Pixel Scroll 11/12/18 Could He Show Up In A Noodle-Poodle, Bottle-Beetle, Paddle-Battle, Pixle-Scroodle?

(1) FIRE MISSES DEL TORO’S “BLEAK HOUSE”. Unlike houses belonging to some other celebrities in the area, filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s Bleak House has survived the Woolsey fire Remezcla reports:

Bleak House is not actually where del Toro lives (he lives nearby), but it is home to his collection of more than 700 pieces of art, props, and memorabilia. He has everything from concept sketches from Disney’s Fantasia to figures from his Blade 2 to a life-sized statue of Edgar Allan Poe. These serve as his inspiration from both his own films and the movies he hopes to make in the future. In 2016, del Toro let fans inside his Bleak House with a curated exhibit that traveled to museums around North America showing off some of his items. Looking at pictures from the collection you can almost imagine the inside of the fantastical and dark director’s mind.

Luckily, del Toro’s collection has been spared by the Woosley fire. He tweeted about returning to his home to find it still standing with only some minor smoke damage.

(2) FUTURE HISTORY. Professor James Davis Nicoll today lectures the class on “World States and Mega Empires in SF” at Tor.com.

How stable would a World State be, in practice? Sure, one could argue (and people have) that without external enemies there’s no particular reason for a world-spanning government to fall apart. That was the argument in A World Out of Time: the state controlled all the apparatus necessary to sustain Earth’s vast population, making rebellion suicidal.

The problem is that one can point to historic polities that managed to dissolve into independent regions without much help from the outside…

(3) BARBIE WHO? The Guardian disapproves: “Doctor Who Barbie: time-travelling back to the sexist 1970s”.

Name: Doctor Who Barbie.

Age: About a week old.

Appearance: Like Barbie, if she went to a Halloween party as the Doctor.

This is a doll we’re talking about, is it? Yes. The “Doctor Who Barbie doll is sculpted to the likeness of the 13th Doctor and comes dressed in her iconic look.”

What do you mean, iconic? These are not my words, but the words of the US manufacturer, Mattel. “Additional true-to-character details include Doctor Who Barbie doll’s signature suspenders and lace-up boots.”

I don’t remember any suspenders. Are they from a later, more risque episode? They mean braces – Americans!

(4) UNLEASH IMAGINATION AWARDS. The Arthur C. Clarke “Unleash Imagination” Awards were  presented November 8 in Washington, D.C. [Via Locus Online.]

  • Lifetime Achievement Award – Irwin Jacobs, Chairman of the Salk Institute, co-founder and former Chairman of Qualcomm, co-developer of CDMA, Philanthropist
  • Innovator Award – Jill Tarter, astronomer, Emeritus Chair for SETI Research at the SETI Institute, and seeker of the answer to “Are we alone?”
  • Imagination in Service to Society – Liu Cixin acclaimed author of The Three Body Problem and other science fiction works, winner of the Hugo and five Chinese Galaxy Awards

(5) ASTOUNDING AUTHOR IN PERSON. Alec Nevala-Lee will be appearing at two library events this week to discuss his new book Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction:

  • Chicago

The Golden Age of Science Fiction with Alec Nevala-Lee and Gary K. Wolfe

Sulzer Regional Library (4455 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago)

Thursday, November 15

7-8pm

Join Alec Nevala-Lee, author of Astounding, and Gary K. Wolfe, critic and co-host of the science fiction podcast Coode Street, for an engaging discussion on the history and evolution of science fiction. (Note: The event is sponsored by One Book, One Chicago, which has chosen the science fiction classic Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick as this year’s selection.)

  • Oak Park

Astounding: Oak Park Author Alec Nevala-Lee

Oak Park Public Library (834 Lake St., Oak Park)

Sunday, November 18

2-4pm

Meet Oak Park author Alec Nevala-Lee and hear about his newly released book, Astounding. The Book Table will have books for sale and signing.

(6) DISNEY PIXAR. Disney has put up the first teaser trailer for Toy Story 4, where we learn about Forky the Spork! The movie comes to U.S. theaters on June 21, 2019.

Woody has always been confident about his place in the world and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. But when Bonnie adds a reluctant new toy called “Forky” to her room, a road trip adventure alongside old and new friends will show Woody how big the world can be for a toy.

 

(7) IT’S BEASTLY. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber says Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is an “ultimately numbing sprawl that seems to drag on forever.” The BBC critic gives it 2/5 stars:

Considering that JK Rowling’s books have made several zillion pounds and her films have made several zillion more, it would take a lot of gall to read one of her screenplays and say, actually, could you cut 50 pages? But her latest ‘Wizarding World’ instalment, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, would have been improved if someone had said just that.

(8) WHEN BEZOS MET STEPHENSON. The cover story of the November WIRED is about Jeff Bezos’s efforts to fund private space exploration through his company Blue Origin: “Jeff Bezos Wants Us All to Leave Earth—for Good”. Writer Steven Levy says that Neal Stephenson was recruited for Bezos’s space exploration efforts very early —

Bezos went to Princeton, where he attended seminars led by O’Neill and became president of the campus chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. At one meeting, Bezos was regaling attendees with visions of hollowing out asteroids and transforming them into space arks when a woman leapt to her feet. “How dare you rape the universe!” she said, and stormed out. “There was a pause, and Jeff didn’t make a public comment,” says Kevin Polk, another member of the club. “But after things broke up, Jeff said, ‘Did she really defend the inalienable rights of barren rocks?’?”

After Princeton, Bezos put his energies toward finance, working at a hedge fund. He left it to move to Seattle and start Amazon. Not long after, he was seated at a dinner party with science fiction writer Neal Stephenson. Their conversation quickly left the bounds of Earth. “There’s sort of a matching game that goes on where you climb a ladder, figuring out the level of someone’s fanaticism about space by how many details they know,” Stephenson says. “He was incredibly high on that ladder.” The two began spending weekend afternoons shooting off model rockets.

In 1999, Stephenson and Bezos went to see the movie October Sky, about a boy obsessed with rocketry, and stopped for coffee afterward. Bezos said he’d been thinking for a long time about starting a space company. “Why not start it today?” Stephenson asked. The next year, Bezos incorporated a company called Blue Operations LLC. Stephenson secured space in a former envelope factory in a funky industrial area in south Seattle.

(9) LEE OBIT. Legendary comics creator Stan Lee died November 12 at the age of 95.

Great photo of Stan Lee writing in
his backyard in Hewlett Harbor, on the jury-rigged arrangement he worked out,
tables placed on top of one another. This is precisely how Lee wrote some of the most widely read words of fantasy in
the 1960s.

When Stan Lee was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2017 the citation read:

Stan Lee

One of the most influential comic book writers of all time, Stan Lee is responsible for the creation of numerous Marvel Comics characters including Spider-Man, Black Panther, and the X-Men. Born Stanley Martin Lieber, Lee began working as an assistant at Timely Comics when he was just seventeen and became the editor soon after, writing every style of comic from romance and westerns to horror. In 1961, while considering switching careers, Lee decided to take his wife’s advice and write a comics story to please himself. The story, about four people given superpowers after being exposed to cosmic rays, was called The Fantastic Four, and it began an era of unparalleled success for the newly renamed Marvel Comics. Lee’s creations captured fans’ imaginations through a combination of relatable characters and the idea of a shared universe inhabited by all of Marvel’s characters.

Lee’s characters and storylines have appeared across all types of media including animated series, video games, television shows, and the long-standing Marvel Cinematic Universe. A self-proclaimed frustrated actor, Lee has made a cameo in every Marvel film to date.

Hollywood celebrities including the leadership at Marvel and Disney paid tribute to his accomplishments in the Los Angeles Times obituary.

Marvel Comics and the Walt Disney Company honored Lee in a statement posted online Monday.

“Stan Lee was as extraordinary as the characters he created,” said Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company. “A super hero in his own right to Marvel fans around the world, Stan had the power to inspire, to entertain, and to connect. The scale of his imagination was only exceeded by the size of his heart.”

“No one has had more of an impact on my career and everything we do at Marvel Studios than Stan Lee,” tweeted Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios. “Stan leaves an extraordinary legacy that will outlive us all.”

File 770 readers saw Lee’s name in the news all the time for anything from his signature cologne to sharing the 2013 J. Lloyd Eaton Lifetime Achievement Awards with Ursula K. Le Guin and Ray Harryhausen (Lee’s acceptance was on video).

And everyone knows how he followed Alfred Hitchcock’s example by making a cameo appearance in every Marvel film. I have it on the authority of Christian B. McGuire that “For those of you who imagine there will be no more cameos for Stan, listen up! In Stan Lee’s contract it specifies that he will appear in ALL Marvel films in perpetuity. And that this contract MUST be accepted by anyone buying the Marvel universe. There’s enough video; image and sound, for the purveyors of Marvel Magic to synthesize him and put him in everything they make.” If someone feels like fact-checking that claim, help yourself.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 12, 1917  Dahlov Ipcar, Writer, Artist, and Illustrator. Though primarily an artist — and you really should go visit her website — she wrote three amazing young adult novels between 1969 and 1978, which are The Warlock of Night, The Que’en of Spells, and A Dark Horn Blowing. She lived but thirty miles north of here and I was privileged to meet her a few times. Lovely lady! A gallery of her fantastical works can be seen here. (Died 2017.)
  • Born November 12, 1929 Michael Ende, Writer from Germany who is best known for the novel The Neverending Story; it was turned into three adaptations, of which The Neverending Story was the first film — and certainly the best known version. The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter was the next version, and it is a sort of sequel to the first; I never saw the third, The NeverEnding Story III, but it apparently only uses the characters and has nothing to do with the tale itself. Momo, or The Strange Story of the Time-Thieves and the Child Who Brought the Stolen Time Back to the People as it translates in English, is a charming if strange novel worth your time. The rest of his children’s literature has been translated from  German into English mostly by small specialist presses down the years, but unlike The Neverending Story and Momo, I’ve not read any of these. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 12, 1943Wallace Shawn. First genre appearance was in All That Jazz. Best known genre role is Vizzini in The Princess Bride but what would you put in second place? No doubt Grand Nagus Zek in Deep Space Nine but he has other performances to note including as Warren Hughes in Eureka, Van Helsing in Vamps and the voice of Gilbert Hugh in The Incredibles.
  • Born November 12, 1945 Michael Bishop, 73, Writer, Editor, Poet, and Critic whose Urban Nucleus series and Georgia Stories are especially popular. He has won two Nebulas along with Mythopoeic, Shirley Jackson, and Rhysling Awards, and his works have garnered a multitude of Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and British Science Fiction Award nominations. He was honored with Southern Fandom’s Phoenix Award, and has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention.
  • Born November 12, 1950 Michael Capobianco, 68, Writer and Linguist, author of several SFF novels and some shorter works who has made major contributions for the benefit of genre writers as a Past President, Vice-President, and Treasurer of SFWA. Currently, he is a member of several SFWA writers’ advocacy committees, and writes informational pieces for Writer Beware, a writing scam investigation and warning site created by his wife A.C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss. He and Crispin were joint recipients of the Service to SFWA Award in 2003.
  • Born November 12, 1973 Radha Mitchell, 45, Actor, Director, and Producer, who broke into genre film with a role as a kickass spaceship pilot in Pitch Black, then played the obsessed J.M. Barrie’s long-suffering wife in Finding Neverland. Other genre appearances include Silent Hill, Rogue, Surrogates, The Crazies, and The Darkness.
  • Born November 12, 1980 Ryan Gosling, 38, Oscar-nominated Actor, Director, and Producer who debuted at the age of 15 in Frankenstein and Me; other genre appearances include Stay, the Hugo-nominated and Oscar- and Saturn-winning Blade Runner 2049 (for which he also received a Saturn nomination), and his role as Neil Armstrong in First Man (we’ll ignore the ill-conceived Lost River, which he wrote, produced, and directed). He has also had guest roles on episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal, Goosebumps, Flash Forward, Young Hercules, and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. For more on Baby Gooseman, see here.
  • Born November 12, 1982 Anne Hathaway, 36, Oscar-winning Actor of Stage and Screen and Producer who received Saturn nominations for her roles in The Dark Knight Rises and the Hugo finalist Interstellar, and appeared in Ella Enchanted, Get Smart, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, Passengers, Colossal, and the Ruritanian film series The Princess Diaries. Voice roles include parts in Hoodwinked!, The Cat Returns, the Rio films, and three episodes of The Simpsons.

(11) SPIDER-GWEN. The Comics Beat’s Joe Grunenwald asks the questions in this — “INTERVIEW: Seanan McGuire on writing SPIDER-GWEN: GHOST-SPIDER under the watchful eye of Marvel’s ‘snipers’”.

Grunenwald: Gwen is sort of having a Moment right now, too, between, obviously, the new series and then in other media there’s Marvel Rising and she’s going to be in the Into the Spider-Verse movie, so she’s got a higher profile now arguably that she’s ever had before. Has there been any pressure as a result of that, coming onto the character and having to keep that momentum going?

McGuire: My editors are amazing. I love them. And they hired me because they were reasonably sure I could keep that momentum going. Most of the pressure is internal. When you’re a novelist and represented by a literary agent, one of the first things they’ll do is sit you down and say, ‘Where do you see your career going?’ And this is because if you say ‘I want to be the next J.K. Rowling,’ they want to be ready to kind of talk you down. That’s the ‘No, no, honey, let’s be reasonable’ conversation.

When my agent sat me down for that conversation ten years ago, I said, “I want to write the X-Men.” And she went, ‘Excuse me?’ And I said, “I need you to make me famous enough that they will let me write the X-Men.’ So writing for Marvel is my life’s dream. This is what I’ve been working toward all this time, so there’s a huge amount of pressure but it’s all internal. I’m very aware that I’m making canon.

(12) TRANSFORMERS FANDOM. BBC covers “Transformers: Misfit robots and the women who love them”.

Over three decades Transformers has grown from a line of children’s toys to a media franchise encompassing film, TV and gaming. Perhaps its most radical spin-off though is a comic that has used wit and humanity to reach a new, diverse fan base.

Transformers started out as a boy’s toy. The robot characters, which could be quickly reconfigured into guns and cars – tapped into the young male zeitgeist of 1984.

Those children have grown into today’s adult collectors. But thanks to a cult comic, the franchise’s male-dominated audience has crossed the gender divide.

At Europe’s largest Transformers convention this year, TFNation, women accounted for almost half of attendees aged 21 to 31. It caps a three-year trend in which female attendance grew by a third. Taking the credit is the comic Lost Light.

(13) CENTENNIAL. This was one of the many commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I tweeted yesterday –

(14) BREATHING LIFE INTO OLD FOOTAGE. New technology enables full color restoration. This week the Smithsonian Channel will broadcast a new season of America in Color with even better images than ever before:

Witness defining moments of early 20th century America like never before: in dramatic color. Roam the untamed Wild West, visit burgeoning cities, and enter the dream factory of Hollywood. Follow larger-than-life figures who drove America’s industrial transformation, turned crime into an organized business, and built political dynasties. Using cutting-edge digital technology, we bring our young country’s most seminal landmarks, people, and moments to vibrant life.

Mark Kermode also discusses Peter Jackson and team’s painstaking restoration and colorization of First World War footage: “They Shall Not Grow Old review – an utterly breathtaking journey into the trenches” in The Guardian.

The challenges involved in achieving this miracle are manifold. Most obviously, the digital restoration and colourisation of the original films has been painstakingly carried out with meticulous attention to detail, rendering everything from skin tones to scenery in impressively natural hues. (For theatrical presentation, a moderate 3D enhancement has also been applied.)

More complex is the correction of the film’s pace. The century-old footage with which Jackson was working was shot at anything from 10 to 18 frames per second, with the rate often changing within a single reel. We’ve all seen old movies projected at the modern speed of 24fps, creating that skittering, agitated effect that fixes such footage in the dim and distant past. Here, Jackson and his team have used computers to build interstitial frames that recapture the rhythms of real life, tuning into the music of the soldiers’ movements, breathing intimate life into their smallest gestures. The process may sound nerdily technical but the effect is powerfully emotional. It’s as if the technology had somehow pierced the surface of the film, causing (virtual?) memories to come pouring out.

 

(15) REVERE THE SJWC. “Archaeologists Discover Dozens Of Cat Mummies, 100 Cat Statues In Ancient Tomb” — The real surprise: mummified scarabs. No reports whether the scarabs were for the cats to play with…

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities announced Saturday that a team of Egyptian archaeologists excavating a 4,500-year-old tomb near Cairo has found dozens of mummified cats. Also in the tomb were 100 gilded wooden cat statues, as well as a bronze statue of Bastet, the goddess of cats.

The discoveries were made at a newly discovered tomb in Saqqara, the site of a necropolis used by the ancient city of Memphis. The tomb dates from the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, and archaeologists have found another one nearby with its door still sealed — raising the possibility that its contents are untouched.

(16) THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING KILOGRAM. Twitter thread discusses why the kilogram is the one measure that still relies on a material instance rather than a definition-by-physics, and how this is being fixed.

(17) HARRYHAUSEN THE ARTIST. David Rosler praises the animator to the skies in “RAY HARRYHAUSEN: The Twentieth Century Leonardo da Vinci” at Films in Review.

Da Vinci’s time of Renaissance humanism recognized virtually no mutually exclusive differences between sciences and the arts, and artists often thought in terms of science and scientists delved into the arts, heedless of any abstract concept now assumed to separate them. Both Ray and da Vinci were Renaissance men of the highest caliber of their respective times, both became positively revered by their contemporaries and, most importantly, both changed much of how the world saw their forms of art by leading the way with uniquely original creations, significantly changing the larger world around them.

Ray Harryhausen self-portrait

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

Pixel Scroll 9/26/18 Ent Misbehavin’

(1) ROWLING STEPS IN IT AGAIN. Yahoo! Entertainment reports that “Cries of racism erupt over the casting of Nagini in latest ‘Fantastic Beasts’ installment”.

The final trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald contained a jaw-dropping character reveal that has some Harry Potter fans fuming. As it turns out, one of the prequel franchise’s “new” characters, played by Claudia Kim, is actually a familiar villain from the original series: Voldemort’s evil snake companion Nagini. Author and screenwriter J.K. Rowling tweeted that she’d been sitting on this secret “for around 20 years.” But social media skeptics say that Nagini’s shocking past as a Korean woman seems highly implausible and possibly racist.

Here is the trailer:

Rowling’s tweet in response to a critic —

Fans have pointed out many troubling implications. Here is one of the less-sexualized examples —

(2) SPINRAD ASKED FOR HIS VIEWS ABOUT ISLAM. Rachid Ouadah of motionXmedia interviewed the author of Osama the Gun — “Norman Spinrad: ‘There is a difference between the religion of islam by itself and middle-eastern politics’”.  (Spinrad sent the link.)

Considering that the whole world is in crisis – we would not have had Trump if the world was in a good shape – would it be correct to say that terrorism is an expression of the crisis in the islamic world ? I didn’t say “arabic” because they are such a small part of muslims compared to Indonesians.

Indonesia is very complicated situation so I won’t go into that. (…) Islam and democracy are deeply against each other ideologically. Democracy says that legitimacy of a government arises from the consent of the people as expressed in a vote. Traditional islam says legitimacy of a government arises from the Quran, that human beings have no right to change these rules because it’s the word of Allah. And you can have a country that’s a democracy with a majority of muslims but you can’t have an islamic republic. Iran is not a real republic. It’s a phoney republic. The ultimate word is the word of Khamenei. And not of the president, not of anybody who that’s been elected. It’s not that it is a dictatorship. The ideology of what’s a legitimate government is completely different between an islamic government and a democratic government. So their take on what’s a democracy is it’s evil because it says that the decisions of humans can overrule the word of Allah. On the other side, democracy says [islam] is evil because it doesn’t allow people to decide. There is no middle ground between a theocratic muslim state and an electoral democracy. And that’s the core of the whole thing.

(3) TWO TO GEAR UP. SYFY Wire has artwork from the latest genre crossover: “IDW’s Star Trek vs Transformers #1: Beam up and roll out with artist Philip Murphy”.

Geek galaxies collide in a cosmic crossover for the ages in IDW’s new Star Trek vs. Transformers series, and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive chat with artist Philip Murphy and a first peek inside the pages of this perfect pairing of beloved sci-fi properties.

(4) EIGHT GREAT TOMATOES…ARE NOT ENOUGH. Hector Gonzalez’ saga of cooking for MexicanX Initiative participants at Worldcon 76 continues: “My Road to Worldcon 76. Part 5: Best Laid Plans…”

…The plan was set to bring the items to the main kitchen, get the mushrooms carnitas started, then work on the salsas. The pork will cook overnight and things will be ready in the morning. All seemed perfect. However, Mexican Pollyanna counted her chickens too soon. When we got to Doc Doyle’s home I discovered the besides missing some of the pork I needed for the carnitas, they had shopped dramatically wrong on different things I required, namely tomatoes, tomatillos, and onions. I asked for 8 lbs of tomatoes and only bought EIGHT TOMATOES. This meant another trip to the store, which bothered me. The least time I had at the kitchen, the longer this would take. It was already 2:30PM….

(5) IMAGINATIVE MERGER THEORIES. With Disney and Fox joining up, there’s money to be made! Yahoo! Entertainment heard one fan’s idea for how to do it — “This Marvel Fan Theory Explains How X-Men and the Fantastic Four Will Be Introduced Through ‘Avengers 4′”.

As we know, Avengers 4 will likely require some tricky inter-dimensional manipulation and time travel to undo Thanos’ big snap that killed half the universe. As we also know, back in the real world, Disney and 21st Century Fox are completing a merger, which gives the Marvel Cinematic Universe access to properties that were formerly owned by a separate company, such as X-Men and Fantastic 4. And, as Disney CEO Bob Iger said earlier this year, the company plans to “expand iconic movie franchises like Avatar, Marvel’s X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Deadpool, Planet of the Apes, Kingsman, and many others.”

So, the gears are all in motion for this great meeting of the Marvel characters to happen as soon as Avengers 4. One interesting fan theory on Reddit explains how the reversal of Thanos’ snap could cause the introduction of both The Fantastic 4 and Mutants. If the snap can bring Captain Marvel back to Earth to help, certainly it could bring the Fantastic 4 back as well.

(6) VADER NEEDS YOU. SlashGear fills fans in on a new video game — “Star Wars: Vader Immortal trailer and release info revealed”.

This game will have the user – you – dropped out of hyperspace near the planet Mustafar. That’s the largely volcanic planet where Anakin Skywalker fought Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Vader was effectively born. There, Vader’s palace can be found. This is the palace we first saw in film form in the movie Star Wars: Rogue One.

 

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

The carpet in the house of Sid, the villain of the first “Toy Story” film, is the same pattern as the hotel carpet in “The Shining.” The character of Sid was also partially based on a former employee at Pixar studios. — Source: The Daily Dot

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 26, 2001 Star Trek: Enterprise premiered on this day.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled  by  Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born September 26, 1946 – Togo Igawa, 72, Actor and Producer. A Japanese actor who became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, his genre credits include a small role in The Last Jedi and playing the voice of Hiro the Wise Engine in many Thomas the Tank Engine TV episodes and movies.
  • Born September 26, 1948 – Olivia Newton-John, 70, Actor, Singer, Composer, and Producer from Australia who starred in the fantasy musical Xanadu as a muse sent to help struggling artists achieve their dreams.
  • Born September 26, 1956 – Linda Hamilton, 62, Actor, best known for playing Sarah Connor in the first two Terminator movies, and her lead role in the TV series Beauty and the Beast. She’ll be reprising her role in a Terminator reboot movie expected out next year.
  • Born September 26, 1957 – Tanya Huff, 61, Writer. Canadian author of several fantasy series, all superb, including the Valor Confederation, Enchantment Emporium and Keeper Chronicles. Her Blood Books series, which pairs a Detective removed from the Force for failing eyesight with a vampire, was adapted as a series by CBC Television. She lives in rural Ontario with her partner, six cats, and an “unintentional chihuahua”.
  • Born September 26, 1963 – Lysette Anthony, 55, Actor and Producer from England, known for genre roles in the movie Dracula: Dead and Loving It, the remake of the Dark Shadows TV series, and the classic epic sci-fantasy movie Krull (LALALALA ICantHearYou SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP).
  • Born September 26, 1968 – Jim Caviezel, 50, Actor and Producer. Genre roles include the movie Frequency, the TV miniseries remake of The Prisoner, and 5 seasons in a lead role on Person of Interest.

I’m just going to leave this bit of craptastic birthday nostalgia here for your enjoyment:

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Superheroes helping each other out at The Argyle Sweater.
  • This is just the way I felt about the surveys we had to fill out at work — Bizarro.

(11) OH THE HUMANITY. Metro has coverage of the latest cultural crisis: “Library really needs people to stop sticking googly eyes on book covers”.

Library staff are pleading with people to stop attaching ‘googly eyes’ to book covers because the result will ‘haunt nightmares for all eternity’. Visitors to Alexandria-Monroe Public Library in Indiana, US, have apparently damaged a number of books by sticking the eyes to their covers. Bosses shared a picture of the library’s copy of The Turn of the Shrew to its Facebook page this week, on which a pair of ‘grotesque and haunting’ eyes were placed.

 

(12) PHONE HOME. JPL posted the Mars orbiter’s new photo of rover Opportunity. TechCrunch explicates: “Mars orbiter spots silent, dust-covered Opportunity rover as dust storm clears”.

The last we heard from the rover was on June 10, at which point the storm was getting so intense that Opportunity couldn’t charge its batteries any more and lowered itself into a hibernation state, warmed only by its plutonium-powered heaters — if they’re even working.

Once a day, Opportunity’s deeply embedded safety circuit checks if there’s any power in its battery or coming in via solar.

“Now that the sun is shining through the dust, it will start to charge its batteries,” explained Jim Watzin, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA. And so some time in the coming weeks it will have sufficient power to wake up and place a call back to Earth. But we don’t know when that call will come.”

That’s the hope, anyway. There is of course the possibility that the dust has obscured the solar cells too thickly, or some power fault during the storm led to the safety circuit not working… there’s no shortage of what-if scenarios.

(13) POPPING UP EVERYWHERE. BBC asks: “Are themed bars and pubs the future?” Half of the opening video covers a Potterverse bar in London, where Internet-of-Things wands manipulate toys and hooch; it’s doing well enough that a second one is opening. Chip Hitchcock also admires “The Bletchley”, which “Sounds to me like a great cutoff – ‘You’re not sober enough to have another if you can’t solve this puzzle.’”

…Many themed cocktail bars and pubs were originally pop-ups, such as The Cauldron and ABQ London.

Over the past decade, pop-ups have been increasingly used by new businesses to test out ideas, says Lucy Shaw, editor of alcohol trade magazine Drinks Business.

Pop-ups are hospitality events put on for a limited amount of time. They are held in temporary locations such as a tent or an existing venue.

“It makes business sense to have a pop-up, before you plough hundreds of thousands of pounds into a business,” Ms Shaw tells the BBC. “You want a litmus test, [you want] to test the water.”

Small businesses make up over 99% of all businesses in the hospitality industry, which made up 9.3% (£161bn) of the UK economy in 2016, according to the ONS….

(14) TECH IN SERVICE. “It’s Rice Vs. Seaweed Vs. Solar ATMs For A $1 Million Prize”:

…After the presentations, it was time for the judges to confer and decide. The prestigious group included former President Bill Clinton (the Hult Prize was previously associated with the Clinton Global Initiative); Earth Day Network president Kathleen Rogers; former U.N. assistant secretary general Elizabeth Thompson and a variety of business entrepreneurs, corporate executives and leaders of nonprofit organizations.

Finally, Clinton stepped to the podium to announce the winner. As he emphasized the urgency of responding to climate change, the implication was clear: These Hult Prize innovators better get to work. And the winner was …

SunRice, from University College, London, whose plan promises to increase rice production in Southeast Asia and raise the incomes of rice farmers. They would accomplish this through the use of energy efficient rice-drying and storage technology….

(15) 1976 TECH. “Original working Apple-I computer fetches $375,000 at auction” – article includes substantial history interview with Wozniak — video, much transcribed.

“Our experts tell us that there might be 15 in the world that work properly. You can power this thing up and behave like it’s 1976. It’s pretty fantastic.”

The Apple-I holds a place in technology history as the first computer to not require any assembly, other than to plug in a monitor and keyboard.

(16) BUMMER. It might violate a regulation! Or it might not…. NPR has the story — “Maine Asks Restaurant To Stop Giving Lobsters Cannabis Before Boiling Them”, the follow-up to a recent Pixel.

According to seafoodsource.com, Maine officials have asked — but “not commanded,” notes Gill on the restaurant’s website — the eatery to stop testing medical marijuana on the lobsters. While Gill is licensed to grow marijuana for medical use, state regulators cite a lack of legislation in this area and want to investigate whether administering cannabis to lobsters violates state regulations.

David Heidrich, spokesperson for the Maine Medical Marijuana Program, told the Portland Press Herald that “medical marijuana may only be grown for and provided to persons with a marijuana recommendation from a qualified medical provider. Lobsters are not people.”

(17) CAT ENVY. This fellow has recalibrated his life’s ambition —

(18) A WORD FOR OUR SPONSOR. John Hertz sent what I’d call a “state of the File” poem —

Seven Seventy Dotcom Glyer,
Migly or just Mike to thee,
Took great care of his Filers
Though no more Hugos he’d see.
Seven Seventy Dotcom Glyer
Said to his Filers, said he,
“If any of youse get some SF news,
I hope you’ll report it to me.”

(19) DEALING THE JOKER. The Hollywood Reporter has a short clip of Joaquin Phoenix both as “himself” and in full makeup (“See Joaquin Phoenix in His Joker Make-Up”). The clip morphs from the former to the latter… but don’t expect full-on SFX work. The movie, reportedly an origin film, is scheduled for an October 2019 release.

Here’s the first look of Joaquin Phoenix in makeup for his upcoming film about The Joker.

In a short screen test shared by director Todd Phillips, Phoenix is staring blankly into the camera before cracking a slight smile. The camera then flashes to Phoenix wearing clown makeup, but not the traditional Joker white face and green hair.

Aaaand cue Judy Collins

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

Pixel Scroll 9/24/18 I’ve Reversed The Scrollarity Of The Neutron Flow

(1) CHABON AT WORK ON NEW PICARD SERIES. Newsweek fills in the background behind Sir Patrick Stewart’s tweet: “Michael Chabon, Patrick Stewart Look Captivated in New Star Trek Photo”.

Assembled is the creative team for the new Picard series, and many are also involved with Star Trek: Discovery. Kirsten Beyer is the Star Trek novelist and Discovery staff writer; the Picard series is described as her “brain child.” Michael Chabon is a Pulitzer, Hugo and Nebula-award winning author (he also wrote John Carter). Akiva Goldsman is executive producer of most things in this world, including Stephen King projects like The Dark Tower and Doctor Sleep, DC’s Titans and Star Trek: Discovery . Diandra Pendleton-Thompson is a veteran writers assistant, on Stranger Things Season 3 and now on projects with Goldsman (according to her alumni magazine, she’s also written a pilot “about supernatural mafias in 1970s Las Vegas”). James Duff created The Closer and joined the Star Trek: Discovery team after the exit of former showrunners Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts.

(2) PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARDS. Voting is open in the final round of the 2018 Peoples Choice Awards, now through October 19. The voting rules specify a “Turbo Voting” periods for this final round (October 4-9) wherein votes count double. You can vote in several ways and  multiple times, up to limits noted in the rules. Winners will be announced in a televised ceremony the evening of November 11.

The full list of nominees is online at E! News, many of them genre. For example, up for the year’s best movie are –

Movie of 2018

Black Panther
Avengers: Infinity War
Incredibles 2
Fifty Shades Freed
A Quiet Place

(3) SMOFCON SCHOLARSHIPS. CanSMOF Inc. has announced the three winners of its scholarships to SMOFcon 36, a con for convention runners.

  • The first scholarship, open to a Canadian citizen or resident, was awarded to Rebecca Downey of Montréal, QC.
  • The second, open to a non-North American resident, was awarded to Marguerite Smith of Dublin, Ireland.
  • The third, open to anyone involved in running conventions, regardless of their place of residence or citizenship, was awarded to Kate Hatcher of Layton, UT.

SMOFcon 36 runs November 30-December 2 in Santa Rosa, CA.

(4) FISH IN A RAPIDLY GROWING POND. Adam-Troy Castro wrote a confessional post that deals honestly with the tug-of-war between a writer’s aspirations for the field, and for his own career:

You think it doesn’t bother me, on some level, when younger writers make a splash on some epic level I haven’t, when they win multiple awards I haven’t, when they make movie deals I haven’t, you don’t know how the human animal works.

One can be happy for any individual one of them, even several of them, and still seethe with that reptile-animal cry, “You’re forgetting about me!”

Any claim that I had never experienced that thought process would be a lie….

(5) ELEVATOR YOUR GAME. Joshua Palmatier is updating his “Elevator Pitch Project”. Click to see his list of links to the authors’ posts.

A few year ago, I ran a couple of projects designed to help writers with some of the basic essentials of trying to get a novel published, things like query letters and plot synopses. Since then, my blog had changed and those links to those bits of writerly advice from various published authors have been lost. So I thought I’d run another set of projects to refresh those links AND to bring in new thoughts from today’s authors. So for the next three days, I’ll be running three projects, one on elevator pitches, one on query letters, and one on plot synopses. This is the central hub for all of the posts on:

Elevator Pitches:

Here are some thoughts on how to write elevator pitches from various authors. Not everyone does this the same way, so I’d suggest reading through the posts, think about the advice, and then decide which approach works best for you. Maybe try a few of them to find out. This is the first time I’ve done a elevator pitch project, so all of these posts are new. Also, I’ll add to this list if more authors want to participate in the future, so check back every now and then and see if there’s a new post on the list. I hope some of you find these projects helpful!

(6) TOLKIEN. The Hobbit did not appear in German translation while the Nazis were in power. Newsweek revisits the 1936 correspondence that may explain why: “The Hobbit: How Tolkien Sunk a German Anti-Semitic Inquiry Into His Race”.

…New owner Albert Hachfeld fired all Jewish staff and dropped all Jewish writers. In the letter to Tolkien, his firm explained that before it could start work on a German version of The Hobbit, they had to ensure Tolkien’s “Aryan descent,” i.e., make sure he had no Jewish ancestry.

In a letter to his friend and publisher Stanley Unwin, Tolkien said the letter from Berlin was “a bit stiff.” He questioned whether “I suffer this impertinence because of the possession of a German name, or do their lunatic laws require a certificate of arisch [Aryan] origin from all persons of all countries?”

“I should be inclined to refuse to give any Bestätigung [confirmation] (although it happens that I can), and let a German translation go hang,” Tolkien added. “In any case I should object strongly to any such declaration appearing in print.”

Tolkien submitted two draft replies to the German. The first simply ignored the request. But the second demonstrates the author’s opinion on the Nazi state—and its misunderstanding of the word “Aryan”—in no uncertain terms. It reads as follows….

(7) SHEFFIELD HOSTS A WHO. “Doctor Who: Jodie Whittaker lands in Sheffield for red carpet premiere” covers a sneak preview at the site of the opening episode. A companion (get it?) post has a collection of as-it-happened coverage, with pictures: “Doctor Who premiere: How Sheffield red carpet happened”.

(8) BUMBLEBEE TRAILER. The new Transformers movie will be in theaters at Christmas.

On the run in the year 1987, Bumblebee finds refuge in a junkyard in a small Californian beach town. Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), on the cusp of turning 18 and trying to find her place in the world, discovers Bumblebee, battle-scarred and broken. When Charlie revives him, she quickly learns this is no ordinary, yellow VW bug.

 

(9) KURTZ OBIT. Here are some more acknowledgements of Gary Kurtz’ passing —

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born September 24, 1825 – Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Teacher, Writer, Poet, Journalist, and Activist. The only child of free African-American parents, she was a strong supporter of abolitionism, prohibition and woman’s suffrage, and was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, helping slaves escape to Canada. Her 1860 speculative fiction story “The Triumph of Freedom – A Dream” was anthologized in The Vintage Book of American Women Writers in 2011.
  • Born September 24, 1918 – Bernard J. ‘Jack’ Daley, Writer. I’m quoting his well written obit: “But a large part of his life revolved around writing and an enduring passion for science fiction, fantasy, horror stories and comics. His stories appeared in Infinity and Fantastic Universe, as well as a 1957 anthology of science fiction and fantasy tales. Fun-loving, witty and compassionate, Mr. Daley was among the earliest customers at Greg Eide’s comic store when it opened in Etna in 1972. In the pre-Internet era, “We were all finding each other. Jack would come in with his son, Chris,” said Mr. Eide, who hosted after-hours, monthly gatherings at his store on Saturday night where collectors traded and sold comics while appreciating the imagination of author Stan Lee and the artistry of illustrators like Frank Frazetta.”
  • Born September 24, 1930 – John “Jack” Gaughan, Artist and Illustrator, winner of several Hugo Awards for both Professional and Fan Artist. Working mostly with Donald A. Wollheim at Ace Books, and DAW Books from 1971 onwards, his style could be seen on Andre Norton’s Witch World novels and E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith’s Lensmen and Skylark novels. He was the house illustrator for Galaxy Magazine from ‘69 to ‘74 as well. In addition, you can find his work on the unauthorized first paperback edition of Lord of the Rings which Ace released in 1965.
  • Born September 24, 1934 – John Brunner, Writer, whose best novels I think were The Shockwave Rider, Stand on Zanzibar, and The Sheep Look Up. Stand on Zanzibar won the Hugo and BSFA Awards and was a Nebula finalist. The Jagged Orbit won a BSFA too. He wrote the screenplay for The Terrornauts. And it should be noted he was a Guest of Honor at the first European Science Fiction Convention, Eurocon-1, in 1972.
  • Born September 24, 1936 – Jim Henson, Actor and Puppeteer. After some early puppeteering work on variety shows, Henson became famous for developing puppet characters for Sesame Street. Frustrated at being typecast as a children’s entertainer, he created The Muppet Show, which was wildly popular and led to several spin-off movies. He created a foundation to promote the art of puppetry, and a company which went on to produce movies featuring his creatures, including the cult hits The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth. Sadly, he died suddenly at the far-too-early age of 53, but his company continues to mentor puppeteers and produce creatures for movies and TV shows.
  • Born September 24, 1939 – Janet Berliner, Writer and Editor. A South African author who emigrated to the U.S., she co-edited, with Martin H. Greenberg and Peter S. Beagle, the Locus Award-shortlisted Immortal Unicorn Anthology in 1995, an homage to Beagle’s Last Unicorn which includes stories by many well-known SFF authors. She was a past President of the Horror Writers Association, and her novel Children of the Dusk, co-written with GRRM-protégé George Guthridge, won the 1997 Stoker Award for Best Novel.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • At Candorville find out “Why Lemont Says We Must Build Oneill Cylinders Now.”

(12) SCIENCE WARRIORS. Amanda Marcotte on Salon interviews Neil deGrasse Tyson, whose new book, Accessory to War, discusses the relationship between science and the military throughout history — “Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ‘Accessory to War’: Where “space scientists and space warriors” collide”.

…In his new book, “Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military,” Tyson and his co-author Avis Lang look the darker side of astrophysics and astronomy — advances in the field have always gone hand in hand with the development of military technology meant to more efficiently kill people.

“The universe is both the ultimate frontier and the highest of high grounds,” Tyson and Lang write. “Shared by both space scientists and space warriors, it’s a laboratory for one and a battleground for the other.”

(13) A PATREON CALL. The “Worlds Without End Patreon Campaign” will help cover the site’s expenses.

What is Worlds Without End?
Worlds Without End is a website and online community built to help fans find, read, and share the best speculative fiction. WWEnd offers a forever free membership and is built around the biggest genre fiction awards and best books lists. It features an array of members-only tools that you can use to narrow your search for your next great read. As part of our community of like-minded fans, you’ll find plenty of reviews, commentary, and recommendations to keep you busy reading great books for years to come. We don’t want you to ever read a bad book again.

From the Patreon appeal:

Worlds Without End is now, and should always be, a free resource to the genre fiction community but real life circumstances have changed, and we are looking for a little help from our members and fans.  We recently lost our free web hosting arrangement with our former employer so we are now having to pay out of pocket for hosting, domain names, and all those other bits of software etc. that go along with running a website.  In addition, we have spent many hundreds of hours developing the site, and with the new WWEnd 3.0 in the pipeline, we are spending more and more of our free time on upgrades and new features.  All that time comes at a personal cost that is getting harder and harder to justify to ourselves and our families….

(14) MAKING LEMONADE. In a manner of speaking. BBC tells “How to use seawater to grow food — in the desert” – with solar energy for power, there are swamp coolers so the crops don’t fry.

“My basil’s a bit straggly,” head grower Blaise Jowett says, apologetically. “But I’m keeping them for pesto.”

He shouldn’t be too apologetic. Outside of the greenhouse, a camel grazes. Pale pink sand extends to the rocky mountains in the distance. Only the hardiest tufts of green thrust up through the ground. There is no water. There are no trees.

(15) UNWINDING THE ENIGMA. From the BBC: “Code-cracking WW2 Bombe operation recreated at Bletchley”.

Computer historians have staged a re-enactment of World War Two code-cracking at Bletchley Park.

A replica code-breaking computer called a Bombe was used to decipher a message scrambled by an Enigma machine.

Held at the National Museum of Computing (TNMOC), the event honoured Polish help with wartime code-cracking.

Ruth Bourne, a former wartime code-cracker who worked at Bletchley and used the original Bombes, oversaw the modern effort….

Chip Hitchcock adds the comment, “Unfortunately this was only one-time; I wonder if they could turn it into an attraction and sell tickets? cf the spy museum in DC, which was jammed when I visited a few years ago.”

(16) THE METRE IS RUNNING. Tech history, with landmarks: “How France created the metric system”. Most Filers probably know the fundamentals, but the present-day traces are interesting.

On the facade of the Ministry of Justice in Paris, just below a ground-floor window, is a marble shelf engraved with a horizontal line and the word ‘MÈTRE’. It is hardly noticeable in the grand Place Vendôme: in fact, out of all the tourists in the square, I was the only person to stop and consider it. But this shelf is one of the last remaining ‘mètre étalons’ (standard metre bars) that were placed all over the city more than 200 years ago in an attempt to introduce a new, universal system of measurement. And it is just one of many sites in Paris that point to the long and fascinating history of the metric system.

(17) POTENTIAL TWOFER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The American Astronautical Society’s 11th annual Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium will be 23–25 October 2018  at the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s Charger Union Theater in Huntsville AL. The event is cosponsored by UAH and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The landing page for the event describes it as:

“Galvanizing U.S. Leadership In Space”

The Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium is an annual event that features panel discussions and guest speakers reflecting government, industry, academia, business and international perspectives on space exploration.

Session and speaker topics at this year’s event will include:

  • Commercial Space Initiatives
  • Exploration Technologies
  • Exploration Partners Update
  • Future SLS Missions
  • Gateway Planning
  • ISS Commercialization
  • Lunar Surface Operations
  • National Security in Space
  • Space Policy Direction
  • State of the Workforce

By happenstance, you could come to Huntsville a few days early and meet local fans at Not-A-Con 2018, which is being held 19–20 October. Huntsville was the site for over 3 decades of Con*Stellation, the last one of which (XXXV) was held in 2017. But, the local club (NASFA) is still going strong and wants an excuse to socialize for more than just a few hours… thus Not-A-Con.

(18) ABOUT DOWNSIZING. NitPix says Alexander Payne’s first venture into sci-fi, Downsizing, can’t make up its mind what kind of movie it wants to be. The author of this review, however, has targeted his audience well –

….Everyone has a bit of curiosity about this film – not enough to actually go watch, it obviously….

 

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

Pixel Scroll 6/19/18 I Get No Glyphs From Sham Flames

(1) MEXICANX. The final four of 50 Mexicanx Initiative recipients have been announced by John Piciacio.

(2) DEEP DISH READING SERIES. Chicago’s Deep Dish SF/F reading series will resume at Volumes Book Cafe beginning in September. Here is the schedule:

September 6, 2018
November 8, 2018
March 7, 2019
May 9, 2019

Join us from 7 – 8:30 p.m. for a rapid-fire reading from the best of Chicago’s SF/F scene!

If you’re interested in reading with us, drop the SLF’s director, Mary Anne Mohanraj, a note — director@speclit.org, with the subject line READING SERIES. We welcome beginners, emerging, and established writers, though if you have a book coming out next year, do let us know, as we’ll try to schedule you for a featured slot.

Co-sponsored by the Speculative Literature Foundation (www.speclit.org), SFWA (www.sfwa.org), and the Chicago Nerds Social Club (www.chicagonerds.org).

(3) BUILDING THIS WORLD. Malka Older’s talk on “Speculative Resistance” at #PDF18 is available on YouTube. Think about worldbuilding as an activist tool and a planner tool.

(4) NEWS TO THEM. We should be celebrating when someone is one of today’s Lucky 10,000 — A. Merc Rustad encourages the idea in a Twitter thread that starts here.

(5) IT’S WAR. Manchester, UK theatergoers can enlist for War With The Newts, with the campaign to be staged October 2-6.

The creators of smash-hit “Bin Laden: The One Man Show” bring you Karel Capek’s apocalyptic science-fiction satire re-imagined for a Europe of tomorrow. Global risk and technological revolution come together in this immersive experience from Knaïve Theatre. Fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Witness the rise and fall of a new(t) capitalism. Deep in the bowels of an oyster-dredging vessel, an ocean of opportunity arises as a new resource makes contact. With live surround sound installation by sonic artist Robert Bentall.

At the discretion of The Company life jackets may be provided.

(6) CHECK THE BACK OF YOUR CLOSET. Yahoo! Finance advises “Your old video games could be worth serious cash”.

That’s right, those vintage consoles and games your mom dumped in the basement years ago could be worth some serious cash to the right buyer. Got a copy of “Nintendo World Championships 1990?” Then you’re looking at $100,000. But it’s not all about the cash. Many collectors are more interested in rounding out their personal game libraries, reliving the games they loved as children or simply exploring the history of the gaming industry first-hand.

(7) TIME TUNNELS. The New York Transit Museum’s exhibition “Underground Heroes: New York Transit in Comics” runs from June 21 through January 6, 2019.

New York’s rich visual vernacular is a colorful setting for illustrated stories, so it comes as no surprise that our iconic transportation system plays a starring role in comics and graphic novels. Drawing on satirical cartoons, comic strips and comic books from the 19th through the 21st centuries, Underground Heroes: New York Transit in Comics is a raucous ride through New York’s transit system from a range of visual storytellers. The exhibit includes such luminaries as Winsor McCay, Will Eisner, Bill Griffith, Roz Chast, Ronald Wimberly and Julia Wertz whose work demonstrates the influence that mass transit has on the stories that are irrevocably woven into the cultural fabric of New York City.

The Big Apple is often as important as the people (and creatures) in comics narratives, and the creators of these fantastic stories draw inspiration from the world around them. The transit system serves as the scene for heroic rescues, as secret lairs for supervillains, and as the site for epic battles of wills. Subways, railroads, streetcars, and buses can whisk heroes to far-flung corners of the city, or serve as a rogue’s gallery of unusual characters.

(8) SPACE FORCE. More Star Wars? “Trump Calls For ‘Space Force’ To Defend U.S. Interests Among The Stars” – NPR has the story.

President Trump Monday announced his intention to create a “space force” that would oversee the military’s activities off-world.

“When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space,” Trump said at a meeting of the National Space Council, which oversees the nation’s space policy. “We must have American dominance in space. So important.”

“I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. That’s a big statement,” the president continued.

Experts were quick to point out that President Trump cannot actually create a space force. A new branch of the military can only be established by an act of Congress — something that hasn’t happened since the Air Force was split from the Army in 1947.

The CBS News story “Trump directs Pentagon to create military Space Force” adds:

Mr. Trump provided no details and no timetable, but the establishment of a new branch of the military would be a major undertaking requiring extensive debate and congressional support.

The Pentagon’s chief spokesperson Dana W. White issued a statement suggesting the process will take some time.

“We understand the President’s guidance. Our Policy Board will begin working on this issue, which has implications for intelligence operations for the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy. Working with Congress, this will be a deliberate process with a great deal of input from multiple stakeholders.”

In a letter to lawmakers last year, Defense Secretary James Mattis “strongly” urged Congress to reconsider a proposal to establish a separate “Space Corps,” saying it was “premature” to set up a new organization “at a time I am trying to reduce overhead.”

(9) SPEAK OF THE DEVIL. “Amazon Echo comes to Marriott hotels” reports the BBC. The fannish possibilities are endless…

Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa will be installed in some US Marriott-owned hotels, following a partnership between the two firms.

Its functions will include ordering room service, housekeeping and providing concierge advice, the firm said.

The Wynn Resorts chain in Las Vegas installed the Amazon Echo in around 5,000 hotel suites in 2016.

Marriott is reported to have considered both Alexa and Apple’s Siri.

(10) HOMEBUILT. “The $300 system in the fight against illegal images” is a story reminiscent of Gernbackian inventor SF — but for a cause that old SF probably couldn’t have discussed in print.

A security researcher has built a system for detecting illegal images that costs less than $300 (£227) and uses less power than a lightbulb.

Christian Haschek, who lives in Austria, came up with the solution after he discovered an image showing child sex abuse had been uploaded on his image hosting platform Pictshare.

He called the police, who told him to print it out and bring it to them.

However it is illegal to possess images of child abuse, digitally or in print.

“Erm… not what I planned to do,” Mr Haschek said.

Instead he put together a homegrown solution for identifying and removing explicit images.

Mr Haschek used three Raspberry PIs, powering two Intel Movidius sticks, which can be trained to classify images. He also used an open source algorithm for identifying explicit material called NSFW (Not Safe For Work), available free of charge from Yahoo.

(11) REVEALED. “And just look at that gorgeous cover by Reiko Murakami,” says JJ. Click through for a view — “A Smugglerific Cover: THE NINETY-NINTH BRIDE by Catherine Faris King”.

About the Novel

“Sister, would you please tell me a story?”

Dunya is fifteen when her father, the Grand Vizier, gives her over to the mad Sultan for his bride. Ninety-eight Sultanas before Dunya have been executed, slaughtered at the break of dawn following their first night with their new husband. But on her own wedding night, the ninety-ninth bride finds help from the mysterious and beautiful Zahra, who proposes to tell the Sultan a story…

The Ninety-Ninth Bride is a story of sisters and magic, and a kingdom on the brink of disaster.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 19, 1964The Twilight Zone aired its series finale, “The Bewitchin’ Pool,” written by Earl Hamner.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 19 – Zoe Saldana, 40. Both Guardians Of The Galaxy films, the entire Avatar film series, Star Trek series, and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl to name but a few of her genre films.
  • Born June 19 – Aidan Turner, 35. The Hobbit film trilogy, the BBC Being Human series, and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones film.

(14) DAMMIT, JIM, I’M A DOCTOR NOT A TEAMSTER. Syfy Wire says these comics will take us where no truck has gone before: “A new IDW comic is mashing up Star Trek and Transformers in the most glorious way possible”.

DW Comics, which has taken the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise on adventures with everyone from Doctor Who to Dr. Zaius, will be releasing a crossover comic titled Star Trek vs. Transformers. The four-issue miniseries is due out in September and will be written by John Barber and Mike Johnson, both of whom have written numerous Star Trek and Transformers comic book storylines.

…Artist Philip Murphy and colorist Leonardo Ito will be providing its distinct look, which will blend the unique aesthetic of 1973’s Star Trek: The Animated Series with 1984’s classic Transformers cartoon.

(15) WOMEN WRITERS OF THE SEVENTIES. James Davis Nicoll’s Tor.com series continues with the letter P: “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1970s, Part VIII”.

Katherine Paterson’s list of awards includes the Newbery, the National Book Award, the Hans Christian Andersen Award, and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, among others. Her well-known novel Bridge to Terabithia, which helped inspire the Death by Newbery trope, is if not genre, then at least genre-adjacent. Bridge is strongly recommended to parents of children unduly burdened with excessive levels of joie de vivre.

(16) THE COMPETITION. Meg Elison reports Jason Sanford is kicking File 770’s ass. Well, it certainly makes more sense to send Sanford a buck for news that isn’t reported here than to reward Locus Online for posting news they found reading here.

(17) SPEAK, MEMORY. Wired says we have this to look forward to: “Now the Computer Can Argue With You”. The coming rise of our AI overlords now includes machine intelligence engaging in live formal debate with human debate champions… and maybe winning.

“Fighting technology means fighting human ingenuity,” an IBM software program admonished Israeli debating champion Dan Zafrir in San Francisco Monday. The program, dubbed Project Debater, and Zafrir, were debating the value of telemedicine, but the point could also apply to the future of the technology itself.

Software that processes speech and language has improved enough to do more than tell you the weather forecast. You may not be ready for machines capable of conversation or arguing, but tech companies are working to find uses for them. IBM’s demo of Project Debater comes a month after Google released audio of a bot called Duplex booking restaurants and haircuts over the phone.

IBM’s stunt Monday was a sequel of sorts to the triumph of its Watson computer over Jeopardy! champions in 2011. Project Debater, in the works for six years, took on two Israeli student debating champions, Zafrir and Noa Ovadia. In back-to-back bouts each lasting 20 minutes, the software first argued that governments should subsidize space exploration, then that telemedicine should be used more widely.

(18) QUICK SIPS. Charles Payseur gets to work on new releases in “Quick Sips – Uncanny #22 [June stuff]”.

Uncanny meets June with three stories and two poems and a decidedly dark tone. In these pieces people struggle with big issues. With systems and environments that are broken, that are hungry for blood. Where monsters and demons lurk. And they are settings where the characters are expected to accept their victimization, where if they struggle it will only hurt them more. Only, of course, these characters don’t accept that. Instead, they push back against these environments and when they meet someone who might have the power to change things, they seek to use that power. To convince it or take it in order to remake the world. Or to right a wrong situation. The stories are often violent, and uncomfortable, but they also shine with resilience and with care, and with the hope that things can get better. To the reviews!

(21) BOYCOTTING WENDIG. This protest has been just as effective as the Tor Boycott, wouldn’t you say? Chuck Wendig’s Twitter thread starts here.

(22) ENTRY LEVEL SUPERHERO. The Washington Post’s Sandie Angulo Chen interviews Huck Milner, who plays Dash Parr in The Incredibles 2: “‘Incredibles 2’ is a super first acting job for 10-year-old”.

Luckily for Huck, the filmmakers decided to replace the original voice actor, who is now in his 20s, with a more authentic-sounding 10-year-old’s voice. Back in fourth grade, Huck did the first audition, got a call for a meeting with the director, Brad Bird, and then received news so good, he thought it was a prank.

“I got the call that I had gotten the part, and I thought it was an April Fool’s joke, because my mom told me right around April Fool’s,” Huck recalled. “I really thought it was a joke.”

(23) EXPANDING UNIVERSE. Jennifer Maas, in “Alex Kurtzman Signs New Five-Year CBS-TV Overall Deal, WIll Expand Star Trek TV Universe” for The Wrap, says that Kurtzman has been named showrunner for Star Trek :Discovery and has his five-year pact to produce “new series, mini-series, and other content opportunities” related to Star Trek.

Under the agreement, CBS will have exclusive rights to produce all television content created and developed by Kurtzman’s new company, Secret Hideout, which is producing “Discovery.”

Kurtzman’s new deal comes after he split with his longtime producing partner Roberto Orci and their K/O Paper Products banner. Heather Kadin, formerly of K/O, will join Secret Hideout as president of television. Kadin previously worked at Warner Bros. and ABC, where she was instrumental in the development and production of such hit series as “Lost,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “Alias.”

(24) CAPTAIN SIR PAT. Rumors say that Star Trek, under Kurtzman, might venture someplace man has gone before:

The Hollywood Reporter claimed on Tuesday (June 19) that Sir Patrick Stewart is attached to a brand new Star Trek series in development at CBS that will see him reprise his Next Generation role as Picard.

The project is reportedly one of several Star Trek series and miniseries that are being developed by Star Trek: Discovery showrunner Alex Kurtzman as part of his newly-signed multi-year production pact with CBS.

THR notes that the Picard series is in very early development, and might not happen at all, so it’s probably best that fans of The Next Generation don’t get their hopes up for a return of the Holodeck quite yet.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/25/18 Why Is A Pixel Like A Writing Desk?

(1) HUGO AUTOPSY. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett, in “They’d Rather Be Right”, promises to explain how in 1955 They’d Rather Be Right, the least popular winner of the Hugo Award for novel ever, managed this surprising feat.

…First though I’d like to point out that while I’ll make what I think are some interesting points, these can only be considered tentative without any input from the fans who voted in 1955. Unfortunately asking those fans is a tad difficult given most of them are no longer alive enough for the likes of me to bother them. What I did instead was the next best thing and examined the historical record. In other words I went and looked through all the fanzines I have in my collection to see what was being written about They’d Rather Be Right back in the 50s.

Unfortunately my collection is not nearly so complete that I can describe the results of this search as being definitive but I do like to think that what I did discover carries some weight. For starters I was only able to find two references to They’d Rather Be Right but interestingly they’re both at odds with the more recent opinions. In Fantasy-Times #214 (January 1955) Thomas Gardener in his annual review of print science fiction describes They’d Rather Be Right as the best novel of 1954 and in Etherline #45 (1955), ‘So far, it’s excellent!’ is the opinion of Tony Santos in regards to the first instalment of the serial in Astounding. Now two positive comments isn’t a lot to go on but it still suggests the novel had a few fans back when it was first published….

(2) RPG. Standback says that this post is “Ostensibly for roleplayers, but it also just picks out awesome tropes from our Beloved Wombat’s works, and I suspect non-roleplayers will enjoy it as well” — “Stealing from T. Kingfisher” at The Overprepared GM.

…Kingfisher has written a set of fantasy short stories whose magic and world-building is rooted somewhere in the deserts of the American Southwest rather than the standard Tolkien/Medieval European fantasy tradition.  You want to start by reading Jackalope Wives and then The Tomato Thief (they’re free online, and short stories, so you have no excuse not to click and start reading).

If you’re a world builder, you can read read them just to get insights on how to communicate an original, immersive sense of place without info dumps.  Keep in mind, these are short stories/novelettes, not epics.  Kingfisher does some serious world building in a very tight format.  I think they’re both Hugo winners.

(3) AVENGERS. “‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Raises The Stakes To Infinity — And Beyond” by NPR’s Glen Weldon contains FAQ-like mini-reviews tailored for many different audiences.

Avengers: Infinity War is — and truly feels like — the culmination of something.

Over the course of many years and many more Marvel Universe films — including some that proved to be hugely successful (Guardians of the Galaxy) and some that proved to be Thor: The Dark World — the proprietors of that universe have been nesting glowy magical gemstones inside their heroes’ stories. We nerdlings familiar with the 1991 Marvel Comics mini-series Infinity Gauntlet (written by Jim Starlin with art by George Perez and Ron Lim) have been waiting patiently for a certain big bald Marvel villain to come along and collect/hoard those sparklies like some kind of purple, cosmically powered space-tyrant/magpie.

Thanos is here at last — an alchemical blend made up of state-of-the-art CGI, an oddly wistful performance from actor Josh Brolin, and Violet Beauregarde’s post-gum skin tone — and he’s fixin’ to cause Trouble. With a capital T, and that rhymes with C, and that stands for cosmic genocide….

The BBC’s overview of critics’ reactions: “Avengers: Infinity War earns five-star reviews”.

Attendees at screenings held in central London on Wednesday were exhorted not to reveal details of the film’s plot that are not already in the public domain.

“Don’t spoil it for others, the same way you wouldn’t want it spoiled for you,” read a message written by the film’s sibling directors, Anthony and Joe Russo.

Critics are largely adhering to this request, though the Daily Mirror‘s Chris Hunneysett gives away a few key details we won’t share here.

“Fans will be dumbfounded by the direction the movie takes the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” he writes in his five-star review.

(4) THE JOKING LAMP IS LIT. That unexpected direction Hunneysett hints at probably won’t be this one: “Jimmy Kimmel Reimagines ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ as a Marvel Rom-Com (Video)”.

During Tuesday’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” the late-night host shared an (obviously fake) promo for the film, which focused less on the punches the Avengers will throw to stop Thanos and more on the sparks that will fly… romantically.

 

(5) LISTEN UP. The SFWA Blog has the whole rundown on a new “Humble Bundle: Classic Sci Fi & Fantasy & Audiobooks”. See the book list at the link.

Check out Humble Bundle’s new bundle of goodness: “Classic Sci Fi & Fantasy & Audiobooks.”  A portion of the proceeds goes to SFWA, which helps it in its mission to inform, support, promote, and defend writers.

The bundle runs from Wednesday, April 25th, 11:00am Pacific to Wednesday, May 9th, 11:00am Pacific.

A GREAT DEAL FOR A GREAT CAUSE

UP  TO $318 WORTH OF DIGITAL BOOKS

“PAY WHAT YOU WANT”

DRM-FREE

MULTI-FORMAT

(6) BOMBS AWAY. Charles Payseur takes a Quick Sip of something a bit stronger than usual in “LIVER BEWARE! You’re in for a Drunk Review of Goosebumps #3: MONSTER BLOOD”.

…(this post originally appeared on my Patreon. For those unaware, the series finds me drunkenly reading and reviewing the children’s book series, Goosebumps. To date, I’m far enough ahead in the series that I’m making all of the older reviews freely available on Quick Sip Reviews. I hope you enjoy!)

Welcome to the third installment of drunken Goosebumps reviews! And check out that new graphic! Thanks to everyone who voted! I’m rather partial to Scaredy-Liver at the Hip Bar myself, so was quite chuffed to see that other people seemed to like that one, too. I’m also quite chuffed that we’ve arrived at #3 in the Goosebumps series, Monster Blood! This was actually what I would tell everyone was my favorite Goosebumps when I was little. Why? Because the cover is blue and green. Seriously, I was a weird kid, because I obviously forgot about 90% of this one before picking it up again. The result? MADNESS! You thought the first two books in the series were weird. Are you ready for a magical, sentient, child-endangering (evil) cat? Or a bullying B plot that culminates in endless nightmares and probably endless counseling? Good, because HERE WE GO!
Oh, I should mention that today’s review comes courtesy of Rampant Imperial IPA from New Belgium Brewing, because why settle for regular IPAs when you can get drunk TWICE AS FAST!

(7) OBERST INTERVIEW. At Without Your Head, Bill Oberst, Jr. returns to talk about At Granny’s House, Ray Bradbury Live (Forever) and Rob Zombie’s 3 From Hell.

(8) JAPANESE WEIRD SF. “Sisyphean: An Interview with Weird Scifi Author Dempow Torishima” at Weird Fiction Review.

 

WFR: What kinds of fiction or stories did you read and watch growing up?

Dempow Torishima: As a child, I liked stories with illustrations, like Doctor Doolittle, René Guillot’s Un petit chien va dans la lune, works by Edogawa Rampo, and so on (I was enthralled by the things that rose up between the words and the pictures), and I think that is also related to my present style of writing.

In my teenage years, I got really into strange, unique works of Japanese fiction, such as Kyusaku Yumeno’s Dogra Magra, Mushitaro Oguri’s Murder at Black Death Mansion, Shozo Numa’s Yapoo: the Human Cattle. In particular, I was strongly influenced by the word-plays, images of body modification, and so on in Yapoo: the Human Cattle.

After that, I started reading a variety of novels from a variety of countries (regardless of genre), and as you might expect, I really liked the ones with strong conceits and high levels of the absurd. These days, I like Can Xue, Patrick Chamoiseau, and Seth Fried. I’m also drawn to authors like Yoko Tawada and Yuko Yamao, who are very particular about the words they use. In William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Hisashi Kuroma’s translation style shocked me with its copious use of kanji neologisms and ruby text.

(In Japanese books, ruby text?—?tiny phonetic characters printed next to kanji characters?—?is sometimes used to indicate the pronunciations of difficult kanji. I use it to create wordplays, double-meanings, and so on. Still, from the time I was first published, I’ve been told those effects are impossible to replicate in English. )

(9) SUPPORT INDIE. Power off your phone, shut down your laptop, shop for something in print: Saturday is Independent Bookstore Day.

What is Independent Bookstore Day?

Independent Bookstore Day is a one-day national party that takes place at indie bookstores across the country on the last Saturday in April.  Every store is unique and independent, and every party is different. But in addition to authors, live music, cupcakes, scavenger hunts, kids events, art tables, readings, barbecues, contests, and other fun stuff, there are exclusive books and literary items that you can only get on that day. Not before. Not after. Not online.

To see past exclusives, check out our archives.

Why are we celebrating independent bookstores?

Independent bookstores are not just stores, they’re community centers and local anchors run by passionate readers. They are entire universes of ideas that contain the possibility of real serendipity. They are lively performance spaces and quiet places where aimless perusal is a day well spent.

In a world of tweets and algorithms and pageless digital downloads, bookstores are not a dying anachronism.  They are living, breathing organisms that continue to grow and expand. In fact, there are more of them this year than there were last year. And they are at your service.

Bookstores: find out how you can participate!

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock says we don’t have this technology: Rhymes With Orange.
  • Then, John King Tarpinian enjoyed two kaiju sharing a moment in Off The Mark.

(11) SCALZI’S BOOK TOUR ATTRACTS PEST. Jon Del Arroz encouraged one of his stooges to behave like an ass at John Scalzi’s New York book signing.

Scalzi tweeted:

JDA, always excited when anybody pays him attention, had a pleonasm. He crowed about his role in the incident in “You’ll Be Shocked At How John Scalzi Treats His Fans” [Internet Archive link]

A couple of weeks ago, a fan DMed me on Twitter. He told me he was going to Scalzi’s signing and he wanted me to do something. He asked me to sign one of Scalzi’s books, and he would bring my book to the signing, show him me signing his book, and have Scalzi sign one of my books. I thought this was all in good fun, so I agreed. Here’s what I sent to my fan:

The stooge’s wingman skulked on the perimeter making a shaky video of the meeting.

(12) BACK IN TIME WITH GRRM. Tor.com announces “New George R. R. Martin Book Fire & Blood Arrives November 20th”.

George R. R. Martin’s latest tale of Westeros, Fire and Blood, will be released on November 20, 2018, and is available for pre-order nowFire and Blood: 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones (A Targaryen History) will look back at some of the history that led to the events of A Song of Ice and Fire, focusing on the intrigue and tragedy of the Targaryen family. The book is a continuation of a much shorter piece in 2014’s illustrated in-world history The World of Ice & Fire, that was written by Martin and collaborators Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson.

F&B promises the “full tapestry” of the Targaryen’s history, and includes the origin of the three dragon eggs that changed the course Daenerys’ life.

(13) FAN CON JOURNALISM. Lots more information on Universal Fan Con — timeline, names, interviews with guests, volunteers and fans, etc. – from Women Write About Comics: “Universal Fan Con: Peeling Back the Layers”. Here are a few excerpts:

Tom Leonard was listed on Universal Fan Con’s website as Vice President of Marketing and Sales. His website claims he has over either eighteen or twenty years of experience in online marketing.

In our investigations of Leonard, we discovered something odd about his Twitter presence. We found multiple “Tom Leonards” on Twitter, each either sharing the same photo shown on the Universal Fan Con website, or a different picture of the same man but bearded, advertising different brands. We combed through all the Twitter profiles threads, and we eventually concluded that VP of Marketing and Sales Tom Leonard might be a bot account that brands can hire, and not actually a real person at all.

… Guests like author Roxane Gay — whose appearance at the Universal Fan Con was announced April 18, 2018, just two days before the cancellation of the con — spoke out online. Gay tweeted out “This statement is bewildering. I cannot believe you would put this up. To tell people who have bought non refundable tickets that the organizers did too… is flippant, at best. And to offer no refunds… wow.”

… After all this research, it’s still not clear where the money was spent. The organizers have not responded to requests for comment. During this investigation, we have spoken to lots of people involved in the con on and off the record, yet no one seems to know where the $56,000 from the Kickstarter went, or where the personal money that Butler claimed was spent went.  Though we attempted to contact the convention center they weren’t accepting calls or questions, which has lead to a guessing game online with people stating numbers from 25,000 to one million as the price of the center, whilst the organizers stay silent.

(14) AUSTRALIAN MILITARY HISTORY. Found on Twitter with an assist from Nicholas Whyte. Jump on the thread here —

(15) OUT FOR LUNCH. In contrast, ancient hunters somehow overcame nature without machine guns. Reuters Science News headline: “Giant sloth vs. ancient man: fossil footprints track prehistoric hunt”.

Scientists have uncovered evidence of ancient humans engaged in a deadly face-off with a giant sloth, showing for the first time how our ancestors might have tackled such a formidable prey.

Standing over 2 meters tall, with forelegs tipped with claws, giant sloths lived until around 11,000 years ago. Most scientists believe over-hunting by humans eventually led to their extinction.
Fossilised footprints in the salt flats of White Sands National Monument, in the southwestern U.S. state of New Mexico, reveal humans walking in the exact footsteps of a giant sloth and then confronting it, possibly hurling spears.
“The story that we can read from the tracks is that the humans were stalking; following in the footsteps, precisely in the footsteps of the sloth,” said Matthew Bennett, one of a team of scientists behind the discovery.

“While it was being distracted and turning, somebody else would come across and try and deliver the killer blow. It’s an interesting story and it’s all written in the footprints,” said Bennett, a professor of environmental and geographical sciences at Bournemouth University in southern England.

(16) YOU ARE HERE. “Scientists Unveil Precise Map Of More Than A Billion Stars”: NPR has the story.

Wednesday was the day astronomers said goodbye to the old Milky Way they had known and loved and hello to a new view of our home galaxy.

A European Space Agency mission called Gaia just released a long-awaited treasure trove of data: precise measurements of 1.7 billion stars.

It’s unprecedented for scientists to know the exact brightness, distances, motions and colors of more than a billion stars. The information will yield the best three-dimensional map of our galaxy ever.

Here’s the 360-degree video:

(17) LOCK-UN. Notice to [fannish] travelers: “Hotel door locks worldwide were vulnerable to hack”.

Millions of electronic door locks fitted to hotel rooms worldwide have been found to be vulnerable to a hack.

Researchers say flaws they found in the equipment’s software meant they could create “master keys” that opened the rooms without leaving an activity log.

The F-Secure team said it had worked with the locks’ maker over the past year to create a fix.

But the Swedish manufacturer is playing down the risk to those hotels that have yet to install an update.

“Vision Software is a 20-year-old product, which has been compromised after 12 years and thousands of hours of intensive work by two employees at F-Secure,” said a spokeswoman for the company, Assa Abloy.

“These old locks represent only a small fraction [of the those in use] and are being rapidly replaced with new technology.”

She added that hotels had begun deploying the fix two months ago.

(18) TRANSFORMERS. Geek Tyrant introduces the Transformers: Power of the Primes trailer:

This trailer provides a first look at some of the impressive voice-talent who are making their debut in the series including Ron Perlman as Optimus Primal, WWE Superstar Samoa Joe as Predaking, Mikey Way from the rock band My Chemical Romance as Snarl, Jaime King (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) as Solus Prime, and Gregg Berger, the original voice of Grimlock, returns to the role! They join returning cast members Mark Hamill, who made his debut as Megatronus in the finale of the second chapter of the trilogy, Transformers: Titans Return, Judd Nelson, who is voicing a character new to the trilogy, Rodimus Cron, Wil Wheaton as Perceptor, DashieGames as Menasor, MatPat as Swoop, and Rob Dyke as Devastator.

 

(19) EARLY WARNING. The arms race continues: “Canada developing quantum radar to detect stealth aircraft”.

Canada has invested $2.7m (£1.93m) into developing quantum radar – a new technology that would greatly improve the detection of stealth aircraft.

The technology is being developed by the University of Waterloo to replace existing Arctic radar stations.

Quantum radar can theoretically detect objects with a greater level of accuracy than conventional radar.

It makes use of quantum illumination – the process of isolating pairs of entangled photons.

So far, the technology has been tested only in laboratories.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Kut” is a short film by Czech animator Lucija Mrjzlak on Vimeo which plays with space and time.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/25/17 One Click, My Bonny Pixel, I’m After A Scroll Tonight

(1) MORE, PLEASE. Here’s a provocative (in a good way) question:

(2) NOMINEE REVIEWING. Marco Zennaro is making progress in his Hugo reading, adding reviews as he goes along. Here’s the latest addition to “The Hugo Awards 2017 Finalists: Best Novels”.

Death’s End by Cixin Liu Death’s End is the conclusion of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy by world acclaimed author Liu Cixin. The first installment of the series won the prestigious Hugo Award for best novel.

I finished reading the story a couple of days ago, but it is still stuck in my head. More I think about it, more I come to realize how adroitly woven it is. All the elements, themes, concepts from the three books fit together perfectly at the end, giving birth to a logically self-consistent, scientifically sound (and deeply terrifying) cosmology.

I also like how this third book manages to color what would have been an otherwise plot-driven hard sci-fi book, with very human, emotional, moments. Cheng Xin ethical struggles, and Yun Tianming love are some of the best elements of the story.

The story begins during the fall of Constantinople, and then moves backs to the event of the previous novels: after the Doomsday Battle, the uneasy balance of Dark Forest Deterrence keeps the Trisolaran invaders at bay. Earth enjoys unprecedented prosperity due to the infusion of Trisolaran knowledge. With human science advancing daily and the Trisolarans adopting Earth culture, it seems that the two civilizations will soon be able to coexist peacefully as equals without the terrible threat of mutually assured annihilation. But the peace has also made humanity complacent…

Hugo worthy? Yes! It was one of the books I nominated.

Was it part of a slate? No

Zennaro has also written about the nominated Novellas, Novelettes, and Short Stories.

(3) COMPELLED. In a review for Strange Horizons, Alexandra Pierce works hard to explain the complex world of Jo Walton’s novel Necessity.

On the philosophical side, the interactions of Apollo and Hermes demonstrate how gods are themselves constrained by higher powers: both by Zeus, father of all the gods, and Necessity. As the title suggests, the compulsion of Necessity is an important aspect of the novel. It’s a force that not even gods can avoid, and it can even be used to avoid the potentially damaging aspects of time travel, of getting stuck in difficult situations: if Necessity says you must do something later in your timeline, you can’t be stuck somewhere else. Complementing this is a strong focus on the free choices of humans to undertake either stupid or worthy actions, in politics and personal relationships and everything else—and the contention that this is a noble part of the human condition.

(4) BRONZE PLATE SPECIAL. The other day I Scrolled about the “Dendra panoply, the oldest body Armour from the Mycenaean era” – never suspecting my friend, archeologist Louise Hitchcock, has personally worn a replica.

After you’ve looked at the picture, check out Minoan Architecture and Urbanism: New Perspectives on an Ancient Built Environment edited by Quentin Letesson and Carl Knappett, which includes the co-authored article “Lost in Translation: Settlement Organization in Postpalatial Crete – A View from the East” by Louise A. Hitchcock and Aren M. Maier. The book is available for pre-order, with a release date of September 23.

(5) IMMORTAL CATS. No one can forget them once she’s told their story — “Mog author Judith Kerr, 94, to publish new book Katinka’s Tail”.

Almost 50 years after the appearance of one of the most famous felines in children’s books, Mog creator Judith Kerr is to publish a book inspired by her latest pet cat, Katinka. The much-loved author and illustrator, who celebrated her 94th birthday last week, is to publish Katinka’s Tail in the autumn.

The story of a “perfectly ordinary cat with a not-so-ordinary tail” was inspired by Kerr’s observations of her cat, the ninth in an inspirational line. “She is a ridiculous-looking white cat with a tabby tail that looks as though it belonged to somebody else,” she said. It was watching the “bizarre” behaviour of her first family pet, Mog – which included licking her sleeping daughter’s hair – that inspired the eponymous stories beloved by generations of children.

(6) BIGGER ON THE OUTSIDE. The Last Knight, an unimpressive number one at U.S. box offices this weekend, did better overseas — “No. 1 ‘Transformers’ hits new low with $69-million domestic debut, but is saved by global box office “.

“Transformers: The Last Knight,” the fifth installment in the blockbuster franchise from Michael Bay, may have topped the weekend, but all the robot-smashing has gotten a bit rusty at the box office.

The Paramount film, which opened Wednesday, took in $45 million in the U.S. and Canada over the weekend, placing it in the No. 1 spot ahead of returning titles “Cars 3” and “Wonder Woman.” When factored into its five-day debut, “The Last Knight” grossed a franchise low of $69 million.

….The latest installment, which stars Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Hopkins and features a new mythology involving King Arthur and Stonehenge, cost $217 million to make. And however squeaky “The Last Knight’s” debut may have been domestically, the film took in an Optimus Prime-sized number overseas. It earned $196 million from its first 40 markets — with $123 million of that haul coming from China.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

“I’m Batman.”

Anyway, he was – Olan Soule (1909-1994).

Soule’s voice work on television included his 15-year role (1968-1983) as Batman on several animated series that were either devoted to or involved the fictional “Dark Knight” superhero

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 25, 1953 Robot Monster began stalking movie theatres.
  • June 25, 1982 The Omen arrives to terrify movie audiences.
  • June 25, 1982 Blade Runner was shown on some theater screens.
  • June 25, 1982 – Meanwhile, other screens played John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY DYSTOPIAN

(10) LINE DIRECTOR. While being interviewed about his new assignment directing the Han Solo movie, Ron Howard reminisced that right after he and his wife saw Star Wars they loved it so much they got right back in line and waited to see it again.

As news of the 1977 film Star Wars began to unfold, Howard said he became “so curious.” He and his wife went to see it on the first day of release and were “so moved by the movie. It was all the things you dream you’re going to experience in the movies.”

Although they had stood in line for two hours to see it, when Howard and Cheryl came out, they threw each other a look and decided to see it again immediately — standing in line for another 90 minutes.

Which made me wonder — how did Ron Howard not see this movie at a free pre-release screening? After all, I did — along with many other LASFSians.

(11) WHY IT HAPPENED. Carl Slaughter recommends, “For those in shock or scratching their heads over the Han Solo project shakeup, Mr. Sunday Movie offers an explanation that seems to make sense.”

(12) EQUIVALENCIES. Jesse Hudson makes clear there are some usages of alternate history that have worn on him, in his “Review of Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore” at Speculiction.

Its Jonbar point the American Civil War, Bring the Jubilee looks into the idea ‘what if the South won’?  The story of Hodge Backmaker, son of a poor farmer in what’s left of the United States of America (essentially the Union), the young man breaks free of his rural home at an early age and heads to New York City—an impoverished metro compared to the grand, lavish cities of the Confederate States of America.  Getting lucky and finding work with a book printer, Hodge spends the next few years of his life learning the trade.  And he learns much more.  The book printer’s essentially a front, namely that of printing propaganda and counterfeiting money, Hodge learns of ongoing secret operations to build a Grand Army and restore the United States to its former glory.

While many readers might expect such an early effort of alternate history to go the black and white route of vilifying the South by portraying them as tyrannical victors while glorifying the North as honorable victims, instead, the South is not portrayed as a slave-loving region which stamps the poor further into the ground, rather simply an economically and politically aggressive government bent on empire.  In other words, Moore spins the tables… to look something like the North.  This is all a convoluted manner of saying Bring the Jubilee is more interested in finding common ground between reality and the alternate reality, than it is putting the 8 millionth nail in the coffin of ‘slavery is bad’.

(13) EUROCON REPORT. Alqua shares the many highlights of “Eurocon 2017 (U-con) in Dortmund” at Fandom Rover.

The evening concert on Friday was called A night to remember. I was a little bit sceptical if it would be really a night I will remember for long, but I was wrong. There were few artists presenting their pieces. We were able to hear people playing guitar and theremin, reciting poetry or “interpreting alien poetry”. But the best pieces of this evening were songs played by Dimitra Fleissner on her harp and the ATS show by Gata. Music and dance were quite different but they both left me astonished and I will be looking forward for another possibility to see one of these artists performing.

(14) DISSENTING VOICE. Brad R. Torgersen deems “cultural appropriation” of no concern in his Mad Genius Club post titled: “If you’re not appropriating culture, you’re not paying attention”.

Clearly, nobody owns culture. So why do we worry about appropriating it?

(Cough, when I say “we,” I mean American progressives and Social Justice Zealots who clearly have too much time on their hands, cough.)

My take: If you’re a science fiction or fantasy writer, you have more to say on this topic than anyone. Because you’re extrapolating futures, presents, and pasts. Alternative histories. Possible horizons. The “What if?” that makes SF/F so much fun in the first place. There are no rules which you aren’t automatically authorized to break. The entire cosmos is your paint box. Nobody can tell you you’re doing it wrong.

Are we really going to be dumb enough to pretend that SF/F authors of demographics X, Y, or Z, cannot postulate “What if?” for demographics A, B, and C?

We’re not even talking about homework — which is a good idea, simply because some of your best syntheses will occur when you take Chocolate Culture and Peanut Butter Culture — kitbash them together — and come up with the inhabitants of a frontier planet for your thousand-year-future interstellar empire.

We’re talking about authors voluntarily yoking their creative spirits to somebody else’s pet political and cultural hobbyhorses. A game of rhetorical, “Mother, may I?”

(15) WEIRD TECH. Labeling produce with lasers instead of paper: “M&S says labelling avocados with lasers is more sustainable”.

M&S will sell avocados bearing what look like pale tattoos, showing a best-before date and origin.

Peeling away the traditional labelling will save 10 tonnes of paper and five tonnes of glue a year, says M&S.

More of its fruit and vegetables may be laser-branded in future, the retailer says.

“The laser just takes off one layer of skin and instead of inking it or burning it, the skin retracts and leaves a mark,” says Charlie Curtis, senior produce agronomist at Marks and Spencer.

“What we’re putting onto the fruit is country of origin, best before date and there’s a short code so you can put it through quickly at the [checkout] till.”

(16) JUST WEIRD. The new Canadian Toonie glows in the dark.

Canadians may now have a slight advantage when it comes to digging for lost change in sofa cushions and car seats; the Royal Canadian Mint has unveiled what it described as the world’s first glow-in-the-dark coin in circulation.

The specially designed two-dollar coin, or toonie, as it’s known in Canada, features two people paddling in a canoe as the northern lights – vivid in green and blue – dance high above them. When the coin is put in the dark, the aurora borealis glows softly, thanks to a new ink formulation that contains luminescent material.

The coin, part of a collection created to mark the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation, also ranks as the world’s first coloured bimetallic coin, said a mint spokesperson. “Only the core of the $2 coin is coloured and the glow effect makes the aurora borealis part of the design look lifelike,” said Alex Reeves.

(17) UNABOMBER INVESTIGATION. Polygon’s article “The FBI kept a list of D&D players as part of its hunt for the Unabomber”.

It appears that in 1995 the FBI made a sincere effort to investigate a group of D&D players. It suspected them of having a connection with the Unabomber, a terrorist named Theodore Kaczynski who spent the better part of two decades mailing people explosives.

Step one was to dig back into the past of TSR and the role-playing hobby as a whole. In so doing, the FBI put together a pretty decent three-page history, if I do say so myself. It also came up with a list of armed and dangerous individuals who were “known members of the Dungeons & Dragons” that it pulled from TSR’s own computer system.

David Klaus sent the link along with his comments:

The fishing expedition into TSR as a cocaine front would appear to be sparked by cultural bigotry.  Unable to find real crime, to justify his existence, local FBI agent investigates legitimate business run by “weirdos” playing a game Pat Robertson says is Satanic.  (This would be in keeping with the Secret Service act of stupidity against Steve Jackson Games at about the same time.) Again, having no evidence of crime, just prejudiced opinion, the personal histories of all corporate officers are gathered, civil rights being violated, the company computers are invaded and lists of game purchasers are kept on file. And that Gary Gygax!  He answers his mail!  He ‘s a Libertarian Party member!  He had a difficult divorce!  He’s eccentric!  Somebody whose credibility can’t be judged says he’s “frightening”! His business makes money!  He spends his own money as he pleases!  The file included allegations he breaks drug and gun laws.  (If there were evidence, why didn’t they make an arrest?  Perhaps because there wasn’t?) We’re incompetent to find the Unabomber, and this guy uses a computer.  It might be him, yeah, that’s the ticket! Let’s drop some hints among his friends and watch them get paranoid about each other!  Since we couldn’t find evidence, let’s see if one of them will manufacture some out of fear!  Scare ’em enough, and they’ll say anything. These Flatfeet Keystone Cops are supposed to protect us from foreign terrorism.  Right.

(19) THE WAKING LAND. Strange Horizons reviewer Mark Granger finds much to like in The Waking Land by Callie Bates.

Callie Bates’s strength lies in how quickly and succinctly she lays down the plot without making it complicated, a great feat when you consider the story is told in the first person; Elanna’s view point restricts us to what she is seeing and hearing, but never distracts from the bigger picture—and Bates manages to cleverly insert plot points along the way without them appearing to be shoe-horned in. I was immediately sympathetic to Elanna’s plight, her confused and conflicted state: the fact that everything she has been taught—from history to basic morals—is falling down around her makes her someone you want to side with. In a lesser writer’s hands Elanna’s character could have easily become whiny, but Bates makes her a strong, opinionated woman, yet one who is forced to have her mind opened to something beyond herself.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, David K.M. Klaus, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Paul Weimer, Chip Hitchcock, and Louise Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Stoic Cynic.]

Pixel Scroll 6/21/17 Pay No Attention To That Scroll Behind The Pixel

Commence appertainment in 5..4…3…2…

(1) BOMBS AWAY. Contrasting Giles Coren’s first novel experience with his own career, Ben Jeapes explains “Why everyone should be a science fiction fan” at Milford SF Writers.

…Ten years later he felt brave enough to make a documentary about it. Links have changed since I first saw it, but search “Giles Coren my failed novel” and you’ll find it. It’s really quite touching as you see the penny begin to drop. He speaks to the reviewers who had slated it. He listens in on a book club tearing it apart. He takes the first chapters to a creative writing course workshop. He tries rereading it himself and finds it unbearable. (He can’t get through the Bad Sex Award-winning passage without breaking down into laughter.) He listenes in awe to the likes of David Mitchell and Jeffrey Archer as they describe their highly disciplined writing habits, and admits to the latter that he had basically been lazy.

And he comes to the conclusion that this was the first novel everyone has – the one that should be written and then spend the rest of eternity in a trunk in the attic. Only, because he was Giles Coren, his got sold for a £30k advance. You sense that even he feels the injustice of this. No one likes being done a favour.

But here’s the thing. Coren was born in 1969. He’s in his late 40s, but I can’t imagine his discoveries and revelations being news to anyone past their late 20s or even late teens. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been spoiled by growing up in the science fiction community, where expertise and experience flow like milk and honey. I read Dave Langford’s columns in 8000 Plus. I went to Milford. I jostled with the large crowd trying to get through the narrow doorway of Interzone acceptance. I knew it took hard work. I knew that if you didn’t think this was your best yet then you didn’t send it in. How did anyone not know that?

Conclusion: everyone should be an sf fan….

(2) WHERE THE IDEAS COME FROM. The Red trilogy features in “The Big Idea: Linda Nagata” today at Whatever.

Next, it occurred to me that if I set the new book even closer to the present time, I might have a chance of pushing beyond the science fiction genre and making inroads into the military thriller market.

Hey, we can all dream.

The Red trilogy was written around a unit of US Army soldiers. Following that similar-but-different philosophy, I decided the new novel would involve a private military company, because that would allow for more freedom with the plot.

Even with the benefit of hindsight, this all still makes sense to me. But in selecting my protagonist, I embarked on a major gamble.

My version of brainstorming is to engage in swiftly typed stream-of-consciousness question-and-answer sessions. It’s the best way I know to develop ideas. I was brainstorming the possible identity of my main protagonist when I typed this:

Hey. Maybe she’s middle aged. (How to kill a novel in one bad move.)

Generally speaking, middle-aged women are not considered to be cool main characters of the sort that commonly inhabit techno-thrillers. So this was a perfect example of the creative and logical parts of my mind contending with one another. The logical part immediately recognized the risk, but the obstinate, defiant, creative part turned out to be in charge.

(3) A STATISTIC. Here’s Clarkesworld’s box score.

(4) OPIE TO DIRECT ‘HAN SOLO’? Let’s just drop his name here: “Ron Howard Top Choice To Take Over Han Solo Film?” Deadline has the story.

Deadline hears that Ron Howard has emerged as front-runner to replace Phil Lord & Christopher Miller on the untitled Han Solo Star Wars spinoff film. Disney dropped a shocker this afternoon with the announcement that the duo exited a picture that has been in production since February at London’s Pinewood Studios. This after an inability to recover from creative rifts with Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. The latter has been mentioned as possible to step in, but I’m putting my money on Howard.

(5) ‘BOTS! IT HAD TO BE ‘BOTS! I suspect this review is more entertaining than the movie. Nick Schager at The Daily Beast says “‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ Is Two-and-a-Half Hours of Racist Robot Torture”.

Those fans will be thrilled to hear that the latest entry in the canon du Bay-hem, Transformers: The Last Knight, more or less picks up right where its predecessor left off—by which I mean, in an orgiastic stew of detonations, jingoism, and sequences in which CGI vehicles make that weird wrink-wronk-wrank-wank noise as they turn into CGI titans. The only thing missing is Wahlberg unsubtly lusting after his offspring. Luckily, though, he’s still playing a character named Cade Yeager—a moniker that would make Keanu Reeves’ Point Break hero Johnny Utah stand up and slow-clap in appreciation—and this time around, he at least has an amusingly floppy new haircut. Oh, and there’s a three-headed Transformers dragon who’s amassed from ancient Autobots who used to hang out with a drunken Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table. If you were worried that Bay had lost his touch for sublimely absurd, wantonly steroidal toy cinema, you can lay your fears to rest.

(6) PALEO-HEDGEHOG. Live long enough and you see strange things happen, like 1991 becoming “the good old days” — “Sega Forever makes Genesis classics free on mobile”.

We have no shortage of shiny, life-like HD games these days, but if you’d like to revisit older titles from a bygone era, Sega has got your back. The video game company has just officially launched the first wave of the Sega Forever collection with five titles meant to begin “a retro revolution that will transport players back through two decades of console gaming.” Starting today, the 1991 version of Sonic the Hedgehog, fan-favorite RPG Phantasy Star II, classic arcade-style beat ’em up Comix Zone, platformer Kid Chameleon and Greek mythology-themed beat ’em up Altered Beast will be available on Google Play and iTunes as free ad-supported games. If you have an iPhone or an iPad, your games will even come accompanied by iMessage sticker packs.

(7) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. After reporting the other day that he was too shy to try, Wil Wheaton got to meet David Tennant after all.

(8) ALIEN TRIPPER. Mark Kaedrin ranks the finalists in another category — “Hugo Awards: Novelettes”. There’s an alien in first place, and another in last place.

So we come to the short fiction categories of this year’s Hugo Awards. This year, I start with the Novelettes, that odd category that fits stories that are longer than a short story but shorter than a novella. If the past several years are any indication, these stories actually tend to be my favorite of the short fiction finalists. Short stories have been almost uniformly a disaster for the past few years (partly the doing of the Puppies, but it was an issue for me even before then). Novellas somehow seem to be bloated and overlong while still missing the depth you get from a novel (with the notable exception of Bujold’s Penric novellas, which I love). Novelettes hit the Goldilocks zone, providing enough space for a complete narrative, but not so much that the story drowns in hooptedoodle. Does the trend continue this year? Let’s find out:

  1. Touring with the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman – Mysterious alien ships arrive one night without warning. Translators (comprised of formerly abducted humans) emerge and claim the aliens come in peace and don’t want anything. A woman is hired by the government to drive around a translator so that he can see the sights. It turns out that the aliens are intelligent but unconscious, which has some interesting implications. This story works well, with a good exploration of consciousness with the occasional detour into other areas. The ending has a twist that’s pretty easy to see coming (though it does elicit some questions as to the premise of this whole road trip – aren’t there, like, security clearances or something? Is the trip even necessary?), but it works. Lots of open questions, but at least we’re getting something that’s engaging with an interesting idea and trying to hit that sense of wonder that makes SF so great. Short and sweet, this is certainly not perfect, but it’s got some solid ideas and it works well enough…

(9) NOMINATED NOVELLA. Elan Samuel praises “The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe – Kij Johnson”  at Warbler Books.

A strange and delightful congruity connects The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe with the last Hugo-nominated book I reviewed, The Ballad of Black Tom. Both reach back toward Lovecraft, grab hearty handfuls of story, and mold it into works that manage the requisite respect for the author of such incredible tales while openly challenging his prejudices. You can refresh your memory about how Victor LaValle elegantly reframes Lovecraft into a tale of loss and revenge in last month’s review. We’re here today to talk about Kij Johnson’s brilliant, expansive, and enthralling The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe.

(10) INSIDE THE VOTING BOOTH. Ariela Housman of Geek Calligraphy gives readers the lowdown about how she’s voting in three categories on her Hugo ballot – including a thorough discussion of Best Fanartist, which is something you rarely see. Here’s part of her take on the Best Novel finalists.

Best Novel

Novels are my favorite thing to read and what I read the most of. I had already read a number of the nominees before nominations opened, much less after they closed.

  1.  A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers I adored The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, which was an utterly delightful reading experience. But it lacked the emotional punch that the sequel delivers here. I’m a sucker for “what does it mean to be a person?” books, and this one comes at it from both ends in a devastating way.
  2. Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee I will admit that I couldn’t finish this one, which I started before award season. I bounced off it in much the same way I bounced off Ancillary Justice my first time around. Serious culture shock, working too hard to absorb the world to be able to sit back and enjoy the story. Though I finished AJ on my first attempt, it took me until my third readthrough to just enjoy it. I suspect it will be the same here. As is, I recognize the technical accomplishment already.

(11) FB. After being away for a while Joe Vasicek put a set of fresh eyeballs on Facebook and here’s what he found:

First, the site is a mess. It’s like a weird cross between Goodreads and MySpace. I know there’s a lot of people who love Goodreads, but sorry, that site is almost impossible to navigate. Way too much clutter, with the option you’re looking for hidden in some tiny link that doesn’t actually look like a link. Unless you’re a frequent user, you constantly feel like you’re lost. That’s Facebook now. It’s very unfriendly for new users, which I know is like me and ten people living in Yurts in Mongolia, but still. In terms of user-friendliness, it’s going the way of MySpace.

Second, Facebook has become really slutty. Again, first impressions here. It’s really interesting when Facebook has nothing to base their algos off of. I assume from what I’m seeing that the recommendations default to its power users, which at a cursory glance are mostly chicks and dude bros. Also, some of the group recommendations I’m seeing are insanely over the top in terms of sheer raunchiness. Since when did Facebook turn into Potterville?

He’s also a critic of multiracial emojis.

But Joe, what’s the harm in an emoji that reflects your skin tone? Two things. First, social media divides us far more than it unites us. It walls us off into tribes, helping us build our own custom echo chambers full of people who only agree with us. It’s an incubator for much of the divisiveness in society right now. Second, there is a very real effort in the country today to divide us all by race.

(12) THE FRENCH HAVE AN EQUATION FOR IT. Of concern to Traveling Jiants everywhere: “Why suitcases rock and fall over”.

It’s a common experience when dashing for a train or plane while lugging a two-wheeled suitcase.

The bag rocks alarmingly from side-to-side and threatens to overturn.

Now, scientists have investigated this conundrum of everyday physics. Speeding up rather than slowing down can solve the problem, they say.

Alternatively, you can pivot the handle of the suitcase as close to the ground as possible.

French scientists studied a model suitcase on a treadmill to see what goes wrong when a suitcase rocks out of control at high speed. They developed equations to explain why two-wheeled trolleys have a tendency to rock from one wheel to the other.

(13) ON RELIGION. Annalee Newitz at Ars Technica reviews American Gods season 1: “American Gods may be the best show about religion on TV”

The first season of American Gods ends with an image that compacts the many themes of the series into one odd moment. It’s an aerial shot, slowly revealing a line of cars, buggies, and other vehicles crowding the tiny road to a neglected Wisconsin tourist trap called The House on the Rock. Without giving you any spoilers, I can say that this scene captures American Gods‘ perspective on religious faith in America.

And now, with a generous dose of spoilers, I will tell you what I mean by that….

(14) LOST LIGHT. The Wertzone is sarcastic about the need for a Watchmen TV series: “Damon Lindelof penning frankly unnecessary WATCHMEN adaptation for HBO”.

Scriptwriter Damon Lindelof will be helming the new project, as he continues to play Russian Roulette with his career. He charmed millions of fans with his TV series Lost, only to annoy them with a somewhat confused ending, and then really annoyed lots of people with his scripts for Star Trek (2009) and Prometheus (2012), which were both troubled. More recently, however, he has won plaudits for his work on HBO’s The Leftovers, which recently concluded a three-season run with a lot of critical acclaim and plaudits.

(15) NEW GAME OF THRONES TRAILER. Game of Thrones Season 7 premieres this July. “It may be the first day of summer, but #WinterisHere on 7.16.”

(16) PHILIP “TWO SHEDS” PULLMAN. House Beautiful reports “Author Philip Pullman’s old shed is Shed of the Year 2017 contender”.

This shed has an impressive literary history – it was once owned by renowned author Philip Pullman. He allegedly even wrote His Dark Materials trilogy within it. It was passed down to current owner Ted, who is an author himself. But this shed comes with one strict rule – it must be freely passed on to the next steward of creative endeavours.

(17) STRANGE MAN. There’s a common saying that “Inside every man, there’s X trying to get out.” How often does X = dragon? I Am Dragon (2017) Movie Trailer.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/31/16 O You Who Turn The Wheel And Look To Scrollward, Consider Pixel, Who Was Once Handsome And Tall As You

(1) IT IS THE END MY FRIEND. My daughter went to the midnight Cursed Child book launch at her local store. She’d keep buying Potter novels if Rowling would keep writing them, but that is not in the works — “J.K. Rowling Says ‘Cursed Child’ Is the Last Harry Potter Story: ‘Harry Is Done Now’”.

The author, 51, spoke at the opening night of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stage play in London’s West End theatre district on Saturday, July 30, where she told fans that she’s finished with the series.

“[Harry] goes on a very big journey during these two plays and then, yeah, I think we’re done,” Rowling told Reuters on Saturday night. “This is the next generation, you know. So, I’m thrilled to see it realized so beautifully but, no, Harry is done now.”

(2) BEAM ME – OH, NEVER MIND. Steven Murphy of ScienceFiction.com canna stand the strain – of Star Trek’s inconsistent and underimaginative use of the transporter. He makes his case in “Star Trek and the Optimization of the Transporter”.

Does it bother anyone else that the characters of ‘Star Trek’ regularly overlook the obvious solution? They’re not stupid. I’d understand if they were stupid. They are among the smartest collection of people in fiction. They just have a huge blindspot: the power of teleportation.

In ‘Star Trek,’ transporters can dematerialize people or things in one location and rematerialize them elsewhere. I wouldn’t be the first to point out that the functionality of the technology maddening varies based on the requirements of the plot.

Murphy develops three main themes:

  • The Federation Should Weaponize Transporters
  • The Federation Should Use Transporters Defensively
  • Transporters Should Be Used As A Warp-Alternative

(3) POLITICAL SF/F. Ilya Somin recommends “7 Fantasy/Science Fiction Epics That Can Inform You about the Real-World-Political Scene” at Learn Liberty.

Battlestar Galactica

The original 1970s TV series was remade in the 2000s. Both versions focus on the survivors of twelve human colony worlds that have been devastated by an attack by the Cylons, and both feature many of the same characters. Yet the original series and the remake are otherwise fundamentally different.

The former reflects a conservative response to the Cold War: the humans fall victim to a Cylon surprise attack because they were influenced by gullible peaceniks; the survivors’ military leader, Commander Adama, is almost always far wiser than the feckless civilian politicians who question his judgment. Concerns about civil liberties and due process in wartime are raised, but usually dismissed as overblown.

By contrast, the new series reflects the left-wing reaction to the War on Terror: the Cylon attack is at least partly the result of “blowback” caused by the humans’ own wrongdoing. The series stresses the importance of democracy and civilian leadership, and condemns what it regards as dangerous demonization and mistreatment of the enemy—even one that commits genocide and mass murder.

Both the original series and the new one have many interesting political nuances, and both have blind spots characteristic of the ideologies they exemplify. The sharp contrast between the two makes them more interesting considered in combination than either might be alone. They effectively exemplify how widely divergent lessons can be drawn from the same basic story line.

(4) DEL TORO COLLECTION. The Los Angeles County Art Museum exhibit “Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters” opens August 1.

DelToroMain_0

Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters Guillermo del Toro (b. 1964) is one of the most inventive filmmakers of his generation. Beginning with Cronos (1993) and continuing through The Devil’s Backbone (2001), Hellboy (2004), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Pacific Rim (2013), and Crimson Peak (2015), among many other film, television, and book projects, del Toro has reinvented the genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. Working with a team of craftsmen, artists, and actors—and referencing a wide range of cinematic, pop-culture, and art-historical sources—del Toro recreates the lucid dreams he experienced as a child in Guadalajara, Mexico. He now works internationally, with a cherished home base he calls “Bleak House” in the suburbs of Los Angeles.

Taking inspiration from del Toro’s extraordinary imagination, the exhibition reveals his creative process through his collection of paintings, drawings, maquettes, artifacts, and concept film art. Rather than a traditional chronology or filmography, the exhibition is organized thematically, beginning with visions of death and the afterlife; continuing through explorations of magic, occultism, horror, and monsters; and concluding with representations of innocence and redemption.

(5) SOMETHING MORE TO VOTE ON. Still on that adrenaline high after voting for the Hugos? You can help James Davis Nicoll – he’s looking for readers’ opinions about the books he should review. He explains, “That specific set of reviews is of books I read as a teen, so between 1974 and 1981.” Register your choices in a “non-binding” poll” at More Words, Deeper Hole.

(6) AN IMPONDERABLES REVIEW. Dave Feldman enjoyed playing Letter Tycoon.

Once you get started, game play is remarkably fast and hassle-free. Letter Tycoon is a combination word game and stock market game. You form words using your own letters combined with three “community cards.” The longer the words you form, the more assets (in the form of cash and stocks) you earn. If you accumulate enough cash, you can buy patents in the letter(s) you have used to form your words. These patents function like houses and hotels in Monopoly; you get paid every time another player forms a word using “your” patented letters. As you’d expect, it costs more to buy a patent on the most frequently-used letters, but some more obscure letters possess special powers that can make them valuable.

(7) TOOLS THAT CHANGE THE TOOL USER. Matthew Kirschenbaum, author of Track Changes, asserts “Technology changes how authors write, but the big impact isn’t on their style”.

“Our writing instruments are also working on our thoughts.” Nietzsche wrote, or more precisely typed, this sentence on a Malling-Hansen Writing Ball, a wondrous strange contraption that looks a little like a koosh ball cast in brass and studded with typewriter keys. Depressing a key plunged a lever with the typeface downward onto the paper clutched in the underbelly.

It’s well-known that Nietzsche acquired the Writing Ball to compensate for his failing eyesight. Working by touch, he used it to compose terse, aphoristic phrasings exactly like that oft-quoted pronouncement. Our writing instruments, he suggested, are not just conveniences or contrivances for the expression of ideas; they actively shape the limits and expanse of what we have to say. Not only do we write differently with a fountain pen than with a crayon because they each feel different in our hands, we write (and think) different kinds of things.

But what can writing tools and writing machines really tell us about writing? Having just published my book “Track Changes” on the literary history of word processing, I found such questions were much on my mind. Every interviewer I spoke with wanted to know how computers had changed literary style. Sometimes they meant style for an individual author; sometimes they seemed to want me to pronounce upon the literary establishment (whatever that is) in its entirety.

(8) LOCUS POLL COMMENTS. At Locus Online you can read voters’ Comments from the 2016 Locus Poll and Survey. For example:

I actually read a couple of first novels I liked, which surprised me! I don’t read those very often these days, but these were strongly urged on me and I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve been reading e-books for about a year now and they’re starting to form a large chunk of my “book” buying in general, though I still buy more genre in print form than e-book. I’m buying a lot of the old classics in e-book (i.e., Ye Olde Deade Whyte Guys, like Twain, Shakespeare, Mary Shelley (;)) and some of the older sf/f/h titles as well. The “Great Distemper of 2015” left me with a dull ache behind my eyes and reminded me why I ducked out of the fannish aspects of SF 20 years ago or so. I fervently hope it goes away soon. I read more and liked more of what I read last year. There must be something wrong with me! (innocentlookicon) I’m trying very hard to work up my inner “Hey you kids, get off my lawn!” attitude about the state of SF, but I can’t.

(9) FINAL CHAPTER. A Los Angeles Daily News story about several LA-area bookstores facing closure.

Adryan Russ slips behind the counter at Bookfellows/Mystery & Imagination in Glendale to say goodbye to co-owner Christine Bell, who recently announced that her long-standing used bookstore will be closing at the end of August.

With a hug, the longtime customer wishes her well.

“To see this store have to follow the trends of today’s world, where we won’t be holding books much longer, you can see the sadness in her eyes about it,” says Russ, a musical theater lyricist based in Glendale. “It’s like a whole era is fading.”

The shuttering of Bookfellows comes as economic pressures from an increasingly competitive online marketplace, rising rents and dwindling walk-in traffic make it hard for some Southern California independent used booksellers to keep their large storefronts.

(10) ONE NY BOOKSTORE IS STICKING AROUND. The New York Times found a bookstore with an edge on the competition — “Want to Work in 18 Miles of Books? First, the Quiz”.

As Jennifer Lobaugh arrived at the Strand Book Store to apply for a job this spring, she remembered feeling jittery. It wasn’t only because she badly wanted a job at the fabled bookstore in Greenwich Village, her first in New York City, but also because at the end of the application, there was a quiz — a book quiz.

She rode the elevator to the third floor, sat down at a long table and scanned the quiz: a list of titles and a list of authors. She matched “The Second Sex” with Simone de Beauvoir right away. But then she had doubts. “I thought I would have no trouble,” said Ms. Lobaugh, 27, who has an M.F.A. in creative writing and a background in French and Russian literature. “But I got nervous.”

The Strand is the undisputed king of the city’s independent bookstores, a giant in an ever-shrinking field. It moves 2.5 million books a year and has around 200 employees. While its competitors have closed by the dozens, it has survived on castaways — from publishers, reviewers, the public and even other booksellers.

For nearly a century, the huge downtown bookstore has symbolized not only inexpensive books, but something just as valuable: full-time work for those whose arcane knowledge outweighs their practical skills.

Can you pass the Strand’s literary quiz? Match each book with its author. Test Your Book Smarts.

With a score of 33/50, I probably won’t be working at Strand until they start hiring folks whose specialty is asking, “Would you like fries with that?”

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

It was the first time humans had experience driving on another world, and by all accounts, the LRV was awesome.

The LRV was used mainly to extend the astronauts’ travel range up to a few miles from the landing site (for Apollo 15, the LRV traveled more than 17 miles in total). This allowed the science-focused missions of Apollo 15, 16, and 17 far more reach than hoofing it around the moon’s surface.

Jerry Seinfeld also had something to say about driving on the moon:

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born July 31, 1965 – J. K. Rowling

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY WIZARD

  • Born July 31, 1980 — Harry Potter

(14) GIANT ROBOTS. Kevin Melrose of Comic Book Resources thinks “Glorious ‘Transformers’ fan film is better than any of Michael Bay’s”.

Called “Generation 1 Hero,” it’s directed by Lior Molcho and stars members of Arizona Autobots, a group of Transformers cosplayers who create their own costumes. “Y’know, it was a lot of fun having them punch each other,” Molcho said in a behind-the-scenes video. “It’s a boy’s dream come true, y’know: giant robots punching each other! This is pretty awesome!”

 

(15) AN EDITOR’S ADVICE. Amanda S. Green’s post “It is a business”, quoted here the other day, attracted comment from the publisher of Castalia House, Vox Day in “Submissions and so forth”. His counsel begins —

  1. Most of the stuff that is submitted isn’t anywhere near ready. Seriously, we’re talking “WTF were you thinking” territory. Don’t submit just to submit, practice, then file it away if it’s not genuinely on par with what the publisher publishes and move on to the next work.
  2. You have VERY little time to impress the slush reader, who is wading through large quantities of writing that ranges from barely literate to mediocre. Make it count.
  3. Keep the cover letter short and to the point. No one is going to be impressed by how BADLY you want to be published or HOW MUCH you want to work with the publishing house. What you want has nothing to do with how good your book is.

(16) LARPOLOGY. The thirtieth installment of Marie Brennan’s Dice Tales column for Book View Café has the irresistible headline: “Every Title I Can Think of for This Post Sounds Like Spam”.

When you introduce a new character to an ongoing campaign, narrative integration is only one of the problems you face. The longer the game has been underway, the more you need to think about mechanical balance.

(17) LAST DAY OF VOTING. Peter J. Enyeart makes a fascinating assessment of Neal Stephenson while explaining how he ranked the nominees in the Best Novel category, but here’s who he thought should win —

  1. Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie In the closing novel of the trilogy, Breq faces ever greater challenges as she finds herself a high-value target in the Radchaai civil war. I feel a little bad about picking this one for the top spot, since it’s a sequel to a book that won two years ago, but it was definitely my favorite. It’s the only nominee I had read before the nominations were announced, and the only nominee that I actually nominated. I read the whole thing in about 24 hours, the week it came out. It even makes me feel more charitable towards the second installment in the series, which I liked less, because it serves as a nice set up for this satisfying conclusion. Breq is one of my favorite characters in fiction. So cold, aloof, detached, and calculating, and yet so empathetic, observant, devoted, and inspiring. It’s a tall order for a writer to pull off that combination, but she did it. Breq provides a model for leadership that seems like something a person like me could aspire to, and I’m very appreciative. (I like the Presger Translators a lot, too.) Well done, Ann Leckie.

(18) ANOTHER COUNTY HEARD FROM. Charon Dunn, on the other hand, put Stephenson’s novel first on her 2016 Hugo Ballot.

Seveneves

Earnestly focusing on books as they linearly progress from beginning to end is for noobs and editors and people like that. Sometimes you just want to dive into a ballpit of words and mosh around. Seveneves is one of those, hard science flavored, where humanity reaches the mostly dead state before seven intrepid spacewomen start cranking out babies, thus founding seven distinct races, each one bioengineered per their founding mother’s will. Setting the scene for future highjinks.

Many of the reviews I have read make a pointed effort at informing readers that the bioengineering in Seveneves is hogwash. A lot of my generation feels the same way about bioengineering that the Victorians did about sex, which makes it a fun taboo to read and write about. Sure it’s hogwash, so are Death Stars, who cares. The science in Seveneves follows this soothing cycle of looming disaster; implement solution; new looming disaster. I’m a fan of this method of plot organization.

(19) A NEW LEAF. And if you assumed that someone writing for a blog called Books & Tea would pick the book by the tea-loving Leckie, then Christina Vasilevski will surprise you with her choice, in “What I’m Voting for in the 2016 Hugo Awards”.

  1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin — As I mentioned when I read and reviewed this book last yearThe Fifth Season blew me away. I’m so glad this one ended up on the ballot. Jemisin’s writing is lyrical and her willingness to put her politics front and centre in her stories is great.

(20) FAN ARTISTS. Doctor Science posted an overview of the Fan Artist nominees. Earlier, the Good Doctor covered Pro Artist.

(21) HOW DO YOU GET THIS OUT OF SECOND GEAR? Forbes’ infographic contrasts Star Trek’s warp drive with what scientists are working on today.

If you want to experience the thrill of travelling faster than the speed of light, all you need to do is hitch a ride on the Starship Enterprise and engage the ‘warp drive’. You’ll be able to enjoy a cup of hot Earl Grey while visiting countless worlds through interstellar travel, all thanks to the power of warp drive! Easy peasy.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, James Davis Nicoll, and Steven H Silver for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ann Leckie.]