Pixel Scroll 11/1/18 When You Gonna Give Me Some Time Scrollona

(1) SAME NAME, DIFFERENT GAME. At Strange Horizons, Abigail Nussbaum reviews Netflix’ “The Haunting of Hill House”.

…Netflix’s miniseries adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House, by Mike Flanagan (who wrote most of the series’s ten episodes and directed all of them), throws most of that out the window. It takes only a few scenes for a viewer familiar with the book to realize that the only similarity between it and this miniseries are a few character names, and the fact that they both revolve around a Hill House which is haunted. To a Jackson fan (most of whom are, after all, extremely defensive of her reputation) this initially seems like sacrilege. Why use the name if you’re not going to honor the actual work?

Flanagan’s Haunting never offers a persuasive answer to this question. What it does instead, almost as soon as the issue is raised, is counter with a genuinely excellent piece of horror filmmaking that makes you forget, at least for a while, its total lack of fidelity to its source….

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman orders up an interview with Steve Rasnic Tem in Episode 80 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Steve Rasnic Tem

…I now ask that you join me for lunch at The Fish Market with Steve Rasnic Tem.

Tem has published more than 400 short stories, garnering multiple award nominations and wins, including a British Fantasy Award in 1988 for “Leaks,” a 2001 International Horror Guild Award for “City Fishing,” and a 2002 Bram Stoker Award for “In These Final Days of Sales.” His many collections include Fairytales, Celestial Inventory, The Far Side of the Lake, and others. Some of his poetry has been collected in The Hydrocephalic Ward, and he edited The Umbral Anthology of Science Fiction Poetry. His novel Blood Kin won the 2014 Bram Stoker Award. His collaborative novella with his late wife Melanie Tem, The Man On The Ceiling, won the World Fantasy, Bram Stoker, and International Horror Guild awards in 2001.

We discussed the importance of writing until you get to page eight, what he did the day after Harlan Ellison died, why even though he was a fearful kid he turned to horror, the thing which if I’d known about his marriage might have caused problems with my own, how crushed we both were when comics went up to 12 cents from a dime, why his all-time favorite short story is Franz Kafka’s “A Country Doctor,” how TV shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” had an effect on the way he writes action scenes, why he made an early pivot from science fiction to creating horror, the way joining Ed Bryant’s writing workshop taught him to become a writer, how math destroyed his intended science career, the reason it took him 48 years to take Ubo from initial idea to finished novel, why beginning writers should consciously read 1,000 short stories (and what they should do once they’re done), and much more

(3) THESE BOOKS DON’T MAKE THEMSELVES. Jeannette Ng has written a fabulous thread on the history of book production, urging writers to think about this when worldbuilding. Starts here.

(4) DAWN’S SUNSET. For the second time this week, a long-duration NASA mission has come to an end due to exhausting its fuel supply. RIP Kepler is now joined by RIP Dawn. (CNN: “NASA’s Dawn mission to strange places in our solar system ends”)

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has run out of fuel and dropped out of contact with mission control, the agency said Thursday.

This ends the spacecraft’s 11-year mission, which sent it on a 4.3 billion-mile journey to two of the largest objects in our solar system’s main asteroid belt. Dawn visited Vesta and Ceres, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit two deep-space destinations.

Dawn missed two communication sessions with NASA’s Deep Space Network the past two days, which means it has lost the ability to turn its antennae toward the Earth or its solar panels toward the sun. The end of the mission is not unexpected, as the spacecraft has been low on fuel for some time.

It’s the second historic NASA mission this week to run out of fuel and come to an end, as NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope did Tuesday.

(5) HOSTILE GALACTIC TAKEOVER. Today’s Nature shares “Evidence of ancient Milky Way merger”:

An analysis of data from the Gaia space observatory suggests that stars in the inner halo of the Milky Way originated in another galaxy.

This galaxy is thought to have collided with the Milky Way about ten billion years ago.

One conclusion on which all of the groups agree is that the event might have contributed to the formation of the Milky Way’s thick stellar disk. Astronomers have speculated for several decades that an ancient satellite galaxy merged with the Milky Way in the past, because such  an event could explain differences in the motions and chemical compositions of stars in the neighbourhood of the Sun.

Here’s a PDF of the item.

(6) SABRINA SHORTCOMINGS. Taylor Crumpton’s op-ed for Teen Vogue analyzes “How ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ Failed Prudence Night”.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is not a reboot. Yes, the new Netflix show features the same characters as the cheery ‘90s sitcom, but it has been updated to reflect our darker, more malevolent times. The show also aims to be progressive, with storylines that speak to marginalized communities and a diverse cast of actors in almost every scene.

But despite great intentions, the show falls short in its portrayal of its black women characters, specifically with the character of Prudence Night (Tati Gabrielle), the head witch of the Academy of the Unseen Arts and leader of the Weird Sisters.

…The most troubling aspect of the conflict between Sabrina and Prudence occurs after “The Harrowing,” a pledging ritual that simulates the horrors experienced by the 13 witches during the Greendale Witch Trials. The last step in the ritual process mimics the hangings of the original witches by the mortals of Greendale; as Prudence leads Sabrina to the tree, Sabrina emphasizes the importance of the Academy as a safe space of community and inclusion for witches who have been subjected to violence by mortals for centuries. While in the tree, Sabrina calls upon the power of the dead witches and warlocks to effectively lynch Prudence and the Weird Sisters, and declares the end of “The Harrowing.”

The show did not issue a trigger warning for an image of a lynched Black woman in 2018; it comes on suddenly and in close-up view

(7) STATIONING GAS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The preprint paper “Securing Fuel for Our Frigid Cosmic Future” was discussed in a news story covering that article at Universe Today: “The Tools Humanity Will Need for Living in the Year 1 Trillion”

A preprint (that is, not yet peer-reviewed) paper from Harvard University’s chair of the astronomy department, Dr. Abraham Loeb, concludes in Securing Fuel for Our Frigid Cosmic Future that:

Advanced civilizations will likely migrate into rich clusters of galaxies, which host the largest reservoirs of matter bound by gravity against the accelerated cosmic expansion.

He opens with the question:

The accelerated expansion of the Universe pushes resources away from us at an ever- speed. Once the Universe will age by a factor of ten, all stars outside our Local Group of galaxies will not be accessible to us as they will be receding away faster than light. Is there something we can do to avoid this cosmic fate?

In his discussion, Loeb mentions various “cosmic engineering” projects that have been suggested and briefly examines their limitations. He then works his way around to suggesting an advanced civilization should move to a region with a high concentration of galaxies close together to provide a large fuel density, even as ones observable universe shrinks due to the accelerating expansion of the universe. He further notes that:

The added benefit of naturally-produced clusters is that they contain stars of all masses, much like a cosmic bag that collected everything from its environment. The most common stars weigh a tenth of the mass of the Sun, but are expected to shine for a thousand times longer because they burn their fuel at a slower rate. Hence, they could keep a civilization warm for up to ten trillion years into the future.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 1, 1897 — Dame Naomi Mitchison, Writer, Poet, and Activist from Scotland who lived to be over a hundred years old. Her genre writing includes the 1931 novel The Corn King and the Spring Queen, which contains open sexuality and is considered by contemporary genre editor Terri Windling to be “a lost classic”. Other genre works include Memoirs of a Spacewoman, which was nominated for a Retrospective Tiptree Award, Solution Three, and the Arthurian novel To the Chapel Perilous. As a good friend of J. R. R. Tolkien, she was a proofreader for The Lord of the Rings.
  • Born November 1, 1917 — Zenna Henderson, Writer whose first story was published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1951. She is best known for her more than 30 stories in The People universe about members of an alien race with special powers who are stranded on earth, which were published in magazines and later in collections, including The People: No Different Flesh, and the stitched-together Pilgrimage: The Book of the People. Her novelette “Captivity” was nominated for a Hugo Award, and her story “Pottage” was made into a movie starring William Shatner, The People, which was a Hugo finalist for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1973. “Hush” became an episode of George A. Romero’s Tales from the Darkside, which first aired in 1988.
  • Born November 1, 1923 — Dean A. “dag” Grennell, Writer, Editor, Firearms Expert, Conrunner, and Fan who edited numerous fanzines including La Banshee and Grue, which was produced sporadically from 1953 to 1979 and was a finalist for the Hugo Award in 1956. He published several short fiction works, and even dabbled in fanzine art. He ran a small U.S. gathering held the same weekend as the 1956 UK Natcon which was called the Eastercon-DAG, and another called Wiscon, which preceded the current convention of that name by more than twenty years. He is responsible for the long-running fannish joke “Crottled Greeps”.
  • Born November 1, 1923 — Gordon R. Dickson, Writer, Filker, and Fan who was truly one of the best writers of both science fiction and fantasy. It would require a skald to detail his stellar career in any detail. His first published speculative fiction was the short story “Trespass!”, written with Poul Anderson, in the Spring 1950 issue of Fantastic Stories. Childe Cycle, featuring the Dorsai, is his best known series, and the Hoka are certainly his and Poul Anderson’s silliest creation. I’m very fond of his Dragon Knight series, which I think reflects his interest in medieval history.  His works received a multitude of award nominations, and he won Hugo, Nebula, and British Fantasy Awards. In 1975, he was presented the Skylark Award for achievement in imaginative fiction. He was Guest of Honor at dozens of conventions, including the 1984 Worldcon, and he was named to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and the Filk Hall of Fame. The Dorsai Irregulars, an invitation-only fan volunteer security group named after his series, was formed at the 1974 Worldcon in response to the theft of some of Kelly Freas’ work the year before, and has provided security at conventions for the last 34 years.
  • Born November 1, 1941 — Robert Foxworth, 77, Actor whom you’ve most likely seen, if you’ve watched genre television or film. His first genre role was as Dr. Victor Frankenstein in the 1973 Frankenstein TV movie, followed by the lead role in Gene Roddenberry’s TV pilot The Questor Tapes, which never made it to series after NBC and The Great Bird of the Galaxy had a falling-out. He is well-known to Star Trek fans, having had roles in episodes of both Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, as well as Stargate SG-1, Babylon 5, seaQuest DSV, and The (new) Outer Limits. His genre movie roles have included Beyond the Stars, Damien: Omen II, Invisible Strangler, Prophecy, The Devil’s Daughter, and The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines, and he provided the voice for the character Ratchet in the Transformers movie franchise.
  • Born November 1, 1944 — David Rorvik, 74, Writer and Journalist who published in 1978 the book In his Image: The Cloning of a Man, in which he claimed to have been part of a successful endeavor to create a clone of a human being. According to the book, at the behest of a mysterious wealthy businessman, he had formed a scientific team that was taken to a lab at a secret location, and after a few years of experimentation they managed to create a human ovum containing implanted DNA, which was brought to term by a surrogate mother and produced a living, cloned child. A British scientist whose doctoral work had been lifted for the theoretical basis outlined in In His Image sued for 7 million dollars, and after a judge ruled pre-trial that the book was a fraud, the publisher settled out-of-court for $100,000 plus an admission that the book was a hoax. No evidence for or against the cloning claim was ever produced, and the author to this day still denies that it was a hoax. (numerous conflicting sources list either 1944 or 1946 as his birth year)
  • Born November 1, 1959 — Susanna Clarke, 59, Writer from England whose alt-history Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell wins my award for the most footnoted work in genre literature. It won the Hugo, World Fantasy, Mythopoeic, and Locus Awards, was a finalist for Nebula, British Fantasy Society, British Science Fiction Association, and Premio Ignotus Awards, and was adapted into a 7-episode BBC series which was nominated for a Saturn Award. The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories collects her short works, and is splendid indeed; it was a finalist for the World Fantasy, Mythopoeic, and Prix Imaginaire Awards. Interestingly, she also has a novelette included in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: Book of Dreams anthology.
  • Born November 1, 1972 — Toni Collette, 46, Tony-nominated Actor of Stage and Screen from Australia who received an Oscar nomination for her leading role in the supernatural film The Sixth Sense, and had roles in Hereditary, The Night Listener, Fright Night, Krampus, xXx: Return of Xander Cage, Tsunami: The Aftermath, and the upcoming Velvet Buzzsaw. She has provided voices for characters in the animated features The Boxtrolls, Blinky Bill the Movie, The Thief and the Cobbler, The Magic Pudding, and Mary and Max.
  • Born November 1, 1984 — Natalia Tena, 34, Actor from England who played Nymphadora Tonks in the Harry Potter film franchise and the wildling Osha in the Game of Thrones series. She also appeared in Black Mirror’s feature-length special White Christmas and the superhero comedy SuperBob, and had lead roles in the Residue miniseries and the short-lived Wisdom of The Crowd series. She has a recurring role on Origin, a series set on a spacecraft bound for another system which premieres on November 14.
  • Born November 1 — Jaym Gates, Writer, Editor, Game Designer, and Crisis Management Educator who is currently the acquisitions editor for Nisaba Press and Falstaff Books’ Broken Cities line. She also writes and designs role-playing games, fiction, comics, and nonfiction, and has been editor of numerous SFF anthologies, including JJ’s favorite Genius Loci. She has presented on the topic of crisis communication and community crisis response to groups including the 100 Year Starship and the Atlantic Council, and is a creative partner on an educational project which uses role-playing games, storytelling, and game theory to teach students about managing crisis. She was the SFWA Communication Director for five years and helped to run the Nebula weekends during that time, as well as fostering communications with NASA, DARPA, library and school systems, and public media. She will be a Special Guest at the OrcaCon tabletop gaming convention in January 2019.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) TITLE POLL. The Bookseller has opened public voting for this year’s “Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of the Year”. Voting closes on November 16, and the winner will be announced November 23. The shortlist for year’s six oddest titles includes:

  • Are Gay Men More Accurate in Detecting Deceits? by Hoe-Chi Angel Au
  • Call of Nature: The Secret Life of Dung by Richard Jones
  • Equine Dry Needling by Cornelia Klarholz and Andrea Schachinger
  • Jesus on Gardening by David Muskett
  • Joy of Waterboiling by Christina Scheffenacker
  • Why Sell Tacos in Africa? by Paul Oberschneider

(11) PROPS TO YOU. An LAist reporter managed to get in the door at “The Amazing Santa Monica Prop Shop That’s Rarely Open”.

It’s difficult to define Jadis, because it wears multiple hats: it’s a movie prop house, a museum of pre-computer-era oddities, a cabinet of curiosities, and a retail store.

Oh, and it’s also infamous for almost never being open. Like, ever.

“I tell people, not being open all the time just increases the demand,” Jadis’s owner Susan Lieberman said. “You would take me for granted if I was open regular hours.”

When you walk inside Jadis, you might feel like you’ve found yourself inside a mad collector’s lab: giant interlocking gears, microscopes, cabinets filled with old postcards and eyeglasses, quack science devices from the turn of the century. And if you clap or talk too loudly, there’s a talking head that might yell at you: “My brain hurts. Why you look at me like that. WHYYY?!”

 

(12) NUKE AVOIDANCE. They say all knowledge is contained in…. I thought it was fanzines, but apparently it’s in James Davis Nicoll essays. Today he points out “13 Stories About Surviving a Nuclear War — At Least Briefly”.

Most people now living are too young to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was a fun time when the Americans and the Russians (who at that time were not good buddies but rivals), toyed with seeing just how close they could come to World War Three without pressing the (metaphorical) button. For various reasons, not least of which was that the balance of power of power greatly favoured the United States and the Soviets apparently didn’t fancy atomic suicide for some reason, the stand-off stopped short of nuclear war.

(13) DEATH WHERE IS THY STING. Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton was one of those asked to explain “How death disappeared from Halloween” for the Washington Post.

Sexy avocado costumes obscure the holiday’s historical roots and the role it once played in allowing people to engage with mortality. What was once a spiritual practice, like so much else, has become largely commercial. While there is nothing better than a baby dressed as a Gryffindor, Halloween is supposed to be about death, a subject Americans aren’t particularly good at addressing. And nowhere is that more evident than in the way we celebrate (or don’t celebrate) Halloween.

Halloween has its origins in the first millennium A.D. in the Celtic Irish holiday Samhain. According to Lisa Morton, author of “Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween,” Samhain was a New Year’s celebration held in the fall, a sort of seasonal acknowledgment of the annual change from a season of life to one of death. The Celts used Samhain celebrations to settle debts, thin their herds of livestock and appease the spirits: the kinds of preparations one might make if they are genuinely unsure whether they will survive the winter.

(14) MARVELMAN. Corporate and legal shenanigans enliven Pádraig Ó Méalóid’s new history Poisoned Chalice.

The comic character Marvelman (and Miracleman) has a fascinating – and probably unique – history in the field of comics. His extended origin goes all the way back to the very beginnings of the American superhero comics industry, and it seems likely that his ongoing story will stretch on well into the future. It involves some of the biggest names in comics. It’s a story of good versus evil, of heroes and villains, and of any number of acts of plagiarism and casual breaches of copyright. Poisoned Chalice wades into one of the strangest and thorniest knots of all of comics: the history of Marvel/Miracleman and still unsolved question of who owns this character. It’s a story that touches on many of the most remarkable personalities in the comics industry—Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Todd McFarlane, Joe Quesada and more—and one of the most fascinating in the medium. The story of Marvelman touches on the darker places of comics history, springing from the prehistory where greed ruled the day; it’s a complex tale that others have attempted to untangle, but there has never been as thorough or as meticulous a study of it as this book.

(15) ELEGANT SOLUTION. Greg Egan and fans of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya contribute to mathematics: “An anonymous 4chan post could help solve a 25-year-old math mystery”.

…An anonymous poster figured out one possible way to solve to the 4chan problem, satisfying the more mathematically inclined Haruhi fans. But in the process, they also helped puzzle out an issue that mathematicians have been working on since 1993. The anonymously authored proof (which was recently reposted on a Fandom wiki) is currently the most elegant solution to part of a mathematical problem involving something called superpermutations. It’s an enigma that goes well beyond anime….

… The 4chan proof outlines how to find the smallest possible number of episodes for the solution. But that doesn’t fully solve the problem. An even bigger breakthrough came earlier this month when sci-fi author and mathematician Greg Egan wrote up a proof that outlined how to find the largest possible number for any given superpermutation problem….

(16) THERE WILL BE (WATER) WAR. Gizmodo take’s a look at a new report that looks at potential areas of conflict over water could arise as climate change continues (“Here’s Where the Post-Apocalyptic Water Wars Will Be Fought”). They couldn’t resist the genre allusions.

A United Nations report published last week said we have about a decade to get climate change under control, which—let’s be honest—isn’t likely to happen. So break out your goalie masks and harpoon guns, a Mad Max future awaits! Now, as new research points out, we even know where on Earth the inevitable water wars are most likely to take place.

Sarcasm aside, this report is actually quite serious.

Published today in Global Environmental Change, the paper identifies several hotspots around the globe where “hydro-political issues,” in the parlance of the researchers, are likely to give rise to geopolitical tensions, and possibly even conflict. The authors of the new report, a team from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), say the escalating effects of climate change, in conjunction with ongoing trends in population growth, could trigger regional instability and social unrest in regions where freshwater is scarce, and where bordering nations have to manage and share this increasingly scarce commodity.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Big Data–L1ZY” on Vimeo shows what happens when a virtual assistant becomes an evil robot overlord!

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

Pixel Scroll 9/17/18 Rossum’s Universal Robocallers

(1) MEET THE PASSENGER. Musk’s moonbound ticket buyer was introduced on a SpaceX webcast this evening. “Here’s What Elon Musk Is Charging Tourists to Fly Around the Moon”.

One thing is almost certain: the unknown passenger is ridiculously wealthy. The price for a single seat on the 100-person rocket intended to explore the moon is estimated to cost in excess of $35 million. For the inaugural passenger, it’s a massive price to pay for an adventure with no definite launch date yet.

(2) A MODEST PROPOSAL. The Washington Examiner has a series of suggestions on how the new Picard-led Trek series could please the audience (“Capt. Jean-Luc Picard is back! Here’s how to keep ‘Star Trek’ fans happy“).

  1. Pay homage to “Star Trek IV” by having Picard visit modern-day San Francisco.
  2. Reveal that every “Star Trek” movie after 1996 was actually just an elaborate Holodeck simulation.
  3. Limit the amount of mysterious energy beings to 3 per season, tops.
  4. Have Picard finally make Q shut up for, like, 20 seconds.
  5. Bring back Whoopi Goldberg. Then continue the time-honored “Next Generation” tradition of having Guinan solve everything.
  6. Actually, you know what? Picard’s back. The entire series could just be episodes of Patrick Stewart wailing on the Ressikan flute and we’d still be happy.

(3) PROTAG TIP. Ann Leckie tells readers a way to learn something about themselves.

(4) TIPTREE ON STAGE. The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man runs at Los Angeles’ Son of Semele venue from October 17-November 17.

She dared…

Part fact, part fever dream, this captivating new work opens with Alice B. Sheldon – better known to sci-fi aficionados as author James Tiptree, Jr. – contemplating suicide. Dodging in and out of reality, the play investigates gender, longing and creativity as self-exploration through one of the Science Fiction world’s greatest literary tricksters. Directed by Maureen Huskey; music by Yuval Ron.

Broadway World profiled the play in May:

The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man – Part fact, part fever dream, and part musical, this captivating new work opens with Alice B. Sheldon – better known to sci-fi aficionados as author James Tiptree, Jr. – contemplating suicide. Dodging in and out of reality, the play, with a bold musical score from award-winning world music artist Yuval Ron, investigates gender, longing and creativity as self-exploration through one of Science Fiction world’s greatest literary tricksters. Sheldon was most notable for breaking down the barriers between writing perceived as inherently ‘male’ or ‘female’. It was not publicly known until 1977 that Tiptree was, in fact, a woman. Inspired by the biography ‘James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon‘ by Julie Phillips along with ‘With Delicate Mad Hands’ by James Tiptree, Jr., Maureen Huskey wrote and directs the first production of The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man, opening October 27 and running through November 17, at Son of Semele Theater in Los Angeles.

…The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man takes imaginary license whereby Sheldon is visited by an unexpected stranger – an extraterrestrial “star caller” from one of Tiptree’s stories – who leads her on an episodic, emotional journey through the shadows of her past where, despite her life’s accomplishments, buried pain and unmet desires reside. She encounters her younger selves, her repressed lesbian love, a domineering mother, and the incarnation of her male alter-ego: James Tiptree, Jr. The play locates unexpected links between gender orientation, creative expression and mental health, and shows how science fiction became the answer to Sheldon’s struggles as a woman

Son of Semele Theater 3301 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles Los Angeles California 90004.

(5) MEXICANX ANTHOLOGY. A reader asked how to get a copy of Una realidad más amplia: Historias desde la periferia bicultural, the anthology showcasing a sampling of MexicanX talent which was funded by a Kickstarter.

Julia Rios says —

There are no print copies available because it was a very limited print run, but we will be releasing the ebook for free to the general public. The ebook will go out to backers first, and they’ll have it for a few weeks before the public gets it, but my understanding is that all of this should be happening pretty soon!

(6) NOT YOUR TYPICAL SF WRITER. Kat Hooper reviews YouTuber Hank Green’s sf novel An Absolutely Remarkable Thing at Fantasy Literature.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing (2018) is a delightful science fiction story with diverse characters and a fun and clever mystery to solve. The entire world is involved in trying to find clues and piece them together to figure out what the Carls want from us. On the surface, the book appears to be about our relationship with these aliens, but it’s really about our relationships with each other….

(7) HISTORY OUT LOUD. Thanks to Fanac.org you can listen to these speeches from L.A.con II, the 1984 Worldcon, by guests of honor Gordon R. Dickson and Dick Eney.

L.A.con II, the 42nd World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Anaheim, CA in 1984. Introduced by Jerry Pournelle, here are the Guest of Honor speeches by Fan Guest Dick Eney and Professional Guest Gordon R. Dickson. Dick talks about his life “after” fandom, with fascinating anecdotes about foreign service. Gordy tells the story of his life and his writing. If you enjoy Gordy’s Childe saga, here’s an opportunity to hear about its origins. The end of Gordy’s talk feels chillingly appropriate for today. Thanks to the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (SCIFI) for this recording.

 

(8) A PAINFUL JOURNEY BACK IN TIME. This post leads with a news bulletin from 1963 about the horrific church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, before Galactic Journey’s Traveler seeks solace in a new issue of F&SF: “[September 17, 1963] Places of refuge (October 1963 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”.

Deluge, by Zenna Henderson
(poetic sting by Jeanette Nichols)

Now we come to the part I was most looking forward to, the return of Zenna Henderson’s The People.  This episode of the saga is chronologically the first, showing what caused a family of humanoid espers to depart from Home and take refuge in the ruralities of America.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 17, 1978 — The original Battlestar Galactica premiered on television on this date

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 17 — Cassandra Peterson, age 67 best known as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Where she, and I quote Wiki here, “gained fame on Los Angeles television station KHJ-TV wearing a revealing, black, gothic, cleavage-enhancing gown as host of Elvira’s Movie Macabre, a weekly horror movie presentation.”  That show evolved into similar shows down the decades.

She also has appeared in a lot of films, only a few as starring roles. In 1989, she would get a  Raspberry for Elvira, Mistress of the Dark which scored a 47% with critics at Rotten Tomato, proving neither group was the target audience.

Everything from films, action figures, trading cards, pinball machines, Halloween decor, model kits, calendars, perfume and comic books to high end statues has followed down the decades. She is genre, mostly on the comic side of things.

Now who’s birthday did I miss?

Steven H Silver’s answer would be Irene Radford, judging by today’s entry in his birthday series: “Birthday Reviews: Irene Radford’s ‘Little Red in the ‘Hood’”

…Radford has published numerous series, many of them through DAW Books, including the Dragon Nimbus, Stargods, Tess Noncoiré, and Merlin’s Descendants. She is one of the founders of Book View Café, a cooperative publisher. She has also collaborated with Bob Brown and as an editor with Deborah J. Ross, Laura Ann Gilman, Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, and Brenda Clough….

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) STAR WARS COMICS. Marvel will run all-new stories from all three Star Wars trilogies, starting in December. Here’s the promo art —

For more information, be sure to check out the Disney-Lucasfilm Publishing panel at New York Comic Con on Friday, October 5th at 3pm E.T. in Room 1A10!

(13) SEAT DANCING. Washington Post dance critic Sarah L. Kaufman interviews Fortnite players who tell her that in order to be really good at Fortnite you have to practice your virtual dance moves and good Fortnite players are good virtual dancers — “The dances in ‘Fortnite’ have become nearly as contagious as the game”.

In our increasingly impatient, data-driven society, where matters of style and aesthetics are largely seen as a waste, art for art’s sake is thriving in an unusual place — the massively popular video game “Fortnite: Battle Royale.”

The goal in “Fortnite,” as in most multiplayer shooter games, is to blow your enemies to shreds. It follows a typical “battle royale” format, where 100 players brawl until there’s only one survivor. Though it costs nothing to play, “Fortnite” is raking in higher monthly sales — $126 million, for example, in February — than its nearest competition, “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.” How does “Fortnite” do this? By getting players to buy “skins” — avatar costumes — and avatar dances.

 

(14) STRANGE HORIZONS. Charles Payseur keeps an eye on the latest short sff in “Quick Sips – Strange Horizons 09/03/2018 & 09/10/2018″.

Strange Horizons opens September with two new short stories and poems. And the feel of these pieces very much faces the bleak and desolate for me. People who are struggling against a world that seems like a hostile waste, where they can’t find connection, where those people they care about don’t seem to stick around, don’t seem to really understand. Where they are pulled by ghosts, of those they have lost and by the ghosts of their past selves, toward ends that mean destruction or worse. It’s a rather rending month of short SFF, so let’s steel ourselves and get to the reviews!

(15) LEGO LOTR. A post from 2013 but it’s news to me — “Mind-Blowing LEGO Recreation of LOTR’s Helm’s Deep Battle”.

We’ve all seen some incredible LEGO builds before, but this one, by Rich-K & Big J, takes the cake as one of the most impressive pop culture recreations of all time! About 150,000 LEGO bricks and 1,700 mini-figures were used to recreate the Helm’s Deep battle scene from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. It took the duo about four months to construct the 160 pound, ping-pong table size creation.

Look closely and you’ll notice the small details like the catapults, ladders and towering walls.

(16) A LEAF FROM THE LIFE OF TOLKIEN. Not only Tolkien, but Dostoevsky and General Maximus from Gladiator weigh in on this lesson: “Life Echoes in Eternity: On J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Leaf by Niggle’” in Crisis Magazine.

…It was thoughts of this kind that inspired Tolkien’s doctrine of sub-creation; the artist creates because he is an imago Dei, and that of which he is an image (God) also creates. The artist’s creation has some sort of being in eternity, because God knows the artist’s work. In eternity, though, it is perfected, for God knows what it was intended to be, and what it ought to have been….

(17) FLAG. Mikayla Burns, in “‘First Man’ author, Auburn professor speaks on controversy surrounding upcoming film” in the Auburn Plainsman, interviews Auburn emeritus professor James. R. Hansen, whose biography First Man is the basis for the movie.  Hansen says the controversy surrounding the flag on the moon scene is overblown and that he has a lot of respect for Ryan Gosling’s performance as Neil Armstrong.

Hansen understands why people could receive word of the omission and think it is odd, but he said there was a lot of thought put into that decision. When viewers see the movie, they will understand the decision, Hansen said.

“I lived and breathed the production of this movie, and I understand why (it was omitted),” Hansen said. “But people just hear this one thing, and they don’t understand why it was done the way it was done and how other elements of the movie are unbelievably patriotic and American.”

(18) HOMAGE TO HARRY. At Yesterday’s Papers, “A Crowded Life in Comics – Harry Hershfield”.

On the walls were inscribed photos of Hershfield with Einstein; Hershfield with Chaplin; Hershfield with FDR; etc. One day, talking about old comics as we were, he picked up the phone and called Sylvan Byck, Comics Editor at King Features Syndicate. “I’ve got a young boy here who likes the old timers, believe it or not,” he explained. “Can you send him some old drawings?”

A week later in the mail I received a package with vintage original artwork by Herriman, Segar, Swinnerton, Opper, Jimmy Murphy, Chic Young, McManus, Alex Raymond, Westover, TAD, Hershfield himself, and others. Can someone hum, “Those Were the Days, My Friends”?

(19) ANOTHER DISSATISFIED CUSTOMER. The good news is that people are still watching the recording of the Hugo ceremony. The bad news is….

(20) OXFORD. Amy Pay regales Lonely Planet readers about “Literary Oxford – a book lover’s guide to the city of dreaming spires”.

As the home of a world-renowned university, Oxford is famous as being a place for readers, writers and thinkers. It’s little wonder then that the city has spawned some of the biggest names in literature and has inspired many famous works of fiction. From JRR Tolkien and Philip Pullman to CS Lewis and Lewis Carroll, Oxford has long been the stomping ground of the literary elite, with footsteps left for visitors to trace.

(21) WHEN PUNDAY FALLS ON MONDAY. John Scalzi’s puns, quoted in yesterday’s Scroll, set off a pun epidemic in comments – and also produced this verse from regular Filer — and this really is his handle — Peer.

Now I feel pressure inside the mountain
I feel pressure, burning the peers
And I feel pressure, hollowing souls
And I feel pressure, filing the peer
And I hope you remember thee

Oh, should my pixels scroll
Then surely I’ll do the same
Confined in ticked boxes
We got too close to the Baen
Calling out Ray hold fast and we will
Watch the books burn on and on the martian side
Dandelion comes upon the wine

(With pressure from Ed Sheeran)

(22) SECRET AGENT REX. Would you buy a home from a dinosaur? Yahoo has a feature (“Jurassic Lark: Real estate agent dresses as 7-foot dinosaur to sell homes”) about a Nebraska real estate agent who dresses as a T. rex to push properties. The shower brush must really help with those short arms…

This real estate agent really had a Jurassic lark attempting to sell one of her most recent properties — by dressing in a 7-foot dinosaur costume. Realtor Bambi Chase dressed as the comedic T. rex for the home’s showcase shots, peeking out of the family abode’s shower, cooking up a storm in the kitchen and drinking a glass of wine in the garden. Chase, who works for Nebraska Realty, said she had seen a number of T. rex-costume gimmicks floating around the internet and  decided such an approach would be perfect for the real estate market.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/28/18 Robert’s Pixels Of Order, Newly Scrolled

(1) IN TUNE WITH SPACE OPERA. Strange Horizons presents “’In The Far and Dazzling Future, People Are Still People’: A Round-Table on Domestic Space Opera” with Ann Leckie, Jennifer Foehner Wells, Judith Tarr, Joyce Chng, and Foz Meadows.

Foz Meadows: I honestly think you can’t have good SF without a degree of domesticity. There’s something sterile to the environments so often preferred by hard and military SF, where everyone is in uniform without a hint of how they live outside of it, that forgets that, even in the far and dazzling future, people are still people. One of the clearest visual examples that springs to mind was the ship Serenity, in Firefly—that show had a lot of problems, but the decision to lovingly render the spaceship as a domestic environment wasn’t one of them. There were hand-painted signs on the metal that Kaylee had done, scenes of the crew cooking real food together as a novelty, or making Simon a cake out of flavoured protein for his birthday because they didn’t have anything else; the difference between Inara’s quarters, with its lush decorations, and Jayne’s wall of guns. The Radchaii love of tea in Ann Leckie’s Ancillary series is another example of this.

But again, I find myself at odds with the assumption that domesticity is frowned upon in space opera, given that its presence is, to me, one of the defining qualities that separates it from traditional, “masculine” hard and military SF….

(2) DOCTOR IS IN. Variety says a former Doctor Who will be in Episode IX: “‘Star Wars: Episode IX’ Casts Matt Smith in Key Role”.

Sources tell Variety that “The Crown” star Matt Smith is joining “Star Wars: Episode IX,” which is currently in production in the U.K. It’s unknown at this time whether the “Doctor Who” alum will be on the side of the rebels or the evil empire.

(3) A SFF SPLASH. Scott Edelman interviews Rachel Pollack over a bowl of Vietnamese Seafood Noodle Soup in Episode 75 of Eating the Fantastic.

Rachel Pollack

We had lunch on the final day of Readercon at Pho Pasteur. This Quincy restaurant is a 2017 spin-off of the original Boston Vietnamese venue which has been open since 1991, and since that cuisine is one of her favorites, I thought we should give that venue a try.

Rachel Pollack is someone I’ve been connected to for a third of a century, even since I ran her story “Lands of Stone” in a 1984 issue of Last Wave, a small press magazine I edited and published. But she’s gone on to do so much more since then!

Her novel Unquenchable Fire won the 1989 Arthur C. Clarke Award, and her novel Godmother Night won the 1997 World Fantasy Award. Her other novels include Temporary Agency, which was a 1994 Nebula Award nominee. Her comic book writing includes an acclaimed run on Doom Patrol, as well as New Gods and Brother Power the Geek. She is also an expert on the Tarot and has published many books on the subject, including a guide to Salvador Dali’s Tarot deck. Her comics and Tarot loves blended when she created the Vertigo Tarot Deck with writer Neil Gaiman and artist Dave McKean.

We discussed why Ursula K. Le Guin was such an inspiration, the reason celebrating young writers over older ones can skew sexist, what Tarot cards and comic books have in common, how 2001: A Space Odyssey isn’t a science fiction movie but an occult movie, why Captain Marvel was her favorite comic as a kid (Shazam!), the serendipitous encounter which led to her writing Doom Patrol, how she used DC’s Tomahawk to comment on old Western racial stereotypes, the problems that killed her Buffy the Vampire Slayer Tarot deck, how she intends to bring back her shaman-for-hire character Jack Shade, and much more.

(4) MORE ON CARNEGIE LIBRARY THEFTS. The New York Times traces the fate of an individual stolen book to illustrate why the thefts could be carried on so long: “Vast Theft of Antiquarian Books Sends a Shudder Through a Cloistered World of Dealers”.

A rare books dealer thought he had gotten lucky in 2013 when he managed to acquire a 1787 French first edition — inscribed by Thomas Jefferson when he was ambassador to France.

“If someone else had seen it first, it would have been gone,” said the dealer, John Thomson, who owns Bartleby’s Books, an online shop.

He had no idea that his seeming good fortune was a byproduct of one of the most expansive rare book thefts in history.

The dealer at a book fair who sold it to him, John Schulman, is now accused of conspiring with a library archivist, Gregory Priore, to steal and sell rare items from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh….

… In this niche world based on trust, where confidants are currency and handshake deals are commonplace, the arrest of a prominent dealer is a shocking suggestion of deceit.

Mr. Schulman had served on the association’s board of governors and had even led its ethics committee, the organization said. His clients included some of the biggest names in the business. Prominent bookshops from New York to London bought stolen books, an affidavit shows.

…None of the buyers are accused of wrongdoing. But the booksellers’ association is taking steps to try to prevent a similar wide-scale theft from happening again.

We traced the path of one book, the edition signed by Jefferson, to explain how the theft is suspected to have worked — and why it went undetected for so long….

(5) BETHKE TRIBUTE. Bruce Bethke’s frank memoir “Family Matters” leads up to his announcement of the death of his first wife.

…What even fewer people have known until recently is that in December of 2012, my first wife, Nancy, was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma. After a five-and-a-half year battle, she left this world sometime between late Sunday evening, August 19, and early Monday morning, August 20. Her funeral was this past Saturday.

(6) VELEZ OBIT. Artist Walter Velez (1939-2018) died August 24 at the age of 78.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction tells about his popular work, including covers for Robert Asprin’s books, such as the first Thieves World anthology.

His website is here.

(7) WAYNE OBIT. From Syfy Wire: “The Twilight Zone and Bewitched Actor Fredd Wayne Dead at 93” and The Hollywood Reporter: “Fredd Wayne, Who Played Benjamin Franklin on ‘Bewitched,’ Dies at 93”.

Per the SYFY Wire story, genre roles included appearances on: One Step Beyond (1 episode); The Twilight Zone (2 episodes); Voyagers! (1 episode); Bewitched (2-part episode); Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (2-part episode); Wonder Woman (1 episode); Small Wonder (1 episode); The Phantom of Hollywood (TV movie); Chamber of Horrors.(feature film). There may be others they didn’t list. Depends, in part, on what you count as genre (Nanny and the Professor? Matinee Theatre’s “The Alumni Reunion” & “The Century Plant”?)

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 28, 1991 — First E-mail Sent from Space

 Using a Mac Portable aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, the first e-mail from space is sent to Earth. Two astronauts on the spacecraft, James Adamson and Shannon Lucid, wrote, “Hello Earth! Greetings from the STS-43 Crew. This is the first AppleLink from space. Having a GREAT time, wish you were here,…send cryo and RCS! Hasta la vista, baby,…we’ll be back!” The message was transmitted to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 28, 1915 – Tasha Tudor. American illustrator and writer of children’s books. Her most well-known book is Corgiville Fair, published in 1971, the first of a series to feature anthropomorphic corgis.
  • Born August 28, 1916 – Jack Vance. Where to start? The Dying Earth series? Or perhaps the Lyonesse trilogy? I think I’ll pick the Demon Princes series.
  • Born August 28, 1917 – Jack Kirby. Comic artist is somewhat of an understatement for what he was. Created much of modern Marvel continuity and even some of the DCU as well with New Gods at the latter being my fav work by him.
  • Born August 28, 1948 – Vonda McIntyre, 70. Best known I think for for her Trek and SW work, but Dreamsnake won her both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for Best Novel, and The Moon and The Sun won her the Nebula Award.
  • Born August 28 – Barbara Hambly, 67. Author of myriad genre works including the James Asher, Vampire NovelsThe Windrose Chronicles, and the Sun Wolf and Starhawk series. Some Trek work. Was married for some years to George Alec Effinger.
  • Born August 28 – Amanda Tapping, 53. Stargate franchise of course, also lead in Sanctuary, Travelers, Kiljoys, Riese, Earthsea, Flash Forward and X-Files.
  • Born August 28 – Kelly Overton, 40. Genre work includes Van Helsing, Legends, True Blood, Beauty and The Beast and Medium.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) REASON FOR A SEASON. John King Tarpinian says he has already ordered his “Santa in Space” shirt.

(12) ABOUT W76. Alexandra Erin unpacks a host of feelings about attending a Worldcon in “Conventional Wisdom”, like these sentiments about awards:

And so here is my insight for this year: the awards matter because they represent genuine appreciation, and the appreciation is genuine because it comes from people, from real people, a real community of people, a community of communities — some old, some newer, each diverse in different ways, each with their own competing and conflicting and even occasionally complementary tastes. This community is here at the convention and it is distributed somewhat haphazardly across the globe, wherever people are reading and writing and appreciating science fiction and fantasy literature published in the English language.

WorldCon is a concentration of that community, and the Hugo Awards are a concentration of WorldCon. The community is people, the convention is people, the awards are people, Soylent Green is people, and it is beautiful and it is glorious, even when the community stumbles.

(13) OUT IN FRONT. John Picacio mentions that he won the only Alfie Award presented by George R.R. Martin this year, tells about the gatherings of MexicanX Initiative members, and how he felt while emceeing the Hugos, in his conreport “Worldcon 76: The End Is The Beginning”.

I always forget how applause makes me feel like I’m underwater. I knew I was going to ‘X-up’ centerstage in salute to my Mexicanx brothers and sisters, but from there, every word of my opening address was blank page. Unscripted. Pulled from the bright stagelights, the infinite sea of faces, the inky black, that primetime moment you can’t calculate no matter how hard you try. It’s right there in front of your eyes, beyond the dazzle, if you can stop your heart from exploding out of your chest. All of those struggling years, building to arrive at that moment….I remembered that kid who so desperately wanted to be a part of this business….that guy who appeared at his first Worldcon a mere twenty-one years ago. And he led me through the darkness, like he always does — because I’m still that guy. I still want it as bad as I did when I worked on my first book cover, when I resigned from architecture to be the person I am full-time, seventeen years ago. I don’t remember everything I said up there — it just comes out — and no, I don’t want to watch the video and find out. Once is enough.

(14) NEW WETWARE DISCOVERY. NPR reports on “What Makes A Human Brain Unique? A Newly Discovered Neuron May Be A Clue”. Breaks the use of mice as models for neurological problems, e.g. Alzheimer’s.

An international team has identified a kind of brain cell that exists in people but not mice, the team reported Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

“This particular type of cell had properties that had never actually been described in another species,” says Ed Lein, one of the study’s authors and an investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle.

The finding could help explain why many experimental treatments for brain disorders have worked in mice, but failed in people. It could also provide new clues to scientists who study human brain disorders ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s disease to schizophrenia.

“It may be that in order to fully understand psychiatric disorders, we need to get access to these special types of neurons that exist only in humans,” says Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, which helped fund the research.

(15) PREEMPTIVE STRIKE ON CHOLERA. 21st-century pump handle: “Yemen cholera epidemic ‘controlled’ by computer predictions”. Rainfall predictions ID where sewers will overflow, telling where to concentrate treatment etc.

Last year, there were more than 50,000 new cases in just one week – this year, the numbers plummeted to about 2,500.

The system has enabled aid workers to focus efforts on prevention several weeks in advance of an outbreak – by monitoring rainfall.

It comes as the UN says it is concerned about a possible “third wave” of the epidemic.

(16) MAD, I TELL YOU. At The Onion: “New ‘Game Of Thrones’ Teaser Shows Cackling, Power-Mad George R.R. Martin Burning Completed ‘Winds Of Winter’ Manuscript”.

Shedding light on the much-rumored events of the upcoming eighth and final season, a newly released teaser for the wildly popular HBO series of Game Of Thrones that aired Monday centered around the image of a cackling, power-mad George R.R. Martin burning the completed manuscript of Winds Of Winter.

(17) COMING TO A BOOKSTORE NOWHERE NEAR YOU. Ferret Bueller shares a rarity:

This is a pic?ture I took of the official (I guess) Mongolian translations of the Game of Thrones books in Ulaanbaatar; they’re published by Monsudar, the leading publisher of translated books. These were on display at one of the little branches of Internom, their brick and mortar franchise, this one being near my office. I see by the stamp I took it on 1 April; I took the picture for a friend of mine who’s a GoT fanatic and didn’t even think that you might enjoy seeing it or putting it up on File 770 (it’s interesting enough SF news, I guess) until earlier today.

(18) YOU COULDN’T LOOK IT UP. Cameron Laux describes “Fourteen words and phrases that define the present” for BBC readers:

The new weird

An emerging genre of speculative, ‘post-human’ writing that blurs genre boundaries and conventions, pushes humanity and human-centred reason from the centre to the margins, and generally poses questions that may not be answerable in any terms we can understand (hence the ‘weird’). It is associated with people like Jeff Vandermeer and M John Harrison in fiction, but the approach is bleeding into television narratives (see Westworld or Noah Hawley’s innovative series Fargo and Legion). Vandermeer’s Annihilation is heavily influenced by recent ecological thinking which takes the view that humanity is a blip in geologic history: even considering the potential catastrophe of global warming, the Earth existed long before us, and it will exist long after (see the ‘hyperobject’ entry elsewhere here). In his 2002 book Light, Harrison imagines a universe where human physics is encroached upon by alien physics that coexist and are equally or more potent. Westworld posits machine intelligences that overthrow their masters, unleashing a radically non-human order.

(19) DEL TORO PROJECT. From Variety: “Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ Movie Sets Cast”.

Guillermo del Toro’s “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” adaptation has cast Michael Garza, Austin Abrams, Gabriel Rush, Austin Zajur and Natalie Ganzhorn with production to start this week.

Del Toro is producing the teen thriller with his “Shape of Water” producer J. Miles Dale. Sean Daniel and Jason Brown of Hivemind and Elizabeth Grave are also producing. CBS Films and Entertainment One are co-financing.

(20) NOT ENOUGH CONAN. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett tells how Hollywood suffers for lack of his advice to guide them, in “Conan the Rebooter”.

What is best in life? To revive a franchise, to turn it into a success, and to hear the lamentation of your rivals!

I really do wish Hollywood would consult with me before embarking upon certain film projects. I’ve no doubt my sage advice could save them endless money and embarrassment in regards to the making of the more expensive science fiction and fantasy sort of films. “What’s that Mr Executive? You’re thinking about green-lighting a film based on the game Battleship? No. Just no.”

Ah, but I sense you would like some proof of my ability to deliver such sage advice. Fair enough, let’s then consider that famous barbarian, Conan, by Crom! As a teenager I read at least eleventy-seven paperbacks featuring Conan stories (published by Sphere Books in the UK and by first Lancer and then Ace Books in the US) so I’m reasonably familiar with the source material. Admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve read any of Robert E. Howard’s stories but I think I can unequivocally state that neither attempt to put Conan on the big screen was unflawed….

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

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 1/16/18 You Were Scrolling As A Pixel In A Sci-Fi File When I Met You

(1) VAN GELDER AUCTION BENEFITS PKD AWARD. Norwescon announced that Gordon Van Gelder, administrator for the Philip K. Dick Award, has put 18 sff books up for auction on eBay, including several first editions and signed editions (and some signed first editions), as a benefit for the award’s administrative fees. The Philip K. Dick Award, is presented annually to distinguished science fiction books published for the first time in the United States as a paperback original. The award ceremony is held each year at Norwescon.

(2) SECOND TAKE. Strange Horizons got some pushback about sexism in Adam Roberts’ review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and has now supplemented the original with an edited version —

Editor’s note: This review has been edited to remove sexist commentary about Carrie Fisher. The original version of this review can be read here. For additional background, please see this Twitter thread.

(3) TRUE GRIT. The BBC reports on “Transport Scotland’s fleet of gritters and their gritter tracker”. Contractors Bear Scotland ran competitions to name the various vehicles, and what roads they’re covering can be viewed online.

Thanks to social media, Transport Scotland’s fleet of light-flashing, salt-spraying kings of the road have become a bit of a sensation.

Followers have been glued to their screens following the roads authority’s Gritter Tracker.

They were surprised to find out the vehicles had humorous names like Sir Andy Flurry, Sir Salter Scott and Gritty Gritty Bang Bang….

The force was with the people of Ayrshire during Tuesday’s snow flurries, their roads were being protected by Luke Snowalker.

Along with strong snow-slaying names like the Ice Destroyer, Snow Queen and Ice Buster, more unassuming gritters like Fred, Jack and Frosty have also been out and about keeping the country moving.

Not forgetting Sprinkles, Sparkle and Ready Spready Go.

(4) ANOTHER HORRIFIC LESSON. Chloe N. Clark continues the excellent Horror 101 series with “Surrounded by Others–Anatomy of a Pod Person” at Nerds of a Feather.

As a child, two of my earliest film-related memories are watching the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and watching the John Carpenter version of The Thing. In both, what stuck with child me was the depiction of a monster who not only could be anyone, but also could be someone that you think you know so well: your crewmate, your friend, your lover. This early exposure to these two films led to a longtime obsession with pod people (which the Thing is not technically, but I’m extending my definition here to any monster who can appear in the exact visage of someone you know and trust). As a child, there was a visceral terror to the idea, because the world was one I trusted. As an adult, while I don’t think pod people are likely, they still strike a certain fear because the concept at the heart of pod people’s terror-making is very much real. In this edition of Horror 101, I’ll be diving into the anatomy of a monster (a thing I’ll do occasionally in this series).

(5) ABOUT THAT VENN DIAGRAM. Sarah at Bookworm Blues was caught up in a kerfuffle yesterday, and analyzes the underlying issues in “On Twitter and Representation”.

While most of the comments I received yesterday were displaying the righteous indignation I’m still feeling, there were a handful of others that made their way to me through various means that said something along the lines of, “I just love reading SciFi and Fantasy. I don’t pay attention to the gender of the author.” Or “Does the gender of the author even matter?”

Comments like that bother me about as much as, “I don’t see your disabilities.” Or “I don’t see color.”

As much as I don’t want to be defined by my chronic illness, or my disabilities, they absolutely are part of who I am, and by refusing to see them, you are, in a way, refusing to see me. You’re only seeing pieces of me. Not seeing my disability doesn’t make it go away. Putting me in a box will limit the reaches of my work, rather than expand it.

In another example, women tend to get paid less than men here in the good ol’ US of A, and not seeing the gender roles in that situation, is refusing to see the problem.

Representation matters. It matters for a hell of a lot of reasons. It is important to show young kids everywhere that they can be, do, accomplish whatever they set their minds to. Seeing disabled characters in literature normalizes disabilities in important ways. It provides education to those who might need it. It also gives me someone I can relate to in the books I read, and that right there is absolutely priceless.

This graphic that I posted yesterday doesn’t just have a dearth of female authors on it, but it also lacks any people of color, disabled authors, LGBTQ authors and basically any minority group at all. It’s a list of white male fantasy authors…

and Robin Hobb.

This is important because, I get pretty fed up with women authors putting out work that’s just as good, if not better, than their male counterparts and not getting equal recognition for it. This isn’t a Divide and Conquer thing, it’s a We’re all in it Together thing. Someone’s effort shouldn’t be seen or overlooked based on any of their minority or majority qualifiers. The fact that when asked for a list of fantasy authors the first ones someone gets are white male, says a whole lot. And the truth is, I think this inequality is so ingrained in our culture that it really isn’t even noticed until something like this happens. Maybe we don’t mean for this to happen, but in a way, the fact that this happens without malice or intent makes it just that much more insidious.

Women have basically cleaned the clock in the past few Hugo Awards, and where are they on charts like this? One of the most awarded, celebrated authors in our genre today is N.K. Jemisin, a black female fantasy author, and she deserves recognition for her accomplishments, but where is it in a list like this, and why in the world didn’t her name come up when someone was polling Twitter for fantasy authors? Nnedi Okorafor is getting her book Who Fears Death turned into a television show, and I’ve seen her name, her image, herself routinely cut off from many articles. Namely, when Vice News tweeted about this deal, and the graphic that followed wasn’t of the author who wrote the book, but of George R R Martin, and the book cover….

And today an alternate version is making the rounds –

(6) JACKET. Neil Gaiman’s cover reveal for the U.S. paperback.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 16, 1939 — The comic strip Superman first appeared in newspapers.
  • January 16, 1995 Star Trek: Voyager premiered.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 16, 1948 – John Carpenter celebrated his 70th birthday today – no matter what you may have read. Entertainment Weekly caught the competition’s mistake in listing him as deceased.

Happy birthday John Carpenter! Rotten Tomatoes has some bad news…

The mega-popular film review aggregation site mistakenly declared veteran film director dead Tuesday in a since-deleted tweet.

The 70-year-old horror icon is very much alive, though RT seemed to have a different impression when it honored the Halloween and The Thing director’s birthday…

(9) SEARCHING FOR A SIGN. Further Confusion was held this past weekend in San Jos and they have lost track of a convention icon —

(10) CATAPOSTROPHE. Apparently Kazakhstan is switching from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet, and the result is loaded with apostrophes, so the words look like they came from a bad SF novel. The New York Times has the story: “Kazakhstan Cheers New Alphabet, Except for All Those Apostrophes”.

In his 26 years as Kazakhstan’s first and only president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev has managed to keep a resurgent Russia at bay and navigate the treacherous geopolitical waters around Moscow, Beijing and Washington, keeping on good terms with all three capitals.

The authoritarian leader’s talent for balancing divergent interests, however, suddenly seems to have deserted him over an issue that, at first glance, involves neither great power rivalry nor weighty matters of state: the role of the humble apostrophe in writing down Kazakh words.

The Kazakh language is currently written using a modified version of Cyrillic, a legacy of Soviet rule, but Mr. Nazarbayev announced in May that the Russian alphabet would be dumped in favor of a new script based on the Latin alphabet. This, he said, “is not only the fulfillment of the dreams of our ancestors, but also the way to the future for younger generations.”

…The modified Latin alphabet put forward by Mr. Nazarbayev uses apostrophes to elongate or modify the sounds of certain letters.

For example, the letter “I” with an apostrophe designates roughly the same sound as the “I” in Fiji, while “I” on its own sounds like the vowel in fig. The letter “S” with an apostrophe indicates “sh” and C’ is pronounced “ch.” Under this new system, the Kazakh word for cherry will be written as s’i’i’e, and pronounced she-ee-ye.

(11) ON TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Rich Lynch says the game show Jeopardy! included an Asimov clue in the first round of tonight’s episode, mentioning the Hugo Award. The returning champ got it right!

(12) WHERE’S THE BEEF? Astronaut John Young, who recently died, once got in trouble for smuggling a corned beef sandwich on a space mission.

Gemini 3 had several objectives, from testing the effect of zero gravity on sea urchin eggs to testing orbital maneuvers in a manned spacecraft, which would aid the future moon landing. But another imperative was to test new space foods. Grissom and Young were sent up with dehydrated packets that they were meant to reconstitute with a water gun.

According to Young’s biography, “A couple of congressmen became upset, thinking that, by smuggling in the sandwich and eating part of it, Gus and I had ignored the actual space food that we were up there to evaluate, costing the country millions of dollars.” The House Appropriations Committee convened to mull over the sandwich incident, and one representative even harangued a NASA administrator, calling the sandwich stunt “just a little bit disgusting.”

Young was given a reprimand, the first ever for a member of a NASA space flight. He eventually regretted smuggling the sandwich into space, especially as the story came up over and over. But Grissom remembered it as “one of the highlights of the flight.” Grissom himself was in hot water for nicknaming Gemini 3’s spacecraft Molly Brown after the musical “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” (Grissom’s first space flight ended with his capsule sinking into the ocean after re-entry.) Grissom forced irritated NASA administrators to back down after he suggested the name “Titanic” as an alternative.

(13) STARGAZING. From the BBC, “Hubble scores unique close-up view of distant galaxy”.

The Hubble telescope has bagged an unprecedented close-up view of one of the Universe’s oldest known galaxies.

Astronomers were lucky when the orbiting observatory captured the image of a galaxy that existed just 500 million years after the Big Bang.

The image was stretched and amplified by the natural phenomenon of gravitational lensing, unlocking unprecedented detail.

Such objects usually appear as tiny red spots to powerful telescopes.

(14) RATS ACQUITTED! New simulations show “Black Death ‘spread by humans not rats'”.

“We have good mortality data from outbreaks in nine cities in Europe,” Prof Nils Stenseth, from the University of Oslo, told BBC News.

“So we could construct models of the disease dynamics [there].”

He and his colleagues then simulated disease outbreaks in each of these cities, creating three models where the disease was spread by:

  • rats
  • airborne transmission
  • fleas and lice that live on humans and their clothes

In seven out of the nine cities studied, the “human parasite model” was a much better match for the pattern of the outbreak.

(15) RARE CASES. BBC considers “The mystery of why some people become sudden geniuses”. Chip Hitchcock notes, “Readers of old-time SF may recall H. L. Gold’s ‘The Man with English.’”

But until recently, most sensible people agreed on one thing: creativity begins in the pink, wobbly mass inside our skulls. It surely goes without saying that striking the brain, impaling it, electrocuting it, shooting it, slicing bits out of it or depriving it of oxygen would lead to the swift death of any great visions possessed by its owner.

As it happens, sometimes the opposite is true.

After the accident, Muybridge eventually recovered enough to sail to England. There his creativity really took hold. He abandoned bookselling and became a photographer, one of the most famous in the world. He was also a prolific inventor. Before the accident, he hadn’t filed a single patent. In the following two decades, he applied for at least 10.

In 1877 he took a bet that allowed him to combine invention and photography. Legend has it that his friend, a wealthy railroad tycoon called Leland Stanford, was convinced that horses could fly. Or, more accurately, he was convinced that when they run, all their legs leave the ground at the same time. Muybridge said they didn’t.

To prove it he placed 12 cameras along a horse track and installed a tripwire that would set them off automatically as Stanford’s favourite racing horse, Occident, ran. Next he invented the inelegantly named “zoopraxiscope”, a device which allowed him to project several images in quick succession and give the impression of motion. To his amazement, the horse was briefly suspended, mid-gallop. Muybridge had filmed the first movie – and with it proven that yes, horses can fly.

The abrupt turnaround of Muybridge’s life, from ordinary bookseller to creative genius, has prompted speculation that it was a direct result of his accident. It’s possible that he had “sudden savant syndrome”, in which exceptional abilities emerge after a brain injury or disease. It’s extremely rare, with just 25 verified cases on the planet

(16) KEVIN SMITH’S RATIONALE. Sebastian Paris, in “‘Star Wars’: Kevin Smith Weighs In On The Backlash Against ‘The Last Jedi’” on Heroic Hollywood, says that Smith, in his Fatman on Batman podcast, says that one reason many fans were disappointed with The Last Jedi was that they expected Luke Skywalker to be like Obi-Wan Kenobi and were disappointed when he turned out to be someone else.

(17) 2017 IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. Rich Lynch’s 19th issue of My Back Pages [PDF file] is now online at the eFanzines.com website:

Issue #19 absolutely deplores the undearly departed 2017 as one terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year, and has essays involving historic mansions, convincing re-enactors, subway cars, Broadway shows, urban renewal, pub food, deadly duels, famous composers, iconic catchphrases, tablet computers, 1930s comic books, noir-ish buildings, foreboding edifices, unpaid interns, jams & singalongs, storm warnings, ancient palace grounds, Buddhist temples, worrisome fortunes, sushi adventures, retirement plans, and lots of Morris Dancers.

(18) MUNDANE COMMERCIALS, WHAT ELSE? Should you run out of things to watch, there’s always this collection of Dos Equis “The Most Interesting Man In the World” ads – at least 8 minutes worth.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Richard Williams–Animating Movement is a piece on Vimeo by the Royal Ocean Film Society that describes the techniques of the great Canadian animator whose best known work is the Pink Panther and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, IanP, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Greg Hullender, Martin Morse Wooster, Rich Lynch, ULTRAGOTHA, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 8/21/17 Rishathra Ain’t Nothing But Love Mispronounced

(1) HELP COMING FOR INDIE AUTHORS. Brian Keene, in the August 17 episode of his podcast The Horror Show, mentioned a new resource for librarians. Dann explains:

Small press and indie authors face the double problems of getting bookstores to carry their books and getting local libraries to put them on their shelves.  According to horror author Brian Keene, those problems are significantly influenced by the fact that books from small presses and indie author are rarely reviewed by recognized resources such as Publishers Weekly.  Librarians, in particular, are reluctant to order books that have not been reviewed by another professional librarian.

There is a new magazine on the horizon that hopes to rectify that issue by focusing on reviews of works from small presses and indie authors. Indie Picks Magazine aims to become a librarian quality resource that focuses on works beyond those published by the Big 5 publishing houses.

The first issue is due out on November 1, 2017. Social media links —

(2) DON FORD. J.J. Jacobson, UC Riverside’s Jay Kay and Doris Klein Librarian for Science Fiction, says 1949 Worldcon chair Don Ford also left his photos to them.

It may also give you joy to know that we have a gift of several hundred similar photos from the family of Midwest fan and photographer Don Ford, some dating back to cons from the 1940s. Ultimately these will join the Klein photos on Calisphere.

(3) ROCKET EXPERIMENT. In “Can We Categorize Clipping?”, the Hugo Award Book Club tries to define a category a musical album can win that wouldn’t have to be called Best Musical Album.

Splendor and Misery from L.A.-based experimental hip hop group Clipping is an ambitious and challenging work that is an exemplar of this tradition. In the 2017 Hugo Awards, it became only the second such work to be nominated for a Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo Award (after the 1971 album Blows Against The Empire by Jefferson Starship, which finished in the voting below ‘No Award’). However, Splendor and Misery failed to generate much popular support among voters, placing last amongst other nominated works in the category and losing to Leviathan Wakes from the TV series The Expanse. While Leviathan Wakes is an awesome bit of television (and is the work that we voted for) it is kind of a shame that there isn’t a good category to recognize eclectic and unusual works in the Hugo Awards.

(4) ALIENS OF EARTH. Fantasy-Faction’s Nicola Alter considers “The Creatures We Base Aliens On”.

One of the interesting things about fictional aliens is that they’re almost never completely alien. We have no real idea what extra-terrestrials would look like, and it’s nigh impossible to imagine an entirely new species unlike anything we’ve ever seen. As such, we usually fall back on earthly species for inspiration, combining known elements to create strange new creatures. And we certainly have some bizarre real animals to choose from.

Last year I wrote about our penchant for basing aliens on cephalopods, but octopuses, cuttlefish and squids aren’t the only creatures that inspire us, so I thought I’d take a step back and look at a broader range of favourite sources…

(5) WONKS OF WESTEROS. The Libertarian think tank The Cato Institute will be hosting a Policy Forum about “The Politics of Game of Thrones” on Monday, August 28. It will be livestreamed.

Why is Westeros mired in 8,000 years of economic stagnation? Should Daenerys firebomb King’s Landing to prevent a longer war? The world of Game of Thrones is teeming with fascinating interactions between institutions, incentives, and power that creates a sweeping geopolitical mega-saga just begging to be theorized. An examination of these issues through the lens of economics, law, international relations, and power politics promises to be both instructive and entertaining. The day after the Season 7 finale airs, join the Cato Institute and the R Street Institute in an exploration of the intrigue and game theory (and inevitable analogies to our current political landscape) that pervade the world of ice and fire.

Featuring Ilya Somin (@IlyaSomin) Adjunct Scholar, Cato Institute; Matt Yglesias (@mattyglesias) Co-founder and Executive Editor, Vox; Peter Suderman (@petersuderman) Senior Editor, Reason; Alyssa Rosenberg (@AlyssaRosenberg) Culture Columnist, Washington Post Opinions Section; moderated by Caleb Watney (@calebwatney), Tech Policy Analyst, R Street Institute.

If you can’t make it to the event, you can watch it live online at www.cato.org/live

(6) PASSING THE HAT. Time for the 2017 Strange Horizons fund drive.

We, Strange Horizons, are a non-profit organization run entirely by volunteers. We don’t do the whole advertising thing, and we have no corporate sponsors. It’s through your donations, and your donations alone, that we’re able to pay our contributors and publish a new issue 51 weeks of the year.

This year, we’re trying to raise US$16,000 to keep the good ship Strange Horizons chugging along at its current speed. If we manage to hit that level of funding, we’ve got a few new things planned, too. If that’s enough for you, then you can find out how to donate on our IndieGoGo page. And thank you!

But hey, maybe you’re not quite convinced yet. Maybe you’re wondering what exactly we’ve been up to and what we plan on getting up to next year. Read on—the answers you seek are below! …

(7) HUSH-A-BOOM. This is almost worthy of Galactic Journey — the BBC’s story about a Sixties Soviet superweapon: “The monster atomic bomb that was too big to use”.

Tsar Bomba was no ordinary nuclear bomb. It was the result of a feverish attempt by the USSR’s scientists to create the most powerful nuclear weapon yet, spurred on by Premier Nikita Khruschchev’s desire to make the world tremble at the might of Soviet technology. It was more than a metal monstrosity too big to fit inside even the largest aircraft – it was a city destroyer, a weapon of last resort.

The Tupolev, painted bright white in order to lessen the effects of the bomb’s flash, arrived at its target point. Novya Zemlya, a sparsely populated archipelago in the Barents Sea, above the frozen northern fringes of the USSR. The Tupolev’s pilot, Major Andrei Durnovtsev, brought the aircraft to Mityushikha Bay, a Soviet testing range, at a height of about 34,000ft (10km). A smaller, modified Tu-16 bomber flew beside, ready to film the ensuing blast and monitor air samples as it flew from the blast zone.

In order to give the two planes a chance to survive – and this was calculated as no more than a 50% chance – Tsar Bomba was deployed by a giant parachute weighing nearly a tonne. The bomb would slowly drift down to a predetermined height – 13,000ft (3,940m) – and then detonate. By then, the two bombers would be nearly 50km (30 miles) away. It should be far enough away for them to survive….

(8) GENTRIFICATION. Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen is more dangerous than this. Hell’s Kitchen is no longer as shown in The Defenders: “Marvel Comics Meet Reality On The Not-So-Mean Streets Of Hell’s Kitchen”.

That’s when the editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics moved to New York City — in the ’80s. Axel Alonso met me on West 54th St, and I asked him why this neighborhood is so important in the Marvel Universe. “In Marvel comic books, Hell’s Kitchen sort of functioned as Mean Street Central, the underbelly of society, the place where there are predators and prey.”

Today, those predators are more likely to be the people charging you $50 for a blowout, or $20 for an omelette at brunch. “We’re fudging the truth with Hell’s Kitchen right now, you know, as you and I walk the streets, we see the development and the cafes,” Alonso says.

The New York of an earlier time informed so many iconic comics. Alonso says fans would revolt if you moved characters deeply associated with New York to anyplace authentically grittier, like Detroit. Alonso adds that Luke Cage’s Harlem has been updated, much more so then Hell’s Kitchen. And the Marvel universe is making a point of weaving in stories about gentrification: In Netflix’s Daredevil, an evil real estate mogul kills tenement activists who will not move out of their rent-controlled apartments. He’s motivated only by greed.

Chip Hitchcock adds, “Actually, it hasn’t been that gritty for some time; Penn and Teller were performing there in 1985, right next to a nice French restaurant, before moving to Broadway.”

(9) CELEBRITY BRUSH. I never met the late Brian Aldiss. Lou Antonelli did, sort of. “The time I stepped on Brian Aldiss”.

That year [2004] was the last where the members of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame were inducted at the [Campbell] conference (the event has since moved to the sf museum in Seattle). The living inductees were Brian Aldiss and Harry Harrison. We arrived in Lawrence just in time for the dinner, and as I rushed into the student center – worried that we were running late – I saw a pair of old timers in tuxes heading for the door from the opposite direction. As I ran up, I realized they were Aldiss and Harrison. In a clumsy attempt to be a gentleman, I grabbed the door to hold it open for Aldiss, who was first. But as I walked around him, I stepped on the back of his shoe and gave him a “flat tire”. (My wife tried to make me feel better later by pointing out that Aldiss was wearing house shoes).

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born August 21, 1920 — Christopher Robin Milne, A. A. Milne’s son who he modeled Christopher Robin after in the Winnie the Pooh stories.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 21, 1981 — John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London premieres in theaters.

(12) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian spotted Edgar Allan Poe in today’s Bliss.

(13) IN THE SQUARE. Kalimac, in “confederate statues”, adds cultural context to the monument controversy. Historical analysis precedes this excerpt:

…And I think it’s because of that acknowledgment that, up until now, Northerners have ignored the profusion of statues of Lee and Jackson and anonymous Confederate soldiers that festoon Southern town squares. After all, they were great generals and brave soldiers. Let the descendants have their pride.

Up until now. Not any longer. Because if that’s the history that we had that’s now being forgotten, there’s another history that the books I read had ignored that’s now being rediscovered. And that is that the ex-Confederates and their descendants have not been living up to their side of the bargain. And not just in the hard facts of racial oppression in the South for over a century and still echoing in ugly ways today, but also in the symbolism which is the subject of the consensus.

Those statues. They aren’t lovingly-crafted monuments erected in the echo of the loss, like the WW1 cenotaphs in every British town and college chapel. They’re cheap mass-produced knock-offs from Northern factories, put up later, in the Jim Crow era, not in memory of a loss but in defiance of that loss. (the evidence) Look at the capital letters in the term “Lost Cause” and read what’s been said about it. Its memorializers don’t acknowledge it was bad, they only regret that it was lost.

Nor do we notice who’s being honored. There’s Jackson, who died during the war (of the aftereffects of “friendly fire,” by the way), and thus had nothing to say afterwards. There’s Lee, who retired from public life and quietly became a college president. But where is the CSA’s third best general, James Longstreet? You don’t see many statues of him. After the war, he became a Republican and actively co-operated with the Union government. For that, he’s considered a shame in the white South. Confederate apologist historians retroactively blame him for Gettysburg, at best a dubiously tenable position, even hinting that he was secretly a traitor to his cause.

(14) THE TRILOGY FINALE. His Felaptoncy assays a new release: “Review: The Stone Sky by N.K.Jemisin” at Camestros Felapton.

The future world, the one in which most of the books is set, has descended further into physical disaster. The former community of Castrima is now a band of refugees heading towards an empty city in a brutal march which many won’t survive. In a different novel, this struggle would be an account of good and evil but Jemisin avoids treating even monstrous people as monsters. There is no character that appears in any one of the trilogy who is not granted some compassion by the writer – not Schaffa the murderous guardian, nor Jija the child murdering father. Yet this compassion is not at the expense of a strong moral centre to the story and a channelled anger at the use of hate to dehumanise and to brutalise a society

(15) IN RE DANMORE. Rose Embolism promised to boost the signal for this Medium post, which may appeal to the superscientific among you. I suppose it doesn’t hurt any that the piece begins with a Terry Pratchett quote.

PhD candidate Erin Giglio, who I know from metafilter, has done a response to James Danmore’s Google memo, using actual science. And by that I mean it’s an incredibly thorough, well researched paper on the current science on gender, that looks at and devestates Danmore’s s “scientific” arguments.

Aside from being a comprehensive rebuttle to Danmore’s memo, I find it a fascinating, if long and technical read about the current state of biological science.

“The truth has got its boots on: what the evidence says about Mr. Damore’s Google memo”

(16) YOU ARE NO. 6 The Telegraph answers the question “How did The Prisoner ever get made?”

Fifty years ago, The Prisoner began serving time. McGoohan – its star, executive producer, and sometime writer-director, a hard-drinking, intransigent Irish-American actor with a sharp Olivier-like edge to his voice – became Number Six, a former secret agent who knew too much to be permitted his freedom. For 17 weeks, he struggled against the mysterious authorities of the Village, personified by Number Two – not an individual, but an office occupied by a shifting cast of guest stars. (Leo McKern, Mary Morris and Peter Wyngarde were memorable incumbents.) He resisted their mind-bending tricks and interrogation techniques, attempted to escape by land, sea and air, and strove to solve the defining mystery of the series – who is Number One?

(17) AT HELSINKI. Finished commenting on the Hugos, Cora Buhlert continues her Worldcon coverage with “WorldCon 75 Photos and a Report”.

All in all, I had a great time at WorldCon 75. I also think the convention staff did a great job, even if there were some hiccups. And indeed, when I still had some of the German candy I’d brought to Helsinki left over on the final day of the con (the chocolate was all gone by this point), I gave the final two bags to the program ops team, because they really deserved a thank you for all their hard work.

Coincidentally, my Mom enjoyed WorldCon a whole lot, too. She’s not a hardcore SFF fan – SFF is just something she enjoys watching and reading on occasion. However, she was very impressed by the sheer number and variety of people who’d been brought together at Messukeskus by their shared love for science fiction and fantasy. There were fans of all ages, shapes and sizes at WorldCon 75, from babies being carried in a sling at their mother’s chests to people in their eighties and beyond (Robert Silverberg, now 82, was the oldest person I recognised). It was a testament to what a welcoming place fandom is.

(18) PROMOTIONAL GIMMICK. NBC Sports’ Chris Calcaterra says a minor league team intentionally scheduled a game during the eclipse: “Minor league teams prepare for a ‘total eclipse of the park’”

The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes are a class-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. Today, the path of totality of the big solar eclipse we’re not supposed to look at will pass right through the ballpark in which they play. What’s better: the Volcanoes are playing a game against the Hillsboro Hops as it happens.

This was by design: the team’s owner requested this home game when the schedule was made up two years ago specifically to market the heck out of the eclipse. They’re starting the game at 9:30 this morning, Pacific time, in order to maximize the fun. Spectators will receive commemorative eclipse safety glasses to wear. The game will be delayed when the eclipse hits and a NASA scientist named Noah Petro, who is from the area, will talk to the crowd about what is going on.

(19) LIGHTS OUT. Chris Barkley shot this 9-minute video of his experience watching today’s total eclipse.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Chuck Jones –The Evolution of an Artist, Tony Zhou looks at 35 Merrie Melodies to understand Chuck Jones’s genius as an animator.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Rich Lynch, John Hertz, Dann, Chris Barkley, Mark-kitteh, Rose Embolism, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/25/17 J.J. Abrams Apologizes For Pixelwashing In File Trek: Into Scrollness

(1) NEW DAY JOB. Congratulations to Uncanny Magazine’s Lynne M. Thomas who has been appointed to head the Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, one of the largest repositories for rare books and manuscripts in the United States: “University of Illinois alumnus to head Rare Book and Manuscript Library”

Exactly 20 years after starting work as a graduate assistant in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Lynne M. Thomas is returning as the new head of the library.

Thomas, who earned her master’s degree in library and information sciences at the University of Illinois in 1999, has been the curator of rare books and special collections at Northern Illinois University since 2004 and the head of distinctive collections there since 2014. She’ll begin her appointment at the library and assume the Juanita J. and Robert E. Simpson Rare Book and Manuscript Library Professorship on Sept. 1.

While working at Northern Illinois University, Thomas helped grow its holdings of the papers of contemporary sf authors.

(2) PUBLICATION OF BLACK SFF WRITERS. Fireside Magazine has issued “The 2016 #BlackSpecFic Report” (follow-up to its 2015 report):

We are considering the field both with and without the “People of Colo(u)r Destroy!” special issues of Lightspeed, Nightmare, and Fantasy Magazine, since they constitute a project that is limited to one year. Without these issues, a sample of 24 professional SF/F/H magazines yielded 31 stories by Black authors out of 1,089 total stories — that’s 2.8% — while 2.9% of 2016’s published unique authors are Black. In 2015 we found figures of 1.9% and 2.4%, respectively. While there’s no way to determine yet if these small increases are evidence of gradual long-term improvement or just normal variation — two years is too short a trajectory for that — perhaps we can find a cautious degree of optimism…..

Effects of the “People of Colo(u)r Destroy!” Issues

In spite of comprising a tiny portion of the field’s story volume, the “PoC Destroy” issues collectively contained over 20% of 2016’s stories by Black authors. They alone raise the 2016 field-wide ratio by nearly a full percentage point, from 2.8% to 3.6%. Put another way: any improvements that took place from 2015 to 2016? The “PoC Destroy” issues are responsible for about half….

Where Do We Go From Here?

Again, we think there’s reason to have a degree of optimism. Some magazines made substantive changes to their editorial staffs and marketing strategies subsequent to the 2015 report, which was released late enough last year that any resulting improvements would impact only 2017 and beyond. It’s for this reason that this 2016 follow-up is not a comparative analysis but rather should serve as a baseline for comparison in future years.

Progress isn’t always linear; not all magazines have equal resources or lead times, which is why we want to hear from editors and publishers. What are your strategies for combating low publication rates of Black authors? Please answer our survey to let us know.

Black SF/F writers: we’d like to hear your comments and suggestions for how we can improve future reports. This also goes for data collection; we’re working purely from what’s publicly available on the Internet, and we don’t want to force people to publicly self-identify in order to be counted. If you suspect your stories are not included in this count and would like them to be, just want to double check, or have any other concerns — please let us know. Our email address is BlackSpecFicReport@gmail.com; correspondence will be kept confidential.

(3) CHIPPING IN. A Scroll last month talked about one man getting chipped; now it’s an entire company workforce: “Wisconsin company Three Square Market to microchip employees”.

Three Square Market is offering to implant the tiny radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip into workers’ hands for free – and says everyone will soon be doing it.

The rice grain-sized $300 (£230) chip will allow them to open doors, log in to computers and even purchase food.

And so far, 50 employees have signed up for the chance to become half-human, half-walking credit card.

(4) GAME OF SIMPSONS. The Verge has learned “Matt Groening is making an animated medieval adult fantasy with Netflix” called Disenchantment.

Netflix announced today that Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons and Futurama, will be developing a medieval animated adult fantasy called Disenchantment. It’s scheduled to begin streaming on Netflix in 2018.

The series’s protagonist is a young, “hard-drinking” princess named Bean (Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson), and her two male companions are a “feisty elf” named Elfo (Nat Faxon) and a demon named Luci (Eric Andre). While both The Simpsons and Futurama have dynamic, fleshed-out female characters, this is Groening’s first series with a clear female lead.

Rough Draft Studios, the studio that does the art for Futurama, will animate Disenchantment. From the few details Netflix is offering, it’s easy to imagine a sort of epic-fantasy version of Futurama, with the same acerbic, absurdist humor as Groening’s other shows. In the US, Netflix doesn’t have a series that fits this exact bill, though Archer may come closest. (Netflix also carries Futurama, so Disenchantment should fit in.)

(5) ROLL THE BONES. Tom Galloway sent this link with the comment, “Curiously, ‘Santa Fe, NM’ isn’t given as a location from which large bets would raise suspicions…” — “Growing Strong: Inside the Burgeoning ‘Game of Thrones’ Gambling Business”.

Increasingly, Thrones also lends itself to speculation in the financial sense of the word. As Thrones has ascended to its singular place in the splintered TV firmament, it’s not only come to be covered like the Oscars and the Super Bowl, but it’s started to support a similar secondary market of rumors and wagers. Thanks to the series’ big built-in audience, large (if shrinking) cast of characters, and uncertain endgame, Game of Thrones and gambling go together like lovestruck Lannister (or Targaryen) twins.

Some Thrones-related betting contests, like The Ringer’s Thrones Mortality Pool, are just for fun. But in recent years, a number of ostensible sportsbooks have gotten in on the action, with prominent sites such as Sportsbet, MyBookie.ag, and Pinnacle (which debuted its Thrones odds this year) trying to capture a piece of the (hot) pie. The best-known of these books is Bovada, an online gambling and casino-games site owned by a group based in Québec.

Bovada began publishing prop bets for Game of Thrones in 2015. Since the start, those bets have been the personal province of Pat Morrow, who’s been with Bovada for a decade and has served as the site’s head oddsmaker for the past four years. Technically, Morrow oversees all of the site’s wagers, but he’s much more likely to delegate work on the data-based bets that make up most of the site’s offerings. The Thrones odds come from his head alone, both because they require a personal touch and because no one else at Bovada is as qualified to apply it

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 25, 1969 – In theaters: The Valley of Gwangi, a schlockfest of cowboys vs. dinosaurs in Forbidden Valley

(7) SPACE STYLES. The Fashion Spot is telling everyone “Gucci’s Fall 2017 Campaign Is Out of This World!”

Alessandro Michele continues to raise the bar at Gucci while refusing to follow the rest of the fashion pack. His advertising campaigns for the iconic Italian fashion house are often extremely well-received by our hard-to-thrill forum members (despite a few controversies). The newly unveiled Fall 2017 campaign, captured by Glen Luchford, is on another planet — literally. Yes, Michele revisits his sci-fi concept, going all-out for the new mainline campaign — complete with dinosaurs, hovering spaceships, models channeling their inner alien and so much more.

(8) T AND SEE. Lisa Allison at Adventures In Poor Taste lists her faves: “SDCC 2017: Top 5 nerdy t-shirts”. John King Tarpinian says he’d have bought this shirt –

#2: Vampires Don’t Do Dishes

I was drawn to this one for a few reasons. It pairs a quote from What We Do in the Shadows starring Jemaine Clement with a sort of buck toothed, vampire. It’s fun, creepy and artistic. The Benday dots on the sides are a nice touch.

(9) BITER BIT. A Discovery magazine columnist showed several fee-for-publication medical journals seem to have nonexistent professional standards, in “Predatory Journals Hit By ‘Star Wars’ Sting”.

A number of so-called scientific journals have accepted a Star Wars-themed spoof paper. The manuscript is an absurd mess of factual errors, plagiarism and movie quotes. I know because I wrote it….

Four journals fell for the sting. The American Journal of Medical and Biological Research (SciEP) accepted the paper, but asked for a $360 fee, which I didn’t pay. Amazingly, three other journals not only accepted but actually published the spoof. Here’s the paper from the International Journal of Molecular Biology: Open Access (MedCrave), Austin Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Austin) and American Research Journal of Biosciences (ARJ) I hadn’t expected this, as all those journals charge publication fees, but I never paid them a penny.

So what did they publish? A travesty, which they should have rejected within about 5 minutes – or 2 minutes if the reviewer was familiar with Star Wars. Some highlights:

“Beyond supplying cellular energy, midichloria perform functions such as Force sensitivity…”

“Involved in ATP production is the citric acid cycle, also referred to as the Kyloren cycle after its discoverer”

“Midi-chlorians are microscopic life-forms that reside in all living cells – without the midi-chlorians, life couldn’t exist, and we’d have no knowledge of the force. Midichlorial disorders often erupt as brain diseases, such as autism.”

“midichloria DNA (mtDNRey)” and “ReyTP”

And so on. I even put the legendary Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise monologue in the paper…

…This matters because scientific publishers are companies selling a product, and the product is peer review. True, they also publish papers (electronically in the case of these journals), but if you just wanted to publish something electronically, you could do that yourself for free. Preprint archives, blogs, your own website – it’s easy to get something on the internet. Peer review is what supposedly justifies the price of publishing.

[Via Ansible Links.]

(10) PASSING THE HELMET. And in other bogus Star Wars news, Darth Vader has started a GoFundMe: “Help Me Build a Death Star!”.

The Empire is under attack. We are in urgent need of funds to construct a Death Star to crush this rebel alliance!

It had raised zero of its $900 million goal when I last checked in.

(11) SUCKING UP DATA. Speaking of world domination – Eric Persing shared this link with the comment, “This is pretty much the beginning of how the robots take over humanity…right? The vacuum maps your home, sells your home layout to the highest bidder and before you know it, the toaster is trying to kill you.” — “Roombas have been mapping your homes for years, and that data’s about to be sold to the highest bidder”.

As Reuters reports, Roomba maker iRobot is bullish on the prospect of selling what it learns about your home to whoever might want it. “There’s an entire ecosystem of things and services that the smart home can deliver once you have a rich map of the home that the user has allowed to be shared,” iRobot boss Colin Angle told Reuters.

If that sounds more than a little creepy that’s because, well, it is, but companies pushing into the smart home market would most certainly be willing to pony up the dough for the data. Products like smart speakers, security monitors, high-tech thermostats, and many other gadgets could potentially benefit from knowledge of your home’s layout, but in order for iRobot to actually sell archives of the data, it would likely need to be anonymize — that is, scrubbed of any personally identifiable information and lumped in with countless others.

(12) NOT MY FAULT. Munchkin is concerned:

(13) PUPPY RADAR. Camestros Felapton has compiled a list of authors and works being promoted for the Dragon Awards in “Time for those Dragon Projections!”

  1. The titles listed are based on what I have found trawling the web looking for people who were, to some degree or other, promoting works to be nominated for a Dragon Award. I found a lot but who knows what I missed. I did find some stuff on Facebook but it and other places are hard to search inside of. Also, maybe some authors are promoting the Dragons like crazy in forums I cna’t access or on their email lists. Who knows? So large pinches of salt please.
  2. There is though a ‘status’ column and that is even a greater testament to hubris in data collection. The higher the status the more wallop I think the promotion of the work had – either in multiple places or by venues with known impact (e.g. the Rabid slate). “Low” though also includes stuff whose promotional impact I don’t know. Some are authors I don’t know but who may have some legion of highly devoted followers ever ready to throw their bodies and email addresses at an awards website. It is NOT any kind of assessment of the quality or even the popularity of the work – so if you an author and you see ‘very low’ next to your book, don’t be disheartened.
  3. So it is all a bit pointless then? No, no. Basically the more stuff on the list that appears as Dragon Awards finalists, the more the finalists were determined by overt public campaigning on blogs – and predominately from the Rabid and Scrappy corners. The less stuff on the list making it as finalists, then the less impact that kind of campaigning had on the Dragon Awards.

(14) THE SHARKES BITE. The Clarke Award will be announced this week. The Shadow Clarke jury dashes off one more review, then begins analyzing the Sharke experience and the future of the Clarke award.

An inspector investigates the case of a disappeared man but despite his occasional dreams of solving the case, he never uncovers the truth and only succeeds in stripping away layer after layer of appearance until nothing is left. Infinite Ground is a kind of metatext in which the ostensible missing person investigation in the plot simultaneously functions to interrogate fundamental aspects of being such as identity and even existence, as though the world itself is also text. By the end of MacInnes’s novel we are no longer sure if the man, the inspector and the society they come from are still in existence or, indeed, if they ever existed at all. Among the many facets of the text is a strain of the kind of hermeneutic deconstruction that marks out my natural enemies in any literature faculty. ‘At the heart of meaning there is no meaning’ is the refrain of this theme but it often seems to coexist very comfortably with institutional power structures and academic management hierarchies. MacInnes takes this to extreme levels of quantum indeterminacy and fractal microbiology that defy any kind of systematisation, however there is still a level of destruction wrecked on everyday life in texts like this which I find uncomfortable. I am reminded of reading Paul Auster’s different, but not entirely dissimilar New York Trilogy and turning afterwards to Dashiell Hammett for an equally relentless but more grounded interrogation of social existence. MacInnes, however, had me turning to Hammett within 30 pages…

So, what did we achieve here?

If nothing else – apart from a few good jokes floating around the web about who has read which Iain Banks novels – we have demonstrated why the actual Clarke Award juries don’t make their deliberations public. Nevertheless, I do think the level of discussion and analysis we have provided has been a positive feature even when this has provoked a certain amount of pushback. There hasn’t been a hidden agenda and the motivations and various criteria used by members of the shadow jury have become reasonably clear across the process. Anyone looking at the project from the outside is in a position to weigh up the assumptions and judgements made and to criticise these for deficiencies; and, of course, a number of people have done this. I have found it interesting to read the discussion on File770 and twitter as well as on the comment boxes on the Sharke posts themselves. Some of this seems fair and some seems unfair; but that is often the way of things.

As this year’s Clarke festivities wind inexorably towards their close, I thought it would be interesting to cast an eye over the landscape ahead of us. It does the heart good to have something to look forward to, after all, and what could be more fun than making a few early advance predictions about next year’s Clarke Award?

I’m not here to discuss the more obvious entries. We all know that Kim Stanley Robinson, Cory Doctorow, Kameron Hurley and Ann Leckie have new novels out this year and everybody will be talking about them as possible contenders soon enough. As the books I’m most interested in tend to be those that hover around the edges of genre, I thought I’d do better to focus upon novels published by mainstream imprints that might otherwise be overlooked by SFF commentators. With a little over half the year gone, there will inevitably be titles I’ve overlooked, authors I’ve not come across yet. This is just a tiny sample of what next year’s Clarke jury might have to look forward to.

And as a bonus, a review of the actual Clarke shortlist from Strange Horizons. Interestingly, the reviewer has a good go at linking the 6 nominees together thematically, even though the Sharkes were of the opinion that the shortlist lacked a coherent theme…

In theme, style, and content, the 2017 Clarke Award shortlist—Emma Newman’s After Atlas, Yoon Ha Lee’s Ninefox Gambit, Tricia Sullivan’s Occupy Me, Becky Chambers’s A Closed and Common Orbit, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, and Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station—is a diverse set. However, in different ways, each of these books speaks to [Jill] Lepore’s concern about “a fiction of helplessness and hopelessness.” Perhaps, as a function of the times we are in, these books do not heed Le Guin’s call to envision alternatives to how we live. The futures—and in one case, the past—that these books offer is either dystopic or close to dystopic, in utterly recognizable ways. Many of the pregnant battles of today—for democracy, for equality, for privacy, and against universal surveillance—have in these pages been lost for good, and there is no pretence that any individual, or group of individuals, has the power to transform the world. There is little in the way of grand narrative or vaulting ambition in terms of the stories that these novels set out to tell. Far greater—and in some cases, exclusive—focus is placed on human relationships, on more mundane struggles; it is as if Marx’s utopianism of overthrowing centralized power has been replaced by Foucault’s bleaker understanding of power’s ubiquity, and the dispiriting realization that the struggle is limited to daily, quotidian acts. Above all, there is—almost—a palpable mistrust of any radical re-imagination of the ways in which society might be organised.

(15) CARRIE VAUGHN. Lightspeed poses questions to the author in “Interview: Carrie Vaughn”.

You explored Enid’s world in your Hugo-nominated short story “Amaryllis,” which, contrary to most post-apocalyptic stories, has a positive ending. What made you want to explore the dark side of this world at novel length in Bannerless?

It’s a multifaceted culture with both good and bad to it, and Enid is in a unique position to see both. I went into the story assuming that a culture built up like this one is, with a huge amount of scrutiny to go along with the community building, is going to have some unintended consequences, such as the bullying of outsiders.

(16) CONNECTIONS. Matt Mitrovich reviews Nick Woods’ Azanian Bridges for Amazing Stories.

Azanian Bridges is a well-written novels that tackles a difficult period of South African history that, in the grand scheme of things, only recently ended. I read it shortly after I finished Underground Airlines and found myself comparing the two novels. Both deal with de jure racial inequality in two different countries continuing long after it ended in our timeline. To be honest, I felt Underground Airlines had a bigger impact on me since I am an American and have a better understanding of my own country’s past, but if you have any knowledge of South African history, there is enough about this world that Nick created for you to enjoy.

And yet the actual history plays a secondary role to the primary purpose of Azanian Bridges: that we can have peace if we can bridge the divide between peoples.

(17) COSPLAY AT COMIC-CON. ScienceFiction.com shares stunning photos in “SDCC 2017: Cosplay Gallery Part 1”.

(18) ONE DOES NOT SIMPLY EVICT THE SUPERNATURAL. Todd Allen continues The Mister Lewis Incidents  — a monthly short form satirical horror detective / urban fantasy series featuring the adventures of a “physics consultant” who consults on matters that defy the laws of physics. The fourth one is out commercially and the fifth one is in the hands of the crowdfunding folks.

The Gentrified Bodega Investigates the Secrets of a Shady Landlord

Wherever rents are rapidly rising, and especially where there’s rent control, there’s always a problem with landlords stepping outside the law to evict renters.  But what happens when there’s something in the building that isn’t human and isn’t ready to leave?

About The Gentrified Bodega

“The neighborhood was improving and people were dying to move in. Then their bodies were turning up in the back aisle of the bodega. The building wove a web of shady evictions, fake leases and unexplainable deaths. Can Mister Lewis discover the secret of the gentrified bodega or will the housing crisis be solved by mass attrition?”

The Gentrified Bodega is available on Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook and Kobo or direct from the publisher.

(19) ALL WET. Aquaman Movie 2018 Teaser Trailer.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge,JJ, Todd Allen, Carl Slaughter, DMS, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day JJ.]

Pixel Scroll 4/8/2017 Fly Me To The Moon And Let Me Pixel To The Stars

(1) SCENERY WILL BE CHEWED. Nerd & Tie says we can look forward to multiple Masters in Season 10 of Doctor Who: “John Simm Will Reprise His Role as The Master in ‘Doctor Who’ Series 10”.

In a turn of events I’m sure most of us didn’t expect, John Simm will be stepping back into the role of The Master this upcoming series of Doctor Who. Simm last played the character in 2010, during David Tennant’s final story as The Doctor.

Michelle Gomez took over the part a couple of series ago, and will also appear this series….

(2) CLARKE CENTER CLARION BENEFIT. On May 2, the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination will present an evening on the craft of writing science fiction and fantasy with George R. R. Martin (“A Song of Ice and Fire,” adapted for television as Game of Thrones, the Wild Card series) in conversation with Kim Stanley Robinson (New York 2140, the Mars trilogy). Shelley Streeby, faculty director of the Clarion Workshop, will moderate.

All proceeds will support the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop at UC San Diego, “the oldest and most highly regarded training ground for new science fiction and fantasy authors.”

Note – Martin will not be doing a signing.

(3) UNITED. In “A Personal Note”, Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories wishes his wife, Karen, a happy birthday, and talks about her medical struggles over the past year.

I can not express the degree of my admiration for this woman who has suffered more than most but who continues to fight, each and every day.  She (and I) get frustrated with the pace, we have our down days (the weather around here certainly doesn’t help)…but we still manage to have our laughs;  we still discuss world affairs, are involved with family matters….

(4) MISSED THIS ONE. This was an insurance company’s April Fool –

(5) AND THIS ONE. Fly SJW-Credential Airlines! Cheapflights posted this on April 1.

Book a flight and have a furry friend waiting for you when you board.

As part of our goal to make flight search super simple and provide travelers with the most options, Cheapflights is launching our new Catflights filters. With the rising popularity of cat cafes, cat bars and cat-friendly flights around the world, it’s easier than ever to enjoy a little kitten companionship while traveling.

And the benefits are pretty purrsuasive….

 

(6) WORSE THAN ALLIGATORS IN THE SEWERS. Where better to watch Them! than a place practically on top of where the giant ants entered the Los Angeles River? It will happen, at one of several special showings at Union Station.

Next up in the series, on May 12, is the 1954 Them! The campy flick about enormous man-eating ants is considered the first big hit in the “nuclear monster” sub-genre of Cold War-era science fiction. Several scenes were filmed at Union Station and others were shot along the banks of the L.A. River.

Sci-Fi at Union Station wraps up on June 9 with the most contemporary film in the slate, Her, from 2013. The film was selected for the series in part because of the vision it includes of what riding the Metro in L.A. might be like in the near future. Subway to the beach? Well, we’re pretty much there. Operating systems that we fall in love with might still be a little further off, though not if Elon Musk has anything to say about it.

Sci-Fi at Union Station takes place at 8:30pm on April 5, May 12 and June 9. Entry is free with seating on a first-come, first-serve basis. Films are shown indoors in the main ticketing hall.

(7) SF AT ANOTHER ICONIC THEATER. ‘Superman: The Movie’ is being shown at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood on Sunday, April 16th at 7:30pm as part of a double bill with 1951 ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’.

(8) ZIEGLER OBIT. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna has an appreciation of Jack Ziegler, the great New Yorker cartoonist who passed away on March 29 at the age of 74 – “How Jack Ziegler became ‘the godfather’ of the New Yorker’s modern wave of cartoonists”.

It was February 1974, and young Jack Ziegler had just sold his first drawing to the New Yorker. Yet in the months that followed, even as his cartoons continued to sell, he was having trouble actually getting published. The roadblock, it turned out, was a lone layout man who, having been at the magazine a half-century, saw himself as the bulwark against the institution’s would-be ruin.

“He didn’t like my work, apparently,” Ziegler once said of this one-man bottleneck — a makeup editor named Carmine Peppe who aimed to exercise control over which cartoons to hold. But what Peppe didn’t realize was that Ziegler represented a new wave of New Yorker cartoonists, and that this tide would not be denied.

“It turned out that Carmine thought that if they printed my stuff, it would be the end of the magazine and that it would just destroy The New Yorker as we know it. Which it did, apparently,” Ziegler said with a laugh in Richard Gehr’s 2014 book of profiles, “I Only Read It for the Cartoons: The New Yorker’s Most Brilliantly Twisted Artists.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 8, 1961 — Stan Laurel received his honorary Oscar.

John King Tarpinian adds, “My all-time favorite short story of Ray Bradbury’s is ‘The Laurel & Hardy Love Affair’ which can be found in the anthology The Toynbee Convector.”

  • April 8, 1990  — Twin Peaks premieres.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • April 8, 1980 – Katee Sackhoff, best known for playing Lieutenant Kara “Starbuck” Thrace on the Sci Fi Channel’s television program Battlestar Galactica (2003–2009).

(11) GAME AMPLIFIES A POSITIVE TREND. Pokemon Go may be reducing Japanese suicides, at least in one location.

Most people who choose to take their own lives do so in a private place, often their own home, she says. Since the game came out there have been many media reports of crowds of gamers at Tojinbo, suggesting it may no longer hold the same appeal for those seeking isolation.

With media attention a major factor in drawing people to suicide hotspots, it is not impossible that different coverage of the area is also helping change its reputation.

Tell’s director also says the Tojinbo story comes at the same time as a very welcome decline in suicide across Japan, from about 33,000 a year at its peak a decade ago to about 21,000 now.

(12) ADDITIONS TO MOUNT TBR. Hot off the virtual press – Strange Horizons April 2017 issue.

(13) PATHFINDER. Lela E. Buis reviews Rabid Puppy Hugo nominee “Alien Stripper Bones From Behind By The T-Rex”. Unsurprisingly, there’s not much to say about porn.

(14) AUTHOR WRITES BOOK ON SMARTPHONE. A man from the Borders area of Scotland has written a 100,000-word novel over three years on his 90-minute daily train commute. Billy Twigg and the Storm of Shadows by Ninian Carter is a “genre-blurring” young adult SF novel.

(15) REALLY. Wasn’t that long ago people complained if anything looked like normalizing the current state of affairs.

(16) CLEAN SWEEPDOWN FORE AND AFT. Working to clean up space trash: the BBC reports on “The race to destroy space garbage”.

Chip Hitchcock adds, “I can remember only one story, by the lesser-known British writer Hugh Walters, that mentioned cleaning up space — and he talked about a tug that would bring down entire satellites in one piece. Nobody thought we’d pollute space, even when writers were starting to talk about pollution on Earth.”

(17) KEEPING WRITERS OFF THE STREETS. Atlas Obscura has heard “The Mall of America Is Looking for a Writer-in-Residence”.

The job: Spend five days “deeply immersed in the Mall atmosphere” and write “on-the-fly impressions” of the place. The position is open to all sorts of writers (journalists, poets, musical comedy writers, etc.) of various levels of experience. The initial application involves writing a short pitch about “how you would approach this assignment.”

The compensation: The Mall will put the writer up in the on-site hotel, give them $400 for food and drink, and a “generous honorarium…

Apply here.

(18) LOST ITS CARBONATION. At The Verge, Kwame Opam says “Legion’s first season fizzled into a conventional superhero story”.

Right until the end, it’s a tight, quirky, well-acted, visually arresting series that’s unlike just about anything on television, including its superhero show kin.

So why am I left wanting?

By the end of its run, Legion reminded me a great deal of the first season of HBO’s True Detective. Even though Legion never becomes the water-cooler show Detective became, Hawley’s series is similarly ambitious, sprawling, atmospheric, and frustrating. It rewarded weekly viewing by changing the stakes, raising new questions, and dangling the possibility of a mind-bending mystery. But in its final act, that hoped-for mystery gets cast aside in favor of a smaller, more straightforward conclusion. In the end, Legion is auteur television at its strongest and weakest. It’s a well-told, even innovative story, but in spite of the gorgeous window dressing, it’s still deeply conventional.

[Thanks to rcade, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John King Tarpinian.]

Strange Horizons Announces New Editors-in-Chief

Strange Horizons is under new management: as of today, Jane Crowley and Kate Dollarhyde become the magazine’s Editors-in-Chief, taking over from current editor Niall Harrison.

Crowley and Dollarhyde joined Strange Horizons in early 2016 as Associate Editors. Over the last year, they have curated several special issues, including features on the work of Nalo Hopkinson, utopia, and Spanish SF. They have also overseen the growth of Strange Horizons‘s broader publishing activities, including the recent launch of sister magazine Samovar.

Harrison has been Editor-in-Chief since early 2011, and involved with Strange Horizons since 2005. In his outgoing editorial “Moving On”, he described Crowley and Dollarhyde’s contribution over the last year as “invaluable”, noting that “it’s important for Strange Horizons, given the type of space it aspires to be, that it continues to look outwards and forwards. Kate, Jane, and the rest of the team understand that, and I’m excited to see where they take things.”

Jane Crowley said: “It’s a huge honour to be involved in a magazine like Strange Horizons, which has such ambitious plans and has hosted so many exciting new voices over the years. It’s hard to imagine the place without Niall but we’re excited to start this new chapter of the magazine’s history. I’ll try not to break anything.”

And Kate Dollarhyde said: “As a long-time reader of Strange Horizons, the past year I’ve spent working for the magazine as an Associate Editor has been a surreal and gratifying experience. I feel very lucky to have had Niall as a mentor and am sad to see him move on. But I also have great faith in the editorial team, and am thrilled to have the opportunity to help steer the great ship Strange Horizons into new seas.”

Harrison commented in his farewell, “We talk a lot about the fact that everyone who works on Strange Horizons is a volunteer, and there are probably as many reasons for volunteering as there are staff, but for me personally, it hasn‘t been a career move; I have no intention of attempting to make editing my livelihood. For me, working on Strange Horizons has been about being a part of a tradition, a community; about helping to build a thing, a space, that I think is of value.”

Strange Horizons is a not-for-profit, volunteer-staffed magazine of and about speculative fiction, founded in 2000 with the aim of highlighting new voices and perspectives in speculative fiction and related nonfiction. Since its founding, fiction and poetry published in Strange Horizons has been nominated for or won awards including the Hugo, World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon Memorial, Rhysling, and James Tiptree Jr Awards.

[From the press release.]

Pixel Scroll 3/27/17 On The Gripping Hand Of Darkness

(1) SPACE, THE INITIAL FRONTIER. In a profile published in the October 17 New Yorker, Julie Phillips reveals why Ursula Le Guin’s name has a space in it.

Her husband’s birth name was Charles LeGuin.  They were married in France, and “when they applied for a marriage license, a ‘triumphant bureaucrat’ told Charles his Breton name was ‘spelled wrong’ without a space, so when they married they both took the name Le Guin.”

(2) JUST MISSPELL MY NAME CORRECTLY. By a vote of the members, the Science Fiction Poetry Association has renamed itself the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association. Although its name has changed, the organization will keep using the initials SFPA.

And nearly every time the poets talk about SFPA in the hearing of old-time fanzine fans you can depend on someone dropping a heavy hint that they’re at risk being mixed up with a pre-existing fan group that uses the same abbreviation. Today it was Andrew Porter chirping in a comment on the announcement —

Not to be confused with the Southern Fandom Press Association, which has been around for more than 40 years…

Unfortunately it’s Porter who is confused, as he seems to have forgotten the apa’s name is the Southern Fandom Press Alliance.

(3) SAMOVAR LAUNCHES. A new sff magazine, Samovar, launched today, featuring “the best of speculative fiction in translation including original stories, reprints, poetry, reviews and more material, as well as printing translations alongside the stories in their original language.” Samovar will be produced as a quarterly, special imprint of Strange Horizons.

“Stories tell us who we are, and let us see who other people are. We already have access to an enormous wealth of speculative fiction in English, but we want to know more” – The Samovar editorial team.

What wondrous fantastical tales are being conjured in Finnish? Who writes the best Nigerian space odysseys? Is Mongolia hiding an epic fantasy author waiting to be discovered? We want to know, and we aim to find out.

For Samovar, writers and translators are of equal importance, and we do our best to shine a spotlight on the talented individuals who pen both the original and the translated version of a story. We hope that in this way we can boost the profile of speculative fiction in translation so that everyone involved receives the recognition they deserve and so we can all continue to enjoy the strange, mind-bending and fantastical fiction of all cultures.

In issue one: two sisters create an imagined world where things that are lost can be found. A despot is forced to see the truth he’s tried to hide from. An academic finds poetry, science fiction and reality beginning to merge. And the Curiosity Rover turns its own sardonic gaze on Mars.

The Samovar editorial team is Laura Friis, Greg West and Sarah Dodd. Their advisory board includes Helen MarshallRachel Cordasco and Marian Via Rivera-Womack.

(4) TENSION, APPREHENSION, AND DISSENSION. The Atlantic’s Megan Garber asks: What’s the opposite of a “cliffhanger”?

Extended cliffhangers (cliffstayers? cliffhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaangers?) have animated some of the most narratively powerful works of television of recent years; they have helped to heighten the tension in shows like Breaking Bad (how low will Walt go?) and Serial (did he do it?) and Quantico (did she do it?) and True Detective (who did it?) and Lost (who are they? where are they?) and, in general, pretty much any sitcom that has ever featured, simmering just below its surface, some will-they-or-won’t-they sexual tension.

What’s especially notable about the recent shows that are employing the device, though, is that they’re locating the tension in one (unanswered) question. They’re operating in direct opposition to the way traditional cliffhangers were primarily used: between installments, between episodes, between seasons, in the interstitial spaces that might otherwise find a story’s momentum stalling. Big Little Lies and Riverdale and This Is Us and all the rest are taking the specific narrative logic of “Who shot J.R.?” and flipping it: The tension here exists not necessarily to capture audience interest over a show’s hiatus (although, certainly, there’s a little of that, too), but much more to infuse the content of the show at large with a lurking mystery. Things simmer rather than boil. The cliffhanger is less about one shocking event with one central question, and more about a central mystery that insinuates itself over an entire season (and, sometimes, an entire series).

(5) SLOWER THAN LIGHT COMMUNICATION. This is how social media works: I never heard of Harry Potter & the Methods of Rationality until somebody complained about it.

The appeal for a 2016 Hugo nomination was posted by the author in 2015.

First, the following request: I would like any readers who think that HPMOR deserves it sufficiently, and who are attending or supporting the 2015, 2016, or 2017 Worldcon, to next year, nominate Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality for Best Novel in the 2016 Hugos. Whether you then actually vote for HPMOR as Best Novel is something I won’t request outright, since I don’t know what other novels will be competing in 2016. After all the nominees are announced, look over what’s there and vote for what you think is best.

I don’t know how many votes he ended up getting but it wasn’t enough to rank among the top 15 works reported by MidAmeriCon II.

(6) FINALLY A GOOD WORD ABOUT THE MOVIES. Book View Café’s Diana Pharoah Francis was both nostalgic and thoughtful after hosting a Lord of the Rings marathon at home.

…Among the SF/F communities, it was this extraordinary vision come to life in a way we had never experienced before. It was not cheesy or all about the CGI. It was about strength, honor, choices, and hope. It was real characters in dreadful situations. The watching of heroes being made and broken beneath weights no one should have to bear. And Aragorn — a king in the making. A soul of strength and doubt and humility.

The movies were inspiring on a lot of fronts. I think it’s appropriate to watch it now in a world that is struggling so hard against itself. With so much fear, and worry and such dire enemies. Who are those enemies? Too many are ourselves. Our fears that turn us into monsters or traitors. Denethor, Gollum, Boromir, the Nazgul — absolute power corrupts. There are those who give up. Those who refuse to fight. Those who lose themselves.

The stories, the movies and the books, are a view into ourselves and what we can hope to be and what we may become — good and bad. It’s a reminder that it’s never a good time to quit in the battle against darkness — in whatever shape it takes….

(7) MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM! ON YOUR SHELVES. James Davis Nicoll names “Twenty Core Space Operas Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”.

“Chosen entirely on the basis of merit,” says James, “with a side-order of not repeating titles that were on the first list.”

(8) TWEETS OF THE DAY ABOUT TWO WEEKS AGO. I felt a disturbance in the force. Just not right away.

(9) FIVE PLUS TWO. John Scalzi offers “7 Tips for Writing a Bestselling Science Fiction Novel” at Female First. This is my favorite:

Make your universe two questions deep. By which I mean, make it so when someone asks you a question about why/how you created or portrayed the universe, character etc the way you did, you have a smart, cogent answer for it, consistent with the construction of the book. And then when they have a follow-up question, be able to answer that effectively, too. That will make 95% of your readers happy with your worldbuilding (the other 5% are SUPER nerds. Which is fine! For them, say “Oh, I’m glad you asked that. I’m totally going to address that in the sequel.” Try it! It works!).

Strangely enough, none of his seven tips is “Start a fuss with somebody in social media.”

(10) SECOND FIFTH. But as we just witnessed last week, that is part of the Castalia House playbook – which is evidently followed by Rule #2, “Stalk real bestselling writers on their book tours.”

Here’s a video of a jackass asking John Scalzi to sign Vox Day’s SJWs Always Lie, and posing an insulting question about John’s Tor book deal. You’ll note the book in John’s hand has not been autographed by Vox Day. When is his book tour?

(11) HOT OFF THE PRESS. Liz Colter (writing as L. D. Colter) has a new book out this week – A Borrowed Hell.

Facing a sad, empty life, July always persevered by looking forward. An unhappy childhood, a litany of failed relationships, and even losing his job–none of it could stop him. But then the foreclosure notice arrives, and July is facing losing the one thing that keeps him grounded–his home.

With pain in his past and now in his future, July gives up and starts down the same road of self-destruction that the rest of his family had followed. It is only when he awakens in a hospital after a violent car accident that things change.

He starts to experience blackouts, which leave him in an alternate reality of empty desert and strange residents. It is a nightmarish world that somehow makes the real world seem that much better. Then he meets a woman that becomes a beacon of light, and his life starts to turn around.

But the blackouts continue, sending him to the alternate reality more often and for longer periods of time. Realizing that he may never escape, July asks the question he’d always been afraid to ask: How can he finally be free? The answer is one he’s not sure he can face.

I can’t resist a droll bio:

Due to a varied work background, Liz can boast a modest degree of knowledge about harnessing, hitching, and working draft horses, canoe expeditioning, and medicine. She’s also worked as a rollerskating waitress and knows more about concrete than you might suspect.

(12) HISTORY MINUS FDR. The LA Times says a bestselling author has a new trilogy on the way.

Charlaine Harris, whose Sookie Stackhouse books inspired the television series “True Blood,” will release the first book in a new trilogy next year.

Harris’ novel “Texoma” will be published in fall 2018 by Saga Press, a science fiction and fantasy imprint of Simon & Schuster, the publisher announced in a news release.

“Texoma” will be a work of speculative fiction that takes place in “an alternate history of a broken America weakened by the Great Depression and the assassination of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”

(13) DAMP YANKEES. In New York Magazine’s author interview “Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140: To Save the City, We Had to Drown It”, Robinson discusses why the book is surprisingly optimistic, how his thoughts on the global economy influenced 2140, and how he came up with the time frame for the book.

…[T]here were two goals going on that forced me to choose the date 2140, and those two goals cut against each other. I needed to put it far enough out in the future that I could claim a little bit of physical probability to the height of the sea-level rise of 50 feet, which is quite extreme. A lot of models have it at 15 feet, though some do say 50 feet. So I did have to go out like a 120 years from now.

Cutting against that future scenario, I wanted to talk about the financial situation we’re in, this moment of late capitalism where we can’t afford the changes we need to make in order to survive because it isn’t cost effective. These economic measures need to be revised so that we pay ourselves to do the work to survive as a civilization facing climate change.

I wanted a finance novel that was heavily based on what lessons we learned — or did not learn — from the crash of 2008 and 2009. All science-fiction novels are about the future and about the present at the same time.

(14) WEBCAST. Another Spider-Man trailer will be out tomorrow – here’s a seven-second teaser for it.

[Thanks to Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Chris Gregory, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]