Pixel Scroll 6/26/18 Eliminate The Inscrollible, Whatever Remains, However Impixellable, Must Be The Fifth

(1) AMAZING’S SUBMISSION SYSTEM, TAKE TWO. Jason Sanford sent a link to his open post on Patreon, “Amazing Stories rejection emails and why I report on the SF/F genre”.

Last week File770 covered my reporting on Amazing Stories and their submission system. Steve Davidson commented on that Pixel Scroll article and it lead to some discussions between he and I. I published an update this morning and figured I’d pass it along in case you were interested in it…

Sanford recounts an unnamed author’s description of problems they had getting the status of a submission to Amazing Stories, and how he put it to the test.

…After talking with authors like the person above and seeing comments from many other writers who said they didn’t receive rejections, I decided to do more digging into the Amazing Stories submission system. I set up two test accounts of my own in their system, one using a Yahoo account and the other a Gmail account. I didn’t receive either of the initial email verifications for these accounts or the multiple password resets I requested. These emails didn’t even arrive in my spam folders.

I also examined the email header and code from one of the Amazing Stories rejections which an author did receive and forwarded to me. This rejection email was sent through the Amazing Stories submission system using a Gmail account as the send-from address with a separate reply-to address using the amazingstories.com domain. (Note: I won’t publish these email addresses to respect the privacy of the people working on Amazing Stories.)

The author quoted above used Gmail, as did some of other authors who said they didn’t receive their rejection emails. One of the test accounts I set up was also a Gmail account. Google should not block emails sent between valid Gmail accounts, so the failure of these emails to arrive into other Gmail accounts strongly suggests something was wrong with how the Amazing Stories system was set up or sending out emails.

After doing these tests I spoke with Steve Davidson about all this. His complete response is quoted below. Steve said he’d pass along the information about the email verification and password resets to his webmaster to be investigated and, if needed, fixed.

A few hours after Steve said his webmaster would look into the issue, I again tested the password resets. They now worked and I received the emails in my Yahoo and Gmail test accounts. Another author also confirmed they now worked where they hadn’t before.

In short, shortly before I raised this issue with Steve the emails wouldn’t arrive from their system. After Steve said he’d let his webmaster know about the issue, the emailed worked. This alone strongly suggests there was an issue with Amazing Stories’ system.

I hope this means the issue the Amazing Stories submission system is fixed. I personally want to see Amazing Stories succeed with their relaunch and believe most people in the genre feel the same. And there’s no shame with admitting a new submission system had some issues. Galaxy’s Edge recently had a major submission glitch with a number of subs being lost. They posted a message explaining the issue and even authors whose submissions were lost appeared to be cool with everything….

Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson responded on Facebook.

…While we investigated and then explained that the issue(s) were on the recipient’s end of the email chain (spam folder, settings that were overly sensitive to automated messages originating with our server’s email program) we nevertheless have changed the system to originate from a Gmail sending account, which ought to make it past nearly everyone’s electronic censors.

We are also adding an FAQ and a direct contact button on our submissions page; we’ve re-written the rejection notice and have re-examined our internal policy for when more personalized rejection emails will be sent.

One “issue” that apparently exacerbated this situation for some was the fact that we were not made aware of the problem(s) for some authors directly, which we believe ought to have been the first step on the part of people having issues. We received over 200 submissions the first day we opened and have processed several hundred more since; the number of direct queries we received regarding failed communications can be counted on one hand.

Each of those was handled on an individual case bases and, from our end, did not appear to rise to the level of a “systemic” problem that needed to be looked into more deeply.

In point of fact, our native email server was sending out the appropriate status update messages (it was checked numerous times), but some recipient email servers were rejecting the messages, most likely because they originated from an unfamiliar source (our email server) AND were automated status updates.

From our end, everything appeared to be working as it should and, lacking feedback to the contrary, we were in no position to do anything about it.

Once we were made aware of the problem, we thought that an explanation would prompt users to look into their email servers and address the issue with their providers. Since this largely seems to not have been done and we continued to receive complaints, we have taken the steps outlined above.

If you continue to have an issue with email communications from our website, we STRONGLY request that you contact us directly.

(2) BEYOND COCKYGATE. Elsewhere, Jason Sanford has surfaced another interesting trademark claim. The thread starts here.

(3) BUSTED. Is it true that JDA has a lot more followers in Twitter than he did a few days ago?

(4) NERO AWARD. The “Nero” is presented annually by The Wolfe Pack for the best American Mystery. The award criteria include:

  • written in the tradition of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories
  • first published in the year preceding the award year
  • originally published in the United States

The 2018 Nero Award finalists are:

  • The Dime by Kathleen Kent, (Mulholland Books / Little, Brown)
  • The Lioness is the Hunter by Loren D. Estelman (Forge)
  • Gone to Dust by Matt Goldman (Forge)
  • August Snow by Stephen Mack Jones (Soho)
  • Blood for Wine by Warren C. Easley (Poisoned Pen Press)

(5) CAMPBELL. Analog has posted a lengthy excerpt from Alec Nevala-Lee’s forthcoming book ASTOUNDING: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

“The Campbell Machine” plumbs the obsessions behind several of his ideas about the human mind.

…In “Design Flaw,” Campbell had argued that the solution to highway hypnosis lay in “a solid engineering job,” and psionics was his attempt to frame the project in terms that he thought would appeal to his readers, prompting them to collect data that would illuminate the unexplored aspects of consciousness that had resulted in Joe’s accident. The editor had once held out similar hopes for dianetics, but now his motives were far more personal. He had been unable to avenge his stepson directly, so he would overthrow all of physics and psychology instead.

If he proved unable to stick with it for long, this only reflected a pattern that had been evident throughout his life. In his article on Joe’s death, Campbell had claimed that some people had “an acquired immunity” to highway hypnosis, but he didn’t mention that he included himself in that category, or that he attributed it to the hell of his youth. On the day after the crash, he had written a long letter to his father, explaining why he was impervious to hypnotic trances. The drivers who were the most at risk, he wrote, were the ones who were good at concentrating, and Campbell was “not just intellectually afraid of it—deeply and effectively afraid.”

He placed the responsibility for this squarely on his parents: “You and Mother so disagreed that I had a hell of a time trying to satisfy the requirements which both of you placed on me; doing so was inherently impossible, and it was damned uncomfortable. But you did give me a life-long immunity to highway hypnosis!” His childhood had taught him to survive, but at a devastating cost: “You and Mother between you gave me immunity to many things that neither one of you could have; either of you could have crippled me. . . . At the time, of course, I felt a vast injustice; I do not forgive you, because that’s a useless and arrogant thing.”…

(6) LUND OBIT. Land of the Giants actress Deanna Lund, 81, died June 22. The Hollywood Reporter obituary begins —

Deanna Lund, who played one of the seven castaways trying to survive in a world of large, unfriendly people on the 1960s ABC series Land of the Giants, has died. She was 81.

Lund died Friday at her home in Century City of pancreatic cancer, her daughter, actress and novelist Michele Matheson, told The Hollywood Reporter. She was diagnosed in September.

Lund starred as Valerie Scott, a selfish party girl, on the Irwin Allen-created series, which aired for two seasons, from September 1968 until March 1970.

Set in the year 1983, 20th Century Fox’s Land of the Giants revolved around the crew and passengers of the spaceship Spindrift, which on the way to London crashed on a planet whose humanoid inhabitants were hostile and unbelievably huge. The show was extremely expensive to make, costing a reported $250,000 an episode.

The sexy Lund had appeared as a redheaded lesbian stripper opposite Frank Sinatra in Tony Rome (1967) and as Anna Gram, a moll working for The Riddler (John Astin), on ABC’s Batman, leading to her being cast on the show….

(7) NOT MY SPACE LEADER. Vice Motherboard is sorry you missed it: “The Space Nation of Asgardia Inaugurated Its First Leader in an Incredible Ceremony”. Asgardia, a self-proclaimed space-based democracy, has “inaugurated” its first head of “state” — namely Igor Raufovich Ashurbeyli, the billionaire providing what appears to be the bulk of the backing for the “state.” Ashurbeyl, a native of Baku, Azerbaijan, has made his fortune on weapons and related aspects of the Russian military-industrial complex. He has also been said to be a “true patriot and believer in the strong [Russian] state.”

Mike Kennedy sent the link with an observation: “So, a Russian oligarch is heading up a ‘space-based democracy’ which is to be ‘a united supra-national space state open to all people on Earth.’ What could possibly go wrong?”

The space nation held an incredible ceremony on Monday inaugurating its self-declared leader Igor Ashurbeyli as its head of state. Ashurbeyli is a Russian billionaire whose money comes from weapons systems. His backing has allowed Asgardia to thrive and he wants the country to join the UN, but to do so it must have a functioning government. It elected a parliament in April (a motley collection of international characters between the ages of 40 and 80, as specified by the Asgardian constitution) followed by Ashurbeyli declaring himself head of state.

To celebrate the momentous occasion, the Asgardians held a fantastical celebration at the 13th century Hofburg palace, the former principal imperial palace in the center of Vienna, Austria. It was creepy. It was beautiful. It was elegant and magical in a way that Terra-based ceremonies no longer are and it began with children introducing cosmonaut Oleg Artemiev who shared a very special message from the International Space Station.

(8) FIRST STAN, NOW BUZZ. What’s the use of being a babe magnet if your adult children get in the way? The Independent has the story: “Buzz Aldrin sues his children for trying to take control of his finances after claiming he suffers from dementia”.

Astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin has sued two of his children and former business manager for trying to take control of his finances and accused them of “slander” for saying he suffers from dementia.

The 88-year-old said in a lawsuit that Janice Aldrin, Andrew Aldrin, and former manager Christina Korp are included in the lawsuit which claimed they took control of millions of dollars of “space memorabilia” and his company finances “for their own self-dealing and enrichment”. Mr Aldrin owns BuzzAldrin Enterprises and a charity group called the ShareSpace Foundation.

He has also accused the three of elder exploitation for “knowingly and through deception or intimidation” keeping him from his property as well as stifling his “personal romantic relationships”.

(9) SYNDROME ROUNDUP. Carl Slaughter picked these out —

(10) VALE BOB NEWBY. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Emmys: How the ‘Stranger Things’ VFX team brought Sean Astin’s bloody death to life”, says that Sean Astin’s death on this show was a shocker and the Stranger Things vfx crew deserves credit for making the on-screen death plausible.

It’s the moment that had Stranger Things fans screaming: adorkable Radio Shack manager Bob Newby (played by geek icon Sean Astin) uses his technical savvy to save the day, only to become chow for the monstrous Demodogs. Bob’s shocking death scene is arguably the biggest highlight of the show’s second season, replacing #JusticeForBarb with #JusticeForBob as a trending Twitter topic. It also provides some of the best evidence of the show’s Emmyworthy special effects, overseen up by husband-and-wife F/X team of Paul and Christina Graff.

(11) THEY BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE. H.P. posted this Venn diagram at Every Day Should Be Tuesday:

He says it illustrates this idea:

A story can be good but be neither superversive nor pulp.  A story can be pulp but be neither superversive nor good.  A story can be superversive and good but not pulp.  A story can be all three (easier said than done).  A story can be none of the three (easy enough—the real trick is figuring out how to win awards for it).  And so on.  Think of it as a Venn diagram.

However, the Filer who sent it to me says what the diagram shows is that most superversive and pulp fiction isn’t good.

Who’s right?

Regardless, what H.P.’s trying to do is define the characteristics of “superversive.”

People associated with Superversive Press have written several posts that I will be drawing from that attempt to pin down just what the term means.  The best are by Tom Simon, Corey McCleery, and L. Jagi Lamplighter.  Each identifies particular traits of a superversive story.  Simon points to moral high ground and courage.  McCleery insists that superversive stories should be aspiring/inspiring, virtuous, heroic, decisive, and non-subversive.  Lamplighter argues that, for a story to be superversive, it must have good storytelling, the characters must be heroic, and the story must have an element of wonder.

These are good starting points.  You can probably guess which trait I like least.  “Good storytelling” isn’t useful as a trait because it conflates superversive with good.  The only other term I really don’t like is “non-subversive.”  If you are defining superversive in contrast with subversive, as Simon does, then it is no more than a truism.  And a superversive work may subvert, indeed, it probably should.

(12) SPEAK HUP. Will Seuss Inc. sue the BBC? Verse illustrates the Beeb’s article “The haughty history of the letter H”.

Throughout history, those with social clout have set the standards for what’s the more acceptable pronunciation….

Like Dr. Seuss’ Star-Belly Sneetches and Plain-Belly Sneetches, there are two types of creatures — haitchers with H on their 8th letter name and aitchers with “none upon thars”.

That H isn’t so big. It’s really so small. You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.

But it does — the tiny H on “(h)aitch” divides the nation. The pronunciation has become something of a social password, a spoken shibboleth distinguishing in-groupers from out-groupers. Those with social clout set the standards for what’s “in” and what’s “out” — no H has the stamp of approval.

The best kind of people are people without!

Shibboleths die hard — the opprobrium attached to haitch probably derives from its long association with Irish Catholic education. There’s no real evidence for this, mind, as Sue Butler points out, but never let facts get in the way of a good shibboleth.

(13) A CAT ON THE RAILS. The BBC has pictures: “Japan unveils Hello Kitty-themed bullet train”

It is enough to wake the tired eyes of the groggiest commuter. A striking white and pink bullet train themed around the Japanese cartoon character and marketing phenomenon Hello Kitty.

The bespoke train will begin a three month run between the western cities of Osaka and Fukuoka on Saturday.

It was unveiled by the West Japan Railway firm which hopes the use of a famous local export will boost tourism.

Hello Kitty branding features on the windows, seat covers, and flooring.

(14) CASH FOUND BEHIND THE SEAT CUSHIONS. But not the currency you’d expect: “Hoax ‘devil coins’ found in Bath Abbey”.

Two “devil coins” that were hidden in Scandinavian churches as part of an elaborate hoax in the 1970s have been discovered in the unlikely setting of Bath Abbey.

Dusty odds and ends, including an order of service from 1902, were found in the abbey when stalls were removed for restoration work.

The most intriguing discovery, however, was two coins bearing a picture of Satan and the legend Civitas Diaboli on one side and 13 Maj Anholt 1973 on the other.

Experts figured out the coins were linked to the story of a Danish eccentric who perpetrated an elaborate 40-year hoax that was only discovered almost a decade after his death.

(15) YOUR OWN MARTIAN ODYSSEY. Red Rover, Red Rover send HiRISE right over… SYFY Wire reports “A Mars video game developed from NASA data now exists, and it’s pretty far out”. Developer Alan Chan has a new Mars rover driving game available for the Steam gaming platform. It features terrain developed from NASA data gathered by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It also features a “ridiculously overpowered Mars rover” which is even equipped with jump jets. You can careen across (or even a bit above) Mars’ Victoria Crater, Western Cerberus, South Olympus, Jezero Crater, Bequerel Crater, Hibes Montes, Candor Chasma, Aeolis Streams, and Noctis Labyrinthus at speeds far beyond any yet achieved on Mars.

Quoting the article:

“The HiRISE camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is the most powerful one of its kind ever sent to another planet,” states HiRISE Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. “Its high resolution allows us to see Mars like never before, and helps other missions choose a safe spot to land for future exploration.”

…Red Rover is now available on Steam for $4.99, and it even supports Oculus Rift for the ultimate immersive VR experience.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 6/20/18 Poltergoose

(1) SPFBO LONGLIST. Mark Lawrence rounded up 300 entries for the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off in a very short time, and now has assigned 30 titles to each of his 10 participating review bloggers. See the longlist at “SPFBO 2018, Phase 1”.

(2) AMAZING STORIES REJECTS. Steve Davidson has denied a news story reported by Jason Sanford and linked in yesterday’s Scroll: “Amazing Stories and Rejections”. Here are excerpts from his explanation.

….It is entirely untrue that we are not notifying authors of rejections.

However, we understand why there may be some confusion on this matter.

The vast majority of our rejections take the form of an automated “status update” email to the submitter.  A story goes from draft to being read, to being rejected or accepted.  Submitters are notified both in an email and on their submissions account of any status changes that affect their submissions.

…Some people had issues on initial sign up, and some people are (now) complaining of  not receiving rejection notices.  Both the initial sign up issue and no receipt of rejections are a result of the user’s email server.  We’ve checked, double-checked and re-checked;  all status notices, all sign-up verifications, are being properly generated by the system and are being sent out.  Non-receipt has, in every case, turned out to be the result of an email server rejection.  Permissions are too picky, the user has not white listed the email address, etc.

Unfortunately, other than informing you of this situation, there is nothing that we can do on our end to correct this.

Our system is WordPress based.  That software platform hosts more than a third of all internet sites (and a large number of genre-related sites);  our system is therefore no more and no less “complicated” than any other WordPress based site you may be familiar with….

(3) SANFORD ANSWERS. Jason Sanford responded in a Twitter thread that begins here and includes these comments:

(4) FANS RALLY ROUND. ComicsBeat is calling attention to a “Crowdfunding campaign set up after writer Leah Moore suffers a brain injury”.

Leah Moore and her partner John Reppion have written some top notch comics for DC, Dynamite and many other publishers.

But now they are facing a huge challenge.

Moore suffered severe head trauma and brain injury while attending a music festival.

Andrew O’Neill set up a JustGiving appeal for “Leah and John”.

Leah and John are comic book writers, who usually scrape by on caffeine and stress while creating wonderful art. Recently, they have been beset by brutal circumstances – John recently lost his sister Dawn and Leah has sustained a severe and degenerative brain injury at Download (metal!) and has had an operation to remove a blood clot.

Needless to say, their already fragile and insecure method of putting food on the table for themselves and their three kids (two feral) is going to be impossible while Leah recovers and John looks after her.

As an artistic community and bunch of pals, let’s raise some money to help them through, (and then we can use our generosity later on as leverage for favours and cake).

The goal was to raise 2,500 UKP – they’ve already raised 11,142 UKP.

(5) MISSING THE MIND MELD. I’ve fallen behind in linking to one of my favorite features on the sff web: this installment of Mind Meld appeared in March — “Mind Meld: Books That Expand the Definition of Genre”, curated by Shana DuBois at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog. The participants are Tristan Palmgren, Jeannette Ng, Patrice Sarath, Rebecca Kuang, Aliya Whiteley, Gareth L. Powell, Jasmine Gower.

The evolution of storytelling has followed us through the ages from fairy and folk tales to the vast variety of mediums now available to us.

As storytelling expands in unusual and innovative ways to keep pace with global conversations, what are some books you’re most excited about?

(6) HOLD ROBOTIC CONVERSATIONS ABOUT WESTWORLD. Adweek tells readers “You Can Now Explore the Depths of Westworld by Talking to Alexa”, “But only ‘true fans’ will make it all the way through.”

You can now explore the depths of Westworld from your living room, kitchen, bathroom, wherever—as long as you have your Amazon Echo nearby and within earshot. All you have to say is, “Alexa, open Westworld.”

Today, HBO announced the debut of its new Alexa skill, called Westworld: The Maze. It’s designed specifically for fans of the show to play on their various Amazon voice devices, just in time for the show’s upcoming Season 2 finale this Sunday. HBO partnered with agency 360i and Westworld production team Kilter Films on the project.

The Maze is a choose-your-own-adventure game with over 60 storylines, 400 possible choices for players to make and roughly two hours of game time in which Westworld fans can immerse themselves. Fans will recognize the voices of characters from the show, including Jeffrey Wright as Bernard and Angela Sarafyan as Clementine, as they dive into this mystical world.

 

(7) FRANKENBOOK. Arizona State University’s  Joey Eschrich, Editor and Program Manager, Center for Science and the Imagination, and Assistant Director, Future Tense, sends word about a new project involving the Center, The MIT Press, and MIT Media Lab that marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein.

Frankenbook is a collective reading experience of the original 1818 text of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein. The project is hosted by Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, The MIT Press, and MIT Media Lab. It features annotations from over 80 experts in disciplines ranging from philosophy and literature to astrobiology and neuroscience; essays by scientists, ethicists, and science fiction authors Cory Doctorow and Elizabeth Bear; audio journalism; and original animations and interactives.

Readers can contribute their own text and rich-media annotations to the book and customize their reading experience by turning on and off a variety of themes that filter annotations by topic; themes range from literary history and political theory to health, technology, and equity and inclusion. Frankenbook is free to use, open to everyone, and built using the open-source PubPub platform for collaborative community publishing.

The project has already garnered attention from Boing Boing and Brain Pickings, and they’d love to have more participation in the project from the SF community.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 20, 1975 – Steven Spielberg’s Jaws premieres.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Kendall sends along a two-parter from Library Comic about Mount TBR – #412
    and #413.
  • Lise Andreasen found that Deflocked is not the comic you’re looking for. (And yet I’m linking to it anyway….)

(10) WAS THE EMPIRE DESTINED TO FAIL? In her Vox post “Solo reveals the weakness of the Star Wars Galactic Empire”, Amy Erica Smith lays out a detailed argument why Solo: A Star Wars Story shows up the Galactic Empire as a fatally weak state. WARNING: The whole story is basically one big spoiler.

Pop quiz: What’s missing in Solo?

Okay, there’s a long list: the opening crawl. R2-D2.

More importantly: the Emperor. Darth Vader. And 90 percent of the Stormtrooper presence of other movies.

That last item is the most telling indicator of the Galactic Empire’s glaring open secret — its extreme weakness. From a political science perspective, the movie Solo fills in a lot of holes in how we understand the Galactic Empire — the approximately 22-year regime between the dictator Sheev Palpatine’s consolidation of power as Emperor at the end of Episode III and his death at the hands of his second-in-command at the end of Episode VI.

What we learn from Solo is that the Galactic Empire is a very, very weak state. It’s so weak that it’s not much of a state at all. Don’t believe the Empire’s propagandists.

The detailed analysis —and a bunch of spoilers — follows from there.

(11) JOHN SCALZI ENDORSES FREEDOM. Well, of course. But it’s also the brand name of a technology Scalzi finds helpful for keeping him from frittering away his writing time.

…I end up checking news and social media sites more often than is useful, when what I really need to be doing is working on a book.

…It got to a point in the last couple of months that I had to accept the problem was me, and that I wasn’t going to go away anytime soon, so I had to take other steps. So I looked into “distraction free” software, i.e., those programs that block your access to Web sites and apps for a period of time so you have no choice but actually do the work you’re supposed to do. After comparison shopping, I went ahead and picked Freedom. Freedom works on a subscription model and can block sites and apps on your desktop and phone; it has pre-selected block lists you can choose from (including for news, social media, shopping and adult sites among others), and you can also create your own lists. Once you do that, you can set a time for how long you want to have the blocking run, up to 24 hours. You can also schedule blocks, to have them show up at the same time every day and etc.

…And it worked well — I’d check out Twitter almost by muscle memory and get confronted by a green screen that said things like “You are free from this site” and “Do things that matter,” which seemed a little snarky and pushy, but on the other hand, I was in fact trying to do something that mattered (finish my book), so. …It did what it was supposed to do, which was keep me on track and writing on the book.

(12) SFF FROM MADRID. Rachel Cordasco recommends a “New Collection by Cristina Jurado” at Speculative Fiction in Translation.

Nevsky Books will publish a new collection of stories by Spanish SF author and editor Cristina Jurado in July entitled Alphaland.

“From upgraded humans to individuals living among daydreams, from monsters to fantastic beings, these creatures populate a highly imaginative and evocative world, impregnated by an inspired sense of wonder. Draw near with care and enter Alphaland!”

Cristina Jurado (Madrid, 1972) is a bilingual writer and the editor of SuperSonic Magazine, a Spanish and English venue which has re-energized the Spanish speculative fiction scene….

(13) LONDON CALLING, MILWAUKEE ANSWERING. “Orange Mike” Lowrey is back on the BBC – this time on the BBC World Service programme Trending (June 17): “The Mysterious Wikipedia Editor”.

Who is “Philip Cross”? That’s the name on an account that has made more than 130,000 Wikipedia edits since 2004. But it’s not so much the volume of his work but his subject matter that has irritated anti-war politicians and journalists around the world. His detractors claim that he’s biased against them and that his influence has made some entries unreliable. It’s a charge that’s rejected by the foundation behind Wikipedia, but the person behind Philip Cross remains elusive. So what happened when we tried to track him down?

(14) OPEN THE POP3 PORTS PLEASE, HAL. This Gizmodo headline starts with the bad news and follows with the good news: “This Light-Up HAL 9000 USB Flash Drive Can’t Sing, But Probably Won’t Kill You Either”.

Master Replicas, makers of some of the finest lightsaber replicas in any galaxy, sadly closed its doors back in 2008. Last year, however, part of its original team opened Master Replicas Group, a new company that’s relaunching with a series of 2001: A Space Odyssey collectibles to start, including a flash drive based on one of Hollywood’s most terrifying villains.

You don’t have to be worried about this miniature HAL 9000 replica refusing to open an air lock for you, or listening in on private conversations by covertly reading your lips. This one-sixth scale replica of HAL 9000 has no smarts and no ill intentions, but it does recreate the computer’s glowing red eye whenever it’s plugged into your computer.

The Master Replicas Group product page shows a limited edition 32 gigabyte USB flash drive modeled on the “eye” from 2001’s HAL 9000 at $64.95, and a 16 gigabyte  version available for $24.95 where the product page makes no mention of this version being a limited edition.

(15) SPACE IN THE SIXTIES. The Russians and Americans are pushing the envelope at Galactic Journey: “[June 20, 1963] Crossing stars (the flights of Vostoks 5 and 6)”.

Gordo Cooper’s 22-orbit flight in Faith 7 afforded America a rare monopoly on space news during the month of May.  Now, a new Soviet spectacular has put the West in the shade and ushered in a new era of spaceflight.

(16) PICK UP THIS MESS. From now on, no more Pigs in Space, so to speak: “Astronauts eject UK-led space junk demo mission”.

A UK-led project to showcase methods to tackle space junk has just been pushed out of the International Space Station.

The RemoveDebris satellite was ejected a short while ago with the help of a robotic arm.

The 100kg craft, built in Guildford, has a net and a harpoon.

These are just two of the multiple ideas currently being considered to snare rogue hardware, some 7,500 tonnes of which is now said to be circling the planet.

This material – old rocket parts and broken fragments of spacecraft – poses a collision hazard to operational satellites that deliver important services, such as telecommunications.

(17) PREVIEW. BBC reports that “Stranger Things comic will explore the Upside Down”.

The first series, due for release in September, will focus on Will Byers and his time in an alternate dimension.

The character spends nearly all the first season in a mysterious place which his friends name the Upside Down – but his experience is barely seen.

 

(18) HULK DEPARTURE. Nick Schager, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story Hulk At 15:  How Ang Lee’s Distinctive Blockbuster Paved the Way for the Modern Marvel Cinematic Universe,” says that “Hulk taught Marvel to temper their movies’ thematic ambitions” by making all the MCU movies part of a large tapestry rather than highly individual films like Lee’s.

…In most respects, Marvel, beginning with 2008’s Iron Man, shunned the risks taken by Hulk, and thus Lee’s film now functions as ground zero for the creative decisions that have guided the past decade of MCU endeavors. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Lee’s storytelling approach, which seeks to duplicate the look and feel of a comic-book page. That’s felt in the fonts used for his opening credit sequence, and in his use of square and rectangular split-screens and transitions, all of which aim to duplicate the structure of a comic’s paneled layout. Segueing from shot to shot, and scene to scene, with digitized wipes and rotations, and employing extreme close-ups, iris devices, and other superimposed imagery — most thrillingly, a late freeze-frame of Josh Lucas’s villain in front of a massive explosion — Lee diligently echoes, at every turn, the very medium that first gave birth to heroes like the Hulk.

That method was never to be seen again in the MCU, which has consequently adhered to a far more conventional cinematographic schema that allows its various franchises to feel as if they’re complementary parts of a larger tapestry. Simply put — a movie universe doesn’t work if any individual entry is too eccentric to match its brethren….

(19) COMING SHORT FICTION. Mythic Delirium has acquired two new collections, Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss and The History of Soul 2065 by Barbara Krasnoff.  Mike Allen says both are scheduled for release in 2019.

Theodora Goss

In Snow White Learns Witchcraft, World Fantasy Award winner Theodora Goss retells and and recasts fairy tales by Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimms, Hans Christian Andersen, and Oscar Wilde. In these stories and poems, sometimes harrowing, sometimes hilarious, always lyrical, Goss re-centers and empowers the women at the hearts of these timeless narratives, much as her acclaimed novel series, The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, does for the classics of Victorian supernatural literature.

With cover art by Ruth Sanderson and an introduction by Jane Yolen, Snow White Learns Witchcraft is currently scheduled for a February 2019 launch.

Barbara Krasnoff

In The History of Soul 2065, Nebula Award finalist Barbara Krasnoff has accomplished a stunning feat. This collection of interconnected short stories crosses many genres, spinning tales of sorcery, ghosts, time travel, virtual reality, alien contact, and epic, elemental confrontations between good and evil. The book also spans past and future generations, telling the heart-breaking and heart-warming histories of two Jewish immigrant families, one from Eastern Europe, one from Western Europe, whose lives are intricately, mysteriously intertwined.

The History of Soul 2065, with cover art commissioned from Paula Arwen Owen, is scheduled for a July 2019 release.

(20) STUCK TO THE SHELVES. Toys’R Us is trying to empty out its stores with a massive going out of business sale. WorldClassBullshitters found some things just aren’t going — “The Star Wars Toy Landfill Has Been Found!”

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

How To Get Your Pixel Scroll Title Published

…Plus A Comprehensive Bibliography of Steve Davidson’s Pixel Scroll Titles

Steve Davidson, Famous Pixel Scroll Title Thinker-Upper

By Steve Davidson: I think that we will all agree that one of the things that makes File 770 so much fun (and so popular) is the interactive nature of the enterprise.  Comments, of course, but also crowd-pleasers like reader-submitted pictures of their cats laying about on all manner of genre material, (honorary SJW credentialed dogs too), regular contributions from other fans and, of course, the famously infamous Pixel Scroll title.

I’ve submitted quite a few titles over the past few years (wow.  Years.  Yes, years), collecting a good handful of rejections along the way (not to mention a few copied by someone else who managed to get to the patent office before me….)

In fact, it wasn’t until I twigged to Mike Glyer’s apparent fondness for mashed up 60s, 70s and 80s song lyrics that I became a successful Pixel Scroll Title Submitter.

I remember the day my first title was accepted for publication fondly.  Mike doesn’t send out formal acceptance notices (daily fan news being too immediate of a thing to allow for such), so it wasn’t until I sat down with my coffee to begin my daily reads that I discovered that I had become famous.

It had been a cold day that February 12th of 2016.  A Friday if the calendar is anything to go by.  I’d been reading the Pixel Scroll® for a number of months and had been despairing over ever getting anything published, the absence of rejection slips exacerbating my ennui.

Despite my self-loathing, I managed, somehow, to force myself to try yet one more time.  I’d noticed that many of the successful Scroll titles had some connection to popular songs.  The spark of an idea formed somewhere in my snow-bound brain.  I feverishly researched past Scrolls and determined that “Yes!” no one had yet offered a mashup based on a song from one of my favorite bands.

“Surely”, I thought, “Mike, being a baby-boomer contemporaneous with myself in time, HAD to not only be familiar with the band, but likely as fond of them as I was.”

I managed to locate a discography for the band in question.  I selected several likely candidate songs, found and studied their lyrics and then spent a fair amount of time constructing a substitution algorithm that would insert the words “scroll” and “pixel” where other nouns had been. (Future refinement of the algorithm would eventually see it expand to include pronouns, a limited number of verbs and even some adjectives.)

Studying the results, I became convinced that THIS time I would be successful.

And so I was.

February 13, 2016’s Pixel Scroll title was mine.  It had to be.  I’d written it just the evening before and the title on the screen before me greatly resembled the words I was pretty sure I’d remembered from the night before.

A quick scroll down to the credits confirmed it: “Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.”

Wow.  I was FAMOUS!

But then the seasonal affect disorder kicked in. Perhaps there was another Steve Davidson out there submitting scroll titles.  There are quite a few of us.  With there being so many, it’s not outside the realm of probably that there is another fan reader of File 770 who has taken it upon themselves to submit scroll titles in a cruel bid to rob me of my fame and success.

With some trepidation, I emailed Mike and queried him.  Was today’s scroll title submitted by me, Steve Davidson or by a Steve Davidson who was some other, ersatz Steve Davidson?

“No ersatz” came the reply.

I chose to take this to mean that I was in fact the Steve Davidson of the title credit.

Joy, joy, oh happy joy!

Of course, like any successful author who had just discovered an editor who liked his work, I quickly inundated Mike with numerous additional submissions, many of which, the vast majority of which, have been accepted for publication.

Which is how I can now claim to be able to help you, would be author struggling in rejection slipless hell, to achieve Pixel Scroll Title success.

The algorithm will only cost you fifty bucks.

On the other hand, by studying the following list of my successfully published Pixel Scroll Titles you can probably develop your own algorithm. It may just take you a little longer to achieve the same kind of success I’ve enjoyed for the past couple of years now, but you will save fifty bucks.  Good luck!

Steve Davidson’s Pixel Scroll Title Annotated Bibliography:

  • 5/6/18 If Pixels Were Zombies, They’d Want To Eat Your Scrolls
    (inspired by zombies eating brains all the time)
  • 3/25/18 The Unscrollable Molly Pixel
    (inspired by the film The Incredible Molly Brown)
  • 1/28/18 I Say We Take Off And Pixel The Entire Scroll From Orbit – It’s The Only Way To Be Sure
    (Inspired by the movie “Aliens”)
  • 1/24/18 You Can Get Anything You Want At Filer’s Pixel Rant
    (Inspired by Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant song and film)
  • 1/21/18 Right Here In File City, Trouble With A Capital T, That Rhymes With P, And Stands For Pixel
    (Inspired by the film The Music Man)
  • 11/28/17 Peering Into The Scrolloscope, I Perceived The Pixels of Mars
    (Inspired by H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds and Edison’s Conquest of Mars by Garrett P Serviss)
  • 10/25/17 Blue, Blue Pixels Behind The Stars, Yellow Scroll On The Rise
    (Inspired by Neil Young’s “Helpless”)
  • 9/27/17 How Do You Get Down Off A Pixel? You Don’t, You Get Down Off A Scroll
    (Inspired by an old joke)
  • 9/4/17 Little Miss Muffet Sat On A Pixel. Along  Came A Scroll.
    (Inspired by Andrew Dice Clay’s fractured nursery rhymes)
  • 8/15/17 She Said She’d Always Been A Filer, She Worked At Fifteen Blogs A Day
    (Inspired by the Beatles “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window”)
  • 6/12/17 Avoid The Green Pixels, They’re Not Ripe Yet
    (Inspired by the film A Fish Called Wanda)
  • 3/6/17 Holy Pixels, Scrollman!
    (Inspired by the 60’s television show Batman)
  • 2/5/17 It Is Dangerous To Be Pixeled In Matters On Which The Established Scrolls Are Wrong
    (Inspired by my favorite quote from Voltaire)
  • 1/4/17 Four Scrolls And Seven Pixels Ago
    (Inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address)
  • 12/17/16 Side Effects Include Pixels, Pixellation, Scrolls, Curled Edges And, In Extreme Cases, Death. Ask Your Medical Provider.
    (Inspired by every freaking subscription commercial on TV)
  • 10/24/16 I’m Free. I’m Free, And Waiting For Scroll To Pixel Me
    (Don’t remember where this one came from.  Must have been a slow day at the File)
  • 10/18/16 Talkin ‘Bout My Pixelation
    (Inspired by The Who’s “My Generation”)
  • 7/9/16 Snort, Harlequin, Said the Ear, Nose, Throat Man
    (Inspired by the Harlan Ellison story of the same title)
  • 6/5/16 Scroll Sung Blue, Everybody Knows One
    (Inspired by Neil Diamon’s “Song Sung Blue”)
  • 5/23/16 Ralph 124C41Pixel
    (Inspired by Hugo Gernsback’s terrible SF novel Ralph 124C41+)
  • 4/23/16 A Scrolling Class Hero Is Something To Be
    (Inspired by Marianne Faithful’s cover of the John Lennon song “Working Class Hero”)
  • 4/6/2016 I Saw A Scroll Drinking A Pina Colada At Trader Vic’s, His Pixel Was Perfect
    (Inspired by Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London”)
  • 3/30/16 I Was Thinkin ‘Bout A Pixel That Might Have Scrolled Me, And I Never Knew
    (Inspired by The Eagles’ “Take it to the Limit”)
  • 3/15/16 At The Age of 37, She Realized She’d Never Scroll Through Paris With The Warm Pixels In Her Hair
    (Inspired by Marianne Faithful’s “The Ballad of Lucy Jordon”)
  • 3/8/16 I Want To Tell You About Texas Pixel And The Big Scroll
    (Inspired by The Doors’ “The Wasp”)
  • 2/28/16 Little Old Lady Got Mutilated Late Last Night, Pixels Of London, Again
    (Inspired by Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” – my first sequel!)
  • 2/24/16 Happy Jack Wasn’t Tall But He Was A Scroll
    (Inspired by The Who’s “Happy Jack”)
  • 2/15/16 Cause Pixels Like Us, Baby We Were Born To Scroll
    (Inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run”)
  • 2/14/16 Imagine All The Pixels, Living In A World That’s Scrolled
    (Inspired by John Lennon’s “Imagine”)
  • 2/13/16 He Feels The Pixels Scraping, Scrolls Breaking On His Brow
    (Inspired by Jethro Tulls’ “Locomotive Breath”)

Pixel Scroll 4/23/18 It Was Me Who Ate All The Cupcakes In The File770 Office IN SELF DEFENCE!

(1) 100 LOVED BOOKS. PBS series The Great American Read premieres May 22. One hundred books, one winner:

THE GREAT AMERICAN READ is an eight-part series that explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey).  It investigates how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience.

(2) AMAZING OPENS SUBMISSIONS WINDOW. Steve Davidson announced “General Submissions for Amazing Stories Opens Today”. See detailed guidelines at the link. Davidson had more to say on Facebook:

(3) COMPTON CROOK AWARD. Nicky Drayden announced on April 19 that her book Prey of Gods won the 2018 Compton Crook Award. [Via Locus Online.]

(4) RINGO’S WORLD. John Ringo’s April 16 Facebook post about his withdrawal as ConCarolinas special guest continues gathering moss, now with over 900 likes. Today Ringo showed everyone what they’ll be missing with a new comment that explains to his sycophants why ConCarolina’s Guest of Honor can’t compete with him.

No. Because nobody but people who pay close attention to the industry and awards has ever heard of her.

Her Amazon rankings are pretty low. Her bookscan ratings are low. That indicates she’s not particularly popular just heavily promoted and ‘popular’ with the ‘right crowd’. (Which is a very small crowd.)

James Patterson is a big name. JK Rowling is a big name. Hell, China Meville is a big name.

Seanan McGuire is not ‘a big name’.

I have no clue where we stand representationally in sales comparison to me but I suspect I sell more books. Just a suspicion, though, and it probably depends on the series.

Honestly, I suspect A Deeper Blue sold more books than all of hers combined.

(5) ENCHANTED MUSEUM. Atlas Obscura reveals the “Hidden Elves at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science”.

Back in the 1970s, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science hired artist Kent Pendleton to paint the backdrops for many of the museum’s wildlife dioramas. Little did it know that Pendleton’s penchant for hiding tiny mythical creatures in these paintings would add a whole new dimension to the museum experience.

It all began with eight elves—or gnomes, or leprechauns, depending who you ask—hidden in Pendleton’s wildlife dioramas. An elf hiding in the lowland river. An elf riding a dinosaur along a cretaceous creekbed. Another elf sat on a rock in the Great Smoky Mountains. And others, hard to spot but definitely there, in various backdrops throughout the museum.

In 2018, Pendleton told the Denverite: “It was just kind of my own little private joke. The first one was so small that hardly anyone could see it, but it sort of escalated over time, I guess. Some of the museum volunteers picked up on it and it developed a life of its own.”

(6) THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE. Kevin Standlee is running for office in his home town:

I’m Kevin Standlee, and I’m running for a seat on the Board of Directors of the North Lyon County Fire Protection District, which serves the city of Fernley, Nevada.

I grew up in a fire station. As the child of a US Forest Service officer, I lived a lot of my formative years on a series of fire outposts in the Sierra Nevada….

June 12 is Election Day.

(7) HISTORIC DUNES. ABC News tells about “Visiting the desert where ‘Star Wars’ was filmed”.

There’s a reason the original “Star Wars” movie was filmed in the deserts of southern Tunisia. This stark, remote landscape looks like another planet.

One of Tunisia’s vast desert regions is even called Tataouine (ta-TWEEN), like Luke Skywalker’s home planet, Tattoine.

And the underground home where Luke Skywalker first appeared living with his uncle and aunt is a real hotel in the town of Matmata, one of various desert locations used in the movies.

Masoud Berachad owns the Hotel Sidi Driss. He says visitors have dropped off since Tunisia’s democratic revolution in 2011 and attacks on tourists in 2015.

Still, devoted “Star Wars” fans keep the hotel in business….

(8) CURSED CHILD IN NEW YORK. David Rooney goes into great detail – perhaps too much – in his “‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’: Theater Review” for The Hollywood Reporter. Here’s a relatively spoiler-free excerpt:

…Pockets of racist outrage exploded online when it was first announced that a black actress had been cast as Hermione, which Rowling shot down in her no-nonsense style by pointing out that the character’s ethnicity was never mentioned in the books. In any case, only the most bigoted idiot could find fault with the brilliant Dumezweni’s performance, her haughtiness, quicksilver intellect and underlying warmth tracing a line way back to the precociously clever girl Harry first met on the train all those years ago.

Thornley’s Ron, too, is readily identifiable as the perennial joker of the trio. He’s acquired substance and a charming mellowness over the years, though a glimpse of him in a time-warped present tells a heartbreakingly different story. Miller takes the early indicators of Ginny’s strength and builds on them, shaping a smart, grounded woman capable of handling Harry’s complicated baggage. And Price’s Draco is still peevish and moody, his bitterness exploding in an entertaining clash of wands with Harry, but he’s found a softer side in maturity as well.

At the center of it all is Parker’s Harry, grown up and more confident but still pensive and troubled as ever, plagued by memories of the orphaned boy who slept under the stairs at his aunt and uncle’s home, and the reluctant hero he was forced to become. It’s a finely nuanced performance, with gravitas and heart, particularly as he wrestles with and eventually overcomes his struggles as a parent. Even with the sweet sentimentality of the closing scenes, what lingers most about Parker’s characterization is the stoical knowledge he carries with him that every moment of happiness contains the promise of more pain to come.

Of equal importance in the story are Albus and Scorpius, and while Clemmett is affecting in the more tortured role, at war with himself as much as his father, the discovery here is Boyle. His comic timing, nervous mannerisms and endearing awkwardness even in moments of triumph make him a quintessential Rowling character and a winning new addition. “My geekness is a-quivering,” he chirps at one point, probably echoing how half the audience is feeling. It’s stirring watching these two young outsiders conquer their self-doubt to find courage and fortitude….

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Daniel Dern doesn’t want Filers to miss xkcd’s cartoon “Misinterpretation.”
  • Lise Andreasen asks, “Things men weren’t meant to know?”

(10) GENESIS. In “How Stan Lee Became the Man Behind Marvel” Chris Yogerst of the LA Review of Books reviews Bob Batchelor’s biograpahy of the comics icon.

STAN LEE WAS FINISHED with comics. “We’re writing nonsense,” he once told his wife Joan. “It’s a stupid business for a grownup to be in.” After riding the early success of comic books, Lee was concerned about the future of the medium. He wanted to write more intelligent stories, something adults could connect to.

Following his wife’s advice, Lee decided to write one last story. With characters that were grounded in reality, stories that channeled Cold War tensions, and a narrative influenced by popular science fiction, Lee created the Fantastic Four. This was the type of story Lee would have wanted to read. If it was successful, maybe he would stick with comics a little longer.

Popular culture historian Bob Batchelor’s latest book turns a critical eye on the life of Lee, who ultimately became “the man behind Marvel.” Batchelor’s Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel focuses on where Lee came from, what influenced him, and how he became the immortal face of the comic book industry. In other words, to use the vernacular of the superhero genre, Batchelor gives us Lee’s origin story.

(11) AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #800.Here’s another variant cover for the upcoming milestone issue.

It’s all been building to this – the biggest Peter Parker and Norman Osborn story of all time, and the first Marvel comic EVER to hit 800 issues! In celebration of the 800th issue of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and the now historic run of Dan Slott, Marvel is excited to show a variant cover from legendary artist Frank Cho and colorist David Curiel!

Witness the culmination of the Red Goblin story as Slott is joined for his final issue by epic artists such as Stuart Immonen, Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Nick Bradshaw!

(12) SKYWATCH. Bill Gates among backers of proposed live-video-from-space satellite constellation called EarthNow:

EarthNow takes advantage of an upgraded version of the satellite platform, or “bus,” developed originally for the OneWeb communications service. Each satellite is equipped with an unprecedented amount of onboard processing power, including more CPU cores than all other commercial satellites combined. According to Greg Wyler, Founder and Executive Chairman of OneWeb, “We created the World’s first lowcost, high-performance satellites for mass-production to bridge the digital divide. These very same satellite features will enable EarthNow to help humanity understand and manage its impact on Earth.”

Use cases are said to include:

  • Catch illegal fishing ships in the act
  • Watch hurricanes and typhoons as they evolve
  • Detect forest fires the moment they start
  • Watch volcanoes the instant they start to erupt
  • Assist the media in telling stories from around the world
  • Track large whales as they migrate
  • Help “smart cities” become more efficient
  • Assess the health of crops on demand
  • Observe conflict zones and respond immediately when crises arise
  • Instantly create “living” 3D models of a town or city, even in remote locations
  • See your home as the astronauts see it—a stunning blue marble in space

(13) TODAY’S COPYEDITING TIP. From Cherie Priest:

(14) LOSING FACE. Motherboard says “This Is the Facial Recognition Tool at the Heart of a Class Action Suit Against Facebook”.

On Monday, a federal judge ruled that a class action lawsuit against Facebook can move forward, paving the way for what could turn out to be a costly legal battle for the company.

As Reuters reports, the lawsuit alleges that Facebook improperly collected and stored users’ biometric data. It was originally filed in 2015 by Facebook users in Illinois, which passed the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) in 2008. The law regulates the collection and storage of biometric data, and requires that a company receive an individual’s consent before it obtains their information.

According to the lawsuit, Facebook ran afoul of BIPA when it began using a tool called Tag Suggestions, which was originally rolled out in 2011. Like many Facebook features, it’s designed to make your user experience better while also providing the company with your data—in this case, very specific facial features.

(15) KNOT OF THIS WORLD. Gizmodo’s Kristen V. Brown advises “Forget the Double Helix—Scientists Discovered a New DNA Structure Inside Human Cells”.

The double helix, though, is not the only form in which DNA exists. For the first time ever, scientists have identified the existence of a new DNA structure that looks more like a twisted, four-stranded knot than the double helix we all know from high school biology.

The newly identified structure, detailed Monday in the journal Nature Chemistry, could play a crucial role in how DNA is expressed.

Some research had previously suggested the existence of DNA in this tangled form, dubbed an i-motif, but it had never before been detected in living cells outside of the test tube. Researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia, though, found that not only does the structure exist in living human cells, but it is even quite common.

(16) ROCKET MAN. In his book What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, author David Hofstede ranked William Shatner’s 1978 performance of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” at #17 on the list. Details from the Wikipedia —

At the 5th Saturn Awards Ceremony, which aired as the Science Fiction Film Awards in January 1978, Taupin introduced William Shatner’s spoken word[29] interpretation of the song. It used chroma key video techniques to simultaneously portray three different images of Shatner, representing the different facets of the Rocket Man’s character….

How can you not want to watch it after a build-up like that?

(17) MAKING A BIGGER BANG. Wil Wheaton has been having fun

Since last week, I’ve been working on the season finale of The Big Bang Theory, and today we shot Amy and Sheldon’s wedding.

It was an incredible day, and I am still in disbelief that I got to be in multiple scenes with Kathy Bates, Laurie Matcalf, Jerry O’Connell, Brian Posehn, Lauren Lapkus, Teller, Courtney Henggeler, and this guy, who is not only one of the kindest people I’ve ever worked with, but is also from a science fiction franchise, just like me!

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, JJ, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, Carl Slaughter, Lise Andreasen, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 4/21/18 If I Have Filed Further It Is Only By Scrolling On The Pixels Of Giants

(1) FIRST. Continuing the conversation about sff reviewing on his blog, Camestros Felapton offers this draft of “The Three Laws of Reviewbotics?”

…So here’s maybe a start for the hyper-critic oath (‘hyper’ because I’m overthinking this and ‘critic’ because ‘reviewer’ doesn’t work for the pun).

First, do no obvious harm. Don’t ever slander a writer. Avoid attacking them personally, even indirectly [that’s not always possible because writing is to varying degrees an extension of the self. In addition, some texts themselves are INTENDED to be harmful to others (I’ve reviewed many here over the years) BUT while we can all think of exceptions the norm should be to review texts, not people.] This does not mean treating all people the same – if you knew that somebody was currently in a vulnerable emotional state, then maybe reviewing their book isn’t a great idea. The flip side of that is you can’t reasonably tailor reviews around what a writer you don’t know might be feeling. And obviously don’t use slurs, stereotypes or language which we know to be harmful – such as overt racism, sexism etc. In an equitable society, some people are more vulnerable to others and if we KNOW that we have to be mindful of that while bearing in mind the points below as well.

(2) TO THE TUNE OF CORALINE. The opera based on Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is available on the BBC iPlayer for the next 29 days: “Mark-Anthony Turnage: Coraline”.

Kate Molleson presents the world premiere production of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Coraline – an operatic version of the dark fantasy tale by Neil Gaiman, directed by Aletta Collins with libretto by Rory Mullarkey. Soprano Mary Bevan sings the title-role with a cast including mezzo-soprano Kitty Whately and baritone Alexander Robin Baker who are making their Royal Opera debuts. Sian Edwards conducts the Britten Sinfonia.

During the interval, Kate is joined by guest Fiona Maddocks with contributions from Mark-Anthony Turnage and Mary Bevan.

Neil Gaiman has transformed the landscape of children’s literature with his highly inventive, atmospheric and otherworldly narratives. His prize-winning novella, Coraline is packed with astonishing imagery – a much-loved story about a girl who discovers a door in her parents’ house, leading to an entirely different place and family. For Mark-Anthony Turnage “the fundamental message beneath the story is that we shouldn’t be afraid to do what we believe is right. Coraline is brave, not because she doesn’t cry or get scared, but because despite these things she still tries her best and doesn’t give up. That’s why I wanted to write Coraline, because here’s a message well worth telling; through opera or in any other way.”

(3) FANTASTIC HOW MANY? A trailer advertising the Fantastic 4’s return to comics in August. But Carl Slaughter says, “Wait a minute.  Maybe I missed someone, but I saw only 3 members of the Fantastic 4 at the end of that teaser….” Actually, Carl, couldn’t that pillar of fire in the closing image be your missing fourth character?

(4) TRACK RECORD. A member of the Universal Fan Con committee – a con cancelled at the last minute — is alleged to have a problemactic past.

(5) SPOILER ALERT. Commentary on a recent Red Dwarf-themed word puzzle: “Inquisitor 1533: A Little Light Relief by Eclogue”.

There were enough clues that I could solve to get a firm foothold in the grid and start to see the message emerging.  It was the skeleton of the message that gave me the breakthrough.  I could see something like IT’S COLD OUTSIDE and THERE’S NO appearing and  those five words were enough to track down the theme to Red Dwarf, a cult television series which was still producing new episodes in late 2017

The theme tune can be found by by clicking here

The full message is IT’S COLD OUTSIDE THERE’S NO KIND OF ATMOSPHERE which are the opening lyrics to the show’s theme song.  The wording of the preamble was very precise when it stated ‘the correct letters from misprints in definitions provide the opening to the theme’.

I could see then that the unclued entries were going to be the characters from the show.  It was the one I didn’t really know that fell first – KOCHANSKI –  followed by HOLLY, LISTER, RIMMER, KRYTEN and CAT.  CAT came last because I nearly missed it.

(6) IT’S HUGE! In “Kickstarter Final Note”, Steve Davidson shares a bit of news about Amazing Stories’ next first print issue.

One thing of note:  we’ve gone way over our word count for the first issue and none of us have the heart to deny any of our authors and artists the opportunity to be in Amazing first new issue since 2005 (and not even that’s technically correct – we’ve published four issues since 2012 in point of fact), so, rather than disappointing a handful of authors and artists, we’ve chosen the high road and are biting the bullet on an extended page count – rather than our originally planned 192 pages, it looks like we’re going for 248…

Yes, it’s going to blow our budget out a little bit, but, well, we really want this first issue to be SPECTACULAR, AWESOME and REALLY GREAT!  And it’s going to be.  (Really Great Science Fiction magazine was rejected as a title….)

(7) HOW HARD CAN IT BE? Tough SF by “Matter Beam” says this is its mission:

… One genre defined by the struggle to create living settings in science fiction is Hard SF. ‘An emphasis on scientific or technical detail’ is a sure-fire way to create a realistic and functional universe, but often the need to adhere to realism slows creativity, stresses the narration, leads to improbable results or otherwise has negative effects. One of the biggest complaints is that it just isn’t ‘fun’….

…This blog therefore try to help authors, world-builders and game designers to create Tough Science Fiction. This is science fiction that is as resistant as Hard Science Fiction to criticism, review and general prodding and poking by the audience, but does not sacrifice the author’s vision or core concepts to pure, dry realism…

Here are a couple of illustrative posts:

Space Piracy is a common science fiction trope. It has been continuously derided in Hard Science Fiction as silly and a holdover of the ‘Space is an Ocean’ analogy.

But is it really that unrealistic to have space pirates? Let’s find out.

There’s more to piracy than just attacking a target and running away afterwards.

Put yourself in the shoes of a pirate, a merchant or the authorities. What would you do?

(8) BUNCH OF LUNCH. Why aren’t there more big mammals? We ate them.  “New Study Says Ancient Humans Hunted Big Mammals To Extinction”.

Over the past 125,000 years, the average size of mammals on the Earth has shrunk. And humans are to blame.

That’s the conclusion of a new study of the fossil record by paleo-biologist Felisa Smith of the University of New Mexico.

Smith studied fossils going back 65 million years, when dinosaurs died and mammals came into their own. Many of the early mammals went on to get big. Among the giant creatures: “Llamas and camels and sloths and five species of pronghorn [antelope] actually,” she says, “and certainly mammoths. And then lots of really cool predators, like Arctodus, the short faced bear.” The short-faced bear stood 11 feet tall, about the shoulder height of some species of ancient camel.

And that was just North America.

Being big was just as successful as being small, and had some advantages when it came to surviving big predators. “Taken as a whole, over 65 million years, being large did not increase mammals’ extinction risk. But it did when humans were involved,” Smith found.

Looking back over the most recent 125,000 years of the fossil record, Smith found that when humans arrived someplace, the rate of extinction for big mammals rose. She says it basically came down to hunger. “Certainly humans exploit large game,” she says, “probably because they are tasty”—and because a bigger animal makes for a bigger meal. …

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 21, 1997 — Ashes of Gene Roddenberry journeyed into space.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian shared this link with pun lovers in mind — Off the Mark.

(11) BRADBURY MUSEUM UPDATE. A proponent told the Chicago Tribune “Ray Bradbury Experience Museum planning start in smaller space, eventual move to old Carnegie Library”.

The multi-million dollar dream of renovating and redeveloping the childhood library of Ray Bradbury for a museum dedicated to the Waukegan author is still alive more than two years after a campaign was launched to make it happen.

But a team of Bradbury devotees, civic boosters and creative minds has decided it isn’t going to wait for that overall package to take shape at the historic but dormant Carnegie Library on Sheridan Road.

Instead, early next month, plans will be unveiled for a more modest Ray Bradbury Experience Museum (RBEM) with a goal of opening in a Genesee Street storefront in time for the 100th anniversary of the late author’s birthday in August 2020….

(12) WOTF. Kyle Aisteach posted a memoir about “My Writers of the Future Experience” in the 1990s. Aisteach was a paid add-on student of the workshop, not a contest finalist.

… The workshop itself was much like what others have described: A whirlwind of big names coming in to talk to us, intensely trying to churn out a complete short story in just a few days, a lot of theory, and a lot of making friends. I learned a tremendous amount, much of which I carry with me and still use to this day. The workshop was wonderful.

But the question everyone wants to ask is this: What about the Scientology?

Well, it was definitely there. The impression I had at the time was that L. Ron Hubbard founded Scientology and therefore Scientology loves L. Ron Hubbard and everything he was associated with, and therefore the Church of Scientology wanted to support us in any way it could. David Miscavige was there to welcome us all. L. Ron Hubbard’s name was not just mentioned frequently, it was extolled. We were clearly and obviously using Scientology property for both the workshop and the gala. I, personally, found it a little uncomfortable at times, but I’m always uncomfortable in someone else’s sacred space, so there was nothing weird about that to me. A couple of the texts we used were clearly Scientologist documents (the biography of Hubbard had him transcending instead of dying, and another essay – I don’t recall exactly what it was about – Budrys explained was written for Scientologists and he explained what terms like “clear” meant so we could follow it), but that didn’t faze me either, since texts that inform writing can come from anywhere and most of us pull from our own traditions when teaching.

Before anyone has a meltdown about any of this, remember that this was the 1990s. Scientology had some legal troubles as a young religion, but at this point the general feeling was that it had left them behind….

And former Writers of the Future winner J. W. Alden has written another thread – start here.

(13) BEWARE EVENTBRITE. Slashdot warns “Eventbrite Claims The Right To Film Your Events — And Keep the Copyright”.

But in addition, you’re also granting them permission to record and use footage of all your attendees and speakers, “in any manner, in any medium or context now known or hereafter developed, without further authorization from, or compensation to.” And after that Eventbrite “will own all rights of every nature whatsoever in and to all films and photographs taken and recordings made hereunder, including without limitation of all copyrights therein and renewals and extensions thereof, and the exclusive right to use and exploit the Recordings in any manner, in any medium or context now known or hereafter developed…”

(14) PERSISTENCE. At NPR, Genevieve Valentine analyzes Joanna Russ’ nonfiction classic: “‘How To Suppress Women’s Writing:’ 3 Decades Old And Still Sadly Relevant”:

…It’s hard not to get freshly angry at the status quo, reading this. But amid the statistics and the sort of historical pull quotes you’ll want to read out loud to horrified friends, Russ is also defying a literary tradition that, she points out again and again, wants to forget that women write. In so doing, she deliberately creates a legacy of women writers who came before. Well, white women. Russ mentions a few writers of color in the essay proper, and includes more in her Afterword, but this is a very white family tree. (It’s one of the ways the book shows its age; another is the way any genderqueerness is reduced to sexual preferences, which amid so much far-seeing commentary feels quaintly second-wave.)

And despite how much there is to be angry about, How to Suppress Women’s Writing is shot through with hope. There’s the energy of a secret shared in “the rocking and cracking of the book as the inadequate form strains or even collapses.” And beneath every denial of agency, there’s the obvious truth: For hundreds of years, despite those odds against them, the “wrong” writers still manage to write. Likely it won’t be remembered long enough or taken seriously enough, but to read this book is to admire this buried tradition, and realize how much there is to be discovered — and how there’s no time like the present to look at the marginalized writers you might be missing. “Only on the margins does growth occur,” Russ promises, like the guide in a story telling you how to defeat the dragon. Get angry; then get a reading list.

(15) MOVERS AND SHAKERS. In California, they’re “Betting On Artificial Intelligence To Guide Earthquake Response”.

A startup company in California is using machine learning and artificial intelligence to advise fire departments about how to plan for earthquakes and respond to them.

The company, One Concern, hopes its algorithms can take a lot of the guesswork out of the planning process for disaster response by making accurate predictions about earthquake damage. It’s one of a handful of companies rolling out artificial intelligence and machine learning systems that could help predict and respond to floods, cyber-attacks and other large-scale disasters.

(16) HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUBBLE. Great photo: “It’s The Hubble Space Telescope’s Birthday. Enjoy Amazing Images Of The Lagoon Nebula”.

The Hubble “has offered a new view of the universe and has reached and surpassed all expectations for a remarkable 28 years,” the agencies said in a statement, adding that the telescope has “revolutionized almost every area of observational astronomy.”

Hubble was launched on April 24, 1990, aboard the space shuttle Discovery as a joint project between NASA and the ESA. Each year, the telescope is diverted from important scientific observational duties to take an image of the cosmos in intense detail.

This year’s featured image, the Lagoon Nebula, is a colossal stellar nursery, 55 light-years wide and 20 light-years tall, that is about 4,000 light-years away from Earth.

 

(17) END GAME. Looper tries to explain the ending of Ready Player One. Watch out for spoilers, I assume!

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, David Langford, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Peter J, Mark Hepworth, Jim Meadows, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Amazing Stories Kickstarter Funds Before the Fat Lady Sings

Steve Davidson was already in the process of letting everyone down easy. They weren’t going to hit the $30,000 goal, or anything like it. He wrote last night on the Amazing Stories blog:

When this post first goes live, there will be one hour and 54 minutes remaining on our Kickstarter campaign.

Right now, we’re $11,049.00 short of our goal.  Everyone says that “SF isn’t about predicting the future”, but I do feel pretty confident in stating that it doesn’t look like we’re going to fund.

Instead, what happened is that two people came in with 4 minutes left to go and donated $1,000 and $10,000 respectively.

So by the time Davidson’s Kickstarter actually ended he had received the money needed to bring the magazine back into print. Congratulations!

And instead of mourning, Davidson was celebrating in a new post — AMAZING STORIES IS COMING BACK AS A PRINT MAGAZINE!

If those individuals wish to be recognized publicly, I will be MORE than happy to designate them as the Patron Saints of Amazing Stories and stick their names on the masthead by way of a special thank you. (You all know who you are; please get in touch!)
It’s sure been a rollercoaster here.

Pixel Scroll 3/8/18 Stay Tuned For Pixels As They Break

(1) ELVES FOREVER. Olga Polomoshnova explores Elves’ immortality in “Who wants to live forever?” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

By their nature the Elves are bound to Arda, with their bodies being made of  “the stuff of Earth”. They live as long as the world endures….

What Men crave for and desire with all their hearts is, in fact, a burden. More accurately, this serial longevity becomes a burden with time. The Elves age very slowly, but during the course of their long lives they know death of wounds or grief, though not, like Men, of old age, and they fear death, too. Elvish ageing shows in their ever-growing weariness of the world. One of the best descriptions of this state was provided by the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, who experienced such longevity due to his possession of the One Ring. He compared his unnaturally long life with being “all thin, sort of stretched, […] like butter that has been scraped over too much bread” (Fellowship of the Ring, p. 42). So probably that is exactly how the Elves could feel many thousand years into their lives.

(2) HAMILL’S WALK OF FAME STAR DEDICATED. Star Wars icon Mark Hamill is now a star in the Hollywood firmament: “Mark Hamill Gets ‘Overwhelming’ Support From Harrison Ford & George Lucas at Walk of Fame Ceremony”.

On Thursday, some of the actor’s closest friends and colleagues came out to honor him as he was immortalized in Hollywood with the recognition befitting a cultural icon like himself.

Hamill got some sweet support from his former Star Wars co-star Harrison Ford, Star Wars creator George Lucas, recent Last Jedi co-star Kelly Marie Tran, as well as a pair of Storm Troopers and the iconic droid R2-D2. His wife of nearly 40 years, Marilou York, was also to celebrate the honor.

(3) CROWDFUNDING WILL REVIVE AMAZING. Steve Davidson has launched a Kickstarter to hasten “The Return of Amazing Stories Magazine!”

Amazing Stories is an institution. It is an icon of the field. Over the years it has represented both the best and the worst that this genre has to offer. It has inspired the careers of authors, artists, editors, academics, scientists and engineers. Its presence proved that there was a viable market for this kind of literature, a fact not lost on other publishers who quickly followed suit. By 1930 there were four magazines in the field, eventually many more. And the fans? They bought every single one of them.

Amazing Stories deserves to be an ongoing part of our community. It may be a bit worn around the edges, the spine may be cracked a little and it may shed bits of pulp here and there, but those are love scars. Amazing Stories is not just our progenitor, it is the embodiment of the heart and soul of the genre.

We love it. We love what it’s done for us, what it represents, what it created. How can we not, when we love Science Fiction?

We know you share that love. Please show that love. It’s time for Amazing Stories to live again.

On the first day Steve’s appeal brought in $5,079 of its $30,000 goal.

Here’s how the money will be used. (Experimenter Publishing is Steve’s company.)

Experimenter plans to publish its first new issue for a Fall 2018 release and will be distributing the magazine at Worldcon 76 in San Jose CA. Professional, SFWA qualifying rates of 6 cents per word will be paid and Experimenter intends to become a fully SFWA qualifying market within its first year of operation. Several stories by well known authors have already been contracted, as has cover art by a highly respected artist.

Following five years of growth and development as an online multi-author blog serving the interests of science fiction, fantasy and horror fans, the publication of well-regarded articles produced by over 175 contributors, read by over 40,000 registered members, and following the publication of three special editions, a comic book and a growing selection of anthologies, classic novels and facsimile reprints, Experimenter believes the time is right to launch the quarterly magazine.

(4) ABOUT THE BARKLEY PROPOSAL. What were signers of Chris Barkley’s YA Award name proposal told? One of them, Shawna McCarthy, wrote in a comment on Facebook:

I was a signatory and do not feel misrepresented to other than not knowing the name of the award had already been decided. It’s possible the sponsor thought I was more up on the state of WC business committee work than I was.

(5) COMIC-CON’S QUASI-MUSEUM. Kinsee Morlan, in “Don’t Call Comic-Con’s Balboa Park Digs A museum–At Least Not Yet” for Voice of San Diego, says that Comic-Con International is upholding its nonprofit status by building a museum in San Diego’s Balboa Park (which will replace the San Diego Hall of Champions) and is hiring British museum designer Adam Smith to create it.

Smith said specifics are still hazy, but a few things are starting to become clear. For starters, he’s not ready to dub the new space a museum just yet. He’s toying with calling it a center or something else that better communicates its mission of showcasing contemporary exhibits that focus on what’s happening now or in the future — think virtual reality demos or participatory immersive television experiences (yeah, that’s a thing).

Smith also obliterated the traditional curator-led exhibition model. Instead of experts organizing most of the shows, he said, super fans will be likely be generating exhibitions and events. That’s a move taken from Comic-Con’s convention playbook, where fan-generated panels have always been a big part of the offerings.

David Glanzer, Comic-Con’s director of communications who’s been with the nonprofit for decades, fielded some of my questions, too.

Civic leaders are perpetually terrified that Comic-Con will pack up its bag and head to Los Angeles or another city if San Diego doesn’t expand its Convention Center soon. Glanzer said folks should not assume that won’t happen now that Comic-Con’s new center is opening in Balboa Park. He said they’re two separate projects and the convention could still relocate in the future if its space problems start impacting the quality of the convention.

(6) LOVED THE BOOK, HATED THE FILM. LitHub list of “20 Literary Adaptations Disavowed by Their Original Authors” has plenty of sff:

  • Earthsea (2004) – Based on: Ursula K. Le Guin, Earthsea cycle (1968-2001)

Le Guin hated the Sci-Fi Channel’s adaptation of her books, and she had quite a lot to say on the subject, but the biggest problem was that the miniseries completely whitewashed the original text. Early on, she was consulted (somewhat) but when she raised objections, they told her that shooting had already begun. “I had been cut out of the process,” she wrote at Slate.

Also:

  • Mary Poppins (1964) – Based on: P. L. Travers’s Mary Poppins (1934)
  • Hellraiser: Revelations (2011) – Based on: Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart (1986)
  • A Wrinkle in Time (2003) – Based on: Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (1962)
  • Charlotte’s Web (1973) – Based on: E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web (1952)
  • Solaris (1972, 2002) – Based on: Stanis?aw Lem’s Solaris (1961)
  • The Last Man on Earth (1964) – Based on: Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (1954)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971) – Based on: Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange (1962)
  • The Shining (1980) – Based on: Stephen King’s The Shining (1977)
  • The NeverEnding Story (1984) – Based on: Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story (1979)
  • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) – Based on: Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964)

(7) LOPATA OBIT. Steve Lopata’s daughter announced that he passed away March 5, peacefully, at the hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas. Sammi Owens said:

…I deeply regret to inform you that his heart was failing and Worldcon 75 Helsinki was his last trip. He had heart surgery and despite valiant efforts he succumbed to his heart disease on March 5, 2018…. My mom Frances and I want the scifi community and all his friends to know how much he dearly loved you all. His all time favorite activities were working Ops for Worldcons and having an audience for his tales- umm, I mean true stories…. Peace be with you all and thank you for your friendship to our beloved man.

Patrick Maher was one of many fans who worked Ops with Steve with good words about him:

I didn’t know Steve very long, only since he walked into Shamrokon in 2014 and offered to help out. We didn’t know who he was but, as he said he had just come from Loncon III, we asked James Bacon who he was. James described him as Steve ‘Awesome Ops Guy’ Lopata. He sat in Ops all weekend and offered sage advice. When I took over Ops for Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, he was the first person I went to for advice.

Lopata also did volunteer work with big cats, as he explained in an article for Mimosa in 2001.

One of the first questions I am asked when I tell people about working with lions and tigers is, “How did you get involved?” There are two answers. First the short, “I like kitties;” and the longer one, “I was at a convention and saw this guy walking a tiger on a leash. I asked if I could pet the tiger and about half an hour later, I was a volunteer at the breeding park.”

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock calls this too bad not to share: Arlo and Janis.
  • And here’s an International Women’s Day item from Bizarro.

(9) INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY. Headstuff’s Aoife Martin celebrated the day by analyzing “Author Pseudonyms” used by women. A couple of instances came from sff —

Closer to modern times we have the case of Alice Bradley Sheldon who wrote science fiction under the pen name of James Tiptree Jr. In an interview she said that she chose a male name because it “seemed like good camouflage. I had the feeling that a man would slip by less observed. I’ve had too many experiences in my life of being the first woman in some damn occupation.” It’s interesting that Sheldon should have felt the need to do this but she was a successful science fiction writer – so much so that she won several awards including a Hugo for her 1974 novella, The Girl Who Was Plugged In and several Nebula awards. Her secret wasn’t discovered until 1976 when she was 61. Throughout her career she was referred to as an unusually macho male and as an unusually feminist writer (for a male). Indeed, fellow writer Robert Silverberg once argued that Tiptree could not possibly be a woman while Harlan Ellison, when introducing Tiptree’s story for his anthology Again, Dangerous Visions wrote that “[Kate] Wilhelm is the woman to beat this year, but Tiptree is the man.” Suitably, the James Tiptree Jr. Award is given annually in her honour to works of science fiction and fantasy that expand or explore one’s understanding of gender.

(10) A NEW KIND OF BARBIE. The Huffington Post reports Mattel is honoring a few living legends this International Women’s Day: “Frida Kahlo And Other Historic Women Are Being Made Into Barbies”. Genre-related figures include Katherine Johnson and Patty Jenkins.

Kids around the world will soon be able to own a Barbie doll bearing the likeness of Frida Kahlo, Amelia Earhart or Katherine Johnson.

All three women made herstory in different industries: Earhart was the first female aviator to fly across the Atlantic Ocean; Mexican artist Kahlo was known for her unique painting style and feminist activism; and Johnson, who was highlighted in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures,” broke boundaries for black women in mathematics and calculated dozens of trajectories for NASA, including the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the moon.

The dolls, which are part of Mattel’s new series called “Inspiring Women,” will be
mass produced and sold in stores….

(11) ANOTHER STAR WARS SERIES. A well-known name in superhero movies will be responsible for a Star Wars series to appear on Disney’s new streaming platform: “Jon Favreau hired for ‘Star Wars’ series: Why fans have mixed feelings”.

The director whose film launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe is coming to a galaxy far, far away. Jon Favreau, the filmmaker behind Iron Man, Elf, and Disney’s live-action Jungle Book and Lion King, will write and executive-produce a live-action Star Wars series for Disney’s new streaming platform. Lucasfilm announced today that Favreau, who is also an actor with roles in the Clone Wars animated series and the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story,  will helm the new show. While Favreau has a strong fanbase (going all the way back to his 1996 debut film Swingers), many on social media are wondering why Lucasfilm has hired yet another white man to steer the diverse Star Wars universe — and announced it on International Women’s Day, no less.

(12) STORYBUNDLE. Cat Rambo curated The Feminist Futures Bundle, which will be available for the next three weeks.

In time for Women’s History Month, here’s a celebration of some of the best science fiction being written by women today. This bundle gathers a wide range of outlooks and possibilities, including an anthology that gives you a smorgasbord of other authors you may enjoy.

I used to work in the tech industry, and there I saw how diversity could enhance a team and expand its skillset. Women understand that marketing to women is something other than coming up with a lady-version of a potato chip designed not to crunch or a pink pen sized for our dainty hands. Diversity means more perspectives, and this applies to science fiction as well. I am more pleased with this bundle than any I’ve curated so far.

In her feminist literary theory classic How to Suppress Women’s Writing, science fiction author Joanna Russ talked about the forces working against the works of women (and minority) writers. A counter to that is making a point of reading and celebrating such work, and for me this bundle is part of that personal effort, introducing you to some of my favorites. – Cat Rambo

The initial titles in the Feminist Futures Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:

  • Happy Snak by Nicole Kimberling
  • Alanya to Alanya by L. Timmel Duchamp
  • Code of Conduct by Kristine Smith
  • The Birthday Problem by Caren Gussoff

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular titles, plus SIX more!

  • Starfarers Quartet Omnibus – Books 1-4 by Vonda N. McIntyre
  • The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein
  • Spots the Space Marine by M.C.A. Hogarth
  • The Terrorists of Irustan by Louise Marley
  • Queen & Commander by Janine A. Southard
  • To Shape the Dark by Athena Andreadis

(13) FAIL HYDRA. Cory Doctorow updated BoingBoing readers about a publisher accused of questionable practices: “Random House responds to SFWA on its Hydra ebook imprint”

Allison R. Dobson, Digital Publishing Director of Random House, has written an open letter to the Science Fiction Writers of America responding to the warning it published about Hydra, a new imprint with a no-advance, author-pays-expenses contract that SFWA (and I) characterize as being totally unacceptable. Dobson’s letter doesn’t do much to change my view on that:

(14) BEARING WITNESS. Lavie Tidhar has tweeted a noir Pooh adventure. Jump on the thread here:

(15) ANDROIDS AT 50. Here’s a clipping from Nature: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Ananyo Bhattacharya toasts Philip K. Dick’s prescient science-fiction classic as it turns 50.” [PDF file.]

When science-fiction writer Peter Watts first opened Philip K. Dick’s 1968 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a word caught his eye. It was “friendlily”. How had Dick got that past an editor? As Watts told me: “I knew at that point that Dick had to be some kind of sick genius.”

(16) CURRENT EVENTS. This sounds like a job for Doctor Who: “A Political Dispute Puts A Wrinkle In Time, Slowing Millions Of European Clocks”.

For the past few weeks, something strange has been happening in Europe. Instead of time marching relentlessly forward, it has been slowing down imperceptibly, yet with cumulatively noticeable results, so that millions of clocks the Continent-over are now running behind.

The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity released a statement Tuesday saying that since mid-January, Europe’s standard electrical frequency of 50 hertz has fallen ever so slightly to 49.996 hertz.

For electric clocks that rely on the frequency of the power system — typically radio, oven and heating-panel clocks — the cumulative effect was “close to six minutes,” according to the agency.

(17) TAINT FUNNY MCGEE. The BBC says “Amazon promises fix for creepy Alexa laugh”.

Amazon’s Alexa has been letting out an unprompted, creepy cackle – startling users of the best-selling voice assistant.

The laugh, described by some as “witch like” was reported to sometimes happen without the device being “woken” up.

Others reported the laugh occurring when they asked Alexa to perform a different task, such as playing music.

“We’re aware of this and working to fix it,” Amazon said.

(18) CUBE ROUTER. Meanwhile, at MIT, they’re wasting their time saving time: “Rubik’s robot solves puzzle in 0.38 seconds”.

Ben Katz, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, collaborated with Jared Di Carlo to create the robot.

“We noticed that all of the fast Rubik’s Cube solvers were using stepper motors and thought that we could do better if we used better motors,” said Mr Di Carlo in a blog post.

Mr Katz said in his blog the 0.38 seconds included “image capture and computation time, as well as actually moving the cube”.

Their contraption used two PlayStation Eye cameras from the old PS3 console to identify the configuration of the cube.

However, mistakes often resulted in a cube being destroyed.

(19) DARK MATTER. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination released a video of a recent guest presentation: “Sir Roger Penrose: New Cosmological View of Dark Matter, which Strangely and Slowly Decays”.

Sir Roger Penrose joined the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination on January 19, 2018, to give a talk on his latest research and provide an insight into the thinking of a modern day theoretical physicist. Is the Universe destined to collapse, ending in a big crunch or to expand indefinitely until it homogenizes in a heat death? Roger explains a third alternative, the cosmological conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC) scheme—where the Universe evolves through eons, each ending in the decay of mass and beginning again with new Big Bang. The equations governing the crossover from each aeon to the next demand the creation of a dominant new scalar material, postulated to be dark matter. In order that this material does not build up from aeon to aeon, it is taken to decay away completely over the history of each aeon. The dark matter particles (erebons) may be expected to behave almost as classical particles, though with bosonic properties; they would probably be of about a Planck mass, and interacting only gravitationally. Their decay would produce gravitational signals, and be responsible for the approximately scale invariant temperature fluctuations in the CMB of the succeeding aeon. In our own aeon, erebon decay might well show up in signals discernable by gravitational wave detectors.

 

(20) HANDY HINTS. And in case you ever have this problem: “Here’s How You Could Survive Being Sucked Into a Black Hole”. The article is honestly kind of useless, but I love the clickbait title.

OK, so maybe you aren’t going to get sucked into a black hole tomorrow. Or ever. Maybe even trying to imagine being in such a situation feels like writing yourself into a Doctor Who episode. But, for mathematicians, physicists, and other scientists attempting to understand cosmic strangeness in practical terms, these thought experiments are actually very useful. And they may be more practical in and of themselves than we’d realized.

At least, that’s what a team of researchers led by Peter Hintz at the University of California, Berkeley found through their study of black holes, recently published in the journal Physical Review Letters

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

Pixel Scroll 2/22/18 Scroll Up For The Pixelly Tour!

(1) IT COULD BE A REAL PLACE. Nadia Maddy hopes people will look beyond their headspace for the answer to “Where Is Your Wakanda?”

Where is your Wakanda? Wakanda is real but have you found it? Is it really in East Africa or is it in Central Africa? Perhaps its in Nigeria? What do you think?

 

(2) LE GUIN WINS A PEN AWARD. PEN America held its 2018 Literary Awards ceremony on February 20 at New York University reports Publishers Weekly “Long Soldier, Zhang, Le Guin Win At 2018 PEN Literary Awards”.

[Ursula K.] Le Guin won the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay for No Time to Spare. The author’s son, Theo [accepted the] award on behalf of the late Ursula K. Le Guin.

(3) A SINGAPORE FIRST – AND SECOND. The Straits Times interviews “Two Singaporeans on Nebula awards shortlist”, J.Y. Yang and Vina Jie-Min Prasad.

Yang, a science communications officer, recalls: “When I was growing up, I would print out a list of the works that had won the Hugo and Nebula and try to make my way through them. I would never have imagined that one day I would be a finalist. I’m so proud to be one of the Singaporeans on the list, it’s just fantastic.”

Prasad, 27, a full-time writer, started submitting to science-fiction magazines only last year, but has already been shortlisted twice. “I’m overwhelmed and really honoured,” she says.

She is up for Best Novelette for A Series Of Steaks, about two women in Nanjing who forge quality beef – inspired by the real-life counterfeit food industry – and Best Short Story for Fandom For Robots, in which a sentient robot discovers Japanese anime and starts writing fan fiction.

(4) AT YOUR SERVICE. For anyone who wants paper Hugo and Retro-Hugo ballots, there’s now a way to print them.

Worldcon 76 has published PDFs of the paper nominating ballots for the 2018 Hugo Awards/Award for Best Young Adult Book/John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and for the 1943 Retrospective Hugo Awards.

(5) NOMMO NOMINATIONS OPEN. Members of the African Speculative Fiction Society (ASFS) have until March 31 to nominate works for the 2018 Nommo Awards. The awards will be presented at the Ake Arts and Book Festival in November 2018.

(6) BUZZWORDKILL. In The Atlantic, Bruce Sterling commands people to “Stop Saying ‘Smart Cities'” – “Digital stardust won’t magically make future cities more affordable or resilient.”

The term “smart city” is interesting yet not important, because nobody defines it. “Smart” is a snazzy political label used by a modern alliance of leftist urbanites and tech industrialists. To deem yourself “smart” is to make the NIMBYites and market-force people look stupid.

Smart-city devotees all over this world will agree that London is particularly smart. Why? London is a huge, ungainly beast whose cartwheeling urban life is in cranky, irrational disarray. London is a god-awful urban mess, but London does have some of the best international smart-city conferences.

London also has a large urban-management bureaucracy who emit the proper smart-city buzzwords and have even invented some themselves.  The language of Smart City is always Global Business English, no matter what town you’re in.

(7) IN TRAINING. Lightspeed Magazine interviews Carmen Maria Machado about her learning experiences.

I know that you also went to the Clarion science fiction writers workshop. I wonder if you could contrast Iowa and Clarion a little bit?

Clarion is not an MFA program. Clarion is a six-week, insane, exhausting boot camp. It’s a totally different process. The MFA program is more moderate, in the sense that it’s happening over the course of several years. I don’t know really how to compare them. The workshop style is really different. Genre places tend to use the system where everybody goes around in a circle and says their piece and then is silent.

The Milford system?

Oh yeah, the Milford. Which, actually, I do not like that workshop system, but that is the way it’s done at Clarion. It was done that way when I went to Sycamore Hill. That’s just the sort of tradition. Whereas, in my MFA program, it was more of a style of people talking and responding to each other in real time, which I prefer. It’s hard to compare Clarion and Iowa. They’re just inherently really different in terms of what you’re getting out of them. What I got out of Iowa was two years of funded time to work on my own shit, which was amazing and really wonderful. What I got out of Clarion was this really bombastic, high-intensity, octane-fueled, genre extravaganza where I barely slept. I was writing a lot of stuff, some of which was really terrible, and some of which was pretty good, and workshopping non-stop and barely sleeping. They’re really different programs.

(8) IF YOU CAN SAY SOMETHING NICE. Marshall Ryan Maresca helps sff readers pay attention to some people who are doing it the right way in “On My Mind: Building Community”.

So, this past weekend I was at Boskone, and it was a wonderful time, as I was reminded what an amazing community we have in SF/Fantasy Literature.  There are some amazing people in this business, who are filled with wisdom and warmth and kindness.   I had the great fortune of sharing the signing table with Mary Robinette Kowal, who all of these attributes in abundance.  We, as a community, are blessed to have her in it.

Sadly, this past week, I’ve also been reminded that we have a way to go, and there are some people who thrive in being terrible, and making things unpleasant for those around them.  And that behavior, sadly, gets them notoriety.  They get talked about, which serves their ends.  I won’t give them the time of day.

Because the people who are wonderful, who do great work and are good people– they’re the ones who deserve notoriety.  They’re the ones who should get notice and have their names mentioned over and over.  So here is a large list of great people who deserve your attention…..

Names follow.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian says Brevity found a way to make a joke at the expense of two actors who’ve played Captain Kirk.

(10) STORY AMPLIFIED. Yesterday’s Scroll linked to the latest release in Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination’s Future Tense Fiction series, “Mother of Invention” by Nnedi Okorafor. Joey Eschrich notes that it was published along with a response essay by Internet of Things expert Stacey Higginbotham, focusing on the smart home technology in the story.

(11) SHORT FICTION DISCOVERIES. The prolific Charles Payseur has launched a column at Book Smugglers X Marks The Story. The first installment leads readers to such treasures as —

“A Snow, A Flood, A Fire” by Jamie Berrout (published in Strange Horizons, 01/2018 )

What It Is: Coming in a special issue of Strange Horizons featuring transgender and nonbinary authors, “A Snow, A Flood, A Fire” stars Lupita, a trans woman stuck in an awful job as a security guard at a museum, hoping that she can work her way out of mistakes she made when she was younger and her world was imploding. The changing nature of employment, learning algorithms, employer greed and entitlement, and the dream of economic mobility all collide in a plot that kept the reading experience for me fast and tight and devastating. (And for fans of this story, I also recommend checking out “Dream Job” in January’s Terraform SF, which also explores themes of employment and the traps of late capitalism).

Why I Love It: Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, but stories exploring the future of employment and capitalism seem to be on the rise. For me, it’s a constant reminder of the realities of growing up and entering the workforce in a time where so many things that previous generations take for granted are in shambles or completely gone. Retirement contributions, healthcare, vacation, sick leave, debt forgiveness—the present isn’t exactly a cheery place for many hoping to live and maybe reach for that dream of comfort, security, and autonomy. …

[Via Earl Grey Editing Services.]

(12) BIGGER, BETTER, FASTER, MORE! At Featured Futures, Jason has posted an “Expanded Collated Contents of the Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, Links)” which begins its additional coverage with Ellen Datlow’s freshly announced The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Ten.

By request, this is an expanded edition of Collated Contents of the Big Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, with Links!). That post collates and links to the stories selected by Clarke, Dozois, Horton, and Strahan. This will add Afsharirad, Best American SF&F, Datlow, and Guran.

(13) SIGNAGE. Culver City, CA’s Ripped Bodice Bookstore gives fair warning:

(14) PASSING THE BUCKING BRONCO. Something else we know that ain’t so: “Why The Last ‘Wild’ Horses Really Aren’t”.

A Mongolian horse that has long been hailed as the last truly wild horse species in existence isn’t really all that wild.

It turns out that Przewalski’s horses are actually feral descendants of the first horses that humans are known to have domesticated, around 5,500 years ago.

What’s more, the modern horses that people ride today cannot be traced to those early steeds. That means humans must have tamed wild horses once again later on, somewhere else, but no one knows where or when.

(15) CAVE DWELLERS. If the pics remind you of a kindergarten project, remember your kids didn’t have to be the first people to ever have the idea: “Neanderthals were capable of making art”.

Contrary to the traditional view of them as brutes, it turns out that Neanderthals were artists.

A study in Science journal suggests they made cave drawings in Spain that pre-date the arrival of modern humans in Europe by 20,000 years.

They also appear to have used painted sea shells as jewellery.

Art was previously thought to be a behaviour unique to our species (Homo sapiens) and far beyond our evolutionary cousins.

The cave paintings include stencilled impressions of Neanderthal hands, geometric patterns and red circles.

(16) YOU CAN SEE WHERE THIS STORY IS LEADING. The people who built Stonehenge didn’t get to enjoy it for long: “Ancient Britons ‘replaced’ by newcomers”.

Prof Reich told BBC News: “Archaeologists ever since the Second World War have been very sceptical about proposals of large-scale movements of people in prehistory. But what the genetics are showing – with the clearest example now in Britain at Beaker times – is that these large-scale migrations occurred, even after the spread of agriculture.”

The genetic data, from hundreds of ancient British genomes, reveals that the Beakers were a distinct population from the Neolithic British. After their arrival on the island, Beaker genes appear to swamp those of the native farmers.

Prof Reich added: “The previous inhabitants had just put up the big stones at Stonehenge, which became a national place of pilgrimage as reflected by goods brought from the far corners of Britain.”

He added: “The sophisticated ancient peoples who built that monument and ones like it could not have known that within a short period of time their descendants would be gone and their lands overrun.”

(17) DON’T MISS THIS NON-GENRE LINK. The Hollywood Reporter interviewed the surviving cast and writers for “‘MAS*H’ Oral History: Untold Stories From One of TV’s Most Important Shows”.

(18) NO ARMY CAN STOP AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME. Adam-Troy Castro offered this subtle suggestion on Facebook:

Let’s run an International Science Fiction Asshole Convention.

People who want to go to conventions or to award ceremonies in order to be disruptive assholes — all while filling thousands of pages of blog posts with their fiendish snickering about the trouble they intend and how much it will bother everyone else — will finally have their annual event, where they can hand out awards to honor The Year’s Biggest Asshole, The Year’s Biggest Dickweed, the Year’s Most Appalling Runner-Up, as well as the Award for Best Newcomer (which at the Hugos are named after a luminary with J, W, and C as initials, and can be done here as well, albeit in different order).

Steve Davidson has volunteered to do the con’s Souvenir Book. In fact, he’s not even going to wait for the convention to be founded —

I’m soliciting articles for this, lol. Someone want to write a history of the (what was it, the ISFC?) from its founding to the present?

Anyone want to do short profiles of award winners from the past?

(19) JUST WAITING TO BE FOUND.  Annalee Newitz tells about the “8,000-year-old heads on spikes found in a remote Swedish lake” at Ars Technica. Warning – the article is full of grisly medical commentary.

In east-central Sweden, workers demolishing a railway that crossed the Motala Ström River discovered something bizarre. For roughly 7,500 years, a shallow, swampy lake in the area had hidden a pile of stones that contained the skeletal remains of at least 10 people and weapons made of stone and antler. They also found the bones of bears, deer, boar, and a badger. Two of the human skulls were mounted on pointed stakes.

Thousands of years ago, this semi-submerged burial ground must have been an imposing sight for the small settlements located nearby. A pile of rocks rose above the water, covered in weapons, wooden structures, and the grisly remains of fearsome animals—as well as the skulls of some carefully chosen people. Now dubbed “Kanaljorden,” the archaeological site has finally begun to yield some secrets about the people who created it. In a recent article for Antiquity, Stockholm University archaeologist Sara Gummesson and her colleagues explain what the evidence reveals about how this ritual site was used.

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

Amazing Stories Kickstarter Campaign Coming March 1

The Experimenter Publishing Company under Steve Davidson will open a Kickstarter appeal on March 1 to raise seed funding for the revival of Amazing Stories as a print magazine. The first issue is planned for August, to be available at Worldcon in San Jose; several unspecified well-known writers have already committed to contributing to it. The magazine will be published on a quarterly basis thereafter.

Hugo Gernsback published the premier issue of Amazing Stories back in April 1926. It was the world’s first science fiction magazine and Amazing went on to publish works by writers now recognized as giants in the field, such as Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, E. E. “Doc” Smith, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and others. For the last five years, Amazing has been a social website that has published primarily non-fiction articles, although it has also produced three issues of fiction, as well as reprints of classic issues.

The Kickstarter premiums will include: subscriptions, signed copies of books; editing of short stories; getting your image on the cover of the magazine; and more.