Pixel Scroll 9/20/19 Pixels Are Finite, Scrolls Are Infinite

(1) TIPTREE BIOGRAPHER COMMENTS FURTHER. Julie Phillips, author of James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon blogged about “On Tiptree and naming” on September 17.

A number of people are reading the manner of Alli and Ting’s Sheldon’s death as an instance of caregiver murder, in which a person with a disability is killed by a person responsible for caring for them. There is a pattern of murders like this being downplayed or dismissed as “understandable” because the caregiver “must have been under such strain.” This is extremely upsetting and hurtful to people living with disabilities. You can read more about this here and here. (Content warnings: suicide; Americans’ appalling lack of access to heath care.)

Mostly I’ve been asked for factual answers: Did it happen? Did it not happen? It may be that a name that calls up painful associations should be changed in any case. But I believe it matters to talk about what we know and don’t know, and here are some thoughts about Ting’s and Alli’s choices.

(2) GETTING WARMER. Andrew Liptak chronicles sff’s track record with other issues before asking “Does Science Fiction Have a Moral Imperative to Address Climate Change?”

… Topics such as pollution, overcrowding, and a warming Earth began to appear more frequently within the genre. Harry Harrison’s 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room! (later adapted—and firmly embedded in pop culture consciousness—as Soylent Green) examined the plight of an overcrowded Earth, though today the main drivers of climate change are far less attributable to rising populations in less developed areas of the world and far more to do with mass consumerism in the developed world.

J.G. Ballard’s 1962 novel The Drowned World specifically imagines a post-apocalyptic 2145 in which global warming (caused by solar wind heating the atmosphere, rather than specifically fossil fuel emissions) lead to sea-level rise, ruining London. Even nearly 60 years ago—long before “climate change” had become a source of widespread anxiety, it was a stark vision; reviewer Peter Brigg noted, “Ballard created in this novel the most pervasive demonstration of the frailty of ‘technological’ man.”

(3) NEW SFF COMPETITION. The Clarke Award is publicizing “A New Science Fiction Competition For Young People”. 

The Rumble Museum, in association with the Arthur C. Clarke Award, is delighted to announce a national science fiction competition for young people who would like to see their ideas turned into a short story by a professional science fiction author.

Anyone 15 years or younger can enter, and full entry details can be found here. Deadline for entries October 31.

HOW TO ENTER

To enter, please submit a premise and opening lines for a science fiction short story. We would like to see a description of the world or society your story is set in, an outline of the main characters and plot, and first 350 words or first page.

(4) SIXTY-FOUR ON THE FLOOR. Galactic Journey contributors assemble! A trio of reviewers comment on the latest (in 1964) novels from PKD, Leiber, Bulmer and Farmer in this omnibus post: “[September 20, 1964] Apocalypses and other trivia (Galactoscope)”. Jason Sacks begins —

…Like many fans, I first became really aware of Philip K. Dick after he won the 1963 Hugo Award for Best Novel for his remarkable The Man in the High Castle. That book dazzled in its chronicle of an alternate history in which the Nazis and Japanese won World War II (which opened up many areas of thought and conversation for me and my friends) as well as in its brilliant world-building and the fascinating, multifaceted characters at the heart of Dick’s award-winner.

High Castle was also an amazingly tight novel, packing a dense plot into its mere 240 pages. As many of us Dick fans have learned, not all of his works are quite so tightly plotted. I adored his Martian Time-Slip and Dr. Bloodmoney from last year, but those books tended to both delight and annoy in their meandering, nearly stream-of-consciousness styles.

The newest Philip K. Dick novel, The Penultimate Truth (just out in paperback from Belmont) fills a bit of the gap between his ’62 masterpiece and the challenging ’63 books. This thoroughly delightful book wanders a bit but always held me in its comforting grasp.

(5) LID O’CLOCK ROCK. Alasdair Stuart’s newest Full Lid embraces the profoundly weird career of Gerard Butler, examines the Hot Zone and attends the Battle of Big Rock: “The Full Lid 20th September 2019”

(6) IT’S THE PITTS. NPR’s Chris Klimek reports that “‘Ad Astra’ Soars”

With its austere surfaces and jaundiced view of humanity’s interplanetary destiny, James Gray’s stirring sci-fi epic Ad Astra can’t help but evoke Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the paterfamilias of all “serious” space movies. But in fact it’s a closer cousin to another long-delayed, wildly over-budget spectacle that initially fared better with ticket-buyers than critics, only to be revealed in time as a masterpiece: Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now.

Like Coppola’s surreal Vietnam War movie, Ad Astra is told to us by a haunted man on a mission into the unknown. After a thrilling set piece involving an unplanned high-altitude skydive from the “International Space Antenna,” Brad Pitt’s Major Roy McBride is dispatched to investigate the cause of a series of destructive cosmic ray bursts emanating from Neptune.

McBride is given the task because his superiors believe these disruptions might somehow have been caused by his father (Tommy Lee Jones), commander of an exploration mission that was presumed lost some 16 years earlier. In the event the old man has somehow survived and gone all Colonel Kurtz on them, they’re hoping his baby boy might be able to talk him down.

One needn’t have seen 2001 — or for that matter, last year’s undervalued Neil Armstrong biopic First Man — to grok that emotional availability is the one area in which McBride is seriously deficient. (His heart rate has never risen above 80, his dossier says.) In space, no one can hear you cry…

… though they are sometimes privy to your internal monologue. “We are the world-eaters,” McBride laments in voiceover as he takes in the Applebees and Hudson News shops that pimple the near side of the moon in the mid-to-late 21st century. The only thing Ad Astra shares with the comparatively upbeat adventure The Martian is a notion we might be wiser to leave space exploration to our robots. We see McBride file a psychological self-evaluation each time he’s getting ready to launch; only if the A.I. concurs with his assessment that he’s fit to fly is he permitted to go.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 20, 1979 — The film version of Buck Rogers was edited for television as “Awakening” to serve as the very first episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. It would last two seasons.
  • September 20, 2006 Jericho aired its pilot episode on CBS.  It was cancelled after its first full season, because of poor ratings. A fan campaign persuaded the network to bring the show back for another season, of seven episodes, after which it was cancelled again. IDW has done two seasons in comic book form. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 20, 1935 Keith Roberts. Author of Pavane, an amazing novel. I’ll admit that I’ve not read anything else by him, so do tell me about other works please. (Died 2000.)
  • Born September 20, 1940 Jonathan Hardy. He was the voice of Dominar Rygel XVI, called simply Rygel, once the royal ruler of the Hynerian Empire, on Farscape.  He was also Police Commissioner Labatouche in Mad Max, and he had a one-off in the Mission: Impossible series that produced in his native Australia in the “Submarine” episode as Etienne Reynard. (Died 2012.)
  • Born September 20, 1948 George R. R. Martin, 71. I’ll admit that I’ve only read the first two volumes of ASOFI.  I loved The Armageddon Rag and think that he’s a wonderful short writer.  And no, I’ve not watched A Game of Thrones. 
  • Born September 20, 1955 David Haig, 64. He played Pangol in “The Leisure Hive” a Fourth Doctor story. He also showed up on Blake’s 7 in “Rumours of Death” as Forres, and was Colonel Bonnet in The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Tales of Innocence. He’s also General Vandenberg in the 2006 film remake of A for Andromeda. Finally, I should I should he’s The Player in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead done at The Old Vic a few years back. 
  • Born September 20, 1959 James Blaylock, 69. One of my favorite writers. I’d recommend the Ghosts trilogy, the Christian trilogy and The Adventures of Langdon St. Ives whichcollects all of the Langdon St. Ives adventures together as his best writing, but anything by him is worth reading. 
  • Born September 20, 1986 Aldis Hodge, 33. He plays Alec Hardison on Leverage. Ok, I know it’s not SFF but if there’s a spiritual descendant of Mission: Impossible, this series is it. Both the cast and their use are technology of that series are keeping with MI spirit. He’s also had one-offs on CharmedBuffy the Vampire SlayerSupernaturalThe Walking Dead, Star Trek Discovery’s Short Takes and Bones (which given that it crossed over with Sleepy Hollow…)
  • Born September 20, 1989 Malachi Kirby, 30. He shows up on Doctor Who as Gastron in “Hell Bent”, a Twelfth Doctor story, and he’s on Black Mirror as Stripe in their “Men Against Fire” episode. 

(9) MAKER MAKES NEWS. In the Washington Post, Patti Restivo profiles cosplayer Kyle Wilhelm, whose crosstitiching on his costume as “Wolf Shaman” at the Maryland Renaissance Festival was so good that he got an apprenticeship at Outback Leather, whose clients include  the Renaissance Festival, Medieval Times,  a nearby horse racing track, and several motorcycle clubs. “A costume wizard brings his skills to Maryland Renaissance Festival”. Photo gallery here.

…Like Sargent, Wilhelm describes himself as mostly self-taught. He said he trained as a blacksmith and in animal care-taking, and previously worked part-time gigs as an actor, model and stuntman.

For at least a decade, the 29-year-old said he did leather crafting in his basement before landing at Outback Leather with Sargent and finding his calling.

“Ron’s like my second dad,” Wilhelm said.

(10) HUGO LONG LIST. David Steffen says his “Long List Anthology Volume 5” Kickstarter has now raised enough money to acquire all the stories he could get the rights to.

After the Hugo Awards each year, the World Science Fiction Society (who administer the award) publishes a longer list of works that fans cast nomination votes for.  The works on the ballot get a lot of attention, the purpose of this anthology is to get more readers for these other stories that were also loved by so many fans.  The result each year is a big and ecclectic collection of fiction very different in tone and theme that can act as a sampler for work enjoyed by the Hugo voting audience.

This project is not endorsed by nor affiliated with the Hugo awards, WSFS, WorldCon, or any associated entities. The Hugo name is used with permission.

(11) ALL WET. LAist shows why it’s only natural that a 20-minute theme park show would be more successful than the namesake 3-hour movie: “What Universal Studios’ Waterworld Got Right About A Stunt Show, Wrong About Climate Change”.

“It’s a really odd situation where I think the attraction is far more popular than the movie, in most ways,” Shawn Marshall of theme park site Parks And Cons said. “Probably for a lot of theme park fans, when you say ‘Waterworld,’ we’re all thinking of the Universal show moreso than the movie at this point.”

If you haven’t seen the show, it simplifies the movie’s story and packs it into 20 minutes of pure action. After a pre-show getting the crowd hyped and explaining/showing that you may get very, very wet if you’re in the splash zone, a deep voice comes on over the loudspeakers to explain the story.

(12) THIS IS GENIUS. Richard Paolinelli sent a DMCA takedown notice to the Internet Archive requiring them to remove all saved copies of pages from his blog. And they did. What a hack! Who would have thought he had it in him.

(13) HUNGER GAMES FOR ADULTS. NPR’s Jason Heller finds that “‘The Divers’ Game’ Depicts An Unimaginably Unjust, All Too Believably Cruel World”.

Dystopian stories are, in essence, thought experiments. And few come as thoughtful as The Divers’ Game.

The latest novel from acclaimed author Jesse Ball depicts a world both unimaginably unjust and all too believably cruel: Society has been split into two distinct halves, the pats and the quads, with the former group given unchecked supremacy over the second. It isn’t the most original premise in dystopian fiction, but Ball clearly isn’t trying to reinvent any genre tropes. Rather, he’s plumbing the depths of a familiar conceit, attacking it from a fresh angle, and constructing a parable that’s jarring in its subtle complexity and profound, horrific revelation.

…Ball’s bombshell is undisguised and unapologetic: He’s taking dead aim at current U.S. policy in regard to immigration and the detention of asylum-seekers, and the repercussions he speculates upon leave no doubt as to his standpoint on the topic — even as he expresses them in nested sequence of vicious satire. But his series of modest proposals culminates in the second section of the book, in which the titular’s divers’ game is unveiled. It’s a game played by quad children, and it’s as much of a Shirley Jackson-esque premise as it is an exquisite probe of liminal zones and psychogeography between the privileged and the oppressed.

(14) “…WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS”. “Remake The Princess Bride? Inconceivable!”

Another week, another set of divided opinions online about, well, almost everything.

But this week one thing seemed to unite most people – if Twitter is anything to go by, at least.

Remaking the classic 1987 film The Princess Bride is a bad idea. An even worse idea, in fact, than getting involved in a land war in Asia.

The debate was started by an interview by Variety with Norman Lear, the film’s producer.

He said “very famous people, whose names I won’t use, but they want to redo The Princess Bride.”

Even that tantalising hint was enough to make many fans reach for the gifs.

(15) SHE’S A WONDER. SYFY Wire pens “An ode to Robin Wright, from princess to queen”.

Robin Wright’s breakout role as Buttercup in The Princess Bride left a mark on a lot of childhoods, and it would be difficult to dismiss the importance of that role in her film career going forward. While she’s gone on to play a wide variety of complicated characters, it is also true that the no-nonsense and self-possessed attitude of Buttercup would be a defining characteristic, not just of Wright’s career, but of Wright herself.

More recently, Wright had the chance to play a new icon of feminine power for audiences of all ages with her role as General Antiope in Wonder Woman. In many ways, these are two incredibly different characters, but they both carry with them that sense of sustained defiance that audiences have come to admire in many a Robin Wright role.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Liptak, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cat Eldridge.]

Tiptree Name Will Be Removed from Award

The Tiptree Award Motherboard today tweeted its intention to change the name of the award:

This reverses the decision they announced at the start of the month and had explained in-depth in “Alice Sheldon and the name of the Tiptree Award”.

The change comes in response to recent requests to drop the name because in her last acts the author shot her invalid husband before killing herself. The discussion included tweets by Carrie Cuinn (‘no one’s whole life excuses killing a disabled person in their care. It can’t, or what does that say about the value of my life, my son’s, any disabled person’s?”), Kelly Robson (“This [Twitter] is just not the place for a nuanced conversation. But Tiptree isn’t sacred to me. I’m tapping out. To be very clear: she was a murderer and murder is never excusable.”) and Natalie Luhrs (“She murdered her husband while he slept and then killed herself. And yet there’s a SFF award named after her. I am deeply conflicted about this.”)

Those involved in the conversation at File 770 have ranged from many fans with disabilities, to Tiptree’s literary executor Jeff Smith, who knew the author well.

Although there are fans who wanted to keep the Tiptree Award name, those who administer the award have always regarded their work as something of a movement, and they are showing that they plan to listen to people who have always been the source of their support.

[Thanks to Lenore Jean Jones and James Davis Nicoll for the story.]

Tiptree Award Motherboard Decides to Keep Name

The administrators of the Tiptree Award are retaining the name after discussing the challenges to the name and requests for change raised in social media. Their decision is explained in-depth in “Alice Sheldon and the name of the Tiptree Award”.

They reviewed the author’s history which is behind the controversy.

Alice and Huntington Sheldon’s story. We on the Motherboard, those who remember Alice Sheldon and those who do not, have long known the story of how she and her husband, Huntington Sheldon (known as Ting), died. 

Friends and family — and the science fiction community at the time — viewed this tragedy as resulting from a suicide pact: the desperate and tragic result of a combination of physical and mental illness and the Sheldons’ desire to die on their own terms. He was 84 years old; she was 71.

However, some who have read accounts of the Sheldon’s deaths more recently have pointed out a different interpretation. The story can also be seen  as an act of caregiver murder: where a disabled person is killed by the person, usually a close family member, who is responsible for their support. 

Both narratives fit the story. We see how much of the discussion of the Sheldons’ deaths, including our own, reflects the rhetorical tendencies identified in David Perry’s report, specifically the centering of those who kill over those who are killed. In the world outside of science fiction, Huntington Denton “Ting” Sheldon would be considered the more significant member of the couple. “Ting” Sheldon was Director of the Office of Current Intelligence of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy and is credited with building that office of the CIA.

Alice Sheldon

After quoting from Tiptree biographer Julie Phillips and Sheldon’s friend and literary executor Jeffrey Smith, the Motherboard sums up:

We ultimately do not know what happened on May 19, 1987. We can’t know with certainty and we don’t see how anyone can know except the ones who cannot tell us. But we are as convinced as we can be, given the unknowability of the facts, by the evidence that Alice and Huntington Sheldon chose to die together. 

We respect that not everyone who reads this will have the same interpretation. We recognize that the unconscionable murder of disabled people by their caregivers happens daily, driven both by the devaluation of disabled life and by the lack of available care and support. Therefore we do not seek to defend or exonerate Alice Sheldon, but to make sure the context of her actions remains part of any conversation about them. We are grateful to our community for raising these important issues and bringing them to our attention.

Then they review why the award is named for Tiptree:

We think it is important to understand how the Tiptree got its name. In 1991, founding mothers Pat Murphy and Karen Joy Fowler made a conscious choice to name the award not after Alice Sheldon herself but after the assumed persona –– more than a pseudonym –– under which Sheldon published fiction and participated in fandom. In its conception, the James Tiptree Jr Literary Award hoped to acknowledge and celebrate Sheldon/Tiptree’s dual gender identity, the boundary-crossing work published under Tiptree’s name, and the havoc the revelation of Tiptree’s gender wreaked on the male-dominated science fiction world of the 1970s. 

Sheldon was a complicated individual, aspects of whose personal story have long been woven tightly into and through the idea and spirit of the Award. Yet the Award was not intended to reference a figure whose approval winners might imagine gaining or toward whose example they might aspire, in the way that other awards named for iconic individuals – most notably the former Campbell – appear to do.

The rationale for keeping the Tiptree Award name includes consideration of the meaning of her work:

Discussions about the naming of the award relate to broader issues that the Motherboard has been contemplating for some time. When we return to the stories Alice Sheldon wrote as Tiptree, we often find a pessimistic tendency that can seem, at times, like a horrible foreshadowing (though this is far from the only way to read them). Tiptree’s work describes the contours of gender oppression acutely and rarely, if ever, sees a way out. We have been reflecting this week on how many of our feminist icons were also women who could not see a way out. Tiptree’s stories, then and now, provide scope for multiple and complex politics. If we look at the work of our honorees, winners, and fellows, among their greatest commonalities are broad, deep, and diverse commitments to finding, or creating, ways out. 

See the post for the full discussion, which is about twice as long as these excerpts.

[Thanks to Pat Murphy and Jeffrey Smith for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 9/1/19 I Have Pixeled The Scroll Less Tickboxed, And That Has Made All The DIfference

(1) TIPTREE BIOGRAPHER WEIGHS IN. Julie Phillips, author of James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, shared her research about the death of Tiptree and her husband. Thread starts here.

(2) STOKERCON UK ADDS GUEST. Mick Garris will be StokerCon UK’s media guest of honor in 2020.

STOKERCON UK—the Horror Writers Association’s fifth annual celebration of horror and dark fantasy in creative media and the first to be held outside of North America—is delighted to welcome award-winning American film-maker MICK GARRIS as its latest Guest of Honour.

Mick Garris began writing fiction at the age of twelve. By the time he was in high school, he was writing music and film journalism for various local and national publications, and during college, edited and published his own pop culture magazine. Steven Spielberg hired Mick as story editor on the AMAZING STORIES TV series for NBC, where he wrote or co-wrote ten of the forty-four episodes. Since then, he has written or co-scripted a number of feature films and teleplays (*BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED, THE FLY II, HOCUS POCUS, CRITTERS 2 and NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES, amongst many others).

As a director and producer, he has worked in a wide range of media, including feature films (CRITTERS 2, SLEEPWALKERS, RIDING THE BULLET, NIGHTMARE CINEMA); made-for-TV movies (QUICKSILVER HIGHWAY, VIRTUAL OBSESSION, DESPERATION); cable movies and series (PSYCHO IV: THE BEGINNING, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, PRETTY LITTLE LIARS and its spin-off RAVENSWOOD, WITCHES OF EAST END, SHADOWHUNTERS, DEAD OF SUMMER, ONCE UPON A TIME); network mini-series (THE STAND, THE SHINING, BAG OF BONES); series pilots (THE OTHERS, LOST IN OZ) and series (SHE-WOLF OF LONDON). He is also the creator and executive producer of Showtime’s MASTERS OF HORROR anthology series, as well as creator of the NBC series, FEAR ITSELF.

Mick is known for his highly-rated podcast, POST MORTEM WITH MICK GARRIS, where he sits down with some of the most revered film-makers in the horror and fantasy genre for one-on-one discussions, including the likes of Stephen King, John Carpenter, Roger Corman, Walter Hill, Neil Gaiman, and many others….

(3) COMPARE AND CONTRAST. John Coxon has posted his report: “Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon”. Lots of in-depth talk about facilities, parties and program.

Finally, let’s talk parties. These were so much better than Loncon 3 and Helsinki, and represent the first party scene outside a US Worldcon that I’ve thought really worked. The model of having programme rooms by day become party rooms by night worked well, and in general it was a fun time. There was a failure mode — the queue to get a drink in the Glasgow in 2024 party was as big as the room, making it difficult to actually enjoy the party after you’d got your drink through no fault of the organisers — but most parties were a good mixture of people, pleasant to spend time in, and had interesting drinks and snacks (although the expense of having to use conference centre catering meant these often ran out quite early). Having the bar just down one floor meant that if you got bored of the parties you could head back, and vice versa. This felt nicer than the fan village in Loncon 3 mostly because that space was one, gigantic space with no nooks or crannies, which to me fails to capture what’s nice about drinking at Eastercon, i.e. the ability to find a little niche and settle with friends, or go from niche to niche changing context. Dublin very much captured that feeling, and the nightlife felt much, much more like a giant Eastercon than it did at Loncon 3. I liked that the bar was named in honour of Martin Hoare, who died shortly before the convention.

(4) AUTOPSYING THE ART BOOK CATEGORY. 2019 Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte’s extensive analysis of “A Hugo Award for Best Art Book: the 2019 experiment”, on his blog From the Heart of Europe, includes this statistical summary:

So, we unleashed it along with the other Hugo and Retro Hugo categories in January, and tallied the results after nominations closed in May. Participation at nominations stage was frankly disappointing.

  • Best Art Book had the lowest participation at nominations stage of any 2019 category (248 voters compared to the next lowest two: 290 for Best Fan Artist and 297 for Best Fanzine).
  • It had the lowest number of nominees (78, compared to the next lowest two: 91 for Best Semiprozine and 102 for Best Fanzine).
  • The top finalist in the category had the lowest number of votes for a top finalist in any category (51, compared to the next lowest two: 70 for the top finalist in Best Fan Writer and 72 for the top finalist in Best Fancast).
  • The lowest-placed finalist had the second lowest number of votes for the lowest-placed finalist in any category (28, ahead of 25 for the lowest-placed finalist in Best Fan Artist but behind 33 for the lowest-placed finalist in Best Graphic Story).
  • The sixteenth-ranked nominee had the second lowest number of votes for any category (6, compared to 5 for Best Fan Artist and 8 for Best Fanzine).
  • The count for Best Fan Artist had the second lowest number of rounds of any category (36, ahead of 31 for Best Fanzine, behind 43 for Best Semiprozine).
  • The votes cast for the top 16 nominees were 51, 47, 47, 39, 30, 28, 25, 24, 24, 19, 15, 12, 12, 10, 8 and 6.

(5) WFC 2019 ROOMS. This year’s World Fantasy Con committee reminded everyone time is fleeting – click here for room reservations.

As a reminder, the World Fantasy Convention 2019 hotel discount block closes on September 30! You can reserve a hotel room at the Marriott Los Angeles Airport Hotel for $149 (plus taxes & fees) by visiting our Venue page below, and clicking on the “Book Your Room Now” rate.

(6) HUGO LOSERS PARTY. Beyond the File 770 comments section, there have been trenchant responses to George R.R. Martin’s post about the party.

Alex Acks writes, “I didn’t feel personally belittled until this moment: George’s Hugo Losers Party explanation”.

There are a few things in particular I’d like to respond to in George’s epic non-apology.

I do not know that anything I can say will appease those who did not get into the party… but I can at least explain what happened, and why.

We’re writers. Words and word choice matter, and we’re not going to pretend otherwise. I do not need to be appeased like a tantrummy child, and I don’t appreciate the implication. I wanted an apology for those of us left out in the cold.

I actually do appreciate the explanation of the communication issues, of how things got so messy. The party is a large undertaking. It’s also George’s party, and as I have stated before, he can invite who he bloody well pleases. I also do appreciate this:

We knew the capacity of the floor we were renting well in advance, and worried whether the 450 limit would be a problem for us.   The possibility was there, we all saw that.    But there was no easy answer, so in the end we decided to go ahead as planned in the hopes that things would work out.   The final decision was mine.   It was the wrong decision.

Which is then rather deflated by:

A number of the louder Twitterers have stated SOMETIMES IN SCREAMING CAPS that it is simplicity itself to calculate the number of attendees at a party.   That makes me suspect that none of them have ever organized one, at least not one as big as the Hugo Losers Party.

Feel free to name me if you have a problem with me. I certainly used screaming caps because I was, I would hope understandably, upset…

Renay, part of the team that creates Lady Business, this year’s Best Fanzine Hugo winner, took issue with the entire post, of course, especially objecting to this phrase:

Also, whereas in the past categories like fanzine and semiprozines only had one editor, and therefore one nominee (Andy Porter for ALGOL, DIck Geis for ALIEN CRITIC, Charlie Brown for LOCUS, Mike Glyer for FILE 770, etc.), now most of them seem to be edited by four, five, or seven people, all of whom expect rockets and nominee invitations.

Thread stars here.

Alexandra Erin makes extensive comments beginning here.

Kat Tanaka Okopnik, who experienced the inconvenience of waiting to get into the party, shared observations on Facebook.

We (waiting outside) had no idea the buses weren’t supplied by GRRM. It added to the consternation.

It was raining intermittently, the buses had left, and there as no shelter and no seating. Most of us were willing to stand, although it was cold and most of us were not prepared for standing outside — femme party clothes don’t prioritize weatherproofness. We asked for seats for people who needed not to be standing.

…I’m writing this account in hopes of adding to the aggregate narrative about the night, and with the expectation that having more facts and viewpoints available affects the way someone might think of the events and choices that lead to them. GRRM’s generosity is legendary, but it’s true that we shouldn’t expect it to be bottomless. I thank him for both his hospitality and for the accounting he has shared with us giving insight into his planning process.

Lastly, someone slipped a joke onto the internet!

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 1, 1875 Edgar Rice Burroughs. Bradbury declared him “the most influential writer in the entire history of the world.” Now I’d not necessarily disagree or agree wth that statement but I would note that he has largely fallen out of public notice once again. (Died 1950.)
  • Born September 1, 1936 Gene Colan. He co-created with Stan Lee the Falcon, the first African-American superhero in mainstream comics. He created Carol Danvers, who would become Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel, and was featured in Captain Marvel. With Marv Wolfman, he created Blade. (Died 2011.)
  • Born September 1, 1941 Elen Willard, 78. She’s best known for her portrayal of the character Ione Sykes in “The Grave” episode  of The Twilight Zone. You can rent it on iTunes or Amazon. She also shows up in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.‘s “The Jingle Bells Affair”. 
  • Born September 1, 1942 C. J. Cherryh, 77. I certainly think the Hugo Award winning Downbelow Station and Cyteen are amazing works but I think my favorite works by her are the Merchanter novels such as Rimrunners.
  • Born September 1, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 76. A noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician who born in Washington, D.C. He frequently is known by the nickname Filthy Pierre. He’s is the creator of the Voodoo message board system once used at cons such as Worldcon, WisCon and Arisia. 
  • Born September 1, 1951 Donald G. Keller, 68. He co-edited The Horns of Elfland with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman which I highly recommend. He is a contributor to The Encyclopedia of Fantasy and he’s member of the editorial board of Slayage, the online Encyclopedia of Buffy Studies.
  • Born September 1, 1952 Brad Linaweaver. Mike’s remembrance post is here. (Died 2019.)
  • Born September 1, 1952 Timothy Zahn, 68. Apparently he’s known more these days for the Thrawn series of Star Wars novels.
  • Born September 1, 1964 Martha Wells, 55. She’s has won a Nebula Award, a Locus Award, and two Hugo Awards. Impressive. And she was toastmaster of the World Fantasy Convention in 2017 where she delivered a speech called “Unbury the Future”. Need I note the Muderbot Dairies are amazing reading? 
  • Born September 1, 1967 Steve Pemberton, 52. He’s on the Birthday List for being Strackman Lux in the Eleventh Doctor stories of “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead” but he has other genre credits including being Drumknott in Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, Professor Mule in Gormenghast and Harmony in Good Omens.

(8) BIRTHDAY PARTY IN PROGRESS. [Item by Standback.] Cassandra Khaw’s “Birthday Microfiction” has been exploding all over Twitter and it’s fantastic. You can see lots and lots and LOTS of people throwing their hat into the ring here.

Lots of great ones, large and small. My favorite so far is Marissa Lingen’s “hardest experience in a magic ollege major” thread; they’re on-point and fantastic.

Some excellent ones that could use some more prompts:

* A continuing story, @fromankyra:

* Strange dubbed TV, Laura Blackwell:

* Imaginary TV shows, Evelyn Chirson:

…and, I’m doing one too, if you want to hear how your themed birthday party is going to pan out.

It’s a lot of fun

(9) SPOOKY HISTORY. ‘Tis the season to remember who made it up — “Have You Ever Heard of a Halloween Tree?”

It can be speculated that the Halloween tree got its start from the 1972 fantasy novel by Ray Bradbury. In the novel, eight boys are out trick-or-treating on Halloween night when they realize their friend Pipkin has been taken away. The trick-or-treaters find their way through time, wandering through Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greek, and Ancient Roman cultures, Celtic Druidism, the Notre Dame in Medieval Paris, and finally the Day of the Dead in Mexico. As the friends travel through time, they learn the origins of Halloween and in the end, the Halloween Tree, filled with jack-o-lanterns, serves as a spooky metaphor for all the different cultures and how they celebrate Halloween.

(10) HONK IF YOU LOVE GAMING. “A gaming company is releasing something called “Untitled Goose Game” and people are losing their honking minds”CNN has the story.

If you have ever wanted to be a “horrible goose” House House’s new video game Untitled Goose Game, may be for you.

The Australian gaming company released a honking new trailer for the game that has been in the works for three years and comes out on September 20.

And there are options. You can be a goose on your Nintendo Switch, Mac or PC and terrorize the citizens of a village.

(11) PRIORITIES. Alasdair Stuart’s The Full Lid for August 30, 2019 talks about what it’s like to not win a Hugo, and what’s worse than losing —

That is an amazing set of winners! Especially delighted to see Zen Cho, Jeanette Ng, Becky Chambers and Mary Robinette Kowal recognized. That being said. there are times when Hugo voters can, intentionally or not, be cruel. Two of them hit this year.

Charles Payseur getting fewer votes than No Award is indefensible. Charles is a dynamo who, along with colleagues like Maria Haskins, has made short fiction reviewing viable and vital and in doing so has aided the entire field. The industry needs him, it doesn’t need to insult him. I hope next year that’s rectified.

Didi Chanoch‘s thread here covers the ground concerning Gardner Dozois’ posthumous Hugo brilliantly. All I’ll add is this: the voters didn’t recognize the 13 years E Catherine Tobler and Shimmer put into making the industry better. That’s a massive shame.

(12) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. According to Vox: “Brain-reading tech is coming. The law is not ready to protect us.”

Over the past few weeks, Facebook and Elon Musk’s Neuralink have announced that they’re building tech to read your mind — literally.

Mark Zuckerberg’s company is funding research on brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that can pick up thoughts directly from your neurons and translate them into words. The researchers say they’ve already built an algorithm that can decode words from brain activity in real time.

And Musk’s company has created flexible “threads” that can be implanted into a brain and could one day allow you to control your smartphone or computer with just your thoughts. Musk wants to start testing in humans by the end of next year.

Other companies such as Kernel, Emotiv, and Neurosky are also working on brain tech. They say they’re building it for ethical purposes, like helping people with paralysis control their devices.

This might sound like science fiction, but it’s already begun to change people’s lives. Over the past dozen years, a number of paralyzed patients have received brain implants that allow them to move a computer cursor or control robotic arms. Implants that can read thoughts are still years away from commercial availability, but research in the field is moving faster than most people realize.

Your brain, the final privacy frontier, may not be private much longer.

(13) TODAY’S OTHER THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Ars Technica: “How the NFL—not the NSA—is impacting data gathering well beyond the gridiron”.

As guards were going so far as to check inside NFL fans’ wallets as part of routine security measures before a recent preseason game at Levi’s Stadium, a different form of surveillance was taking place on the inside of the San Francisco 49ers’ one-year-old, $1.3 billion home here in Silicon Valley.

We’re not talking about facial recognition devices, police body cams, or other security measures likely zeroing in on fans. Instead, employees from San Jose-based Zebra Technologies had recently finished scanning the NFL uniforms of the 49ers and of their opponents—the Dallas Cowboys. All of a sudden, an on-the-field de facto surveillance society was instantly created when Zebra techies activated nickel-sized Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) chips that were fastened inside players’ shoulder pads. Every movement of every player now could be monitored within an accuracy level of all but a few inches…

(14) THREE YEARS BEFORE 1984. Andrew Strombeck looks back at “The Year of the Werewolf” at LA Review of Books and asks what it tells us about our current moment.

Why all the lycanthropy? The werewolf was an apt figure for 1981, a moment when prominent commentators worried that many Americans had become too self-focused. Tom Wolfe had first advanced the argument in 1976, dubbing the 1970s the “me” decade, wherein Americans, under the lingering influence of the counterculture, were spending way too much time cultivating their bodies and minds. Christopher Lasch’s 1979 The Culture of Narcissism was so popular that Lasch was invited to the White House, where his ideas would influence Jimmy Carter’s 1979 “crisis of confidence” speech. Linking the OPEC embargo, Watergate, and a declining economy, Carter told Americans “too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption,” turning away from the broad project of American productivity that characterized the postwar years. By “self-indulgence,” Carter was referring to the human potential movement, a combination of therapeutic techniques, meditation, swinging, and yoga. Lasch blamed these cultures for the baffling emotional, economic, and social violence that seemed everywhere: in rising divorce rates, widespread unemployment, and the destruction of the inner city.

(15) EAST OF JAVA. BBC looks back at the “Game of Thrones makers on that coffee cup blunder and season eight”.

The Game of Thrones creators said they would be “very far from the internet” when the final episode of the show aired, and it seems they were true to their word.

It’s been more than three months and David Benioff and DB Weiss have just given their first interview addressing Game of Thrones’ controversial eighth season.

While Japan’s Star Channel didn’t ask about the nearly 2 million people that have signed a petition calling for the final season to be re-made, they did bring up that coffee cup – the one left in a scene in front of Daenerys Targaryen.

David Benioff called it their “Persian rug”.

(16) DRAGON AWARDS TRIVIA. The ceremony ran opposite Doctor Who companion Catherine Tate’s appearance and 58 other items starting at 5:30 p.m. per the list in the online schedule.

[Thanks to Standback, Jeffrey Smith, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Contrarius, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 1/31/19 No Screaming While The Scroll Is In Motion!

(1) MARVEL AT MOPOP. Ellie Farrell had a photo taken with a friend during her visit to MoPop’s Marvel exhibit in Seattle. Opened last Spring, the exhibit continues through March 3.

(2) SFF DOES WORK TOO. Charlie Jane Anders, in a Washington Post opinion piece “Kamala Harris is wrong about science fiction”, takes issue with Sen. Kamala Harris’s claim that “we need facts, not science fiction” to deal with climate change, saying that “science fiction creators have been doing some soul-searching that includes looking for ways we can do more to restore people’s faith in the future” in dealing with climate change, “the global crisis of democracy,” and “attacks on LGBTQ people’s right to exist.”

Sen. Kamala D. Harris was half right in her speech launching her 2020 presidential campaign when she said we need to address climate change based on “science fact, not science fiction.” The truth is, we need both. Science fiction has an important role to play in rescuing the future from the huge challenges we’re facing — and the responses to Harris’s statement illustrate this perfectly.

When the California Democrat’s statement about climate change went out on social media, a number of people pointed out the truth: Science fiction has been helping us to prepare for a world of potentially disastrous climate upheaval for years. But an equal number of loud voices took issue with Harris’s warnings about climate change, because in our post-truth era, the scientific consensus about what humans are doing to our planet is still somehow a matter of opinion.

And that’s why science fiction is more important than Harris gives it credit for. No amount of scientific evidence will convince deniers — or the vast number of people who merely live in a state of denial. We live in an era in which facts and fiction are blurring into an indistinguishable mess and power belongs to whoever can tell the best story, true or not. No one can even tell what’s real anymore, and what matters is just how something makes us feel — which is why we need better stories, that, in the words of author Neil Gaiman, “lie in order to tell the truth.”

(3) SATIRE CONSIDERED. Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency podcast for January 30 takes a look back at the original Starship Troopers movie:

You’re going to love this week’s phenomenal conversation about Starship Troopers (1997) with special guests Mary Robinette Kowal and Max Temkin! Tune in for a thought-provoking discussion (and very amicable disagreement) about how successfully the film executes its satire of fascist military fantasies. Just what are the possibilities and limits of satire? What can director Paul Verhoeven’s career tell us about this “pointed critique of American imperialism”? And exactly how long will it take Anita to remember the name of the game Spec Ops without Carolyn to help?

(4) YA UPROAR CONTINUES. On Facebook, Nick Mamatas delved into the questions surrounding Amélie Wen Zhao’s decision to pull Blood Heir (reported in yesterday’s Scroll). His post is quoted with permission:

A YA novel called BLOOD HEIR, which sounds entirely awful, has been pulled from publication by its author Amélie Wen Zhao after complaints of plagiarism, poor “Russian rep” as it was put, and anti-blackness from YA twitter aficionadi:

1. Definitely messed up Russian naming conventions—though I am happy to point out that many of the same people complaining about this book are thrilled to go see the next Avengers film, and even agitated in the past for more action figures of the Black Widow in her sexy bodysuit (you know, for young girls!), called wrongly Natasha Romanoff in the films. So there is definitely a power relationship here; this is at least partially a game of “let’s flex on the new girl” while queueing up to consume a billion dollars worth of slop from the Disney hog trough.

2. Haven’t seen any screencaps actually demonstrating plagiarism except for a single sentence (“Don’t go where I can’t follow.”) In cases like this, often people casually use the term to mean “cliché” or even “genre trope.” Frankly if people don’t like clichés and genre tropes, they shouldn’t be reading children’s literature. That said, I may have just messed the presentation of textual evidence. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a ton of plagiarism.

3. The author claims that her interest was exploring indenture as it is currently practiced in China and Asia; her critics complain that a major scene involves a black-coded girl with ocean-light eyes being auctioned off, and then dying while the main character sings her a lullaby. Sounds entirely awful. I think this is also a bit of what people mean by plagiarism—this character has been identified as smacking of Rue from HUNGER GAMES. The critics definitely seem to have a point.

4. As is common, moralism abounds. I’ve certainly seen more than one note fretting aloud that CHILDREN and the YOUTH will read this book and thus be exposed to its anti-blackness. Of course, all the right-wingers rallying against the “SJW mobs” and promising the author that *they* would read the book, ya know, to triggerown the shitlibs or whatever, are lying and performing their own version of “virtue signaling” as they call it. None of those kobolds would ever read a thing that doesn’t feature a photo of the author on a red-white-and-blue background.

I think the issue of Blood Heir was that it was trafficking in racist cliches and daring to do so with only a mere publishing company and not a giant media complex behind it. I’ll always feel a thrill when an author is punished for laziness and top-of-mind decision-making, but let’s be clear: moralism itself is a cliché as well, even when it’s left-moralism. YA twitter is absolutely a Pretty Person Club and Zhao was this year’s scapegoat. But Zhao’s crime of auctorial laziness is just one more datum point showing how sadly inadequate the acquisition and editorial process in big publishing is.

And Arthur Cover has written a public letter to Zhao which says in part –

I just wrote this letter to a young author named Amelie Zhao, who withdrew her YA fantasy novel from publication because of negative comments on line…. Obviously I feel very strongly about this….

A novel cannot be all things to all people. At least one comment on your novel that I read was from a person who felt it insufficiently validated his/her ideas about slavery and villains using a cane. Often when a character uses a cane it is symbolic of something and is not a commentary on people who use a cane in real life. Readers who can’t tell the difference aren’t your concern.

Decades ago I was in a conversation with Samuel R. Delany and when he learned that a writing class was divided equally on the merits of one of his stories, he was quite pleased. He knew he’d accomplished something because of the class’s reaction.

Do not stop. Please reconsider your decision regarding your novel. These critics (and I’ve been a nasty one) are throwing spitballs at a battleship….

(5) AUDIO PALS. In the Washington Post, Karen Heller has a piece about authors and their audiobook readers, “‘I can write the words. He supplies the melody’: The harmonious bond between authors and audiobook narrators”. Two of the authors Heller interviews are genre writers:  five-time Bram Stoker Award nominee Jonathan Maberry, who says he now hears the voice of his audiobook reader, Ray Porter, in his head when he’s writing, and Canadian urban fantasy writer Kevin Hearne, who liked narrator Luke Daniels so much they’ve worked together on independent projects.

Jonathan Maberry, a fiercely prolific author of often frightening novels, hears voices rattling in his head. Specifically, one voice, that of actor Ray Porter, who narrates his audiobooks. A five-time Bram Stoker Award winner, Maberry would “imagine how Ray would inflect certain things, and I started to write toward his performance.” Be it horror, thrillers, science fiction, young adult and middle grade fiction, almost three dozen novels since 2006 — this is not a typo, and excludes anthologies, short stories and comics — Porter, without contributing a word, has helped Maberry accomplish the goal of most writers: selling more books. Says Maberry, “We’re very much a team.”

(6) NEW FAN FUND IDEA. Marcin Klak has written a proposal for creating a European Fan Fund to allow people from different countries to attend Eurocon. His draft of the rules and the winner’s responsibilities begins —

Purpose: The purpose of the Fan Fund is to create and strengthen bonds between European fans and fandoms. Currently in almost every country there is a fandom that quite often has small or no connection to the broader European fandom. Most fans do concentrate on the “here and now” and are not looking for friends in other countries.

The idea: A delegate would be elected by fans across Europe to travel to Eurocon. The delegate must offer to have a talk about fandom in their country. The delegate should also offer their participation as a guest in the Eurocon Awards ceremony, Opening ceremony and Closing ceremony. Any other help from the delegate should be encouraged. It will be for the Eurocon organizers to accept that help to the extent that suits them.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 31, 1923 Norman Mailer. I never knew he wrote in the genre but he did. Ancient Evenings certainly has the elements of fantasy and The Castle in the Forest is interesting retelling of Adolf Hitler and his last days. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 31, 1937 Philip Glass, 82. 1000 Airplanes on the Roof: A Science Fiction Music-DramaEinstein on the BeachThe Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (with a libretto by Doris Lessing based on her novel of the same name), The marriages between zones three, four, and five (1997, libretto by Doris Lessing, after her second novel from Canopus in Argos), The Witches of Venice and The Juniper Tree would be a fragmentary listing of his works that have a genre bias.   
  • Born January 31, 1960 Grant Morrison, 59. If you can find it, his early stuff on such U.K. publishers as Galaxy Media and Harrier Comics is worth searching out. Not your hero in tights materials at all. For his work in that venue, I’d recommend his run on The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, all of his Doom Patrol work (and the DC Universe series this fall is based on his work), Seven Soldiers and his weird The Multiversity
  • Born January 31, 1977 Kerry Washington, 42. Alicia Masters in Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Also played Medical Officer Marissa Brau in  30,000 Leagues Under the Sea. She voices Natalie Certain in Care 3. She also voices Princess Shuri in a short run Black Panther series. 

(8) MR. & MRS. Bill writes, “The 1/29 scroll item about Tiptree got me to looking things up, and I found the attached” – a bit of social news from the Chicago Tribune for January 24, 1946. Definitely still news to me.

(9) WRONG ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter spotted another bad guess on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Category: Scribbling Siblings

Answer: Aviation writer Robert Serling helped little bro Rod with “The Odyssey of Flight 33” episode of this series.

Wrong answer: What is “Star Trek”?

(10) GALAPAGOS AIR FORCE. BBC tells how “Drones help Galapagos tackle rat infestation”.

Drones are helping conservationists rid one Galapagos island of an infestation of rats threatening indigenous birds.

The drones have dropped poison on more than half of North Seymour Island in a bid to kill off the invasive species.

The island’s rare birds nest on the ground and their numbers are being depleted by the rodent invasion.

The drones work much faster and more cheaply than helicopters which have been used in similar rat eradication projects elsewhere.

(11) TRACING CLIMATE HISTORY. Researchers think “America colonisation ‘cooled Earth’s climate’”.

Colonisation of the Americas at the end of the 15th Century killed so many people, it disturbed Earth’s climate.

That’s the conclusion of scientists from University College London, UK.

The team says the disruption that followed European settlement led to a huge swathe of abandoned agricultural land being reclaimed by fast-growing trees and other vegetation.

This pulled down enough carbon dioxide (CO?) from the atmosphere to eventually chill the planet.

It’s a cooling period often referred to in the history books as the “Little Ice Age” – a time when winters in Europe would see the Thames in London regularly freeze over.

“The Great Dying of the Indigenous Peoples of
the Americas led to the abandonment of enough cleared land that the resulting terrestrial carbon uptake had a detectable impact on both atmospheric CO? and global surface air temperatures,” Alexander Koch and colleagues write in their paper published in Quaternary Science Reviews.

(12) THE ELEPHANT (SEAL) IN THE ROOM. Look what happens when those pesky humans aren’t around — “Seals take over California beach closed in US shutdown”.

A large herd of elephant seals has taken over a beach in California that was forced to close during the government shutdown.

The seals took advantage of the 35-day shutdown to make themselves at home on Drakes Beach, and in its car park.

So far they have been spotted lying on their stomachs, taking naps and occasionally snuggling their pups.

The beach will remain closed until the seals decide to move on – although it’s not clear when that will be.

(13) HELP WANTED. There’s a job vacancy in Gotham: “Ben Affleck signals Batman departure”.

Holy recasting, Batman! The search is on for a new Dark Knight following Ben Affleck’s apparent confirmation that he is hanging up his Bat cape.

The actor effectively said as much by retweeting a story saying Matt Reeves’ The Batman would be made without him.

“Excited for #TheBatman in Summer 2021 and to see @MattReevesLA vision come to life,” Affleck wrote.

The 46-year-old first appeared as the comic book superhero in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

(14) DEATH RIDES A BOBBLEHEAD. Matt Monaghan, in “The Dia de Los Dodgers Skull Bobblehead is Amazing”  on Cut4 has one of the all-time greatest fantasy bobbleheads EVER.

Bobblehead nights happen all the time at baseball games. Already this year, there’s been one for a nun, one for Pitbull and one for a bald eagle that flew into a pitcher’s face. But during Wednesday’s Rockies-Dodgers game, we may have found the coolest bobblehead ever: The Dia de Los Dodgers sugar skull bobblehead.

(15) STAN LEE GIVEN POSTHUMOUS KEY TO THE CITY. Hey, it’s LA. L. Ron Hubbard put out books here for years after he died. Who’s to say Stan won’t get some use from it? That was just part of what happened at the celebrity-studded tribute to Stan Lee on Wednesday night: “Stan Lee’s Friends and Fans Pay Tearful, Funny Tribute to Their ‘Generalissimo’” in The Hollywood Reporter.

…Hosting the show was Lee’s long-time friend and fan, filmmaker Kevin Smith, who was sure to note that Lee was “one of the best humans to ever walk the Earth” before inviting everyone to enter the theater. The theater itself was transformed into a monument to the man, with some of his most beloved comics on display, from the first appearance of Spider-Man and Black Panther to some of the most iconic adventures of the Fantastic Four. Costumes from the Sony-led Spider-Man films were displayed inside glass cases, but it was the energy in the room that truly punctuated the evening.

Smith put it best at the beginning of the tribute: “This is not a funeral, though he’s gone. This is a celebration! That’s how religions start. We all agree that we saw him tonight and that he’s no longer gone. Stan’s spirit is here with us.” With all the outpourings of love in the room, it’d be hard to argue otherwise. Copious footage of Lee played throughout the evening, including a touching clip of him singing “Cocktails for Two”, with all the energy of someone in their twenties, as his embarrassed assistants set up his microphone.

Smith kicked off the evening with the story of how he met Stan for his movie Mallrats and the grand efforts it took to convince the then less-recognizable legend to appear in his film after Lee read the script and remarked “I would never say this.” Smith admitted that Lee himself was never quite accepting or aware of his successes, despite his put on braggadocio. “This was a guy who spent his life dreaming of writing the great American novel, and he didn’t realize that he had been successful and fulfilled his dreams one-thousand times over,” Smith said. Smith himself admitted that “it was hard to understand that we were friends” before eventually coming to realize just how much Lee loved him.

…Perhaps the biggest moment of the night came with the appearance of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who detailed Lee’s love affair with L.A. before running through a detailed catalogue of his own nerdiness, including a proclamation that no one could offer him enough money to let go of his complete collection of original copies of the Wolverine comic series. Garcetti made it clear, “Stan Lee was a mensch who always fought for the underdog”, before presenting Stan’s former company Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment with Garcetti’s third ever “Key to the City”, carved from a fallen tree and engraved with Stan’s image and catchphrase “Excelsior!”

(16) IN THE SPIRIT OF IAIN M. BANKS. A funny thread about pet names for weaponry – begins here.

(17) DEALING WITH A FOOD EVANGELIST. “Dear Mother Goose”, an advice column for children’s book characters, by Slate’s Emma Span. Here’s the problem, click to read Mother’s answer:

Dear Mother Goose,

I am being aggressively pursued by someone (I’ll call him S.I.A.) who is bizarrely obsessed with getting me to eat “green eggs and ham.” He has offered no explanation of where the ham and eggs came from, why they are green, or why he cares if I eat them. I have calmly and clearly turned him down, but he is following me everywhere, carrying a plate of food, which by now is cold, dirty, and wet as well as green. Nevertheless, S.I.A. thinks I might like the food. He has brought a mouse, a fox, and a goat to me, as if that would change my mind. We were even involved in a boating accident because of his behavior….

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

Pixel Scroll 1/29/19 Dill Pixels

(1) TIPTREE ON TV? Jennifer Kent, who directed the exceptional horror film The Babadook, and is currently at Sundance screening her second film, the historical drama The Nightingale, is developing a project based on the life and stories of James Tiptree Jr. / Alice Sheldon: “Sundance 2019 Interview: Babadook Director Jennifer Kent on Her New Film, The Nightingale” at Rogerebert.com.

And Tiptree?

I don’t know where to start. There was this writer of short science fiction stories in ’60s and ’70s who was very feted, and of the level of Philip K. Dick, or Ursula Le Guin. He was really creating the most powerful stories of gender and of being an outsider. But they were so potent, very prescient; because it’s almost the world we’re living in now. So they were written 50 years ago. They’re incredibly relevant still, and then he was sort of well known. His stories were well known, but no one knew who he was for 10 years, and then eventually someone uncovered his identity to be a woman in her 60s, in I think Virginia. This woman’s story is unbelievable. Unbelievable. And she was a genius. So I want to tell her story.

So you’ll make something episodic at a network?

Yeah, but including her short stories within. It’s not a straight biopic; so aliens from her stories inhabit her true world, and then she will be in the world of her stories, and it’s so exciting to me. It’s science fiction, which I love. I came across that because I was being given a lot of science fiction scripts. And I thought, “Where are the female science fiction stories?” So I Googled “female science fiction”, and I came across her! It was so hard to get the rights. And then I got all the rights to these stories, so it’s just meant to be. I could sit for hours and tell you how we got these rights. I’m working with producer Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, who is wonderful. He’s engaged with a company called Imperative, and so that’s the deal at the moment. But Imperative has thrown some money at the development, but we want to keep control of it. So we didn’t want to go to HBO and have it sit on a shelf and not get made, for example. So, we want to come with a pilot and a bible, so I’m working on that at the moment.

(2) STOKERCON UK. In April 2020 the Horror Writers Association’s annual event, StokerCon, will be held in the UK, and A.K. Benedict will be the Mistress of Ceremonies.

Taking place in Scarborough, just down the coast from Whitby – the town that provided so much of the inspiration for Stoker’s iconic Dracula – this is an event not to be missed for writers and readers of horror fiction.

The event is delighted to confirm its Mistress of Ceremonies for the weekend will be author A.K. Benedict, who will be launching the weekend’s proceedings. A.K. Benedict was educated at Cambridge, University of Sussex and Clown School. Described by the Sunday Express as ‘one of the new stars of crime fiction with a supernatural twist’, AK Benedict’s debut novel, The Beauty of Murder, was shortlisted for an eDunnit award and is in development for TV by Company Pictures. Her second novel from Orion, The Evidence of Ghosts, is a love song to London and shows her obsession with all things haunted. Her radio drama includes Doctor Who and Torchwood plays for Big Finish and a modern adaptation of M.R. James’ Lost Hearts for Bafflegab/Audible.

(3) ODYSSEY WORKSHOP SCHOLARSHIPS. Here is an overview of “2019 Odyssey Writing Workshop Scholarship Opportunities”. The Odyssey Writing Workshop is an acclaimed, six-week program for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror held each summer in New Hampshire. Writers apply from all over the world; only fifteen are admitted.

  • George R.R. Martin sponsors the Miskatonic Scholarship, awarded each year to a promising writer of Lovecraftian cosmic horror, a type of fiction Martin loves and wants to encourage. The scholarship covers full tuition, textbook, and housing. Martin says, “It’s my hope that this new scholarship will offer an opportunity to a worthy applicant who might not otherwise have been able to afford the Odyssey experience.” Applicants must demonstrate financial need in a separate application. Full details at the link.
  • Bestselling author and Odyssey graduate Sara King is sponsoring the Parasite Publications Character Awards to provide financial assistance to three character-based writers wishing to attend this summer’s Odyssey. The Parasite Publications Character Awards, three scholarships in the amounts of $2,060 (full tuition), $500, and $300, will be awarded to the three members of the incoming class who are deemed extraordinarily strong character writers, creating powerful, emotional characters that grab the reader and don’t let go. No separate application is required.
  • The new Chris Kelworth Memorial Scholarship will be offered to a Canadian writer admitted to Odyssey. This scholarship, funded by alumni and friends of Chris, will cover $900 of tuition.
  • One work/study position is also available. The work/study student spends about six hours per week performing duties for Odyssey, such as photocopying, sending stories to guests, distributing mail to students, and preparing for guest visits. Odyssey reimburses $800 of the work/study student’s tuition.

(4) FREE READ. Arizona State University has published Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction, Volume II, an anthology featuring 10 short stories from ASU’s 2018 global climate fiction contest, plus a foreword by Kim Stanley Robinson, who also served as the lead judge for the contest.

The stories explore climate chaos, its aftermath, and possible ways forward through a variety of genres and styles, from science fiction and fantasy to literary fiction and prose poetry. It’s free to download in a variety of digital formats (HTML, EPUB, MOBI, and via Apple iBooks).

Table of Contents:

  • Kim Stanley Robinson, Foreword
  • Angie Dell and Joey Eschrich, Editors’ Introduction
  • Monarch Blue, by Barbara Litkowski
  • The Last Grand Tour of Albertine’s Watch, by Sandra K. Barnidge
  • Half-Eaten Cities, by Vajra Chandrasekera
  • Darkness Full of Light, by Tony Dietz
  • Luna, by David Samuel Hudson
  • Tuolumne River Days, by Rebecca Lawton
  • The Most Beautiful Voyage in the World, by Jean McNeil
  • Orphan Bird, by Leah Newsom
  • The Office of Climate Facts, by Mitch Sullivan
  • Losing What We Can’t Live Without, by Jean-Louis Trudel
  • About the Contributors
  • Honorable Mention: 2018 Contest Semifinalists

(5) HUGO VOTER ELIGIBILITY. Dublin 2019 is fixing this –

(6) MY KINGDOM FOR CANON. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Retcons are king. Or kinda want to be. The Daily Dot stares into the abyss at the changing look of Klingons over the various Star Trek series and movies—and especially the significant changes between the first two seasons of Star Trek: Discovery  (“Here’s Why the Klingons Look Different in ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 2”).

In the grand tradition of sci-fi retcons, there’s a canon explanation for the Klingons’ new look. While the humanoid Original Series Klingons were retroactively explained as victims of a genetic diseaseDiscovery’s bald Klingons [in season 1] were apparently making a fashion statement.

According to actress Mary Chieffo (L’Rell), designer Glenn Hetrick decided that the Klingons weren’t “bald” in season one—they just shaved their heads. Speaking at New York Comic Con last year, Chieffo said Hetrick was inspired by the Next Generation episode “Rightful Heir.”

“There is a reference to when [legendary Klingon hero] Kahless is brought back as a clone. The way he proves himself is he tells the story of how he cut off a lock of his hair and dipped it into a volcano and made the first bat’leth, with which he killed Molor, the terrible tyrant who was running Qo’noS at the time. We took that one little beautiful seed… and kind of expanded on that, and we see that in a time of war the Klingons would shave their heads, and in a time of peace, we start to grow it back out. I really love the symbolism of that.”

Meanwhile, ScreenRant.com has a different take on the whole, um, different Klingon thing (“Star Trek Theory: Discovery Is Why The Original Series Klingons Look Different”).

Star Trek: Discovery could finally explain one of the franchise’s biggest discrepancies: why do the Klingons in The Original Series look human? The answer might be the former Starfleet Lieutenant Ash Tyler, who is the surgically altered Klingon named Voq.

[…] It’s possible Star Trek: Discovery season 1’s transformation of Voq into Ash Tyler is the forerunner to why the Klingons Captain Kirk faced in The Original Series didn’t have the ridged brows and wild hair of later Klingons. Voq was the former Torchbearer of T’Kuvma who underwent surgery to become human in a horrifically painful process that damaged his mind. His lover L’Rell oversaw the procedure to turn Voq into Ash Tyler, a Starfleet Lieutenant who was captured during the Battle at the Binary Stars. Voq ended up believing he really was Ash and fell in love with Michael Burnham but his inner Klingon kept fighting his way to the forefront.

[…] By the time Captain Kirk faced the Klingons for the first time in the Star Trek: The Original Series’ episode “Errand of Mercy”, the warrior race looked and behaved human, albeit with darker, exotic skin. Kor, the Klingon Commander, even told Kirk “our races aren’t so different”. He meant that both humans and Klingons are war-like species, but his words could also now have a deeper context: the Klingons have 24 Great Houses and it’s possible this group of Klingons underwent the same (perfected) procedure that turned Voq into Ash Tyler.

(7) CELEBRATORY YEAR. “150 years of the periodic table: Test your knowledge”. I scored 5 for 5 – how unusual!

You’ll find it on the wall of nearly every school chemistry laboratory in the land.

And generations of children have sung the words, “hydrogen and helium, lithium, beryllium…” in an attempt to memorise some of the 118 elements.

This year, the periodic table of chemical elements celebrates its 150th birthday.

…The United Nations has designated 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table to celebrate “one of the most significant achievements in science”.

In March, it will be 150 years since the Russian scientist, Dmitri Mendeleev, took all of the known elements and arranged them into a table.

Most of his ideas have stood the test of time, despite being conceived long before we knew much about the stuff that makes up matter.

On Tuesday, the year will be officially launched in Paris. So, what’s so special about this iconic symbol of science?

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 29, 1923 Paddy Chayefsky. In our circles known as the writer of the Altered States novel that he also wrote the screenplay for. He is the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards for Best Screenplay. The other winners of three Awards shared theirs. He did not win for Altered States though he did win for Network which I adore. (Died 1981.)
  • Born January 29, 1940 Katharine Ross, 79. Yes, you know her as Elaine Robinson in The Graduate but that’s hardly genre, do shall we see what she done in our area of interest? Her first such work was as Joanna Eberhart in The Stepford Wives –scary film that. She shows up next as Helena in The Swarm and plays Margaret Walsh in The Legacy, both horror films. The Final Countdown sees her in the character of Laurel Scott.  And Dr. Lilian Thurman is her character in the cult favorite Donnie Darko. I’m fairly sure that the only genre series she’s done is on The Wild Wild West as Sheila Parnell in “The Night of the Double-Edged Knife” episode. I did debate if the I should could I count Alfred Hitchcock Presents aa genre or not as she did an episode there as well.
  • Born January 29, 1977 Justin Hartley, 42. Performer in the series as Green Arrow and Oliver Queen characters, season six on. Also director of the “Dominion” episode and the writer of the “Sacrifice” episode on that series. He’s also Arthur “A.C.” Curry in the unsold Aquaman television pilot. The latter is up on YouTube here. He’s also lead cast in a web series called Gemini Division.
  • Born January 29, 1978 Catrin Stewart, 31. Jenny Flint in five episodes of Doctor Who. She was friends with Madame Vastra and Strax (informally known as the Paternoster Gang) who appeared first during the Eleventh Doctor and last during the Twelfth Doctor. Big Finish has continued them in their audiobooks. She also played Stella in two episodes of the Misfits series, and was Julia in a performance of Nineteen Eighty-Four done at London Playhouse several years back. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest encounter a superhero with a not very pleasant power.
  • Not everybody gets off the ground at Hogwarts according to Berkeley Mews.
  • A super warning about the cold and flu season at Off the Mark.

(10) ELGIN AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association is taking nominations for the Elgin Award through May 15. Charles Christian will be the 2019 Elgin Awards Chair.

Only SFPA members may nominate; there is no limit to how many they can nominate, but they may not nominate their own work. Send title, author, and publisher of speculative poetry books and chapbooks published in 2017 and 2018 to elgin@sfpoetry.com by mail to the SFPA secretary: Renee Ya, P.O. Box 2074, San Mateo, CA 94401 USA. Books and chapbooks that placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, in last year’s Elgin Awards are not eligible.

(11) FOREVER YOUNG. A young Captain Picard steps up alongside a bunch of  Italian Renaissance turtles and other, um, beloved characters (SYFY Wire: “Exclusive: Young Captain Picard commands the U.S.S. Stargazer in Star Trek: IDW 20/20 one-shot”).

IDW Publishing’s big 20th anniversary celebration rolls on this month as the mini-major refreshes five of their major licensed titles with a time-traveling series of oversized one-shot releases. 

The January party sparkles with some of pop culture’s most treasured properties as GhostbustersJem and the Holograms, My Little Pony, Star Trek, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles uncover characters’ secrets and mysteries shot 20 years into the future or tugged back to the past.

(12) RUN, CAT, RUN! Camestros Felapton has the news — “Shock billionaire spoiler candidate enters presidential race”.

Timothy the Talking Cat, billionaire CEO of publishing multinational “Cattimothy House” entered the 2020 Presidential fray, with a shock announcement on Tuesday. At a book launch in Borstworth Library, the outspoken cat and business guru laid out his vision for a new kind of US President.

(13) NEW BENNETT NOVELLA DISCUSSED. Several star reviewers from Nerds of a Feather participate in “Review Roundtable: Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett”.

CONTENT WARNING: This review discusses gun violence throughout, and includes references to child death. Also, we’re discussing the whole novella, so BEWARE SPOILERS.

Vigilance, the new novella from Robert Jackson Bennett, is out today and it’s a searing look at gun violence in the US. In this near future dystopia, John McDean is tasked with running “Vigilance”, the nation’s favourite reality programme, which releases real shooters are released on unsuspecting locations with military-grade armaments, and the resulting carnage is broadcast as a “lesson” in how to protect oneself. McDean and his crew at ONT station think they have the variables of Vigilance down to a fine art, but in the novella’s ensuing escalation find themselves taken down by one of McDean’s own blindspots, to dramatic effect.

We’ve got a lot of Bennett fans on our team here at Nerds of a Feather and when this novella came to our attention, lots of us were interested in reading it to review. That’s why, instead of taking it on alone, today I, Adri, am joined by Paul Weimer, Brian, and Joe Sherry to unpack Bennett’s highly topical novella and our reactions to it.

(14) MARKET UPDATE. Coming over the air now —

(15) PREY WITHOUT CEASING. We linked to the trailer yesterday, now The Hollywood Reporter explains it all to you: “How ‘Birds of Prey’ Footage Builds on ‘Suicide Squad’ Look”.

Margot Robbie’s next take on Harley Quinn is steeped in ’80s music video sensibilities. Gotham City’s newest protectors have arrived. Tuesday morning, following an Instagram post by Margot Robbie teasing her return as Harley Quinn, Warner Bros. released the first official behind-the scenes look at Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). The first look teases viewers with quick glimpses of the main characters, who, alongside Robbie’s Harley Quinn, are comprised of Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), and Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). Birds of Prey follows the events of Suicide Squad and finds Gotham City in a very different place following an apparent disappearance of Batman, and Quinn’s separation from the Joker. Harley finds herself on a continued path of redemption when she seeks to help a young girl, Cassandra Cain, escape the wrath of Black Mask by recruiting a force of Gotham heroines.

(16) OUT OF TIME. Vicky Who Reads makes it sound irresistible: “Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen (DRC): An Amazing Adult Sci-Fi Novel with Strong Family Themes”. Her review begins….

Kin Stewart used to be a time-traveling secret agent from 2142.

Now, stranded in suburban San Francisco since the 1990s after a botched mission, Kin has kept his past hidden from everyone around him, despite the increasing blackouts and memory loss affecting his time-traveler’s brain. Until one afternoon, his “rescue” team arrives—eighteen years too late.

(17) FROG STUFFING. Jon Del Arroz’ Happy Frogs lists are callbacks to what JDA thinks were the good old days of the Sad and Rabid Puppies. How much pull does he actually have? We’ll know if any of these names from “The Happy Frogs Hugo Award list” [Internet Archive link] show up on the 2019 ballot. (Well, it wouldn’t be a complete shock if David Weber got a nod for Best Series on his own – but that still leaves the rest of them.)

(18) WHERE FEW HAVE GONE. After five decades it’s hard to believe, but newly uncovered (or rediscovered) wide-format footage and uncatalogued audio was available as the basis for a new Apollo 11 documentary. Rolling Stone has the story of the doc plus a trailer (“‘Apollo 11’ Trailer: See Never-Before-Seen Footage From NASA’s Moon Mission”).

New footage from the lead-up to NASA’s first manned trip to the moon (and the landing itself) features in the upcoming documentary Apollo 11, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

“Crafted from a newly discovered trove of 65mm footage, and more than 11,000 hours of uncatalogued audio recordings, Apollo 11 takes us straight to the heart of NASA’s most celebrated mission—the one that first put men on the moon, and forever made Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin into household names,” distribution company Neon said of the film.

“Immersed in the perspectives of the astronauts, the team in Mission Control, and the millions of spectators on the ground, we vividly experience those momentous days and hours in 1969 when humankind took a giant leap into the future.”

(19) LAST THOUGHTS ABOUT BROADWAYCON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] On “Three on The Aisle:  Broadway Cosplay” at Americantheatre.org, Elisabeth Vincentelli gives a BroadwayCon report, which begins at sixteen minutes into the podcast and ends at 34 minutes.  She did see some cosplayers, such as a woman from West Virginia who sat on a bus wearing her costume as the Angel from Angels in America, and she occasionally did see fans wanting to get too close to the stars (which in the theatre world is known as “stagedooring.”)  But she also appreciated the substantive panels, such as one on Oklahoma where cast members sang songs they didn’t sing on stage, and noted that BroadwayCon is important enough that stars like Kristen Chenoweth show up there unannounced. Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout said he wanted to go next year and that “A critic incapable of being a fan is a critic that needs therapy.”

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

Pixel Scroll 12/4/18 You Miss 100 Percent Of The Pixels You Don’t Scroll

(1) WRITING IDENTITY. Lara Elena Donnelly discusses the challenges to a writer in an industry with entrenched genre labels and sublabels. Thread starts here.

(2) “I’M SHOCKED”: The Wrap begins its story

We sense a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of bank accounts suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly emptied.

…Hollywood auction house Profiles in History is offering the original lightsaber prop used by Mark Hamill in 1977’s “Star Wars: A New Hope” at the estimated value of $150,000 – $200,000.

But is it the real McCoy? BBC reports that “Mark Hamill questions Luke Skywalker lightsaber auction”.

[On] Twitter, Mr Hamill explained it may not be a one-off.

But the Academy Award-winning production designer for the original Star Wars film, Roger Christian, told the BBC the lightsaber is an original.

“There are five originals I handmade myself, and this is one of them,” he said. “It is real – I’ve got the Oscar to prove it.”

(3) ON THE FRONT. “How I became a book cover designer: Chip Kidd” at USA Today.

Q: What has been your biggest career high and your biggest career low?

Kidd: High: “Jurassic Park.” That will be the first line of my obituary, and I’m extremely proud of that. I have absolutely no regrets.

Low: There’s nothing where I think, oh my God, I’m so ashamed I did X or Y- I mean, I’m really not. There are books that you work on that you are hoping are going to do really well, but that’s not the same – that’s not saying ‘oh my God, I’m so ashamed of that,’ it’s just like saying, ‘well, we did our best and that didn’t work.’

(4) THE BOOK OF KINGFISHER Camestros Felapton chimes in with “Review: Swordheart by T. Kingfisher”.

This book positively sparkles with snappy dialogue as if it were a 1940s romantic comedy…but with swords, talking badger people and a possibly demonic bird.

We are back to the world of the Clockwork Boys, a few years on since the end of the Clocktaur wars. There are no shared characters but the shared fantasy setting relieves the story from having to spend time on additional world building. There are hints of broader trouble brewing but unlike the Clockwork Boys this is a less conventional fantasy quest.

(5) AUDIBLE.COM BEST OF THE YEAR. Audible.com has announced the audiobooks picked in various categories as the Best of the Year 2018.

Tade Thompson’s Rosewater is the Sci-Fi Winner.

Sci-Fi Winner: Rosewater

Rosewater is one of the most unique sci-fi books I’ve listened to in the past few years, let alone 2018. Author Tade Thompson—who won the inaugural Nommo Award (Africa’s first speculative fiction award) for this novel—describes his concept as a Frankenstein of influences, a phrase that calls to mind a monster cobbled together with mismatched parts. But in reality, the pieces all fit together in near-perfect synchronicity. A completely original alien invasion story with neocolonialist themes, combined with top-notch world-building make this series as unpredictable as it is unputdownable. And enhancing the experience is new narrator Bayo Gbadamosi, who was personally chosen by the author, and whose effortless performance of various characters and accents immerse the listener in this twisty, enthralling world. —Sam, Audible Editor

The other finalsists were Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu, Level Five by William Ledbetter, The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal, and Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor.

Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver is the Fantasy Winner.

Fantasy Winner: Spinning Silver

Spinning Silver is unexpectedly epic. The spell of it sneaks up on the listener. Yes, it’s a fairytale retelling of Rumplestiltskin, only with six different character perspectives and a fully fleshed-out world that’s familiar, but imbued with magic. At its center are two main heroines, Miryem and Wanda. Together, they carry complicated and relatable problems on their shoulders, making this an easily accessible fantasy for those who might be daunted by the genre. The land around them is bewitching and enchanting, made all the more so from Lisa Flanagan’s subtly accented narration. Simply put, it led us away to a wintry fantasy land and trapped us there, firmly cementing its place in our minds. —Melissa, Audible Editor

(6) EXPANDING UNIVERSE. Awareness of science-fiction’s blossoming of cultural inclusivity seems to be reaching the mainstream, as the BBC culture writer Tom Cassauwers looks at a variety of literary movements that are making the genre more meaningful to more people: “What Science Fiction Says About The Cultures That Create It”.

Well-known artistic depictions of the future have traditionally been regarded as the preserve of the West, and have shown a marked lack of diversity. Yet new regions and authors are depicting the future from their perspectives. Chinese science fiction has boomed in recent years, with stand-out books like Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem. And Afrofuturism is on the rise since the release of the blockbuster Black Panther. Around the world, science fiction is blossoming.

Susana Morris, Associate Professor at Georgia Institute of Technology says:

“People often think Afrofuturism is a genre, while really it’s a cultural movement. It isn’t just black science fiction. It’s a way for black folks across the diaspora to think about our past and future.”

(7) THE OTHER FIRST PERSON. “Jonathan Lethem on First-Person Narrators: When Men Write Women and Women Write Men” on Bookmarks has a conversation between Lethem and Jane Ciabattari about novels with first-person narration from the opposite gender.  Among the books discussed are Philip K. Dick’s The Transmigration of Timothy Archer and Anna Kavan’s Ice.

JL: …One of the things that’s striking about Dick’s work is that for such a wildly imaginative writer, he also frequently uses material from his own life quite directly, and the two nestle side-by-side very easily.

(8) BLACK MIRROR HINTS. Get yer red hot wild guesses here — “‘Black Mirror’ Season 5 Date and Episode Title Leak, Prompting Fan Theories” at Yahoo! Entertainment.

The wait for new “Black Mirror” is almost over, maybe. As reported by Entertainment Weekly, Netflix’s science-fiction Twitter account @NXonNetflix accidentally leaked the Season 5 premiere date and first episode title. If the tweet is to be believed, then “Black Mirror” returns December 28 with an episode called “Bandersnatch.” The tweet was deleted off Twitter but not before fans captured it via photo and sent it around the web.

…The “Bandersnatch” is a fictional creature in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass” and his 1874 poem “The Hunting of the Snark,” but, as one eagle-eyed Twitter user uncovered, it was the name of a video game listed on the cover of a fictional magazine in the Season 3 episode “Playtest,” directed by Dan Trachtenberg and starring Wyatt Russell.

The “Bandersnatch” game, as it turns out, is real. The UK-based Imagine Software developed the project in 1984 but it was never released to the public…

(9) STAYS MAINLY ON THE PLAIN. Cat Rambo livetweeted highlights of theRambo Academy for Wayward Writers’ December 1 class “Highspeed Worldbuilding for Games and Fiction” with James L. Sutter. Thread starts here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born December 4, 1945 – Karl Edward Wagner, Writer, Editor, Publisher, Poet, and Fan. As an editor, he created a three-volume set of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian fiction restored to its original form as was it was originally written by Howard. He is quite likely best known for his invention of the character Kane, the Mystic Swordsman, who appeared in thirty novels. His short fiction amassed piles of World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Stoker Award nominations and took home the trophy for many of them. He took over as editor of The Year’s Best Horror Stories series for DAW Books at the 8th edition, a role he held for fifteen years. He also edited the three Echoes of Valor anthologies that came out around the late 1980s. His Carcosa publishing company issued four volumes of stories by authors of the Golden Age pulp magazines. He received a British Fantasy Awards Special Award for his work with Carcosa; in 1997, the BFS renamed this award in his honor. (Died 1994.)
  • Born December 4, 1949 – Richard Lynch, 69, Writer, Editor, Historian, and Fan who with his wife Nicki produced the long-running fanzine Mimosa from 1982 to 2003, which was nominated fourteen times for the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine, winning six of those years. He has been a member of several fan groups and APAs, chaired a Chattacon, and edited the 1998 Worldcon Souvenir Program Book. He and Nicki have been Fan Guests of Honor at several conventions, and were honored with the Phoenix Award by Southern Fandom.
  • Born December 4, 1949 – Jeff Bridges, 69, Oscar-winning Actor whose best genre role, I’d say, was as the Oscar-nominated, Saturn-winning lead in Starman – but many genre fans would offer his Saturn-winning dual role as Keven Flynn/CLU in TRON and the followup TRON: Legacy as his main genre credential. Other genre work includes Kiss Me Goodbye, K-PAX, Tideland, King Kong (1976), the Saturn-nominated titular character in The Fisher King, Iron Monger in Iron Man, and the voice of Prince Lir in The Last Unicorn. He appeared also as an undead police officer in a film called R.I.P.D. (the Rest in Peace Department), which was either really bad or really, really bad.
  • Born December 4, 1949 – Pamela Stephenson, 69, Psychologist, Writer, Actor, and Comedian who was born in New Zealand, grew up in Australia, and emigrated to the UK. She may be recognized by genre fans as villain Robert Vaughn’s moll in Superman III, or as Mademoiselle Rimbaud in Mel Brooks’ alt-history History of the World: Part I. Other roles include the films The Comeback and Bloodbath at the House of Death, and guest parts on episodes of Space: 1999, The New Avengers, Tales of the Unexpected, and – of special interest to Ursula Vernon fans – a 3-episode arc as Wombat Woman on the British series Ratman. She is married to comedian Billy Connolly, with whom she has three children; she was the travel researcher for his film series Billy Connolly’s World Tour of…, which JJ highly recommends, as each trip includes visits to numerous interesting sites of quirky, bizarre, and supernatural reknown.
  • Born December 4, 1954 – Sally Kobee, 64, Bookseller, Filker, and Fan who, with Larry Smith, ran for 25 years comprehensive dealer stores at Worldcons and other conventions, which always contained books written and illustrated by convention guests, so that fans could obtain works for autographing sessions. She has served on the committees for numerous conventions, and chaired two Ohio Valley Filk Fests and two World Fantasy Conventions. She was honored as a NESFA Fellow and as a Guest of Honor at Windycon.
  • Born December 4, 1954 – Tony Todd, 64, Actor, Director, and Producer. Let’s see… He was memorable as Kurn in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, and as Captain Anderson of EarthForce in Babylon 5: A Call to Arms, but he is likely best known to horror fans as the lead character in the Candyman horror trilogy. He also had main roles in Night of the Living Dead, the Final Destination film series, and played Cecrops in Xena: Warrion Princess and Gladius on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. He provided the voice of The Fallen in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
  • Born December 4, 1957 – Lucy Sussex, 61, Teacher, Writer, Editor, Critic, and Fan from New Zealand who emigrated to Australia. Writing across the range of science fiction, fantasy, and horror (as well as crime and detective fiction), her works have won 4 Ditmar Awards, 2 Aurealis Awards, and a Sir Julius Vogel Award, mostly for short fiction; however, her Ditmar-winning novel The Scarlet Rider was also longlisted for the Tiptree Award. Her anthology She’s Fantastical was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. She has been an instructor at Clarion West and Clarion South. She has been Guest of Honor at several conventions including the New Zealand Natcon, and has been honored with the A. Bertram Chandler Award for Outstanding Achievement in Australian Science Fiction and the Peter McNamara Achievement Award.
  • Born December 4, 1964 – Marisa Tomei, 54, Oscar-winning Actor of Stage and Screen and Producer who played May Parker in Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Spider-Man: Far From Home, but also, to my delight, has an uncredited role as a Health Club Girl in The Toxic Avenger! She also had a guest role in the “Unwomen” episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.
  • Born December 4, 1974 – Anne KG [Murphy] Gray, 44, Engineer, Physicist, Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Fan. Known in fandom as Netmouse, she was a member of the Ann Arbor Science Fiction Association, and has served on numerous convention committees and chaired three ConFusions. As a member of Midfan, which ran four Midwest Construction regional conrunner training conventions in the 2000s, she was editor of their publication MidFanzine. She is a past president of the Science Fiction Oral History Association. She is married to Brian Gray, with whom she won the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund in 2010; they went to Eastercon and Corflu in the UK and produced a TAFF trip report, a piece on the Sherlock Holmes museum, and a photo album.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • PvP Online takes a turn with one of 770’s favorite motifs….

(12) PRIME SUSPECTS. Christopher Sandford, in “Who Was the Real Sherlock Holmes?” on CrimeReads, has an excerpt from his book The Man Who Would Be Sherlock where he looks at the people who inspired Sherlock Holmes, including Dr. Joseph Bell and Conan Doyle’s rich imagination.

Although Conan Doyle, like most authors, deplored the habit of identifying ‘real-life’ models for his characters, he also took the opportunity to pay Dr Joseph Bell (1837–1911) the compliment of calling him the “true Holmes.”

The frock-coated Bell was 39 years old when Doyle, an impoverished medical student, first attended one of his lectures at Edinburgh University. Described as a “thin, white-haired Scot with the look of a prematurely hatched bird, whose Adam’s apple danced up and down his narrow neck,” the doctor spoke in a piping voice and is said to have walked with a jerky, scuttling gait “suggestive of his considerable reserves of nervous energy.” Bell was a keen observer of his patients’ mental and physical characteristics—”The Method” as he called it—which he used as an aid to diagnosis. A lecture in the university’s gaslit amphitheater might, for example, open with Bell informing his audience that the subject standing beside him in the well of the auditorium had obviously served, at some time, as a non-commissioned officer in a Highland regiment in the West Indies—an inference based on the man’s failure to remove his hat (a Scots military custom) and telltale signs of tropical illness, among other minutiae. Added to his impressive powers of deduction, Bell also liked to bring an element of drama to his lectures, for instance by once swallowing a phial of malodorous liquid in front of his students, the better to determine whether or not it was a deadly poison. (He survived the test.) For much of the last century, Bell has been the individual most popularly associated with the “real Holmes.”

(13) GAME OF STRAPHANGERS. Gothamist says commuters will have a chance to buy collectible prepaid fare cards: “Limited Edition ‘Game Of Thrones’ MetroCards Available At Grand Central Starting Tuesday”.

Last week, the MTA announced that there would be a delay on a set of limited edition Game Of Thrones-emblazoned MetroCards planned for release in advance of the hotly-anticipated final season of the show. Today, we’ve learned that the MetroCards will be available starting tomorrow (Tuesday, 12/4) at Grand Central Terminal—and you can get a first look at them up above.

There will be 250,000 copies of the four MetroCards available at in the Grand Central subway station while supplies last.

(14) WHO’S ON FIRST. Galactic Journey was there in November 1963 for the series premiere: “[Dec. 3, 1963] Dr. Who?  An Adventure In Space And Time”.

Produced by Verity Lambert (the BBC’s youngest and only woman producer), Doctor Who is the new science fiction series from the BBC, about the mysterious eponymous old man and his machine that allows him to travel through time and space. Along with him are his granddaughter, Susan, and two of her school teachers, Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright. Together, they’ll travel backwards and forwards through history, and upside down and sideways through the universe. According to the Radio Times, each adventure may bring them to the North Pole, distant worlds devastated by neutron bombs (well, THERE’S a relevant story for you!), and even the caravan of Marco Polo. I also hear this show is to have a bit of an educational element, so I’ll be looking forward to seeing how that goes.

(15) BELIEVABLE FANTASY. Marion Deeds and Terry Weyna, in their review of Alexandra Rowland’s novel at Fantasy Literature, “A Conspiracy of Truths: Interesting debut novel from a writer to watch”, point out that Chant is an unreliable narrator – but maybe not that unreliable:

For a story that takes place mostly within prison cells, where it seems pretty likely the first person narrator has not been executed, A Conspiracy of Truths becomes surprisingly suspenseful. Partly this is because there are characters at risk, particularly Ylfing and Consanza, but the suspense comes also not from “what will happen,” but “how will it happen?”

(16) A BIT MUCH. Fantasy Literature’s Taya Okerlund wrote a headline that made me read her review — “Legendary: If you like The Cheesecake Factory, this book might be for you” – and wrote a review that talked me out of reading the book:

The CARAVAL series has been very well received among YA readers; I guess I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Critics call it sweeping and immersive, and I’ll go with that. The writing is quite rich, and conjures to mind a world that might have been decorated by a cooperative design team from The Cheesecake Factory and Victoria’s Secret. It is gilded, rich and sugar crusted — which may be just the thing for an escapist read, but it wasn’t for me.

(17) SUPERCALI-WHAT? “Odeon defends £40 hi-tech cinema prices” — per an image, ticket prices for a show of Mary Poppins Returns started at £25.75; average price in the UK is £7.49. Just how much better than a typical cinema is this one? (And does this mean the bankers are the heroes in the Poppins sequel?)

Odeon has responded to criticism over the prices it is charging for seats at its new hi-tech cinema in London, where tickets will cost up to £40 ($51).

It told the BBC the prices were similar to tickets for theatre or live sports.

The newly refurbished Odeon Leicester Square will re-open later this month, showing Mary Poppins Returns.

It has had a multi-million pound facelift in partnership with Dolby, which is providing cutting-edge audio-visual technology.

(18) SHATNER CLAUS. Cleopatra Records would love to sell you a copy —

A very special gift of the holidays – the first ever Christmas album from the godfather of dramatic musical interpretations and a legend of stage and screen, Mr. William Shatner!

(19) FURSUITS AND LAWSUITS. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn says a well-known Chicago-region vendor “Lemonbrat Has Filed Suit Against Former Employee (and Con-Runner) Corey Wood “. (They specialize in costumes and gear of interest to furries.)

In a series of events that has left many of us shocked, frequent convention vendor Lemonbrat has filed a lawsuit against their former financial manager Corey Wood.

The Cook County Record story lists the allegations:

According to the complaint, Wood has been employed by the plaintiffs since January 2013 as a financial manager and prepared payroll and the company’s books. The plaintiffs allege they discovered Wood established separate Square accounts for Lemonbrat and its predecessor that diverted credit card payments that belonging to the plaintiffs to Wood personally. The plaintiffs allege Wood diverted more than $40,000 to himself via his false Square account or accounts and has written more than $15,000 in bogus checks.

Dorn adds:

What makes it even more important though is Wood’s prominence in the con running community. Wood is the convention chair for Anime Milwaukee (Wisconsin’s largest anime convention), and owns and operates other events including the upcoming furry convention Aquatifur.

(20) PICKING HELLBOY. In an episode of PeopleTV’s video series Couch Surfing, Ron Perlman says that director Guillermo del Toro had to work a long time to get Perlman cast in HellboyEntertainment Weekly has the story (“Guillermo del Toro fought 7 years for Ron Perlman to star as Hellboy”), transcribing part of the video. It wasn’t until del Toro’s success with Blade II that producers would listen to him.

Before actor Ron Perlman played the titular role in Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro’s 2004 unconventional superhero flick Hellboy, he was a typecast character actor, successful but with little hopes of ascending to leading man status. Luckily for Perlman, del Toro had a very specific vision for the film, with Perlman front and center.

“I said to him from the get-go, ‘That’s a great idea and god bless you, I love you for entertaining the idea, but it’ll never happen,’” Perlman says in the latest episode of PeopleTV’s Couch Surfing, recalling his disbelief that he’d ever excite studios enough to be cast. “Sure enough, for seven years he’d go to these meetings at these studios, and he’d say, ‘Ron Perlman.’”

(21) MISSION-CRITICAL. Another first world problem: “Research worms ‘too old’ to go to space station”.

Thousands of worms being blasted into space could be “too old” for research when they get to the International Space Station (ISS).

The launch of a SpaceX rocket was delayed after mouldy food was found among another research team’s kit.

Teams from Exeter, Nottingham and Lancaster universities are hoping the microscopic worms could lead to new treatments for muscular dystrophy.

The worms were meant to be “just turning into adults” at the launch.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was due to launch from the NASA Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Tuesday evening, but has now been rescheduled for 18:16 GMT on Wednesday.

(22) PASSING THE POST. Congratulations to Adri Joy for reaching a specialized kind of milestone with “Microreview [Book]: A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy by Alex White” at Nerds of a Feather.

Hurrah! With this review, I have officially reached my “sequeliversary” for Nerds of a Feather: Alex White’s A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe was one of the first books I reviewed on this site, and now here I am looking at its successor for your potential reading pleasure! Admittedly, there were only six months between the two, but I still think that’s cool. If you haven’t read White’s breakneck opener full of grumpy yet brilliant ladies and satisfying space magic, now’s the time to go check out that review and the book behind it…

A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy opens one year after we last saw the crew of the Capricious, having hunted down the big ship at the edge of the universe (also known as the Harrow) and started to uncover a galaxy spanning plot. Like it’s predecessor, Bad Deal doesn’t waste any time, throwing its audience right into the middle of things

(23) WHERE THERE’S SMOKE. Vance K adds James Tiptree Jr. to the dossier in “Feminist Futures: Her Smoke Rose Up Forever” at Nerds of a Feather.

In reading Tiptree, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Flannery O’Connor in that wherever the stories started or whichever direction they may start heading, they would always veer hard to death. Characters don’t get happy endings, hope is inevitably extinguished just when it seemed likely to pay off, and those misgivings nagging at the back of characters’ minds always turn out to be harbingers of a doom lurking just up ahead.

(24) GEM OF A DINO. National Geographic has a photo of this exotic find: “Sparkly, opal-filled fossils reveal new dinosaur species”.

In a dazzling discovery, fossils brought up from a mine in Wee Warra, near the Australian outback town of Lightning Ridge, belong to the newly named dinosaur species Weewarrasaurus pobeni. The animal, which was about the size of a Labrador retriever, walked on its hind legs and had both a beak and teeth for nibbling vegetation.

…But perhaps the most striking thing about this fossil—described today in a paper published in the journal PeerJ—is that it is made from opal, a precious gemstone that this part of the state of New South Wales is known for.

(25) ALL FINISHED. Gothamist tweaks the celebrated fantasy author: “George R.R. Martin Finally Finishes His Guide To NYC Pizza”.

Do you ever get the feeling that George R.R. Martin will do literally anything to get out of finishing the A Song Of Ice & Fire series? It’s been well over seven years since the release of A Dance Of Dragons, and in lieu of the long-awaited new GoT book, Martin has released spin-off books like Fire and Blood, he’s helped adapt his 1980 novella Nightflyers into a TV show, he’s started non-profits, he’s cameoed in Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, gone to some Dead shows, campaigned for Hillary Clinton, and he’s blogged way too much about the Jets.

The latest iteration of this phenomenon: to promote Fire & Blood, Martin gave his guide to NYC pizza. Did we really need the creator of Game Of Thrones to confirm what we all already know, that NYC pizza is by far the best in the world?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She dared…

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

Broadway World profiled the play in May:

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

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

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

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

Julia Rios says —

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

Now who’s birthday did I miss?

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

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

(11) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(With pressure from Ed Sheeran)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, mistakes often resulted in a cube being destroyed.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 10/12/17 O, Brave New Scroll, That Has Such Pixels In ‘t!

(1) SECOND BITE OF THE APPLE. Steve Davidson left a comment telling File 770 readers about a turnaround in Amazing Stories’ situation with NBC since yesterday’s social media offensive:

Folks, I am officially “in discussions for a resolution” with NBC.

This was a DIRECT result of the tweeting and commenting that took place all of yesterday:

Specifically, NBC’s attorney requested that my attorney ask me to “stop tweeting” because certain people and certain giant corporations were “very upset”.

I had my doubts that my yelling about a toe stepped on would bring results, but in fact it took less than 12 hours for the story to get picked up and, while I have complied with the request (seeing as how we are talking again), the ripples are still going, so people on the west coast are going to continue to experience upset for a bit longer.

We’re very close to an agreement…very close..but not quite there yet.

I’m hoping we will finalize things today – 10-12.

I’m sure that an association with “Spielberg” and “Apple Inc” gave this story traction, but it would not have gone anywhere if fans didn’t pick it up and run with it. I think we can count this as a minor example of the “Star Trek” effect.

(2)THE PAST THROUGH YESTERDAY. Jo Walton has updated her “Revisiting the Hugo Awards” at Tor.com with a post on the newly-discovered 1956 Finalists: “Revisiting the Recently Rediscovered 1956 Hugo Awards Ballot”.

When I wrote my post in 2010 about the Hugos of 1956, the nominees for that year were lost in the mists of time. Last month they were found again, by Olav Rokne in an old Progress Report, which is very exciting, because it gives me the chance to compare what I thought they might be to what they really were. It’s great to be wrong, and goodness me I was wrong!…

(3) THE YOUNG AND THE RUTHLESS. For the newest installment of Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll unleashed his panel on “The Women Men Don’t See” by James Tiptree, Jr.

The story was not a hit with Jamie –

This was weird and slow and racist. Also sexist. The whole thing was uninteresting in general, the pacing was glacial, and the main character was a maddeningly horrible person who can seemingly only thnk about sex and whose first thought upon meeting aliens was to attack them and steal their stuff.

(4) REDDIT AMA. Two genre figures participated in Reddit “Ask Me Anything” sessions today.

G. WILLOW WILSON: Oh my God. It took Sana and I NINE MONTHS to settle on this power set. It was by far the most difficult part of the planning phase. Marvel came to me with a total tabula rasa–they wanted to do an all-ages series about an American Muslim girl (the idea was inspired by Sana’s own stories about her childhood) but this character had no name, no background, no power set, no nothing. I didn’t want her to have pretty powers–no sparkling, no floating in the air, no “I have a headache” telepathy. So that ruled some things out. And giving her violent powers–your laser beams, your plasma bolts–would be read as a political statement. (This is a whole ‘nother AMA.) So we had to get very creative. It had to be something useful and adaptive and fun to look at on the page. Getting to this specific variety of polymorphism took quite awhile.

GARDNER DOZOIS: For writing short fiction, my advice would be to immediately start with an interesting character in an interesting situation faced with a problem, rather than starting with landscape descriptions or details about how the society works. It’s hardwired in us to want to know what happens to that character NEXT, once you’ve involved us with them.

No real horror stories about fans sending me things, although I did once open a slush manuscript and had a big cardboard finger sprong up out of it, giving me the bird. A writer so certain his story was going to be rejected that he was taking his revenge in advance.

(5) COME CELEBRATE. Here’s a video of Pulphouse mascot Stomper doing a cartwheel to celebrate hitting their Kickstarter’s $15,000 stretch goal:

(6) BRADBURY RE-EULOGIZED. Paris Review ran Margaret Atwood’s “Voyage to the Otherworld: A New Eulogy for Ray Bradbury” in August.

This original essay by Margaret Atwood was composed specifically for the re-release of Sam Weller’s interview book companion to his authorized biography of Ray Bradbury. Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews, in a new hardcover deluxe edition, will be released this October by Hat & Beard Press in Los Angeles.

… What Sam and I were discussing was the launch of the collection, which was to be published by HarperCollins, and was to be called Shadow Show—from the 1962 Bradbury novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes. Ray himself had written an introduction, and it was hoped that he could be present at the grand celebration that was to take place at Comic-Con—the vast gathering of graphic artists, comics writers, and their fans, plus related enterprises and genres—that was slated for San Diego in mid-July. Five of us were going to do a Bradbury panel there: Sam, Mort Castle, Joe Hill, me, and Ray himself.

But Ray had been feeling a little frail, said Sam; it was possible he might not make it. In that case, the four of us would do the panel, and Sam and I would visit Ray in his home, webcast him to the world, connect him with his fans, and ask him to sign some covers of the book for them on the Fanado.com website I’d been involved in developing. Ray was keen to do it, said Sam, despite his qualified distrust of the Internet. His enthusiasm for his many devoted readers and his fellow writers never waned, and if using the questionable Internet was the method of last resort, then that is what he would do.

I was greatly looking forward to meeting a writer who had been ?so much a part of my own early reading, especially the delicious, clandestine reading done avidly in lieu of homework, and the compulsive reading done at night with a flashlight when I ought to have been sleeping. Stories read with such enthusiasm at such a young age are not so much read as inhaled. They sink all the way in and all the way down, and they stay with you.

But then Ray Bradbury died. He was ninety-one, but still….

(7) RIGHTS OF FAN. The Concord (New Hampshire) Monitor covered Steve Davidson’s side of the trademark dispute on Wednesday — “‘Amazing Stories’ trademark owner says Spielberg, Apple proposal ignored him”.

…Davidson said he’d always had dreams of doing more with the name, and he said he signed a contract with NBC in 2015 giving the company rights to option the “Amazing Stories” name.

His plan was to use the money to expand the online magazine, which he said now has “upward of about 4,000 unique views a day,” paying for one piece of new fiction every week, then bundling it all at the end of each quarter into print-on-demand and electronic editions.

However, he said Wednesday that NBC never paid him, leading him to file a notice of breach of contract and termination of the contract in May. He said he and NBC have recently reopened discussions, but Tuesday’s news changed his opinion.

“I don’t want to have anything to do with NBC,” he said. “I want the notice of breach and termination to be put into effect – they have no rights – so I can go out and do what I need to do.”

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born October 12, 1968 – Hugh Jackman, an actor whose roles include Wolverine.

(9) KEEPING THE PUN IN PUNCHEON. Crave interviews the author of a stfnal bartending guide — “New Book Unites Cocktail Drinkers and Sci-Fi Fans”.

Alcohol and sci-fi movies are two of Andy Heidel’s favorite things. In his new book The Cocktail Guide to the Galaxy, the owner of Brooklyn bar The Way Station brings both his passions together in over 100 out-of-this-world cocktails. Pop culture touchstones like Back to the Future, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and Game of Thrones become imbibe-able through his pun-derful recipes. Heidel makes it easy to play mixologist at home with just a few ingredients, minimal accouterments, and easy instructions. He also slips in a few “Heidel Hints” so booze-drinking rookies don’t embarrass themselves at the bar. Comic illustrations throughout make this a visually intoxicating read as well.

(10) WHERE’S YOUR TOWEL? SF Site News carried a report that a sixth series of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will be broadcast next year, using a combination of the original radio and the television casts. According to the Telegraph, the new series will air in on BBC Radio 4 in 2018.

The series is to be based on Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer’s spin-off novel And Another Thing…, but will also include previously unpublished material by original writer Douglas Adams, who died in 2001.

Simon Jones is to reprise his starring role as Arthur Dent, the mild-mannered Englishman who finds himself dragged across the universe, after the Earth is destroyed to make way for an intergalactic bypass.

Other returning cast members include Geoff McGivern as Ford Prefect, a travel writer for the titular guide, Mark Wing-Davey as two-headed alien Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Sandra Dickinson as astrophysicist Trillian. Jane Horrocks is to guest-star as Arthur’s love-interest, Fenchurch.

(11) UNMANNED FOOD TRUCK. Subtler bodega-killers? BBC’s The Disruptors covers potential changes to shopping in ”How May I Help You?”

Imagine you’re in a crowd pouring out of a late night concert. Tired and hungry, you remember the cupboards at home are bare. Do not despair.

In the brave new world of retail this won’t necessitate a trek out to the nearest late night supermarket. Instead the shop can come to you.

With the touch of an app button, you hail a low-slung electric vehicle, like a glass-sided motorhome, which quietly glides into a parking space near you.

You enter the shop by swiping your mobile phone at the door, pick up your wares and swipe out again. There’s no cashier or sales assistant, and no-one to clean up if you drop a carton of milk on your toe.

(12) A WAY TO MAKE A BUCK-BUCK. What an eggs-ellent idea — “How chicken feathers could warm our homes”.

Where there are people, there are chickens. Pretty much every country on Earth has poultry or their eggs on the menu.

So, from Norway to New Zealand, and Cuba to Cambodia, chickens root around even the most isolated settlements, and fill giant farms in their thousands.

One result of a huge chicken population is a huge amount of chicken feathers, which are normally burned or taken to landfill, polluting the environment.

Ryan Robinson, a biology graduate from Imperial College London, is one of a duo that believes it might have come up with a different solution for this feathery waste.

Along with designer Elena Dieckmann, Robinson has discovered a way to turn feathers into an insulating material for buildings or a packing material for food or medicine.

(13) VERDANT VERTICALS. Not the Jetsons’ future: “Why Milan is covering its skyscrapers in plants” – there’s a gallery at the link.

(14) DIRTY BIRDS. After dendrochronology, ornithochronology? “‘Sooty birds’ reveal hidden US air pollution”.

…Cities were soon coated in sooty air thanks to the unregulated burning of coal in homes and factories.

While the huge impact of black carbon on the health of people living in urban centres has been recognised for decades, it is only in recent years that scientists have understood the role it plays climate change.

When it is suspended in the air, the substance absorbs sunlight and increases warming in the atmosphere.

When it hits the ground it increases melting of snow and ice, and has been linked to the loss of ice in the Arctic region.

US researchers have struggled to find accurate records of the amount of black carbon that was emitted in the manufacturing belt of the US, around Chicago, Detroit and Pittsburgh at the end of the 19th century.

This new study takes an unusual approach to working out the scale of soot coming from this part of the US over the last 100 years.

The scientists trawled through natural history collections in museums in the region and measured evidence of black carbon, trapped in the feathers and wings of songbirds as they flew through the smoky air….

(15) A VR PR DISASTER. Is that Facebook or Facepalm? “Virtual Zuck fails to connect”.

It must have seemed like a good idea. As a taster for a big announcement about Oculus VR on Wednesday, send Mark Zuckerberg on a little virtual reality trip, including a stop in Puerto Rico.

But the reviews are in – and they are not good.

The sight of Mr Zuckerberg using VR to survey the devastation of an island still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria may have been meant to convey Facebook’s empathy with the victims.

The fact that he was there in the form of a cartoon seemed to many the perfect visual metaphor for the gulf in understanding between Silicon Valley and the real world.

Sure, he was talking about all the activities which his company had initiated to help the island, from helping people tell their families they were ok using Safety Check to sending Facebook employees to help restore connectivity.

But cartoon Zuck showing us a 360 degree view of a flooded street before zipping back to a virtual California just seemed a little, well, crass. Is Facebook really concerned about the plight of Puerto Rico, or is it merely a handy backdrop to promote Oculus, whose sales have so far proved disappointing?

(16) HE’S GOT IT COVERED. From the “news to me” archives, a Doctor Who fan performing a rather formidable challenge on British TV game show You Bet!

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Andrew Porter, Mark-kitteh, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]