Pixel Scroll 6/20/18 Poltergoose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But now they are facing a huge challenge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

(9) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

Pop quiz: What’s missing in Solo?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Theodora Goss

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

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

Barbara Krasnoff

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 4/17/18 A Noun, A Verb, And Pixel Scroll

(1) UP ON THE ROOFTOP. Not the sort of thing you usually find on a New York rooftop, like a pigeon coop, or Spider-Man — “The Met Rooftop’s New Installation, ‘We Come in Peace,’ Has Landed”.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Roof Garden is now officially open for the season (along with its bar!), and this year’s site-specific commission is a powerful pair of imposing sculptures by Pakistani artist Huma Bhabha. Titled We Come In Peace (a phrase lifted from the 1951 sci-fi film The Day the Earth Stood Still), the work conjures up an ominous but open-ended narrative, inviting visitors to explore their own thematic interpretations: subjugation and supplication, respect, fear, and/or adoration; social upheaval and displacement; gender, power, and “memories of place.”

Bhabha forged the two pieces in her Poughkeepsie studio from ephemera and construction materials (cork, Styrofoam, plastic) which she then cast in bronze….

(2) TOUGH JOB. Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag, in “Conventions and problematic people” at Bloggity-Blog-Blog, reviews the latest news about ConCarolinas and Worldcon and concludes:

It’s enough to make a person swear off conventions. Certainly enough to make being on a concom a dangerous and scary job. I admit I admire those members of fandom who volunteer their time for such a thankless task even more after learning about these various problems.

(3) TOUGHER JOB. Naomi Kritzer and Alex Acks share their thoughts about panel moderation in two separate threads. Jump in by clicking on these tweets:

(4) ALASDAIR STUART. A Shadow Clarke juror tells how he’s going to do it: “Compass Bearings: Alasdair Stuart’s Picks”.

I really liked the thought process Nick talked about in his Reading List piece, and how the books he’s chosen are intended to serve as a cross section of SF as it currently stands. That helped crystallize my thinking on the subject, as did dispatching my duties as a Kitschies judge this week.

That was a really fun job, and one that contained substantially more hope than a lot of people tend to see in genre fiction. Both short lists were crammed full of books that had unique voices, did unique things and drove the field, and the conversation around it, forward. It also helped me give a very clear shape to the sort of things I’m looking for in the initial Shadow Clarke read. And that shape is a compass.

I’ve got a working familiarity with a lot of these books following the Kitschies and, if I wanted to, I could focus entirely on that. But what really excites me about this list is the opportunity it presents to push outside my boundaries. In addition, given how much I often rail against SF culture’s tendency to enthusiastically face backwards on the rocket, it would be completely remiss of me to just hug some books I already know a little bit tighter.

So, that’s my critical North in this situation. My critical South is to not overlook books that deserve to be talked about. Sometimes those will come from big names. Chances are, more likely, they’ll come from newcomers.

(5) TRUTH IN DANGER. At the hands of Dangerous’ ace reporter Jon Del Arroz, John Ringo’s decision not to go to ConCarolinas now becomes a “ban,” and people’s threats not to show up are transmogrified to threats of violence — “Author John Ringo Responds to SJW Assault That Led to Sci-Fi Convention Ban” [Internet Archive link.]

ConCarolinas initially didn’t respond to the nasty trolling and threats of boycotts, but after deliberating over the weekend, they sent Ringo an email disinviting him from the convention because, as the convention chair said on Twitter, “the con could not guarantee Ringo wouldn’t be walking into a hostile environment. John wanted to have fun. A reasonable request. The con could not guarantee that he wouldn’t be subject to people being ugly to him.”

Ringo recalls the interchange with the convention to be a bit more serious, stating he was asked not to attend because, “we were going to have to hire full time security guards and maybe off-duty police during peak hours.”

If the crowd is prone to be as violent as he suggests, and it has gotten increasingly worse over these last few years, why won’t the conventions do something to protect their conservative guests?

(6) LLEGAL ADVICE. This defendant in JDA’s lawsuit lives overseas.

(7) ON THE AIR. NPR reports that in Ann Arbor a bookstore’s public typewriter is the town conscience. And repository of fart jokes. “‘Notes From A Public Typewriter’ Muse On Everything From Cats To Commencement”

When it’s closing time at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, co-owner Michael Gustafson runs through a checklist that, for the most part, is pretty routine. First, make sure all the customers have gone, lock the doors and take out the garbage and the recycling. Shelve any stray books, adjust the tables, turn off the music.

Then, after closing out the registers, Gustafson descends one last time to the store’s lower level, the part of the bookstore stuffed with volumes on cooking and gardening, travel and history. And he sits down at an old typewriter to read the notes the day’s customers have left behind.

On busy days, there are dozens and dozens of them….

(8) TRASH MASTERS. Here’s the next job robots are taking over, and it probably won’t be much of a struggle: “How robots are reshaping one of the dirtiest, most dangerous jobs”.

Sorting trash is a dirty, dull, and dangerous job. Recycling workers are more than twice as likely as other workers to be injured on the job, and stubbornly high fatality rates make refuse and recyclable material collection one of the nation’s most dangerous occupations.

But with the rise of artificial intelligence, sophisticated trash-sorting robots are now turning up at recycling plants across the nation. Guided by cameras and computer systems trained to recognize specific objects, the robots’ arms glide over moving conveyor belts until they reach their target. Suction cups or oversized tongs attached to the arms snag cans, glass, plastic containers, and other recyclable items out of the rubbish and flick them into nearby bins.

(9) CANON FIRE. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “How ‘Solo’ rolls dice on a key piece of ‘Star Wars’ history”, says that in Solo the game of sabacc that Han Solo used to win the Millennium Falcon has been clarified. A.C. Crispin in her novel Rebel Dawn declared sabacc to be a dice game, but her novel has been ruled non-canonical and the official tie-in version of sabacc is a combination of dice and cards.

That would be the moment that flyboy Han Solo (played by Alden Ehrenreich) wins his beloved “bucket of bolts,” the Millennium Falcon, away from its previous owner, Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover). Their face-off occurs during a climactic round of sabacc, the card game enjoyed by galactic citizens residing on every planet from Apatros to Yavin. And based on this Solo teaser, Han is quite clearly the underdog, while Lando is the top dog; in a hilarious moment, Solo reveals his cards to his sidekick, Chewbacca, and the Wookiee lets out a classic moan that doesn’t require any translation. (But allow us to translate anyway: “You’re screwed.”)

The sabacc sequence won’t just be Solo‘s answer to Casino Royale‘s classic poker game, though. It’s also going to firmly establish how the Millennium Falcon changed hands, a story that has gone through several permutations over the decades. It all started in The Empire Strikes Back, when Han (played by Harrison Ford) showed up in Cloud City and Lando (Billy Dee Williams) ribbed him over the Falcon’s poor shape. “What have you done to my ship?” he asked, to which Han protested: “Your ship? Hey, remember, you lost her to me fair and square.”

(10) BIG BLABBERS. Looper will see to it that the “Untold Truth of the Hulk” is untold no longer!!

The Incredible Hulk is one of Marvel’s oldest and most recognizable icons. Created by comics legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and first appearing in 1962’s Incredible Hulk #1, the Green Goliath spawned hundreds of comics, two live-action movies, a popular live-action TV show, and multiple animated series, films, and video games. And most importantly — big foam hands that make smashy sounds when you hit things with them. With so much Hulk over so much media, it’s almost impossible for even the most hardcore fans to keep up with all of the stories. Here’s the untold truth of the Incredible Hulk…

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mark Hepworth, Mike Kennedy, 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.]

Mary Jane Watson Variant Covers Coming in June

Marvel’s beloved Mary Jane Watson takes center stage next month. Fans already received a glimpse of her in the Free Comic Book Day issue of Marvel’s upcoming series, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #1.

“Both the Gwen Stacy Variant Program and this month’s Venomized Variant Program were such runaway successes, we couldn’t help but try to top ourselves,” says Marvel SVP Sales & Marketing David Gabriel. “And with Chip Zdarsky and Adam Kubert’s new Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man book on the horizon, the timing couldn’t have been better to put the spotlight on fan-favorite Mary Jane Watson.”

Today, Marvel revealed many of the variant covers that will be in comic shops this June:

  1. ALL-NEW GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #3 by Kris Anka
  2. ALL-NEW WOLVERINE #21 by David Lopez
  3. AVENGERS #8 by Mike Allred
  4. BLACK BOLT #2 by Ryan Stegman
  5. CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS #18 by Paolo Rivera
  6. CHAMPIONS #9 by Helen Chen
  7. DAREDEVIL #21 by Humberto Ramos
  8. DEADPOOL #32 by Elizabeth Torque
  9. DOCTOR STRANGE #22 by Francisco Herrera
  10. GWENPOOL, THE UNBELIEVABLE #17 by David Nakayama
  11. HULK #7 by Rahzzah
  12. I AM GROOT #2 by Julian Totino Tedesco
  13. INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #8 by Marco Checchetto
  14. IRON FIST #4 by Stephanie Hans
  15. MIGHTY THOR #20 by Patrick Brown
  16. SECRET WARRIORS #3 by Javier Rodriguez
  17. SPIDER-GWEN #21 by Kevin Wada
  18. THE MIGHTY CAPTAIN MARVEL #6 by Chris Samnee
  19. THE PUNISHER #13 by Dave Williams
  20. VENOM #151 by Francesco Mattina
  21. X-MEN BLUE #5 by TBD
  22. X-MEN GOLD #5 by Anthony Piper

Pixel Scroll 7/17/16 Dr. Pixel And Mr. Hive

(1) FIRST TO WHAT? Matthew Kirschenbaum’s latest discovery about the early days of writers using word processors is shared in “A Screen of Her Own: Gay Courter’s The Midwife and the Literary History of Word Processing” at the Harvard University Press Blog. He acknowledges that by this point, it’s hard to define the question he’s trying to answer —

*First to purchase a system? First to publish their book? First to fully compose? What counts as a word processor anyway? And so on. Besides Pournelle and the others whose names I conjecture in this passage, Track Changes also includes detailed accounts of John Hersey and Len Deighton in its discussion of word processing firsts. Hersey used a mainframe computer at Yale to revise and typeset—but not compose—his novel My Petition for More Space (1974); Deighton leased an IBM Magnetic Tape/Selectric Typewriter for the benefit of his assistant, Ellenor Handley, in managing the revisions for Bomber (1970). The MT/ST was the first office product ever to be actually marketed as a word processor, the ancestor of the System 6—itself not a “digital computer” strictly speaking, it performed no calculations—that the Courters would purchase a decade later.

David Gerrold commented on Facebook:

I think Pournelle was computerized before I was, but I was writing on a word processor before any other writer I knew. I think I started that in 75 or maybe 76.

I had a Savin 900 which was a big box that recorded what you typed onto a cassette tape. The way it stored data, you could also use it for storing mailing lists too.

It connected to a specially modified IBM Selectric — they added a framework between the base and the top, which raised the height of the machine an inch or so. So you still worked on a typewriter, but what you typed was stored.

I put a roll of butcher paper through the machine and I could type all day. Later, I could print out what I’d typed. I could print it out with each line numbered, so I would know where it was on the cassette, or I could print it out formatted, one page at a time. I don’t remember if it numbered the pages, I might have had to do that manually….

ghostbusters-full-new-img COMP(2) SEE GHOSTBUSTERS. JJ, saying “I really love it when someone articulates so well the things which I’ve had difficulty putting my finger on. Kate Tanski does that here, in triplicate,” sent a link to Tanski’s post “The Importance of Seeing Ghostbusters” at Women Write About Comics.

One of the themes in this movie is the importance of being believed. Yes, in this movie, it’s about being believed about ghosts. Erin talks about how she saw a ghost when she was 8, every night for a year. Her parents didn’t believe her, and she went into therapy. Abby (Melissa McCarthy) was the only one who believed her, which was one of the reasons they became friends. It’s not that much of a stretch to think about all the things that women are also often not believed about, as children or as adults. And that part of the movie, thankfully, and pointedly, doesn’t devolve into comedy. It lets the moment of remembered trauma be serious….

But despite of all its very good qualities and the high entertainment factor, the reason why I want this movie to succeed so hard is because of the row of girls who sat behind me. It’s because of the little girl, probably no more than six, who hid behind her dad and whispered to him, that I was “dressed up like the lady from the movie” when she saw me in my Ghostbusters coveralls and then smiled shyly when our eyes met. It’s for the teenage girl who rolled down her window and yelled “GHOSTBUSTERS, YEAH!” as I was walking to my car after the movie got out.  It’s for this entire generation of girls who now, because of this movie, think that Ghostbusters can be women. Because it’s not something that I, even a few years ago, would’ve believed possible, even in cosplay….

… it never occurred to me when I was a child that I could be a Ghostbuster. I could be Janine, sure, and pine awkwardly for the scientist. It never occurred to me that I could be a scientist. Or that it didn’t have to be a boy I was pining for. And that’s why these movies, these reclamations of childhood favorites retold as something more than just a male power fantasy, are so important… A new Ghostbusters that doesn’t just feature a singular woman as part of a team, but a new team wholly composed of women who decide for themselves to do this not because of any male legacy, but because of who they are, and who doesn’t wait for anyone’s permission to exist…

(3) GHOSTBUSTER SHORTCOMINGS. Dave Taylor finds things he likes but also points out many flaws in his “Movie Review: ‘Ghostbusters’” for ScienceFiction.com.

Let’s start with the good news: The new Ghostbusters is funny and entertaining, the story moves along at a solid clip and has lots of cameos from the stars of the original 1986 Ghostbusters too. The story works with four women in the lead roles instead of the four men in the original film just fine.

That’s not the problem with this remake. In fact, there are two fundamental problems when you look at it more closely than just asking whether it’s funny: The first is that there’s not much actual story, no real narrative crescendo that is resolved in the last reel. That’s because of the second, bigger problem: The new film tries way too hard to pay homage to the original movie.

There aren’t just cameos, for example, there are characters on screen that have pointless, flat scenes that break the narrative flow….

(4) GHOSTBUSTER LIKER. Ben Silverio at ScienceFiction.com answers with a “Movie Review Rebuttal: ‘Ghostbusters’ (2016)”.

Another thing that worked really well for me was the way that they showed the trial and error of the Ghostbusters’ equipment. This was their first mission together and most of Holtzmann’s tools had gone untested up until this point. Not only was it cool to see the proton packs evolve, but it was also very, very cool to see female scientists onscreen in a major Hollywood blockbuster bringing this technology to life.

At the end of the day, I only had one major complaint about ‘Ghostbusters’: How do you set a movie in a major metropolis like New York City and only have one Asian character with lines? (For those wondering, that character was Bennie the delivery boy, who was played by ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ star Karan Soni.) But since that’s a problem throughout the entertainment industry and not just this isolated film, it’s hard to come up with any other reasons for me to generally dislike this reboot.

(5) BUSTER BUSTER. John Scalzi delivers “A Short Review of Ghostbusters and A Longer Pummel of Manboys”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

BUT THEY’VE RUINED MY CHILDHOOD BY BEING WOMEN, wails a certain, entitled subset of male nerd on the Internet. Well, good, you pathetic little shitballs. If your entire childhood can be irrevocably destroyed by four women with proton packs, your childhood clearly sucked and it needs to go up in hearty, crackling flames. Now you are free, boys, free! Enjoy the now. Honestly, I don’t think it’s entirely a coincidence that one of the weakest parts of this film is its villain, who (very minor spoiler) is literally a basement-dwelling man-boy just itchin’ to make the world pay for not making him its king, as he is so clearly meant to be. These feculent lads are annoying enough in the real world. It’s difficult to make them any more interesting on screen.

(6) MEDICAL UPDATE. “Boston area fan (and an old friend of mine) Stephanie Clarkson is in a bad way,” writes James Davis Nicoll.

Clarkson’s friend Laurie Beth Brunner fills in the details in a public Facebook post that begins —

It is with a heavy heart that I must tell you that Stephanie’s condition has taken a drastic turn for the worse in the last week.

(7) SILVER ON RADIO. On Tuesday, July 19, Steven H Silver will be interviewed on “The Colin McEnroe Show”, carried on WNPR in the New York-Boston corridor, or available for streaming on their website. The show will focus on Alternate History and runs from 1:00-2:00 p.m. and again from 8:00-9:00 p.m.

(8) FEEDBACK. Fynbospress at Mad Genius Club runs through the value of reviews at different stages of the process in “Reviews – Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta? All Greek to You?”

Since the subject of reviews came up, here’s an overview of a few sorts of reviews, and what’s most helpful on each one. The critical thing to remember is that reviews vary by audience, as well as reviewers!

There are no fixed definitions, so these term vary wildly from author to author. I’ll just walk through the concepts in Greek letter order, completely ignoring what any particular author calls ’em.

Alpha Reviews: Technical Aspects

These are often sought before the manuscript is written, much less complete – but sometimes the author just writes the scene in their head, then hits up people afterward to fact-check. Often submitted with “So, can you parachute out of a small plane?” or “Where is the firing switch on a T-38?” or “You’ve ranched in the southwest. What do you think of this trail scene?”

Sometimes, the feedback will make it clear you can’t do the scene you wanted, not without breaking the suspension of disbelief of anyone who knows anything about the subject. Often, though, more discussion will turn up even niftier alternatives. Tell your technical expert what you want to accomplish, and they may come up with things you never dreamed of….

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born July 17, 1950 – P.J. Soles, whose credits include Carrie and Halloween.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 17, 1952 — David Hasselhoff, with an sf resume that spans from Knight Rider to Sharknado.

(12) VOTE. In “The 2016 Hugo Awards: Two Weeks Out”, Abigail Nussbaum spends the first three paragraphs explaining that compared to 2015, practically no one is talking about the Hugos this year. It’s hard to imagine how with that alternate reality introduction she still manages to lead to a final, important admonition:

Which is great on one level, and on another is worrying.  Because another thing that hasn’t been happening this year is the huge influx of Worldcon members buying supporting memberships for the sole purpose of protesting against the puppies’ attempts to dominate the Hugos.  At the moment, MidAmericon II has 5,600 members, and is on track to be a mid-sized North American convention, which probably means fairly normal Hugo voting numbers, not the outsized protest vote we saw last year.  Now, as I’ve said many times in the past, I have a great deal of faith in Hugo voters’ ability to tell astroturf nominees from the real deal, and to smack down nominees that have no business being on the ballot.  But the numbers still need to be on our side.  Chaos Horizon estimated that there were between 250 and 500 Rabid Puppy nominators this year.  I’d like to believe that the real number is closer to the lower boundary than the higher–there can’t, surely, be 500 people with so little going on in their lives that they’d be willing to spend good money just to make Vox Day happy (or whatever approximation of the human emotion known as happiness can be felt by someone so occupationally miserable).  But if I’m wrong, and those people show up in the same numbers this year, then they have a solid chance of overwhelming the good sense and decency of the people who want the Hugos to be what they were meant to be, an award recognizing the excellence and diversity of what science fiction and fantasy achieved in the last year.

So, if you are a member of MidAmericon II, please remember to vote.

(13) MACII BINGO DISSENT. Patrick Nielsen Hayden is not a fan of the grid –

(14) BALLOT SNAPSHOT. Mark Ciocco says Stephen King gets his vote for the Best Novelette Hugo.

Continuing the march through the Hugo finalists, we come to the awkward middle-ground between short stories and novellas that no one else uses but SF people: Novelettes. Fortunately, this is a pretty decent bunch of stories (especially compared to the lackluster short story ballot), even if none of them really stands out as truly exceptional. For me, they are all flawed in one way or another, making it pretty difficult to rank them. As such, this ranking will probably shift over time.

  1. “Obits” by Stephen King – A modern-day journalism student who naturally has difficulty landing a real job creates a snarky obituary column for a trashy internet tabloid. One day, frustrated, he writes an obituary for a living person. This being a Stephen King story, I think you can pretty much predict what’s going to happen from there. Admittedly, this is a bit on the derivative and predictable side, but King’s got the talent to pull it off with aplomb. He ably explores the idea at it’s core, taking things further than I’d expect, even if the premise itself doesn’t quite allow him much room. King has a tendency to write himself into corners, and you could argue that here, but I think he just barely skirted past that potentiality. It’s comforting to be in the hands of a good storyteller, even if this is not his best work. Still, its flaws are not unique in this batch of novelettes, so it ends up in first place for me.

(15) CAREY’S LIBRARY. Lis Carey also has been reviewing her way through the nominees. Here are three recent links:

(16) LETTERS TO TIPTREE. Aaron Pound discusses World Fantasy Award nominee Letters to Tiptree, and notes it is a significant omission from the list of Best Related Work Hugo nominees.

And yet, despite its many other honors, Letters to Tiptree did not receive a place among the Hugo finalists. While no work is ever entitled to become a Hugo finalist in the abstract, this is exactly the sort of book that one would normally expect to receive one. The reason for this lack of Hugo recognition this year is quite obviously the Puppy campaigns, which promoted a collection of Related Works onto the Hugo ballot that range from mediocre and forgettable down to juvenile and puerile. Leaving aside the fact that the finalists pushed by the Puppy campaigns are of such low quality, it seems relatively obvious that, given the Puppy rhetoric on such issues, Letters to Tiptree is exactly the sort of book that they want to push off of the Hugo ballot. After all, it is an explicitly feminist work, with all of the letter writers and most of the other contributors being women discussing a writer whose fiction was loaded with feminist issues. This book would seem to represent, at least in the eyes of many Pups, the recent encroachment of feminism into science fiction.

Except it doesn’t. Alice B. Sheldon died twenty-nine years ago. Her best fiction – including Houston Houston, Do You Read?, The Girl Who Was Plugged In, The Women Men Don’t See, and The Screwfly Solution – was written between forty and forty-five years ago….

(17) UNDERRATED BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN. Reddit is collecting suggestions for “The Long Tail: r/Fantasy’s Underrated/Underread Books”. And look what’s on the list!

God Stalk by P.C. Hodgell (Kencyrath), 1761 ratings.

In the first book of the Kencyrath, Jame, a young woman missing her memories, struggles out of the haunted wastes into Tai-tastigon, the old, corrupt, rich and god-infested city between the mountains and the lost lands of the Kencyrath. Jame’s struggle to regain her strength, her memories, and the resources to travel to join her people, the Kencyrath, drag her into several relationships, earning affection, respect, bitter hatred and, as always, haunting memories of friends and enemies dead in her wake.

When Reddit put together such a list two years ago with similar criteria (<5000 Goodreads ratings) it also had a Hodgell book – but a different one.

(18) TIME FOR POKÉMON. Pat Cadigan is mentioned in Time’s coverage of Pokemon and augmented reality.

But Go successfully uses AR as a sweetener to a mix of nostalgia for Pokémon, which peaked in popularity during the late ’90s when many millennials were preteens, as well as elements of long-gone Internet-age fads from geocaching to flash mobs. While technologists have been trying to perfect how AR works, Pokémon has provided one early answer for why you’d want it to.

The basic goodness or badness of AR—like any technology that proposes tinkering with the material of our reality—will be long debated. In science fiction, at least, the results are decidedly mixed. Star Trek’s holodeck is a (mostly) beneficent tool for shared understanding; in Pat Cadigan’s 1991 classic Synners, the augmentation of reality takes on a macabre, nightmarish quality enabling corporate interests and human sensualism to run amok. Advanced AR could allow you to experience the world from another person’s perspective—or lock you permanently into your own.

(19) BRING QUINN TO MACII. Kurt Busiek gave a plug to Jameson Quinn’s fundraiser.

(20) FAST WORK. Did Lou Antonelli maybe set a record?

Those of you who attended the panel on short stories at LibertyCon that Friday may recall I mentioned that I wrote a story, submitted it, and received an acceptance in four hours. That story is “The Yellow Flag” and it is being published on-line by Sci-Phi Journal on August 1st.

(21) MONKEYING AROUND. Ms. Rosemary Benton at Galactic Journey discovers a Japanese animated movie rendered in English, “[July 17, 1961] Bridging Two Worlds (The Anime, Alakazam The Great)”. One thing I’m curious about – was the word anime used in 1961?

I was very excited to see this film for two major reasons, as well as many many lesser reasons.  First and foremost the credited director of the film is Osamu Tezuka, one of modern Japan’s most prolific “manga” (Japanese comics) creators.  I am an appreciator of the comic book medium, so Tezuka is hardly an unknown name to me.  Thanks to my soon-to-be-aunt I’ve been able to obtain translations of numerous works of his, all of which are exceptional with whimsical storytelling ferrying intense characters into entrancing conflicts.  To date he has created numerous adaptations of western classics like Faust (1950) and Crime and Punishment (1953), and has created hugely popular works for Japanese young adults including the science fiction action story Astro Boy and the coming of age title Jungle Emperor.  Upon looking into the production of the film, however, it is unclear how much direct involvement he had.  Still, I like to think that he had a part in not only the style, but the script — both of which bear a striking similarity to Tezuka’s situational humor and Disney-inspired art style.

(22) BIG COFFIN. Another casualty of the Civil War, “Marvel kills off Hulk alter ago Bruce Banner”. According to the BBC:

The character is seen dying as a result of an arrow to the head from Hawkeye, his Avengers teammate, in the third issue of Civil War II.

Banner has been the Hulk’s alter ego since the character’s creation in 1962.

Dawn Incognito, who sent the link, calls the last line of the post “My favourite quote.”

It is not yet clear whether Banner could return in a similar way [to Captain America and Spider-Man], but Marvel indicated there were no plans for a return.

“Suuuuuure,” says Dawn. “Pull the other one, Marvel, it’s got bells on.”

(23) IMMOVABLE FORCE, IRRITABLE OBJECT. These are the kinds of questions comics fans live for. “Comic Book Questions Answered – Could the Hulk Have Torn Wolverine’s Admantium Skeleton Apart?”

Now that the Hulk has joined his old sparring partner, Wolverine, in death, reader Roger B. asked whether the regular Marvel Universe Hulk could have torn the regular Marvel Universe Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton apart (we know the Ultimate versions of the characters could).

Read on for the answer! …

(24) STAR WARS 8 SPOILER? Your mileage may vary, but you’ve been warned. Carrie Fisher may have leaked an interesting bit about the next movie while speaking at Star Wars Celebration Europe.

During a panel discussion at Star Wars Celebration Europe this weekend, Carrie Fisher, aka the iconic Princess Leia, seemingly revealed what might be a pretty big spoiler for the upcoming “Star Wars Episode 8.”

When panel host Warwick Davis asked Fisher what she knew about the time period between “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens,” Fisher seemingly mistook his question to mean the time between “The Force Awakens” and “Episode 8.” As a result, she let slip two little words that caught everyone’s attention…

[Thanks to Dawn Incognito, Michael J. Walsh, Bartimaeus, Gary Farber, James Davis Nicoll, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]