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.

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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.]