Pixel Scroll 7/22/18 Insert Self-Referential Pixel Scroll Title Here

(1) THE BARD OF MARS. Tickets are on sale for “MARTIANS – An Evening With Ray Bradbury”, to be staged at the Whitefire Theater in Sherman Oaks, CA beginning September 7.

Ray Bradbury speaks directly to the audience weaving Martians stories both humorous and harrowing, bringing his characters to life on stage right before your eyes. Characters like Bob and Carrie, a young couple struggling to turn the cold, dead Mars into an Earthly garden. Theres Beck and Craig, two soliders of fortune searching for the legendary Blue Bottle of Mars! Father Nivens religious faith traps a shapeshifting Martian in the form of Christ! Emil Barton is the alst man on Mars with only recordings of his younger self to keep him company, or drive him mad!

As Ray creates his stories we come to know the mind and heart of the great writer who believes that humanity can only survive by carrying our culture out into the Universe!

Most of the text is taken from Rays own words, from interviews and books hes written on the art of writing, as well as adaptations of his Martian stories The Strawberry Window, The Blue Bottle, The Messiah and Night Call, Collect.

Ray Bradbury is played by co-creater Charlie Mount who played him in a production of The October Country and produced Rays Irish play Falling Upward with Pat Harrington, Jr, both staged at Theatre West in association with Rays Pandemonium Theatre Company…

(2) STEAMPOSIUM UP IN SMOKE. There will be no Alaska Steamposium this year. Its chair, Tess, announced on Facebook what the future holds:

We attempted to adapt, to go with the flow, and pull off a hail Mary. And I think our track record of hail Marys is pretty good. (Anyone remember the year we had more vendors and staff than attendees?) But the honest truth is, we don’t want to half ass it. We like to whole ass all of our endeavors.

There were many reasons we chose this as the best path, and a good portion of that was how to keep our booth spaces and ticket prices affordable for everyone. If anyone has paid money, it is being refunded as I type.

We’re going to take a year and reorganize, and restructure, and in general change the way we do things. We completely understand if we loose some of you to anger and frustration. But we hope with all our hearts that you stick with us. We have even greater hope that some of you will join our Staff. We have far too few people to run an event of this size. Dedicated, (A small portion of the reason for our postponement for a year)

Many, many of you have concerns, comments, and suggestions moving forward. Please post them here. As with all difficult decisions, the responsibility stops with me. I wear the big bustle. My staff has worked hard, tirelessly, and even spent their own money in an attempt to make this year possible. If you need somewhere to place blame or vent anger, you direct to toward me, and me alone….

(3) NOVIK PRAISED. Constance Grady reviews the new book for Vox: “With Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik cements her status as one of the great YA fantasy authors”.

Spinning Silver is a spiritual successor to Novik’s 2015 novel Uprooted, for which she won the Nebula for best science fiction and fantasy novel. While the books don’t take place in the same universe, they’re both set in fantasy lands with Eastern European influences, and they both play with fairy-tale tropes without becoming literal retellings. (Novik got her start in fanfiction, which means she comes by her ability to deconstruct tropes honestly.)

The novels also both revolve around the same romance trope, in which a feisty young girl is kidnapped by an immensely powerful older man whom she must change for the better. The power dynamics here are questionable, to say the least, but the way Novik insists on her heroine’s agency makes the story palatable, and the conclusion is undeniably satisfying. What makes the trope more or less work in the end is that Novik’s girls are not just heroines. They are also monsters, even if they have their reasons for what they do.

(4) LOOKING THROUGH THE LENDING WINDOW. John Scalzi, a flagship author at Tor, weighs in on “That Tor Library eBook Lending Thing”.

  1. Tor says that it is noting a general impact on ebook sales because of library lending (its initial statement was more adamant about it, it appears, than some followups). I haven’t seen anyone’s sales numbers but mine, but I do know Tor’s data game is pretty strong — we use it to maximize my own sales and we’ve done a pretty good job there. Its data-mining history has some credibility for me.
  2. Tor has not been a troglodyte either in how it proceeds with ebook tech (remember that it was one of the first major publishers to offer ebooks DRM-free) or in sales/marketing. It’s taken risks and done things other publishers didn’t/wouldn’t do, sometimes just to see what would happen. I have my own example of this: Tor’s ebook-first serialization publication of The Human Division and The End of All Things helped provide Tor with much of the data it used to build its successful Tor.com novella line.

So with all that noted, let’s go back to my first blush statement. I don’t think having day-and-date ebook library lending has had a detrimental effect on my own sales situation. I’m also aware I’m not in the same situation as most authors with regard to sales and attention. Tor has a financial and fiduciary duty to sell books, for itself and for its authors. If Tor wants to try a pilot program to window ebook library lending to find out what impact it has on its sales in general, as much as I don’t think it makes sense for me or my books, I also recognize I don’t see all the data Tor sees across its entire line. I’m also willing to believe, based on previous experience, that Tor is neither stupid, excessively greedy, nor unwilling to make changes if the data tells it something different than what it expects.

(5) ALDRIN FAMILY VALUES. Buzz Aldrin told Florida Today (“Buzz Aldrin explains why he was a no-show at Apollo gala”) why he stayed away from a gala at Kennedy Space Center “kicking off a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, even though the event is an important fundraiser for his foundation and he typically is the star attraction.” It was due to a legal fight within his family and disagreements over the direction of Buzz Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation. His son, Dr. Andrew Aldrin, serves as the President of the Buzz Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation.

“I will not be attending the Gala tonight. While initially looking forward to it, due to the present course of events related to my space initiative, also current legal matters linked to the ShareSpace Foundation, I have decided not to attend at this time…

…the Foundation is, in my view, now being used to promote quite different objectives. I was recently advised by way of a letter from an attorney for my son, Andrew Aldrin, that I was not to hold myself as being part of the Foundation.”

The Orlando Sentinel reported on the suit when it was filed in June: “Buzz Aldrin sues 2 of his children, claiming slander over dementia”.

Aldrin’s lawsuit filed earlier this month in a Florida state court came a week after his children, Andrew and Janice, filed a petition claiming their father was suffering from memory loss, delusions, paranoia and confusion. They asked for the court to name them his legal guardians

KVEO’s article “Gala opens countdown to 50th anniversary of 1st moon landing” adds:

Andrew and Jan Aldrin, as well as business manager Christina Korp, are on the foundation’s board and attended the gala. Aldrin’s oldest son, James, isn’t involved in the legal fight.

Andrew Aldrin acknowledged his father’s absence during the gala.

“We’re sorry dad can’t be here, I know some of you are disappointed,” Aldrin said. “Ultimately, what we’re about is creating the first generation of Martians.”

(6) STARTING YOUNG. Kayla Randall has a profile in the Washington City Paper of Rebecca F. Kuang, whose first novel, The Poppy War, is out from Harper Voyager.  Kuang just graduated from Georgetown University this year. “How a Georgetown Student Published Her Epic Fantasy Debut—Before She Turned 22”

Kuang began writing the book when she was 19 and managed to start, finish, and publish the book all before turning 22. She graduated from Georgetown this spring and will enter Cambridge’s modern Chinese studies program in the fall.

“I never really thought about age being a barrier,” she says. She had read Eragon by Christopher Paolini, who started writing that book at the age of 15 and published it when he was 19. “It always seemed possible that you could write fantasy and get published at a ridiculously young age,” Kuang says.

A gap year between her sophomore and junior years allowed her to finish the book. She lived in Beijing and taught debate to high school students. Before she moved to China, she’d had very little contact with her grandparents but when she returned, she had long conversations with them and learned her family’s history in China. “I was steeped in that family legacy and decided I wanted to do something with it,” she says. The “something” evolved into the plot of The Poppy War, with some supplemental fantasy elements.

(7) FORTNITE ADDICTS. In the Washington Post, Sam Fortier says that many professional coaches are worried that athletes are spending so much time playing Fortnite that they’re not getting enough sleep and are doing a poor job at game time — “Are pro athletes playing too much Fortnite? Some teams are worried.”

The fear of the Capitals is that games such as Fortnite could erode a foundational practice of their developmental system: eight to 10 hours of sleep per night. Before last season, the Capitals instructed Olie Kolzig, the former Capitals goalie who is now a coach with their minor league affiliate in Hershey, Pa., to monitor players’ cellphone usage. The organization knew some junior-hockey players had “a problem” because looking at screens less than an hour before bed affected their sleep. This coming season, management trusts Kolzig’s players will know the same concern applies to Fortnite.

Yet Kolzig finds himself in the same predicament any parent faces because video games are integral to his players’ culture. So he will ask they discipline themselves to about an hour a day and not to play before bed.

“It’s a big issue, and it could affect performance,” Kolzig said. “But they’re grown men. .?.?. You can’t hold their hand and force-feed them [advice]….”

(8) BRAND MALFUNCTION. Inverse says “Stan Lee Did a Legitimate Cameo in a DC Movie”.

…Stan Lee makes a cameo appearance in pretty much every single Marvel movie, and for good reason, since the co-creator of Spider-Man, the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and more is in many ways Marvel’s public face. He never did any work for rival DC Comics, though, which explains why Lee has never made a cameo in a DC movie… until now.

Lee makes his DC debut in Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, which opens on July 27. The long-running Cartoon Network series’ first big-screen adventure is chock-full of meta-humor that puts Deadpool to shame, as it’s all about making a blockbuster superhero movie and skewering the entire industry/genre in the process….

(9) WENDEL OBIT. 3rd Rock from the Sun actress Elmarie Wendel has died. Syfy Wire posted a career retrospective.

Her other genre roles included: Fallout 4 (Video Game, 2015), The Lorax (2012), Rumpelstiltskin (1995), Weird Science (1994, 1 episode), Knight Rider (1982, 1 episode).

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur shows that, like Westworld, nothing can go wrong during a chat with Alexa….

(11) SIDESHOW. Gizmodo’s io9 takes you to the winner of the Franchise Wars at SDCC (“Taco Bell’s Demolition Man Restaurant Gave Us Nacho Fries, Happy Feelings, and Seashell Butts”). The pop-up “Taco Bell 2032” was something between a restaurant and an art installation set up near Comic-Con, though non-attendees were welcomed too. (One has a hard time imagining why any non attendee would have wanted to wait in the hours-long line.) The io9 writer was impressed with the effort put into the look and feel of the place, much evoking the Taco Bell featured in Demolition Man (Sylvester Stallone, Sandra Bullock, Wesley Snipe). The food? Well, it certainly looks fancy and was said to taste pretty good, but it is a Taco Bell.

So, were the three seashells in the restroom? Yeah, looks like they were… but carefully sealed in a clear box with a scrolling electronic sign that seemed to read “out of order.” What people would have done with them had they been accessible does not bear close thought.

(12) DRAX DEFENDS JAMES GUNN. One of his actors spoke out in his defense: “Dave Bautista, Others Defend James Gunn: ‘I Am NOT OK With What’s Happening’” at Yahoo! Entertainment.

“Guardians of the Galaxy” actor Dave Bautista came out strongly in defense of James Gunn Friday after Disney fired him from his role as director of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.”

“I will have more to say but for right now I will say this,” Bautista, who plays Drax in both “Guardians” movies and in “Avengers: Infinity War,” wrote on Twitter. “James Gunn is one of the most loving, caring, good natured people I have ever met. He’s gentle and kind and cares deeply for people and animals. He’s made mistakes. We all have. I’m NOT ok with what’s happening to him.”

(13) PETITION TO BRING BACK GUNN. A Change.org petition calling for Marvel to Re-Hire James Gunn already has over 106,000 signatures. The petition’s author says —

I’m smart enough to know this most likely won’t change anything but hopefully, this could get Disney to realize the mistake they made and not do it again in the future.

I agree on the point that if people say a bunch of stupid shit while working for a studio, the studio has full right to fire him over the possible controversy. This situation is very different though as he made these jokes years before he was working for Disney and also the fact that they were jokes. I agree with most, including Gunn himself that the jokes were shitty and un-funny but they were still jokes, it wasn’t an opinion or a statement, it was just a bad attempt at being funny.

(14) WHAT WAS SO BAD? Not everyone has read examples of Gunn’s tasteless jokes? Bill linked to numerous samples in this comment – and be warned, a lot of it is quite foul.

(15) NO COMING BACK. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna analyzes why “For James Gunn, there’s no return to being a major mainstream filmmaker”.

On Thursday, Gunn apologized in a series of tweets to his nearly half-million Twitter followers, trying to explain that he attempted such social-media “jokes” back when he viewed himself as “a provocateur” whose humor and horror movies alike were “outrageous and taboo.”

Joking in a taboo manner about such subjects as rape and pedophilia didn’t hurt Gunn’s filmmaking career back when he was a lesser-known indie director releasing such low-budget, industry-admired movies as “Slither.” But now that he is mainstream, there is, of course, no way a major studio creating all-ages entertainment can keep even a beloved franchise director in a leadership role.

Walt Disney chairman Alan Horn said Friday in a statement: “The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values, and we have severed our business relationship with him.”

The irony here, of course, is that Disney simply had to know about Gunn’s history of offensive online remarks when they hired him for 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” – the first film in a franchise powered largely by Gunn’s bent sense of humor and love of classic rock songs.

(16) CERNOVICH. SFGate invites readers to “Meet Mike Cernovich, the Right-Wing Provocateur Who Got James Gunn Fired”.

Right-wing provocateur Mike Cernovich claimed another scalp online Friday when Disney fired James Gunn from its “Guardians of the Galaxy” series because of old tweets that Cernovich helped publicize.

(17) SKRUTSKIE NOVEL REVIEWED. NPR’s Caitlyn Paxson sees “Muscle And Bone Meet Machinery In ‘Hullmetal Girls'”:

Hullmetal Girls embraces teen angst in the form of bionic mech suits and the girls who meld with them to save humanity.

Aisha Un-Haad has been working hard as a janitor to take care of her two younger siblings, but when one of them falls ill with a deadly fever that’s sweeping through all the ships that make up the Fleet, she makes the decision to become Scela, a bionic super-soldier created to protect and serve the Fleet’s rulers. There’s no going back once her body is sliced and diced to make room for the mechanical parts that make up her new artificially intelligent “exo,” and her mind is welded permanently to its will and those of the other Scela in her squad. But it will all be worth it if she can advance far enough in the ranks to earn a salary that will keep her siblings safe….

(18) ONE WORD. NPR’s Korva Kolman looks at “Beowulf In The Suburbs? ‘The Mere Wife’ Is An Epic Retelling”:

There’s a vitally important word in the epic tale of Beowulf and, according to Maria Dahvana Headley, it’s been translated incorrectly for a very long time. The word is aglæca/æglæca — no one’s entirely sure how to pronounce it – and, as Headley explains, that same word is used to describe Beowulf and his three antagonists: Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon.

“In the early English translations it was translated for Beowulf as ‘hero’ and for Grendel as ‘monster,’ and for Grendel’s mother as ‘wretch of a woman’ or ‘hag,’ ” Headley says. “But it’s the same word.”

(19) ROBO FETCH. They’re going from viral video to market: “Boston Dynamics Is Gearing Up to Produce Thousands of Robot Dogs”.

Boston Dynamics, maker of uncannily agile robots, is poised to bring its first commercial product to market — a small, dog-like robot called the SpotMini.

The launch was announced in May, and founder Marc Raibert recently said that by July of next year, Boston Dynamics will be producing the SpotMini at the rate of around 1,000 units per year.

The broader goal, as reported by Inverse, is to create a flexible platform for a variety of applications. According to Raibert, SpotMini is currently being tested for use in construction, delivery, security, and home assistance applications.

The SpotMini moves with the same weirdly smooth confidence as previous experimental Boston Dynamics robots with names like Cheetah, BigDog, and Spot.

(20) BIG CONSTRUCTION. BBC covers “The mega-machines helping China link the world”. Includes an ordinary diagram, and animations of two extraordinary track layers.

China is creating a network of ambitious land- and sea-based transport links to connect its booming economy with those of Europe and Africa. And it’s wasting no time – designing incredible bespoke construction machines to get the job done fast.

President Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched in 2013, aims to connect two-thirds of the world’s population across 70 countries through a network of land links (the “belt”) and sea routes (the “road”).

Officials talk about lifetime investments worth trillions of dollars, sourced from banks, participating countries and the Chinese government.

The scheme is not without controversy. Critics point out that it burdens poor countries with billions of dollars of Chinese debt, and dismiss it as a projection of Chinese foreign policy…

(21) THE ORVILLE AT COMIC-CON. The Season 2 Trailer for The Orville debuted at Comic-Con.

The Orville: Follows the crew of the not-so-functional exploratory ship in the Earth’s interstellar fleet, 400 years in the future.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 7/19/18 And Then There Were 770

(1) DRAGON AWARDS. July 20 is the deadline to nominate for Dragon Con’s Dragon Awards. If you’re ever going to do it now would be a good time…. If you’re not, no hurry!

(2) “JUST WEAR CLOTHES, HONEY.” That’s the advice I got the time I called Arthur Bryant’s ribs place to ask if they had a dress code. I follow the same advice when I go to the Hugos.

(3) TOR TAKES LIBRARIANS BY SURPRISE. And not in a good way: “Tor Scales Back Library E-book Lending as Part of Test”Publishers Weekly has the story.

After years of relatively little change in the library e-book market, there has finally been some movement—unfortunately, librarians say, it is movement in the wrong direction. Leading Sci-Fi publisher Tor Books, a division of Macmillan, has announced that, beginning with July 2018 titles, newly released e-books, will be no longer be available to libraries for lending until four months after their retail on sale date.

In a statement to libraries through their vendors, Macmillan officials said the new embargo was part of “a test program” (although an “open ended” test, the release states) to assess the impact of library e-book lending on retail sales. But the statement goes on to say that the publisher’s “current analysis on eLending indicates that it is having a direct and adverse impact on retail eBook sales,” and that Tor will work with library vendors to “develop ongoing terms that will best support Tor’s authors, their agents, and Tor’s channel partners.”

…On July 19, American Library Association president Loida Garcia-Febo issued the following statement:

“The American Library Association and our members have worked diligently to increase access to and exposure for the widest range of e-books and authors. Over years, ALA made great strides in working with publishers and distributors to better serve readers with increasingly robust digital collections. We remain committed to a vibrant and accessible reading ecosystem for all.

I am dismayed now to see Tor bring forward a tired and unproven claim of library lending adversely affecting sales. This move undermines our shared commitment to readers and writers—particularly with no advance notice or discussion with libraries. In fact, Macmillan references its involvement with the Panorama Project, which is a large-scale, data-driven research project focused on understanding the impact of library holdings on book discovery, author brand development, and sales. For this reason, this change by Tor—literally on the heels of Panorama’s launch—is particularly unexpected and unwelcome.

“The ALA calls for Macmillan to move just as quickly to reverse its course and immediately lift the embargo while the Panorama Project does its work.”

(4) BIG REBOOTS TO FILL. Somebody thought this would be a good idea: “‘In Search Of’: Zachary Quinto Follows in Leonard Nimoy’s Footsteps… Again”.

We’re all very used to revivals and reboots these days but with the return of iconic sci-fi/mystery series In Search Of , one big reason to celebrate (besides its launch on the History Channel) is that actor Zachary Quinto is a part of this project.

Quinto, who first became known to TV fans for his role as the villainous Sylar on the original run of NBC’s Heroes, leapt to greater heights of fame in 2009 when he took over the role of the most famous Vulcan in the galaxy, Spock, in the updated Star Trek big-screen franchise. Of course, Spock was first played by Leonard Nimoy in the 1960s television series and, yes, Nimoy later hosted In Search Of.

 

(5) DROPPED IN POTTER’S FIELD. There’s an open question about why this happened: “London erects 25-foot Jeff Goldblum statue to commemorate ‘Jurassic Park’s 25th anniversary”.

They were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should build a 25-foot replica of Jeff Goldblum.

Londoners and tourists alike were puzzled Wednesday morning to find a statue of Goldblum, his shirt unbuttoned in a recreation of his famous “Jurassic Park” pose, staring seductively at them from the banks of the River Thames near Tower Bridge.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 19 – Benedict Cumberbatch, 42. Some of his sort-of genre and definitely genre roles include Stephen Hawking in HawkingThe Hobbit films as a certain cranky dragon, Star Trek into DarknessDoctor Strange, Sherlock, and possibly my fav role potentially by him as the voice of the title character in the forthcoming animated The Grinch film.
  • Born July 19 – Jared Padalecki, 36. Best known for his role as Sam Winchester on Supernatural, and not surprisingly, Supernatural: The Animation.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) OKAY. Mad Genius Club columnist Kate Paulk makes everything as clear as she usually does in “Eschew Claytons Diversity”.

…Take the Mad Geniuses. We’re Odds. We don’t fit in. But every last one of us fails to fit in in a different way than every other one of us….

(9) UNDER NEWTON’S TREE. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler is getting to dislike F&SF’s 1963 incarnation almost as much as he loathes Analog“[July 18, 1963] Several bad apples (August Fantasy and Science Fiction)”.  

I’ve discussed recently how this appears to be a revival period for science fiction what with two new magazines having been launched and the paperback industry on the rise.  I’ve also noted that, with the advent of Avram Davidson at the helm of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, the editorial course of that digest has…changed.  That venerable outlet has definitely doubled down on its commitment to the esoteric and the literary.

Has Davidson determined that success relies on making his magazine as distinct from all the others as possible?  Or do I have things backwards?  Perhaps the profusion of new magazines is a reaction to F&SF’s new tack, sticking more closely to the mainstream of our genre.

All I can tell you is that the latest edition ain’t that great, though, to be fair, a lot of that is due to the absolutely awful Heinlein dross that fills half of the August 1963 Fantasy and Science Fiction.  See for yourself…

“Heinlein dross” turns out to be code for an installment of the novel Glory Road.

(10) SPACE SAILS. [Item by Mike Kennedy] An exploratory project at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville AL is examining metamaterials as the basis for a solar sail for CubeSat propulsion. The Near-Earth Asteroid Scout (NEA Scout) is being developed by Marshall and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a candidate secondary payload to launch with EM-1 the first uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System.

NEA Scout would be a robotic mission to fly by an NEA and return data “from an asteroid representative of NEAs that may one day be human destinations.” The asteroid chosen will depend on the launch date; the current target is  1991 VG. Though this is still only a candidate mission (and thus may never happen), NASA explains the mission like this:

Catching a ride on EM-1, NEA Scout will deploy from SLS after the Orion spacecraft is separated from the upper stage. Once it reaches the lunar vicinity, it will perform imaging for instrument calibration. Cold gas will provide the initial propulsive maneuvers, but the NEA Scout’s hallmark solar sail will leverage the CubeSat’s continual solar exposure for efficient transit to the target asteroid during an approximate two-year cruise.

Once it reaches its destination, NEA Scout will capture a series of low (50 cm/pixels) and high resolution (10 cm/pixels) images to determine global shape, spin rate, pole position, regional morphology, regolith properties, spectral class, and for local environment characterization.

Popular Science article looks a little closer at the use of metamaterials for the sail, talking with Dr. Grover Swartzlander (Rochester Institute of Technology) who is the lead for the project.

The metamaterial Swartzlander is proposing would have several advantages over the reflective materials of the past. Swartzlander’s sails would have lower heat absorption rates due to their diffractive nature which would scatter solar rays, and the ability to re-use what Swartzlander told NASA was “the abundant untapped momentum of solar photons” to fly through the cosmos.

Swartzlander is leading an exploratory study through NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program. With nine months and $125,000, his research team will work on a NASA satellite called the Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, or NEA Scout for short. A robotic reconnaissance mission, NEA Scout is a CubeSat meant to explore asteroids. NEA Scout would be NASA’s first craft to be powered by sails.

(11) THEY SWORE A MIGHTY OATH. No “Second Variety”? “AI Innovators Take Pledge Against Autonomous Killer Weapons”.

The Terminator‘s killer robots may seem like a thing of science fiction. But leading scientists and tech innovators have signaled that such autonomous killers could materialize in the real world in frighteningly real ways.

During the annual International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Stockholm on Wednesday, some of the world’s top scientific minds came together to sign a pledge that calls for “laws against lethal autonomous weapons.”

“… we the undersigned agree that the decision to take a human life should never be delegated to a machine,” the pledge says. It goes on to say, “… we will neither participate in nor support the development, manufacture, trade, or use of lethal autonomous weapons.”

The moniker “autonomous weapons” doesn’t draw the same fear or wonder as a killer robot, but weapons that can function without human oversight are a real concern.

(12) NOT THE SIZE OF A PLANET. No one will ever be wondering this about sff fans. Gizmodo’s article “Did Neanderthals Go Extinct Because of the Size of Their Brains?” follows up a paper in Scientific Reports and a theory that Homo neanderthalensis may have gone extinct because their brains — though larger than that of Homo sapiens — had a cerebellum that was proportionately underdeveloped relative to H. sapiens.

Indeed, though scientists have many Neanderthal skulls to work with, none of them contain actual brains, making it difficult to know what the inside of their heads actually looked like. The next best option, therefore, is to look at their fossilized skulls and try to figure out the shape, size, and orientation of the Neanderthal brain.

To do this, Ogihara’s team created virtual three-dimensional “casts” of brains using data derived from the skulls of four Neanderthals and four early modern humans (the skulls used in the study dated from between 135,000 and 32,000 years ago). This allowed the researchers to reconstruct and visualize the 3D structure of the brain’s grey and white matter regions, along with the cerebrospinal fluid regions. Then, using a large dataset from the Human Connectome Project, specifically MRI brain scans taken of more than 1,180 individuals, the researchers modeled the “average” human brain to provide a kind of baseline for the study and allow for the comparative analysis.

Using this method, the researchers uncovered “significant” differences in brain morphology. Even though Neanderthals had larger skulls, and thus larger brain volume overall, H. sapiens had a proportionately larger cerebellum, the part of brain involved in higher levels of thinking and action. Modern humans also featured a smaller occipital region in the cerebrum, which is tied to vision. Looking at these differences, the researchers inferred such abilities as cognitive flexibility (i.e. learning, adaptability, and out-of-the-box thinking), attention, language processing, and short-term and long-term memory. Homo sapiens, the researchers concluded, had better cognitive and social abilities than Neanderthals, and a greater capacity for long-term memory and language processing.

(13) FORTNITE. Brian Feldman, in “The Most Important Video Game on the Planet” in New York Magazine, looks at how Fortnite. since its introduction in July 2017, “has risen to become the most important video game currently in existence…obsessed over by rappers and athletes, hotly debated in high school cafeterias, and played by 125 million people.”

Since it launched in July of last year, Fortnite has risen to become the most important video game currently in existence. The 100-player, last-man-standing video-game shooter is obsessed over by rappers and athletes, hotly debated in high-school cafeterias, and played by 125 million people. All this, not because of a major technical or graphical breakthrough, or for a groundbreaking work of narrative depth, but for, essentially, a simple, endlessly playable cartoon. On a colorful island peppered with abandoned houses, towns, soccer fields, food trucks, and missile silos, players don colorful costumes, drop out of a floating school bus, and begin constructing ramshackle forts that look like they’ve popped straight out of a storybook, before blowing each other to smithereens.

(14) TITANS. Official trailer —

TITANS follows young heroes from across the DC Universe as they come of age and find belonging in a gritty take on the classic Teen Titans franchise.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 6/25/18 Don’t Forget To Pick Seven Pixels To Put Under Your Pillow So You’ll Dream Of Your One True Scroll

(1) WEATHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET. “NASA reveals stunning images of Jupiter taken by the Juno spacecraft”Yahoo! has the story.

The breathtaking images show swirling cloud belts and tumultuous vortices within Jupiter’s northern hemisphere.

Scientists said the photos allowed them to see the planet’s weather system in greater detail.

According to the space station, the brighter colours in the images represent clouds made up of ammonia and water, while the darker blue-green spirals represent cloud material “deeper in Jupiter’s atmosphere.”

(2) HOW TO MAKE MAGIC. Fantasy-Faction’s Aaron Miles advises writers about “Creating A Magic System”.

The naming of a thing gives you power over it. Sorcery is the will and the word. Cast fireball now and you won’t be able to again until tomorrow and have finished your revision.

Magic systems exist in scores of fantasy novels. Diverse in their rules, varying in complexity, they instruct us in how the magic of the world of the story works and in any rules that govern it. Some authors disdain them, preferring to keep their magical arts shrouded in mystery, while others will provide exhaustive explanation and runic charts in the back of the book. I’ve always believed that a good magic system can only enhance a book, serving to develop the world, engage the reader and open up the scope for storytelling. Clever use of such a system can create new plot opportunities, allow an author to foreshadow and enact hidden twists, not to mention being interesting creations in their own right.

A common stop on the road to worldbuilding, many authors love to craft their own systems with various casting protocols, methodologies and effects. It can be great fun to develop your own magic system but if the groundwork is poor it will quickly become difficult to manage or hard to understand for the reader. This article will cover the various aspects involved in creating a magic system and how to make it interesting and effective….

(3) BET AWARDS. Black Panther and its king won hardware at last night’s BET Awards, but another of the movie’s stars was responsible for a highlight of the evening:

[Jamie] Foxx brought “Black Panther” star Michael B. Jordan to the stage and asked him to recite the powerful line from the film, “Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, cause they knew death was better than bondage.”

Best Actor Award

  • Chadwick Boseman *WINNER

Best Movie Award

  • Black Panther *WINNER

(4) PUPPY ADJACENT. N.K. Jemisin’s Twitter thread on bigotry and artistic mediocrity begins here.

(5) NO LONGER THE WILDER AWARD. BBC reports “Laura Ingalls Wilder removed from book award over racist language”.

The US Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) has removed Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from one of its awards over racist views and language.

The association had received complaints for years over the Little House on the Prairie author’s “anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments in her work”.

The ALSC board voted unanimously on Saturday to remove Wilder’s name from the children’s literature award.

The medal will be renamed as the Children’s Literature Legacy award.

(6) FANTASTIC POSTER. Yet another brilliant poster heralds Portugal’s Forum Fantastico, to be held from October 12 to 14 in Lisbon.

(7) WHAT TO CHARGE? Peter Grant’s comment at Mad Genius Club sheds new light on indie authors’ book pricing strategies.

Kindle Unlimited changes this equation dramatically, depending on the length of a book. I’ll be writing at greater length about this in a couple of weeks, but here’s a potted summary.

KU pays out just over $0.0045 for a single page read by a subscriber. If your book is (say) 100,000 words, that translates (in KENP, or KU equivalent pages, according to Amazon’s calculations) to about 360 pages. That means a KU “borrow” of your book will earn you about $1.62. If you sell that same book for $2.99 via Amazon, with a 70% royalty rate, you’ll earn about $2.00 after Amazon’s charge to download the book to the purchaser. In other words, a $2.99 price point is barely better, from an earnings perspective, than a KU “borrow”. It’s probably not economical. You’ll make more money pricing it at $3.99 or $4.99.

However, that brings up the question of what readers will pay. For a relatively unknown author, $2.99 might be all that most buyers are prepared to pay. For someone better know, $4.99 might be feasible. I’ve been charging that for my books for some years, and I’m getting sales at that level; but there’s also growing resistance even to that price from some readers. I’ve actually had e-mails saying that I’m being greedy to charge that much, and that I should price it much cheaper, otherwise they won’t spend their money on me – or they’ll use KU instead of buying the book. Even Amazon’s beta price recommendation service from KDP recommended, for my latest trilogy, that I price it at $2.99 per volume, to maximize sales income. Of course, it didn’t factor KU into that pricing equation.

I now take KU into my pricing calculations. If I won’t make much more per sale than I know I’ll earn on a KU “borrow”, it’s frankly not worth my while to sell the book at all! Why not just make it available in the subscription library?

(8) WHAT’S BREWING AT CAPE CANAVERAL? Galactic Journey’s Traveler popped back to the present long enough to inform beer drinkers about the Mercury program: “[June 25, 1963] It’s showtime!  (A musical and educational performance on the Mercury 7)”.

We’ve a special treat for you, today!  As you know, the Journey frequently presents at conventions and venues across the country.  Our last event was at the science-themed pub, The Wavelength Brewing Co.

Not only was a fine selection of craft beers on tap, but also the Young Traveler, performing a suite of current musical hits.  I followed things up with a half-hour presentation on the recently concluded Mercury program, discussing all of the flights and the folks who flew them.

 

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Max Brooks wrote The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z.  His parents are Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 25, 1976 – The Omen premieres in North America.

(11) RINGO. As two departed Dragon Con staffers (Pixel Scroll 6/9/18 Item #3) anticipated, the con is inviting John Ringo as a guest. Ringo shared the news on Facebook along with a request:

My Letter of Agreement to Dragon Con has been sent in and the announcement will go out this week that I am, again, going to be a guest of the con.

Due to various ‘stuff’ the leadership of DCon already knows/suspects/has-been-informed there will be ‘push-back.’

I am hereby asking my fans to STAY OUT OF IT. Don’t respond on any page especially any DCon page. Let the (extremely professional) con management handle any response.

Rpt: STAY OUT.

DragonCon has handled far worse in their time and they’re not worried about this particular kerfuffle.

“Meddle not in the affairs of Dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.”

(12) HOWEY SHORT FICTION. Jana Nyman reviews Hugh Howey’s collection for Fantasy Literature: “Machine Learning: Thoughtful and thought-provoking stories”.

Odds are good that you’ve heard of Hugh Howey — whether you’ve read one of his novels or short stories, or even if you’re just aware of the runaway success of his SILO trilogy, which began with Wool. Machine Learning (2017) is the first collection of his short stories (and one novelette), most of which were published elsewhere in various times and places, and it’s an excellent display of his range, insight, and talent. Each story is followed up by a brief Afterword from Howey, giving him the opportunity to explain where the story came from and what his goals were in writing it. When necessary, I’ve marked stories that were previously reviewed at Fantasy Literature, so that you can compare/contrast my thoughts with those of our other reviewers.

“The Walk up Nameless Ridge,” previously reviewed by Kat Hooper. A mountain climber hopes to be the first to summit a frighteningly tall peak, thereby receiving the honor of having it named after him, which is something he cares about more than anything else in his life. Howey gets deep in this man’s head, examining what motivates him to keep going despite literal loss of limbs and the emotional and physical distance placed between him and his family….

(13) TAKEI V. TRUMP. George Takei compares his family’s internment during WWll to Trump’s family separation policy and says the situation on the Mexican border is much worse.  He shares a lot of background, offers a lot of insight, and sets the records straight on many counts. From CNN: “George Takei: Donald Trump’s immigration rhetoric is ‘grotesque'”

(14) REDEEMING MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA. Future War Stories analyzes a controversial game: “FWS Video Game Review: MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA”.

Among the icons of military science fiction are some legendary video game titles that have reinforced the fans and forged new ones. One of the most beloved was BioWare’s Mass Effect series that spanned across three primary games, a number of DLCs, books, and comics. It was a beloved universe for its fans that caused them to cosplay, wear N7 gear, and even tattoo themselves. When 3rd and final Mass Effect game was released in 2012, we fans wondered if this was indeed the end of the journey after the mishandling of the ending to the trilogy. Then came happy news of a new game that was a fresh start with new characters and a focus on exploration in a new setting. When 29th century centered game was released in March of 2017, there was understandable disappointment and many fans felt deeply betrayed by EA and BioWare. But it is worth the hate and loathing? I decided to embarked on the journey to the Andromeda galaxy to see if it was a betrayal of the heritage of the Mass Effect games or a merely misunderstood entry into the franchise.

The GOOD

There is much made about the broken nature of ME:A and its ugly or underwhelming graphics…but under all of the noise and press is a semi-solid game that does delivery a long, relatively enjoyable campaign that becoming more and more rare these days. Overall, the concept of the Andromeda Initiative expedition to the nearest galaxy is maybe something that has been seen in sci-fi, but it a great way to separate this new ME game from the previous titles…

(15) SOUNDTRACKS. Courtesy of Carl Slaughter:

  • Hobbit soundtrack

  • Lord of the Rings soundtrack

(16) NAZIS IN SPACE – NOT. Revell has taken off the shelves in Germany a model kit for the Haneubu II aircraft because it is convincing customers that the Nazis had camouflaged-covered flying saucers with zap guns. Gizmodo reports: “Flying Saucer Toy Recalled For Teaching Kids That Nazis Achieved Space Travel”. The model kit has been recalled because it promotes the idea that Nazis not only had the capability for space travel, but could use their saucer-type spacecraft to blast Allied aircraft. Quoting the article:

If you’ve ever watched the History Channel at 3AM, you know that the Nazis had a secret program during World War II to develop flying saucers. The Nazi’s UFO experiments never actually flew, but the model toy company Revell recently released a set in Germany that makes it look like one of the Nazi saucers actually worked. And historians are pissed….

The toy company has pulled the 69-part set, known as the Haunebu II, from store shelves. But you can still find plenty of the toys available for sale online. The Nazi UFO is even seen on the box blasting Allied planes out of the sky—a disgusting image to promote, to say the least….

“Unfortunately, our product description does not adequately express [that the Nazi saucer program was unsuccessful] and we apologize for it,” Revell said in a statement.

(17) WESTWORLD’S FALLOUT PROBLEM. BBC says “Westworld game hit by Bethesda legal claim”.

Game publisher Bethesda is suing Warner Brothers over a game based around the HBO series Westworld.

Bethesda alleges the Westworld game, released last week, is a “blatant rip-off” of its Fallout Shelter title.

Included in the legal challenge is Canadian developer Behaviour Interactive, which helped Bethesda develop Fallout Shelter in 2014….

The Westworld game gives players the job of managing the titular theme park and its robotic inhabitants.

The facility managed by the player can be expanded underground and includes many of the locations seen in the TV series.

Many reviews of the game mentioned its similarity to Bethesda’s Fallout Shelter, which gives players the job of managing and expanding an underground facility….

(18) TURING TESTER. The classic WWII device has a new home: “Codebreaking Bombe moves to computer museum”. (Chip Hitchcock suggests it’s another tourism opportunity for people willing to travel a distance before/after Dublin 2019.)

The UK’s National Museum of Computing has expanded its exhibits celebrating the UK’s wartime code-breakers and the machines used to crack German ciphers.

On Saturday it will open a gallery dedicated to the Bombe, which helped speed up the cracking of messages scrambled with the Enigma machine.

The Bombe was formerly on display at Bletchley Park next door to the museum.

A crowd-funding campaign raised £60,000 in four weeks to move the machine and create its new home.

… The initial design of the Bombe was drawn up by Alan Turing and later refined by Gordon Welchman. The gallery is being opened on the 106th anniversary of Turing’s birth.

(19) BIRD IS THE WORD. Scientists say “Bird family tree shaken by discovery of feathered fossil”.

The turacos, or banana-eaters, are today found only in Africa, living in forests and savannah.

A beautifully preserved fossil bird from 52 million years ago is shaking up the family tree of the exotic birds.

The fossil’s weird features suggests it is the earliest known living relative not just of the turacos, but of cuckoos and bustards (large long-legged birds).

And the fact the remains were unearthed in North America shows the distribution of different birds around the globe would have been very different in the past.

(20) GOOD TO THE LAST PROTON. Ars Technica says the retirement party will be happening soon: “Russia’s Proton rocket, which predates Apollo, will finally stop flying”. With over 400 launches under its figurative belt (and about an 89% success rate) the Proton rocket family is nearing retirement. Dating from tis first launch, the Proton will turn 56 in mid July. That means it predates the Saturn V used in the Apollo program by more than 2 years.

The Russian-manufactured Proton rocket has been flying into space since before humans landed on the Moon. First launched in 1965, the rocket was initially conceived of as a booster to fly two-person crews around the Moon, as the Soviet Union sought to beat NASA into deep space. Indeed, some of its earliest missions launched creatures, including two turtles, to the Moon and back.

But now, Russian officials confirm, the Proton rocket will finally reach its end. In an interview with a Russian publication, Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin said production of the Proton booster will cease as production shifts to the new Angara booster. (A translation of this article was provided to Ars by Robinson Mitchell, a former US Air Force Airborne Cryptologic Language Analyst). No new Proton contracts are likely to be signed.

…With a capacity of 22.8 tons to low-Earth orbit, it became a dominant player in the commercial market for heavier satellites.

It remained so during much of the 2000s, but as Ars has previously reported, the lack of technical oversight began manifesting itself in an increasing rate of failures. At the end of 2010, one Proton plunged into the ocean because too much propellant had been mistakenly loaded into its upper stage. In 2013, another vehicle performed a fiery dance seconds after liftoff because flight control sensors were hammered into the rocket’s compartment upside down.

…Whether the Angara booster can capture anything close to the Proton’s once highly profitable share of the global launch market remains highly uncertain.

(21) LIZARD WRASSLIN’. In this tweeted photo set, a T-Rex finds it’s no match for Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock (Dwayne Johnson)

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

Pixel Scroll 6/18/18 Nancy Pixel And The Scroll Of The Trademarked Cocky

(1) JEMISIN ON CNN. N.K. Jemisin is on episode 6 of W. Kamau Bell’s CNN program United Shades of America. In this episode he goes back to Mobile, Alabama, and brings her along for one of the segments.

(2) WRONG TURN. The bear and the maiden fair.

(3) DINO CHOW. Adweek supplies a new reason to burn a hole in your credit card: “These $25 Collector’s Edition Cereal Boxes Include Digital Screens Showing Jurassic World Video”.

Dinosaur-loving fans eagerly anticipate the arrival of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom this Friday, but now they can get in on the action a bit closer to home. Like … right at the breakfast table.

Kellogg’s has partnered with Universal Studios to develop limited-edition boxes of Keebler Fudge Stripes and Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes that come with a digital screen embedded into the box. Each screen airs an exclusive five-minute video of behind-the-scenes footage from the flick, showing fans how the dinosaurs are brought to life as well as additional special effects from the movie.

(4) THUNDER LIZARDS. The movie is already killing overseas: “China Box Office: ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ Rampages to $112M Debut”.

Universal and Amblin have claimed Hollywood’s fourth-biggest opening ever in China.

Universal and Amblin’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opened with a roar at the Chinese box office over the weekend, earning $111.9 million.

It was Universal’s second-biggest debut ever in the market, behind only The Fate Of The Furious. The opening was also considerably better than the $99.2 million that the first Jurassic World film earned in its first full week in Chinese cinemas in 2015 (openings were tallied by the week rather than weekend back then).

The dino tentpole also pulled in $10 million from 520 Imax screens. Altogether it claimed over 75 percent of the weekend’s total ticket revenue in China.

(5) NEW CATEGORY PROPOSED. Nope, not the Hugos: “Some Survivors Of Category 5 Hurricane Irma Want A Category 6”.

Tom Krall lives on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands on the west end of the island, high on a ridge. That’s where he was in September when Hurricane Irma roared through.

“We had the full blast,” Krall says. “Twenty of the 30 houses in my neighborhood lost their roofs or worse.”

The National Hurricane Center says Irma had sustained winds of 185 mph when it hit the Virgin Islands with gusts of 200 mph or higher. They were the most powerful winds ever recorded in that part of the Caribbean.

In his more than 30 years on St. John, Krall has hunkered down for many hurricanes, including other Category 5 storms. He says Irma’s winds were dramatically worse than other hurricanes. He knows what winds are like at 150 mph.

(6) NEED MORE PITCHFORKS. NPR concludes “It’ll Take More Than A Few Angry Villagers To Kill Off ‘Frankenstein'”. And also discusses changes between original (1818) and the version most of us know (1831).

Frankenstein has been popular for two centuries because every era since has felt like the end times to those in it, so every era needs a story unafraid to discuss annihilation.

(7) DO YOU WANT TO BE CURED? WHO classification: “Gaming becomes the latest addiction”.

The World Health Organisation’s classification of gaming disorder as a condition which is capable of debilitating addiction is an important moment in the shifting relationship between technology and society.

Concern among parents about the impact of smartphones in particular, and the response of technology firms to those concerns, has become a staple of the news agenda.

Apple’s much covered Digital Health initiative was derided in some quarters, with analysts and punters alike sceptical about the desire of that company to in any way reduce smartphone usage, given its still heavy reliance on smartphones for revenue.

(8) CAT OBITS. Condolences to three Filers who recently suffered the loss of a beloved cat. Two of these venerable SJW credentials featured in Cats Sleep on SFF.

  • Doctor Science

I had to say good-bye to Sneakers, my SJW credential, on Friday. You may recall him sleeping on Lady Trent.

  • nickpheas

Sadly I also have a loss to report.

Steerpike, by then having celebrated his 18th birthday, developed lymphoma and was wasting away before being put to sleep. He had a good innings and is missed.

  • Anne Sheller

Pepper, my oldest, died about 2 hours ago. I found her unconscious and unresponsive earlier in the evening. I opted not to make an emergency visit to the vet since she didn’t seem to be suffering but seemed too far gone to revive. It took her a few hours to stop breathing.

She was a tiny dark tabby, 15 years and about 7 1/2 months old. She’d been diagnosed with diabetes just over a year ago, and been to the vet for a checkup just this past week. I wasn’t expecting her to live a whole lot longer, but her death tonight was unexpected. I’ve had her since she was about 5 months old, and loved her very much.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 18, 1983 — Sally Ride became the first American woman in space.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 18 – Carol Kane, 66. Valerie in The Princess Bride, Myth in The Muppet Movie which looks to be her first genre role, Ghost of Christmas Present in Scrooged, and more recently as Gertrude Kapelput in Gotham. 
  • Born June 18 – Isabella Rossellini, 66. Thar in the ‘05 Earthsea series, Nimue in the ‘98 Merlin series, Athena in the ‘98 The Odyssey series and a number of other genre roles.
  • Born June 18 – Paul McCartney. Writer: “Come Together” episode of the Justice League animated series, actor in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. 
  • Born June 18 – Barbara Broccoli, 58. Producer or Director credit in at least fourteen Bond films which or may not be genre depending on how you view them. Her only acting role is as an uncredited Opera patron in The Living Daylights. 
  • Born June 18 – Kim Dickens, 53. Currently Madison Clark in Fear the Walking Dead, Jake’s Mom in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and roles in Flashforward and Lost.
  • Born June 18 — Richard Madden, 32. Rob Stark in Game Of Thrones and Agent Ross in Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

This is a true story, based on an actual sign in my local public library and the chaos my children wreak when we visit.

(11) LONELY PLANET. In “There’s at Least a 39 Percent Chance We’re Alone in the Observable Universe”, Motherboard has taken a look at a new paper (now in preprint or arXiv.org) by the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford that itself takes a look at the Fermi Paradox. By taking a probabilistic approach to the Drake Equation, that paper concludes:

…[W]e find a substantial probability that we are alone in our galaxy, and perhaps even in our observable universe (53%–99.6% and 39%–85% respectively). ’Where are they?’ — probably extremely far away, and quite possibly beyond the cosmological horizon and forever unreachable.

Note that since this is a preprint article it has not been peer-reviewed yet. Motherboard summarized their own take on the paper as:

These are sobering results, but the researchers caution against any kneejerk cosmic pessimism. “This conclusion does not mean that we are alone, just that this is very scientifically plausible and should not surprise us,” the researchers wrote. “It is a statement about our state of knowledge, rather than a new measurement.”

In other words, there’s no reason to despair—yet. The more we learn about the universe and our own planet, the more we will decrease the uncertainty latent in the Drake equation. For example, our inability to detect extraterrestrial civilizations over the decade can increase our certainty that we’re alone, but then again, the universe may be awash in extraterrestrial signals and we simply haven’t learned how to recognize them yet. For now, however, the researchers suggest that if there are aliens, they are “probably extremely far away and quite possibly beyond the cosmological horizon and forever unreachable.”

(12) WITHDRAWAL PAINS. JDA advertised on Twitter he was “Off Social Media Til 6/21” but he must have noticed we were enjoying it more than he was. Today he broke his fast early by posting “The White Male Initiative For Worldcon 76” [Internet Archive link] on his blog.

I, Jon Del Arroz, the leading Hispanic voice in science fiction, will review submissions and select recipients.  Please keep your statements under 500 words. I may ask follow-up questions, however.  If you’re a professional, links to examples of your work would be helpful.

We realize that marginalized majority groups have felt reticent about joining us, and understandably so. But we need more representation from the white male community in science fiction fandom! Bring it!

(13) WHO BROKE THE BANK? That wasn’t the only post JDA published today. Another tells how his plan to abandon Patreon has come a cropper – “The Biggest News Story You’ll Never Hear: Big Tech Strikes At Finances Of Political Opponents” [Internet Archive link].

As you know, I urged my fans and friends who are supporting this blog and my fiction work on a subscription basis to switch their pledges from Patreon to Freestartr because Patreon was removing right wing political commentators over their content.

This weekend, Freestartr was shut down by Stripe, the collections company used to process credit card transactions– a company set up as a paypal alternative because the latter was already known for trying to deplatform right wing personalities through demonetizing. From their website:

FreeStartr currently has lost the ability to collect funds for our creators. CEO Charles C. Johnson’s comments can be found here.

(14) REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY. Wouldn’t The Verge have done more to discourage people from buying this by ignoring it altogether, instead of cleverly badmouthing it? Survey says – Yes! “This unlicensed Harry Potter battery pack makes a bad pun out of an even worse product”. (Wait, was this frame actually written by the same guy who introduced the last two Scroll items?)

If you’ve read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — which I generally assume is most of the global population — you’re probably familiar with the Elder Wand, a powerful wand wielded by both Dumbledore and the dark wizard Voldemort over the course of the series.

The CELLder Wand is not the Elder Wand. Where one is a fictional, legendary magical artifact of ultimate power, the CELLder wand is a Kickstarter campaign for a possibly fictional hunk of plastic that surrounds a fairly ordinary 3,200 mAh USB battery pack.

(15) ABOVE AND BEYOND. Gizmodo enthuses: “This Video Made From Real Mars Data Will Make You Feel Like You’re Flying Over the Red Planet”.

There are lots of incredible things you can do with data. Like make this incredible animation of the Martian surface, for example.

This animation is the latest from visual artist Seán Doran, using real data taken by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (MRO) Of course, it’s not actual video footage, and required a lot of processing to achieve the realistic effect. But it does give the exciting impression that one is flying just above the Martian surface.

 

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “DIY–Behind the Scenes” on Vimeo explains how an animated film is made.

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

Gamer Roundup

Compiled by Carl Slaughter:

Dragon Quest

Dragon Quest XI launched in Japan almost a year ago, but it’s only here at E3 this month that a western release is finally playable. Same old story right? A long-delayed Japanese game takes an age to get through localization, and appears with stilted translations, cheap voiceovers and a sense that this new game is already old.

Wrong. DQXI subverts that. Well, a little. The US release will have voiced characters (the Japanese release had no voice actors), while also adding crucial upgrades like a dash button for your character, and a streamlined interface for smoothly getting your band of quirky allies in order.

Stranger Things

… We don’t have any specifics, but Telltale games tend to follow a fairly standard house style. You probably know what to expect if you’ve played their other games, but it’ll all be new if you haven’t. There will be some clicking, some puzzle solving, and maybe an occasional action sequence where you have to hit buttons really fast or with quick timing.

The Last of Us

The Last of Us has sold over 17 million copies since it was first released back in 2013.

Naughty Dog announced the landmark sales figure — which is current as of April — on Twitter in celebration of the game’s fifth anniversary. The Last of Us originally came out on June 14, 2013, for PlayStation 3 and was ported a year later to PlayStation 4 on July 29, 2014.

Fallout 76

The upcoming Fallout 76 has been officially confirmed as a multiplayer survival shooter, a radical departure from the formula set in Fallout 3 when Bethesda first took over the series. To pretty much no one’s surprise, some gamers have taken issue with that, and 6,000 of them have signed a petition demanding a single-player campaign.

“Keep the Lone Wanderer Wandering Alone” on Charge.org was launched on June 11 and received over 6,000 signatures in just one day. However, concern over the game’s direction began a week before when rumors about the game being a multiplayer title first leaked.

Ready Player One / Iron Giant

Game companies that fell from grace

Pixel Scroll 6/7/18 We All Live In A Yellow Pixel Scroll

(1) 2020 WORLDCON & 2019 NASFiC SITE SELECTION VOTING. Paper ballots started going out a couple of weeks ago with Worldcon 76’s Progress Report 3, and PDF ballot forms were posted to the Worldcon 76 web site yesterday.

The 2020 Worldcon and 2019 NASFiC Site Selection Ballots are now available here. Members of Worldcon 76 can vote to select the site of the 2020 Worldcon and the 2019 North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC). You can vote in advance by mail or e-mail, or in person at Worldcon 76.

In addition to being member of Worldcon 76, to vote on site selection, you must pay an additional Advance Supporting Membership (Voting) fee of $30 for NASFiC and $50 for Worldcon….

Kevin Standlee sent the link with an explanation:

Note that we’re going to try and do a form of electronic voting: members can buy a “voting token” from the Worldcon 76 web site through the membership maintenance section, as instructed on the ballot. You can then either print-complete-sign-scan your ballot or complete the PDF and electronically sign it, including the token (number) from Worldcon 76, then e-mail that back to site selection. All of the bidders agreed to this process.

Chair Kevin Roche responded in a comment here with more information after someone raised an issue:

Tokens may be purchased by logging back into RegOnline with the email address you used to register in the first place. The page after the personal information form now offers the tokens for sale. Tick the box for each you want, then click through to the checkout page (you can use the tabs at the top to jump ahead to it) and pay the balance due. You should get your tokens from my regbot software within 10 minutes, if everything is behaving.

(2) SEE LE GUIN TRIBUTE JUNE 13. There will be a “Simulcast of the sold-out Tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin event”

Literary Arts and the Portland Art Museum will host a simulcast of the SOLD OUT Tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin event on June 13. Seating is free and open to all.

Tickets to the live event are no longer available, but we invite the public to attend the live simulcast at the Portland Art Museum. The simulcast is free and open to all, offering a space for us to gather together as we celebrate the life and legacy of Ursula K. Le Guin.

This event will be livestreamed on Youtube Live. Click here to visit the livestream page.

The sold-out event features tributes from writers and friends who represent the wide-ranging influence Le Guin has had on international literature for more than 50 years, including Margaret Atwood (by video), Molly Gloss, Walidah Imarisha, Jonathan Lethem, Kelly Link, China Miéville, and Daniel José Older. Andrea Schulz, Le Guin’s editor at Viking Books, and Julie Phillips, Le Guin’s biographer, will also speak at the tribute. The event will include rare documentary footage of Le Guin, along with photos and images from her life and work.

(3) SFF POETRY CLASS. Rachel Swirsky announces details about her class “Verses of Sky & Stars: How to Write the Poetry of Science Fiction & Fantasy” and reprints one of her poems in “How Long Does It Take To Write a Poem? Also, “Inside Her Heart,” and a class!”

I’m teaching an online class on writing science fiction and fantasy poetry on June 30 at 9:30-11:30 PDT. It’s a fun class because it draws people from many different backgrounds with many different goals. Some are dedicated poets, looking to sharpen their edge or find inspiration. Others are prose writers who’ve barely touched poetry before, trying something new, or hoping to pick up a trick or two to bring back to their novels and short stories.

As I prepare for the class, I’ve been going over some of my own poetry, thinking about how I wrote it, and what inspired it, and that kind of thing.

Full information is posted here: “Writing Speculative Poetry”.

Poetry requires intense linguistic control. Every word matters. Whether you’re a poet who wants to create fantastical verses, or a prose writer who wants to learn the finely tuned narrative power that poetry can teach, you’ll find something in this class.

Over the course of a few brief lectures, peppered with plenty of writing exercises, we’ll discuss some common forms of speculative poetry, and the challenges they represent. I’ll also send you home with market listings, and lists great authors, poems, and books to pick up to continue your journey.

(4) MEOW. And for those of you who have gone too long without a cat photo, Rachel Swirsky says help is on the way: “That’s a mixing bowl”.

(5) MATHEMATICAL CATS. Adweek covers a public service ad campaign: “Cats Are Great at Multiplying but Terrible at Math, Says This PSA That Urges Neutering”.

Here are some staggering feline facts: A female cat at 4 months old can start having kittens, producing as many as four litters a year for as long as a decade. The result in even a few years is hundreds of furry (often homeless or feral) offspring.

In short, kitties can sure multiply. But they’re actually terrible at math, if their time in a classroom for a new PSA campaign for the Ten Movement is any indication. They’d rather fly paper airplanes, pretend to study (with an upside-down book) and generally confound their arithmetic teacher with nonsensical answers on a pop quiz.

The setup of “Cat Math,” which spans outdoor, digital, social and TV, puts a group of Siamese, calico and other adorable kitties in the fictional Purrington Middle School (“Home of the Fighting Tabbies!”) for a lesson they can’t possibly learn on their own. Or they just refuse to because it wasn’t their idea and they’d rather be napping. In their defense, the figures are pretty crazy: 1+1 = 14? (That’s two adult cats capable of spawning 14 kittens in less than a year).

The campaign comes from Northlich, Cincinnati, the folks who in 2014 birthed “Scooter the Neutered Cat” starring a badass ginger with “hip spectacles, no testicles.” As with the previous PSA, the indie agency continues its spay-and-neuter message on behalf of the Ohio-based nonprofit, with the goal of creating a “100 percent no-kill nation.”

 

(6) TRAN RETREATS FROM SOCIAL MEDIA. The Guardian’s Luke Holland poses the challenging question, “Why are (some) Star Wars fans so toxic?”.

With at least one new film every year, you’d think it would be easy being a Star Wars fan in 2018, but it isn’t.

That’s not because JJ Abrams killed off Han Solo in Episode VII, or The Last Jedi snuffed out Luke Skywalker. It isn’t because we never got to see Luke, Han and Leia fighting side-by-side, which would have been cool. It isn’t porgs, or that superfluous giraffe-horse bit in Episode VIII. And it most certainly isn’t due to the introduction of a character called Rose. None of these things make being a Star Wars fan remotely difficult. They’re just some things some film-makers put into a family film. No, there’s only one thing that makes Star Wars fandom a drag in 2018, and that is other Star Wars fans. Or, more specifically, that small yet splenetic subsection of so-called “fans” who take to the internet like the Wicked Witch from the West’s flying monkeys to troll the actors, directors and producers with bizarre, pathetic, racist, sexist and homophobic whingebaggery about the “injustices” that have been inflicted upon them. Truly, it’s embarrassing to share a passion with these people.

It’s a poisonous tributary of fanboyism that appears again and again. Earlier this week, Kelly Marie Tran, the Vietnamese-American actor who plays Rose (and the first WoC in a lead role in the saga) deleted all her Instagram posts. While Tran hasn’t specifically stated that online trolling is the reason she left social media, since the release of The Last Jedi in December she’s been on the receiving end of a torrent of online abuse.

(7) FROM DABNEY OBIT. Chris Garcia was quoted in the Washington Post’s obituary for Ted Dabney, who co-founded Atari and was one of the developers of Pong — “Ted Dabney, Atari co-founder whose engineering paved the way for Pong, dies at 81”.

“He devised the form that the arcade game would take when he did Computer Space,” said Chris Garcia, curator at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

Mr. Dabney, he said in a phone interview, built a standing cabinet to house the game’s circuit board, power supply and television monitor, and “his engineering methodology became a major influence on [Allan] Alcorn,” the engineer hired by Bushnell and Mr. Dabney to create Pong.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Unlike a palindrome, which reads the same backward and forward, a semordnilap reads one way forward and a different way backward. Examples of “stressed” and “desserts,” “dog” and “god,” and “diaper” and “repaid.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 7 – Liam Neeson, 66: Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Star Wars: The Clone Wars (TV Series), voice of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and Ra’s Al Ghul in The Dark Knight Rises
  • Born June 7 – Karl Urban, 46: Bones in the new Star Trek movies

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy encountered Han Solo controversy even in this Bloom County strip.

(11) TO THE MOON. ScienceFiction.com says “First Photos Reveal Ryan Gosling-Starring ‘First Man’ Is More Than A Neil Armstrong Biopic”.

…So don’t expect a dry, clinical look at the early days of the space program, but something more akin to ‘Apollo 13’, but perhaps even more exciting.

“This is 100 percent a mission movie. It’s about going to the moon as seen through the eyes of the guy who got there. We have at least five major set pieces that are action, and if your heart rate doesn’t go through the roof, if you’re not gripping the edge of your seat the entire times, I’ll be shocked.”

The trailer has been out for awhile –

(12) CONCAROLINAS. At iPetitions signers are supporting the “Removal of Jada and Luis Diaz from ConCarolinas Committee”. However, most of the signers are anonymous, and some of the comments left by signers are critical of the effort.

Please sign below if you have been a part of ConCarolinas but have decided not to return if Jada and Luis do not step down. Feel free to remain anonymous. This is NOT a forum to discuss issues, this is a platform to show the current impact to the continued survival of the Convention.

(13) PACKING CHEAT. Apartment Therapy recommends this four-point evaluation process in “Moving? This Book Purging Method Is Bibliophile-Approved”.

Below is my checklist for conducting a book purge that won’t leave you huddled in the floor, clutching books close to your chest and mourning their disappearance. Use it and you, too, will have room for new ones!

  1. Do I remember at least 50% of what this book was about?

There were many books that I certainly enjoyed, but couldn’t quite recount the plot past what you’d find on the back cover. If a book means something to you, then you will remember not only what happened, but you’ll have a special, emotional connection with how it made you feel….

(14) DON’T LOOK. Everybody’s busy staring at their phones anyway, right? “Emirates looks to windowless planes” — screens on walls give as good a view (they say), and not having windows would require less weight for the same strength.

Emirates Airline has unveiled a new first class suite on board its latest aircraft that features virtual windows.

Instead of being able to see directly outside, passengers view images projected in from outside the aircraft using fibre-optic cameras.

The airline says it paves the way for removing all windows from future planes, making them lighter and faster.

Emirates president Sir Tim Clark said the images were “so good, it’s better than with the natural eye”.

(15) SUNK COST. Expendable? “Microsoft sinks data centre off Orkney” — lots of wind power on hand, sealed no-oxygen environment may reduce failures and water provides free cooling, but no repairs for failed CPUs.

The theory is that the cost of cooling the computers will be cut by placing them underwater.

“We think we actually get much better cooling underwater than on land,” says Ben Cutler, who is in charge of what Microsoft has dubbed Project Natick.

“Additionally because there are no people, we can take all the oxygen and most of the water vapour out of the atmosphere which reduces corrosion, which is a significant problem in data centres.”

(16) LISTEN IN. PRI has released Eric Molinsky’s radio documentary “American Icons: ‘Fahrenheit 451’”.

As part of our continuing series on American Icons, a close look at how the novel came to be, and how it had held up, with the novelists Neil Gaiman, Alice Hoffman and more.

(17) A MARTIAN CHRONICLE John King Tarpinian declares “Bradbury was right all along!” The Christian Science Monitor has this take on the news — “Organic matter found on Mars, opening new chapter in search for life”.

…Today, four decades later, NASA scientists announced that Curiosity has found what Viking didn’t: organic molecules. This is not a certain detection of life. Organic molecules make up all known life, but they can also form in abiotic chemical reactions. Still, the discovery of any organics on Mars is an astrobiological breakthrough. Together with the other habitability clues scientists have amassed over the years, this opens up a new phase in astrobiology on Mars. “The next step,” says Jennifer Eigenbrode, a NASA astrobiologist on the Curiosity mission, “is to search for signs of life” again.

(18) LOOK UP. See the schedule for Pasadena’s AstroFest at the link on City of Astronomy “About AstroFest 2018”.

Join lovers of astronomy from across the city for a week of FREE and family friendly space-themed events. On July 14 from 2-8pm, AstroFest kicks off the week with a festival of hands-on activities, robotics demos, creative art displays, planetarium shows, star gazing, and more near the Pasadena Convention Center.

Together with scientists from all over the world who will be gathering during the same week for the 42nd COSPAR Assembly, we invite you to take part and explore our place in the Universe.

The blog also points to this ongoing exhibit at the Huntington Library:

Radiant Beauty: Rare 19th Century Astronomical Prints (April 28 – July 30)
10:00am-5:00pm (Wednesday through Monday) | Huntington Library, West Hall

 

(19) LOOK OUT. Steam has changed its policy: “Steam games store to ‘allow everything'”.

The Steam video game store has changed its content policy to “allow everything”, unless it is illegal or “straight up trolling”.

The shift comes after controversy surrounding games which many people considered were offensive.

A school shooting simulation game was removed from the store last month.

But now games publisher Valve, which owns Steam, said it was not up to the company to decide what should or should not be on sale.

The new policy paves the way for pornographic games to be made available on the platform, including in virtual reality. It would make the Steam store the first major VR platform to offer adult content.

(20) CALORIE HUNTERS. NPR relates a theory about “Why Grandmothers May Hold The Key To Human Evolution”.

Kristen Hawkes is an anthropologist at the University of Utah. She tries to figure out our past by studying modern hunter-gatherers like the Hadza, who likely have lived in the area that is now northern Tanzania for thousands of years. Groups like this are about as close as we can get to seeing how our early human ancestors might have lived.

Over many extended field visits, Hawkes and her colleagues kept track of how much food a wide sample of Hadza community members were bringing home. She says that when they tracked the success rates of individual men, “they almost always failed to get a big animal.” They found that the average hunter went out pretty much every day and was successful on exactly 3.4 percent of those excursions. That meant that, in this society at least, the hunting hypothesis seemed way off the mark. If people here were depending on wild meat to survive, they would starve.

So if dad wasn’t bringing home the bacon, who was? After spending a lot of time with the women on their daily foraging trips, the researchers were surprised to discover that the women, both young and old, were providing the majority of calories to their families and group-mates.

Mostly, they were digging tubers, which are deeply buried and hard to extract. The success of a mother at gathering these tubers correlated with the growth of her child. But something else surprising happened once mom had a second baby: That original relationship went away and a new correlation emerged with the amount of food their grandmother was gathering.

(21) TOO CONVENIENT. Welcome to the future: “Ship hack ‘risks chaos in English Channel'”.

A commonly used ship-tracking technology can be hacked to spoof the size and location of boats in order to trigger other vessels’ collision alarms, a researcher has discovered.

Ken Munro has suggested that the vulnerability could be exploited to block the English Channel.

Other experts suggest the consequences would be less serious.

But they have backed a call for ship owners to protect their vessels against the threat.

(22) DRAGON TRAIN. Here’s the trailer for How To Train Your Dragon 3. “Coming Soon.”

(23) ANIME PILGRIMAGE SITE. This British B&B is replicated in amazing detail in a Japanese anime, to the amusement of the B&B’s owner who is also replicated (somewhat less faithfully, with the addition of a daughter). A popular place to stay for fans of the show.

Hotel owner Caron Cooper has become a celebrity in Japan after manga-style series Kinmoza was created about her B&B. Japanese tourists are now flocking to stay at her hotel in the Cotswolds following its new found fame.

[Thanks to Laura Haywood-Cory, John King Tarpinian, Francis Hamit, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Rachel Swirsky, Martin Morse Wooster, Harold Osler, Kendall, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 6/2/18 I Can’t Pixel That – It’s More Than My Scroll’s Worth

(1) BEA ACCESS ISSUE. Black comic book artist Tee Franklin, an invited Book Expo America panel participant who uses a wheelchair, arrived at today’s item and found there was no ramp allowing her to get on the platform with other panelists. She wrote a Twitter thread about the experience — it starts here:

The moderator — who probably should have been aware in advance of the panelists and their backgrounds, who the panelist says knows her, and knows that she’s disabled — wasn’t paying attention and didn’t think as soon as they arrived to call the con management and say “we need a ramp in this room, STAT”.

Here’s one of the many tweets in support.

Franklin adds that this is chronic occurrence:

(2) YOUNG PEOPLE RETURNS! James Davis Nicoll launches a new round of Young People by having them listen to a radio adaptation of Frederik Pohl’s “The Tunnel Under The World”.

Welcome to the first installment of Young People Listen to Old SFF, an experiment to see if old science fiction and fantasy radio shows aged better than old science fiction and fantasy. Unsurprisingly, my first selection is from that classic old time SF radio show, X Minus One.

To quote from my tor dot com piece: NBC’s Dimension X (1950-1951) and X Minus One (1955-1958) shared a network, some staff and initial source material for scripts. The first fifteen scripts for X Minus One were repurposed Dimension X scripts. Although the shows began by adapting stories from Astounding, X Minus One turned to more sophisticated material from Galaxy Magazine. I prefer X Minus One over Dimension X, so I’ve snagged two episodes from the first and none from the second. As I’ve said before, DX had the all time best ad lib: immediately after a character in one play made an impassioned plea for world peace, the news broadcasters broke in to announce the outbreak of the Korean War.

Among other things, the panel says this show failed the Bechdel Test!

(3) SILENCED, Heather Altfeld explains how “Every Day, Another Language Dies” at Lit Hub.

…Recent broadcast from the terrarium of sadness and destruction: it will take between ten and fourteen days from now for another of the world’s 6,900 languages to die out. So let’s say that today the last speaker of something somewhere is dying.

Exhibit A: Alban Michael. Out of the 7,700,000,000 people on earth, he was only one left who could speak Nuchatlaht. He lived near Nootka Island, he spoke to his parents in dreams, as there was no one left to speak to him. And then one year ago, he was gone, himself a dream, his language buried with him….

(4) POLITICS IN SF? YES. The Village Voice’s Carol Cooper is “Catching Up With the Next Generation of Sci-Fi Writers”.

…Surely in a community that attracts atheists, Wiccans, CIA agents, physicists, semioticians, libertines, libertarians, and unrepentant Trotskyites, one might anticipate a few political debates. More recent controversies have centered on fears that “political correctness” is taking the field too far away from the kinds of themes and characters that ruled SF in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. Evidently, gay, non-white, and feminist themes and writers were getting too much attention in the 21st century, leaving straight, white protagonists with conservative plot lines unfairly ignored. But gathering to learn and play at regional and national conventions is one way these schisms in the larger SF community are addressed and eventually healed.

At Nebula Con, we discussed these questions of diversity in SF on panels like “How to Decolonize Your Fiction” and “Collaborations: More Than the Sum of Their Parts.” For the former, book agent DongWon Song asked a roundtable of non-white authors if it’s possible to write fiction free of the influence of Western imperialism and white supremacy. Bill Campbell, a middle-class, half-Jamaican author and publisher, described how after a white agent accidentally told him his work “wasn’t ghetto enough,” he reacted by self-publishing the satiric Koontown Killing Kaper, a gumshoe fantasy in which vampire crack babies are accused of murdering local rappers. Frustrated by the overly narrow expectations of existing publishers, he started Rosarium Publishing in 2013 as a home for multicultural SF, comics, nonfiction, and crime fiction that doesn’t pander to the “white gaze” and disregards stereotypical assumptions….

(5) THE COCKY CROWS. Here’s the Authors Guild update on “Cockygate” — “Authors Guild and RWA Prevail in Court Defending Authors in “Cocky” Trademark Dispute”.

The Authors Guild and the Romance Writers of America (RWA) joined forces in this case to defend the principle that no one should be able to own exclusive rights to use a common word in book or book series titles. In ruling against the author Faleena Hopkins, who claimed exclusive rights to “cocky” for romance titles, Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York, stated that he did not believe that Hopkins was likely to succeed on the merits.

…When Hopkins’ trademark registration was issued in April, Hopkins sent notices to multiple authors telling them to change the titles of their books and asked Amazon to take down all other cocky-titled romance books (not just series).

That is when the Authors Guild stepped in to defend the authors whose books were targeted. The Guild and the RWA separately requested that Amazon put the books back up, since the trademark claims were disputed, and it promptly complied. The two groups then jointly hired the Authors Guild’s outside counsel, Cowan Debaets Abrahams & Sheppard, to write a letter to Hopkins on behalf of Tara Crescent, author of another “Cocky” book series (and an Authors Guild member).

In response, Hopkins filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York against three people: Crescent, author and lawyer Kevin Kneupper (who challenged Hopkins’ trademark registration), and book publicist, Jennifer Watson. In doing so, Hopkins asked for a temporary restraining order to prevent the May 26th publication of a collection of stories by different authors, entitledCocktales: The Cocky Collective (Hopkins incorrectly named Watson as the publisher). The Guild’s attorneys prevailed in court last Friday the 25th to prevent the temporary restraining order and again today in a hearing on Hopkins’ motion for a preliminary injunction.

We opposed the attempt to block publication of a book, arguing: “Any order that restricts creative expression in favor of promoting the tenuous (at best) purported rights of a single author is simply contrary to the public interest in freedom of expression.”

Judge Hellerstein agreed and found that Hopkins was not likely to succeed on the merits because the word “cocky” is a common and weak trademark, there was no evidence of actual confusion, and romance readers are sophisticated consumers—meaning that they are not likely to confuse Hopkins’ and Crescent’s books.

You can read our papers here, filed jointly with attorneys for Kneupper and Watson.

(6) GRIDLOCK. The Ogden UnCon takes place June 7-9, 2019 in Ogden, Utah. That means there are three general SF cons scheduled within the same month — UnCon, FyreCon, and Westercon — all within 10 miles of each other.

(7) NOT TAKEI TOO? Washington Post op-ed writer Eric Berkowitz considers “The case against George Takei was always weak. Why were we so quick to believe it?”.

… But there was always a lot wrong with the Brunton story. Unlike Weinstein, C.K. or Spacey, Takei had never been known — even in whispers — for sexual misconduct. And Brunton’s tale didn’t quite hang together. He didn’t accuse Takei of drugging him until days after he first contacted the media, and, as detailed in a recent Observer article , he hadn’t even suspected that Takei had spiked his drink until years after the incident, when he read about the accusations against Bill Cosby. According to Shane Snow’s reporting, if Brunton had been given one of the date rape drugs in use back then, he probably would have no memory of what happened. Finally, Brunton told the Observer that he didn’t recall any touching by Takei. What began as an accusation of sexual assault was now, for Brunton, “a great party story” and “just a very odd event.” Takei responded to the Observer article with relief, tweeting, “I wish him peace.”…

The result is that we are too ready to believe that George Takei committed sexual assault and to assume that gay men are prone to it. We don’t know exactly why there was a rush to judgment against Takei — in the immediate wake of #MeToo, there were so many accusations being hurled, it was hard to keep track — but we can reflect on why so many of us are inclined to think the worst.

(8) DABNEY OBIT. NPR reports “Ted Dabney, Co-Founder Of Atari And Video Game Pioneer, Dies At 81”. He also co-founded the ancestor of Chuck E. Cheese’s.

Dabney, who generally went by Ted, and Nolan Bushnell had been working together at an electronics company called Ampex back in the mid-1960s, and Bushnell had an idea for a “carnival-type pizza parlor,” Dabney recalled in 2012.

“It’s one of these things, you have these ideas and no way you could ever make it happen,” he told the Computer History Museum. “I mean, you could barely afford the pizza, much less buy a pizza place.”

Turns out he was right — they couldn’t afford to start a pizza place, at least not then. But those conversations did start a tumultuous partnership that would, within just a few years, go on to create Atari, introduce Pong as a cultural phenomenon and help blaze a trail for the very medium of video games as we know them today.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 2, 1977  — Capricorn One premiered

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 2, 1915 – Lester Del Rey, sf author
  • Born June 2, 1945 – Jon Peters, Executive Producer of Batman Returns, Producer of Batman, The Witches Of Eastwick and the Wild Wild West film.
  • Born June 2, 1977 – Zachary Quinto, the new Mr. Spock
  • Born June 2, 1978 — Dominic Cooper (Jesse in Preacher, Howard Stark in Agent Carter and  Captain America: The First Avenger and a role in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.)

(11) HIRSUTE KNOWLEDGE. Camestros Felapton has posted the answers to his sff author beard identification quiz. How did you score?

(12) A FRIGHT AT THE OPERA. Broadway World says a Bradbury-inspired opera will open this summer: “Sci-Fi Opera THE BRADBURY TATTOOS To Premiere This July”.

In the nearly 70 years since late author Ray Bradbury published “The Illustrated Man,” various short stories in the classic science fiction anthology have been adapted for film, stage and television. Now, four of them serve as the basis for “The Bradbury Tattoos,” an ambitious new rock opera, scheduled to premiere July 13 and 22 at Memorial Hall in Cincinnati.

Written by composer Zac Greenberg and librettist Michael Burnham, “The Bradbury Tattoos” will be presented by concert:nova, a contemporary-classical ensemble founded by musicians from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Partial funding for the production is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

“The opera is in four movements,” Greenberg explained. “The first three movements happen simultaneously, in different rooms. The audience moves from room to room, and then everyone comes together in the main hall for the grand finale.”

Stylistically, the movements range from classical string quartet to avant-garde classical, folk and big band. Though the stories are different, they share a common theme of humans coping with a frightening future:

  • “Kaleidoscope” – The crew of a disabled spacecraft reflects on their lives, while drifting toward death.
  • “Zero Hour” – Children play a game called “Invasion,” which turns out to be more than a game.
  • “The Highway” – A husband and wife who live near a highway help refugees fleeing a nuclear war.
  • “The Last Night of the World” – A married couple goes about their normal routines, despite realizing that the world is about to end

(13) CAREFULLY TAUGHT. The BBC asks: “Are you scared yet? Meet Norman, the psychopathic AI” — another demo that data matters when teaching an AI.

Norman is an algorithm trained to understand pictures but, like its namesake Hitchcock’s Norman Bates, it does not have an optimistic view of the world.

When a “normal” algorithm generated by artificial intelligence is asked what it sees in an abstract shape it chooses something cheery: “A group of birds sitting on top of a tree branch.”

Norman sees a man being electrocuted.

And where “normal” AI sees a couple of people standing next to each other, Norman sees a man jumping from a window.

The psychopathic algorithm was created by a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as part of an experiment to see what training AI on data from “the dark corners of the net” would do to its world view.

(14) SCARE THE HELL INTO YOU. The hype machine says “Hereditary: The ‘scariest film for years’ is coming”.

It’s been described as “the singularly most terrifying horror film in years” and “a new generation’s The Exorcist”.

Horror movie Hereditary has become one of 2018’s most eagerly anticipated releases after scaring and impressing critics in equal measure.

Actress Toni Collette is coming in for particular praise as a woman whose family has demons in its DNA.

Bustle said it’s “truly unlike anything you’ve seen before”, while The AV Club called it “pure emotional terrorism”.

The film is released in the US on 8 June and in the UK a week later.

(15) CAT HELP WANTED. In San Diego a “Beloved book store closing after 53 years” – and the bookstore cat, Bartleby, is unemployed!

It’s the end of an era on Adams Avenue in Normal Heights. After 53 years, the Adams Avenue Book Store is set to close its doors.

(16) ROAD ROCKET. Messy Nessy shares its photo album of “Fantastic French Publicity Caravans of Yesteryear”, which begins with this epic vehicle:

My wormhole began with this photo of the world’s first (possibly only) vehicle-shaped pen, the BIC mobile, photographed at the Tour de France in 1953. I’ve never been an avid follower of the annual cycling race that was created in 1903 by a French newspaper as a gimmick to sell more papers– but this? Give me a parade of the wackiest concept cars and publicity vehicles, and you’ve got my attention!

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

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 5/29/18 The Future Is Pixelled, It’s Just Not Evenly Scrolled

(1) HUGO VOTER PACKET. Members can access the 2018 edition: “2018 Hugo Awards Voter Packet Now Available”.

Worldcon 76 has issued the 2018 Hugo Awards Voter Packet, a collection of finalists for the 2018 Hugo Awards made available to members of Worldcon 76 to assist them in making informed decisions when voting on this year’s Hugo Awards. The packet is available for download from the Worldcon 76 Hugo Awards website in the “Hugo Voter Packet” section. Members of Worldcon 76 can sign in using their Hugo Award voting credentials that were sent to them when the final Hugo Award ballot was issued.

Only members of Worldcon 76 can access the 2018 Hugo Award Voter Packet and vote on the 2018 Hugo Awards.

…Worldcon 76 will shortly send an announcement regarding the availability of the Hugo Voter Packet to all members who registered their e-mail address with the convention. This mailing will include a copy of the member’s voting credentials (membership number and voting PIN). Members can request a copy of their credentials using the 2018 Hugo Awards PIN lookup page.

A 1943 Retro-Hugo Voter Packet is in preparation.

(2) “SNAPE” MEMORABILIA TO AUCTION. You Alan Rickman fans should get ready to empty your money belts. Taryn Ryder, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Alan Rickman’s frustrations playing Snape in ‘Harry Potter’ revealed in personal letters” says the actor’s archive is about to be auctioned off by Neil Pearson Rare Books for 950,000 pounds, which includes many Harry Potter collectibles, including Rickman’s annotated copies of Potter scripts, as well as scripts for other films and plays Rickman was in, like Die Hard.

Rickman — who died of cancer in 2016  — helmed the role in all eight films from 2001 to 2011.

One letter is from producer David Heyman, who sent Rickman a thank-you note after 2002’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. “Thank you for making HP2 a success,” it reads. “I know, at times, you are frustrated but please know that you are an integral part of the films. And you are brilliant.”

 

(3) MORE ON WISCON. From S. Qiouyi Lu. Thread starts here:

(4) CODES OF CONDUCT ELSEWHERE. According to Business Insider, “Programmers are having a huge debate over whether they should be required to behave respectfully to each other”. A lot of the objections are still current events in the Vox Popoli comment section, but not in most parts of fandom.

Last week, a software engineer publicly quit a very popular open-source project, setting off a firestorm of debate within the programming world.

Programmers are arguing about whether they should have to agree to a community code of conduct that requires them to behave respectfully.

They are also arguing about whether programs that aim to increase participation from underrepresented groups are “racism.”

The debate began on Wednesday when a developer named Rafael Avila de Espindola quit the LLVM Compiler Infrastructure Project, to which he had been a major contributor over the past decade.

Avila outlined several of his frustrations with the group but said he quit because it was requiring him to agree to a community code of conduct to attend its conference.

That code of conduct basically says the group is open to people from all walks of life and expects its members to be courteous.

Avila also said he was unhappy that the project had decided to accept an intern from a group called Outreachy, which offers paid internships to women, LGBTQ folks, African-Americans, people with Hispanic or Latin heritage, and those with indigenous American ancestries.

In other words, the internships are for people in underrepresented gender and racial groups in the programming/open-source worlds; white men and Asian men are the two groups best represented in tech, diversity reports have found.

…Despite that kind of rancor, large open-source communities and conferences are increasingly adopting community codes of conduct.

And for good reason — the open-source world has a reputation for aggressive, rude, and intimidating behavior.

In 2013, Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux and the god of open-source programming, was called out for profanity-laced rants on the Linux email lists, which set the tone for the open-source world.

He and the Linux community did an about-face — sort of — in 2015, telling members that their work would be criticized but asking them to “be excellent to each other” and to feel free to report abuse.

(5) ERASURE FIGHTER. James Davis Nicoll’s personal Episode VII appears on Tor.com — “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1970s, Part VII”.

At this stage of James’ Tour of Disco-Era Women SF Authors, we have reached M. Certain letters are deficient in authors whose surnames begin with that particular letter. Not so M. There is an abundance of authors whose surnames begin with M. Perhaps an excess. In fact, there are more authors named Murphy than the authors I listed whose names begin with I….

Sondra Marshak is best known for her Star Trek-related activity. Star Trek, an American science fiction television show akin to Raumpatrouille—Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffes Orion, was cancelled after seventy-nine episodes in the mid-1960s. An anthology of original stories commissioned a decade after a show’s cancellation seems unthinkable and yet in 1976, Marshak and Myrna Culbreath’s co-edited collection, Star Trek: The New Voyages, was published by Bantam Books, soon followed by Star Trek: The New Voyages 2. This suggests that the show’s fandom managed to survive the show’s demise. Perhaps some day there will be a revival of this venerable program—perhaps even a movie!—although I must caution fans against getting their hopes up…

Fans of John Scalzi’s Redshirts may find the New Voyages story “Visit to a Weird Planet Revisited” of interest, as yet another example of science fiction authors independently hitting on very similar ideas.

(6) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Mary Robinette Kowal and Lawrence C. Connolly on Wednesday, June 20, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, just off 2nd Ave, upstairs) in New York.

Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of historical fantasy novels: Ghost Talkers, and The Glamourist Histories series and the forthcoming Lady Astronaut duology. She is also a three time Hugo Award winner and a cast member of the podcast Writing Excuses. Her short fiction appears in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionTor.com, and Asimov’s. Mary, a professional puppeteer, lives in Chicago. Visit her online at maryrobinettekowal.com.

Lawrence C. Connolly

Lawrence C. Connolly is one of the writers for the anthology film Nightmare Cinema, premiering next month at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal. Produced by Mick Garris, the movie goes into wide release later this year. Connolly’s books include the Stoker finalist Voices (scheduled for re-release this summer), This Way to Egress, and Veins. More at LawrenceCConnolly.com.

(7) FUNDRAISER. Tessa B. Dick is trying to raise $5,000 through YouCaring to “Keep my home”. She’s got $4,205 in contributions as of this writing. Her May 28 update said:

I really need your help, or I am not going to make it. I don’t know how to explain that I can’t sleep because every time I close my eyes, I see that gang banger with a knife to a boy’s throat. I can’t go anywhere because every time I walk out the door, I see his gangster buddies coming after me because my testimony put their buddy in prison. I got crisis counseling and I coped for twelve years, but I can’t cope any more. I went through major forest fires in 2003 and 2008, a severe burn to my foot in 2007, a head injury in 2010, a broken leg in 2012, and more stress than I can describe. I got a settlement for the head injury that didn’t even cover my medical bills, which is why I had to go bankrupt.

I should qualify for disability, based on my severe weight loss alone, but they keep turning me down. My only hope is to get this house in good enough shape to get a reverse mortgage.

(8) GAME MAN. Rich Lynch was tuned into tonight’s Jeopardy! In the category “Award Winning Books” one of the answers was:

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Crayola crayons’ distinctive smell — ranked 18th in a list of the 20 most identifiable  smells in a 1982 Yale University study — is largely due to the stearic acid used to make the waxy consistency. Stearic acid is a derivative of beef fat.

Source: Mental Floss

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY

  • Born May 29, 1906 — T.H. White, best known for his Arthurian novels including The Sword in the Stone

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • JJ finds Tolkien and Middle-Earth deconstructed in Existential Comics’ “Council of Elrond”.
  • John King Tarpinian found one voter’s party preference was not all that surprising in Bizarro.

(12) THE OLD STOMPING GROUNDS. ExCeL, the site of the 2014 London Worldcon (aka Loncon 3), was the host site of MCM Comic Con this past weekend (25–27 May 2018). Newham Recorder has the story: “Superheroes and spandex squeeze into ExCeL for MCM London Comic Con”

Tens of thousands of pop culture buffs took a pilgrimage to the ExCeL this bank holiday weekend for the UK’s largest comic book convention.

…Monolithic entertainment brands seemed keen to continue cashing in on the nerd demographic, wheeling out a long list of stars for the event, including Black Panther’s Letitia Wright, The Defenders’ Rosario Dawson and Khary Payton and Cooper Andrews from zombie series The Walking Dead.

(13) MAINSTREAMING FAN REFERENCES. Karl-Johan Norén found a “Sign that the Hugo awards and sf fandom is, or at least is becoming, mainstream: we are used in a joke but not as the butt of it” in NewsThump’s headline “UK Brexit proposals nominated for Hugo Award in Fantasy category”.

(14) FINGERPRINTS ALL OVER IT. BBC reports “Fortnite sued for ‘copying’ rival game PUBG”.

The makers of Fortnite, one of the world’s most popular video games, have been accused of copying rival title PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG).

The studio behind PUBG has asked a court in South Korea to determine whether Epic Games copied its intellectual property.

Fortnite and PUBG have both attracted millions of gamers with their huge “last player standing” online battles.

Epic Games has not yet commented on the lawsuit.

PUBG was first released in March 2017. It was inspired by the Japanese thriller film Battle Royale, in which a group of students is forced to fight to the death by the government.

In PUBG, up to 100 players parachute on to an island, search for weapons and kill one another until only one player remains.

Fortnite was first released in July 2017 but its Battle Royale mode was not added until September 2017.

(15) WARPED TRUTH. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) recently released a 2010 study document entitled “Warp Drive, Dark Energy, and the Manipulation of Extra Dimensions” [PDF file]. The report was originally marked Unclassified, but For Official Use Only (U/FOUO) and was publicly posted by (among others) by KLAS-TV, the Las Vegas NBC affiliate (“I-Team: Documents prove secret UFO study based in Nevada”).

So, does the document provide a roadmap to a working warp drive engine? Probably not, according to at least one physicist. Quoting a Science Alert article “The US Military Has Released a Mysterious Report on ‘Warp Drives’. Here’s What Physicists Think About It”:

The authors suggest we may not be too far away from cracking the mysteries of higher, unseen dimensions and negative or “dark energy,” a repulsive force that physicists believe is pushing the universe apart at ever-faster speeds.

“Control of this higher dimensional space may b? ? source of technological control ?v?r the dark energy density and could ultimately play ? role in the development of exotic propulsion technologies; specifically, ? warp drive,” the report says, adding: “Trips to the planets within our own solar system would take hours rather than years, and journeys to local star system would be measured in weeks rather than hundreds of thousands of years.”

However, Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at Caltech who studies and follows the topics covered by the report, had a lot of cold water to pour on the report’s optimism.

“It’s bits and pieces of theoretical physics dressed up as if it has something to do with potentially real-world applications, which it doesn’t,” Carroll said.

“This is not crackpot. This is not the Maharishi saying we’re going to use spirit energy to fly off the ground – this is real physics. But this is not something that’s going to connect with engineering anytime soon, probably anytime ever.”

(16) THE VASTY FIELDS OF GALLIFREY. Io9’s James Whitbrook advises everyone about “The Best Stories to Watch During Twitch’s Absurdly Ginormous Classic Doctor Who Marathon”.

Today, Twitch begins a seven-week endurance run/celebration of all things old-school Doctor Who, live streaming over 500 episodes worth of adventures in Time and Space. Unless you happen to have seven weeks of free time starting imminently (in which case, I envy you), you likely can’t sit down and watch all of it. So here’s a few must-watch storylines to dive in for….

(17) ANOTHER BUYING OPPORTUNITY. From Mental Floss we learn: “An Original Doctor Who TARDIS Is Hitting the Auction Block”.

If you’ve ever wondered if there’s really something to this whole “dimensional transcendentalism” thing, a.k.a. the explanation given as to why Doctor Who’s TARDIS is so tiny on the outside but enormous on the inside, now’s your chance to find out for yourself. A TARDIS created for Peter Cushing for the 1965 film Dr. Who and the Daleks is getting ready to hit the auction block at Ewbank’s as part of its “Entertainment & Memorabilia” auction, which kicks off on May 31.

(18) DIVIDENDS. Absolutely true.

(19) INSTANT CLASSIC. Applause for Matthew Johnson’s latest filk in comments:

Also, for the Nick Lowe/Johnny Cash fans among us:

The beast of squees
Obsessed with old, forgotten Bonds
And whichever one you like
Is one of which he isn’t fond
God help the beast of squees

The beast of squees
Knows more than you on Doctor Who
Which host was better on Blue’s Clues
And in the twinkling of an eye
Might declare a Mary Sue
God help the beast of squees

Sometimes he tries to kid me
That he’s just a normal fan
Or even that he’s run right out of things to pan
I feel pity when I can
For the beast of squees

That everybody knows
They’ve seen him out in fannish clothes
Patently unclear
If it’s A New Hope or New Year
God help
The beast of squees

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Rich Lynch, Cat Eldridge, Bill, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, James Davis Nicoll, Matthew Kressel, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 5/25/18 The Prospect Of Incontinent Hobgoblins

(1) FANX FLOUNDERS ON. How long will FanX’s Bryan Brandenburg’s “indefinite leave” be?

FanX’s other leader, Dan Farr, now has added his own statement and apology.

I, Dan Farr, apologize fully for any instances in which a participant has felt unsafe. We do not condone these behaviors, from anyone.

It is not our role or responsibility to judge any individual nor to disparage or use inflammatory language about any participant in our conference. It is our role to do all within our power to keep our participants safe. Our conversation with the author resulted in a mutual agreement that he will not be participating in our future events. With this agreement, we consider the matter resolved.

Additionally, my partner and cofounder, Bryan Brandenburg has made a personal and heartfelt apology for his remarks on social media that were insensitive about our attendees’ sexual harassment concerns.

However, continued postings in social media and the press have shown energy and anger to a level that Bryan has decided that his continued participation, for now, is a distraction from the goals we are striving to uphold.

Beginning immediately, Bryan Brandenburg is taking an executive leave that he hopes and believes will help to dispel the negative energy that is taking us away from our greater mission and goals. While he has not suggested a timeframe, this leave may not be permanent. We hope to see Bryan at our September event with his wife and new son.

As for Brandenburg stepping back from social media – well, he’s stepped back from where the public can see it, but he’s still busy posting – see the screencaps in this set of tweets.

Yesterday’s latest Salt Lake Tribune coverage quoted from one of the screencaps that showed Brandenburg justifying how FanX dealt with the Richard Evans harassment complaint:

The comments were later deleted, but not before screengrabs circulated on Twitter.

“We absolutely could not publicly ban [Evans],” Brandenburg wrote. “We had no proof. We would be sued for libel and defamation from Richard. Then it would get out that you would be banned and humiliated from FanX for kissing a guest on the cheek and touching her. We would be out of business. Nobody would care to read the details. We did not see it happen. It would be her word against his.”

Hale has questioned whether organizers attempted to talk to people who may have witnessed the interaction, and whether Brandenburg’s statement means that allegations won’t be looked into if they weren’t witnessed by FanX employees.

FanX’s new harassment policy promises that every report of harassment will be investigated.

Howard Tayler’s Twitter thread deconstructs the Brandenburg rationale, quoted in the Tribune. The thread starts here:

And includes these comments:

(2) OH, THE NONHUMANITY! Here’s an admirable idea for a listicle: “The 12 Most Gratuitous Robot Deaths in Sci-Fi” at Tor.com.

Sometimes it feels like robots only exist to be abused, you know? We love them and the window they provide on the human condition, but science fiction is usually pretty mean to them overall. It loves to torment robots (and when we say “robots” we’re really talking about any form of android or A.I. or sentient toaster or what-have-you) with the constant threat of obsolescence or deactivation or destruction. And some of these deaths are just plain gratuitous, leaving us betrayed, bewildered, and otherwise bereaved.

Here are the worst of them….

(3) MORE POOH. Here’s is Disney’s Christopher Robin Official Trailer. In theaters August 3.

In the heartwarming live action adventure Disney’s “Christopher Robin,” the young boy who shared countless adventures with his band of lovable stuffed animals in the Hundred Acre Wood is now grown up and living in London but he has lost his way. Now it is up to his childhood friends to venture into our world and help Christopher Robin rediscover the joys of family life, the value of friendship and to appreciate the simple pleasures in life once again.

 

(4) NEWSLETTER SIGNUP INCENTIVE. Get to know seven authors and fill a shelf with science fiction and fantasy — The SFF Grand Newsletter Giveaway is a chance to win a dozen signed books. The seven writers in this international group range from debut to established, and from near-future thrillers to high fantasy — Aliette de Bodard, SL Huang, Beth Cato, Kate Heartfield, Jim C. Hines, Kate Elliott, and JY Yang.

Between May 25 and June 25, readers can enter the giveaway once for each author, for up to seven entries. For each author, entrants will have the choice of subscribing to that author’s newsletter to enter (signing up for the newsletter is not required to be entered in the giveaway). Existing subscribers to an author’s newsletter can simply choose the giveaway-only option to receive an entry for that author.

The contest is open worldwide. One winner (chosen at random) will receive signed, physical copies of all the books:

  • The first three Tensorate novellas by JY Yang
  • The complete Court of Fives trilogy by Kate Elliott if the winner has a U.S. address, or a choice of one of the following by Kate Elliott if the winner has a non-U.S. address: Court of Fives, Cold Magic, Black Wolves, or Spirit Gate
  • Terminal Alliance by Jim C. Hines
  • Breath of Earth by Beth Cato
  • Zero Sum Game by SL Huang and The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist (novelette) by SL Huang
  • The Tea Master and the Detective and The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
  • Armed in Her Fashion and Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield

Everyone who uses this page to sign up for ANY of our newsletters before June 25 will be entered into the giveaway! You can enter once for each author, for up to 7 entries. From among ALL entries we’ll draw ONE lucky winner — who will receive SIGNED BOOKS from every one of us! A chance to win a dozen or more signed books — a whole shelf of new SFF!

(5) WRITER V. CHARACTER. Ian Sales, in “His master’s voice”, defends his criticism of a Clarke Award finalist.

So, a couple of days ago I tweeted a short quote from the book I was reading, one of this year’s Clarke Award finalists, and remarked that I was surprised to find the position expressed in the quote in a genre novel published in 2017. Most people who saw my tweet were as dismayed as I was – although, to be fair, they saw only my quote.

Which changes things. Apparently.

The book in question is Sea of Rust by C Robert Cargill, and the exact quote was “Gender is defined by genitalia”, which is spoken by the book’s narrator, Brittle, a robot, in a paragraph in which “she” admits that robots have no gender, it is not something “she” has ever thought about, but she henceforth chooses to define herself as female.

Two people I consider friends – very smart people both, and genre critics whose opinions I respect* – decided to insult my intelligence by questioning by understanding of how narrative works. Because the offending phrase – and it is offensive – was spoken by a character, they stated, that does not mean it reflects the author’s sensibilities. As another friend pointed out, I have myself written fiction featuring Nazis – and I have: ‘Wunderwaffe’ – but that obviously does not make me a Nazi. This is indeed true. Cargill has written a novel about robots, in which the first person narrator is a robot… but obviously he is not a robot himself. I never claimed this.

But the people arguing against my comment were themselves making the same assumption about me they were accusing myself of making against Cargill. Except, I think my position is backed up by the narrative.

…So yes, I do understand how narrative works. I also understand how writing works. And while I may not be as accomplished at writing as others… and I may place a higher value on narrative rigour than most people… I stand my original position:

Unless the narrative evidences a foundation for a sensibility or attitude, then it’s reasonable to assume it is a sensibility or attitude of the author that has leaked through into the narrative.

(6) MARY SHELLEY BIOPIC. NPR’s Mark Jenkins says “‘Mary Shelley’ Is Less Than The Sum Of Its Parts”

Given the familiarity of the material, the makers of Mary Shelley would have been smart to find a new approach. Philosophically, they sort of do, giving Mary more credit than usual for both her work and her choices.

Stylistically, though, the movie is all too typical of the 19th-century British literary/romantic drama. It presents London circa 1815 as misery for the poor, the young, the female, and the liberal-minded — and yet picturesque enough for a tourist brochure, suffused with dappled sun-, lamp- and candlelight and swathed in yearning music.

(7) BAIN OBIT. Meredith marks the passing of “John Bain, also known as TotalBiscuit, the Cynical Brit, who died yesterday after being diagnosed with inoperable cancer in 2015. He was a popular gaming YouTuber and started out by covering the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion before moving on to wider coverage, including a lot of indie games. He championed games on the PC and was always honest about his opinions of games, beginning in a time when that was far less common.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 25, 1953 It Came From Outer Space appeared in theaters, a movie based on a story by Ray Bradbury.
  • May 25, 1977Star Wars premiered.
  • May 25, 1983Return of the Jedi opened in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MUPPETEER

  • Born May 25, 1944 – Frank Oz

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cat Eldridge says “I’ve had dozens of emails telling me about the organization and how it’s complying with GDPR.” And now Xkcd is getting in on the act.

(11) NATAL DAY. Steven H Silver celebrates: “Birthday Reviews: Vera Nazarian’s ‘Salmon in the Drain Pipe’” at Black Gate.

Nazarian was nominated for a WSFA Small Press Award for her short story “Port Custodial Blues” in 2007. The following year she received a nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “The Story of Love.” She also received a Nebula nomination in 2009 for her novella The Duke in His Castle. In addition to writing, Nazarian has worked as the editor and publisher of Norilana Books since the company’s founding in 2006.

(12) KNOWS ALL, HEARS ALL, TELLS ALL. The Guardian asks “Alexa, when did the Church of England become so tech-savvy?”

The Amazon assistant can now help you with your Anglican needs. Just don’t expect answers to the really big questions…

Thomas Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer was well ahead of its time when in 1549 it addressed “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be opened, all desires known, and no secrets hid” – but it would take nearly five centuries for the church to turn this vision into technology. For now there is a Church of England “skill” – a set of canned responses – on , Amazon’s virtual assistant which can give its answer to 30 religious questions. It doesn’t answer the interesting ones though. “Alexa, ask the Church of England how can I be saved?” produces a silence easily interpreted as baffled, and I don’t think this is because the Church of England long ago decided that I couldn’t be….

(13) SFF IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Here’s another list to pick apart, BBC Culture’s “The 100 stories that shaped the world”. Homer’s Odyssey is number 1.

Chip Hitchcock celebrates that “SFF cracked the top 5,” and he tentatively identifies the stories with these rankings as SFF: 3, 4, 15, 16, 44, 67?, 71, 72, 73? 83?

(14) THEY WERE THERE. “How ancient DNA is transforming our view of the past” the “pots not people” (cultural exchange) view is giving way to knowledge that there were huge population shifts, e.g. Stonehenge builders disappearing under flood of Beaker People.

…Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, studies of ancient DNA from our own species were highly contentious because of observations that skeletal remains were easily contaminated by the DNA of living people.

As such, there were always nagging doubts about whether a genetic sequence belonged to the long-dead individual being studied or to an archaeologist involved in excavating the remains, a museum curator who had handled them, or a visitor to the lab where they were being analysed.

However, crucial progress in overcoming these obstacles began in the late 90s with the effort to sequence DNA from Neanderthals, which was led by Professor Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.

Pääbo’s group developed a set of protocols to prevent contamination slipping through, including having the same samples sequenced in two laboratories by different teams….

But the field experienced a revolution with the emergence of so-called next-generation sequencing technology. When an organism dies, the DNA in its cells begins to break down – over time it splits into smaller and smaller chunks, as well as accumulating other forms of damage.

It also gets contaminated with vast amounts of microbial DNA from the wider environment. The new sequencing machines could be used to isolate the human genetic material from bacterial DNA and then stitch together the tiny fragments into a readable sequence….

(15) ROADBLOCK. Traffic came to a standstill when….

(16) SFWA GAME CHAT. The inaugural episode of SFWA Game Chat aired this week on YouTube, hosted by Cat Rambo with Monica Valentinelli.

Did you know that SFWA now admits science fiction and fantasy game writers? Cat Rambo introduces a new show that discusses sci-fi/fantasy game writing!

 

(17) GAMING PIONEER. The Great Big Story has released a piece on the woman behind the design of the early 80’s text-based computer/adventure game, The Hobbit. Veronika Megler fell out of contact with the company that developed the game and went for many years without knowing how successful it was and how many lives it touched: “The Hunt for ‘The Hobbit’s’ Missing Hero”.

The six and a half minute video is great and the story of how (now) Dr. Megler has seized upon the lasting power of the game to help address gender balance in computer science is affecting.

 

(18) NOT AGENT 86. Missed out on this shoephone revival:

T-Mobile’s Sidekick gets a remake! Inspired by the past but stepping boldly into the future, it has revolutionary AI, headphones that double as chargers, personalized GPS guidance by John Legere, and more!

 

(19) SECOND OPINION. NPR’s Justin Chang calls Solo “A High-Speed, Low-Energy Intergalactic Heist”:

It was a good sign when Alden Ehrenreich, the terrific young actor from “Tetro” and “Hail, Caesar!” was cast as Han and also when Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the merry comic daredevils behind “The Lego Movie” and “21 Jump Street,” were hired to direct. But then Lord and Miller were fired last year due to apparently irreconcilable creative differences. And you could sense the iron will of Lucasfilm asserting itself. God forbid anyone should try to inject a little wit or personality into this surefire cash cow.

The directors were replaced by the much more risk-averse Ron Howard. And as a consequence, what might have once been a fresh and funny tour de force has devolved into bland, impersonal hackwork.

(20) CANTINA CHOW. Extra Crispy’s Tim Nelson was not impressed with the Solo/Denny’s promotional campaign, launched in April, that included trading cards and (not so) special menu items.

In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Obi Wan Kenobi warns Luke Skywalker that “you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy” than Mos Eiseley, home to the cantina where viewers first meet smuggler and scoundrel Han Solo. It’s also a fitting way to describe any Denny’s located within stumbling distance of a bar after 11 p.m.

…With proceeds from trading card purchases going to help fund nonprofit organization No Kid Hungry, the whole thing seems inoffensive enough. But if some leaked information posted on a Star Wars forum is true, some of the Solo-themed menu items seem a bit silly.

There’s the “lightspeed slam,” a healthy dish that looks more like something from a depressed nutritionist’s Instagram than a meal fit for the Star Wars universe. While Denny’s earns some points for the inclusion of “Crystal Crunch Rocks” in a milkshake and a stack of pancakes, that looks to be the closest the menu gets to anything outside the universe of the diner chain’s typical fare.

As with past Star Wars-food tie-ins, one has to wonder what purpose putting ghost pepper sauce on a bacon cheeseburger and passing it off as something Han Solo might eat ultimately serves. Why not at least serve pancakes shaped like Chewbacca’s face?

(21) NO RECIPE FOR SUCCESS? Mad Genius Club’s Peter Grant made the point that “Writing books is not like frying shrimp”, inspired by the hilarious commercial linked below.

Trouble is, some new entrants into the book-writing and -publishing business think that their ambitions can be realized in a very similar fashion.  Just set up everything, add pre-set ingredients according to some arcane recipe, strike a spark, and voila!  It’s done!

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Meredith, Chip Hitchcock, SL Huang, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, JJ, IanP, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Elisa.]