Pixel Scroll 7/2/18 Bring Me The Pixel Of Scroll Charming!

(1) KLAATU BARADA UFO. The Independent celebrates World UFO Day with a roll-call of alien encounter films: “World UFO Day 2018: Top 10 alien encounter B-movies from the golden age of schlock sci-fi”.

World UFO Day is being observed around the galaxy on Monday.

The occasion is held on 2 July in memory of the US Army Air Forces weather balloon crash in Roswell, New Mexico, that many believe was really a flying saucer landing covered up by the Pentagon.

It is marked by sky-watching parties as keen ufologists survey the heavens in search of fresh evidence of alien life.

Others prefer to mark the day on 24 June, the date on which American aviator Kenneth Arnold reported spotting a fleet of nine spaceships over Mount Rainier, Washington, in 1947….

(2) HOT READS. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak says these are “12 fantastic science fiction and fantasy novels that you should check out this July”.

July 10th

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Naomi Novik earned a Nebula Award for her fairy tale-inspired novel Uprooted. She’s back with an new book that similarly delves into folklore, Spinning Silver. In this book, a girl named Miryem is the daughter of moneylenders, but her family has fallen onto hard times. She takes their predicament into her own hands, turning silver into gold. Her abilities attract the attention of the Fey king of the Staryk, who gives her an impossible challenge, and accidentally spins a web that draws in the daughter of a local lord, angering the Tsar who had pledged to wed her.

Read an excerpt here.

Game of the Gods by Jay Schiffman

Set in the future, Jay Schiffman’s debut novel Game of the Gods follows a Federacy military commander named Max Cone, who just wants to be left alone. When war breaks out, he becomes an unwitting pawn in a global game to try to get him into the fight once again. He’s given a device that allows him to predict the future, and when his wife and children are kidnapped, he’s drawn in to rescue them, aided by a band of unlikely allies — a 13-year old girl with special abilities, a mathematician, a religious zealot, and a drug addict who was once a revolutionary

(3) SUPERHERO, SUPER REVIEWER. Luke Cage is back, and so is Abigail Nussbaum: “Five Comments on Luke Cage, Season 2”.

I don’t have that much to say about the second season of Luke Cage.  Which is actually a shame, because despite some problems, I’d say that it’s the strongest and most consistently entertaining season of television the Netflix MCU has produced since the first season of Jessica Jones.  It’s just that the things I’d have to say about it are basically a combination of my review of the first season, and my review of the second season of Jessica Jones.  The stuff that worked in season one is back here, but better–the strong visuals, the amazing music, the thrilling fight scenes, the palpable sense of place.  And like Jessica Jones, coming back for a second season seems to have freed Luke Cage from the burden of having to justify its own existence as a superhero show about X (a woman, a black man), and allowed it to simply tell a story in which most of the characters are people of color (and some of them have superpowers).  At the same time, a lot of the problems that plagued the first season, and suggested that the Luke Cage concept might not be as durable as we could hope, are back in force here, with little indication that the show is interested in addressing them.  Here are a few thoughts I had at the end of the season, though the bottom line is that it is definitely worth watching….

(4) TAFF RINGS THE REGISTER. Jim Mowatt has enriched the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund by completing his trip report Wherever I Lay My Hat!

I have recently sent copies of my 2013 TAFF report to SCIFI and FANAC and both happily paid 500 dollars each into the TAFF coffers, so helping us to keep sending more delegates across the ocean to strengthen the science fictional bonds that enhance our community. Many thanks to both these fine organisations for their encouragement and support for the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund

Find out how to get a copy here.

(5) HE’S NOT BUGGED. NPR’s Glen Weldon says you won’t demand your 2 hours back: “Flyweight: Wee, The People: ‘Ant-Man And The Wasp'”.

It’s fine.

Ant-Man and the Wasp, the sequel to 2015’s feather-light and perfectly forgettable Ant-Man, is just fine.

It does what it sets out to do, which, by all readily legible indicators, is to be … fine. Agreeable. Inoffensive. A good way to pass a couple of hours in air-conditioned darkness. Jokes. Car chases. Fight scenes. Michelle Pfeiffer, briefly, in a hoodie and a chalk-white wig and, for some reason, fingerless gloves. A gruff Michael Douglas, less briefly, as the resident goateed genius of this particular corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Tony Stark and Doctor Strange having their attentions turned elsewhere).

Also: Evangeline Lilly as badass superhero The Wasp, kickin’ thoraxes and takin’ names and even crackin’ the occasional joke, thank God. The always-winning Michael Peña as voluble sidekick Luis, whose presence in any given scene amps up its charm factor. Phrases like “We have to adjust the refractors on the regulator!” (LOTS of those.)…

(6) ADAMS OBIT.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The original time machine from the 1960 movie was sold at the MGM studio auction in 1971, the same auction that originally sold the Ruby Slippers (The Wizard of Oz (1939)). The winner of the auction was the owner of a traveling show. Five years later the prop was found in a thrift store in Orange, CA. Film historian Bob Burns purchased it for $1,000. Using blueprints his friend George Pal had given him years earlier, he and a crew of friends restored it. The restoration crew included D.C. Fontana script consultant and writer on Star Trek (1966) and Michael Minor art director on Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 2 – Margot Robbie, 28. The Legend of Tarzan was her first genre film (maybe) followed by Suicide SquadGoodbye Christopher Robin, an animated Peter Rabbit, more DCU announced films than bear thinking about and intriguingly she’s announced to be Marian in Marian, a telling of her life after the death of Robin.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian was surprised to see who is the pitchman for retirement plans in the Star Trek universe: Brevity.
  • Chip Hitchcock calls this one Arctic Circle meets Connie Willis.

(10) SUPERHERO CHOW. The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore boasts a ”DC Comics Superhero Café”. Here’s the real menu [PDF file.]

Dine in, take-away, save the day – at this immersive café-retail experience, home to the DC Comics universe.

Find apparel, accessories and gifts to unleash the DC super hero within you. Chill out at the Superman-inspired café; sip the Batman’s Late Night Summer Latte or get buzzed from The Flash’s Espresso. Grab a Green Lantern pizza to go.

At our Justice League tribute diner – eat-in for a serious scoffing of Batman’s epic Dark Knight charcoal-brioche-bun burger or battle out with The Flash Mushroom Linguine. Feeling villainous? Get your “just desserts” from the Joker.

(11) SEQUEL SUCCESS. Camestros Felapton finds time to “Review: The Incredibles 2”.

…At the time Pixar eschewed sequels (with the exception of Toy Story) and despite the implications of the end of the film, a second Incredibles movie seemed unlikely. Time moves on and Disney-Pixar is keen to capitalise on the IP it owns. Could a sequel possibly manage that same balance of action and character?

Absolutely….

(12) YOU HAVE TO WONDER. Given the 80’s setting of the upcoming Wonder Woman film, digital artist Bosslogic has populated his Instagram feed with reimaginings of the alter egos fo other superheroes as they might have looked if they were in 1984 continuity. Take a look for the   “WW84” posts scattered among the entries at Bosslogic. Here, for instance, is Henry Cavill as Clark Kent — if he were plopped down in 1984…

Credit to SYFY Wire for tipping us to this art with their story “B-Boy Batman Meets Superman’s Sweet Mullet in Awesome ’80S Fan Art for Wonder Woman 2”.

(13) INFREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS. This job is not that f**king easy!

(14) FUTURE STUNTS. TechCrunch goes behind the scenes:  “Disney Imagineering has created autonomous robot stunt doubles”.

Disney it taking their robotics to new heights… at least for a few seconds. Born out of an experiment called Stickman, the new development “Stuntronics” can fling articulated robot figures into the air. The bots control their orientation and poses to nail the same tricks — such as a superhero pose — time after time after time. According to project personnel Tony Dohi (Principal R&D Imagineer) and Morgan Pope (Associate Research Scientist):

“So what this is about is the realization we came to after seeing where our characters are going on screen,” says Dohi, “whether they be Star Wars characters, or Pixar characters, or Marvel characters or our own animation characters, is that they’re doing all these things that are really, really active. And so that becomes the expectation our park guests have that our characters are doing all these things on screen — but when it comes to our attractions, what are our animatronic figures doing? We realized we have kind of a disconnect here.”

…“So often our robots are in the uncanny valley where you got a lot of function, but it still doesn’t look quite right. And I think here the opposite is true,” says Pope. “When you’re flying through the air, you can have a little bit of function and you can produce a lot of stuff that looks pretty good, because of this really neat physics opportunity — you’ve got these beautiful kinds of parabolas and sine waves that just kind of fall out of rotating and spinning through the air in ways that are hard for people to predict, but that look fantastic.”

…“One of our goals of Stuntronics is to see if we can leap across the uncanny valley.”

 

(15) EVIL DEAD AUCTION. Bloody Disgusting points the way: “The “Ash vs. Evil Dead” Prop and Costume Auction is the Coolest, Most Gruesome Auction We’ve Ever Seen”.

…A final attempt to make some money off the show, the official “Ash vs. Evil Dead” Series Finale Auction just launched this week, and it’s continuing through August 17. Don’t worry about showing up anywhere in person to get in on the bidding, as it’s taking place entirely online.

Modern technology, am I right?!

The auction features over 1,000 screen-used costumes, props, prosthetics and set decorations from all three seasons, all of them direct from the studio and coming with Certificates of Authenticity. If you saw it on the show, it’s probably up for grabs, with the auction including Ash’s chainsaw, the Season 3 demon baby, Ash’s wardrobe and TONS of gory practical effects.

Check out some highlights below and head over to VIP Fan Auctions to see more!

(16) FIRMIN RESUME. When SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie learned that Peter Firmin died, he rounded up some links to help me appreciate the loss: “His co-creations (with Oliver Postgate) of The ClangersNoggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine wowed generations of Brits.  Arguably worth checking out and if fans have young kids then sharing.”

  • The Clangers were an alien race who live on the Moon.

The Clangers are peacefully building a house. We hear a whistling sound and down comes something. The Clangers run for cover. The thing is a terrestrial space-probe vehicle with large initials on it.

  • Noggin the Nog was a fantasy series set in Viking times with dragons etc. (eat your heart out Martin).

  • Ivor the Engine was an almost living steam locomotive.

“Wonderful stuff,” Jonathan concludes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update:  His son reports Stasheff died this evening.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born June 10, 1952 – Kage Baker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another example: The Feldman Test

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

A movie passes with a score of five or higher:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MOGULS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frame by lovely frame!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 1/20/18 Where All The Pixels Are Strong, All The Files Are Good Looking, And The Scrolls Are Above Average

(1) EPPS HELD BACK. BBC reports U.S. astronaut Jeanette Epps, who was a guest at the 2015 Worldcon, has been taken off her assigned mission to the ISS: “Nasa removes US astronaut from ISS mission”

The US astronaut Jeanette Epps has been removed from her upcoming mission to the International Space Station (ISS) just months before launch.

Dr Epps was to have been the first African-American astronaut assigned to the space station crew.

She would have flown aboard a Russian Soyuz flight in June but is being replaced by another astronaut.

Nasa has not given a reason for withdrawing her but says she will be considered for future missions.

(2) BYUTV SERIES EXTINCT NOW IS. BYUtv has cancelled its pioneering series Extinct, the post-apocalyptic SF show directed by Ryan Little and written by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston. It ran ten episodes since it premiered on October 1, 2017 and was BYUtv’s only second scripted show, (the first being its science-fiction-y Granite Flats).

(3) FORREST J ACKERMAN IN 1996. Fanac.org has posted a recording of a one hour interview of Forry Ackerman, conducted by Rich Lynch.

Forry Ackerman, winner of the first fan Hugo Award, tells the stories behind his creation of the long running magazine “Famous Monsters of Filmland”, Vampirella, and the science fiction service award, the “Big Heart”. Here’s your chance to find out how Yvette Mimieux, Harlan Ellison, Poul Anderson and George Pal had a bit part in Forry’s creation of Vampirella. In this 1996 interview by Richard Lynch, conducted at LACon3, Forry talks about his movie career (over 50 cameos!), and tells anecdotes about the fans and professionals he knew during his long and productive career. Includes great anecdotes about Dr. David Keller, Bela Lugosi and E. Everett Evans. The audio recording is enhanced with more than 50 images.

 

(4) JOELCRAFT. At Birth. Movies, Death., in “Someone Realized An HP Lovecraft Poem Maps Perfectly to Billy Joel’s ‘Piano Man’”, see four different versions!

To repeat, this individual discovered that this 100-year-old poem by HP Lovecraft tracks almost perfectly to “Piano Man” by Billy Joel. Just reading it, you can almost hear it.

But we at BMD wanted to actually hear it. We saw this tweet yesterday morning and immediately begged a musically talented friend of ours to do the right thing here. He of course agreed. But in the time it took him to arrange, record, and send the song to us, SOMEONE ELSE HAD ALREADY DONE IT. Ladies and gentlemen, the talented and expedient Julian Velard, appearing here as “HP Joelcraft”:

 

More videos at the link.

(5) CARLTON OBIT. Bob Carlton, who created Return to the Forbidden Planet, has died.

The writer and director created the jukebox rock and roll musical, which is loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, in the mid-1980s. It later transferred to the West End and won the Olivier award for best new musical in 1990.

Carlton was also artistic director of the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch for 17 years, stepping down in 2014.

(6) SHEARMUR OBIT. The Hollywood Reporter says producer Allison Shearmur has died.

Allison Shearmur, who produced the Hunger Games films, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story, died unexpectedly Friday at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles after a battle with lung cancer. She was 54.

Shearmur was an executive at Paramount and Lionsgate before making a transition to a producer role, becoming involved in some of the biggest movies in recent years.

She was an executive producer on 2017’s Power Rangers and was casting Disney’s The One and Only Ivan, which she was producing with Angelina Jolie.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Can it be Shelob has captured Charlie Brown? See Lio.

SUPERMAN NO LONGER GOING COMMANDO. Or so says John King Tarpinian. Inverse has the story: “Superman Puts On His Red Trunks Again in Landmark ‘Action Comics’ #1000”.

But the costume! This is more than just a special outfit for a special cover of a special issue. It will be Superman’s new outfit going forward, marking yet another change in Superman’s wardrobe within the last few years.

Back in 2011, in an effort to modernize Superman (as well as the rest of the DC Universe), many DC heroes got big costume changes as part of the hard reset, dubbed the New 52. Decked out in armor instead of spandex, Superman also ditched his red trunks in favor of a plain red belt. He also had a turtleneck. Superman went through another change in 2016, during Rebirth, and in early 2017 had a few more tweaks that included the return of his long red boots. Now, an older version of Superman is back, but no matter what Clark Kent is still just a farm boy from Kansas who is now raising his own family.

By the way, Superman never wore “underwear.” As confirmed in an issue of Action Comics #967 in 2016, the red “undies” (as Jon Kent put it) were just a “decorative element.” The suit was all one piece.

(9) ANOTHER COMPANY READIES FOR SPACE COMMERCE. The second test flight of the Electron rocket has succeeded in placing 3 small sats in orbit — “Rocket Lab Electron reaches orbit on second launch”. The plan is for frequent launches (approximately weekly), enabled by the sparse air traffic.

The Electron lifted off from the company’s launch site on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula at 8:43 p.m. Eastern (2:43 p.m. local time Jan. 21) on the second day of a nine-day launch window for the mission….

As the second stage shut down, launch controllers declared that the vehicle was in orbit. The stage subsequently released its three payloads, a Dove cubesat for Planet and two Lemur-2 cubesats for Spire. Planet later confirmed that its cubesat was in orbit and communicating following the launch.

…The launch was the first for the Electron after the vehicle’s inaugural flight in May 2017 failed to reach orbit. The company said that the rocket worked as planned on that mission, but a telemetry problem triggered range safety systems about four minutes after liftoff, ending the mission.

In an interview earlier this month, Beck said that if the second launch was successful, the company would move ahead into commercial service with the rocket. Beck said in the post-launch interview that was still the case, but didn’t set a date for the next mission beyond rolling the vehicle out at the launch pad “in the coming months.” The customer for that launch, if it is a commercial mission, has not been announced.

(10) A TEACHING MOMENT. Yahoo! News tells that the “ISS astronauts will complete Challenger teacher’s science lessons”.

On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded during liftoff. Onboard were seven astronauts, one of which was teacher Christa McAuliffe. She was selected from over 11,000 applicants for the position of NASA’s Teacher in Space. McAuliffe had plans to conduct lessons from Challenger; now those lessons will finally take place from the International Space Station.

Over the next few months, astronauts Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold will conduct four of McAuliffe’s six planned lessons, focusing on liquids, effervescence, chromatography and Newton’s laws. They will be filmed and then posted online by The Challenger Center, which focuses on outreach to students about STEM topics in memory of the Shuttle and her crew.

[Thanks to Dave Doering, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Bonnie McDaniel, Errol Cavit, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 12/13/17 It’s Crackers To Scroll A Rozzer The Pixel In Snide

(1) RECOMMENDED BY NINE OUT OF TEN. The BBC scanned the media and concluded: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi has critics in raptures”. (Except for Variety and The Verge.)

“Rousing.” “Thrilling.” “Addictively bold.” Just a few of the superlatives the critics are using to describe the latest film in the Star Wars saga.

The Last Jedi, writes the Telegraph, is “enormous fun” and “will leave fans beaming with surprise”.

The Guardian calls it “an explosive sugar rush of spectacle” possessing “a tidal wave of energy and emotion”.

Variety, though, swims against the tide, describing it as “the longest and least essential chapter in the series”.

Rian Johnson’s film, says Peter Debruge, is “ultimately a disappointment” that “gives in to the same winking self-parody that is poisoning other franchises of late.”

Writing in The Verge, Tasha Robinson tends to agree: “Audiences will likely come away from The Last Jedi with a lot of complaints and questions.”

(3) SPACE BALONEY. A history of fake Star Wars news — “Inside the ‘Star Wars’ Fake News Con That Tortured Fans for 20 Years” from Thrillist.

There was little legitimate movie news on the internet in early 1997, most tidbits trickling down from Hollywood’s print trade magazines, but the pioneering gossips and rumormongers of today’s post-and-verify-later model of online journalism hustled to find scoops and stake a claim with the eager readership. In its infancy, Ain’t It Cool News dished out flashy updates from its network of film industry spies; Corona’s Coming Attractions was a meticulous clearinghouse of rumors on just about every movie in development; for those that required all Star Wars, all the time, there were laser-focused sites like TheForce.net and RebelScum.com, which aggregated the latest Star Wars news (while occasionally dropping scoops of their own).

There was an embarrassment of rumor riches, and though a high percentage of the Star Wars scoops were bunk, people dove right in, elated that the most beloved film franchise of their youth had blasted back to the fore of pop culture. There was no reliable editorial oversight, only a treasure hunt, and the burden of bullshit detection fell on the reader. Which is how ludicrous stories — like the howler that nearly half the footage shot for The Phantom Menace came back from the lab out of focus — gained real traction in 1998.

(3) LICENSE TO SHILL. Techdirt’s Timothy Geigner began his coverage of last week’s SDCC v SLCC jury trial with some brutal criticism for Rose City Comic Con, who accepted a free license from SDCC to use the “comic con” name: “Opening Statements In The Trademark Battle Of The Comic Cons, While Other Regional Cons Go Full Judas”.

Of course, the problem with this study is that no matter what the public in the SDCC’s sample indicated, the simple fact is that comic conventions throughout the country have been using the term “comic con” with wild abandon. As they did so, it seems that the SDCC was in some sort of trademark hibernation for years, with no action against all of these national comic cons that I can find. SLCC made the same point in its opening argument, their defense seemingly settling on the notion that the term “comic con” had become generic….

It seems that the SDCC fully anticipated this defense and decided to attempt to undermine it by finding a comic con out there, any comic con, to enter into a laughably cheap licensing agreement. That SDCC is doing this only at the same time it is bringing this suit to trial makes its motive plain and naked. It’s a shameless attempt to give its long-abandoned trademark the imprimatur of now having an actual licensee. As disappointing as the SDCC’s actions are, those of the sellout cons are all the more so. Just read the press release from Rose City Comic Con in Portland about how it licensed the “comic con” mark and you’ll get an idea of just how likely it is that the SDCC basically scripted this thing for them.

“Rose City Comic Con, Portland, Oregon’s largest comics and pop-culture convention, is proud to announce its association with San Diego Comic Convention for its three-day event taking place September 7-9, 2018 at the Oregon Convention Center. Rose City Comic Con received the license at no additional cost to the show, and acknowledges the trademark owned by San Diego Comic Convention and is excited to affiliate itself with the prestigious event.”

“Comic-Con, the San Diego convention, is without question the biggest and most important event in the comics and popular arts industry every year. To have the respected event recognize the hard work of Rose City Comic Con by providing a license agreement is really remarkable for the city of Portland and the incredible community of creators we’re lucky to have here,” said Rose City Comic Con founder Ron Brister.

So moist does Rose City seem to be over its free license that it must have failed to understand the motive for this free gift by the SDCC and the damage it might do to all of the other comic cons out there that are now or might in the future be under threat by SDCC. Now, I don’t believe that SDCC managing to squeeze a few licensees from this national barrel of turnips suddenly means that it didn’t long ago abandon the “comic con” mark, but it seems obvious that these sorts of free licenses aren’t for everyone. I expect the SLCC, for instance, would have jumped at a free license early on in this process. Perhaps it would instead have stood its ground on principle, but given the enormous cost in time and money, not to mention that this thing has dragged out now for several years, I doubt it.

So nice job, Rose City. While one con fights not just for its life, but for the common sense notion that “comic con” should no longer be considered a legit trademark, you went full Judas. Hope those 30 pieces of silver are worth it.

(4) DEAD ON ARRIVAL. The train left Helsinki on December 13 on its way to Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland. One of the passengers won’t make it alive. Adweek reveals how “TBWA Is Turning a Speeding Train Into an Escape Room for Murder on the Orient Express”.

The “Escape Train” will travel 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) over 13 hours. The plot follows thus: A mysterious death has occurred aboard the train. Which player can identify the killer among them?

…The game was designed and built by InsideOut Escape Games, an escape room game pioneer in Finland. Challenges and puzzles will be movie-inspired, with two train carriages reserved exclusively for execution, but over a dozen cabins will be available for players to explore over its 13-hour run.

Online, people will also be able to watch the action as it happens.

“This is a rare opportunity to build a whole new type of game—it taking place on an actual train, with other passengers on board, adds a lot to the dynamics of an escape room experience,” says InsideOut’s Ágnes Kaszás. “To my knowledge, it is the longest-running game ever made, and we are very excited to be able to design it in the spirit of the new hit movie. It’s a dream come true, both for us and the players!”

 

(5) HELPS TO MAKE THE SEASON BRIGHT. Kim Huett asks, “What about a bonus full-colour Doctor Strangemind post given we’re heading into Christmas? Sure, why not.” So in “Virgil Finlay & Fungi! In Colour!”, Huett gives one of sf’s great artist a little help:

Hopefully this seasonal fungi will help to brighten up the lives of those of you currently trudging through winter. I like to think a dead fir festooned with such colourful parasites would look every bit as festive as the traditional sort.

(6) JUSTICE LEAGUE NEEDS A DOG. In “(Super)man’s Best Friend”, Claremont McKenna College fellow Steven J. Lenzner tells Weekly Standard readers that recent movie and TV versions of Superman have neglected Krypto, who is a good dog who wants to protect Superman.

We readers are shown Krypto’s thoughts—and those thoughts, both in form and content, show him to be a model dog. Krypto thinks only in the present tense, employing—to the extent possible—one-syllable words with concision; that is to say, he thinks as one would imagine a dog thinking. Moreover, the content of his thoughts goes far toward explaining the old adage that dog is a Kryptonian’s best friend. Krypto is, as befits a good American dog, deeply concerned with his happiness—and what makes him happy, above all, is his master’s praise: “Good boy.” The first word of the story is Krypto’s (“Man”), as is the last word (“Happy”). And in between Krypto displays the cardinal canine virtues: loyalty, courage, and affection. Krypto loves his friends and hates his enemies. And his circle of friends has a limited radius. He has none of that easy and indiscriminate affection that diminishes the charm of a dog’s love for its master.

(7) IT’S BULL. In “Hitler banned it; Gandhi loved it: ‘The Story of Ferdinand,’ the book and, now, film”, the Washington Post’s Karen McPherson discusses the classic children’s book written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson, which has just been remade as Ferdinand.  She discusses how the previous animated version of the film, Disney’s 1938 Ferdinand the Bull, won an Academy Award and how Leaf and Lawson’s book was praised by Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and denounced by Adolf Hitler, who called the book “dangerous democratic propaganda.”

Leaf wrote “The Story of Ferdinand” in less than an hour one rainy fall afternoon as a gift to his good friend Lawson. Contending that “dogs, rabbits, mice and goats had all been done a thousand times,” Leaf focused his story on a Spanish bull named Ferdinand who eschews fighting for flower-sniffing, refusing to fight even when forced to face the matador in the ring. Instead, Ferdinand sits down to enjoy the fragrance of the flowers adorning the hair of women spectators.

(8) PEDAL TO THE MEDAL. Pretty soon it’s the robots that will be citius, altius, fortius: “A humanoid robot carried the Olympic torch in South Korea”.

One of the traditions of the Olympics is the torch relay, in which people carry the flame from Olympia, Greece to the location of the Games. In 2018, the Olympic Games will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the torch relay is currently underway. Earlier this week, the HUBO, the humanoid robot, carried the flame for part of its journey.

HUBO only covered 150 meters (about 500 feet) with the torch, but its presence was largely symbolic. As part of its torch duties, HUBO performed an example of a disaster rescue operation in which it cut a hole in a brick wall (while still holding the torch). It was intended as a “display of innovation and creativity,” according to PyeongChang 2018 Organizing Committee President LEE Hee-beom.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 13, 1951 The Day The Earth Stood Still received its theatrical premiere in the UK.
  • December 13, 1996 — Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! came out on this day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CHIMNEY SWEEP

  • Born December 13, 1925 – Dick Van Dyke

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Usually you look in the Bible for what happened “In the beginning…” but Chip Hitchcock found the answer at Mr. Boffo.

(12) BIG BIRD. When they had happy feet, you got out of their way: “Giant Prehistoric Penguins Once Swam Off The Coast Of New Zealand”.

An international team of scientists have announced the discovery of a previously unknown species of prehistoric penguin.

The bird waddled around off the east coast of New Zealand between 55 and 60 million years ago. And it was a giant as far as penguins go. The researchers estimate that it probably weighed about 220 pounds and was around 5 feet 10 inches tall.

“That’s about as tall as a medium-sized man,” says Gerald Mayr, a paleontologist at the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Franfurt, Germany, and the lead author of the new study published today in Nature Communications. “This particular specimen is one of the largest known fossil penguins.”

The largest living penguin, on the other hand, the Emperor penguin, is a good bit shorter — around 4 feet.

The scientists have named the new species Kumimanu biceae, which means ‘monster bird’ in the Maori language. (Kumi is the name of a monster in Maori mythology and manu means bird.)

The new finding is really cool, says Julia Clarke, a paleontologist at the University of Texas, Austin, who wasn’t involved in the study. “I mean, what’s not cool about a human-sized penguin?” she says.

(13) THANKS FOR YOUR TECH. Despite their service being blocked, Google will open an artificial intelligence centre in China.

Google is deepening its push into artificial intelligence (AI) by opening a research centre in China, even though its search services remain blocked in the country.

Google said the facility would be the first its kind in Asia and would aim to employ local talent.

Silicon Valley is focusing heavily on the future applications for AI.

China has also indicated strong support for AI development and for catching up with the US.

(14) DOZOIS REVIEWS. The title of his December 13 entry is “Gardner Dozois Reviews Short Fiction” but most of it is brief descriptions of stories recently on Tor.com or in F&SF. Should that be what you’re looking for, you’ll find it at Locus Online.

(15) GLOBAL SWARMING. The BBC expects “Robot swarms to map the seafloor”.

It’s one of those truisms that we know the shape of the surface of Mars and the Moon far better than we know our own planet.

The reason for this is Earth’s oceans: they cover 71% of the globe and are impenetrable to the satellite mapping techniques we use so capably on those other worlds.

The scientific community has set itself the ambitious goal of correcting this anomaly.

The aim is to have no feature on the ocean floor larger than 100m unmapped by 2030.

It’s a huge task when you consider at the moment the vast majority of the water-covered parts of Earth are known to a resolution no better than about a kilometre.

Some big technological shifts will be required in the next 10 years to correct the picture. And that is really the raison d’être behind the Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE.

A $7m pot has been offered to find the systems and strategies that will bring about a step change in bathymetric (depth) mapping.

(16) PIPE DOWN. Kameron Hurley talks back to that Bitter Midlister Voice in her head, in “What Comes Next? Everything”.

… We have all met or heard from bitter midlisters. These are the people who publicly rant about how the success of their bestselling peers has nothing to do with quality, but with luck, or favoritism, and how the game is rigged against them. They bloviate on forums and social platforms about how they didn’t get the sort of success they were owed. This is often how you can differentiate the bitter midlister from those simply exhausted by the –isms inherent in publishing. Bitter midlisters feel that they are owed success by virtue of their existence, instead of simply that they understand they need to work harder in a system rigged to favor certain types of books and authors….

It used to be that when I wrote, I’d be railing against all the outside voices, the supposed gatekeepers, the editors and agents who rejected my work. As I’ve become more skilled, I realize that my greatest enemy isn’t them at all, and never was. My greatest enemy these days is just myself, and the BMV™.

I have a great deal to achieve in this, the second half of my life. The last year of horror had led me to double down on my worst tendencies, to withdraw, to simply endure. But I want the next thirty years of my life to be more than mere endurance. I want to truly thrive. I want to come into my own as a skilled artist, as a novelist. It’s always been my goal to be an exceptionally skilled novelist, the best, and I won’t get there by hiding in my house in Ohio with a pillow over my head and nursing the BMV™

(17) COULD HOLD A THOUSAND ROSETTAS. “Nasa’s New Horizons probe strikes distant gold” — the target past Pluto is at least two objects.

The American space agency’s New Horizons mission has struck gold again.

After its astonishing flyby of Pluto in 2015, scientists have just discovered that the probe’s next target is not one object but very likely two.

Earth-based observations suggest the small icy world, referred to simply as MU69, has a moonlet.

It seems New Horizons will now be making a two-for-the price-of-one flyby when it has its encounter on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, 2019….

(18) TICKETY BOO. “Dracula ticks in amber tell ancient blood-sucking tale”. The BBC report reminded Chip Hitchcock of Brian Aldiss’s “Poor Little Warrior,” which describes human-size parasites (possibly ticks?) on a Brontosaurus; these are more typical in size.

Scientists say the discovery, which has echoes of Jurassic Park, is the first direct fossil evidence that ticks fed on the blood of dinosaurs.

The research is published in the journal, Nature Communications.

”Ticks parasitised feathered dinosaurs; now we have direct evidence of it,” co-researcher Dr Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History told BBC News.

…Together, these findings suggest that ticks have been sucking the blood of dinosaurs for almost 100 million years.

(19) RENDEZVOUS WITH…? Is the weird shape unnatural? Stand by, while “Interstellar asteroid checked for alien technology”.

A project searching for intelligent life in the cosmos is going to check the first known interstellar asteroid for signs of alien technology.

The odd-shaped object was detected as it sped towards the Sun on 19 October.

Its properties suggested it originated around another star, making it the first such body to be spotted in our cosmic neighbourhood.

An initiative backed by billionaire Yuri Milner will use a radio telescope to listen for signals from it.

The team’s efforts will begin on Wednesday, with astronomers observing the asteroid, which is currently speeding away from our Solar System, across four different radio frequency bands.

(20) BATTLE OF THE SJW CREDENTIALS. It’s a Conestoga catastrophe.

(21) THE SHAPE OF WATER. The Shape of Water director Guillermo del Toro appeared with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. He begins by saying his manager’s call about the Golden Globe nominations woke him up “it took me four nominations to find the glasses.”

(22) LEGO ANNIHLATION. Mark Hepworth sent the link with a note: “Either genius, or a tragic waste of Lego. The main event starts at about 2:50.”

David, Henrik and Sylvia plays with Lego. This time it’s the giant 1.2 meter, 3152 piece, 3.5 kg heavy Star Wars – Super Star Destroyer. This episode has a twist to it. We mount the Super Star Destroyer on the rocket sled and accelerate it up to 108km/h. Very rapid disassembly follows.

 

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

2017 Additions To National Film Registry

“Is this Heaven?” Well, it is if you love Field of Dreams as much as I do. Or liked Christopher Reeve’s Superman, Disney’s Dumbo, or The Goonies. All are motion pictures on the list of 2017 additions to the National Film Registry announced today.

1. Ace in the Hole (1951)
2. Boulevard Nights (1979)
3. Die Hard (1988)
4. Dumbo (1941)
5. Field of Dreams (1989)
6. 4 Little Girls (1997)
7. Fuentes Family Home Movies Collection (1920s and ’30s)
8. Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)
9. The Goonies (1985)
10. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
11. He Who Gets Slapped (1924)
12. Interior New York Subway, 14th Street to 42nd Street (1905)
13. La Bamba (1987)
14. Lives of Performers (1972)
15. Memento (2000)
16. Only Angels Have Wings (1939)
17. The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918)
18. Spartacus (1960)
19. Superman (1978)
20. Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1988)
21. Time and Dreams (1976)
22. Titanic (1997)
23. To Sleep With Anger (1990)
24. Wanda (1971)
25. With the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain (1937-38)

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said–

The selection of a film to the National Film Registry recognizes its importance to American cinema and the nation’s cultural and historical heritage. Our love affair with motion pictures is a testament to their enduring power to enlighten, inspire and inform us as individuals and a nation as a whole.  Being tasked with selecting only 25 each year is daunting because there are so many great films deserving of this honor.

Here are the official descriptions of the items of genre interest:

Dumbo (1941)

Disney’s charming, trademark animation finds a perfect subject in this timeless tale of a little elephant with oversize ears who lacks a certain confidence until he learns — with the help of a friendly mouse — that his giant lobes enable him to fly. Disney’s fourth feature film gained immediate classic status thanks to its lovely drawing, original score (which would go on to win the Oscar that year) and enduring message of always believing in yourself.

Field of Dreams (1989)

Iowa farmer Kevin Costner one day hears a voice telling him to turn a small corner of his land into a baseball diamond: “If you build it, they will come.”  “They” are the 1919 Black Sox team led by the legendary Shoeless Joe Jackson. Although ostensibly about the great American pastime, baseball here serves as a metaphor for more profound issues. Leonard Maltin lauded “Field of Dreams” as “a story of redemption and faith, in the tradition of the best Hollywood fantasies with moments of pure magic.”

The Goonies (1985)  

The fingerprints of executive producer Steven Spielberg visibly mark every second of “The Goonies,” with the plot sporting a narrative structure and many themes characteristic of his work. Spielberg penned the original story, hand-selected director Richard Donner and hired Chris Columbus (who had written the 1983 “Gremlins”) to do the offbeat screenplay. With its keen focus on kids of agency and adventure, “The Goonies” protagonists are Tom Sawyeresque outsiders on a magical treasure hunt, and the story lands in the continuum between where “Our Gang” quests leave off and the darker spaces of Netflix’s recent “Stranger Things” pick up.

Superman (1978)

Director Richard Donner’s treatment of the famous superhero was not the first time the character had been on the big screen. Kirk Alyn played the role back in a 1948 serial and George Reeves appeared in both theatrical and TV versions in the 1950s. However, for many, Christopher Reeve remains the definitive Man of Steel. This film, an “origins” story, recounts Superman’s journey to Earth as a boy, his move from Smallville to Metropolis and his emergence as a true American hero. Beautiful in its sweep, score and special effects, which create a sense of awe and wonder, “Superman” — as the tag line reads — makes you “believe a man can fly.”

The Librarian made the annual registry selections after conferring with members of the National Film Preservation Board (NFPB) and a cadre of Library specialists, and considering the 5,200 titles nominated by the public.

The Library also announced that 64 motion pictures, previously named to the National Film Registry, are now freely available online here, among them the cartoon “Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor”.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 11/19/17 And That’s What Pixelmas Is All About, Charlie Scroll

(1) BY WAY OF MELBOURNE. Playbill says King Kong will open on Broadway next year. (Just keep those biplanes grounded!) “King Kong Sets Broadway Opening Night; Tickets Now on Sale”. This musical premiered in Melbourne in 2013 and was originally supposed to come to Broadway when Spiderman folded in 2014. But it didn’t.

The anticipated stage musical adaptation of King Kong—written by Jack Thorne with a score by Marius de Vries and songs by Eddie Perfect—will officially open November 8, 2018, at the Broadway Theatre. Previews are set to begin October 5.

The production, which features a one-ton, six-meter-tall silverback gorilla puppet as its star, arrives on Broadway following a 2013 Melbourne world premiere.

An all-new creative team has been assembled to bring King Kong to Broadway, including Olivier Award-winning book writer Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Let the Right One In), Olivier Award-winning director-choreographer Drew McOnie (Strictly Ballroom, In the Heights), and Australian songwriter Perfect, who is also adapting Beetlejuice for Broadway. Perfect joins the show’s original composer and arranger de Vries (Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet).

(2) TWO FINS UP. Craig Miller comments on a screening of The Shape of Water.

The film was pretty great. It’s set in the early 1960s but it has a sort of timeless quality about it. Set at some sort of secret, military-run laboratory, it’s about a lonely, mute cleaning woman (Hawkins) who works there and what happens when a new “asset” is brought in for investigation and experimentation. Her performance, and that of Doug Jones, are remarkable. More so in that neither character is capable of speaking but you understand them both perfectly.

(3) MINORITY REPORT. The National Review’s Armond White says “Justice League Is the Epic We Deserve” – and means it in a good sense.

Zack Snyder’s audacity in creating a comic-book movie renaissance (which began with the complex, ambitious Watchmen) has inspired philistine resentment from reviewers and fanboys who don’t want cinema. They’ve been desensitized to the form’s vitality and richness. (Like civics, art is no longer being taught in schools.) The schoolyard game of lambasting Snyder’s magnificent Man of Steel and the even more intricate Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice almost directly parallels the unsubtle breakdown of our political process. And this year’s post-election delusional praise for the utterly mediocre Wonder Woman is a symptom of our current political paralysis. By coordinating DC Comics’ superhero characters into the fight against Steppenwolf, Snyder attempts to extend his saga from Dawn of Justice. Studio interference (Warner Bros. envy of the lucrative Marvel franchise) and personal tragedy have prevented Snyder from completing his vision on a scale commensurate with the ever-astonishing Watchmen. But as Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller), Cyborg (Ray Fisher), and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) join Batman (Ben Affleck) in the most-intense-yet fight for human life, what remains of Snyder’s handiwork — after the studio imposed The Avengers dullard Joss Whedon on the final product — is still a triumph.

(4) COCO. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna talks to the stars and producers of COCO and looks at how Pixar is coming out with a Mexican-themed film for the first time: “‘Coco’ forced Pixar to dive deep into a real-world culture — and add some diversity”.

PIXAR STUDIOS, for all its renown for creating highly detailed worlds, has rarely had to worry too much about cultural authenticity. Even after all their fabled research for movies such as “Brave” and “Ratatouille,” the filmmakers have been free to use their imaginations, without real fear of offending toymakers, automakers or entomologists.

The Bay Area studio knew, however, that centering “Coco,” which opens Nov. 22, on Mexico’s Day of the Dead holiday would enter an entirely different realm, because it would include not only depictions of traditions, but also a significant increase in casting diversity.

(5) THE SCIENTISTS IN SF. Tor.com nominates “Our Favorite Fictionalized Scientists, Mathematicians, and Inventors in SFF”.

Benoit Mandelbrot (Mandelbrot the Magnificent)

Where the rest of us see fractals spinning off into infinity, Benoit Mandelbrot saw minute pockets into parallel universes. Liz Ziemska’s magical pseudo-biography reimagines the mathematician’s childhood during Hitler’s rise to power: in an era where people like Mandelbrot’s family were fleeing their homes to escape the growing evil, young Benoit discovers secret dimensions in which to hide, all unlocked by math. Talk of Kepler’s ellipses transports Benoit; archetypal math problems about approaching infinity provide him with glimpses into mirror worlds in which he can hunt monsters. But as the monsters in his world abandon all pretense of peace, Mandelbrot must harness his gifts to hide his family, or else he’ll have sealed their fates. It’s a lovely example of using fantasy as a way to gild the edges of inspiring true stories, linking math with magic for non-mathematicians. —Natalie

(6) GRAPHIC NOVEL ROUNDUP. In another piece, Michael Cavna gives his picks for “The 10 best graphic novels of 2017”.

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters

By Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)

This debut graphic novel from a 55-year-old Chicago artist is a revelation: a deeply textured tale of dark histories framed as a girl’s diary and told through riveting art that is an homage to midcentury horror comics and film. A dark-horse winner that came out of nowhere.

(7) NIGEL’S NEXT. Nigel Quinlan did a cover reveal of his new book, The Cloak of Feathers, an MG fantasy coming in the UK and Ireland from Hachette Children’s in January 2018.

It’s about an awful summer festival held every year in a small village in Ireland. Once every hundred years the Fair Folk visit, and it becomes a Great Festival, full of magic and wonder. Except everything has gone horribly wrong. The lake is polluted, there’s a ghost estate built on the shore, and their beloved Princess has vanished. Our heroes, the reluctant members of the Junior Knockmealldown Festival Committee (Cow-Fetching Sub-Group) must perform four Feats to win the Cloak of Feathers and rescue the Princess before the whole village is punished.

(8) SUPER SJW CREDENTIALS. Quirk Books makes its selection of the “10 Best Cats in Comics”.

Chewie – Captain Marvel

Supergirl and Power Girl are not the only big name superheroes to have pet cats. Captain Marvel has her own feline companion, Chewie. Initially, Carol believed that Chewie was just a normal cat that could keep her company on her adventures, but when she met Rocket Raccoon, he claimed that Chewie was, in fact, a Flerken. Captain Marvel refused to believe that her furry friend was secretly a tentacle-mouthed, egg-laying alien with pocket dimensions in her body…but when Chewie laid 117 eggs on board the ship, she was forced to admit it was true. Although the 117 Flerken kittens were left at a rescue, Chewie herself teleported back on board the ship, and Carol decided to keep her, Flerken or not.

(9) REBOUND. The Traveler pilloried the November 1962 issue of F&SF in a post at Galactic Journey. What a difference a month (and 55 years) makes! — “[November 19, 1962] Reverse Course (December 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”.

I’ve complained bitterly in this column on the meanderings of my favorite science fiction magazines.  Galaxy has gotten too tame.  Analog has gotten too staid.  F&SF has gotten too literary.  In fact, just last month, I was lamenting the streak of purple fluffiness that had corrupted that last mag.  Story after story of unreadable droll nothings, or at best, fantastic horrors without any hard sf.

The December 1962 issue did not promise to be any better.  It has the same line-up of authors, the same subject matter of stories.  There are even 11000…er.. 24 pages devoted to the concept of binary numbers.  Has F&SF lost its mind?!

So imagine my surprise to find that I actually enjoyed this month’s issue, entirely due to the well-written nature of its material.  These are not the kind of stories I prefer, but this experience just goes to show that high quality trumps subject matter.  See if you agree…

(10) ANDY WEIR. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination has an extra installment of its Into the Imagination podcast: “Bonus: Andy Weir (author of The Martian and Artemis)”.

We have a mid-month bonus episode with Andy Weir, author of the novel The Martian, so memorably adapted in the film starring Matt Damon, and the new book Artemis, which launches today! We talk about lunar colonization, his approach to world- and character-building, and what he would do if he was in charge of the future of space exploration. Andy will be speaking at the Clarke Center on December 7th.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

(11) BEST AND THE REST OF AUGUST. Rich Horton reviews short fiction at Locus Online, covering Lightspeed 8/17, 9/17, Tor.com 8/17, Apex 7/17, Interzone 7-8/17, and McSweeney’s #49.

There’s a good set of stories in the August Lightspeed. Ashok Banker‘s “Tongue” is an uncomfortable and rather over-the-top satire on the horrors of a traditional Indian mar­riage, set on an asteroid. The over-the-top elements are part and parcel of satire, though I also thought the portrayal of Indian culture seemed a wincing cliché, as did the corporate menace target; still, it shocks and scares.

(12) ANALOG (NOT THE MAGAZINE). An op-ed writer for the New York Times claims “Our Love Affair With Digital Is Over”.

This surprising reversal of fortune for these apparently “obsolete” analog technologies is too often written off as nostalgia for a predigital time. But younger consumers who never owned a turntable and have few memories of life before the internet drive most of the current interest in analog, and often include those who work in Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies.

Analog, although more cumbersome and costly than its digital equivalents, provides a richness of experience that is unparalleled with anything delivered through a screen. People are buying books because a book engages nearly all of their senses, from the smell of the paper and glue to the sight of the cover design and weight of the pages read, the sound of those sheets turning, and even the subtle taste of the ink on your fingertips. A book can be bought and sold, given and received, and displayed on a shelf for anyone to see. It can start conversations and cultivate romances.

The limits of analog, which were once seen as a disadvantage, are increasingly one of the benefits people are turning to as a counterweight to the easy manipulation of digital. Though a page of paper is limited by its physical size and the permanence of the ink that marks it, there is a powerful efficiency in that simplicity. The person holding the pen above that notebook page is free to write, doodle or scribble her idea however she wishes between those borders, without the restrictions or distractions imposed by software.

(13) VERDICT ON NEW TURTLEDOVE. The Hugo Award Book Club contends The Hot War is Turtledove at his best”.

Of particular interest in this alternate history is the tragic — and believable — story of Harry Truman. Turtledove’s research into historical figures is always impeccable, and many of Truman’s decisions in these novels are based on courses of action that he considered in real life. Turtledove paints a portrait of an alternate failed presidency that hinges on one bad decision after another.

The consequences of Truman’s mistakes keep compounding. The way in which this weighs on him in the novels is effectively conveyed, and this may be one of the best character arcs Turtledove has ever written. Turtledove seems to be arguing that even a well-intentioned president might invite calamity through brinksmanship.

This cast may be one of the most memorable groups that Turtledove has written since Worldwar: In The Balance back in the 1990s. However, it’s still clear that Turtledove has difficulty writing characters from outside his cultural background — none of the important Korean or Chinese characters are given point-of-view sections.

(14) BE OUR GUEST. Her Universe is ready to fill your need to own the “Star Wars BB-8 Tea Set”.

Being stranded on Jakku might be a downer, but it’s no excuse to avoid quality tea time. This BB-8 themed teapot and cup set from Star Wars is happy to roll up with a hot beverage. Set includes a 650 ml teapot & lid with two 220 ml cups and two 5 1/2″ saucers.

(15) MILLENNIUM PLUS FORTY. Entertainment Weekly was there: “Luke comes home: Mark Hamill’s heartbreaking return to the Millennium Falcon in The Last Jedi”.

Luke Skywalker quietly walks aboard the Millennium Falcon, alone. His old friends are gone. His old life is gone. He is ghostlike himself.

The old Luke Skywalker is gone, too.

That’s a scene from the latest trailer for The Last Jedi (see it here), but in real life, visiting the set of the old Corellian freighter was a similarly haunting experience for Mark Hamill.

“I’m telling you, I didn’t expect to have the reaction I had,” the 66-year-old actor tells EW. “I was there with my family, with [my children] Nathan and Griffin and Chelsea and my wife Marilou, and [Lucasfilm] asked if the documentary crew could be there when I came back on the Millennium Falcon. I mean, this was not on the shooting day. I was just street clothes and going to visit that set. And I said, ‘Sure.’”

(16) BLABBING ABOUT CAMEOS. The Hollywood Reporter learned “Princes Harry and William Play Stormtroopers in New ‘Star Wars’ Film”.

The royals — along with Tom Hardy and singer Gary Barlow — were rumored to make an appearance in Stormtrooper outfits in the film releasing Dec. 15.

In August, Star Wars: The Last Jedi star John Boyega spilled the beans that not only did Prince William and Prince Harry film scenes when they visited Pinewood Studios in April 2016, but Tom Hardy also was milling around the set at the same time. By then, Take That singer Gary Barlow had already revealed that he had shot a scene in March.

(17) KEEPING A FINGER IN THE PIE. According to SyFy Wire, “Steven Moffat and Russell T Davies to write new Doctor Who adaptations”.

Steven Moffat may be leaving his gig as Doctor Who showrunner following this year’s upcoming Christmas special titled “Twice Upon a Time” to make way for Chris Chibnall (Broadchurch), but it looks like he isn’t done with the Whoniverse-at-large just yet.

According to Radio Times, Moffat will team up with former showrunner Russell T Davies and novelist Jenny T. Colgan for a series of Doctor Who novels that will adapt several episodes from the Davies and Moffat eras of the BBC series.

Published by BBC Books and Penguin Randomhouse, the new “Target Collection” is based on the old Target novelizations that strived to adapt classic Doctor Who episodes from the 1970s to the 1990s, with the episodes’ original scriptwriters penning the adaptations whenever possible from the original scripts.

(18) SOME TIME LATER. I will never be the same now that I have seen this tweet.

Here’s the link to his post.

(19) MIGHTY MUMBLING. How It Should Have Ended does a comedy overdub of Batman v Superman and Dawn of Justice. It’s a toss-up whether these animated mouths remind me more of Clutch Cargo or Wallace and Gromit.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/17/17 No, I’m Never Gonna Tick  A Box, Guilty Scrolls Have Got No Pixels

(1) MARVEL CHOPS TOP. Newsweek reports “Marvel’s New Global-Minded Chief C.B. Cebulski Replaces Controversial Axel Alonso”.

Marvel Entertainment announced Friday that it has a new Editor in Chief. C.B. Cebulski is a comic book editor who has worked in Marvel’s global division for more than 15 years. The move comes as Marvel shows greater commitment to diversity in its superheroes, and as it eyes readership that reaches all over the globe.

The shakeup comes amid lagging sales for many of Marvel’s titles, which outgoing EIC Axel Alonso implied was due to the company’s push for ethnically diverse superheroes.

… At a retail summit last year, Marvel’s Vice President of Sales David Gabriel told attendees that the sales slump was due to updated versions of classic characters: a mixed-race Spider-Man, an Asian Hulk, a female Thor. Alonso was part of the discussion and seemingly agreed, saying Marvel had gotten too political. “We’ve gone through a period where in pop culture as a whole (and you guys notice that as much as we do), there’s been this massive discussion about inclusion and diversity,” he said. “But Marvel is not about politics.”

Cebulski, on the other hand, has always been entrenched in Marvel’s attempts to include heroes of diverse backgrounds. He began his career in manga, and worked on the Marvel Mangaverse in the early 2000s. He also worked on the Runaways spin-off Loners, overseeing Nico Minoru’s storyline in the series Mystic Arcana.

(2) CURSED. Camestros Felapton feels there’s a paranormal explanation behind these cinematic disappointments: “Review: Justice League The Curse of Zak Snyder”.

I was apprehensive walking into the cinema – I was out of town, with nothing to do but either stare at my feet in a soulless hotel room or visit the near by shopping mall with its requisite and equally soulless multiplex.

Not many people know that the witch character from the Suicide Squad movie cursed the DC movies with a hex so powerful that it ripples back in time and ruined the Green Lantern movie. Only Wonder Woman and Lego Batman have been strong enough to escape the curse.

So I knew I was paying money to see a film that unnatural powers had already undermined. Of the Zak Snyder films I have seen I only have affection for Legends of the Guardians – The Owls of Ga’hoole, I think it also be the only one of his films that feels like a complete narrative.

Yet Justice League is NOT terrible – don’t get me wrong it isn’t actually good but it’s not Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad….

(3) LEAGUE LUKEWARM. NPR’s Chris Klimek says: “‘Justice League’ Is Just OK”:

But the stuff that works in Justice League, if only just, bears [Whedon’s] stamp. It also sticks out from the material that Snyder started shooting 19 months ago like strapping Clark Kent in a newsroom full of pasty, soft-bellied bloggers.

(4) SOMETHING ROTTEN. The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik, in “Rotten Tomatoes under fire for timing of ‘Justice League’ review”, discusses the fire directed at Rotten Tomatoes after they delayed the rating (which was 43 percent) for Justice League for 24 hours, allegedly because Time Warner owns 30 percent of the site and Comcast owns 70 which would lead to Rotten Tomatoes giving Warner and Universal releases better treatment.

More than just a kerfuffle over one superhero movie, however, the incident raises larger questions about the relationship between reviewers and the public, the editorial objectivity of aggregators and how much studios should be empowered to control the pre-release messaging of their films.

“I think we need more transparency and equality on Rotten Tomatoes,” said Guy Lodge, a critic who writes for Variety. “An aggregation site should practice absolute objectivity. You mix Time Warner into it,” he added, “and it becomes very confusing.” A WB spokeswoman declined to provide a comment for this article.

(5) A RED S. Here’s a link to the catalog for Profiles in History’s Superman auction, which happens December 19.

An alien named Kal-El from the destroyed planet Krypton was sent to Earth and raised as Clark Kent by human foster parents. As an adult, he became the protector of Earth while Clark Kent worked as a mild-mannered reporter for The Daily Planet newspaper in Metropolis.  After several failed attempts to find a viable publisher for their story, artist Joe Shuster and writer Jerry Siegel’s creation hit the big time when it was chosen as the cover feature for Action Comics #1 in June 1938 by National Allied Publications (the precursor of DC Comics).  Thus marked the genesis of Superman and the superhero genre, forever changing popular culture. We are now on the cusp of the 80th anniversary of his colossal debut.

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. “Nibble frozen cranberries with Amal El-Mohtar” in Episode 52 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast:

Amal El-Mohtar

It’s time to say farewell to Helsinki—and hello to award-winning writer Amal El-Mohtar—in the final episode of Eating the Fantastic recorded during Worldcon 75. Our meal took place a mere 36 hours after she’d won this year’s Best Short Story Hugo Award for “Seasons of Glass and Iron,” for which she’d also won a Nebula Award earlier in the year.

We chose one of the city’s oldest seafood restaurants for our lunch—Sea Horse, which has been in operation since 1934. And it’s lasted that long for a good reason! We enjoyed the food and the ambiance so much I returned a few days later for dinner with my wife during our post-Worldcon stay.

Amal’s stories and poems have appeared in magazines such as Lightspeed, Uncanny, Strange Horizons, and Apex. Her stories “The Green Book” and “Madeleine” were finalists for the Nebula Award in 2011 and 2015 respectively, and “The Truth About Owls” won the Locus Award in 2015. She won the Rhysling award for Best Short Poem in 2009, 2011 and 2014, and in 2012 received the Richard Jefferies Poetry Prize.

We discussed the importance of female friendship, the first poem she wrote at age 6 1/2 (which you’ll hear her recite), how Charles de Lint helped her get her first bookstore job, the importance of welcoming newcomers into the tent of science fiction and fantasy, what she learned about empathy from Nalo Hopkinson, the only time she ever cosplayed, which book made her a writer, why Storm is her favorite member of the X-Men, the delicious magic of honey, the difficulties of reviewing books in a field where everybody knows everybody, and much more.

(7) AUDIO TORTURE. It’s beginning to look a lot like breakfast, everywhere we go.

(8) A PLEASURE. Elsewhere in the world Cheryl Morgan found easy listening: “M. John Harrison in Bath”.

Last night I took myself into Bath where M. John Harrison was reading from his latest collection, the wonderfully titled You Should Come With Me Now. The book is a mixture of short stories and flash fiction, and shows that Mike has lost none of his sentence-crafting skill, nor his biting wit.

The centerpiece of the reading was the magnificent “Psychoarchaeology”, inspired by the discovery of the (alleged) burial of Richard III under a car park. The story is a meditation on the heritage industry, and is both cutting and hilarious.

There’s always a rights issue. Where does the latest Tudor belong? Does he belong where he was found? Or whence he came? Who gets the brown sign? One wrong decision and York won’t talk to Leicester, the knives are out again after hundreds of years of peace. Contracts torn up, the industry at war with itself, we all know where that can lead: diminished footfall in the visitor centres. No one wants to see that.

(9) CHECKING OUT. Open Culture tells how “’Library Extension’ Helps You Find Books At Your Local Library While You Shop for Books Online”.

The concept beyond “Library Extension” is simple. As you browse books and e-books websites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Goodreads, the Library Extension will check the online catalog of your local library and see whether the book you’re interested in happens to be available at your local library. The browser extension currently works on Chrome. Firefox is coming soon. And the browser extension currently has access to data from 4000 local libraries and library systems.

 

(10) SDI. Thrillist revisits “How 2 Sci-Fi Writers Fueled a U.S. President’s Wild Quest to Weaponize Space”.

Larry Niven had the mind for space. An award-winning and best-selling author, his first installment of the Ringworld series — a futuristic and sometimes tongue-in-cheek saga about a massive space station that orbits a distant star as an artificial planet — was considered an instant classic. The book still remains one of the most popular of the several dozen he’s published, and he continues to flesh out the series.

But in 1980, Niven took a career detour. Soon after the election, the author hosted a group of colleagues for a meeting at his home to discuss President-elect Reagan’s stance on space. The “Citizens’ Advisory Council on National Space Policy” included mostly right-leaning military figures, ex-astronauts, scientists, plus a number of Niven’s science-fiction writer contemporaries. The group had the backing of the American Astronautical Society and the L-5 Society, both of which hoped to chart the course of the United States’ space interests over the next two decades, with the more immediate goal of building its recommendations into Reagan’s official policies.

In attendance was Jerry Pournelle, Niven’s co-author on both the 1974 book The Mote in God’s Eye — about a worst-case-scenario alien invasion — and 1977’s Lucifer’s Hammer — about a comet impact that creates widespread anarchy. A self-described centrist — but only in terms of his own elaborate political mapping system, the Pournelle Axes — Pournelle believed in a robust, technocratic military state wedged between the New Left and conservative factions of government.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 17, 1979 Salem’s Lot premiered on TV.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

John King Tarpinian learned about interior design Batman-style on Brevity.

(13) MANY DOLLARS. The BBC says San Diego Comic-Con has a big handle: “Comic book success: The rise of the Comic-Con festival”.

From a gathering of less than 300 people in 1970, the event has morphed into an annual, multi-day media bonanza that draws major corporate sponsors, movie studios and more than 150,000 people.

The event made more than $17m in revenue in 2015, according to the most recent tax filing available online, and it has spawned similar festivals in cities around the world.

“San Diego’s growth has been mind-boggling,” says author John Jackson Miller, who also owns Comichron, which tracks sales of comic books.

Mr Miller went to San Diego for the first time in the early 1990s, when it still drew less than 40,000 people.

(14) FOR WHICH TWITTER WAS MADE. Sam Sykes and Chuck Wendig are at it again. The thread starts here.

(15) MOSKOWITZ. Hal W. Hall’s Sam Moskowitz: A Bibliography and Guide is available as a free download online from Texas A&M University. The sketch of Sam Moskowitz on the cover is by Frank R. Paul.

A comprehensive bibliography of the writings of Sam Moskowitz. Sam Moskowitz was a fixture in science fiction, from near the beginning to the present day. He was a fan, editor, author, historian, critic, WorldCon organizer, and cheerleader for the science fiction field. He was a prolific author of books, articles and letters. His books are readily available in libraries or for sale. The same cannot be said of many of his articles, and certainly not of his letters. Many of the articles and letters appeared in science fiction pulps and in fanzines. Some of the fanzines were quite professional in appearance, content and editing, and served a valuable service to science fiction scholarship in preserving much of the early history of science fiction. The writings of Sam Moskowitz are an important part of that historical archive. Eric Davin notes that “Sam Moskowitz saw himself as the science fiction historian of record.” It is a good description. He researched and recorded much about the beginnings of science fiction.  Some items remain the only resource available on a particular person or topic. An accurate scholarly judgment of the historical and critical output of Moskowitz remains to be done.

(16) QUACKS ME UP.

(17) UNACQUIRED TASTE. Glenn Garvin of Reason.com reviews the Hulu series “Future Man,” in “Future Man is Gleefully Sophomoric, And That’s Part of Its Charm,” where he notes that the series, written and produced by the people who brought you the immortal masterpiece Sausage Party, which means it’s full of the sophomoric jokes teenage boys like, with many jabs at video gamers in general and The Last Starfighter in particular.

The two warriors who escape from the game, Tiger (Eliza Coupe, Quantico) and Wolf (Derek Wilson, Preacher), come from a future where the veneer of civilization has been pretty much worn away from everything, and their sanguinary work habits—Wolf’s favorite plan is “Rip his fucking dick off!”—supply much of Future Man‘s staple humor. (Bodily effluents, emitted in always surprising but ever disgusting ways, are pretty much the rest.)

But it’s hard to resist a show a show that so relentlessly mocks its own origins. Future Man is a tapestry of withering allusions to everything from The Terminator movies to the Mortal Kombat video games (can you guess which organ gets ripped out of losing contestants?) to Animal House.

(18) SAY CHEESE. “The Largest Digital Camera In The World Takes Shape”NPR has the story. “It will go on a giant telescope taking shape in Chile called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.”

LSST is different from most large telescopes. Instead of staring at a tiny patch of the sky and taking essentially one snapshot in time, LSST will take a panorama of every part of the sky…and it will do so over and over and over. The idea is to see what’s moving or changing in the heavens.

“That could be everything from asteroids, to variable stars, to supernova, to maybe new phenomenon that we don’t know about yet,” says Aaron Roodman, a physicist at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Roodman is the scientist in charge of the integration and testing of the camera.

(19) SILENT MOVIE THEATER. The future of a LA landmark is in doubt, as Variety says “Cinefamily to Permanently Shut Down Following Sexual Harassment Scandal”.

Los Angeles independent film venue Cinefamily will permanently shut down and dissolve the board following allegations of sexual misconduct made against some of Cinefamily’s executives in August that led to two resignations from the company.

Silent Movie Theater, Cinefamily’s longtime home, will be closed and renovated by the landlord, while the board will establish a transition team to handle the organization’s financial and legal affairs, according to a statement from the board of directors.

“The damage caused to the organization by the conduct of some and the crippling debt now facing the Cinefamily are, in the Board’s view, irreparable,” the board of directors wrote in a statement.

As previously reported by Variety, Cinefamily temporarily suspended all activities in August amid the scandal where anonymous emails accused Cinefamily leaders of sexual harassment. Executive director and co-founder Hadrian Belove and board member Shadie Elnashai resigned on Aug. 22.

(20) DON’T TREAD ON THESE. Peer treated us to a new Elvis lyric in comments.

Pixelled my blue suede shoes
And I clickboxed a plane
Scrolled down in the land of mounttsundokus
In the middle of the pournelle rain
JRR Tolien won’t you look down on me
Yeah, I got a fifth class ticket
But I’m as blue as a Filer can be
Then I’m scrolling in Comments
Keeping at least ten feet off of the Beale
Scrolling in Comments
But do I really file the way I file?

Read the ghost in the shell
Or Atomic Avenue
Followed up with the water knife
Then I waded right through Borne
Now Mord, they did not see him
And he just hovered ’round his town
But there’s a pretty little shell
Waiting for the hell
Down in the Broken Earth
When I was Scrolling the comments
I was clicking with The box right of the left
Scrolling the comments
But do I really file the way I file?

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “What’s New, Atlas?” on YouTube you can see a Boston Dynamics robot do a somersault.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Hal W. Hall, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories,. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 9/15/17 Old Pixel’s Scroll Of Practical SJW Credentials

(1) SUPERSJW? The forthcoming issue of Action Comics is in the news — “Superman Protects Undocumented Workers From Armed White Supremacist in Latest Comic”. The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The moment in the book released Wednesday comes a week after President Trump ended DACA.

Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but perhaps not.

In the recent issue of Action Comics #987, “The Oz Effect,” released Wednesday, Superman arrives in the nick of time to protect a group of undocumented immigrants from a white man sporting an American flag bandanna, wielding a machine gun, who is going to shoot them for taking his job.

Breitbart, picking up the story from The Hollywood Reporter, gave it a predictable spin:

…In an act of Super socialism, once police arrive, our Social Justice Supes orders them to protect the illegal aliens to make sure they are “safe and cared for.”

This latest episode should not surprise anyone.

DC Comics long ago declared that Superman is no longer American. Where once the hero touted the ideals of “truth, justice, and the American way,” like a good leftist, Superman is now a “citizen of the world.”

(2) DISCOVERY NOVEL SERIES BEGINS. I was interested to see the first Star Trek: Discovery tie-in novel is already out, though the timing couldn’t be better — Star Trek: Discovery: Desperate Hours by David Mack.

An all-original novel based upon the explosive new series on CBS All Access Aboard the Starship Shenzhou, Lieutenant Michael Burnham, a human woman raised and educated among Vulcans, is promoted to acting first officer. But if she wants to keep the job, she must prove to Captain Philippa Georgiou that she deserves to have it. She gets her chance when the Shenzhou must protect a Federation colony that is under attack by an ancient alien vessel that has surfaced from the deepest fathoms of the planet’s dark, uncharted sea. As the menace from this mysterious vessel grows stronger, Starfleet declares the colony expendable in the name of halting the threat. To save thousands of innocent lives, Burnham must infiltrate the alien ship. But to do so, she needs to face the truth of her troubled past, and seek the aid of a man she has tried to avoid her entire life—until now.

(3) OUT OF HIS SHELL. Scott Edelman invites fans to join John Kessel for a seafood feast in Episode 47 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

John Kessel

Kessel’s latest novel, The Moon and The Other, was released in April from Saga Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. He’s a two-time Nebula Award winner, first in 1982 for his novella “Another Orphan,” then in 2008 for the novelette “Pride and Prometheus.” He set a new record with that second award, in that the 26 years between the two was (at the time) the longest gap for a winner in Nebula history. His short story “Buffalo”—one of my all-time favorites in or out of genre, and one which I reread often—won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award in 1992.

We discussed why he suddenly has two novels coming out within a year two decades after his last one, how attending the 1969 St. Louis Worldcon changed his life, the ways in which his objections to “The Cold Equations” and Ender’s Game are at their heart the same, his early days attempting to emulate Thomas M. Disch, the time-travel short story he couldn’t whip into shape for Damon Knight, which author broke his 26-year Nebula Awards record for the longest gap between wins, the secret behind the success of his many collaborations with James Patrick Kelly, and more.

(4) WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS. Hampus Eckerman is living the sci-fi life while visiting France.

Most hotels have got the bible to read, but my hotel in Paris has got The Island of Dr. Moreau! On the other hand, my TV-set scares me.

(5) MORE SHORT FICTION REVIEWS, In “A New SFF Review Site Looks Interesting”, Camestros Felapton aims our attention at the inaugural work of SFF Reviews, Sara L. Uckelman’s review of “The Salt Debt” by J. B. Rockwell. In Uckelman’s explanatory post about the site she says:

Our aim is provide short reviews of short SFF stories that reflect a diversity of voices and opinions from both the authors and the reviewers. Other than a few formatting requirements to ensure the reviews are presented and tagged in a uniform fashion, and one content requirement — don’t be mean! — reviewers are free to write their reviews as they please. Some people will focus on the story; some on the narration; some on the language. Some of the reviews will be more slanted to the factual and the objective; some will be the reviewer’s own personal response to a piece. Some reviews will be longer than others, but don’t be surprised if most come in around 200 words — after all, one doesn’t want a review to be longer to read than the story itself!

(6) OKORAFOR VISION. On Twitter she winces at the “Afrocentric” and wishes they had at least said Afrofuturist – the A.V. Club’s news item, “HBO orders new sci-fi series from author Nnedi Okorafor and producer George R.R. Martin”.

HBO has officially closed a deal to grab a new TV show from George R.R. Martin, with Deadline reporting that the network has finalized plans to develop a Martin-produced adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor’s 2010 novel Who Fears Death. Set in a post-apocalyptic Africa, the book tells the story of a young girl who seeks to discover the meaning behind her own magical powers, as well as the nature of the powerful forces trying to end her life.

(7) POURNELLE OBIT IN NYT. It’s rather remarkable that in “Jerry Pournelle, Science Fiction Novelist and Computer Guide, Dies at 84” the New York Times obituary writer makes only the most minimal reference to Pournelle’s voluminous political writings, which have been deeply controversial within the sf community.

Dr. Pournelle was also known to many through lively columns for Byte magazine in which, beginning early in the home-computing age, he talked about personal computers and the software for them. Much of any given column was about his own experiences at “Chaos Manor” — his name for his home, and for the column — trying out new software products and wrestling with bugs, glitches and viruses.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 15, 1965 — Beach-horror hybrid The Beach Girls and the Monster opens in theaters.
  • September 15, 1965 — Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires premieres in its native Italy.
  • September 15, 2015 Rocket Stack Rank went live.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born September 15, 1940 – Norman Spinrad
  • Born September 15, 1942 – Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

(10) PLANS FOR X-MEN. Marvel will be producing a six-issue arc revisiting the complete history of the X-Men universe.

Marvel Comics and Eisner Award-winning indie cartoonist indie Ed Piskor are teaming up for an unexpected, unprecedented, and uncanny undertaking. Best known for documenting the history of hip hop with the award winning HIP HOP FAMILY TREE graphic novels, Ed Piskor will sample and distill more than 8,000 pages of superheroic storytelling to create a definitive remix of the first 280 original issues of X-Men comic books and 30 years of complicated continuity into one seamless masterpiece of superheroic storytelling. Piskor will write, draw, ink, color and letter all six 40 page issues of X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN, which Marvel will publish over three years as three separate but interconnected mini-series X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN, X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN-SECOND GENESIS and  X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN-X-TINCTION.

“X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN is a tribute to everything comic book fans love about the X-Men from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original run and Chris Claremont’s, epic 16-year stint as the series’ writer,” said Piskor. “It’s a compelling and complete story with a beginning, middle and an end, featuring everything from Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, Cerebro and the Danger Room to the Mutant Massacre, the Reavers, Gambit, and Genosha.”

(11) ACTRESS TO REPRISE HALLOWEEN ROLE. Horror Freak news reports “Jamie Lee Curtis Returning as Laurie Strode in “HALLOWEEN” 2018!”

If fans of John Carpenter’s seminal horror classic Halloween (released in 1978) weren’t happy about the planned reboot in the works at Blumhouse, they will be now. The indie powerhouse just announced that iconic Scream Queen and original Final Girl Jamie Lee Curtis has joined the cast and will be reprising the role of Laurie Strode, Michael Myers’ sister. The news came down via Twitter.

(12) TARANTINO TREK. Dirk Lilley, in “What Kind of Star Trek Movie Quentin Tarantino Would Like to Make”  on CinemaBlend, summarizes some intelligent comments Tarantino made to the Nerdist Podcast. including why he would like to remake “City On the Edge of Forever.”

The director specifically mentions “City on the Edge of Forever” as an episode that would make a great movie. It’s one of the great Trek classics, but as Quentin Tarantino pointed out, the episode really only focuses on our main three of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, and the rest of the crew would be virtually non-existent. That wouldn’t really work for a modern film adaptation. You’ve got to find something for Zoe Saldana and John Cho to do.

(13) FORNAX 20. Charles Rector has just posted the 20th issue of his fanzine Fornax to eFanzines.

Included in its contents are Bill Burns’s comments on the sad state of the Hugo Awards for Best Fanzines with blogs increasingly being counted as fanzines and winning the awards. Also, an essay about what in Rector’s view is the increasing problem of such pro authors such Sarah A. Hoyt, Larry Correia, Vox Day, and others’ trashing both fans and fandom. Fornax the 20th also has articles about road rage, how to do TV advertisements relating to hiring handicapped people as well as articles and stories by Robin Bright and Gerd Maximovic.

(14) SPLIT PERSONALITIES. The Verge’s Angela Chen explains how “These robots mind meld when they need to work together”.

Shapeshifting robots already exist; they either have a centralized “nervous system” that controls where each unit is, or each of the units works by itself and they sometimes link up. But centralized systems are weak and can’t scale, while self-organizing robots are hard to control and clumsy. Researchers created a new robot that has the strengths of both: the individual units can control themselves — but they can also connect to each other and become a single, precise robot. The study was published today in the journal Nature Communications.

In the new system, the robot is made of different units controlled by one “brain,” sort of like the nervous system in our bodies. This brain is the leader of the pack and, using Wi-Fi, gathers data from the other robots and controls them if they come into contact. “The robots in our multi-robot system are autonomous individual robots that, when they attach to each other, become a new single robot with a single control system,” study co-author Marco Dorigo, wrote in an email to The Verge. Then, if they detach, they go back to being autonomous system with their own control systems. Dorigo calls this new method “mergeable nervous system,” and says it is a more precise way to control all the units.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Launching Flowers Into Outer Space” is a piece from Great Big Story about a Japanese artist who launches high-altitude balloons from Nevada with flower displays to see what happens to the flowers in space.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Moshe Feder, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Lis Carey, Gregory Hullender, and Alan Baumler for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]