying on that show…I can’t even picture what I’m talking about.”
She revealed that her character is human and that she plays Commander Jet Reno, a name she got to choose for herself. As for how she got the job, “They just asked if I wanted to do it” she says.

 

(15) BAD WITH NUMBERS? Deadline interviewed the president of Marvel Studios: “Kevin Feige Talks Marvel’s Success, Female Directors, ‘Infinity War II’ & How He’s ‘Bad With Numbers’”.

More female directors on Marvel pics: Captain Marvel is the first Marvel title to have a female director at the helm Anna Boden (who is co-helming with Ryan Fleck. And having more female directors behind his superhero pics is a trend he plans to maintain, “I cannot promise that (the next) 20 Marvel movies will have female directors but a heck of a lot of them will,” he said in response to an audience member’s question. The Marvel boss mentioned that agencies are sending more female directors than men for Marvel directing jobs.

On the $1.3 billion success of Black PantherFeige said that Marvel “wanted to destroy the myth that black movies don’t work well around the world,” and being at Disney with its platinum marketing department allowed the comic book studio to swing for the fences.

“The budget for Black Panther was bigger than Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, and you can’t do that without the support and encouragement from the leaders of the company,” he said.

Feige also applauded Black Panther director Ryan Coogler’s championing his diverse below-the-line team in Hannah Beachler as production designer, Ruth Carter’s costumes, and DP Rachel Morrison. Their resumes, like Marvel’s directors, didn’t scream tentpole experience, but Feige is grateful he heard them pitch rather than rely on his regular team.

“We can’t imagine the movie without them, and the future movies we hope to make with them,” he said.

(16) JURASSIC LARK. In Parade, “Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard Talk Dinosaurs, Parenting and Friendship”.

After their wildly successful first dino film in 2015, the pair reunited last year to film much of Fallen Kingdom on the Kualoa Ranch in Oahu, Hawaii. But even surrounded by tropical paradise, they faced more than a few challenges on camera, from filming in a chlorinated pool that fried Pratt’s hair and skin to riding in a zero-gravity gyrosphere that made Howard nauseous. And Pratt had to do some awkward face-offs with a velociraptor that wasn’t really there—until the special-effects department created it. He acts out how he’d say to the air in front of him, “Get back, get back . . .” and then “Whoa!” as he’d throw himself on the ground. The camera crew, watching on monitors nearby, “didn’t want to say how stupid it looked!”

(17) SCARIEST MOVIE. The Washington Post’s Monica Castillo, in “The story behind ‘Hereditary,’ the Toni Collette horror movie that scared the bejesus out of Sundance”, interviews Hereditary director Ari Aster who, “in his first feature, marries the horror and melodrama genres into an unnerving movie about grief.”

Aster said he deliberately amped up the drama in the film slowly. “I’m not affected by anything in a film unless I’m invested in the people at the center of it,” he said. “I wanted to take my time and immerse people in this family’s life and their dynamic, which is quite complicated. I just wanted to make a film in the tradition of the horror films I grew up loving, like ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ ‘Don’t Look Now’ and ‘The Innocents.’ Films that take their time are very much rooted in character.”

Setting also plays an important role in the creepiness in “Hereditary.” The family’s luxury cabin in the woods has the right dark corners and haunted attics to make it feel like a trap where its inhabitants are left to slowly die. Annie’s miniature houses become a motif. “The miniatures just struck me as a potent metaphor for the family’s situation,” Aster said. “They have no agency, and they’re revealed over the course of the movie to be like dolls in a dollhouse, being manipulated by these outside forces.”

(18) SPONGEBOB TONY. In “How ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ invaded our brains”, Washington Post writer Sonia Rao interviews the cast and creators of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical, which is up for 12 Tonys as best musical tonight and is making a lot of Millennials very happy.

Tom Kenny never thought SpongeBob SquarePants, a character he originated on the children’s program almost 20 years ago, would one day end up on Broadway. Why would he have? Parents clamp their hands over their ears whenever they hear SpongeBob’s helium voice, let alone his nasal laugh. The anthropomorphized sponge is no Hugh Jackman.

And yet, “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” is up for 12 Tonys on Sunday, tied with “Mean Girls” for the most nominations. Its resonance with serious theatergoers is surprising until you consider that even as adults, those of us who watched the series can’t shake its omnipresent songs, references and memes. Somehow, it became a cultural earworm.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Lexica, Olav Rokne, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Jonathan Cowie, Steven H Silver, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 5/14/18 They Took Some Pixels, And Plenty Of Scrolls, Wrapped Up In A Five Pound Note

(1) SUDDENLY THERE CAME A TAPPING. Seattle Times headline: “Ripples in space-time or 3-pound bird? Ravens at Hanford foul test of Einstein’s theory”. Ravens are interfering with measurements at LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) which helped find the first confirmed gravitational waves.

For the LIGO observatory on Washington’s Hanford site, noise is a real buzz killer.

Any earthly sound — a truck rumbling past, the humming of a refrigerator in a nearby building, or the distant flutter of a plane’s propellers — can drown out the faint whispers from the cosmos that the Nobel Prize-winning project was designed to detect.

So when strange blips in the data started cropping up on summer afternoons, researchers were anxious to find the source and eliminate it.

“Any other noise makes it harder to hear the thing you’re listening for,” said University of Oregon physicist Robert Schofield, whose job is to ferret out racket from the environment and reduce its impact on some of the most sensitive instruments ever built.

…The glitches at Hanford corresponded to sounds recorded by a microphone installed by Schofield and his colleagues as part of their endless quest to detect and stamp out noise.

…It didn’t take long for Schofield to identify the prime suspect once he listened to the recordings. “It sounded like pecks to me,” he said. “I immediately thought it must be ravens.”

(2) DOCTOR NEW. What she told Radio Times: “Jodie Whittaker on filming Doctor Who: ‘I smile every single morning going to work’”.

“It’s like nothing I’ve ever done before, it’s absolutely incredible,” she said. “I must smile every single morning knowing I’m going to work to do it, I’m very lucky – it’s brilliant.”

We’re still in the dark as to what form the new series will take following Chris Chibnall taking over from Steven Moffat as showrunner, but the star assures us that it’s likely to be even bigger and bolder than what has come before it. Whittaker and Walsh will also be joined by new stars Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill. The ten-episode series is expected to air this autumn on the BBC.

“It feels incredibly epic,” Whittaker said. “The ambition is wonderful, and something we’re fighting every day to have the energy to back it up with.”

(3) FUTURE IS ON THE WAY. Alex Shvartsman will launch a new sf magazine tomorrow: “Announcing Future Science Fiction Digest”. It will be free to read online.

This bit of news has been six months in the making, but I can finally announce that I will be editing a science fiction magazine, to be published in collaboration by UFO Publishing and the Future Affairs Administration. The magazine will focus on various science fiction sub-genres (hard SF, space opera, cli-fi) but will not include fantasy or horror. There will be a strong focus on international fiction. I’ll be looking to fill about half of each issue with translations and stories written by authors from non-anglophone countries.

Although the magazine will feature original (to anglophone readers, anyway) fiction, I’ve put together a sample “issue zero,” to be released in time for the Nebulas and the Asia Pacific SF Con organized by the FAA. This issue features all-reprint stories with different takes/visions of the future, which also happen to be representative of the sort of material I hope to acquire and publish in the future.

The magazine’s website goes live Tuesday, May 15 at www.future-sf.com.

(4) MEET HENRY LIEN. Juliette Wade hosted a video hangout with Henry Lien about his new fantasy novel: “Henry Lien and Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword. You can read a summary on her blog, and/or watch the conversation on YouTube. (I was excited to hear more about his writing, having already become a fan through his composition “Radio SFWA.”)

…Henry explained that he loves rules. School is an environment girdled all around with rules to keep people from misbehaving, so it’s a setting he loves to work in. Students at the wu liu school are not allowed to do any moves outside of class, or they will forfeit their next examination. This is a key element of the plot of Peasprout Chen.

In particular, he says he wanted a fantasy world with no magic. George R. R. Martin consulted with him on aspects of it. Everything is grounded in real world experience, including the constant threat of injury that has grave consequences for the students. Even a bad wrist can knock you out. Henry himself got injured at one point during his training because he had become frustrated when another student did a kick the first time. Henry tried the same jump and tore his hamstring; he said it looked like someone had cut him.

Danger creates good stories. Ambition is a characteristic required by the sport.

Henry quoted a line from Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell: “Don’t talk to me about magic. It’s like everything else: full of setbacks and disappointments.” If this is the way your work seems, then whenever you achieve something, it feels like a huge accomplishment! Peasprout Chen’s life is full of cultural landmines and danger, but when she does something cool, we cheer….

(5) BEYOND BECHDEL. IndieWire covered this story in December: “Lena Waithe, Kimberly Peirce, and More Women Introduce 12 New Bechdel Tests to Measure Gender Imbalance”.

FiveThirtyEight recently asked 12 women to come up with new gender imbalance tests, including actress and Emmy-winning writer Lena Waithe, filmmaker Kimberly Peirce, cinematographer Jen White, and actress Naomi Ko. The new tests demand more gender equality from film and television, both in front the camera and behind the scenes.

In order to pass the Waithe Test, for instance, a movie or show must feature a black woman who’s in a position of power and is in a healthy relationship with her partner. Only five of the top 50 films of 2016 pass the Waithe Test: “Bad Moms,” “Central Intelligence,” “Hidden Figures,” “Boo! A Madea Halloween,” and “Independence Day: Resurgence.”

Here’s more direct from FiveThirtyEight: “The Next Bechdel Test” – “We pitted 50 movies against 12 new ways of measuring Hollywood’s gender imbalance.”

Another example: The Feldman Test

Rachel Feldman: director; former chair of the Directors Guild of America’s Women’s Steering Committee

A movie passes with a score of five or higher:

  • 2 points for a female writer or director
  • 1 point for a female composer or director of photography
  • 1 point for three female producers or three female department heads
  • 1 point for a crew that’s 50 percent women
  • 2 points if there’s a female protagonist who determines story outcomes
  • 2 points if no female characters were victimized, stereotyped or sexualized
  • And 1 point if a sex scene shows foreplay before consummation, or if the female characters initiate or reciprocate sexual advances

(6) NICHELLE NICHOLS. A TMZ story about Nichelle Nichols reports “Judge Grants Conservatorship After Dementia Claims”

‘Star Trek’ actress Nichelle Nichols will have a new team handling her financial affairs in response to her son’s claims she’s battling dementia … TMZ has learned.

According to court docs, an L.A. County judge signed off on Kyle Johnson’s request to have 4 fiduciaries be his mom’s conservators until mid-August, when there will be a court hearing. The hope is Nichelle will be able to attend that hearing.

As we first reported … Kyle says his mother, who famously played Lt. Uhura, suffers from severe short-term memory loss, and needs court-ordered protection to block people from taking advantage of her.

In the docs, obtained by TMZ, the judge said Nichelle consents to the appointment of her conservators. The judge also noted Nichelle is currently out of state.

(7) KIDDER OBIT. CNN reports “Margot Kidder, ‘Superman’ actress, dead at 69”:

Kidder starred opposite Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent and his alter ego Superman in the original [1978] film as well as the three sequels: “Superman II” in 1980, “Superman III” in 1983 and “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” in 1987.

She also starred in “The Amityville Horror” in 1979 and worked steadily in television and on stage.

After three marriages and thousands of dollars in medical bills, Kidder found herself homeless in 1996 as she struggled with bipolar disorder.

Her story grabbed the hearts of fans and Hollywood with many reaching out to help Kidder, who eventually got back on her feet and went on to become a mental health advocate.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MOGULS

  • Born May 14, 1944 – George Lucas
  • Born May 14, 1951 – Robert Zemeckis

(9) REMEDIAL CLASSWORK. Alexandra Erin is refreshing the recollection of some Twitter users who proved unfamiliar with the Sad Puppies events as they really occurred in this timeline. Jump on the thread here:

(10) SPACE SPRITZ. Analysts are catching up with the data collected by space probe Galileo: “Icy Moon Of Jupiter Spews Water Plumes Into Space”.

Scientists have new evidence that there are plumes of water erupting from the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa — plumes that could, maybe, possibly contain signs of life.

The evidence comes from data collected by the now-defunct Galileo spacecraft. Although the data has been available since it was collected in 1997, it’s only now that an analysis confirms the existence of water plumes.

For more than two decades, scientists have been convinced Europa has a liquid water ocean sloshing around beneath its icy outer crust. In the past six years, two teams of researchers using the Hubble Space Telescope reported the possible existence of plumes. But as powerful as Hubble is, seeing something as small as a plume on a moon more than 380-million miles away is difficult.

(11) DROP BY ANYTIME. NPR has the story: “Tardis Optional: Time Travelers Invited To Stephen Hawking Service” — repeat of an old Hawking test/gag?

Stephen Hawking’s ashes will be interred at Westminster Abbey this June. He’ll take his place among giants — between Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. Applications to attend a Service of Thanksgiving are open to the public, and anyone — including people born in 2038, can apply. A thousand spaces are available.

…The time warp in the memorial service application was first spotted by London blogger IanVisits. He writes on his blog that Hawking had once thrown a party for time travelers, sending out invitations after the fete, to see if anyone would show up. Spoiler: no one did, yet.

CATCHING UP WITH SOME EXCELLENT BLACK PANTHER THEMED LINKS COURTESY OF ROBIN A. REID:

(12) AWESOME TECHNOLOGY. In May 2016, Popular Science did an “Entertainment” feature on the technology of Black Panther. Xavier Harding interviewed artist Brian Stelfreeze in “‘Black Panther’ Has The Coolest Tech In The Marvel Universe”.

Popular Science: There’s a lot of great tech in the world of Wakanda. Where does your inspiration for it come from?

Brian Stelfreeze: I think when you’re being creative, you still attach it to reality somehow. I grew up in a small town in coastal South Carolina. Where I’m from, the people are known as Gullah people. They’re some of the first freed slaves that lived on their own, without being attached to the rest of the U.S.

They kind of developed their own culture, so they do things a little bit different. Growing up in that area and going to the rest of the world, I noticed things were just slightly different. Seeing my first pile driver in real life I thought, “Oh, that’s like what my uncle built out of tree stumps to dig wells.” So I thought, “what if that happened over thousands of years? How could technology evolve?”

Popular Science: So how does that compare to T’Challa and the people of Wakanda?

Brian Stelfreeze: I think of Wakandan technology as organic technology. Most of their tech mimics nature because it comes from nature. Wakanda was a tremendously warring nation, with a very feudal time early on. But after a while proper borders were established, which ushered in a time of peace. Peace time shifted concerns from war to agriculture, from agriculture to early days of knife and spear-building to developing exotic materials. Rather than coming from industry, Wakandan tech came from agricultural needs—using organic tech to build machines.

But a lot of this stuff is in the background. Like the flying vehicles you see in Wakanda designed like a flying animal. And even when readers may not directly see it, I want them to feel it.

(13) SIX GOOD REASONS Cherokee Washington explains “Why The Black Panther is So Important To The Black Community”  for Odyssey in June 2016.

In 2002, Marvel studios graced the world with the first superhero blockbuster film; “Spiderman.” Following suit with “Spiderman 2,” “Spiderman 3,” and two spin-offs of the series, Marvel went on to create one of the largest Hollywood franchises in the world, telling the stories of a hand full of the comic book company’s most popular heroes. Today, amongst the many Iron Man and Avenger films, one hero in particular has recently been added to the mix; the Black Panther. It may not sound that exciting or important to the general public, but the introduction of the Black Panther is a momentous event for the Black (and comic-lover) community. Not only is he a bad ass superhero, but he’s one of 10 or so major Marvel characters who identifies as Black, something that would’ve been unheard of back in the day. Making his first appearance in the 52nd issue of the Fantastic Four comic books, Black Panther has shifted back and forth in the limelight, falling behind other heroes such as Captain America and the X-Men. Fortunately, Marvel has decided to push Black Panther more into the centerfold with the rest of his comrades by giving him a cameo in the newest “Avengers: Civil War” film and announcing the “Black Panther” film’s release in 2018. With that said, I thought it appropriate to list a few reasons as to why the Black Panther character is so important not only to me, but to my community. He’s a symbol of more than justice; he’s a symbol of pride, hope, and so much more. Here it goes…

(14) BREAKDOWN! You’ve seen the trailers, but have you seen the trailer breakdown by Jacob Hall: “Black Panther Trailer Breakdown: Welcome to Wakanda”. Posted in June 2017 on Slashfilm.

The Black Panther trailer feels like a breath of fresh air in an environment crowded with superhero movies – no comic book adaptation has ever looked like this. Heck, no movie has ever looked like this. Even with a few familiar Marvel Studios trappings on display, Ryan Coogler’s movie looks to blend superheroes and afrofuturism and all kinds of intrigue into something…well, new.

And if you’re new to this corner of the Marvel universe (or just want to take a closer look), we went through the trailer frame-by-frame for an extended breakdown. Join us, won’t you?

Frame by lovely frame!

And, if you want to look at the trailer again after the breakdown, here you go:

(15) CRYING EYES. Alan Jenkins gets geeky and weepy and happy about Wonder Woman and Black Panther in this piece published in Ebony in July 2017: “Black Panther, Wonder Woman and the Power of Representation”.

My theory is that audiences are being moved by the overwhelming power of symbolism.  We are not used to seeing people of color and women on the big screen who are powerful, triumphant, and heroes of their own story.  The most emotionally powerful moments in each film are those that use the power of symbols to break away from social stereotypes.

As in the Black Panther comic book, the film’s characters are everything that a century of cinematic Black and African characters have not been.  They are regal.  They are brilliant.  They are gorgeous.  They are the future as well as the past.

(16)  REVOLUTIONARY!  “Black Superheroes Matter: Why a ‘Black Panther’ Movie Is Revolutionary”, by Tre Johnson, in Rolling Stone, October 2017, puts the upcoming film in the historical context of American film and comics representations of heroes.

The novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks about “the danger of a single story” – about Africa, about black brilliance, our humanity and the black experience for too long. There would never be a time when this movie’s creation wouldn’t mean something to black people in particular, and the inevitable backlash that this movie will receive for its celebration, existence and confidence in blackness will be a reminder that there are no new conversations, merely new opportunities to remind us of who we collectively are. Yet that won’t matter because the people this movie will speak most deeply to – a rainbow-coalition cross-section of black comic book readers, African-American movie audiences, Boseman/ Jordan/ Bassett/ Nyong’o fans, black-culture connoisseurs and pop-culture nerds – will see something of themselves in this movie. They will also likely be both familiar and resistant to the disdain it will receive for merely existing. Like anything black in America, Black Panther will be politicized for being black, which is to say for being and for announcing itself as a having a right to be here and to be heard.

(17) AFROFUTURISM. Mic, a digital news media site, discussed the revolutionary Afrofuturistic elements of Black Panther in December 2017 in  “‘Black Panther’ isn’t just another Marvel movie–it’s a vision of a future led by blackness”.

Wakanda is more than just a fun spectacle; it represents something much more magnificent and powerful — a version of Africa unaffected by the external world, one that was allowed to pursue its own march toward spectacular progress.

When the most recent trailer for the movie was released in October, people weren’t just excited, they were jubilant. Now, it’s an event pretty much every time there’s a new Marvel movie but — no disrespect to Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, etc. — those blockbusters don’t normally have an entire culture of people impatiently awaiting their release. So what makes Black Panther especially noteworthy?

The secret sauce of Marvel’s Black Panther is Afrofuturism — an arts form that combines science fiction with black culture to create a future informed by blackness. On its face, Black Panther masquerades as Marvel’s latest superhero flick. Dig deeper and you’ll find the movie’s true identity: an Africa-set, Afrofuturist film — made for black people, by black people — powered by a Disney budget.

(18)  WRIGHT AND NYONG’O INTERVIEW. TeenVogue‘s Lynette Nylander interviewed Letitia Wright and Lupita Nyong’o on film diversity and superheroes in December 2017: “Letitia Wright and Lupita Nyong’o on “Black Panther” Film and Diversity in Hollywood”.

When he debuted in 1966 as the first black superhero in mainstream American comics, Black Panther broke boundaries. Naturally, next year’s silver-screen rendition of his story, featuring a nearly all-black cast, isn’t going to be just a box-office blockbuster — it’s going to be history in the making. The film is set in the fictional African country of Wakanda, where Black Panther (also known as T’Challa) serves as a leader at a time when the nation’s safety is under threat. And at the core of the story: Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o and ingénue Letitia Wright as Nakia and Shuri, who play two of the strongest women in Wakanda. Their characters do away with the usual damsel-in-distress narrative associated with many classic superhero movies and create a new normal. Here, they discuss what making Black Panther meant to them and what the movie will hopefully mean for others.

(19) THE WOMEN OF WAKANDA. Cameron Glover looks at the women heroes in “Here’s What Black Panther Is Doing Differently For Its Female Heroes” posted in January 2018 at Refinery29.

The expansion of what a woman’s role in film looks like speaks directly to how the female action heroes of Black Panther are able to balance their fight scenes with embodying these expansive personal themes. Giving women, especially Black women, such public roles in the film not only speaks volumes to how women are regarded within Wakanda, but also shows the shifting attitudes of women’s roles in action films. The way that female action stars are celebrated and centered within the film is just another reason to snag a ticket to see Black Panther once it’s released next month.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Robin A. Reid, John King Tarpinian, Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Vicki Rosenzweig.]

Pixel Scroll 5/13/18 I Kicked The Cord And Broke The Board And Set My Pixels Free

(1) PARTING GIFT. CinemaBlend makes sure we didn’t miss it: “The Big Bang Theory Finale Deleted Scene Reveals Stephen Hawking’s Wedding Present”.

One wedding-related scene fans did not get to see was the wedding gift that was bestowed upon the happy couple by Stephen Hawking. Fortunately, The Big Bang Theory‘s Twitter account posted the scene for fans, which also included a tribute to one of their most revered guest stars. Watch it for yourself below:

(2) GETTING BACK IN THE USA. Sheesh, is there any reason not to want this? “Mobile Passport Will Get You Through Customs and Immigration in Under 60 Seconds”.

Around the Condé Nast Traveler offices, not having Global Entry is a badge of shame. What kind of travel editor wouldn’t want to make re-entering the U.S. as easy and seamless as possible? Well, this kind. Six years after the official launch of Global Entry, which includes the security-line-skirting PreCheck membership, I still haven’t ponied up the $100 enrollment fee or gone through the application process. It’s not because I love standing in line—obviously that sucks—and it’s not because I don’t have one of the many credit cards that would pay the fee for me. I don’t have Global Entry because I can get through customs and immigration in less than 60 seconds without it.

My secret is the Mobile Passport app, which was first released in 2014 but has yet to catch on the same way Global Entry has. The app, which is completely free, has been downloaded about 3.5 million times since launch, according to its developers. While that number may sound big, it’s less than the number of people using Global Entry, which has at least 4.7 million members and “thousands of additional travelers applying for membership each day,” according to a November statement from Customs and Border Protection.

(3) RELIQUARY. The New York Times visited “The Sistine Chapel of Comic-Strip Art”.

On a beer-splotched wall of a Midtown sports bar, a forgotten relic from the heyday of cartooning, featuring Beetle Bailey, Fred Flintsone and some jokers from Mad magazine. With cameos by James Thurber, Ernest Hemingway and Marilyn Monroe.

This crumbling, beer-splotched wall in the back of a sports bar on East 44th Street is one of New York’s more neglected cultural treasures. Created in the 1970s, it is a veritable Sistine Chapel of American comic-strip art: the 30-some drawings across its face were left by a who’s who of cartooning legends, including a Spider-Man by Gil Kane, a Beetle Bailey by Mort Walker, a Dondi by Irwin Hasen, a Steve Canyon by Milton Caniff, a Hagar the Horrible by Dik Browne, and a Dagwood Bumstead by Paul Fung Jr. There’s also a self-portrait by Al Jaffee, a doodle by Bil Keane, and a Mad magazine-style gag by Sergio Aragonés. Old regulars are familiar with the wall’s past, and comic book scholars make occasional pilgrimages to the bar, but the Overlook’s cartoon mural remains largely unknown and untended.

Al Jaffee, who is now 97, was surprised to learn the wall still existed when reached by phone at his apartment. “I’m amazed to hear it is around in this crumbling state,” said Mr. Jaffee, who created Mad magazine’s signature back-page Fold-In feature. “We did that stuff a long time ago. I’m curious myself how many of us who worked on that are still around. I was honored to draw it alongside so many of my heroes.”

Mark Evangelista, an owner of the Overlook, said his attempts to bring attention to the artifact have been futile. “No one cares,” he said. “I’ve tried telling national cartoon organizations and societies about it, but no one is interested. This bar could be like McSorley’s if only more people knew about it. This is a piece of New York history.”

(4) COMICS AUCTION. Probably shouldn’t be speculating on Mother’s Day what you might have made if Mom hadn’t tossed some of those old comics in the trash — “Vintage Superman, Batman comic lot auction grabs $6.5 million on day 1”.

Heritage Auctions in Chicago started selling the books and the art on Thursday, which include rare gems like “Action Comics” #1 from 1938, which is the first time Superman appeared, “Batman” #1 from 1940 and·”Justice League of America” #1 from 1960.

The comic with Superman’s first appearance nabbed $573,600, while “Batman” #1 was purchased for $227,050.

(5) SALUTE TO YA MOMS. And for our next morbid thought of the day….

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy recommends Pearls Before Swine, “Wherein Pig defines a mother as the one who is proud of you even when your second book bombs.”

(7) MORE TO COME. C.J. Cherryh announced “Jane and I have been given the unofficial goahead for another novel…. …to follow Alliance Rising. We know where we take up.”

(8) BALLOT ANALYZED. Camestros Felapton speaks frankly in “Hugo Ballot 2018: BDP – Short”.

…And overall, it’s a bit lacklustre. The clear favourite is Black Mirror’s Star Trek riff USS Callister but I had issues with it. Doctor Who traditionally gets a slot here but I found that episode overly sentimental. One of my least favourite episodes of Star Trek: Discovery got nominated. There’s just not enough of Clipping’s The Deep and two episodes of The Good Place just seems odd…

(9) WAKANDA COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS. WUSA has video: “‘Howard Forever’: Chadwick Boseman, ‘Black Panther’ star, gives Howard University grad speech”.

“This is a magical place where the positives and negatives seem to exist in the extremes,” he said reminiscing on his time at Howard. He told a story about coming across Muhammad Ali on campus. “I walked away floating like a butterfly,” he said to laughter, talking about how that experience made him feel like he could do anything. “That is the magic of this place. Almost anything could happen here.”

He went on to call out the names Howard has been referred to as: Wakanda University, The Mecca, The Hilltop. “Every day is leg day here,” he laughed, referring to the literal meaning of The Hilltop.

“The Hilltop represents the culmination of the intellectual and spiritual journey you went on while you were here,” he went on, describing overcoming the academic, financials and social struggles of college.

“But you’re here…you made it to the top of the hill.”

(10) WEIRD SEEKER. Hungarian blogger Balázs Farkas argues that Donald Glover’s Atlanta is the best weird fiction on TV nowadays: “Best Weird Fiction on Television? Atlanta!”

But it turns out, this show is much more than that. And this might sound odd, but I must point it out: Atlanta is weird fiction. And Atlanta is weird fiction at it’s best.

Now, I’ve always struggled to find something on TV that does the eerie and uncanny extremely well, but with the exception of Twin Peaks: The Return, there wasn’t really anything out there that would satisfy my craving for a show that can establish a seemingly ordinary premise, make it extremely convincing and engaging, and then turning it into something truly… truly weird.

And I’m not talking about weirdness in a comedic sense, I’m talking about the slipstream school of writing (or, the weird and the new weird as defined by a succession of writers since H. P. Lovecraft), where you’ll be confronted with a reality that in some ways matches with your perception of reality, but with a heavy dose of cognitive dissonance and a sense that there’s something deeply wrong with the world, something unnerving. And you can’t really grasp why.

(11) HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Steven H Silver keeps up his Black Gate series with “Birthday Reviews: Gregory Frost’s ‘Farewell, My Rocketeer’”.

…Gregory Frost’s novelette “Madonna of the Maquiladora” was nominated for the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. Frost has also been nominated for the International Horror Guild Award and World Fantasy Award for his novel Fitcher’s Brides. His Shadowbridge and Lord Tophet jointly were nominated for the Tiptree, and “How Meersh the Bedeviler Lost His Toes” was nominated for the Sturgeon. He also received a Bram Stoker nomination for the story “No Others Are Genuine.” Several of his stories have been collected in Attack of the Jazz Giants and Other Stories, published by Golden Gryphon in 2011….

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MAUDE

  • Born May 13, 1922 — Bea Arthur. Her genre association was she appeared in the Star Wars Holiday Special as Ackmena.

(13) WHERE A CAT RESTS. Fantasy author James Enge knows the value of cats sleeping on SFF.

(14) THE LATEST. Galactic Journey’s John Boston gives his approval to the current (in 1963) Amazing: “[May 12, 1963] SO FAR, SO GOOD (the June 1963 Amazing)”.

On the June 1963 Amazing, the cover by Ed Emshwiller seems to portray humanity crucified, with photogenic fella and gal affixed to the front panels of computers, anguished expressions on their faces and slots cut in them like the holes in a computer punch-card.  I guess they are mutilated, if not bent, folded, or stapled.  This is done in the hyper-literal and slightly crude mode of Emsh’s Ace Double covers, which compares badly to the less literal but much more imaginative and better-executed work he is contributing to F&SF.  Suffice it to say that Emsh has not displaced William Jennings Bryan as our nation’s leading purveyor of Crucifixion imagery.  The cover illustrates Jack Sharkey’s two-part serial The Programmed People, on which I will defer until it’s finished next month.

(15) INCREDIBLES SPOT. GeekTyrant breaks down the revelations in a new commercial: “Incredibles 2 Introduces Us to Some New Superheroes”.

Disney has released a new TV spot for Pixar’s Incredibles 2 and features some new footage that fans will be interesting in seeing. Not only do we get to see another Jack-Jack power, with him multiplying, but we also get a first look at a few new Supers jumping into action. Those Supers include He-Lectrix, Voyd, with Brick in the background. You can find out more about these characters here. When talking about Voyd, Brad Bird said that she’s a huge fan of Elastigirl, and that her “infatuation with Helen Parr has become quite passionate over the years, leading to a sort of manic obsession.” He goes on to explain:

“There’s a character named Voyd who’s a new superhero, and she admires Helen and is kind of a Helen groupie. I described her to the animators as like, we had this dog that was this very big, powerful dog and it only had two settings. One was in your face, ‘Love me! Love me! Love me! Love me! Love me! Love me!’ And when you said finally, ‘Get off!’ it [becomes] ‘I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!’ Then he goes, ‘Oh it’s okay! Now Love me, love me, love me!’ She’s a little bit like that and she’s always leaning in a little too much and always a little too ready to ask ten million questions and it’s a fun character. I’ve never seen that before in superhero movies and we’re always trying to juice it up.”

 

(16) 2001 RESTORED, NOT REINCARNATED. More important than Nixon’s missing 18 minutes, says John King Tarpinian. “Why you’ll never see the missing 17 minutes from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey'”.

On Saturday, the Cannes Film Festival will travel back to the future when Christopher Nolan presents a 50th anniversary screening of Stanley Kubrick‘s sci-fi classic, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Like Kubrick, who passed away in 1999, Nolan is a vocal proponent for the supremacy of the analog cinematic experience, and intends for 2018 audiences to watch 2001 in the same way their 1968 predecessors did. Hence, the 70 mm print that will play at Cannes — followed by a theatrical rollout on May 18 — is largely free of any digital restoration, instead produced by printing elements from the original camera negative.

Still, there’s one part of the 1968 viewing experience that Nolan can’t duplicate for modern audiences. When 2001 first played for premiere audiences that April, the film was roughly 20 minutes longer than the one that subsequently went into wide release. The baffled reaction of those first moviegoers, as well as the studio, sent Kubrick back to the editing room to excise 17 minutes of footage. And unlike some filmmakers, he wasn’t concerned when it came to the film that ended up on the cutting-room floor. “Once he released a movie, that was it,” longtime Kubrick colleague — and subject of Tony Zierra’s new documentary Filmworker — Leon Vitali reveals to Yahoo Entertainment. “There’s a place in London where all the city’s refuse is taken, and I remember taking van loads of outtakes and stuff that was never used and burning them, because he did not want any of his old material.”

(17) HOLD YOUR CANON FIRE. Inverse says “New Millennium Falcon Design in ‘Solo’ Has Been Explained”.

While history is being made about the real-life SpaceX Falcon Heavy, a different spaceship — the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars — has been totally redesigned. But, angry fans who think the new design might violate canon can hold their Canto Bight space horses. The design for the new/old Falcon in Solo: A Star Wars Story is a deep dive since before the dawn of canon.

On Wednesday, the official Star Wars Show on YouTube revealed that the fresher, newer design for the Millennium Falcon in Solo was specifically taken from Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art done before the original Star Wars. The new Star Wars Show confirmed that the design was “heavily inspired by Ralph McQuarrie … including having the radar dish pointing up.”

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Getting some air, Atlas?” on YouTube is Boston Dynamics’s latest robot video in which a robot goes jogging and then leaps over a log!

[Thanks to JJ, Hampus Eckerman, John King Tarpinian, Joe H., Andrew, Bence Pintér, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Will R., David K.M. Klaus, Carl Slaughter, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 5/2/18 Hold The Scroll Firmly. Open With The Pixel End Pointing Away From You

(1) ILLUMINATION. The Geek Calligraphy team has produced an art print from a Penric story —

(2) A HELPING HAN. ScreenRant explains “Star Wars Narrated by Ron Howard in Arrested Development Mashup”:

With Solo: A Star Wars Story nearing its release date and news of a fifth season of Arrested Development premiering soon, fans of these properties can enjoy the best of both worlds with a comedic mashup featuring Ron Howard as the connective thread. The director of Solo and producer/narrator of Arrested Development, Howard narrates a 3-minute-long breakdown of George Lucas’ very first entry in the Star Wars franchise, recapping A New Hope with the music, trademarks, and running gags from the Arrested Development series.

 

(3) FUTURE TENSE. Mark Oshiro’s short story “No Me Dejas” is this month’s entry in the Future Tense series that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society. The series is offered through a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University.

… A brief flash of eagerness crosses his face, a light I wish I could unsee. He wants to do it in my place. He has been nothing but supportive ever since Abuela Carmen chose me for the Transfer, but this moment skirts an uncomfortable truth. Why did she choose me over him? Why will I be the bridge in our familia, the one to receive abuela’s memories before she leaves us? The love between us isn’t enough to explain why Carmen chose me over her own son, but she has offered no other clue….

The story was published along with a response essay, “Should You Download Someone Else’s Memories?” by philosophers Jenelle Salisbury and Susan Schneider.

(4) HWA SCHOLARSHIPS. The Horror Writers Association has begun taking applications for these four scholarships. Applications will be accepted until August 1. See linked pages for eligibility and guidelines.

(5) COSPLAY IN GOTHAM. A beautiful set of photos has been posted by Scott Lynch at The Gothamist: “Cosplayers Outnumber Cherry Blossoms At Spectacular Sakura Matsuri”.

There was plenty of organized entertainment on three stages, everything from taiko drumming to a Parasol Society fashion show to Japanese go-go pop to video game themes blared out by the J-Music Ensemble. Workshops, kids’ activities, origami and bonsai demonstrations, and a bustling marketplace rounded out the celebration. The festivities culminated with the Ninth Annual Cosplay Fashion Show, a raucous affair featuring nearly 30 elaborately costumed participants showing off their passion for their craft.

(6) ARTI$T$ ALLEY REPORT. The 2017 Artist Alley Survey results are available for purchase.

For those unfamiliar, the annual Convention Artist Survey collects data anonymously from artists and artisans in North America about numbers related to conventions as a business — how much artists make, how much they spend, how far they travel, how staff communication and organisation was, whether buying interest and attendee engagement was high, etc.

This report takes all of those numbers and data points and presents various charts and graphs for easier consumption.

You can grab the 2017 report below for $5 or more!

(7) IS ATTEMPT TO TRADEMARK FANZINE A PROBLEM? James Bacon passed along Douglas Spencer’s concern that Brewdog’s application to the UK’s Intellectual Property Office to trademark the word fanzine will end badly for fans:

A while ago, they sought and subsequently obtained a trademark on the word “punk”, which spurious right they then defended vigorously to the vast detriment of the pre-existing punk community.

They’re now seeking to obtain a trademark on the word “fanzine”. If they obtain it, I anticipate they’ll defend it vigorously to the vast detriment of a few pre-existing fanzine communities.

Don’t let them do this. Don’t let their shitty business practices be seemingly endorsed by your silence. Tell them that they’ll be despised by a whole extra set of communities if they steal our word and sue us for using it in the same way we and others have been using it for generations.

See the complete application here.

Overview

Trade marks

Word (1 of 2)

FANZINE

Word (2 of 2)

BREWDOG FANZINE

Mark details

Number of marks in series

2

Dates

Filing date

19 April 2018

Goods and services

Classes and terms

Class 32

Beer and brewery products; craft beer; lager, stout, ale, pale ale, porter, pilsner, bock, saison, wheat beer, malt beer, sour beer, non-alcoholic beer, low-alcohol beer, flavoured beers; processed hops for use in making beer; beer wort; malt wort; non-alcoholic malt beverages; non-alcoholic beverages; syrups and other preparations for making beverages; malt syrup for beverages; extracts of hops for beer making, processed hops for beer making.

Class 35

Retail services connected with the sale of beer, alcoholic beverages, non-alcoholic beverages, printed matter, clothing, glassware, drinking bottles, keyrings, posters, bags, bottle openers and lanyards; retail services connected with the sale of subscription boxes containing beer; retail services connected with the sale of subscription boxes containing alcoholic beverages; retail services connected with the sale of subscription boxes containing food; information, advisory and consultancy services in connection with all of the aforesaid services.

Except for Spencer’s comment about their history with the word “punk” I’d have taken the application as for the rights to a beer named Brewdog Fanzine (or just Fanzine) and associated marketing paraphernalia. So I’d like to know more about what they did with “punk” in order to evaluate how big a problem this might be.

(8) LOCUS STACK. Greg Hullender says Rocket Stack Rank’s “Annotated Locus List” has been updated to incorporate the finalists for the Locus Awards — “Locus Finalists Observations”:

We looked at each category by score (that is, a weighted sum of recommendations from many other sources) to see how the Locus finalists looked overall. There aren’t a lot of surprises there, which (I think) simply reflects the fact that even though tastes differ from one reviewer to another, there really is such a thing as a set of “outstanding stories” which are broadly (but not universally) popular.

A few things that pop out:

  • “A Series of Steaks” and “The Secret Life of Bots” did not make the Locus finalists, even though they were the most praised novelettes in other quarters.
  • Out of the 18 Hugo Finalists, 15 were on the Locus Reading List.
  • Zero write-in candidates made the Locus finalists.

There has been a pattern of late that stories don’t get nominated for awards unless they’re either free online or else available for purchase as singles. That is, stories in print magazines and anthologies don’t get nominated unless they’re also available for free online, but novellas that have to be purchased do fine. It’s as though readers don’t mind paying for a good story, but they object to paying for a dozen stories just to get one in particular. Anyway, Locus bucks that trend with five such “bundled” stories in their finalists list.

(9) LAWS STUDENT. Yahoo! News reports “Stephen Hawking Finished Mind-Bending Parallel Universe Paper Days Before His Death”.

British physicist Stephen Hawking may have died in March, but his legacy is still unfolding.

The prominent theoretical physicist and cosmologist co-authored a research paper about the existence of parallel universes similar to our own, which the Journal of High-Energy Physics posthumously published on Friday.

According to the BBC, the study was submitted to the open-access journal shortly before Hawking’s death.

Thomas Hertog, a co-author of the study, told the BBC that he and Hawking were wrestling with the idea that the Big Bang actually resulted in the creation of multiple “pocket universes” that exist throughout space. It was unclear to them whether the laws of physics that apply in our universe would also apply in these alternate universes.

“In the old theory there were all sorts of universes: some were empty, others were full of matter, some expanded too fast, others were too short-lived. There was huge variation,” said Hertog, a physics professor at the Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium. “The mystery was why do we live in this special universe where everything is nicely balanced in order for complexity and life to emerge?”

Hertog and Hawking’s paper uses new mathematical techniques to restore order to previously chaotic views of the multiverse, suggesting that these different universes are subject to the same laws of physics as our own.

(10) BATTLE OF HOGWARTS ANNIVERSARY. J. K Rowling continues her annual tradition of apologizing for killing off a character – although this one did not fall in the battle.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 2,1933 — The modern legend of the Loch Ness Monster is born when a sighting makes local news on May 2, 1933. …Revelations in 1994 that the famous 1934 photo was a complete hoax has only slightly dampened the enthusiasm of tourists and investigators for the legendary beast of Loch Ness.
  • May 2, 2008 — The first Iron Man hit theaters.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) EATING THE FANTASTIC. You’re invited to share a pastrami sandwich with T. E. D. Klein in Episode 65 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast.

T.E.D. Klein

He’s been a seven-time nominee for the World Fantasy Award, starting in 1975 with his first published story, “The Events at Poroth Farm,” and his novella “Nadelman’s God” won the World Fantasy Award in 1986. Stephen King once called his 1984 novel The Ceremonies, “the most exciting novel in the field to come along since Straub’s Ghost Story.” All this and more resulted in Klein being given the World Horror Convention’s Grand Master Award in 2012.

Our dinner last Thursday night was at a spot he suggested—Fine & Schapiro, an old-school NYC Kosher deli which has been serving pastrami sandwiches on West 72nd Street since 1927. Ninety-one years later, we took our seats in a booth in the back—and saved a seat for you.

We discussed what he hated most about editing The Twilight Zone magazine, how he ended up scripting the screenplay for “the worst movie Dario Argento ever made,” what eldritch action he took after buying a letter written by H. P. Lovecraft, which movie monster gave him the most nightmares, what he’ll likely title his future autobiography, why he feels cheated by most horror movies, the secret origin of the T. E. D. Klein byline, his parents’ friendship with (and the nickname they gave to) Stan Lee and his wife, what he learned (and what he didn’t) when taught by Anthony Burgess, the bittersweet autograph he once obtained from John Updike, whether we’re likely to see his long-awaited novel Nighttown any time soon, and much more.

(14) BRITISH FAN HISTORY. Let Rob Hansen fill you in about “The London Circle (1959)”:

SF fans have been holding regular meetings in central London since the 1930s. In all that time there was only one year – 1959 – in which, thanks to the efforts of a couple of SF pros, they became a formally organised group with dues, membership cards, an elected committee, and a written constitution. Having recently unearthed a copy of that
constitution, I’ve just added a page to my website about that brief, failed experiment and the continuing legacy it left behind.

(15) IT’S A GAS. And if you have the help of the Hubble telescope, you can see it a long way off: “Hubble detects helium in the atmosphere of an exoplanet for the first time”.

The international team of astronomers, led by Jessica Spake, a PhD student at the University of Exeter in the UK, used Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 to discover helium in the atmosphere of the exoplanet WASP-107b This is the first detection of its kind.

Spake explains the importance of the discovery: “Helium is the second-most common element in the Universe after hydrogen. It is also one of the main constituents of the planets Jupiter and Saturn in our Solar System. However, up until now helium had not been detected on exoplanets – despite searches for it.”

The team made the detection by analysing the infrared spectrum of the atmosphere of WASP-107b [1]. Previous detections of extended exoplanet atmospheres have been made by studying the spectrum at ultraviolet and optical wavelengths; this detection therefore demonstrates that exoplanet atmospheres can also be studied at longer wavelengths.

(16) WINDOWS 2018. The BBC tells how: “Ford car window helps blind passengers ‘feel’ the view”

A prototype, called Feel the View, uses high-contrast photos to reproduce scenery using LED lights.

Passengers can touch the display to feel different shades of grey vibrate at different intensities.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People said the charity “wholeheartedly supports” the company’s effort.

“[It] could contribute to breaking down barriers and making travel more enjoyable and inclusive for people living with sight loss,” Robin Spinks, innovation manager at RNIB, told the BBC.

(17) DJ SPINRAD. Norman Spinrad has created a playlist (or “mixtape”) for the French radio show Voice of Cassandre. The playlist includes Kris Kristofferson, Accept, Lotte Lenya, Kraftwerk, the Sex Pistols, the Beatles, and Bruce Springsteen. The entire playlist can be heard on Mixcloud.

(18) DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING. Jon Del Arroz’ CLFA Book of the Year Award winner has a lovely cover, which he posts frequently on social media. Today somebody asked him the name of the artist. JDA’s answer was

The guy blacklisted me over politics I wouldn’t recommend him.

(19) INFESTATION. The Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man and The Wasp – Official Trailer is here.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, ULTRAGOTHA, Joey Eschrich, Danny Sichel, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Scott Edelman, Rob Thornton, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chris S.]

Pixel Scroll 4/30/18 A Pixel Can Produce A Few Notes Though The Scrolls Are Very Flat

(1) CAMERON’S SF OVERVIEW. It’s remarkable how many people think I haven’t covered this before. But as my motto says, “It’s always news to somebody.” At AV Club: “James Cameron’s Story Of Science Fiction is a solid, albeit navel-gazing, primer”.

Cameron has made some truly great sci-fi movies (Avatar notwithstanding), and if anyone else were heading up a discussion of the genre, they’d undoubtedly devote a segment or several to the creator of the Terminator franchise. As he notes during a chat with Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Skynet” is synonymous with “robot revolution.” There’s no denying what Cameron’s contributed to the genre, and there’s a certain joy in seeing him geek out with Lucas, who had to be cajoled into participating, and Spielberg.

(2) LEFT COAST. Detailed options for watching the launch in person are given at the link: “Where to Watch NASA’s InSight Mars Lander Launch from the California Coast”.

NASA’s next Mars mission will be the first Red Planet spacecraft to lift off from the West Coast. The InSight Mars lander is scheduled to launch on Saturday (May 5) at no earlier than 4:05 a.m. PDT (7:05 a.m. EDT/1105 GMT). Here’s how you can watch it in person, or online at Space.com or other locations.

InSight will provide an interior snapshot of Mars to learn more about how rocky planets are formed. A heat probe will dig under the surface to look at the temperature of the interior. A seismometer will measure marsquakes and meteorite hits. In addition, a radio science instrument will transmit InSight’s position to Earth as the planet wobbles in its orbit around the sun. The wobble provides information about the composition and size of the Martian core.

(3) BONESTELL. The Newport Beach Film Festival screens “Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future” on May 1.

Behind every architect and builder is an artist who takes designs and ideas, morphing them into beautiful images for everyone to understand. Chesley Bonestell was this artist, yet very few know his name. He worked on the Golden Gate Bridge and the Chrysler Building, as a matte artist on famous movies like Citizen Kane, and his mesmerizing paintings of planets and star systems helped jumpstart America’s space program. His iconic “Saturn As Seen From Titan”, became known as “the painting that launched a thousand careers.” Discover the power of the forgotten man whose art inspired Americans to conquer “The Final Frontier”.

Watch the trailer – Ray Bradbury shows up at 2:08.

(4) ONE IS THE ONLIEST NUMBER. Ars Technica’s Chris Lee says that in her new book, Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray, theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder argues that the search for Beauty and Naturalness may be leading theoretical physics in a wrong direction. Well established physics whose math looks beautiful now were often regarded at ugly kludges when they were proposed: “Lost in Math: Beauty != truth”

…Hossenfelder is sounding that alarm by suggesting that perhaps theoretical physicists need to spend a little more time on introspection and examining some of their working assumptions. Theoretical physics has been starved of new data for more than an entire generation. How can a theoretician choose a good model in the absence of data? And how do you choose which experimental options to pursue based on competing theoretical models?

…In Lost in Math, Hossenfelder delves briefly into the history of particle physics in order to explain the success of the Standard Model of particles and forces. She touches on why we’ve not had any unexplainable data from experimental particle physics for the last 50 years. She then takes us on a tour of the data that make us think we should be looking for physics that is not explained by the Standard Model—dark matter, dark energy, and cosmic inflation.

…But what makes a “good” theory in the absence of data? You and I might think that this would be predictions for new data and, yes, that plays a role. But Hossenfelder takes us into a realm where theories are decades from being tested. Unfortunately, we need to evaluate their quality now so we can determine how much effort we put into preparing for those tests. What is the criteria for that?

The answer is… ugly. Theoreticians make the following sorts of arguments: the Standard Model is described by math that physicists find beautiful; therefore, we insist that new physics be described by mathematical beauty. That’s paired with another argument, termed naturalness. What is naturalness? It turns out that everything should be about equal to one. If a theory produces a very large number, that is OK, as long as it also produces another very large number so that the difference or ratio of the two is, you guessed it, roughly unity. One is the most natural and only acceptable answer. Any other answer is unnatural because it is unlikely to occur by chance.

(5) PAROLINI OBIT. Gianfranco Parolini (1930-2018): Italian director / screenwriter, often billed as “Frank Kramer”, reportedly died April 26 at the age of 88. Genre entries include The Fury of Hercules (1962), The Three Fantastic Supermen (1967), Giant of the 20th Century (1977). He also introduced one of the iconic spaghetti western anti-heroes in Sabata (1969).

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born April 30, 1938 — Larry Niven
  • Born April 30, 1985 – Gal Gadot

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Beware “friends” bearing harpoons – Speed Bump.
  • Daniel Dern sent along his explication of today’s Sally Forth, because a lot of us will need one —

Hilary is their teen-age daughter. Here’s the speech being referenced:

The guy (Michael Keaton) driving Peter Parker (Spider-Man) and his date to the school dance isn’t just the date’s dad, he’s also the Big Bad for this movie (The Vulture). Peter didn’t know that until he showed up at their house, dad didn’t know Peter was S-M until this conversation.

(8) BOARD GAME ACCUSATION. Eric Franklin synopsized a “Communiqué from the French Game Designers Union about the Alien / Nostromo game”

“The brief: A few years ago,  François Bachelart showed an Alien-themed game off to a publisher (Wonder Dice).  It’s not uncommon for designers to create prototypes and the like for dream licenses – re-theming a game is often part of the development process.  They negotiated with the designer for a while, but the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement.

“Wonder Dice recently announced that pre-orders are opening soon for a game called Nostromo, which bears striking similarities to the design that Bachelart showed them – only it doesn’t have his name on the product and the publisher is claiming it’s an in-house design. It looks like they actually managed to land a license to use Alien, too, which is impressive.”

The publisher has made several public statements, none of them good. One of their statements is quoted on Kotaku (originally in French, and the text shows signs of being a product of Google Translate): Alien Board Game Accused Of Plagiarism, Publisher Threatens To Sue Critics.

Franklin adds: “Copyright on board games is … interesting.  Because you can’t copyright game rules. Sorta. You can copyright specific expressions – that is, you can copyright specific wordings and the rules as a whole, but if someone else clones your game using different art and phrases their rules differently, it’s (oddly) completely legal. If you start to dig into this, it’s a real rabbit hole that will eat hours of your time.

“But that also means that game designers have no legal protections when something like this happens, and it needs to be fought out in the court of public opinion.”

(9) MYTHCON NEWS. The Mythcon 49 Progress Report is now available to read online or download and print. Our own Dr. Robin Anne Reid is a Guest of Honor. The con is in Atlanta, July 20-23. The theme is “On the Shoulders of Giants.”

The extended deadline for Paper Proposals is MAY 15.

(10) DEAD CHANNEL. Now available: “Dead Channel: Music Inspired by William Gibson’s Neuromancer”.

Six Colors’ Jason Snell is enthusiastic:

My friend Antony Johnston doesn’t just write comics, novels, and graphic novels that get turned into “Atomic Blonde”. He also writes electronic music as Silencaeon. This week he released a new album. I got a preview a few months ago when he sent me a track called “Wintermute”, and I started laughing… because I realized that the entire album, titled Dead Channel, is an homage to one of my all-time favorite books, William Gibson’s “Neuromancer”, which begins with the line:

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

The album, which is great to have in the background while you’re focused on your computer screen, whether you’re writing, coding, or hacking into cyberspace while avoiding some nasty black-ice countermeasures, is officially “Music Inspired by William Gibson’s Neuromancer”, and even features an excerpt from the book at a key moment. The whole album, as well as the rest of Antony’s music stuff, is available at Bandcamp.

(For more on “Neuromancer”, check out this episode of the Hugos There podcast featuring my friend Lisa Schmeiser.)

(11) SHORE THING. The BBC indulges in some lit tourism: “The Scottish island where George Orwell created 1984”.

George Orwell escaped to a remote Scottish island to create his final masterpiece – the dystopian classic 1984.

Going into the Corryvreckan whirlpool is a heart-stopping experience even when conditions are relatively benign.

It hits quite suddenly as you are passing through the narrow stretch of sea between the islands of Jura and Scarba.

One side of the boat drops away and you find yourself sitting on the deck.

Then the other side goes and you are grabbing on to the guard rail to stop yourself sliding in the opposite direction.

It must have felt something like this when George Orwell found himself in the throws of the Corry on the way back from a picnic on the west side of Jura.

But for him, it was so much worse than being knocked about a bit.

The outboard motor was wrenched off and his young nephew, Henry, attempted to row them towards a rocky islet of Eilean Mor.

(12) CHEATERS WHO PROSPERED. For awhile — “China shuts down Player Unknown cheat code gang”.

Chinese police have arrested 15 people suspected of creating cheat programs for the popular Player Unknown Battleground (PUBG) game.

The cheats helped people survive longer, aim more accurately and spot foes in the competitive shooting game.

The 15 suspects have also been fined about 30m yuan (£3.45m) for profiting from the cheats.

Chinese police are expected to make more arrests as they break up the gang that made and sold the programs.

…PUBG is hugely popular in China and almost half of its players live there.

(13) SPEAKEASY. Jason Fagone, in “The Quest To Save Stephen Hawking’s Voice” in the San Francisco Chronicle, discusses engineer Eric Dorsey’s efforts to preserve Stephen Hawking’s synthesized voice after in 2016 Hawking and his staff found that the CallText 5010 speech synthesizer which has served Hawking faithfully since 1986 was collapsing, and the company no longer existed and its source code might be permanently lost.

Wood explained something so improbable that Dorsey had trouble understanding at first: Hawking was still using the CallText 5010 speech synthesizer, a version last upgraded in 1986. In nearly 30 years, he had never switched to newer technology. Hawking liked the voice just the way it was, and had stubbornly refused other options. But now the hardware was showing wear and tear. If it failed entirely, his distinctive voice would be lost to the ages.

The solution, Wood believed, was to replicate the decaying hardware in new software, to somehow transplant a 30-year-old voice synthesizer into a modern laptop — without changing the sound of the voice. For years, he and several colleagues in Cambridge had been exploring different approaches. What did Dorsey think?

(14) CELEBRITY BUS. James Corden takes the Avengers: Infinity War cast on a tour of Los Angeles. It’s really entertaining.

(15) LATE TO THE PARTY. Marvel itself is asking, after Infinity War, “Where Were Ant-Man and the Wasp?”

[Thanks to Gregory Benford, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Steve Green, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Lynn Maudlin, Gerry Williams, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matt Y.]

Pixel Scroll 4/22/18 The Inevitable Filer Recursion: A Meteorologist In Florida Named “Pixel Scroll”

(1) GONE OVERBOARD. Polling geek site FiveThirtyEight analyzes BoardGameGeek’s top rating for Gloomhaven: “Players Have Crowned A New Best Board Game — And It May Be Tough To Topple”.

…A new game now tops those rankings: It’s called Gloomhaven, and it’s the current BoardGameGeek No. 1, having taken over the top spot this past winter. The game has won scads of awards, including more than a handful of Golden Geeks and a Scelto dai Goblin — the goblins’ choice. Its place atop the BoardGameGeek list cements its status as a flagship of the current golden age….

In Gloomhaven (which retails for $215), “players will take on the role of a wandering mercenary with their own special set of skills and their own reasons for traveling to this remote corner of the world. Players must work together out of necessity to clear out menacing dungeons and forgotten ruins.” The game’s website likens it to a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel. Just don’t forget your swords or spells. Childres attributes his game’s success, at least among the hardcore denizens of BoardGameGeek, to the way it improves on the appeal of the roleplaying of Dungeons & Dragons, in which crawling dungeons can become rote. In Gloomhaven, you have special abilities that you can use over and over, and once you use them, you can watch them make cool stuff happen. It’s heavy on the fun stuff, rather than the grind of repetitious orc slaying, and as the BoardGameGeek leaderboard shows, gamers are appreciative.

(2) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. ConStellation 9 in Lincoln, Nebraska says funds raised this weekend put John Picacio’s Mexicanx Initiative over the top.

(3) DPP DELAYED. The German SFF event Phantastika 2018 has been cancelled, and taken with it this year’s Deutscher Phantastik Preis ceremony. Event organizer Mike Hillenbrand told an interviewer the award will still be given, at a time to be determined:

MH: …The DPP will be back this year, and we hope to get a grant as well. The joke is that we already had a name sponsor and several category sponsors for the award ceremony, and last year we had well over 600 guests at the ceremony – and I think the DPP is too important to call it off. How, where and if there will be a ceremony, but of course we have to discuss with the editors of phantastik-news.de and then someone will make known. Soon. 🙂

English version via Google Translate.

(4) BID ‘EM UP. Nate D. Sanders Auctions is taking bids on this item til 5 p.m. April 26: “Stephen Hawking Signed Book From 1973 — One of the Scarcest of Signatures”.

Stephen Hawking book signed from 1973, shortly before Hawking was not able to write his name due to ALS. Hawking signed this book, ”The Archaeology of the Industrial Revolution”, along with several other members of the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy at Cambridge University, on the occasion of an employee leaving his job as a computer operator. Hawking signs the half-title page, ”Stephen Hawking”, in stilted, but legible writing, below the signatures of other faculty members and below the gift inscription, ”With gratitude and best wishes from the friends of the IOA computer staff.”

It was at the Institute of Theoretical Astronomy at Cambridge where Hawking, as a research scientist, made some of his earliest scientific breakthroughs regarding black holes and quantum mechanics. Also in 1973, he published his important first book, ”The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time” which is now considered a classic and has been printed many times over. It was also at this time that ALS was overtaking Hawkings physically, and he would be confined to a wheelchair by 1975.

(5) BLACK PANTHER IN CHINA. Carl Slaughter says: “In this man on the street survey, Chinese people really open up about the Black Panther movie.  Easy to read subtitles with grammatically correct translation is a major bonus.” The takes are of varying sophistication.

(6) NO BUCKS, NO BUCK ROGERS. The Verge’s space reporter Loren Grush has written a story about commercial spaceflight — with emphasis on commercial: “Product launch: a trip to the Taco Bell Space Station”. It’s satire, but is it so far from Delos Harriman’s efforts?

Over my headset, I hear the flight controller counting down on the launch live stream.

“T-minus five minutes to liftoff.”

I don’t think my heart has ever pounded this hard. I’m strapped into a seat inside one of SpaceX’s SpriteDragon™ capsules, sitting on top of a Pepsi™ Falcon 9 rocket. And I’m just 300 seconds away from my first trip to space. With every second that ticks away, my nerves send an electric shock throughout my body. I’ve never been more exhilarated or more petrified….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 22, 1953 Invaders from Mars was released.

(8) GOTTESMAN OBIT. Star Trek fan Regina Gottesman (1948-2018) died April 17 reports Fanlore. A fanwriter and fanzine publisher, in 1982, she was nominated for a FanQaward. In a bio written at that time Gottesman said about herself:

She was involved with the New York STAR TREK conventions (The Committee Cons) from their inception, has worked on Lunacons (this year she edited the Program Book), and has attended many cons, both media and sf. TIME WARP was her first “official” ‘zine experience’, and, although no longer associated with TIME WARP (as of issue #6), she now co-edits COMLINK The STAR WARS and Media Letterzine, and has started her own’ zine, ERRANTRY….

(9) WINDOW ON GREEN TOWN. Atlas Obscura would like to show you around “Ray Bradbury’s Waukegan”.

Spend an afternoon visiting Bradbury’s greatest muse—the town now known as Green Town.

Ray Bradbury is a towering legend in the world of science fiction and horror, a man among the greats of American literature. Whether his stories were set in futuristic dystopias, nightmarish carnivals, or abandoned Martian cities, in Bradbury’s mind they all happened in Green Town—the pseudonym he gave to Waukegan, Illinois— his hometown.

Come see Waukegan, Illinois, through the eyes of Ray Bradbury with the Atlas Obscura Society Chicago. You’ll get a peek into the mind of the author as we are guided to places that toe the line between his life and his fiction. Walk the streets that both Ray and his characters walked, while seeing the places that molded the mind of one of the most creative authors of the last century.

(10) MOMENTUM. John Seavey’s Storytelling Engines: How Writers Keep Superhero Sagas Going and Going! comes out May 16. Here’s what readers will learn:

Every continuing series has an engine…

This engine is a collection of ideas, characters, and settings that help writers to generate good stories. STORYTELLING ENGINES examines comics from Fantastic Four and Superman to Spider-Woman and Dial H for H-E-R-O to find out which parts of that engine make a series easier to write, and which parts make a writer’s life miserable!

  • Why did Alfred the Butler have to die?
  • How did the Comics Code create Eclipso?
  • What do Aquaman and Thor have in common?
  • How does Conan the Barbarian resemble Mystery Science Theater 3000?

Find the answers to these questions and many more in STORYTELLING ENGINES!

(11) POETRY JUDGE. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association has named John W. Sexton as the judge of its 2018 Speculative Poetry Contest. The contest opens June 1st. More details can be found here.

John W. Sexton was born in 1958 and lives in the Republic of Ireland. He is the author of six poetry collections, the most recent being the imminent Futures Pass, from Salmon Poetry. His earlier collections include Vortex (2005), Petit Mal (2009) and The Offspring of the Moon(2013). He also created and wrote The Ivory Tower for RTÉ Radio, which ran to over one hundred half-hour episodes from 1999 to 2002. Two novels based on the characters from this series have been published by the O’Brien Press: The Johnny Coffin Diaries and Johnny Coffin School-Dazed, which have been translated into both Italian and Serbian. Under the ironic pseudonym of Sex W. Johnston he has recorded an album with legendary Stranglers frontman Hugh Cornwell, entitled Sons of Shiva,which has been released on Track Records. He is a past nominee for The Hennessy Literary Award and his poem “The Green Owl” won the Listowel Poetry Prize 2007. Also in 2007 he was awarded a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in Poetry. (Photo of John W. Sexton courtesy of Niall Hartnett.)

The contest chair is Holly Lyn Walrath:

The SFPA is honored to have Holly Lyn Walrath as our 2018 contest chair to coordinate this process. She is a writer of poetry and short fiction. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Fireside Fiction, Liminality, Eye to the Telescope, and elsewhere. She is a freelance editor and volunteer with Writespace literary center in Houston, Texas. Find her on Twitter @HollyLynWalrath or at hlwalrath.com.

(12) DEADPOOL SCOOPS. ScreenRant guides you to “25 Deadpool Easter Eggs And Secrets Only True Fans Noticed.”

(13) WIN BY A HEAD. NPR’s Jason Sheehan likes the new Scalzi: “In ‘Head On,’ Killer Robots, Dogged Gumshoes … And A Very Important Cat”.

I love that the entire plot of John Scalzi’s newest novel, Head On, hinges on a cat.

I mean, it’s such a stupid idea. It’s a gimmick that’s been played straight, played crooked, played backwards and forwards in so many stories that there’s just no trope-life left in it. Cat as McGuffin. Cat as material witness. Cat as embodiment of damsels in distress. It’s the literary equivalent of Scooby Doo and the gang pulling the rubber mask off old Mr. McGillicutty the groundskeeper because he was the pirate ghost all along.

And I love that Scalzi did it anyway. Mostly because he found a new way to use it (in addition to all the old ways in which he absolutely uses Donut the cat) which, in conforming so literally to the defining nature of science fiction, somehow makes it seem new and fresh. The #1 thing that defines science fiction — that separates I, Robot from War and Peace — is that technology (no matter what it is) must play a pivotal role in the development of the plot. Read: It ain’t enough just to have spaceships, the spaceships have to matter, get it?

(14) THAT OTHER FIRST LADY. Dear to many fannish hearts: “The master blender who is Scotch whisky’s First Lady”.

Rachel Barrie is one of the few women ever to hold the title of Scotch whisky master blender.

In her 26-year career, Rachel has sniffed or sipped 150,000 different whiskies.

She is a trailblazer in what was traditionally a male-dominated industry, having held the coveted title since 2003.

As arguably the most prominent woman in her field, Rachel can reasonably be described at the First Lady of Scotch whisky.

(15) FIAT LUX. The BBC considers the question: “Is ‘bisexual lighting’ a new cinematic phenomenon?”

The under-representation of bisexuality on screen has been debated for a number of years, and some have seized on bisexual lighting as an empowering visual device.

Reflecting this, the Pantone Color Institute named Ultra Violet as its colour of the year for 2018, referencing the influence of “Prince, David Bowie, and Jimi Hendrix”.

But is it really a tool to represent bisexuality, or are people reading too much into neon-tinged stylisation?

(16) THIRD ROBOT THEME. “Europe’s Mars rover takes shape” — it can wheel-walk out of sand traps that ended Spirit. They’re building three: one to stress-test, one to send, and one to test fixes on. Chip Hitchcock asks, “Wonder if anyone’s hoping it will be used for signaling as in The Martian)?”

So, here it is. Europe’s Mars rover. Or rather, a copy of it.

This is what they call the Structural Thermal Model, or STM. It is one of three rovers that will be built as part of the European Space Agency’s ExoMars 2020 mission to search for life on the Red Planet. And, no, we’re not sending all three to the Red Planet.

The STM is used to prove the design. It will go through a tough testing regime to check the rover that does launch to Mars – the “flight model” – will be able to cope with whatever is thrown at it.

What’s the third robot for? It stays on Earth and is used to troubleshoot any problems. If mission control needs to re-write a piece of software to overcome some glitch on the flight rover, the patch will be trialled first on the “engineering model” before being sent up to the Red Planet.

(17) TO BOLDLY MEDDLE. This is funny. See the image at the link. (Because it might not be polite of me to gank an image belonging to a Deviant Art artist. I’m not sure.)

A repaint of the Galileo shuttle as the Mystery Machine. Now comes the question of what those Meddling Kids would be in the Trekverse.  Velma, of course, would be a Vulcan but I’m not sure as to what the rest would be.  Any ideas?

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

Pixel Scroll 3/31/18 It’s An Honor Just To Be Pixelated

(1) FAREWELL, PORNOKITSCH. Yesterday Anne Perry and Jared Shurin signed off their long-running sff blog: “Pornokitsch: The Exit Interview”. The existing content will remain online for some time to come.

Anne: …As you say above, Pornokitsch is what we wanted it to be: a home for thoughtful, fun (and funny) essays about… whatever. Back when it was just the two of us writing for the site, that’s what we did. And it’s been a pleasure to watch the site bloom with much, much more of that…

By and large, I’m happy to say that I think I wrote more or less exactly what I wanted to write for the site. There are a few reviews I would do differently now, if I could go back in time. But we  founded Pornokitsch as a way of talking about the pop culture we love with the humour and intelligence we wished to see in those conversations, and at the end of the day, I think we – and our many brilliant contributors over the years – have done just that.

Jared: On that note… We’ve mentioned our amazing contributors: words and art, regular and guest, past and present. We owe them a huge, huge thanks for all of their hard work and help and patience. Thank you all.

Anne: We owe you a huge debt of gratitude. Thanks also to all the publishers – editors, marketers and publicists – who offered us books to review and put quotes from us on the actual books, zomg. And, finally, thanks also to our tolerant and very supportive families, enthusiastic friends and – most of all – our readers over the years.

For those arriving too late, they created a kind of postmortem FAQ on their “Bye!” page.

How can I check if you verbally flensed my favourite piece of pop culture? I need know whether or not I should hate you forever.

An index of features and reviews can be found here.

Is there some Pornokitsch memorabilia that I could cherish forever?

Nope. Buy one of our contributor’s books instead.

(2) PUPPY FREE. I like how this was the fifth point in John Scalzi’s “Thoughts On This Year’s Hugo Finalist Ballot” at Whatever.

  1. To get ahead of a question I know someone will ask, no, there’s not any “puppy” nonsense this year. It appears the changes in nominating finalists to reduce slating had their intended effect, and also, the various puppies appear to have lost interest slamming their heads into this particular wall. This makes sense as it provided no benefit to any of them, damaged the reputations and careers of several, and succeeded only in making their rank and file waste a lot of time and effort (and money). They’ve gone off to make their own awards and/or to bother other media, which is probably a better use of their time. There was an attempt by a cadre of second-wave wannabe types to replicate slating this year, but that unsurprisingly came to naught.

In its stead are excellent stories and people, all of which and whom got on to the ballot on the strength of their work. Which is as it should be.

(3) IT’S BEEN AWHILE. Piet Nel said on Facebook about Sarah Pinsker’s “Wind Will Rove” (from Asimov’s, September/October 2017), a Best Novelette Hugo finalist —

This is the first time since 2013 that a story from Asimov’s has made the final ballot of the Hugos.

(4) NOT A NATIVE SPEAKER. J.R.R. Tolkien on Elvish:

(5) GRIMOIRES. In the Horror Writers Association Newsletter, Lawrence Berry discusses a source of “Forbidden Words (And When to Use Them)”.

Do genuinely forbidden, occult treatises exist in the modern world?

Yes, definitely.

Who has them and how do I get a look?

The great libraries of the world, private antiquarian collectors, and the Vatican’s Secret Archives all house works on satanism and witchcraft. An interested party would need to earn scholar’s credentials or have someone very good at creating false identities counterfeit them. A wide and nimble knowledge of Olde English, Middle English, Latin, Arabic, ancient German and Italian, along with gifted insight into the science of cryptography would help—a person could be burned at the stake for the sin of heresy in more centuries than not and grimoires were often written in code. It would also be wise to attain a master’s knowledge of very old books themselves—the paper they were penned on, the material used to construct the covers, the ink used in the illuminated borders and illustrations, the quality and flow of period quills and brushes. Authentic editions, with provenance, sell for a great price, and forgeries are rampant. An equally lavish fee is charged for a single reading of the rarest, genuine, and powerful spell-books.

(6) SFF AUTHORS ON GENDER PANEL IN HONG KONG. In conjunction with the Melon Conference 2, the University of Hong Kong recently held a seminar on Gender in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing. Mlex interviewed an attendee about what the panelists had to say in “Hong Kong Science Fiction Scene – Gender in SFF” for Yunchtime.

To find out more about the Hong Kong Science Fiction and Fantasy scene, Yunchtime reached out to Dr. Christine Yi Lai Luk, at the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences of the Univeristy of Hong Kong, who attended the panel discussion….

YUNCHTIME: How did the seminar and panel discussion live up to the proposed topic?

LUK: There is plenty of room for improvement, I’d say. It is a panel of three women SF writers, but they did not explore “the world of women in SF” as advertised in the above description. It is more appropriate to call the seminar “women/gender and SF” because it is just three women talking about their SF work.

YUNCHTIME: How about the panelists, can you describe briefly some of their thoughts or comments?

LUK: I think Becky Chambers‘ views were the most relevant to the proposed topic. Chambers revealed how she was drawn into the world of SF from an early age onward. Raised in a space science-heavy family (her father is a rocket engineer and her mother an astrobiologist), she was introduced to SF and space fantasy movies as early as she could remember.

Her favorite SF novel of all time is “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula LeGuin (a lot of nods from the audience as the name was dropped). She said writing SF gives her confidence as she is an introvert.

I think her experience reflects a certain gender norm in the SF realm: Unlike the blondy sorority type of girls, girls who are into SF are perceived as shy and nerdy, and incapable of drawing the attention from the opposite sex (except maybe from Wookie-dressed superfans).

Tang Fei does not write in English, only in Chinese. Her Chinese works are translated into English and they draw attention in the English-speaking world partly because her works are banned in China. Actually, Tang Fei is a pen name.

Because the conference was being held entirely in English and due to the language barrier, Tang Fei’s sharing was not effective as we could have hoped. She only managed to say a few sentences in English (with a very soft voice). Then, during the Q&A, she was relying on the organizer, Nicole Huang, to act as her interpreter.

The main thing I caught from Tang Fei is that in the future, human beings will exist in disembodied form and thus the only “gender” issue for SF writers to engage in will be purely on the psychological aspect.

Zen Cho talked about her upbringing in Malaysia and her identity as an English-speaking Hokkien among mainstream Malays. She did not identify herself as a SF writer, but as a fantasy writer. I don’t think she has said anything remotely relevant to gender.

(7) STEELE AND SF IN HONG KONG. Mlex also covered “Hong Kong Science Fiction Scene – Allen Steele on the Melon Conference 2018” for Yunchtime.

YUNCHTIME: What is your impression of Fritz Demoupolis? Is he a big SFF fan? Demoupolis is a successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist, do you think he sees a business opportunity for the SFF genre in Hong Kong and China?

STEELE: Fritz Demopoulos is an interesting fellow … a California-born ex-pat who came to Hong Kong about 20 years ago and has stayed to make his fortune. My brother-in-law did much the same thing, so I’m familiar with this sort of entrepreneurship. He’s most definitely a SF fan. He discovered the genre through finding his father’s beat-up copy of Asimov’s Foundation and has been reading SF ever since. He knows the field, is familiar with major authors both old and new, loves the same movies and TV shows the rest of us do, and overall is an example of a highly-successful businessman who also happens to be something of a geek.

Melon is Fritz’s brainchild — he’d have to explain to you why he gave it that name — and it’s unique among SF gatherings. As I said, it’s not a con in the conventional sense — yes, that’s a deliberate pun; stop groaning — but rather a symposium that’s sort of academic without being stuffy or pretentious. The people Fritz invited to be speakers were SF writers — a few Americans like myself, but mainly young Asian authors— scientists from the U.S., Europe, and Asia, and a number of Hong Kong-based entrepreneurs working in both emerging technologies like AI and also mass media

(8) HAWKING OBSEQUIES. Henry Nicholls, in the Reuters story “Friends, Family, Public Flock To Funeral of Physicist Stephen Hawking,” says that Hawking’s coffin had white “Universe” lilies and white “Polar Star” roses and a “space music” composition called “Beyond The Night Sky” was played.

The 76-year-old scientist was mourned by his children Robert, Lucy and Timothy, joined by guests including playwright Alan Bennett, businessman Elon Musk and model Lily Cole.

Eddie Redmayne, the actor who played Professor Hawking in the 2014 film “The Theory of Everything” was one of the readers in the ceremony and Felicity Jones, who played his wife, Jane Hawking in the film also attended the service.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 31, 1840 — President Van Buren issued executive order establishing 10-hour workday for federal employees.
  • March 31, 1987 Max Headroom aired on TV.
  • March 31, 1995 Tank Girl debuted in theaters.
  • March 31, 1999 The Matrix premiered.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) WHICH COMES FIRST? THE PRESS RELEASE. In “The Silicon Valley elite’s latest status symbol: Chickens” the Washington Post says, “Their pampered birds wear diapers and have personal chefs — but lay the finest eggs tech money can buy.”

…In true Silicon Valley fashion, chicken owners approach their birds as any savvy venture capitalist might: By throwing lots of money at a promising flock (spending as much as $20,000 for high-tech coops). By charting their productivity (number and color of eggs). And by finding new ways to optimize their birds’ happiness — as well as their own.

Like any successful start-up, broods aren’t built so much as reverse engineered. Decisions about breed selection are resolved by using engineering matrices and spreadsheets that capture “YoY growth.” Some chicken owners talk about their increasingly extravagant birds like software updates, referring to them as “Gen 1,” “Gen 2,” “Gen 3” and so on. They keep the chicken brokers of the region busy finding ever more novel birds.

“At Amazon, whenever we build anything we write the press release first and decide what we want the end to be and I bring the same mentality to the backyard chickens,” said Ken Price, the director of Amazon Go, who spent a decade in San Francisco before moving to Seattle. Price, 49, has had six chickens over the past eight years and is already “succession planning” for his next “refresh.”

(12) ENERGIES IMAGINED. In “Fuelling the Future” on Aeon, Aberstywyth University historian Iwan Rhys Morus analyzes Robert A. Heinlein’s 1940 story “Let There Be Light” in an analysis of how sf writers created stories about new power sources.

Heinlein needed the sunscreens to make his future work; that is, to answer the problem of how technological culture might flourish in a world of diminishing resources. This was not a new problem, even in 1940, and it is an increasingly pressing one now. The question of what is going to fuel the future has never been more urgent. Is it going to be wind or wave power? Will fuel cells, solar panels or even the holy grail of fusion be the answer to our problems? Or are we going to frack ourselves into oblivion? If we want to better understand how we speculate about future energy now, then we need to appreciate the extent to which those speculations have a history, and that their history (from the early Victorian period on) contains such fictions as Heinlein’s story as often as, and frequently mixed in with, highly technical debates about the characteristics and requirements of different modes of energy production and consumption.

(13) RUSS’ INFLUENCE. The Baffler’s Jessa Crispin, in “No Mothers, No Daughters”, an excerpt from her introduction to a new edition of Joanna Russ’s How to Supress Women’s Writing, says “I came at Russ sideways…seeing her name-checked by the punk rock chicks who created their own culture through zines an mix tapes when they failed to see themselves through thee wider culture.”

Reading Joanna Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Writing, I wondered, what the hell is it going to take? For decades we have had these types of critiques. We have had books and lectures and personal essays and statistics and scientific studies about unconscious bias. And yet still we have critics like Jonathan Franzen speculating on whether Edith Wharton’s physical beauty (or lack of it, as is his assessment of her face and body) affected her writing, we have a literary culture that is still dominated by one small segment of the population, we have a sense that every significant contribution to the world of letters was made by the heterosexual white man—and that sense is reinforced in the education system, in the history books, and in the visible world.

This complaint wasn’t even exactly fresh territory when Russ wrote her book, which I do not say to diminish her accomplishment. It is always an act of bravery to stand up to say these things, to risk being thought of as ungrateful. Your small pile of crumbs can always get smaller.

But what is it going to take to break apart these rigidities? Russ’s book is a formidable attempt. It is angry without being self-righteous, it is thorough without being exhausting, and it is serious without being devoid of a sense of humor. But it was published over thirty years ago, in 1983, and there’s not an enormous difference between the world she describes and the one we currently inhabit.

(14) THE MARCHING GENIUSES: At Featured Futures, Jason’s prepared another list of bright literary lights in the Summation: March 2018

The fifteen noted stories (nine recommended) come from the 112 (of about 560,000 words) that I’ve read with a publication date between February 26 and March 31. The printzines were decent, with Analog, Asimov’s, F&SF and Interzone (the latter reviewed for Tangent) being represented by more than one story from their bi-monthly issues. On the web, Lightspeed has two from just this month while Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Flash
Fiction Online
, and Nature also make appearances.

(15) JDA SIGHTING. Kilroy was there.

Or as JDA put it in his press release (!) –

Today was a step forward for the cviil rights of conservative-libertarians in SF/F, as I attended the Hugo Award Nomination ceremony without harassment from the Worldcon 2018 staff. It proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am 1. not disruptive at Worldcon events — or any convention, as FogCon proved and 2. that the discrimination I face from them was for reasons other than my being a danger to any guests (since I am clearly not, and they clearly didn’t think I was here).

The Worldcon Staff was uninviting — a nearly all white group I might add — not seeming to want to have a Hispanic author in their presence. It is something we will have to overcome in fandom together in time.

(16) GRAND THEFT LUNCH. SFF cannot keep up with stories like this from the real world!!!! Begin here —

(17) IN CHARACTER. Jeff Goldblum in his Thor: Ragnarok character in a short film “Grandmaster Moves To Earth.” From 2017, but it’s news to me!

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

Pixel Scroll 3/27/18 Godstalk It, Jake, It’s Pixel Scroll

(1) READ THE GAME. The Read it Forward site is celebrating Ready Player One’s theatrical debut this week with an interactive 8-bit-inspired excerpt that “gamifies” the prologue from Ernest Cline’s novel. [Click on the GIF to view.]

Read your way to the top of the Scoreboard as you earn points for discovering Easter eggs that bring the content to life. As readers learn of Parzival’s hunt for the keys to OASIS, they’ll maneuver their way around a maze, attend an ‘80s dance party, unlock footnotes, and more. Upon completion, readers can add their name to a Scoreboard and share their score with a link to the excerpt on social media. All of the excerpt’s hidden extras are unlocked once a reader earns the maximum score of 10,000 points.

(2) TV INTEREST IN THREE-BODY PROBLEM. From io9: “Report: Amazon May Pay $1 Billion to Adapt the Hugo-Winning Chinese Novel The Three-Body Problem”.

The Hugo-winning Chinese novel The Three-Body Problem could become Amazon’s Game of Thrones. A new report from Financial Times suggests Amazon is pursuing a deal to make a three-season television show based on the trilogy from Liu Cixin, and it may be willing to pay up to $1 billion to do so.

According to the Financial Times report, international investors say Amazon is negotiating for the rights to produce three seasons based on Remembrance of Earth’s Past, the scifi trilogy more commonly known by the title of its first book, The Three-Body Problem.

In a statement reported by Chinese news outlets, YooZoo Pictures stated that it remains the sole owners for the film and TV rights for The Three-Body Problem, though it didn’t comment on whether Amazon had approached the company or were in talks with them to collaborate on this reported streaming project. Cixin was also asked about this development by Chinese news outlet MTime.com, where he revealed he knew nothing about the project and doesn’t know if he’d be invited to work on it.

(3) DISSENTING VOICE. In contrast to those looking forward to the movie, Vox says “The Ready Player One book used to be considered a fun romp. Then Gamergate happened,” in “The Ready Player One backlash, explained”.

A time traveler from 2011 could be forgiven for being deeply confused by this response. In 2011, Ready Player One was beloved. It was “a guaranteed pleasure.” It was “witty.” It was not only “a simple bit of fun” but also “a rich and plausible picture of future friendships in a world not too distant from our own.”

What gives? How did the consensus on a single book go from “exuberant and meaningful fun!” to “everything that is wrong with the internet!” over the span of seven years?

… But the main thing Ready Player One is doing is telling those ’80s-boy-culture-obsessed gamers that they matter, that in fact they are the most important people in the universe. That knowing every single goddamn word of Monty Python and the Holy Grail can have life-or-death stakes, because why shouldn’t it? (Yes, that is a crucial step in Wade’s battle to save the OASIS.)

For readers in Cline’s target demographic in 2011, that message felt empowering. For readers who weren’t, it felt like a harmless piece of affirmation meant for someone else. Everyone deserves a silly escapist fantasy, right? And since Cline’s silly escapist fantasy wasn’t specifically meant for girls — unlike, say, Twilight, which was getting savaged in popular culture at the timeReady Player One was largely left alone by the people it wasn’t built for…

(4) ASHBY STORY. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series, “Domestic Violence” by Madeline Ashby, is a free read at Slate.

A partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University, Future Tense explores how emerging technologies will change the way we live. The latest consumer gadgets are intriguing, but we focus on the longer-term transformative power of robotics, information and communication technologies, synthetic biology, augmented reality, space exploration, and other technologies. Future Tense seeks to understand the latest technological and scientific breakthroughs, and what they mean for our environment, how we relate to one another, and what it means to be human. Future Tense also examines whether technology and its development can be governed democratically and ethically.

And there’s also a response essay from Ian Harris, who works on technology issues with the National Network to End Domestic Violence: “The Complicated Relationship Between Abuse and Tech”.

Violence against women is having something of a moment right now. Which is to say, portrayals of domestic violence in film and TV are gaining critical acclaim. Through shows like Big Little Lies and movies like I, Tonya, popular culture is grappling with more nuanced representations of domestic violence and the humanity of survivors of abuse. These are important conversations, and I hope that this is the start of a profound societal transformation, though time will tell. For me, the most disturbing part of these portrayals is not the brutality of the assaults, but how frequently physical violence is prioritized over other types of abusive behavior. It is what we don’t see that worries me.

We see this distorted prioritization in real life, too. I’ve been a domestic violence attorney for more than a decade. Despite the long list of clients who have struggled to get the justice system to live up to its name, I have found that survivors are much more likely to get help for physical assaults than for other kinds of abusive behavior such as stalking, surveillance, harassment, and intimate image disclosures, which frequently feel more harmful to the survivor.

(5) AVENGERS PLUG. A new TV spot for Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War.

The end is near. One month until Avengers: Infinity War.

 

(6) SEARCH FOR DIVERSE FICTION. Rocket Stack Rank has another new feature. Greg Hullender explains:

In response to readers who wanted a way to find good stories by diverse authors, we did an analysis of the most-recommended short speculative fiction stories written by people of color in 2015 and 2016 — “Best People of Color SF/F of 2015-2016”.

This only looks at stories that got some sort of recognition (e.g. solid recommendation from a prolific reviewer, inclusion in a years-best anthology, finalist for a major award), so just 481 stories across those two years. Of those, 112 were written by people of color.

The credit for this work goes to Eric Wong, who did the hard work of looking up information on all the authors as well as customizing the software to let readers group the data different ways.

(7) BLOWN UP, SIR. In “This teacher aims to get kids fired up about chemistry”, the Washington Post’s Kitson Jazynka profiles University of Texas chemistry instructor Kate Biberdorf, who “breathes fire and makes explosions that blast the eyes out of jack-o-lanterns.”

Or what about one who, with a quick pour of potassium iodide into a mix of hydrogen peroxide, dish soap and food coloring, makes bubbly foam that shoots toward the ceiling? Kate Biberdorf is no imaginary teacher. She’s real, and she’s coming to Washington next month, bringing along her blowtorch and cornstarch, her supplies of liquid nitrogen and dry ice, and a lot of enthusiasm for chemistry.

Bibersdorf’s website is http://katethechemist.com/.  How could Filers NOT be interested in a woman who says her goal in life is “to have an explosive science show in Vegas?”

(8) HELP BILL SPENCER. Paul Di Filippo urges readers to support a GoFundMe that will “Give Back to Bill Spencer”.

We all need a little help sometimes. This is one of those times for Bill. He has several different health issues going on right now and the medical expenses he is incurring that are not covered through Medicare are mounting and could get much worse.   As well, he’s facing some unforeseeable out of pocket expenses that could potentially end up being a serious problem.   Right now, Bill simply doesn’t have enough for monthly bills, day to day living expenses and numerous co-pays that keep coming his way for various medical necessities.

Many readers know Bill as the award-winning writer William Browning Spencer, author of novels like Zod Wallop, Resume with Monsters and short-story collections like his latest, The Unorthodox Dr. Draper and Other Stories.

But Bill has contributed to others in a very different way as well.  By freely and graciously donating endless amounts of his time over the years to sponsoring and supporting people who are facing their own daunting problems related to alcohol, drugs and living life.  It’s time to give back to Bill what he has so freely given.

This is something Bill would never ask for himself, but he is one of my best friends and I know he is important to folks like yourself, who may wish to help in his time of need.  Bill is truly one of the most amazing, caring and hilarious human beings I know and if you’re reading this you most likely feel the same.  I think we’d all love for Bill to have the peace of mind of knowing that, whatever happens, he need not be stressed out and worried each day about how he’s going to pay for medication or a test or procedure he needs on top of his modest monthly and day to day expenses.

(9) BISCHOFF OBIT. Writer David Bischoff, 66, of Eugene, OR died March 19. He was a contributor to Doug Fratz’ 1970s fanzine Thrust. His first professional successes included The Seeker, a novel published in 1976, and the Nebula-nominated story “Tin Woodman,” co-authored with Dnnis Bailey, later adapted into both a novel and TV episode for Star Trek: The Next Generation. He also wrote the Star Trek tie-in novel Grounded, which spent time on the bestseller list. His other TV work included Dinosaucers (with Ted Pedersen). Bischoff wrote 75 original novels, and tie-in novels for movies and TV series.

David Bischoff. Photo by and copyright Andrew Porter.

(10) A POLICEMAN’S LOT. Camestros Felapton reacted to Richard Paolinelli’s minor league prank of complaining to the Aussie cops about Felapton’s blog.

(11) MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCE. “The hidden history of the UK’s highest peak”: A tourist hiking trail once led to an early weather station whose records are now being used to trace climate change.

Back in Victorian Britain, science was still largely an amateur pastime conducted by bands of self-financed enthusiasts who formed scientific societies. One was the Scottish Meteorological Society, which set up and maintained a network of weather stations across Scotland between 1855 and 1920.

(12) WAVE GOODBYE. “Stephen Hawking’s final interview: A beautiful Universe” starts from LIGO discovery of grav waves.

Tell us how important is the detection of two colliding neutron stars?

It is a genuine milestone. It is the first ever detection of a gravitational wave source with an electromagnetic counterpart. It confirms that short gamma-ray bursts occur with neutron star mergers. It gives a new way of determining distances in cosmology. And it teaches us about the behaviour of matter with incredibly high density.

(13) MAY THE ODDS BE ALWAYS IN YOUR FAVOR. Don’t look up — “Tiangong-1: China space station may fall to Earth ‘in days'”.

Should I be worried?

No. Most of the 8.5-tonne station will disintegrate as it passes through the atmosphere.

Some very dense parts such as the fuel tanks or rocket engines might not burn up completely. However, even if parts do survive to the Earth’s surface, the chances of them hitting a person are incredibly slim.

“Our experience is that for such large objects typically between 20% and 40% of the original mass will survive re-entry and then could be found on the ground, theoretically,” the head of Esa’s space debris office, Holger Krag, told reporters at a recent briefing.

“However, to be injured by one of these fragments is extremely unlikely. My estimate is that the probability of being injured by one of these fragments is similar to the probability of being hit by lightning twice in the same year.”

(14) WEDDING BELLS. Page Six headline: “‘Star Trek’ star marries Leonard Nimoy’s son”:

Live long and prosper, you two.

Adam Nimoy, son of the late “Star Trek” icon Leonard Nimoy, and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” actress Terry Farrell married on Monday, on what would’ve been Leonard Nimoy’s 87th birthday.

The couple tied the knot in a civil ceremony at City Hall in San Francisco, according to film critic Scott Mantz, who tweeted a photo of the couple on their wedding day. Farrell retweeted Mantz’s photo and wrote, “Freakin AWESOME day!!!!!!! Love ya all! Aka: Mrs. Adam Nimoy.”

She also changed her Twitter bio to include “Mrs. Adam Nimoy.”

(15) COMPLAINTS ABOUT DATE OF HUGO ANNOUNCEMENT. The announcement of the 2018 Hugo finalists wouldn’t be on March 31/Passover/Easter weekend/a Saturday if it was up to these folks:

(16) VERTLIEB CANVASSES. Rondo Awards voting closes April 8 at midnight and Steve Vertlieb hopes people will consider his nominated article “Robert Bloch: The Clown at Midnight” for Best Article of the Year.

My published work about the author of “Psycho” … “Robert Bloch: The Clown At Midnight” … has been nominated for a Rondo Award for “Best Article of the Year.” Anyone can vote.  This year’s competition ends Sunday night, April 8th, at midnight. To vote for my remembrance of Robert, simply send your choice, along with your name, to taraco@aol.com

This is the story of my twenty five year friendship with acclaimed writer Robert Bloch, the author of Psycho. It is the newly published remembrance of a complex, remarkable man, and our affectionate relationship over a quarter century.

Robert Bloch was one of the founding fathers of classic horror, fantasy, and science fiction whose prolific prose thrilled and influenced the popular genre, its writers, and readers, for much of the twentieth century. An early member of “The Lovecraft Circle,” a group of both aspiring and established writers of “Weird Fiction” assembled by Howard Phillips Lovecraft during the early 1930’s, Bloch became one of the most celebrated authors of that popular literary genre during the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s, culminating in the publication of his controversial novel concerning a boy, his mother, and a particularly seedy motel. When Alfred Hitchcock purchased his novel and released “Psycho” with Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh in 1960, Bloch became one of the most sought after authors and screen writers in Hollywood. His numerous contributions to the acclaimed television anthology series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” are among the best of the director’s classic suspense series, while his legendary scripts, adaptations and teleplays for Boris Karloff’s “Thriller” series for NBC are among the most bone chilling, frightening, and horrifying screen presentations in television history. He also famously penned several classic episodes of NBC’s original “Star Trek” series for producer Gene Roddenberry. Writers Stephen King, Richard Matheson, and Harlan Ellison have written lovingly and profusely of their own literary debt to Robert Bloch. Bob was, for me, even more significantly, a profoundly singular mentor and cherished personal friend for a quarter century. This is the story of that unforgettable relationship.

(17) NUMBER PLEASE. A strange post at George R.R. Martin’s Not a Blog caught Greg Hullender’s eye: “I wonder if this is a coded announcement that Winds of Winter is coming?” “Yowza” consists of a series of pictures of hands with finger extended as though counting. But does the number 4534 really mean anything?

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Joey Eschrich, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Ghostbird, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Greg Hullender, Paul DiFilippo, and Mark Hepworth for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]