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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • A one-off 45 minute play called Speak.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You can’t really hide a pulsar.”

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

“I love that she gave away Mars.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update:  His son reports Stasheff died this evening.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born June 10, 1952 – Kage Baker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 5/25/18 The Prospect Of Incontinent Hobgoblins

(1) FANX FLOUNDERS ON. How long will FanX’s Bryan Brandenburg’s “indefinite leave” be?

FanX’s other leader, Dan Farr, now has added his own statement and apology.

I, Dan Farr, apologize fully for any instances in which a participant has felt unsafe. We do not condone these behaviors, from anyone.

It is not our role or responsibility to judge any individual nor to disparage or use inflammatory language about any participant in our conference. It is our role to do all within our power to keep our participants safe. Our conversation with the author resulted in a mutual agreement that he will not be participating in our future events. With this agreement, we consider the matter resolved.

Additionally, my partner and cofounder, Bryan Brandenburg has made a personal and heartfelt apology for his remarks on social media that were insensitive about our attendees’ sexual harassment concerns.

However, continued postings in social media and the press have shown energy and anger to a level that Bryan has decided that his continued participation, for now, is a distraction from the goals we are striving to uphold.

Beginning immediately, Bryan Brandenburg is taking an executive leave that he hopes and believes will help to dispel the negative energy that is taking us away from our greater mission and goals. While he has not suggested a timeframe, this leave may not be permanent. We hope to see Bryan at our September event with his wife and new son.

As for Brandenburg stepping back from social media – well, he’s stepped back from where the public can see it, but he’s still busy posting – see the screencaps in this set of tweets.

Yesterday’s latest Salt Lake Tribune coverage quoted from one of the screencaps that showed Brandenburg justifying how FanX dealt with the Richard Evans harassment complaint:

The comments were later deleted, but not before screengrabs circulated on Twitter.

“We absolutely could not publicly ban [Evans],” Brandenburg wrote. “We had no proof. We would be sued for libel and defamation from Richard. Then it would get out that you would be banned and humiliated from FanX for kissing a guest on the cheek and touching her. We would be out of business. Nobody would care to read the details. We did not see it happen. It would be her word against his.”

Hale has questioned whether organizers attempted to talk to people who may have witnessed the interaction, and whether Brandenburg’s statement means that allegations won’t be looked into if they weren’t witnessed by FanX employees.

FanX’s new harassment policy promises that every report of harassment will be investigated.

Howard Tayler’s Twitter thread deconstructs the Brandenburg rationale, quoted in the Tribune. The thread starts here:

And includes these comments:

(2) OH, THE NONHUMANITY! Here’s an admirable idea for a listicle: “The 12 Most Gratuitous Robot Deaths in Sci-Fi” at Tor.com.

Sometimes it feels like robots only exist to be abused, you know? We love them and the window they provide on the human condition, but science fiction is usually pretty mean to them overall. It loves to torment robots (and when we say “robots” we’re really talking about any form of android or A.I. or sentient toaster or what-have-you) with the constant threat of obsolescence or deactivation or destruction. And some of these deaths are just plain gratuitous, leaving us betrayed, bewildered, and otherwise bereaved.

Here are the worst of them….

(3) MORE POOH. Here’s is Disney’s Christopher Robin Official Trailer. In theaters August 3.

In the heartwarming live action adventure Disney’s “Christopher Robin,” the young boy who shared countless adventures with his band of lovable stuffed animals in the Hundred Acre Wood is now grown up and living in London but he has lost his way. Now it is up to his childhood friends to venture into our world and help Christopher Robin rediscover the joys of family life, the value of friendship and to appreciate the simple pleasures in life once again.

 

(4) NEWSLETTER SIGNUP INCENTIVE. Get to know seven authors and fill a shelf with science fiction and fantasy — The SFF Grand Newsletter Giveaway is a chance to win a dozen signed books. The seven writers in this international group range from debut to established, and from near-future thrillers to high fantasy — Aliette de Bodard, SL Huang, Beth Cato, Kate Heartfield, Jim C. Hines, Kate Elliott, and JY Yang.

Between May 25 and June 25, readers can enter the giveaway once for each author, for up to seven entries. For each author, entrants will have the choice of subscribing to that author’s newsletter to enter (signing up for the newsletter is not required to be entered in the giveaway). Existing subscribers to an author’s newsletter can simply choose the giveaway-only option to receive an entry for that author.

The contest is open worldwide. One winner (chosen at random) will receive signed, physical copies of all the books:

  • The first three Tensorate novellas by JY Yang
  • The complete Court of Fives trilogy by Kate Elliott if the winner has a U.S. address, or a choice of one of the following by Kate Elliott if the winner has a non-U.S. address: Court of Fives, Cold Magic, Black Wolves, or Spirit Gate
  • Terminal Alliance by Jim C. Hines
  • Breath of Earth by Beth Cato
  • Zero Sum Game by SL Huang and The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist (novelette) by SL Huang
  • The Tea Master and the Detective and The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
  • Armed in Her Fashion and Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield

Everyone who uses this page to sign up for ANY of our newsletters before June 25 will be entered into the giveaway! You can enter once for each author, for up to 7 entries. From among ALL entries we’ll draw ONE lucky winner — who will receive SIGNED BOOKS from every one of us! A chance to win a dozen or more signed books — a whole shelf of new SFF!

(5) WRITER V. CHARACTER. Ian Sales, in “His master’s voice”, defends his criticism of a Clarke Award finalist.

So, a couple of days ago I tweeted a short quote from the book I was reading, one of this year’s Clarke Award finalists, and remarked that I was surprised to find the position expressed in the quote in a genre novel published in 2017. Most people who saw my tweet were as dismayed as I was – although, to be fair, they saw only my quote.

Which changes things. Apparently.

The book in question is Sea of Rust by C Robert Cargill, and the exact quote was “Gender is defined by genitalia”, which is spoken by the book’s narrator, Brittle, a robot, in a paragraph in which “she” admits that robots have no gender, it is not something “she” has ever thought about, but she henceforth chooses to define herself as female.

Two people I consider friends – very smart people both, and genre critics whose opinions I respect* – decided to insult my intelligence by questioning by understanding of how narrative works. Because the offending phrase – and it is offensive – was spoken by a character, they stated, that does not mean it reflects the author’s sensibilities. As another friend pointed out, I have myself written fiction featuring Nazis – and I have: ‘Wunderwaffe’ – but that obviously does not make me a Nazi. This is indeed true. Cargill has written a novel about robots, in which the first person narrator is a robot… but obviously he is not a robot himself. I never claimed this.

But the people arguing against my comment were themselves making the same assumption about me they were accusing myself of making against Cargill. Except, I think my position is backed up by the narrative.

…So yes, I do understand how narrative works. I also understand how writing works. And while I may not be as accomplished at writing as others… and I may place a higher value on narrative rigour than most people… I stand my original position:

Unless the narrative evidences a foundation for a sensibility or attitude, then it’s reasonable to assume it is a sensibility or attitude of the author that has leaked through into the narrative.

(6) MARY SHELLEY BIOPIC. NPR’s Mark Jenkins says “‘Mary Shelley’ Is Less Than The Sum Of Its Parts”

Given the familiarity of the material, the makers of Mary Shelley would have been smart to find a new approach. Philosophically, they sort of do, giving Mary more credit than usual for both her work and her choices.

Stylistically, though, the movie is all too typical of the 19th-century British literary/romantic drama. It presents London circa 1815 as misery for the poor, the young, the female, and the liberal-minded — and yet picturesque enough for a tourist brochure, suffused with dappled sun-, lamp- and candlelight and swathed in yearning music.

(7) BAIN OBIT. Meredith marks the passing of “John Bain, also known as TotalBiscuit, the Cynical Brit, who died yesterday after being diagnosed with inoperable cancer in 2015. He was a popular gaming YouTuber and started out by covering the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion before moving on to wider coverage, including a lot of indie games. He championed games on the PC and was always honest about his opinions of games, beginning in a time when that was far less common.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 25, 1953 It Came From Outer Space appeared in theaters, a movie based on a story by Ray Bradbury.
  • May 25, 1977Star Wars premiered.
  • May 25, 1983Return of the Jedi opened in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MUPPETEER

  • Born May 25, 1944 – Frank Oz

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cat Eldridge says “I’ve had dozens of emails telling me about the organization and how it’s complying with GDPR.” And now Xkcd is getting in on the act.

(11) NATAL DAY. Steven H Silver celebrates: “Birthday Reviews: Vera Nazarian’s ‘Salmon in the Drain Pipe’” at Black Gate.

Nazarian was nominated for a WSFA Small Press Award for her short story “Port Custodial Blues” in 2007. The following year she received a nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “The Story of Love.” She also received a Nebula nomination in 2009 for her novella The Duke in His Castle. In addition to writing, Nazarian has worked as the editor and publisher of Norilana Books since the company’s founding in 2006.

(12) KNOWS ALL, HEARS ALL, TELLS ALL. The Guardian asks “Alexa, when did the Church of England become so tech-savvy?”

The Amazon assistant can now help you with your Anglican needs. Just don’t expect answers to the really big questions…

Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer was well ahead of its time when in 1549 it addressed “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be opened, all desires known, and no secrets hid” – but it would take nearly five centuries for the church to turn this vision into technology. For now there is a Church of England “skill” – a set of canned responses – on , Amazon’s virtual assistant which can give its answer to 30 religious questions. It doesn’t answer the interesting ones though. “Alexa, ask the Church of England how can I be saved?” produces a silence easily interpreted as baffled, and I don’t think this is because the Church of England long ago decided that I couldn’t be….

(13) SFF IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Here’s another list to pick apart, BBC Culture’s “The 100 stories that shaped the world”. Homer’s Odyssey is number 1.

Chip Hitchcock celebrates that “SFF cracked the top 5,” and he tentatively identifies the stories with these rankings as SFF: 3, 4, 15, 16, 44, 67?, 71, 72, 73? 83?

(14) THEY WERE THERE. “How ancient DNA is transforming our view of the past” the “pots not people” (cultural exchange) view is giving way to knowledge that there were huge population shifts, e.g. Stonehenge builders disappearing under flood of Beaker People.

…Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, studies of ancient DNA from our own species were highly contentious because of observations that skeletal remains were easily contaminated by the DNA of living people.

As such, there were always nagging doubts about whether a genetic sequence belonged to the long-dead individual being studied or to an archaeologist involved in excavating the remains, a museum curator who had handled them, or a visitor to the lab where they were being analysed.

However, crucial progress in overcoming these obstacles began in the late 90s with the effort to sequence DNA from Neanderthals, which was led by Professor Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

Pääbo’s group developed a set of protocols to prevent contamination slipping through, including having the same samples sequenced in two laboratories by different teams….

But the field experienced a revolution with the emergence of so-called next-generation sequencing technology. When an organism dies, the DNA in its cells begins to break down – over time it splits into smaller and smaller chunks, as well as accumulating other forms of damage.

It also gets contaminated with vast amounts of microbial DNA from the wider environment. The new sequencing machines could be used to isolate the human genetic material from bacterial DNA and then stitch together the tiny fragments into a readable sequence….

(15) ROADBLOCK. Traffic came to a standstill when….

(16) SFWA GAME CHAT. The inaugural episode of SFWA Game Chat aired this week on YouTube, hosted by Cat Rambo with Monica Valentinelli.

Did you know that SFWA now admits science fiction and fantasy game writers? Cat Rambo introduces a new show that discusses sci-fi/fantasy game writing!

 

(17) GAMING PIONEER. The Great Big Story has released a piece on the woman behind the design of the early 80’s text-based computer/adventure game, The Hobbit. Veronika Megler fell out of contact with the company that developed the game and went for many years without knowing how successful it was and how many lives it touched: “The Hunt for ‘The Hobbit’s’ Missing Hero”.

The six and a half minute video is great and the story of how (now) Dr. Megler has seized upon the lasting power of the game to help address gender balance in computer science is affecting.

 

(18) NOT AGENT 86. Missed out on this shoephone revival:

T-Mobile’s Sidekick gets a remake! Inspired by the past but stepping boldly into the future, it has revolutionary AI, headphones that double as chargers, personalized GPS guidance by John Legere, and more!

 

(19) SECOND OPINION. NPR’s Justin Chang calls Solo “A High-Speed, Low-Energy Intergalactic Heist”:

It was a good sign when Alden Ehrenreich, the terrific young actor from “Tetro” and “Hail, Caesar!” was cast as Han and also when Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the merry comic daredevils behind “The Lego Movie” and “21 Jump Street,” were hired to direct. But then Lord and Miller were fired last year due to apparently irreconcilable creative differences. And you could sense the iron will of Lucasfilm asserting itself. God forbid anyone should try to inject a little wit or personality into this surefire cash cow.

The directors were replaced by the much more risk-averse Ron Howard. And as a consequence, what might have once been a fresh and funny tour de force has devolved into bland, impersonal hackwork.

(20) CANTINA CHOW. Extra Crispy’s Tim Nelson was not impressed with the Solo/Denny’s promotional campaign, launched in April, that included trading cards and (not so) special menu items.

In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Obi Wan Kenobi warns Luke Skywalker that “you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy” than Mos Eiseley, home to the cantina where viewers first meet smuggler and scoundrel Han Solo. It’s also a fitting way to describe any Denny’s located within stumbling distance of a bar after 11 p.m.

…With proceeds from trading card purchases going to help fund nonprofit organization No Kid Hungry, the whole thing seems inoffensive enough. But if some leaked information posted on a Star Wars forum is true, some of the Solo-themed menu items seem a bit silly.

There’s the “lightspeed slam,” a healthy dish that looks more like something from a depressed nutritionist’s Instagram than a meal fit for the Star Wars universe. While Denny’s earns some points for the inclusion of “Crystal Crunch Rocks” in a milkshake and a stack of pancakes, that looks to be the closest the menu gets to anything outside the universe of the diner chain’s typical fare.

As with past Star Wars-food tie-ins, one has to wonder what purpose putting ghost pepper sauce on a bacon cheeseburger and passing it off as something Han Solo might eat ultimately serves. Why not at least serve pancakes shaped like Chewbacca’s face?

(21) NO RECIPE FOR SUCCESS? Mad Genius Club’s Peter Grant made the point that “Writing books is not like frying shrimp”, inspired by the hilarious commercial linked below.

Trouble is, some new entrants into the book-writing and -publishing business think that their ambitions can be realized in a very similar fashion.  Just set up everything, add pre-set ingredients according to some arcane recipe, strike a spark, and voila!  It’s done!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Meredith, Chip Hitchcock, SL Huang, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, JJ, IanP, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Elisa.]

Pixel Scroll 5/18/18 And Then The Pixels Began

(1) #2018NEBULAS. More from Grandmaster Peter S. Beagle’s reception.

(2) #2018NEBULAS PANEL LIVETWEET. All summed up here: “Thread by @sfwa: ‘Hello ! Panel live tweet starts NOW, with “How to fail gracefully,” with Michael Underwood, Carrie DiRisio, Vanessa Rose Phin, […]’”

(3) #2018NEBULAS LIVESTREAM. Really?

(4) SF EXHIBIT. Six Pasadena museums will open their doors on May 20, including the Pasadena Museum of History — “Free Day: 2018 Museums of the Arroyo Day at PMH”. Guess what you can see for free…

At PMH, delve into the worlds of science fiction in the multifaceted exhibition, Dreaming the Universe: The Intersection of Science, Fiction, & Southern California. The exhibit explores how the literary genre interacted with the advances of science, the changes in technology, and shifts in American society during five pivotal decades, the 1930s to the 1980s. Visitors will enjoy a fantastic array of vintage costumes and movie props, fantasy art and illustrations, original manuscripts, robotic toys, and fan gear.

(5) F&SF. Galactic Journey’s time traveler Gideon Marcus experienced an especially good day in 1963 — “[May 18, 1963] (June 1963 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”

Every so often, you get a perfect confluence of events that makes life absolutely rosy.  In Birmingham, Alabama, the segregationist forces have caved in to the boycott and marching efforts of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  Two days ago, astronaut Gordo Cooper completed a day-and-a-half in orbit, putting America within spitting distance of the Russians in the Space Race.  And this month, Avram Davidson has turned out their first superlative issue of F&SF since he took the editorial helm last year….

(6) ETERNAL FLAME. Michael Moorcock tells why Fahrenheit 451 endures: “The Truth of Ray Bradbury’s Prophetic Vision” at LitHub.

In the late 1960s my friend J. G. Ballard phoned me full of outrage. Feeling weighed down by the bad prose cluttering his study, he had dug a pit in his back garden and thrown his review copies in, splashing them with a little petrol. But they proved harder to burn than he thought, so he put one in the kitchen oven, which had a suitable thermometer, to test the igniting heat of book paper. “Bradbury was wrong!” he complained. “Fahrenheit 451 isn’t the temperature at which book paper burns!” But, I asked, hadn’t Bradbury phoned the Los Angeles Fire Department to get the temperature right?

“Well, they’re wrong, too!” announced Ballard, who admired Bradbury and whose own early Vermilion Sands stories echo Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. Ray Bradbury, he said, had shown him that science ?ction was worth writing.

…Although Bradbury obviously held up a mirror to the world so that it might see itself the better, I believe him when he claims that he was not setting out to do what Orwell did in 1984, nor even what Pohl and Kornbluth did in a later Galaxy serial “The Space Merchants.” Rather, like Philip K. Dick, he let his excellent instincts have their way. They told him what to put in while his taste told him what to leave out. He was doing what he had always done by letting the resonances in his own imagination determine the kind of story he told: Fahrenheit 451 remains as readable as when it was written, some sixty-odd years ago, thanks to Bradbury’s almost psychic sense of how the world works.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 18, 1962The Twilight Zone aired “I Sing The Body Electric,” an episode based on a story by the legendary Ray Bradbury. This served as the thirty-fifth episode for the program’s third season.

(8) HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Steven H Silver celebrates Jonathan Maberry’s natal day in his Black Gate column: “Birthday Reviews: Jonathan Maberry’s ‘Red Dreams’”.

Maberry won the 2007 Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel for Ghost Road Blues, which was also nominated for Best Novel. The next year he won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Nonfiction with David F. Kramer for their book The Cryptopedia: A Dictionary of the Weird, Strange & Downright Bizarre. In 2012, he won the Bram Stoker for Best Young Adult Novel for Dust & Decay, and again the following year for Flesh & Bone. In 2015, he shared a Bram Stoker Award for Best Graphic Novel with Tyler Crook for Bad Blood.

(9) SEND FOR MORE CANDLES. And Tor.com coincidentally (not) reposted Elizabeth Bear’s tribute “The Perfect Chaotic Worlds of Diane Duane on Duane’s birthday.

In all her genres, Diane Duane is one of my favorite writers.

She spreads her talents around, too. She writes in multiple genres and forms—scripts to novels, tie-ins to original fiction, young adult urban fantasy to historical fantasy to science fiction to second-world fantasy. And whether she’s writing Y.A., as with her Young Wizards series, or Star Trek media tie-ins, she always brings an inimitable playful voice and a startling sense of “Yes; that’s right; that’s just like people.” to her work.

(10) TESS SEES ITS FIRST LIGHT. Mashable headline: “First photo from NASA’s planet-hunting TESS satellite is full of stars”. The latest exoplanet-hunting satellite has begun opening it’s “eyes” and taken its first photos. Though still undergoing shakeout tests, these first photos from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite are nonetheless spectacular.

A new NASA telescope, sailing toward its assigned orbit, took a moment to look around before it starts its ultimate mission: searching the galaxy for alien planets.

NASA’s TESS spacecraft — short for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite — beamed home one of its first photos taken from space, and it’s a doozy.

The photo, which effectively amounts to a test of one of the satellite’s four cameras, contains more than 200,000 stars, NASA said.

But that’s only a fraction of the number of stars it will eventually study in order to find alien worlds out there circling them.

(11) NOT DEAD YET? ThinkProgress says a climate science NASA mission may not be completely dead. Time to visit Miracle Max: “Critical NASA program cut by Trump re-introduced in latest budget”.

The House Committee on Appropriations, which is responsible for overseeing NASA, voted on Thursday to approve $10 million in funding for a “climate monitoring system” intended to help the agency better “understand the major factors driving short and long term climate change.” In a unanimous vote, lawmakers gave the green light to an amendment in a 2019 spending bill mandating that NASA fund such a system, Science first reported Thursday.

…That system’s description sounds nearly identical to the Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), a $10 million-per-year program established to measure carbon dioxide and methane using satellite technology and similar mechanisms. The CMS has played a crucial role in the study of greenhouse gases, but last week the Trump administration confirmed that the program had ended after its funding was cut from the 2018 budget passed in March.

Now, it appears the CMS might be back from the dead — in everything but name.  The $62 billion 2019 CJS Appropriations bill approved on Thursday extends to a number of departments, including the Justice Department and numerous science-linked agencies, NASA among them.

“This bill invests our hard-earned tax dollars into the safety and security of our nation,” said Culberson [(R-TX), chair of the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee.], who went on to detail various elements within the legislation.

(12) WINNING WWII AGAIN. Cnet reports “Steven Spielberg making a DC movie, punching Nazis again”.

Fresh from squeezing Batman and other DC comics cameos into Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg is now taking on the real thing. The legendary director is set to make a movie based on DC’s fighter ace Blackhawk.

Like DC’s smash hit Wonder Woman, and Spielberg’s Indiana Jones movies, Blackhawk is a retro wartime story, this time about a squadron of aerial adventurers battling Nazis and supervillains in World War II. Blackhawk was created in 1941 by Bob Powell, Chuck Cuidera and comic book legend Will Eisner.

(13) VULCAN DINOS ON EARTH. Popular Science realizes these creatures can only come from one place – and it’s not Earth — “Green bones, green hearts, can’t lose: these lizards survive with toxic green blood”.

Several species of New Guinea lizards seem to be from Vulcan, what with having green blood and all. But unlike Mr. Spock, their blood isn’t based on copper… they’ve evolved to tolerate a blood breakdown produce called biliverdin (which marks both jaundice and the sometimes spectacular green color of a bruise) at levels that would be fatal to a human.

In the forests of New Guinea, lizards scurry around with green bones, green hearts, green tongues, and green blood. At least six species share this enigmatic trait, which didn’t originate from one bizarre mutation but evolved four different times, according to new research in Science Advances.

These lizards have green insides because their bile carries super high levels of a deadly compound called biliverdin, the product of old red blood cells. People make the same pigment—you can see it when you get a gnarly, green-tinged bruise—but our livers filter it from our blood. Trace amounts of biliverdin cause jaundice, a disease common in infants and adults with liver failure. The levels found in these lizards would kill us. But for these lizards, well, it sure is easy being green.

(14) MAKE EVERY MOVIE A DEADPOOL SEQUEL. Adweek found out how to do it: “Here’s the Story Behind Deadpool’s Incredible Blu-ray Takeover at Walmart”.

When a display of Blu-rays, with each covered photobombed by Deadpool, popped up this week at Walmarts across the country, we had more questions that we had answers.

Who had created this amazing in-store activation, and how did such a sweeping takeover—entailing new, customized cover sleeves for The Terminator, Predator, Office Space, Fight Club and many more—come about?

Well, now we know. The short answer is that it was a collaboration between the in-house teams at Fox Home Entertainment and Los Angeles creative agency Neuron Syndicate, which designed the covers….

(15) CYBORGASM. Stephen Colbert reviews the latest news about robots in a Late Show comedy segment.

Google demonstrated its new Google Duplex, an A.I. assistant that can have realistic conversations with humans. But what happens when they talk to each other?

 

(16) REAL STINKERS. The finalists in the 2018 Lyttle Lytton Contest, which seeks the worst first sentence ever, have been posted. This year’s winner of the “found division” is:

The atmospheric molecules that filled the Rose Bowl were in full vibration as kickoff approached.

Ryan McGee, espn.com, 2017.0915
quoted by Ryan S.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(6) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MAUDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 5/1/18 Pixel Longstocking

(1) CONTAGIOUS THINKER. The Outline’s Michael Huguenor recalls “That one time Felix Guattari tried to sell a script in Hollywood”.

By 1987, French philosopher Felix Guattari had already changed the world. He’d invented a new form of psychoanalysis, fought against the Algerian War, physically constructed part of the University of Zagreb, and pioneered the existence of pirate radio. At 57, his entire life was defined by tumult and surprising leaps of faith. Yet the most surprising of all came that year when he approached the French Centre National de la Cinematographie with a request for state funding for an unlikely project.

“I am a writer and psychoanalyst, as well as a director of a psychiatric clinic that employs methods of Institutional Psycho-therapy,” he began, in his Preamble. Then came the curve-ball: “Now I would like to direct what, at least in appearance, will be a science fiction film.”

Attached was a screenplay….

(2) WHERE IT ALL BEGAN. Timothy the Talking Cat supplies “Timothy’s Alternative MCU Running Order”. Reader, I LOL’d. You might not have known all these movies were part of the MCU.

The important element of Marvel films is not just that they are long and have pee breaks between films (sometimes lasting several years) but each film is an improvement on the last. Have we reached peak Marvel film yet? Oh no, not by a long chalk matey! That’s not how a shared universe works. You introduce pieces piece by pieces until you have all the pieces and WHAM perfect film probably with an interval like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

(3) THE MARVEL BRADY UNIVERSE. For The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, the Avengers: Infinity War Cast Sings “The Marvel Bunch”

(4) TONY AWARDS. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child received 10 Tony Awards nominations.

{L-R) Noma Dumezweni, Susan Heyward, Paul Thornley, Olivia Bond, Ben Wheelwright, Jamie Parker, Poppy Miller, and Sam Clemmett in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two. Photo by: Manuel Harlan

(5) GOODREADS & HUGOS. Goodreads 2019 Hugo recommendation lists split into differing categories. Open to public votes and contributions.

(6) PRIX TIME. Europa SF reports the winners of a pair of French sff awards:

During the 2018 Intergalactiques Festival of Lyon, the Barjavel Prix was awarded to Céline Maltère for her new short-story “La Coupole”. The story will be available shortly (digital format) by Actusf Publishers.

The Planète SF Prix was awarded to Jo Walton for her novel “My Real Children”, 2014 (Nos vrais enfants) published in translation (Florence Dolisi) by Denoël Press.

(7) ROCKET QUEST. At Doctor Strangemind, Kim Huett asks “Hugo, Where Art Thou?”

While writing about the Hugo situation in 1955 the other day I mentioned that Ron Smith won a Hugo in 1956 for his fanzine, Inside. This particular award is of special interest to me because as far as I’m aware the rocket Ron was awarded is the only one that has had a long-term residency in Australia. I’ve read that it was displayed in the window of Merv Binns’ Space Ago Books in Melbourne for many years after Ron Smith moved to Australia in, I think, the early sixties. I can’t vouch for that because I only managed to visit Space Age a couple of times while the store was still a going concern and was too eager to get inside to be concerned about what might be in the window display. Space Age Books is of course has long been a thing of the past now and presumably Ron Smith has passed away too so that makes me wonder what happened to his rocket? I’m assuming that when Space Age Books stopped being a bricks and mortar establishment the rocket went back to Ron (if not before that) but I can’t be certain. Hopefully somebody living in Melbourne reading this will know the answer to my query or perhaps be able to dig an answer out of Merv.

Anyway, having begun this line of thought I started to wonder if anybody has made any attempt to track down the location of the various Hugo statues that have been handed out in the past 65 or so years….

(8) GIDLEY OBIT. Pamela Gidley (1965-2018): US actress, died April 16, aged 52. Genre appearances include the title role in Cherry 2000 (1987), Highway to Hell (1991), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), Strange Luck (17 episodes, 1995-96), Aberration (1997), The Little Vampire (2000), Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces (2014). She also directed and co-scripted a short drama in 2004, I Just Forgot.

(9) ANDERSON OBIT. The director of the Logan’s Run movie died last week:

Michael Anderson, a British director whose 1955 film ‘‘The Dam Busters’’ became one of the most popular wartime dramas ever made and launched him to a filmmaking career that included the all-star Oscar-winner ‘‘Around the World in 80 Days’’ and the sci-fi fantasy ‘‘Logan’s Run,’’ died April 25 at his home on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. He was 98.

He also directed the adaptation of 1984 released in 1956, starring Edmond O’Brien.

(10) PUT ANOTHER CANDLE ON. Don’t miss a one: Steven H Silver has posted “Birthday Reviews: April Index” at Black Gate.

(11) IMPOSSIBLE PODCAST. Into the Impossible, the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination’s podcast, in episode 18 discusses the “Internet of All Kinds of Things”.

How is the internet changing our humanity, and what can we do about it? We explore these questions and more with Antonio Garcia Martinez (author of Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley) and Douglas Rushkoff (author most recently of Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus and host of the fantastic podcast Team Human).

(12) FASHION NOTES. Yes, this shirt is loud enough: “Outer Space”.

(13) NO MATTER WHAT ELSE YOU MAY HAVE READ. The net is flip-flopping on flipping – now an Ars Technica headline says “Earth’s magnetic field may not be flipping”.

Going back millions of years into Earth’s history, our planet’s magnetic field has frequently gone its own way. The magnetic north pole has not only wandered through the north, but it has changed places with the south magnetic pole, taking up residence in the Antarctic. Going back millions of years, there’s a regular pattern of pole exchange, with flips sometimes occurring in relatively rapid succession.

In those terms, our current period of pole positioning is unusually long, with the last flip occurring nearly 800,000 years ago. But the magnetic field has grown noticeably weaker since we started measuring it more than a hundred years ago. The poles have wandered a bit, and there’s an area of even more dramatic weakening over the South Atlantic. Could these be signs that we’re due for another flip?

Probably not, according to new research published with the refreshingly clear title, “Earth’s magnetic field is probably not reversing.” In it, an international team of researchers reconstructs the history of some past flips and argues that what’s going on now doesn’t much look like previous events.

(14) ROUTE 66. Steve Vertlieb invites people to read “Two for the Road: Traveling ‘Route 66’”. (Another show I was too young to stay up and watch. But a few years after the show went off the air one of my English teachers who knew co-star Maharis got him to visit the class.)

The “Golden Age Of Television” lasted from the late nineteen forties until the early nineteen sixties where it thrived and flourished, presenting mostly “live” dramatic and musical presentations that captured the exhilaration and essence of fresh theatrical Broadway productions, staged and created expressly for the newly experimental format of the small home tv screen.  Television was a brand new medium, daring in its provocative concepts and artistic explorations, while revolutionary in its groundbreaking originality.  Everything was fresh and new, as this voracious, visionary monolith consumed original productions as rapidly as they could be produced.  Into this ravenous mix, and at the tail end of the medium’s legendary golden age, came a weekly television series produced by CBS (the famed Murrow “tiffany” network) concerning two friends (Martin Milner and George Maharis) from the often-cruel streets of New York, seeking meaning, value, and definition in their ongoing dramatic sojourn across the highways of America.  “Route 66” launched nationally on Friday night, October 7th, 1960, taking the country by storm.  Filming on location in virtually every state of the union until its final episode on March 20th, 1964, the powerful series introduced some of the finest anthology drama that television has ever witnessed, while showcasing stunning conceptual poetry by principal writer Stirling Silliphant, original music by composer Nelson Riddle, and ensemble guest performances by many of the finest actors and actresses in Hollywood, and from the New York stage.  The weekly series effectively changed the course and direction of my life when the program filmed two episodes in Philadelphia in the Fall of 1961.  This is the bittersweet story of the cultural evolution and significance of the iconic series, as well as its profound, transformative effect upon my own life, direction, and career.

This was the episode of the “Route 66” television series that forever changed the direction and “route” of both mine, and my brother’s lives. We were there on location with the cast and crew when they filmed this classic episode on the mean streets of Philadelphia and, with George Maharis and Martin Milner, together crossed that “Thin White Line.” The program aired as Season Two, Episode Eleven, over the CBS Television network on Friday evening, December 8th, 1961.

[Thanks to Beth in MA, John King Tarpinian, N, Steve Green, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Steve Vertlieb, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

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

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

  • Bogi Takács

  • Charles Payseur

  • Cecily Kane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY’S SFF BIRTHDAYS

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

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

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

(12) COMICS SECTION.

Courtesy of mlex:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 4/11/18 Today’s Pixel Scroll Takes Place In An Alternate Universe Timeline!

(1) CITIZEN ROBOTS. Politico covers the latest legal uproar about robots:

Autonomous robots with humanlike, all-encompassing capabilities might still be decades away, but lawmakers, legal experts and manufacturers are already locked in a high-stakes debate about their legal status: whether it’s these machines or human beings who should bear ultimate responsibility for their actions. Last year, Luxembourgish MEP Mady Delvaux kicked a hornets’ nest when the Legal Affairs Committee suggested that self-learning robots could be granted some form of “electronic personality,” so they can be held liable for damage they cause if they go rogue….

No thanks: The opposition has galvanized. In a letter to the European Commission, seen by POLITICO, 156 artificial intelligence experts hailing from 14 European countries, including computer scientists, law professors and CEOs, warn that granting robots legal personhood would be “inappropriate” from a “legal and ethical perspective.” And as each side turns up the volume on its advocacy and lobbying, one thing is clear: Money is pouring into the field of robotics, and the debate is only set to turn louder.

See Janosch Delcker’s full story, “Europe divided over robot ‘personhood’”.

Think lawsuits involving humans are tricky? Try taking an intelligent robot to court.

While autonomous robots with humanlike, all-encompassing capabilities are still decades away, European lawmakers, legal experts and manufacturers are already locked in a high-stakes debate about their legal status: whether it’s these machines or human beings who should bear ultimate responsibility for their actions.

The battle goes back to a paragraph of text, buried deep in a European Parliament report from early 2017, which suggests that self-learning robots could be granted “electronic personalities.” Such a status could allow robots to be insured individually and be held liable for damages if they go rogue and start hurting people or damaging property.

Those pushing for such a legal change, including some manufacturers and their affiliates, say the proposal is common sense. Legal personhood would not make robots virtual people who can get married and benefit from human rights, they say; it would merely put them on par with corporations, which already have status as “legal persons,” and are treated as such by courts around the world.

This situation was anticipated decades ago by Alexis Gilliland’s character Corporate Skashkash in the Rosinante series.

(2) TOUGH SPOT. The commercial lives up to AdWeek’s promise: “This Film Festival’s Bleak, Intense Look Into the Future Will Leave You Feeling Frayed”.

As sure as the jacaranda trees bloom every spring in Southern California, the Newport Beach Film Festival launches a quirky, cinematic work of art to promote its weeklong event.

This year is no exception, with a beautiful and brutal 3-minute spot that looks like it could’ve been lifted directly from the mind of Ridley Scott. Instead, it’s the creation of director Jillian Martin, production company Untitled.tv and agency Garage Team Mazda in its first campaign for the festival.

“Quota: Who Made the Cut” centers on two beaten-down miners in space suits dangling by ropes from a massive, alien edifice, mining for crystal with hand drills and bad attitudes.

Are they the future’s exploited working class? Prisoners? They may be both. They’re certainly in competition with one another to find a mother lode of the precious substance and earn their way back home.

Their only respite from the bleak, oppressive scenario are VR memories from home now and again, which don’t so much provide the rest they need as remind them of the life they’re missing. Those vivid images they see in their fitful waking sleep—a lover with whip cream on a taut belly, for one—are both a tease and an incentive.

No wonder things get violent.

 

(3) SHIMMER PROGRAM. Steven H Silver’s SF Site News was first with the winners of the Shimmer Program’s stipends, Shi Ran (Sharon Shi) and Lin Jiayu (Mackenzie Lin), who each will get RMB 10,000 to attend and help staff Worldcon 76 in San Jose, California. Bios of the winners are available on Facebook at this link.

Mike Willmoth, Facilities DDH of Worldcon 76, and Yang Sumin, winner of Worldcon 75 Attending Funding & Media Event AH of Worldcon 75, worked as judges for the selection.

(4) JAMES PATRICK KELLY. Steven H Silver’s Black Gate series continues with “Birthday Reviews: James Patrick Kelly’s ‘Rat’”.

Kelly won the Hugo Award for his novelettes “Think Like a Dinosaur” and “1016 to 1.” His novella Burn won the Nebula Award as well as the Italia Award. His works have also been nominated for the Seiun Award, the Gaylactic Spectrum Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. He is the author most published in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, with both fiction and a regular column appearing in the magazine.

(5) D’OH. This is the government’s best advice: “FCC On Hawaii’s Bogus Alert: Don’t Say ‘This Is Not A Drill’ During Drills”.

The Federal Communications Commission recommended on Tuesday that emergency workers drop the phrase “This is not a drill” when conducting emergency alert exercises.

A final report on a false missile alert, which left Hawaii residents fearing for their lives for 38 minutes, offered analysis on what went awry within the state’s emergency management agency and guidance on how to avoid more false warnings.

(6) PACIFIC RIMSHOT. The wheels on the jaeger go round and round…. “The World of Pacific Rim Uprising, A 360 Experience.”

(7) FOR TEN YEARS WE’VE BEEN ON OUR OWN. Marvel Cinematic Universe pays tribute to fans:

(8) FAMILY DRAMA. But it’s been a tough decade for Marvel’s iconic Stan Lee says The Hollywood Reporter: “Stan Lee Needs a Hero: Elder Abuse Claims and a Battle Over the Aging Marvel Creator”.

Back in early February, fighting what he later called “a little bout of pneumonia,” 95-year-old Stan Lee had an argument with his 67-year-old daughter, J.C. This was hardly unusual, but it seems to have been a breaking point.

The comic book legend — whose creative tenure at the helm of Marvel Comics beginning in New York in the early 1960s spawned Spider-Man, Black Panther and the X-Men and laid the foundation for superhero dominance in Hollywood that continues with the April 27 release of Avengers: Infinity War — sat in the office of his attorney Tom Lallas and signed a blistering declaration.

The Feb. 13 document, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, begins with some background, explaining that Lee and his late wife had arranged a trust for their daughter because she had trouble supporting herself and often overspent. “It is not uncommon for J.C. to charge, in any given month, $20,000 to $40,000 on credit cards, sometimes more,” the document states. It goes on to describe how, when he and his daughter disagree — “which is often” — she “typically yells and screams at me and cries hysterically if I do not capitulate.”

Lee explains that J.C. will, “from time to time,” demand changes to her trust, including the transfer of properties into her name. He has resisted such changes, he states, because they “would greatly increase the likelihood of her greatest fear: that after my death, she will become homeless and destitute.”

(9) HOUSTON? This may not be what you remember when somebody mentions Apollo 13. Popular Science looks into the question: “Is a hot dog a sandwich? The Apollo 13 astronauts had some thoughts”.

During Apollo 13, Commander Jim Lovell settled the age old question of whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich in a communication with CAPCOM Joe Kerwin. Lovell did, however, screw up the question of “mustard or catsup” on a hot dog.

Jim Lovell (Commander): Hello Houston, Apollo 13.

Joe Kerwin (CAPCOM & Lead [White Team] Flight Director): Houston. Go ahead.

Lovell: Just a passing comment Joe, we’re having lunch right now and I just made myself a hot dog sandwich with catsup. Very tasty and almost unheard of in the old days.

Kerwin: That’s correct 13. As I recall the flight plan, you’re supposed to put mustard on the hot dogs and not catsup but I guess we’ll overlook that.

Jack Swigert (Command Module Pilot): We blew it.

Lovell: Right.

Kerwin: How’s everything going?

Lovell: About pretty good. We have about 4 different methods of spreading catsup, right now.

…but according to the book Apollo 13, co-written by the astronaut himself, the crew actually got quite a kick out of the frozen hot dogs, bouncing them off the walls of the cockpit.

The article has much more info about space cuisine, with the perhaps sad note that hot dogs are no longer on the menu for the International Space Station.

(10) ITS CUSTOMERS ARE PEOPLE! Gizmodo cheerful headline announces, “Good News, You Will Soon Be Able to Disrupt Eating Actual Food By Buying Soylent At Walmart”.

Per the Verge, Soylent’s maker Rosa Foods announced on Wednesday that it is bringing the signature brand of packaged, flavored sludge—which takes its name from the disheartening 1973 dystopian film Soylent Green, where it’s eventually revealed the product’s key ingredient is uh, “long pig”—to 450 Walmart stores across the country. Soylent CEO Bryan Crowley added in a statement that the move is “a significant step in providing more ways for consumers to get access to our brand,” expanding beyond its current placement in 7-Eleven stores.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last night, The Simpsons offered its tepid reply.

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

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

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

“—If it all,” Lisa concludes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born April 10, 1953 – David Langford

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now he’s done it again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 4/8/18 Do Not Go Pixel Out Of That Good Hive, Buzz, Buzz, Against The Flying Of The Five

(1) WALK / DON’T WALK. This not-quite-infinite series of variations on Le Guin’s famous story: “Once upon a time there was a city called Omelas, where everyone lived good and happy and fulfilling lives” is a hoot!

“…the best predictions of our scientists suggest that there will be a slight average decrease in various hard-to-measure kinds of happiness, which nevertheless in total adds up to more suffering than this child experiences.”
And Outis said to the elder, “I will have no part in this evil thing.” And he took the child and bathed him and cared for his wounds. And the average happiness increased in some ways and decreased in others, and the net effect might have been negative, but the best results on the matter had p > 0.05, so the scientists of Omelas could not rule out the null hypothesis.

(2) SUE ‘EM, DANNO. Dorothy Grant gives the rundown on a scam to inflate payments from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program in “Book stuffing, KU reads, and Amazon’s Doing Something” at Mad Genius Club.

While I would hope that everyone who reads this is interested in being a real author making up real stories that are your own, writing them down, and publishing them, we are all aware that there are scammers out there, and people who care more about the money, than acting ethically or the readers. We also know that Amazon has a habit of taking a wide swath of potential wrongdoers, then filtering out and restoring the innocent.

Yep, they’re doing it again.

  1. David Gaughran gave us the first heads-up on twitter that Amazon has filed suit against an author for book-stuffing.

Forbes article here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamrowe1/2018/04/07/amazon-has-filed-suit-to-stop-the-six-figure-book-stuffing-kindle-scam/#2af7a11b7344

Book stuffing is when authors take all their works and stuff them into the back of every other book to artificially inflate their page count. Some authors even stuff in newsletters: the goal is to inflate the page count as much as possible, and thus the payout on KU page reads.

(3) ATOMIC PILES OF LAUGHS. Scott Tobias profiles “artificial intelligence-assisted comedy” in “Can algorithms be funny? Veterans of Clickhole and the New Yorker team up to find out” at the Washington Post. What they do is put giant amounts of text into a computer and produce “interactive text collages.”  For example, they put all the Harry Potter novels into a computer and came up with a pastiche that said, “Ron’s ron shirt was just as bad as Ron itself.”  A lot of the weird pastiches they produce are sf.

Onstage at the Hideout, a small Chicago music club, two performers read passages from Civil War love letters. “Oh darling wife of the war,” one begins, “I shall always be a husband to you and the children and all the folks in our neighborhood.” He goes on to complain that “the boys from the army have taken my breakfast.” The news is worse back home. “Our horses are sadly on fire,” his wife laments. But they’re ever reunited, she promises, “I would kiss you as many times as there are stitches in the children.”

Rest assured, every word from these letters is authentic. It’s just that the words have been scrambled up by a computer algorithm and pieced back together, one by one, by writers with an ear for the absurd.

(4) WESTERCON BID NEWS. Seattle (SeaTac, using the same hotel as Norwescon) has formally filed what Kevin Standlee says is likely to be the only bid for the 2020 Westercon.

(5) REINCARNANIMATION. MovieWeb has learned that “Lucasfilm Has Digital Clones of Every Star Wars Actor”.

The digitally recreated Grand Moff Tarkin and Young Princess Leia in Rogue One were unsettling and creepy for some Star Wars fans. But that technology is almost two years old and only improving at an expedient rate. The next time an actor gets digitally inserted into a Star Wars movie, it’s gong to be a lot harder to tell the difference. And before long, the line will be completely burred. Soon, Lucasfilm and Disney could have the potential to create a whole Star Wars movie featuring an authentic young Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, which practical effects built around them. And this will be entirely possible, even for Carrie Fisher, as Lucasfilm has confirmed they have digital clones of all Star Wars actors both young and old.

Incredible, right? As of now, these digital clones are being used sparingly and are often mixed with live-action footage of the actor to create scenes that would be impossible to shoot or are deemed far to expensive to do practically. We’ve seen this with Tarkin and Leia in Rogue One, and we’ve also seen it in The Last Jedi, even if you didn’t know that’s what you were looking at.

(6) MCCANN OBIT. Chuck McCann died April 8 reports Mark Evanier. Much of his career revolved around children’s television, however, the Wikipedia recalls that he was in vogue as a TV/movie actor back in the Seventies —

In the 1970s, McCann’s life and career shifted west, and he relocated to Los Angeles. He made frequent guest appearances on network television shows including Little House on the Prairie, Bonanza, Columbo, The Rockford Files and The Bob Newhart Show. He appeared in the 1973 made-for-TV movie The Girl Most Likely to… and was a regular on Norman Lear’s All That Glitters.

In addition, he co-starred with Bob Denver in CBS’s Saturday-morning sitcom Far Out Space Nuts, which he co-created. The 1970s also brought him fame in a long-running series of commercials for Right Guard antiperspirant: he was the enthusiastic neighbor with the catch phrase “Hi, guy!” who appeared on the other side of a shared medicine cabinet, opposite actor Bill Fiore.

McCann impersonated Oliver Hardy in commercials for various products (teaming with Jim MacGeorge as Stan Laurel),

John King Tarpinian sent along a photo of McCann meeting Ray Bradbury.

Ray Bradbury and Chuck McCann

If you want to see his act, watch “Chuck McCann & Dick Van Dyke as Laurel & Hardy & The Honeymooners.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born April 8, 1974 – Nnedi Okorafor

(8) CANDLES ON THE CAKE. Steven H Silver celebrates Okorafor’s natal day at Black Gate in “Birthday Reviews: Nnedi Okorafor’s ‘Bakasi Man’”.

Nnedi Okorafor was born on April 8, 1974.

Okorafor won her first Carl Brandon Award for the novel The Shadow Speaker and she won the Carl Brandon Award and the World Fantasy Award for her novel Who Fears Death, which was also nominated for the Nebula Award. She won the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award for her novella Binti in 2016. Her fiction has also been nominated for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, the British Science Fiction Association Award, the British Fantasy Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Andre Norton Award. Okorafor has collaborated with Alan Dean Foster and Wanuri Kahiu on short diction. She co-edited the anthology Without a Map with Mary Anne Mohanraj.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Daniel Dern is right – Curtis knows how to throw a party.

(10) POISONING PIXELS IN THE SCROLL. Nature celebrates an April birthday boy: “Tom Lehrer at 90: a life of scientific satire”.

Much of Lehrer’s oeuvre — some 50 songs (or 37, by his own ruthless reckoning) composed over nearly three decades — played with tensions at the nexus of science and society. His biggest hit, That Was The Year That Was, covered a gamut of them. This 1965 album gathered together songs Lehrer had written for That Was The Week That Was, the US satirical television show spawned by the BBC original. ‘Who’s Next?’ exposes the dangers of nuclear proliferation. ‘Pollution’ highlights environmental crises building at the time, such as undrinkable water and unbreathable air.

The rousing ballad ‘Wernher von Braun’ undermines the former Nazi — who designed the V-2 ballistic missile in the Second World War and later became a key engineer in the US Apollo space programme. In Lehrer’s view, it was acceptable for NASA to hire von Braun, but making him into an American hero was grotesque. “‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?’/‘That’s not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun” — lines that still resonate in today’s big-tech ethical jungle.

(11) FINDING THE RETRO NOMINEES. Nicholas Whyte, with an assist from Carla, presents “How to get the 1943 Retro Hugo finalists” —

(12) CAST OF FAVORITES. And for your collecting pleasure, here is where you can get a copy of the Fifth Annual Science Fiction Film Awards (1978).

The 5th Annual (first televised) Science Fiction Film Awards. Hosted by Karen Black & William Shatner (who performs an absolutely jaw dropping rendition of Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s “Rocket Man”) Starring Buzz Aldrin, Richard Benjamin, Ray Bradbury, Mark Hamill, Charlton Heston, Wolfman Jack, Quincy Jones, Piper Laurie, Christopher Lee, Paula Prentiss, Ralph the Robot, Lord Darth Vader, and many more. Included are the original broadcast TV commercials from 1978!

(13) GOOD IS NOT BAD. Rich Horton is working his way through the Hugo nominees. Here are his comments on Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty.

…But even before the award nominations, Six Wakes was getting some good notice, and I bought it and read it after the Nebula nod. And, you know what – I liked it. It’s a good fun fast-moving read. I’m glad I read it.

But – well – you saw that coming, right? There had to be a but. The thing is, there are lots of enjoyable novels published any year, and I’m glad when I encounter those. But I can enjoy a novel and not think it worthy of an award. And, really, that’s the case with Six Wakes. It’s fun, it’s pretty darn pure hard SF (with the understanding that “hard SF” absolutely does NOT mean “SF that gets all the science right”), it’s exciting. But, it also has some annoying logic holes, and it doesn’t really engage with the central (and very worthwhile) moral issues it raises as rigorously as I wish it had, and the prose is just OK….

(14) ARISTOTLE. Nitsuh Abebe explores the question “Why Have We Soured on the ‘Devil’s Advocate’?” at the New York Times Magazine.

…That name dates back to the 17th century, when the Roman Catholic Church created an office popularly known as the advocatus diaboli — a person tasked with making the case against the canonization of new saints, scrutinizing every report of their miracles and virtue. How could a claim be trusted, the thinking went, if it hadn’t been rigorously tested? Plenty of educators will still tell you that devil’s advocacy isn’t just useful as a practical matter but also as an intellectual exercise: Imagining other perspectives and plumbing their workings is essential to critical thinking.

But on today’s internet, the devil’s advocate is less admired than ever, and it’s often the advocate’s own fault. The problem isn’t just debate-club tedium. Last year, on Slate, the writer Maya Rupert neatly outlined just how toxic devil’s advocates could be on a topic like race. She noted that they often seemed to be adopting the stance of a disinterested logician in order to air beliefs they knew were socially unacceptable to hold in earnest; the phrase “just to play devil’s advocate,” she wrote, had come to occupy the same role in her life as “not to sound racist, but. … ” A black person continually asked to consider — just hypothetically, just for a moment — whether she was possibly inferior to other humans would have to be masochistically broad-minded to entertain this challenge more than a few times before dismissing it, and the sort of people who presented it, forever.

A little more than a decade ago, around the same time online sentiment began to turn against the devil’s advocate, it also seized on a close cousin: the “concern troll.” If the devil’s advocate playacts disagreement with you for the sake of strengthening your argument, the concern troll is his mirror image, a person who pretends to agree with you in order to undermine you. The concern troll airs disingenuous worries, sows doubt, saps energy, has reservations, worries that things are going too far. At first, the term described purposeful double agents — people like the congressional staffer suspected, back in 2006, of posing as a Democrat to leave comments on liberal blogs suggesting everyone abandon the candidate vying for a Republican incumbent’s seat. But the term has evolved in such a way that, at this point, a person can very easily qualify as a concern troll without even knowing it.

A tidy summary on the “Geek Feminism” Wiki site explains why this is the case: Even earnest concern-airing can be pernicious, turning every discussion into a battle over basic premises. …

(15) UNEVENLY DISTRIBUTED. The BBC reports “The Swedes rebelling against a cashless society” where the elderly are especially likely to be left out.

However, while Sweden’s rush to embrace digital payments has received plenty of global hype, and is frequently flagged as an example of the Nordic nation’s innovation, there are growing concerns about the pace of change.

Some worry about the challenges it poses for vulnerable groups, especially the elderly.

“As long as there is the right to use cash in Sweden, we think people should have the option to use it and be able to put money in the bank,” says Ola Nilsson, a spokesperson for the Swedish National Pensioners’ Organisation, which is lobbying the government on behalf of its 350,000 members.

“We’re not against the cashless society, we just want to stop it from going too fast.”

(16) THE LIGHTS IN THE SKY ARE… What we can see from the ground is only part of what happens: “Hunting mystery giant lightning from space”.

The electrifying effects of storms are frequently observed from the space station.

Yet when lightning strikes downward, something very different is happening above the cloud tops.

Known as Transient Luminous Events (TLEs), these unusual features were first spotted by accident in 1989.

Minnesota professor John R Winckler was testing a television camera in advance of an upcoming rocket launch, when he realised that two frames showed bright columns of light above a distant storm cloud.

(17) SOLVING FOR 2001. The BBC Culture post “Why 2001 remains a mystery” actually dwells less on mystery, and more on interesting parallels with Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.

It’s been 50 years since the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and we’re still trying to make sense of it. Stanley Kubrick’s science-fiction masterpiece is regularly voted as one of the greatest films ever made: BBC Culture’s own critics’ poll of the best US cinema ranked it at number four. But 2001 is one of the most puzzling films ever made, too. What, for instance, is a shiny rectangular monolith doing in prehistoric Africa? Why does an astronaut hurtle through a psychedelic lightshow to another universe, before turning into a cosmic foetus? And considering that the opening section is set millions of years in the past, and the two central sections are set 18 months apart, how much of it actually takes place in 2001?

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Chadwick Boseman hosted Saturday Night Live last night, and appeared in a Black Jeopardy! sketch:

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Kevin Standlee, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Nicholas Whyte, ULTRAGOTHA, Carl Slaughter, Danny Sichel, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ky.]