Pixel Scroll 7/14/18 Did You Feed Them After Midnight? Well, I Gave Them Some Pixels

(1) STOKERCON 2020 AWARDED TO UK. The Horror Writers Association will hold StokerCon in the UK for the first time in 2020.

The Horror Writers Association is very happy to announce that the 2020 StokerCon™ will be held April 16-19 at the historic Royal and Grand Hotels in Scarborough, England. For the first time, HWA’s annual gathering will be held outside of the USA, but will continue to incorporate such popular StokerCon programming as Horror University, the Final Frame Short Film Competition, the Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference and the presentation of the iconic Bram Stoker Awards®. HWA’s President Lisa Morton noted: “HWA is committed to celebrating horror around the world, so I’m especially pleased that our fifth annual StokerCon will be held in the UK, where we have such a committed, strong chapter.” More information on StokerCon UK, including website and ticket sales portal, will be announced soon.

(2) BRADBURY MURAL. The Chicago Tribune interviews the creator: “Artist behind Ray Bradbury mural in Waukegan hopes his work will inspire kids who don’t have access to art”.

The little boy wore white-framed sunglasses, his stance confident as he stared into the sun.

Everett Reynolds, a 23-year-old Waukegan resident, stood on a stepladder, adding detail and depth to one of the boy’s hands.

The boy, wearing a homemade astronaut suit with a matching backpack made with two-liter bottles, was the center of Reynolds’ original concept for the mural, which he’s been painting on the side of the Zuniga Automotive Service and Towing building on Belvidere Road.

“I wanted to put up something that symbolized forward thinking and to dream big,” he said….

Everett Reynolds, a Waukegan artist, paints a mural Thursday, July 12, on the Zuniga Automotive Service and Towing building on Belvidere Road. The mural aims to inspire kids “to dream big” and pays tribute to Waukegan native Ray Bradbury. (Emily K. Coleman / News-Sun)

(3) YA HORROR. The Horror Writers Association has revived its YA blog. The first installment, “Q&A for The Frightful Ride of Michael McMichael”, features interviews with author Bonny Becker and the appropriately-named illustrator Mark Fearing.

Whether you write horror for young people, or want to share more horror stories with the kids in your life, check in every Monday for Young Horror Writing Prompts and every other Thursday for new articles and interviews. Managing members Ally Russell, Mac Childs, and Shanna Heath have each graduated from Children’s Literature professional programs, and are eager to let you pick (not eat) their brains about Young Horror.

Future Young Horror feature topics include: weekly writing prompts; best horror picture/board books; author Q&A’s and podcast episodes; diseases in horror tips and tricks; secrets of a horror-loving children’s librarian; why write short-form horror for kids and teens; and more.

(4) VENERABLE AUDIENCE. James Davis Nicoll flips the script in “Old People Read New SFF: Tongtong’s Summer by Xia Jia”.

For the second entry in Old People Read New SFF, I chose Xia Jia’s Tongtong’s Summer. I selected it because of the authors in Ken Liu’s exemplary anthology Invisible Planets, Xia Jia’s skillful combination of fantasy and science fiction—what the author called porridge fiction—was the fiction I liked best. Of the three Xia Jia works on offer in Invisible Planets, Tongtong’s Summer (available here) was by far my favourite. I grant “I liked it so surely my readers will too,” generally blew up in my face over on the Young People of the project but if there’s anything experiences teaches me, it is that I don’t learn from experience! Surely the Old People will like this example of recent speculative fiction! After all, I did.

(5) LESSONS FROM SPACE. As part of their One Strange Rock series, National Geographic has published an interview with Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, who holds the record for most cumulative days (879) spent in space.

Q: What can we learn from the way the space station is run?

A: During the last 20 years, I’ve been working in an international project. I visited the U.S. several times per year. Canada, Europe, Japan—all the countries that participated in this project. I have lots of friends. And being in space, flying above, we knew that whatever the situation is, we knew that the life of your friend depends upon you, too.

The major thing, actually, that I have gained during space training was friendship. I started it in 1989, the end of Cold War, and our first project was the Mir shuttle project. We started to meet with the Americans and European space people. And then ISS project, it has brought us even closer to each other. And we are tied up so tightly that we can’t live in space without each other.

This is probably my best discovery, that the people of different nations, from different countries, under very severe conditions, can work very successfully, can be friendly all the time, understand each other, though their situations are sometimes really stressful.

But there’s something wrong in the fact that only such difficulties as I’ve just mentioned unite people. This is wrong. There should be something else.

(6) CONTINUED NEXT ROCK. Vice headline: “This Bizarre Monument Is All That Will Remain of Humanity in 4,000 Years”. Sub-head: “Jacques André-Istel has written the history of the world on stone in the middle of the desert.”

Just across the California border from Yuma, Arizona, lies the town of Felicity, established in 1986 by now 89-year-old Jacques André-Istel. Pretty much the only reason you’d ever visit the town is to see another creation of his, the Museum of History in Granite.

The outdoor museum is made up of a series of 100 foot-long granite panels engraved with a history of civilization as a record for future generations, sorted into categories like History of California and History of Humanity. According to Istel, they’re designed to last for 4,000 years, to serve as a record of our time for future beings, whether from Earth or elsewhere.

(7) SOMETIMES THEY DO GET FURRY. At Green Man Review, Cat Rambo branches out: “An Armload of Fur and Leaves”.

In the last year or so, I found a genre that hadn’t previously been on my radar, but which I really enjoy: furry fiction. Kyell Gold had put up his novel Black Angel on the SFWA member forums, where members post their fiction so other members have access to it when reading for awards, and I enjoyed it tremendously. The novel, which is part of a trilogy about three friends, each haunted in their own way, showed me the emotional depth furry fiction is capable of and got me hooked. Accordingly, when I started reviewing for Green Man Review, I put out a Twitter call and have been working my way through the offerings from several presses.

Notable among the piles are the multiplicity by T. Kingfisher, aka Ursula Vernon, and two appear in this armload. Clockwork Boys, Clocktaur War Book One (Argyll Productions, 2017) is the promising start to a fantasy trilogy featuring a lovely understated romance between a female forger and a paladin, while Summer in Orcus (Sofawolf Press, cover and interior art by Lauren Henderson) is aimed at younger readers and will undoubtedly become one of those magical books many kids will return to again and again, until Vernon is worshipped by generations and prepared to conquer the world. Honestly, I will read anything Kingfisher/Vernon writes, and highly recommend following her on Twitter, where she is @UrsulaV….

(8) JENSON OBIT. Oscar-nominated visual effects artist George Jenson (1930-2018) died May 25. The Hollywood Reporter profiled his career: “George Jenson, Illustrator on ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ and ‘Return of the Jedi,’ Dies at 87”.

George Jenson, an Oscar-nominated visual effects artist, illustrator and art director who worked on such films as Close Encounters of the Third KindReturn of the Jedi and Everybody’s All-American, has died. He was 87.

Jenson died May 25 in Henderson, Nevada, of complications from melanoma, publicist Rick Markovitz announced.

A native of Canada who specialized in science fiction, Jenson received his Oscar nomination for his visual effects efforts on the 1984 film 2010, Peter Hyams’ sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Jenson was hired by Steven Spielberg and served as the director’s production illustrator on Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and 1941 (1979), then worked on such films as 9 to 5 (1980), Looker (1981), Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi (1983), Christine (1983), Romancing the Stone (1984) and Red Dawn (1984).

(9) PERRY OBIT. Occasional genre actor Roger Perry died July 12: “Roger Perry, Actor on ‘Star Trek,’ ‘The Munsters’ and ‘The Facts of Life,’ Dies at 85”.

Also, on a 1965 episode of CBS’ The Munsters, Perry played a young man with admirable intentions who’s out to rescue the beautiful niece Marilyn (Pat Priest) from a band of ghouls. However, they are, of course, members of her loving family.

On the big screen, Perry appeared in not one but two Count Yorga movies; was a doctor in the infamous Ray Milland and Rosey Grier classic, The Thing With Two Heads (1972); and played the father of Linda Blair’s flautist character in the musical drama Roller Boogie (1979).

On the first-season Star Trek episode “Tomorrow Is Yesterday,” which debuted in January 1967, Perry starred as Capt. John Christopher, an Air Force pilot in the 1960s who is suddenly transported aboard the Enterprise in the future.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 14 – Joel Silver, 66. Producer of, among many projects, Weird Science, Streets Of Fire, Predator and Predator 2, Demolition ManTales from the Cryptkeeper and Tales from the Crypt animated series, The Matrix and Sherlock Holmes franchises, V for Vendetta and an apparent forthcoming reboot of Logan’s Run.
  • Born July 14 – Scott Rudin, 60. Producer of the forthcoming Justice League Dark live action film (this being Warner, there’s already a splendid animated one) plus Annihilation, The Addams Family Values, Jennifer 8, The Truman ShowA Series of Unfortunate Events, Fantastic Mr. Fox and Isle of Dogs to name some of his work.
  • Born July 14 – Jackie Earle Haley, 57. Roles in RoboCop,  Watchmen and A Nightmare on Elm Street; series work in The Planet Of The Apes, The Tick, Human Target, Valley of the Dinosaurs and Preacher.
  • Born July 14 – Matthew Fox, 52. Lost and Lost: Missing Pieces, other genre work includes World War Z, Speed Racer and the Haunted series.
  • Born July 14 – Scott Porter, 39. Roles in Scorpion and Caprica, the X-Men and Ultimate Spider-Man animated series and myriad genre video games.
  • Born July 14 – Sara Canning, 31. Major roles in A Series of Unfortunate Events,  Primeval: New World and The Vampire Dairies, also appeared in Once Upon a Time, War for the Planet Of The Apes, Android Employed, Supernatural and Smallville to name some of her other genre work.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) LIFE EXPECTANCY OF COMICS. The Los Angeles Times’ Geoff Boucher analyzes why “Superheroes are thriving in movies and on TV — but comic books lag behind”.

Few people in Hollywood have more history with comic books adaptations than Michael Uslan, who began writing comic books in the 1970s and used that expertise as an executive producer on Tim Burton’s “Batman,” the 1989 hit that launched a new generation of superhero movies. Uslan recalled recently that top Marvel Comics executives treated him to a lavish Manhattan meal after the movie stirred fan interest in all comics and gave Marvel a hefty spike in sales.

“That was the case for years, big superhero movies brought new fans to comics, but it’s not the case now,” Uslan said. “The biggest comic book movies now have little or zero impact on the comics sales. The movies aren’t rescuing the comics; they’re replacing them. So now I really worry about comics. Any entertainment medium that can’t connect with new generations, doesn’t it have one foot in the grave?”

(13) 55 YEARS AGO. At Galactic Journey, Victoria Lucas celebrates a Presidential visit: “[July 14, 1963] JFK gets a Ph.D.”.

I really wish I had been able to be there.  Fortunately my friend in San Diego came through again, and I’ve been drooling over the prints and tape she sent.  She was at the commencement ceremonies on the 6th of June at San Diego State College (SDSC) when President John F. Kennedy was presented with an honorary doctorate in the Aztec Bowl.  Kennedy is one of my favorite people, and I look forward to voting for him when I vote in my first presidential election next year….

Well that’s staying in character.

(14) RESCUE ANIMAL. His employer went out of business, and he almost ended up in the street: “Giant Toys R Us mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe starts second career at children’s hospital”.

Geoffrey the Giraffe, the 16-foot-tall fiberglass Toys R Us mascot, has made a move to a new home less than two weeks after the retailer’s U.S. toy stores closed their doors.

At one point, the future of Geoffrey — about as tall as a real male giraffe — was in doubt as the 70-year-old company filed for bankruptcy and liquidated operations, including its corporate headquarters in Wayne, New Jersey. Because of Geoffrey’s size and the cost associated with transportation and installation, the company struggled to find someone to buy him.

No one made a bid.

As the June 30 deadline to clear out and clean up drew closer, the Toys R Us liquidation adviser, Joseph Malfitano of Boulder, Colorado, bought the giraffe and paid $10,000 to have Geoffrey packed and shipped the 50 miles here to Bristol-Meyers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. Malfitano thought a children’s hospital would be an appropriate home for the beloved mascot.

(15) BET THE UNDER. It’s not being overlooked anymore: “In Ireland, Drought And A Drone Revealed The Outline Of An Ancient Henge”.

A drone flight and a lingering dry spell have exposed a previously unknown monument in Ireland’s Boyne Valley, forgotten for thousands of years and long covered by crops — which, struggling to cope with a lengthy drought, finally revealed the ancient footprint.

Photographer and author Anthony Murphy discovered the site. He was flying a drone near Newgrange, a famous prehistoric stone monument in County Meath, on Tuesday, taking pictures of the known archaeological attractions. Then he saw something strange — a perfect circle, etched in the color of the crops, in an otherwise unremarkable field.

Murphy runs the website Mythical Ireland (also the name of his latest book), which focuses on the megalithic monuments of the Boyne Valley. He knew the local sites well — every passage tomb, every banked enclosure, every archaeological dig. And he’d been flying drones here for months.

He’d never seen this.

(16) THIS JOB ISN’T EASY. Like you need teeny tiny branding irons…. BBC tells how “Source of cosmic ‘ghost’ particle revealed”.

Step One: Catch a neutrino

It all starts with IceCube, a highly sensitive detector buried about two kilometres beneath the Antarctic ice, near the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

“In order to get a measurable signal from the tiny fraction of neutrinos that do interact, neutrino physicists need to build extremely large detectors,” explains Dr Susan Cartwright, a particle physicist at the University of Sheffield.

Measuring cosmic neutrinos against those created closer to home is, she told BBC News, “like trying to count fireflies in the middle of a firework display”.

(17) THE TWO TOWERS. Long ad for a short clip of a bit of space history: “Nasa launch towers demolished in Florida”.

The two towers were used to assemble rockets for missions to Mars from 1957 until 2011.

(18) WHEDON’S NEXT. According to Variety — “HBO Lands Joss Whedon Sci-Fi Series ‘The Nevers’”.

HBO has given a series order to “The Nevers,” a science-fiction drama from Joss Whedon. The series is described as a sci-fi epic about a gang of Victorian women who find themselves with unusual abilities, relentless enemies, and a mission that might change the world.

Whedon will serve as writer, director, executive producer, and showrunner.

(19) MAN OF THE CLOTH. In Don Glut’s new Frankenstein film, Edward L. Green plays a Priest. Ed says, “While not as cool as a trading card, I guess ‘Father Florescu’ is worth his own postcard.” Order them from Pecosborn Press — “Tales Of Frankenstein Postcards (package Of 8)”.

(20) BE THE BEST VILLAIN. A new board game, Villainous (2–6 players, ages 10 and up), from Wonder Forge will let you play as one of six famous Disney villains (“Disney’s Villainous Board Game Debuts With Classic Characters”). The $35 game is expected to be in stores August 1. Quoting an io9 article:

In the game you can play as one of six infamous Disney villains: Captain Hook, Ursula, Maleficent, Jafar, Prince John, or the Queen of Hearts. The actual gameplay and goals mirror the events each character experienced in their corresponding movies: Peter PanThe Little MermaidSleeping BeautyAladdinRobin Hood, and Alice in Wonderland.

There aren’t any interactions between the various villains; each player remains on their own “realm” gameboard so it’s not like Captain Hook and Maleficent could team up to vanquish Robin Hood. […] But board games are really only fun when you can frustrate your fellow players, so Villainous includes hero cards featuring the protagonists that, at least in the original movies, foiled these villains’ plans. The hero cards allow other players to make it more difficult for your villain’s scheme to come to fruition […]

 

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

Pixel Scroll 6/16/18 And I Awoke And Found Me Here On The Scrolled Pixelside

(1) DOUG JONES’ NEW GIG. GeekTyrant points to the first installment of an sf video series premiering on Dust’s YouTube channel: “Dust Created a Cool 1930’s Sci-Fi Noir Series AUTOMATION with Doug Jones; Watch the First Episode Now!”.

In an alternate 1930’s Prohibition-era New York City, it’s not liquor that is outlawed but the future production of highly sentient robots known as automatons. Automata follows former NYPD detective turned private eye Sam Regal and his incredibly smart automaton partner, Carl Swangee. Together, they work to solve the case and understand each other in this dystopian America. Putting a science ?ction twist on the classic hard-boiled detective drama, Automata explores a dystopian alternative version of Prohibition-era New York City, similarly shaped by moral panic even though the alcohol ?ows freely here. In this universe, Prohibition doesn’t ban drinking, but the further production of sapient androids that have become prevalent by the 1920s. As a result, the existing androids, called automatons, are shunned by society, relegated to an untouchable caste of servants despite their near-human thought capability, and are frequently subjected to hatred and violence. It’s in this oppressive setting that human private detective Sam Regal (Basil Harris, “Grimm”) and his automaton partner Carl Swangee (Doug Jones, The Shape of Water) work together to solve cases for both communities, learning to see humanity in one another while trying to prove that justice is still worth serving.

 

(2) WILDERNESS TREK. Who doesn’t want one of these? Lost at E Minor introduces the world to “A tent that looks like a Star Trek shuttlecraft for all your camping missions”.

Canadian designer Dave Delisle, of Dave’s Geeky Ideas, has come up with a concept tent that resembles a Star Trek Federation shuttlecraft.

The two-person tent, though not able to travel to other galaxies, allows Trekkies to go on their ‘away missions’.

It features a hull that looks like the real spacecraft, with an entrance at the back. When you want to stow it away, the tent can easily fit inside one of its thrusters.

(3) I’M LOSING IT HERE. RedWombat strikes a blow for artistic freedom. The thread starts here.

(4) TECH VIRTUOSO. Ursula V’s Twitter stream is also where I found this:

(5) SPFBO 2018. Mark Lawrence, who announced the 2017 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off winner just the other day, wasted no time cranking up the next round of the contest:  SPFBO 2018 – A call to authors.

This is the call for authors wanting to enter books for the fourth Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off.

The contest will be open for entries until August 1st or when 300 titles have been entered, whichever comes first.

If 250+ titles are not gathered by August 1st the contest will be deferred for a year. I have no idea if there is a limit to how many years we can gather 250+ new self-published fantasy book 1s.

So far they have 101 entries. These bloggers will review and rate the submissions.

(6) ESSENTIAL SF. Factor Daily directs you to “Something for everyone: 5 essential science fiction anthologies you must read”. Don’t panic – only the first two were published over 30 years ago….

If you’re someone with a passing interest in science fiction who’d like to know the genre better or would like to experience all the many splendours it has to offer without having to read 300-page novels, one of the best ways is through an anthology. If you’re a hardcore science fiction reader who wants to discover new authors or get deeper into the genre’s history and trends, one of the best ways is through an anthology.

Here then, are five essential science fiction anthologies that will appeal to – and are recommended for – both, the seasoned sci-fi fan, and the casual reader who’d really like to know what the big fuss about science fiction really is. Whatever it is that you’re looking for – spaceships and robots, interstellar travel or the future of humankind, feminist stories, swashbuckling adventures, stories about love and loss, funny stories, stories to make you ponder, about politics, economics, about culture(s), stories about the future that are really a commentary on our present, stories about technology done right, of technology gone wrong – they’re all in here, and then some….

(7) QUICK SIPS. Charles Payseur’s Quick Sip Reviews catches up with “Strange Horizons 06/04/2018 & 06/11/2018 “.

The first two weeks of June’s Strange Horizons brings a pair of stories and a pair of poems. The fiction is a mix of fantasies, one with magic and ghosts and monsters and the other with a looser grasp on reality. Both feature characters charged with watching over a space through. For one, it’s through elaborate ritual. For the other, it’s by house sitting. In both, there’s a feeling of something being trapped, of something being infested, and of the characters having been wronged. The poetry deals with myths, with mythical creatures, and with longing and endings and beginnings. And all together it makes for a rather lovely but haunting collection of short SFF. To the reviews!

(8) SHORT ORDER. What screens ahead of Incredibles 2? (Besides half an hour of trailers, I mean….) Something that left an NPR interviewer impressed: “In Pixar’s First Female-Directed Short, A Dumpling Child Fills An Empty Nest”.

Moviegoers sitting down to see Incredibles 2 are in for a tasty treat in the form of an animated short called Bao. It tells the story of an empty nester who discovers joy — and sorrow — when a steamed bun she makes comes to life.

The story is pulled from the childhood of Domee Shi, who wrote and directed the Pixar film. Shi was born in China and raised in Toronto. She started working at Pixar as an intern in 2011, and now she’s the first woman to direct a Pixar short.

Pixar and the larger animation industry have been criticized for shutting female animators out of top jobs, but Shi says that culture is changing.

“You’re just seeing this gradual shift in the industry because, before, animation was predominantly white and male, but now in animation schools all over the country enrollment is now over 50 percent female. … I think just more and more girls are just getting into animation. And I hope that we’re going to see those numbers be reflected in the industry and not just in the animation schools.”

(NPR interviewed Shi before the announcement that Pixar’s co-founder, John Lasseter, would be leaving the company. Lasseter had been absent since November, when allegations of sexual harrassment surfaced.)

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

On this day in 1960, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho has its world premiere in New York. Did you know: Paramount gave Hitchcock a very small budget to work with, because of their distaste with the source material. They also deferred most of the net profits to Hitchcock, thinking the film would fail.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born June 16 – John Cho, 46. Sulu in Star Trek, Star Trek into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond. First genre role appears to on Charmed, other shows includes Static Shock, Star Trek and Batman video games, Flashforward and the current season of The Exorcist.

(11) TIMOTHY THE TALKING CAT AND SUSAN THE TRICERATOPS. Camestros Felapton’s “The Bortsworth Mysteries: The Case of the Shifting Genre”, soon to be winning indie book awards near you….

“Wake up!” said Timothy the Talking Cat, a highly intelligent cat with a piercing intellect who was looking very dapper that bright morning in a yellow bow tie that deftly coordinated with his purple, velvety fur.

“I am awake,” said Susan.

“It is so hard to tell because you sleep standing up and also last night I painted eyes on your eyelids which was funny at the time but now I regret because when you close your eyes it looks like you are staring at me in a really angry way like you are about to stomp on me,” replied Timothy loquaciously (who was briefly surprised that of all the words the meat robot hadn’t spelt incorrectly “loquaciously” was one of them).

(12) HARDWICK UNPLUGGED.  “AMC Silences Chris Hardwick Talk Show & Comic-Con Panels After Abuse Claims”. Deadline quotes Hardwick’s denial, and speculates about the fate of his as-yet-unaired TV work.

A day after allegations of emotional abuse and sexual assault were leveled against Chris Hardwick by an ex-girlfriend, AMC has decided today to officially pull the plug on their long time host’s talk show and appearances at San Diego Comic-Con next month.

“We have had a positive working relationship with Chris Hardwick for many years,” said the home of The Walking Dead in a statement on Saturday, one day before Season 2 of Talking With Chris Hardwick was set to debut. “We take the troubling allegations that surfaced yesterday very seriously. While we assess the situation, Talking with Chris Hardwick will not air on AMC, and Chris has decided to step aside from moderating planned AMC and BBC America panels at Comic-Con International in San Diego next month.” …

(13) ERRATA. Locus Online’s item “Jemisin Wins 2018 BoBi” repeats Publishers Weekly’s mistake – the portion in quotes:

N.K. Jemisin will receive the annual Best of Brooklyn (BoBi) Award, and “is the first author of speculative fiction to win the BoBi.”

I omitted the quote when that news was reported in yesterday’s Scroll because the original Brooklyn Book Festival press release lists two authors of speculative fiction among the previous winners —

… Past honorees have included Colson Whitehead, Jacqueline Woodson, Jonathan Lethem, James McBride, Lois Lowry and Pete Hamill.

It’s still a fine honor for Jemisin.

(14) FREE READ. Stephen Lawson’s Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award winner “Homunculus” has been posted on the Baen Books website.

The yellow-orange tholin haze above Titan’s surface whirled around the chassis of a lighter-than-air research drone. A tiny carbon-fiber humanoid robot sat perched on its support structure, dangling his feet next to the drone’s camera as it took pictures of the rocky surface below. The dirigible, designed to carry sampling probes and communication equipment, barely registered the stowaway’s mass. Folded aramid-fiber wings fluttered on aluminum ribs on the bot’s back as the breeze swept over the drone’s chassis….

(15) EXPLORING FAN PHOTOS. Andrew Porter has been working on identifying people in the Jay Kay Klein photos posted by the UC/Cal/Riverside Collection. He sent out links to some of his finds —

(16) CLARKE LITERARY BIO. Gary Westfahl’s book Arthur C. Clarke will be published by the University of Illinois Press in July.

Already renowned for his science fiction and scientific nonfiction, Arthur C. Clarke became the world’s most famous science fiction writer after the success of 2001: A Space Odyssey. He then produced novels like Rendezvous with Rama and The Fountains of Paradise that many regard as his finest works.

Gary Westfahl closely examines Clarke’s remarkable career, ranging from his forgotten juvenilia to the passages he completed for a final novel, The Last Theorem. As Westfahl explains, Clarke’s science fiction offered original perspectives on subjects like new inventions, space travel, humanity’s destiny, alien encounters, the undersea world, and religion. While not inclined to mysticism, Clarke necessarily employed mystical language to describe the fantastic achievements of advanced aliens and future humans. Westfahl also contradicts the common perception that Clarke’s characters were bland and underdeveloped, arguing that these reticent, solitary individuals, who avoid conventional relationships, represent his most significant prediction of the future, as they embody the increasingly common lifestyle of people in the twenty-first century.

Westfahl, formerly of the University of La Verne and the University of California, Riverside, has now retired to focus exclusively on research and writing. His many books on science fiction include William Gibson and Hugo Gernsback and the Century of Science Fiction

(17) FEATHERED NERD RANKINGS. Joe Sherry’s “Reading the Hugos: Short Story” puts this one somewhere in the middle of his ballot.

“Fandom for Robots”: So, the original sentient AI discovers fan fiction and gets involved in the fandom for the anime Hyperdimension Warp Record. On its surface, “Fandom for Robots” is exactly what it seems to be – an AI learning about fandom, about shipping characters, about writing fan fiction and commenting on other stories. But, I wonder, is there a point here where Prasad is also talking about how fanfiction gives a greater opportunity to marginalized people to see themselves in stories where they are otherwise excluded? Is Prasad telling a story about how fanfiction can build community and inclusion?

“Fandom for Robots” was a lot of fun to read, but it’s a better story when I’m reading a bit deeper into what message may be baked into an otherwise basic story of an AI discovering fanfiction.

(18) PANDORA PREVIEW. The official Disney blog takes fans inside the technology: “Pandora – The World of Avatar Time Capsule: Imagineers Create the Most Advanced Audio-Animatronics Figure, the Shaman of Songs for Na’vi River Journey”

Guests can encounter the Shaman of Songs inside Na’vi River Journey, after they board a boat and are whisked away on an immersive journey deep into a bioluminescent rainforest on Pandora. There, the Shaman of Songs sits, sending positive energy out into the forest through the power of her movements and music.

But bringing her to life required the Imagineering/LEI project team to not only apply the latest technologies in robotics, but also develop an estimated 20 new technologies to bring this figure to life. The goal was to make the figure’s tech as hidden as possible, to make the shaman as lifelike as possible.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 5/30/18 Pixels, Scrolls…I’m The Guy With The Book

(1) TAKEDOWN. The New York Post tells how “Accountant embezzled $3.4M from famed literary agency”.

A Manhattan accountant cooked the books at a prestigious literary agency that represents top writers, including “Fight Club” author Chuck Palahniuk, bilking its clients of millions and leaving the company on the brink of bankruptcy, according to legal papers.

Darin Webb, 47, faces 20 years in jail on wire-fraud charges for embezzling $3.4 million from storied Manhattan agency Donadio & Olson, according to a recently unsealed federal criminal complaint.

Although the agency, which also represents the estates of “Godfather” writer Mario Puzo and radio legend Studs Terkel, was not named in court papers, a lawyer representing the firm confirmed to The Post that Donadio & Olson was the subject of the alleged theft.

…The stolen money — allegedly lifted between January 2011 and March of this year — was earmarked for author royalties and advances, the complaint says.

But the theft could be exponentially more, a source told The Post, noting that a forensic accountant is combing through Donadio & Olson’s books all the way back to 2001, Webb’s first year at the agency.

He allegedly fessed up to the theft in March in a videotaped interview with company executives and their attorneys at the agency’s Chelsea office, saying he filed monthly financial reports that “contained false and fraudulent representations in order to accomplish the theft and evade detection,” the complaint states.

Webb was arrested May 15 by the FBI and is out on $200,000 bail.

The Guardian reports on a celebrity victim: “Chuck Palahniuk ‘close to broke’ as agent’s accountant faces fraud charges”.

Palahniuk – one of many starry authors represented by the firm, including the estates of Mario Puzo and Studs Terkel – said his income had dwindled for several years. He had blamed multiple factors, including piracy and problems at his publisher, for the decline in earnings.

More recently, Palahniuk said, “the trickle of my income stopped” and payments for titles including Fight Club 2 “never seemed to arrive”. He wondered if the money had been stolen, but told himself he “had to be crazy” – until the news broke.

“All the royalties and advance monies and film-option payments that had accumulated in my author’s account in New York, or had been delayed somewhere in the banking pipeline, [were] gone. Poof. I can’t even guess how much income. Someone confessed on video he’d been stealing. I wasn’t crazy,” wrote Palahniuk in a statement on his website.

The novelist said that “this chain of events leaves me close to broke”, but that he had found himself to be “rich … with friends and readers who’ve rushed to my rescue”.

“On the minus side, the legal process will be long and offers an iffy reward. On the plus side, I’m not crazy. Nor am I alone,” added the author.

(2) WISCON. Sophygurl, a Tumblr blogger, was present at a controversial WisCon panel and has written an account of what she heard: “WisCon 42 panel The Desire for Killable Bodies in SFF”. The post begins –

This is going to serve as my panel write-up for this panel, but it also a copy of what I wrote as a report to the Safety team about the panel. I am posting this on DreamWidth and Tumblr and will be linking to Twitter and Facebook. Please feel free to link elsewhere. This should all be public knowledge, imo.

For anyone who doesn’t know – this panel included a panelist who ended up talking about the importance of sympathizing with Nazis. This is obviously not the kind of thing you expect to find at an intersectional feminist convention. It was upsetting and disturbing. Most of the panel was actually very interesting and even funny, and I appreciated what the other two panelists had to say. I even appreciated *some* of what the panelist in question had to say. All of this was overshadowed by the awful things she said, however.

(3) BRANDON SANDERSON WARNS FANX. Utah author Brandon Sanderson has raised his voice against “Harassment at FanX”. (For background, see “FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention Sharply Criticized for Handling of Anti-harassment Complaint”.)

I don’t normally discuss charged issues on my social media, but I do find harassment at science fiction conventions a topic that is very important to discuss. It is also very relevant to my fans, as conventions are often how they interact with me.

Recently, Salt Lake City’s biggest media convention (FanX, formerly called Salt Lake Comic Con) has made some troubling missteps. First, it grossly mishandled harassment claims—then it doubled down on its mistakes, bungling interactions with voices that have called for reform.

Some authors I respect deeply have composed an open letter to FanX, calling for them to do better—and I have co-signed it. Many of these authors have spoken better about this specific issue than I can, and I encourage you all to read what they have said. I believe that conventions like these (alongside the smaller literary conventions that were so instrumental in my road to publication) are important parts of our community—and it is essential that they provide a place where victims are not silenced and harassment is not tolerated.

For now, I am still scheduled to appear at FanX this fall. My team and I have been evaluating whether or not this is a position we can still take—and it will greatly depend on how FanX responds to this letter in the next few weeks. I will keep you informed of our decision—and if I do decide to bow out of FanX, I will try to schedule some replacement signings instead.

(4) OPEN LETTER. The “Open Letter to FanX” that Sanderson refers to calls on the convention to do the following thigs:

One: In a public statement, and without disclosing her name, apologize to the victim who filed the sexual harassment report for disclosing their private report to the media without their knowledge or consent. Admit that the victim’s trust was violated, and promise future attendees who may report incidents that they will never undergo the same scrutiny or mishandling. Assure everyone that all reports will be heard, evaluated, and confidential. Keep the victims’ names confidential at all times.

Two: Hire a professional with experience writing, implementing, and upholding sexual harassment policies. Clarify the consequences for breaking the policy and reiterate that those consequences will be upheld. Removal and banishment from the conference should be among those ramifications.

Three: Address harassment complaints quickly. The past complaint was filed in October, and the complaint was not investigated until January. This shows a lack of concern and a reluctance to address the situation, as well as disregard for the seriousness of the issue.

Four: Recognize that trust is earned not through words, policies, and statements, but by a proven track record of implementation and action over time.

It’s signed by Robison Wells, Shannon Hale, Bree Despain, Emily R. King, Ally Condie, and Dean Hale, and co-signed by Brandon Sanderson, Maureen Johnson, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, Annette Lyon, Mette Harrison, J. R. Johansson, Jessica Day George, Courtney Alameda, Lindsey Leavitt, and Sarah M. Eden.

(5) BOMB DISPOSAL. The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik, in “How Disney could get Star Wars back on track”, says the relative failure of Solo at the box office shows that Disney will have to take steps to make Star Wars films more appealing, including spacing them out more, making them edgier, and not releasing Star Wars films in May or June.

Fewer movies. Five months is not a long time for Star Wars to be away. Certainly it’s not the year that stretched between the previous three movies, or the 10 years between the last of the George Lucas movies and “The Force Awakens” in 2015. With Marvel that seems to help — releases in quick succession enhance one another. But with Star Wars, seen less as the rapid-fire sequel, novelty and absence may be the key to the game. Disney could do better by going back to the 12-month spacing — or even longer.

Why it’s tricky: This sounds good to fans. The problem is it doesn’t sound good to Wall Street or Disney financial executives. Star Wars movies are such juggernauts that Disney wants to cash in whenever it can. Waiting that long doesn’t help in that bid. Disney and Lucasfilm are encountering a major paradox here. Modern Hollywood says when you have successes you should replicate them early and often. But making Star Wars movies early and often may make them less successful.

(6) SOLO ACT. Guess who’s writing the tie-in? “’Solo: A Star Wars Story’ Novelization Coming In September 4th, Written By Mur Lafferty”.

The Solo novelization is continuing the trend that The Last Jedi novelization started of being released several months after the film.  Previously the novelizations have been released closer to the films theatrical releases.  The original and prequel novelizations were released before the films, while The Force Awakens and Rogue One adaptations were released as e-books the same day as the film and as hardcovers shortly thereafter.

(7) SFWA STUFF. Security protocols may have been breached….

(8) BIG BOX STORE. Adweek reports “Amazon Is Driving Around a Jurassic-Sized Box, and You Can Ask Alexa What’s Inside”. (Registration required to read full article.)

The last time we noticed Amazon driving around a giant box, the mysterious delivery turned out to be a Nissan Versa. But this time, perhaps it’s something a bit more … carnivorous?

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock thinks those penguin prognosticators might be right about what’s coming: Arctic Circle Cartoons.
  • Not sure whether I should thank Chip for also making sure I didn’t miss a horrible pop-culture pun at Bliss.

(10) THE DIRECTOR VANISHES. Comics shop owner Cliff Biggers showed this photo to his Facebook friends.

UPS employees like Alfred Hitchcock so much that they opened our package, tore open the action figure packaging, stole the figure, and then re-taped the box and sent it to us.

(11) LISTEN UP. The Parsec Awards Steering Committee is accepting nominations for the 2018 Parsec Awards through June 15 – submit nominations here.

Any material released between May 1, 2017 and April 30, 2018 is eligible for the 2018 awards. Material released needs to be free for download and released via a mechanism that allows for subscriptions. Thus, YouTube, Facebook, etc.. series are eligible.

If you are a podcaster or author, please feel free to nominate your own podcast or story. It is one way we know that your contact information filled is correct.

(12) KEEPING SCORE AT HOME. Seanan McGuire, in the area for ConCarolinas this weekend, took time to rate Ursula Vernon’s cats. Start the thread here —

(13) THE LAW & ANN LECKIE. A little known fact (in some quarters).

(14) SPEAKING OF WHOM. Joe Sherry launches his Nerds of a Feather post series with “Reading the Hugos: Novel”:

Provenance: This is a novel which took a while to settle out from under the weight of unfair expectations that I placed on it. Once it did, I was able to engage more fully with Leckie’s story of truth, lies, and cultural identity. Provenance is a strong novel in its own right, and in the end, I appreciated Leckie’s light touch in how she connected it to the larger Ancillary universe.

It’s just that when we look back on Leckie’s career in twenty years, I suspect Provenance will be viewed as minor Leckie. It’s good, please don’t take this the wrong way, but the Ancillary trilogy was a major accomplishment and Provenance is “just” a very good book. I appreciated how Provenance pushed me to think about historical documents and relics, how their perception of importance could override the truth they should represent. There’s great stuff to chew on here

(15) SOLO REVIEW. And Nerds of a Feather contributor Dean E. S. Richard sounds relieved as much as anything in “Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

The good news: it doesn’t suck! I mean, there’s some forgettable stuff, and Han Solo isn’t, like, Han Solo, but if you’re willing to watch it for the sake of itself and not expect Harrison Ford, it’s fine. It tries a little too hard for quips, and his against-odds/I-don’t-actually-have-a-plan moments come across a little forced, but, again, we’re measuring this against complete disaster, so I’ll take it.

(16) SIPS OF CEASELESS. Charles Payseur comments in “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #252”

Competition can bring out the worst in people, but as this issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies proves, it can also bring out the best. Both stories this issue are about races, and magical ones at that, featuring women who find themselves squaring off against their lovers (former or current) for the chance to win a great prize. In both stories, though, the actual prize might not matter as much as the competition itself, as the thrill of the race. Because when these characters are faced with what they’d do if they won, the results are…interesting. It’s a wonderfully fun pair of stories, expertly paired, and I’ll stop yammering on in introduction and just get to the reviews!

(17) THE ORIGINS DEBACLE GOES ANOTHER ROUND. According to Larry Correia, who was dropped as a GoH of Origins Game Fair two weeks ago, “Origins sent out yet ANOTHER message about me, and my response” [Internet Archive link].

At Monster Hunter Nation he cites this as the text of Origins’ Executive Director John Ward’s message to educate vendors about the social media uproar following the “disinvitation.”

Good afternoon Exhibitors,

We are a few weeks away from Origins and the anticipation is building!

Things are looking great for this year’s show. The Exhibit Hall is officially sold out and badges are currently trending 15% above pre-registration numbers from 2017.

We have taken a brief hiatus from social media but are fully prepared to continue promoting the show and its exhibitors starting this week. Before we begin communicating through social, there are a few things we wanted to bring to your attention.

Some individuals have rallied online with plans to harass companies exhibiting at the show—this is in response to the disinviting of Larry Correia as a guest at Origins.

To provide you with some background: our original decision to invite Larry as a guest at Origins was simple—he’s a successful author, has been a guest at other conventions in previous years, and any one that knows him knows that he is big into gaming.

Unfortunately, we were not aware of Mr. Correia’s online presence and following. Upon further research we found an abundance of confrontational discourse and polarizing behavior online.

We have nothing against Larry as a person or as a professional, but we have seen the drama that follows him, and we do not want that at Origins.

As an exhibitor at Origins, we wanted you to be aware of the general MO of the group we are explaining:

Company pages are inundated with comments and negative rankings
Employers and publishers are contacted
Messages with keywords regarding to the show are targeted

Time has passed, and things have calmed down, but we should all still be aware of these potential behaviors. If you receive any threats or libel regarding you or your company, please send them to John Ward.

Thank you for your support. Good luck with the final preparations for the show!

Correia explains that he actually believes vendors should be left alone. Except for the ones that deserve what’s happening to them, that is.

My only comments during this entire debacle concerning the vendors was that they should be left alone. The vendors are just small businessmen trying to have a good sales weekend, and they have nothing to do with the incompetence of John Ward.  I’ve specifically gone out of my way to say that to my fans on multiple occasions.

The only vendors I’ve seen animosity directed at were the ones who specifically went out of their way to virtue signal on Twitter about how booting me for having the wrong opinions was So Brave. And that’s a short and very specific list who did that usual social media thing where they decided to throw punches, and then cry about getting punched back afterwards.

But hey, toss that out there. The important thing is that everyone knows Origins is the real victim here.

(18) GAME LOSES STEAM. Who thought this was a good idea? “School shooting game Active Shooter pulled by Steam”.

A game pitched as a “school shooting simulation” has been ditched from Steam’s online store ahead of release.

The title had been criticised by parents of real-life school shooting victims, and an online petition opposing its launch had attracted more than 180,000 signatures.

Steam’s owner, Valve, said it had dropped the game because its developer had a history of bad behaviour.

But the individual named has denied involvement.

Active Shooter came to prominence after the BBC revealed that an anti-gun violence charity had described it as “appalling” last week.

CNN subsequently reported that the families of two students killed in February’s high school attack in Parkland, Florida had described the game as being “despicable” and “horrific”.

(19) LE GUIN FILM. I’ve linked to the trailer before, but here’s a new Bustle post about the project: “This Ursula K. Le Guin Documentary Reveals How Much The Author Struggled To Write Women In Sci-Fi”.

Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, a new documentary by Arwen Curry about the life and legacy of the late author, explores Le Guin’s long career as a pioneer in speculative fiction, including the role of feminism in her work and the struggles she faced teaching herself how to write women into her novels. In the film, which Curry worked on with the author for 10 years, Le Guin admits that “from my own cultural upbringing, I couldn’t go down deep and come up with a woman wizard.” According to the author, she had been “a woman pretending to think like a man,” a behavior she had to unlearn before she could create some of her best work.

As Le Guin tells Curry in the film:

“I had to rethink my entire approach to writing fiction … it was important to think about privilege and power and domination, in terms of gender, which was something science fiction and fantasy had not done. All I changed is the point of view. All of a sudden we are seeing Earthsea … from the point of view of the powerless.”

 

(20) BIG HERO 6 THE SERIES. Coming to a Disney Channel near you. (Which means not very close to me, but maybe to you.)

Hiro, Baymax and the Big Hero 6 team are back and ready to save San Fransokyo! Big Hero 6 The Series premieres Saturday, June 9 at 9A on Disney Channel. The adventure continues for 14-year-old tech genius Hiro and his compassionate, cutting-edge robot Baymax. If dealing with the academic pressure of being the new kid at the prestigious San Fransokyo Institute of Technology weren’t enough, it’s off campus where things really get tricky. Hiro and Baymax, along with their friends Wasabi, Honey Lemon, Go Go and Fred, unite to form the legendary superhero team Big Hero 6, protecting their city from a colorful array of scientifically-enhanced villains intent on creating chaos and mayhem!

 

(21) EXPANSE. Already linked in comments, but let the Scroll Record reflect: “It’s official: Amazon has saved The Expanse”. The Verge story says —

It’s official: The Expanse has been saved. After the Syfy Channel canceled The Expanse earlier this month, Alcon Entertainment has confirmed that Amazon will pick up the show for a fourth season, after after outcry from the show’s fans.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/5/18 By The Time You See This Pixel, You Will Have Been Scrolling In The Present Tense For As Long As You Can Recall

(1) CAMERON Q&A VIDEO. Wired headline: “James Cameron Answers Sci-Fi Questions From Twitter”.

A 7:46 video of director James Cameron using “the power of Twitter to answer some common questions about the science fiction genre.”

(2) JUNOT DIAZ. The Guardian reports “Junot Díaz withdraws from Sydney Writers’ festival following sexual harassment allegations”.

The Pulitzer prize-winning author was accused of sexual misconduct by author Zinzi Clemmons after revealing last month he had been raped as a child.

…The acclaimed Dominican American novelist Junot Díaz has been feted for his powerful literary expression of the pain of sexual violence. In 2008 he was awarded the Pulitzer prize for his book The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the story of a young boy growing up amid abuse in New Jersey, and last month he was widely applauded for writing a confessional essay about being raped when he was eight years old.

But this weekend Díaz has cancelled his scheduled appearances at the Sydney Writers’ festival following a public accusation of sexually inappropriate behaviour….

(3) DINO TAKEOFF. Robot Dinosuar Fiction! has launched —

ROBOT DINOSAURS! Over the summer, we will be publishing a flash fiction about robot dinosaurs each Friday (May 4th through August 31st 2018)….

First up – “Five Functions of Your Bionosaur” by Rachel K. Jones.

Your parents first activate your bionosaur when they bring you home from the hospital. The bionosaur was a baby shower gift from your mom’s favorite aunt. They were nervous about its size, the stainless steel maw, the retractable razorclaws inside its stubby little arms, but the aunt had insisted. She’d programmed it herself, covered its titanium-alloy skeleton in top-grade synthskin featherscales, and pre-loaded it with educational apps.

When your bionosaur’s eyes first flare to life, it scans tiny, squalling you and reaches out a stubby claw to rock you. When it starts humming a jazzy rendition of the Batman theme, you quiet down and sleep….

(4) DELINQUENT DAYS OF YORE. While Jane Sullivan in the Sydney Morning-Herald was sifting trash from the past in “Turning Pages: The literary joys of juvenile delinquents”, out popped a familiar name.

I’ve been having huge fun reading about JD fiction and looking at the outrageously titillating covers in Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats, an anthology edited by two Australians, Iain McIntyre and Andrew Nette. What was once reviled as rubbishy reading is now collected, curated and revered as retro chic.

…Many of these books would make even Quentin Tarantino cringe, I suspect: they sound truly awful. But here and there I came across someone churning out quick books for cash who went on to make a more respectable name for himself. One was the science-fiction writer Harlan Ellison, who went undercover and joined a street gang as research for more than 100 stories and his 1958 debut novel.

He describes how he was later working as a reviewer and picked up a book from a box a publisher sent him. “It’s got this horrible, garish juvenile delinquent coming at you with a switchblade knife and it says Rumble. I thought ‘What is this piece of shit?’ and then I looked at the author and it was me.”

(5) TODAY’S TOY AD. Syfy Wire wants to tell you about “Stuff We Love: ThinkGeek’s plush Facehugger and Chestburster won’t ever want to let you go”.

If you’re experiencing symptoms like tightness and pain in your chest and possible heartburn, that may be because you absolutely need the Chestburster plush to explode into your life. 48 inches of alien protoplasm is going to love you so much that it will literally not be able to contain itself once it’s fully developed from feeding off your innards.

I guess they’re pretty used to this sort of thing around the ThinkGeek’s headquarters

(6) CASE OF THE COUNTERFEIT SJW CREDENTIALS. Beware! “This AI Will Turn Your Dog Into a Cat”Motherboard tells how.

If there’s one thing the internet needs it’s more cat pictures, so researchers from Nvidia and Cornell University developed an algorithm that will turn pictures of dogs into pictures of cats.

This neural network—a type of computing architecture loosely modeled on the human brain—was developed by a few of the same researchers behind the algorithm that can turn winter into summer in any video and employs similar principles.

(7) VOLZ OBIT. German actor Wolfgang Völz died yesterday. He was in a lot of genre films and TV shows over the years. Cora Buhlert pays tribute to him in “Remembering Wolfgang Völz (1930 – 2018)”. This is just part of his resume —

Wolfgang Völz was a German TV legend. If you watched TV in Germany at some point in the past sixty years, you have seen Wolfgang Völz and you have definitely heard his voice, because Völz was also a prolific voice actor, lending his distinctive voice to Walter Matthau, Peter Ustinov, Peter Falk, Mel Brooks, Majestix, the Gallic chieftain from the Asterix and Obelix films, as well as dozens of puppet and cartoon characters. It’s certainly fitting that Wolfgang Völz’s last credited role was the voice of God in the 2012 movie Der Gründer (The Founder).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born May 5 – Catherynne M. Valente

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • JJ finds an explanation of “The Nine Rs” at Incidental Comics.
  • Chip Hitchcock laughed at the doctor’s diagnosis in Bizarro.

(10) GENDER GAP IN BOOK PRICING. The Guardian ran an article about a sociological study which showed this result: “Books by women priced 45% lower, study finds”,

A study of more than 2m books has revealed that titles by female authors are on average sold at just over half the price of those written by men.

The research, by sociologist Dana Beth Weinberg and mathematician Adam Kapelner of Queens College-CUNY, looked titles published in North America between 2002 and 2012. The authors analysed the gender of each author by matching names to lists of male and female names, and cross-referenced with information about price, genre and publication.

Books by women released by mainstream publishers, they found, were priced on average 45% lower than books by men….

Reddit followed up with a discussion about the gender pay disparity in publishing. Michael J. Sullivan popped in with some interesting facts; such as the smallest pay disparity is among self-published works.

(11) DON’T BE COCKY WITHOUT A LAWYER. Chuck Tingle sorted this crisis in no time and moved on to bigger challenges –

(12) MAY THE FOURTH LEFTOVERS. More from Dr. Janelle Shane: “Darth Net: Star Wars characters invented by neural network”.

…There were enough Darths in the list that at the very lowest-creativity settings, everyone was a Sith lord. Here are some of my favorites:

Darth Teen
Darth Tannin
Darth Ben
Darth Toes
Darth Teena
Darth Darth
Dorth Darth Darth
Mon Darth
Man Darth
Darth Sans
Darth Band
Darth Mall
Darth Tall
Grand Moff Darth Salt

I would like to see the costumes for some of these….

RedWombat got in on the act:

(13) REDWOMBAT SALES REPORT. And Ursula Vernon says her book sales are keeping the house warm —

(14) STAR WARS FANS GET THEIR BASEBALL FIX. From the MLBshop.com, available for every team.

(15) THE SCARIEST. Victoria Nelson’s picks for the “10 Scariest Horror Stories” were listed in Publishers Weekly. Number one is —

1. “The Trains” by Robert Aickman

Virtually unknown in the U.S. outside a small coterie of dedicated fans, the British writer Robert Aickman (he died in 1981) is a virtuoso of the sophisticated “strange story,” as he dubbed his tales. The scares in an Aickman story come not from gore or violence but from the way he perversely bends reality right before your startled eyes. Not just once but again and again—and still again, all in the same story. In this little masterpiece of Gothic indirection, two young women stranded on a walking trip in the north of England seek shelter in a remote Victorian mansion adjacent to a train track. There is a handsome host, a menacing servant, a mad aunt who died mysteriously, even a murder, but all this is beside the point. The real scares come from the trains that scream loudly past every few minutes on this “main, important line” in the middle of nowhere and their unseen engineers, who always wave at girls. Curiously, the trains pass by less often on the third floor than on the ground level. As a child, it should be noted, Aickman liked to invent imaginary kingdoms complete with meticulously constructed railroad schedules.

Number 10 is C. L. Moore’s “Shambleau.”

(16) SURVEY SAYS. Martin Armstrong at Statistia tells you all about “Yesterday’s World: the old tech that kids don’t know”.

For most people born before the 90’s, a “3 1/2 inch floppy” was once a crucial part of their technological lives; securing and transporting important files and data. Of course nowadays, the 1.44 MB storage space is far from adequate and no new computers come equipped with an appropriate drive for the disks. Little surprise then that the majority of children today have no idea what one is (despite the fact that ubiquitous software such as Word and Excel still use a floppy disk symbol for their ‘save’ buttons).

As a recent survey by YouGov has shown, 67 percent of the 6 to 18 year olds in the UK don’t know what a floppy disk is. Other essentially obsolete tech such as overhead projectors (once present in almost every classroom), and pagers were recognised even less….

(17) DID WE MENTION? Patton Oswalt’s Parks and Recreation appearance in 2015 is a Star Wars-fueled filibuster.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Martin Morse Wooster recommends “Seder-Masochism Trailer April 2018,” where animator Nina Paley previews her latest project, a look at the Book of Exodus.

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

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 4/14/18 The Adventures Of Scrolli And Pixelwinkle

(1) ISSUES IN SFF REVIEWING. Several interesting threads about reviews and reviewing in sff. Each tweet is the jumping off point for the thread.

  • Bogi Takács

  • Charles Payseur

  • Cecily Kane

  • Also, Jason Sanford did an overview which includes numerous links to reviewers.

(2) WORLD FANTASY AWARDS. John Joseph Adams advises that the 2018 World Fantasy Awards nominations have opened and voting continues until May 31.

The World Fantasy Awards will be presented in Baltimore, MD during the World Fantasy Convention (Nov. 1-4). Deadline for nominating is and ballots must be received by May 31, 2018.

All registered members of the 2016 World Fantasy Convention, the 2017 World Fantasy Convention, and the 2018 event in Baltimore will be eligible to vote before the deadline. If you didn’t attend one of the previously mentioned World Fantasy conventions, and you don’t plan to attend this year, you can still nominate by purchasing a supporting membership.

Already registered? Go and nominate your favorite works! Voting information is available on the World Fantasy Convention 2018 website.

(3) CODE OF OMELAS. Ursula Vernon tells about the ones who stagger away…

(4) SUPER TRAFFIC MONITOR. The Caped Crusader says, “Don’t get run over!” Or something like that. From the BBC: “Lost footage of Batman star Adam West to be screened”. [Video]

Previously lost footage of Batman star Adam West teaching road safety will be screened for the first time in more than 50 years.

The clip from May 1967 of Batman teaching children the Kerb Drill will be shown to an audience of TV professionals and enthusiasts in Birmingham to kick-off a hunt for 100 missing television clips.

Kaleidoscope, which specialises in finding missing television footage, recently discovered the segment, which was never screened outside of the UK.

It will be shown at Birmingham City University on Saturday, as the company launches its list of the UK’s top 100 missing TV shows that industry professionals most want to see recovered.

This includes early episodes of Doctor Who featuring Mark Eden as Marco Polo, Top Of The Pops and The Avengers.

(5) UTAH WESTERCON NEWS. Westercon 72 (July 4-7th, 2019 in Layton, Utah) has added Special Guest Eric Flint. Westercon also will host the 2019 1632 Minicon.

Eric Flint’s writing career began with the science fiction novel Mother of Demons. His alternate history novel 1632 has led to a long-running series with over thirty novels and anthologies in print. He’s also written many other science fiction and fantasy novels. He resides in northwest Indiana with his wife Lucille.

Along with Mr. Flint, we are also pleased to announce the 2019 1632 Minicon will be held in conjunction with Westercon 72. The minicon is the annual event that allows the 1632 fans and authors to get together. (Of course, in the case of 1632, fans and authors overlap substantially.) Each year the minicon is held “inside” a science fiction convention in a different part of the country. Many cons have agreed to host the minicon over the years. (Wording courtesy of https://1632.org )

(6) DISNEY PIXAR. A fresh trailer for Incredibles 2.

(7) TIN FOIL HATS FOR CATS. Did you know these were a thing? From the Archie McPhee catalog:

It’s a tin foil hat for conspiracy cats! They want to know what your cat is thinking. They want to control your cat’s thoughts. Not on our watch! We’ve made a Tin Foil Hat for Cats to make sure that kitty’s thoughts stay private. This mylar hat fits most cats, has a comfy felt lining and is held in place with an elastic strap. It even has holes for cat ears! Take that, Illuminati! Restores the dignity of your kitty. Very effective against MKUltra satellites, cat food company dream-insertion marketing, Guy Fieri, Soviet cat control protocols, psychic dogs, skull tapping, focused magnetic pulse and the neighbor’s labradoodle. Great for pictures! Fits most cats.

(8) BELL OBIT. Art Bell (1945-2018), the original host of the paranormal-themed radio program Coast to Coast AM, died April 13. At its peak in popularity, Bells show was syndicated on more than 500 radio stations and claimed 15 million listeners nightly

(9) TOWFIK OBIT. Sindbad Sci-Fi eulogizes an influential Egyptian sf writer: “Remembering Ahmed Khaled Towfik (1962 – 2018)”.

Ahmed Khaled Towfik is no longer with us. After a period of prolonged illness, he died of a heart attack on 2 April 2018 in El-Demerdash hospital, Cairo, at the age of 55.

By day, Dr Ahmed Khaled Towfik practised as a medical professor at Egypt’s Tanta University. Over time, he was an obsessively prolific writer who became the Arab world’s most prominent bestselling contemporary author of Sci-Fi, fantasy and horror genres. He is claimed to have written over 500 titles of which one third is science fiction, including his Arabic translations of English Sci-Fi.

(10) TODAY’S SFF BIRTHDAYS

  • April 14, 1936 – Arlene Martel. She played Spock’s betrothed, co-starred with Robert Culp in the Outer Limits Demon with a Glass Hand written by Harlan Ellison plus a couple of Twilight Zone episodes.
  • Born April 14, 1958 – Peter Capaldi
  • Born April 14, 1977 — Sarah Michelle Gellar
  • Born April 14, 1982 – Rachel Swirsky

(11) SWIRSKY CELEBRATED. Steven H Silver shares his appreciation in “Birthday Reviews: Rachel Swirsky’s ‘The Monster’s Million Faces’” at Black Gate.

Rachel Swirsky was born on April 14, 1982. To this point, her writing career has been focused on short stories, although in 2010 she co-edited the anthology People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy with Sean Wallace. Her stories have been collected in two volumes, Through the Drowsy Dark and How the World Became Quiet: Myths of the Past, Present, and Future.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

Courtesy of mlex:

(13) GOOD TO THE LAST DROP. Charles Payseur tests a new batch of short fiction: “Quick Sips – Strange Horizons 04/02/2018 & 04/09/2018”.

The short SFF from the first two weeks of April’s Strange Horizons looks at faith and education, memory and time, fiction and hope. The stories feature characters either revisiting their pasts or desperate to do so. They also feature relationships between parents and children, though in opposite directions (one with a mother as main character, the other with a son). And they explore memory and trying to rewrite the past with something better than the crushing weight of the present. The poetry looks at religion and education, at expectation and death. It’s a rather complex collection of pieces, but it makes for some compelling reading. So let’s get to the reviews!

(14) ARE YOU KIDDING? The Deseret News reports “Former FBI director James Comey is a fan of Utah author Brandon Sanderson”.

In an interview with The New York Times Book Review “By the Book” section, Comey said he’s an avid reader of fiction, “almost always (reading) something my kids are reading, so I can … pretend to be cool.”

When asked what books readers would be surprised to find on his shelf, Comey answered with “The Fault in Our Stars,” by John Green; the Mistborn series, by Brandon Sanderson, and the Red Rising series, by Pierce Brown.

(15) SFF HISTORY. Tom De Haven remembers what it was like to write for Byron Preiss in a memoir at Café Pinfold.

…I met Byron Preiss in the 1970s, near the start of both our careers—as I recall, it was at an art show that he’d curated in a small Manhattan gallery (somewhere up near Bloomingdale’s, I believe) that consisted of super-realistic, high-key paintings of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys (yes, the Beach Boys; don’t ask me why, although probably it was the first or second or third step in a scheme to produce a “Byron Preiss Book” sometime in the future). He was the most confident man I’d ever met. Soft spoken, slow moving, but confident as hell. Always well dressed.  Good clothes but they could get rumpled looking. For as long as I knew and saw him, and it was quite a while, Byron always had a hundred ideas for new projects and the sublime confidence they’d all make millions.

So far as I understood it, he worked like this: he’d pitch a slew of different ideas to a variety of book editors in New York City, ideas that (again, so far as I understood it) he’d dreamed up himself, ideas inspired by current trends in publishing or pop culture (U.S.S.A., for example, followed in the wake of the original Red Dawn movie). Whenever Byron got the go-aheads for specific packaging projects, he’d call up writers to do the actual writing. (He was also likely to call up cartoonists and illustrators since most of his books came illustrated. Later, when he was one of the first people to pionneer digital publishing, he probably called up programmers.)

For me, and no doubt for many other “midlist” authors like me, it was often a lifesaver to get a telephone call from Byron Preiss; he took a big cut of any advance, naturally, and the advances were never better than just okay, but when you were in-between books and fresh out of ideas, or in-between advances for novels of your own, or had a major house repair that you couldn’t afford, or there was a new baby on the way, you were glad—at least I was glad—for an offer from Byron….

(16) WILL ROBINSON REBOOTY. NPR’s Glen Weldon goes back and forth in “Will Robinson, Meet Danger; Danger, Will Robinson: The ‘Lost In Space’ Reboot”, props for competent women, points off for repetition.

The original Lost in Space, which ran on network television from 1965 to 1968, began as a straightforward, if high-concept, adventure show: A colony spaceship carrying a nuclear family, a dashing pilot and a sniveling doctor got stranded on a remote planet. They had adventures while wearing v-neck sweaters over their turtlenecks, presumably because Irwin Allen, who produced the show, imagined that the future would be a chilly place. Or maybe he got a deal on velour, who knows.

Over the course of its run, the focus of the show shifted from the family to that weaselly doctor. Looking back, it’s easy to see why: The family was a bunch of white-bread squares in matchy-matchy outfits, but the doctor – played with a sublimely mincing menace by Jonathan Harris, was a revelation. The character of Doctor Smith was vain, overdramatic (“Oh, the pain, the pain!”), selfish, self-pitying, self-aggrandizing – a campy, eminently hissable villain out of a Christmas panto, down to the clipped British accent (which was something the Bronx-born Harris sniffily affected).

(17) LOST ATTENTION. In contrast, the Boston Globe reviewer describes the robot and the series as “sleek, shiny, and boring”: “‘Lost in Space,’ we have a problem” (may be passworded soon).

The casting is a problem, except in one case — Parker Posey as Dr. Smith. Molly Parker, a favorite of mine from “Deadwood” and “Swingtown,” is OK as the logic-and-science-loving Maureen — but she can be so much better than OK. The writers try to give her a personal storyline, since she and husband John, played sternly by Toby Stephens, are dealing with a troubled marriage. But it’s hard to care about the fate of their relationship because they’re so bland and heroic. The rest of the Robinsons are bland too, with Will (Maxwell Jenkins) a sweet but dramatically inert presence. I didn’t worry about their safety during all of their dangerous missions because I just didn’t care enough about them. TV’s original Robinson family wasn’t particularly exciting, either, but at least whimpering Jonathan Harris’s Dr. Smith brought enough camp and cowardice to keep things entertaining.

(18) SHARKE BITES. Shadow Clarke juror Maureen Kincaid Speller shares her picks: “A Shadow Clarke 2018 selection box – six exciting centres”. First, what you won’t find in her box:

This year, inevitably, my decision-making process is going to be more focused and more self-conscious, so I’ve laid out a few ground rules for myself. First, I have tried to avoid seeing what the other jurors are choosing, so this selection process has been conducted in isolation. Second, my Shadow Clarke to-read list isn’t going to feature anything I’ve already read, although there are some titles there I’d dearly like to discuss with the other jurors: Nick Harkaway’s Gnomon, for example, which is very much my kind of novel – formally inventive, a challenging read, a great story. But Gnomon is among a handful of titles already touted as shoo-ins for the official Clarke shortlist, and I have also decided to avoid putting any of those on my to-read list. I’m going to read them anyway and at this stage I’d rather experiment in my reading and see what’s going on in sf. This may seem very perverse but I would remind you that this exercise is categorically not about attempting to second-guess the official shortlist. As such I have leeway to explore.

With those decisions made, things become both easier and more complicated. Critics and reviewers are mortals like the rest of the world, and we all have our prejudices. For example, as I’ve noted before, I dislike zombie novels and while I could test that prejudice by reading a zombie novel – there seems to be a prime candidate on the list – I’ve come to the conclusion that I am secure enough in my understanding of my active dislikes to avoid wasting everyone’s time by confronting them, because the chances of anything positive emerging from the encounter are unlikely.

(19) CALL FOR PAPERS. Sublime Cognition is a very catchy name for a conference:

(20) SOLO CARDS. I don’t think I covered this with the rest of the Denny’s Star Wars-themed advertising: “Solo: A Star Wars Story exclusive trading cards, available only at Denny’s!”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Camestros Felapton, JJ, Mark Hepworth, Chip Hitchcock, Michael O’Donnell, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, mlex, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 4/12/18 But By God, Elliot, It Was A Pixel Scroll From Life!

(1) KINGFISHER. James Davis Nicoll turned the Young  People Read Old SFF panel loose on “Toad Words” by T. Kingfisher.

Young People Read Old SFF has circled back to a modern work for the final time in the phase of the project. This time the modern author is Ursula Vernon, who also publishes as T. Kingfisher. To quote her Wikipedia entry,

Digger won the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story in 2012 and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature in 2013. She won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story and the WSFA Small Press Award for Jackalope Wives in 2015. Her story “The Tomato Thief” won the 2017 Hugo Award for Best Novelette.

I’ve read a number of Vernon’s works but not, as it happens, any of those. I have read “Toad Words”, however, and it seemed an apt choice for a modern work given what the Young People have liked in the past. But I’ve been wrong before…

(2) DEADPOOL CHOW. Adweek describes how “Deadpool’s Newest Product Pitch Takes Us Inside His Dreams, Which Center on … Frozen Food?”

Brand partnerships with superhero movies are inevitable—let’s face it, most movies are superhero movies these days—but so many of them seem like an unnatural fit. Or a lazy one, at best. There’s a car chase in the movie? Let’s use that in a car commercial! Genius!

That might initially seem like the case with Deadpool’s Devour partnership. Why would Deadpool care about frozen food? Well, he doesn’t—and that’s what makes the new 30-second spot work.

 

(3) POTTER RECAP. Martin Morse Wooster watched “Harry Potter: A History of Magic” last night on the CW:

This was a BBC documentary tied to an exhibit that is currently at the British Library and will be coming to the New-York Historical Society this fall, although what I gather from the Pottermore website is that there will be two exhibits with some overlap between the British and American versions.

The special, narrated by Imelda Staunton, had several parts.  One was when actors from the movies (including Warwick Davis, Miriam Margoyles, and David Thewlis) read excerpts from the novels.  A second thread consisted of curators from the British Library showing off their magical treasures of books and stuff from their collections.  In addition, we saw some witches and eccentrics who had things to donate to the exhibit, including two gentlemen named Dusty Miller XIII and Dusty Miller XIV who said they had created 7,500 magic-filled wands from sticks they collected in the woods.  Finally, J.K. Rowling was extensively interviewed and got to look at a lot of the stuff the curators had unearhed.

Oh, and there was a lot of Harry Potter cosplay.

Rowling had done a lot of research in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, such as a seventeenth-century herbal written by the great botanist Nicholas Culpeper.  She said that she invented everything to do with wands.  She also named two sources that inspired her.  One was C.S. Lewis’s THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW, and if there are references to portals and libraries in that book those are the parts she found inspiring.  A second source came from an illustration Rowling made in1990 of Professor Sprout.  Rowling said that that night she was watching The Man Who Would Be King, a film with many Masonic symbols.  A simplified version of one masonic symbol was the source for the three-part symbol that denotes the Deathly Hallows in the novels.

Finally Rowling said, “I tied to steer clear of hallucinogenic drugs in Hogwarts.”  So if you’re writing fan fiction where Harry and the gang settle in for good times with some mushrooms, you should know that such scenes are NOT canonical.

(4) AUSTRALIAN CON SURVEY. Twelfth Planet Press publisher/editor and Galactic Suburbia cohost Alisa Krasnostein tweeted

If you’ve attended an SF con or event in Australia in the last 5 years, please consider taking this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TCGQB82

…The purpose of this survey is to investigate the degree of harassment being experienced at our SF conventions and events.

(5) WOTF. Vajra Chandrasekera discourages participation in the Writers of the Future Contest. His thread starts here —

(6) NEW PERSPECTIVES. Bogi Takacs has started writing a column for Tor.com about “QUILTBAG+ Speculative Classics”.

…In this series of columns, I will review classics of QUILTBAG+ speculative fiction—often out of print, little-known and seldom discussed. Even novels which were acclaimed in their day are frequently ignored now, creating the false impression that all QUILTBAG+ SFF is very recent.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, QUILTBAG+ is a handy acronym of Queer, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Trans, Bisexual, Asexual / Aromantic / Agender, Gay and a plus sign indicating further expansion.

…On the other hand, I also don’t want to pigeonhole QUILTBAG+ writers and only show interest in their work if it is about their specific marginalization. I want to see minority writers write whatever they want. If they (we) want to write about cephalopods in space, I am all for that! Therefore I opted to include work either by QUILTBAG+ authors (where this is known) or with QUILTBAG+ themes. Often these two coincide, but not necessarily so.

A specific difficulty is whether to include people with non-Western, culturally specific gender, sex or sexuality IDs. Often these people also use at least some Western terms to self-identify, but sometimes they don’t—especially Indigenous people. If someone has expressed a desire not to be included in Western terms, both umbrella or specific terms, I will of course respect that. But in the absence of explicitly opting out, and also if the authors use Western terms, I decided on the side of inclusion. One of my motivations in this is somewhat self-serving: I also have a culturally specific gender / sex (though I am not Indigenous, specifically) and I am interested in other people who do too!

I aim to discuss a new book every two weeks. I will begin next week with The Gilda Stories, the queer Black / Indigenous vampire classic by Jewelle Gomez, and then follow with The Fortunate Fall by Raphael Carter, possibly the first SFF novel by an intersex author—which also draws a parallel between being intersex and sharing a mind with a giant whale.

(7) TRUTHINESS. Hear about “’That High Truth’: Lewis, Williams, Chesterton, and Ray Bradbury,” in this video of a lecture given at the Wade Center by Jonathan R. Eller of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies on April 9, 2018.

(8) PROGRAM IDEA. Amal El-Mohtar has a fresh angle for a panel discussion. Start the thread here:

(9) BECKETT OBIT. Alex Beckett (1982-2018): Welsh actor, death announced April 12, aged 35. His genre appearances include Spark Ark (2014), and The Aliens (two episodes, 2016).

(10) HEAR STAN LEE’S DENIAL. Io9 reports “In a New Video, Stan Lee Threatens to Sue Anyone Reporting on Claims of Alleged Elder Abuse”.

The Marvel mainstay came down with pneumonia in February and so his frequent convention appearances were understandably cut back. During this time, multiple reports emerged detailing how hundreds of thousands of dollars, and literal blood, were allegedly stolen from him. In a video sent to TMZ this week that’s copyrighted to Keya Morgan (Lee’s handler, who is currently in control of all of his communications), Lee says he’s prepared to take legal action against any and all media outlets that have reported on the claims that he’s being taken advantage of:

“Hi this is Stan Lee and I’m calling on behalf of myself and my friend Keya Morgan. Now, you people have been publishing the most hateful, harmful material about me and about my friend Keya and some others. Material which is totally incorrect, totally based on slander, totally the type of thing that I’m going to sue your ass off when I get a chance.

You have been accusing me and my friends of doing things that are so unrealistic and unbelievable that I don’t know what to say. It’s as though you suddenly have a personal vendetta against me and against the people I work with. Well I want you to know I’m going to spend every penny I have to put a stop to this and to make you sorry that you’ve suddenly gone on a one man campaign against somebody with no proof, no evidence, no anything but you’ve decided that people were mistreating me and therefore you are going to publish those articles.

I’m going to get the best and most expensive lawyers I can and I want you to know if you don’t stop these articles and publish retractions, I am going to sue your ass off.”

The subject video was reportedly sent to TMZ and is marked on their website as being copyrighted by Keya Morgan. The linked TMZ article is headlined: “STAN LEE DENIES ELDER ABUSE … Leave Me and My Friends Alone!!!” This copy is on YouTube, though who knows for how long?

(11) HUGOS AT ECBATAN. Rich Horton check off another nominated book in “Hugo Ballot Review: Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee”.

The novel is interesting reading throughout, with plenty of action (and some pretty cool battle scenes), some rather ghastly (in a good sense) comic bits, and lots of pain and angst. There is a continuing revelation of just how awful the Hexarchate is, with the only defense offered even by its supporters being “anything else would be worse”. There is genocide, lots of murders, lots of collateral damage. The resolution is well-planned and integral to the nature of this universe, with a good twist or two to boot. It’s a good strong novel that I enjoyed a lot.

(12) SERVICE TO SFF. Congratulations to 2018 Chandler Award winner Edwina Harvey! The award recognizes members of the Australian speculative fiction community, both professionals and fans.

Edwina Harvey is a worthy recipient of this year’s A. Bertram Chandler Award.  She has been an active member of Australian science-fiction fandom: writing, publishing and with her amazing artwork for 40 years.

She was one of the founding members of Astrex, the Star Trek fan club of NSW, and regularly contributed fiction to the associated fanzine Beyond Antares as well as other SF fanzines from the mid 1970s onwards. She was also an active member of The Hitchers Club of Australia (Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy Fanclub) from approximately 1984 onwards contributing to the newsletter Australian Playbeing through articles and comments and assisting with the copying and distribution of some issues of the newsletter.  Known locally as the Fund Raising Queens, Edwina has worked with Karen Auhl on organising fundraiser events for Medtrek 4, Huttcon 90 and two Sydney Worldcon bids. (Late 1980s – mid 1990s)  Edwina has been a contributing member of FOLCC (the Friends of Linda Cox Chan) which was an informal group donating monies raised to Diabetes Charities in Australia.  Linda Cox Chan was a Sydney-based SF fan artist and writer who passed away in 1991. From 2012 to the present time, Edwina has also run a lucky-dip at Australian SF conventions to raise money for FFANZ.

(13) EUROVISION IN SPACE. Learn about the author’s new novel Space Opera at Whatever: “The Big Idea: Catherynne M. Valente”.

My agent refers to it as the fastest deal in publishing. It was done and I was committed before I could catch a breath. As I was signing the contract, my fiance asked: “Does it really just say ‘Eurovision in space’? Do you actually have any idea how you’re gonna pull that off?”

“Yes, it does,” I said. “And no, I don’t.”

And I didn’t. Part of me was terrified. How the hell do you even begin to write that? I mean, you can’t play it straight. It’s too absurd. It’s obviously a comedy. Ah, but if you try to write science fiction comedy, the ghost of Douglas Adams appears and asks you with a stern expression if that’s really necessary. And even if it was a comedy, the core of Eurovision is that political darkness and artistic light. You can’t play it totally camp, either. And given the politics all around me, I wasn’t sure I was actually up to singing it out just this minute. What had I agreed to?

But the deadline approached. And I sat down at a blank screen. I laughed nervously.

And then I stopped trying to worry about whether I could do this thing at all and wrote some shit about Enrico Fermi and I was off, and off at breakneck speed.

(14) I’M HOME! Glen Weldon creates a mythic dialogue. Jump on the thread here:

(15) DIRECT FROM INTERNATIONAL FALLS. Here is Amazon Prime’s trailer advertising new episodes of Rocky and Bullwinkle. [Via io9.]

The world-famous talking moose and flying squirrel are back in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, a comedy about two goofball friends who end up in harrowing situations but end up saving the day time and again. As their silly ambitions dovetail with Fearless Leader’s sinister plans to take over the world, they are set on a collision course with his notorious super spies Boris and Natasha.

 

[Thanks to Standback, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Steve Green, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, StephenfromOttawa, Chip Hitchcock, Iphinome, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Errolwi, James Davis Nicoll, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories,. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWwombat.]

Cats Sleep on SFF: Harriet the Invincible

Nickpheas expands his family and the meme:

People seemed pleased to hear of Harriet’s arrival. Don’t know if this pushes the cats sleeping on SF meme beyond breaking point, but here she is, with a book about her namesake by Red Wombat.


Photos of other felines (or your newborn babies) resting on genre works are welcome. Send to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com

Pixel Scroll 2/16/18 There Are Six Pixels On This Scroll: Two At The Rear, Two At The Front And Two Over The Tick Box

(1) 2017 HUGO VIDEO. Worldcon 75 Hugo Ceremony video has been posted. Due to technical difficulties, it omits the first 15 minutes of the event and the first winner presented (Best Fan Artist). They did capture the remaining two-plus hours of the ceremonies. (Oor Wombat’s “Whalefall” acceptance speech begins at 1:48.)

(2) INSPIRED.SPECPO catches up with a longtime poet — “Fairy Tales and Finding Poetic Inspiration: An interview with Ruth Berman”.

Ruth Berman

How did you get started as a writer?
When I was about five, the family took a train trip to Florida during winter vacation.  Looking out the train window at the full moon shining on a lagoon, I felt that it was so beautiful that had to compose a poem about it. As I did not know how to write, I dictated the result to my oldest brother to write down for me so that I could keep it until I could read. (No, I won’t quote it. Five-year-olds don’t compose very good poetry.)

Who are some of your favorite science fiction and fantasy influences?
The members of the Twin Cities Sf Poetry writing group and of the Aaardvaark writing group. Anthony Boucher, Poul Anderson, Ursula K. LeGuin, J.R.R. Tolkien, Diana Wynne Jones, Avram Davidson, Terry Pratchett, Fritz Leiber, L. Frank Baum, Lewis Carroll.

What keeps you going as a writer?
Sometimes nothing does. But at some point when I haven’t had any ideas for a long time, something will set me off again, so I try not to worry during the dry spells. I read a lot of non-fiction in the fields of mythology, folktales, history, and science, looking for ideas — sometimes find some in the process, sometimes not. Also sometimes get ideas from other people’s fiction, especially if I disagree with a story. Sometimes, if the situation calls for characters to have coats of arms, it helps to stop and ask myself what a character’s coat of arms is — which I seem to find more helpful than the more usual prompts of asking what music the character likes or hates, what foods, books, clothes — that sort of thing.

(3) LE GUIN TRIBUTE IN PORTLAND. Ursula K. Le Guin’s family says a public tribute is being planned, date to be determined.

Dear readers and friends,

We are deeply honored by the outpouring of affection and admiration for Ursula and her life’s work.

Many have asked whether we are planning a public event to commemorate and honor Ursula; others have asked where one could direct donations in her name.

We are working with Literary Arts to plan a tribute, to be held in April or May 2018 in Portland, free and open to the public.

(4) NO BOOM. The LA Review of Books considers an atomic scientist’s spec-fic story: “Listening to the Dolphins: Leo Szilard on Nuclear War”.

LEO SZILARD’S short story “The Voice of the Dolphins,” published in 1961, imagines a history of the world written in 1990. The story begins with the sentence, “On several occasions between 1960 and 1985, the world narrowly escaped an all-out atomic war.” One of the 20th century’s greatest physicists, Szilard knew whereof he spoke: along with Enrico Fermi, he was responsible for creating the first nuclear chain reaction in 1942. Szilard understood very well the history, physics, and destructive power of the Bomb. He could have chosen to write a tense record of the 1945 explosion at Hiroshima, along the lines of John Hersey’s classic study, or he might have related the history of the Bomb’s invention à la Richard Rhodes. Instead, he chose to write a piece of fiction — dry almost to the point of tedium — about the geopolitical future of the Atomic Age.

His choice is fascinating, not least because it suggests that Szilard’s interests as a man of science extended far beyond the domain of physics into the social and political spheres. His actions belie the sort of caricature of scientists found in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle (1963) and other midcentury texts — an autistic tinkerer who leads the world to the brink of destruction by solving a military problem without any thought for the consequences. On the contrary, Szilard’s fiction is a serious attempt to grapple with the ethico-political impact of the epochal invention he in large part helped to author.

(5) CLAIM TO FAME. Kim Huett says, “Time to take it down a notch after writing such a serious post last week. You will note that I am the first person to ever combine Walt Willis and Mystery Science Theater 3000. (I’m possibly the only person who could.)”

Can Huett live up to this boast? Read “The Notorious Bert I. Gordon” and see.

Okay, so now we all know that MST3K is a TV show that revolves around showing a movie of dubious quality and providing a humorous commentary which, in this, the future world of today, is a little thing we like to call riffing. I doubt riffing is a new or revolutionary practise, I imagine people have been moved to talk back to the screen ever since the very first bad movie was shown in front of an audience. I even have evidence of a primitive form of movie riffing happening at a British science fiction convention. Consider this quote from Walt Willis writing about the Loncon in Quandry #22 (edited by Lee Hoffman, August 1952). This particular Loncon (there has been more than one SF convention called this) was held 31 May & 1 June, 1952 and in London of all places:

The final event was a showing of Metropolis, which in a way was the best part of the official programme. This was because there was no incidental music to drown fan comment on the action, some of which was brilliant. Dan Morgan shone especially. When the hero suddenly mimed exaggerated alarm the way they do in silent films and dashed madly for the door Dan remarked “FIRST ON THE RIGHT”. That started it and the whole worthy but rather dull film was enlivened by a ruining commentary from the audience which I wish I had space to quote…

(6) LAST RESTING PLACE. Atlas Obscura has photo features of a number of gravesites, including those of two Inklings —

The bones of C.S. Lewis, one of the 20th century’s literary greats, rest within a peaceful cemetery. Nearby, an etched glass window bearing characters from his most famous fantasy world adds a whimsical touch of childhood magic to the churchyard….

The grave of C.S. Lewis lies within the cemetery of the Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry just outside of Oxford. He was buried there in November of 1963, and even today it’s common to find flowers placed atop his tombstone.

The names Lúthien and Beren can be found inscribed on the shared grave of the famous writer and his beloved wife and muse.

The final resting place of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892–1973) and Edith Mary Tolkien (1889-1971) is covered in an abundance flowers, plants, and offerings from fans in the verdant cemetery of Wolvercote in Northern Oxford. They are buried together in a single grave in the Catholic section of the cemetery.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 16, 1923 — In Thebes, Egypt, English archaeologist Howard Carter enters the sealed burial chamber of the ancient Egyptian ruler King Tutankhamen.

(8) THE HORROR. Gizmodo may have violated the Geneva Convention by posting this online — “Man Redefines Horror By Building a Singing Furby Organ”.

(9) AMUSING CONCEIT. Here’s the Black Panther trailer done as an 8-bit game video:

(10) SUPERHEROES LIKE ME. The Washington Post’s David Betancourt interviews Ryan Coogler, who talks about how he has loved comics since he was a kid and how he was brought into the MCU by Nate Moore, Marvel’s only African-American producer: “‘Black Panther’s’ Ryan Coogler has always been searching for superheroes who look like him”.

“I went to the comic book shop that was by my school and asked if they had any black characters,” Coogler recalled.

That was the moment Coogler discovered the Black Panther.

While in film school at University of Southern California, where he graduated in 2011, that love of comics remained — and after Marvel Studios started its connected cinematic universe with 2008’s box office hit “Iron Man,” Coogler began imagining that one day he might direct a superhero movie.

Betancourt has another article about how he is half African-American and half Puerto Rican and is excited about a superhero movie featuring people who look like him: “I’m a 37-year-old Afro-Latino comic nerd. I’ve waited a lifetime for ‘Black Panther.’”

Imagine waiting a lifetime for a hero, at times thinking he’ll never come. Imagine being there when he finally shows up.

That’s the feeling for many of us — fans of color who love superhero culture — as we anticipate the live-action movie debut of the Black Panther, indisputably the greatest black superhero of all time.

In Marvel Cinematic Universe years, it’s only been a decade since 2008’s “Iron Man” introduced a new era of epic, interconnected storytelling on-screen. But for those of us who discovered Black Panther in the comics — the character first appeared in 1966 — the wait has been much longer.

(11) SETI SLOWDOWN. First they need to find intelligent life on earth – the BBC reports “Crypto-currency craze ‘hinders search for alien life'”.

Scientists listening out for broadcasts by extra-terrestrials are struggling to get the computer hardware they need, thanks to the crypto-currency mining craze, a radio-astronomer has said.

Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) researchers want to expand operations at two observatories.

However, they have found that key computer chips are in short supply.

“We’d like to use the latest GPUs [graphics processing units]… and we can’t get ’em,” said Dan Werthimer.

Demand for GPUs has soared recently thanks to crypto-currency mining.

“That’s limiting our search for extra-terrestrials, to try to answer the question, ‘Are we alone? Is there anybody out there?’,” Dr Werthimer told the BBC.

“This is a new problem, it’s only happened on orders we’ve been trying to make in the last couple of months.”

Mining a currency such as Bitcoin or Ethereum involves connecting computers to a global network and using them to solve complex mathematical puzzles.

Here’s an even more direct measure of the impact of this currency mining — “Bitcoin energy use in Iceland set to overtake homes, says local firm”.

Iceland is facing an “exponential” rise in Bitcoin mining that is gobbling up power resources, a spokesman for Icelandic energy firm HS Orka has said.

This year, electricity use at Bitcoin mining data centres is likely to exceed that of all Iceland’s homes, according to Johann Snorri Sigurbergsson.

He said many potential customers were keen to get in on the act.

(12) SEVENTH DOCTOR WHO RETURNS. BBC Worldwide Americas and Titan Comics are bringing back the Seventh Doctor for a new three-part comic series stars the Seventh Doctor, as played by Sylvester McCoy, alongside classic companion Ace (Sophie Aldred).

Hitting stores and digital platforms in June 2018 with a double-sized first issue, DOCTOR WHO: THE SEVENTH DOCTOR #1, written by Seventh Doctor script editor and showrunner Andrew Cartmel, and writer Ben Aaronovitch (Rivers of London). Doctor Who: The Seventh Doctor expands Titan Comics’ hugely popular and critically acclaimed Doctor Who comics line.

Actor Sylvester McCoy starred as the Seventh Doctor from 1987 to 1989 anchoring hundreds of novels and comic strips before regenerating in the 1996 TV movie. As well as this new comic, the Seventh Doctor’s era lives on in a tremendously successful series of audios from Big Finish. McCoy’s portrayal as the Doctor was, at first, a light-hearted eccentric who darkened into a secretive, mysterious, and cunning planner across the course of his tenure.

In Titan Comics’ new mini-series, an unknown alien intelligence in orbit around the Earth. Astronauts under attack. A terrifying, mysterious landing in the Australian interior. The future of the world itself at stake. Counter Measures activated. The Seventh Doctor and Ace are slap bang in the middle of it all! This is OPERATION VOLCANO!

(13) EVIL EMPIRE. Eric Chesterton, in the MLB.com piece  “The Yankees Will Give Away An Aaron Judge Jedi Bobblehead For Star Wars Night,”  have a picture of the Coveted Collectible that all Filers who are Yankees fans will have to have!

(14) DESPITE POPULAR DEMAND. The irresistible charm of exactly what? explains why “Michael Fassbender is starring in a feature-length sequel to Kung Fury”.

The retro ’80s mash-up short Kung Fury made the improbable leap from kitschy Kickstarter project to the Cannes Film Festival, and now it will be getting a feature-length sequel starring Prometheus and Steve Jobs star Michael Fassbender. Variety reports that the creator and star of the original Kung Fury, David Sandberg, is also set to appear in the movie as the titular hero. David Hasselhoff, who had a role in the short, is also expected to return.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Will R., Rev. Bob, Daniel Dern, Carl Slaughter, Kim Huett, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]