Pixel Scroll 9/28/18 Who Put Nineteen Great Pixels In That Itty Bitty File?

(1) ARTIFICIAL ARTELLIGENCE. Camestros Felapton has invented the “Space Opera Book Cover Maker”.

Ladles and Gentlebens, here it is: The Space Opera Book Cover Maker Thing!

http://camfelapton.ihostfull.com/

First a word of warning. The images take a while to load and might be even slower depending on your internet connection. However, that speeds up as your browser caches some of them.

The basic idea is this. There are seven layers of images which you can control. The images load as thumbnails (actually the full image is loading into your browser’s memory hence it being a bit slow). You then press a button and all the images you’ve picked get stacked together into an HTML Canvas. If you right click on the canvas then you can save the combined image to your computer.

You can tell the output is authentic space opera because these covers have no tavern and no snow!

(2) ABOUT THAT CALENDRICAL ROT. Abigail Nussbaum’s latest column for Lawyers, Guns & Money is devoted to the Machineries of Empire trilogy: “A Political History of the Future: Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee”.

As Lee eventually reveals, the Hexarchate’s calendar relies on regular “remembrances”, in which heretics are ritually tortured to commemorate specific victories or the suppression of a particular heresy. In order to maintain their power and the empire’s technologies, the Hexarchate’s doctrinal authorities have to provide it with a continuous stream of rebels and heretics, which requires either a constant expansion of the empire’s borders, or a constant narrowing of the range of permissible behaviors. As weird as the calendar notion initially seems, I’m struggling to think of a fantastical device that so perfectly captures the pernicious trap of life under totalitarianism, the way that such systems feed themselves on their own citizens while sapping any survivors of the capacity for resistance.

(3) BEGONE, YOU HAVE NO POWER HERE. James Davis Nicoll invokes the magic number in his latest feature for Tor.com – “Five Worldbuilding Errors That Should Be Banished from SF Forever”.

Stars Move!

The stars in our part of the Milky Way (with some notable exceptions) tend to be headed in the same general direction at the same general speed, but not exactly in the same direction and not exactly at the same speed. Over time, the distances between stars change. Today, our closest known neighbour is Alpha Centauri at 4.3 light years. 70,000 years ago, it was Scholz’s Star at as little as 0.6 light years.

This error does not come up often. It’s a timescale thing: stars move on a scale marked in increments like time elapsed since the invention of beer. That is a lot slower than plot, for the most part, unless your plot covers thousands of years. Still, if your novel is set in the Solar System a billion years from now, don’t namecheck Alpha Centauri as Sol’s closest neighbor….

(4) FUTURE TENSE. Each month in 2018, Future Tense Fiction—a series of short stories from Future Tense and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives— is publishing a story on a theme. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Lions and Gazelles” by Hannu Rajaniemi.

“Where do you think we are?” the young Middle Eastern woman with the intense eyes asked.

Jyri smiled at her and accepted a smoothie from a tanned aide.

“I think this is a Greek island.” He pointed at the desolate gray cliffs. They loomed above the ruined village where the 50 contestants in the Race were having breakfast. “Look at all the dead vegetation. And the sea is the right color.”

In truth, he had no idea. At SFO, he’d been ushered into a private jet with tinted windows. The last leg of the journey had been in an autocopter’s opaque passenger pod. The Race’s location, like everything else about it, was a closely guarded secret.

It was published along with a response essay, “Can You Replicate the Burning Desire to Win That Drives Superhuman Athletes?”, by evolutionary biologist Rowan Hooper.

 Take a random selection of athletes at any Olympic Games. No matter their discipline, they will have one factor in common: a burning desire to win, and a motivation to be the best in the world. Imagine if we could develop a short cut to that kind of passion.

(5) LIADEN ONLINE. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s “Liaden Universe® InfoDump Number 121” is online, with news about things to come such as —

BOOK SIGNING:
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller will be signing the thirtieth anniversary edition of Agent of Change, and whatever else comes to hand, at Children’s Book Cellar, 52 Main Street, Waterville, Maine 04901, on! Friday, November 2, from 7:30-9 pm. Hope to see you there!

(6) HOPEFULLY NOT ICE-9. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] LiveScience article: “Bizarre Particles Keep Flying Out of Antarctica’s Ice, and They Might Shatter Modern Physics”.

There’s something mysterious coming up from the frozen ground in Antarctica, and it could break physics as we know it.

Physicists don’t know what it is exactly. But they do know it’s some sort of cosmic ray — a high-energy particle that’s blasted its way through space, into the Earth, and back out again. But the particles physicists know about — the collection of particles that make up what scientists call the Standard Model (SM) of particle physics — shouldn’t be able to do that. Sure, there are low-energy neutrinos that can pierce through miles upon miles of rock unaffected. But high-energy neutrinos, as well as other high-energy particles, have “large cross-sections.” That means that they’ll almost always crash into something soon after zipping into the Earth and never make it out the other side.

The underlying paper(s) they’re reporting on are on the arXiv service:

—and before that—

Popsci articles reporting on not-yet-published papers can get a little breathless and further can just plain get stuff wrong. What’s being reported in the underlying papers is that 2 anomalous events from one of the flights of ANITA (NASA’s Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna experiment with uses a balloon to loft the experiment over the Antarctic) — along with some supporting data from the underground IceCube neutrino detector (also in Antarctica) — just might point to previously unseen particles not contained in the Standard Model. This would be Very Big News if true… but the scientists and/or the popular science writers may well be getting ahead of themselves on this one

(7) QUESTIONS ABOUT BOOKS. Paul Weimer covers “Six Books with Lauren Teffeau” at Nerds of a Feather.

  1. And speaking of that, what’s *your* latest book, and why is it awesome?Implanted, my debut from Angry Robot, is a cyberpunk adventure featuring light espionage, high-tech gadgets, romance, and hard questions about the future. The main character is a young woman named Emery Driscoll who’s blackmailed into working as a courier for a shadowy organization, and the book explores what happens when the life she was forced to leave behind comes back to haunt her after she’s left holding the bag on a job gone wrong.

(8) LOOKING FOR SOMETHING GOOD? Lady Business knows these are times when people need a break — “Short & Sweet: Comforting Stories”.

I don’t know about you but I’ve been finding the world a very stressful place recently. That can make it really hard for me to focus. So I thought I’d put together a list of comforting stories. Because sometime I just need to read something that reminds me of the good in the world. I learned from talking about hopeful stories that some of the stories I found bleak others found hopeful, so I suspect that not everyone will be comforted by these stories. There’s a lot family in these stories: both blood family and found family; a fair bit of food; and plenty of people being nice to each other and trying their best. Those are the things I try and hold on to when things are hard. I hope they bring you some comfort.

One example –

”Sun, Moon, Dust” by Ursula Vernon — This story about a young man who inherits a magic sword from his grandmother—but he just wants to be a farmer! I love this story because it’s about valuing feeding people and taking care of the land.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born September 28, 1897 – Mary Gnaedinger, Editor, from 1939 through 1953, of Famous Fantastic Mysteries and Fantastic Novels Magazine, plus two years of A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine. There is evidence that she was once a member of the New York Futurians.
  • Born September 28, 1923 – William Windom, Actor, known for playing Commodore Decker in the episode “The Doomsday Machine” of the original Star Trek series, a role he reprised in the Star Trek: New Voyages fan series. He also had numerous guest roles in genre TV series including The Twilight Zone, The Invaders, Night Gallery, Ghost Story, Mission: Impossible, and The Bionic Woman, played the President of the U.S. in Escape from the Planet of the Apes, and voiced a main character in the Sonic the Hedgehog series.
  • Born September 28, 1938 – Ron Ellik, Writer and Editor, a well-known SF fan who was a co-editor with Terry Carr of the Hugo winning fanzine, Fanac, in the late 1950s. Ellik was also the co-author of The Universes of E.E. Smith with Bill Evans, which was largely a concordance of characters and the like. Fancyclopedia 3 notes that “He also had some fiction published professionally, and co-authored a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novelization.” The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction says he died in in an auto accident the day before his wedding.
  • Born September 28, 1946 – Herbert Jefferson Jr., 72, Actor, best known to genre fans as Lieutenant Boomer in Battlestar Galactica (later promoted to Colonel when he reprised that role in Galactica 1980).
  • Born September 28, 1964 – Janeane Garofalo, 54, Actor, Writer, Producer, and Comedian who has had roles in odd genre movies, including Dogma, Mystery Men, and The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, and has done lots of voice acting in animated series and films including the Ratatouille movies.
  • Born September 28, 1967 – Mira Sorvino, 51, Actor and Producer whose genre credits include the TV series Falling Skies and Intruders, and the movies Mimic and Space Warriors.
  • Born September 28, 1968 – Naomi Watts, 50, English/Welsh Actor whose genre roles have included leads in the short-lived TV series Sleepwalkers and the movies Stay, King Kong (the 2005 remake), and Dream House, as well as the Divergent movie series.

(10) I FLOCK TO THE TREES. Steven H Silver celebrates one birthday in his daily Black Gate feature: “Birthday Reviews: Michael G. Coney’s ‘The Byrds’”

Michael Coney takes a look at mass hysteria in “The Byrds,” in which a Canada which is struggling with population problems sends out questionnaires to the elderly which encourage them to choose euthanasia. In one family, as Gran gets on in years, she refuses to kill herself and instead strips naked, paints herself like a bird, and straps on an anti-gravity belt before taking to the trees to the mortification of her family.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) ON FANTASY. In August Tor.com posted V. E. Schwab’s Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature, given at Pembroke College, Oxford — “’In Search of Doors’: Read V.E. Schwab’s 2018 J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature”.

I write fantasy to make cracks in the foundation of a reader’s expectations, to challenge the solidity of their assumptions and beliefs.

I write fantasy because I want to bolster the believers, and make the skeptics wonder, to instill doubt and hope in equal measure. To help readers envision a time, a place, a world in which fantastical concepts like magic, or immortality, or equality, seem within reach.

(13) FAILS. Oren Ashkenazi breaks down “Eight Absurdities We Force on Female Characters” at Mythcreants.

It would be impossible to list all the difficulties storytellers create for themselves, but here are eight of the most common….

The second on the list is —

  1. Separate Fighting Styles

I used to think it was strange how often I would see people online asking how to realistically write women in fight scenes. I thought, “Simple: pointy end goes into the other fighter.” But then I realized that people were actually confused and that the debates over which killing tools would work as “women’s weapons” are largely spawned by existing stories.

Every time a novel depicts a woman needing to find a special weapon or a film gives women a sexy fighting style, it furthers the idea that the way women fight is inherently different from the way men fight. This is nonsense – the physics of murder don’t change based on gender – but the idea persists.

Storytellers can free themselves from this problem by simply accepting that women in their setting fight the same way men fight. A sword doesn’t particularly care about its wielder’s pronouns. If a storyteller actually wants to know what tactics a physically weaker fighter would employ against a stronger opponent, they can ask that, but it should be decoupled from gender. If that level of detail is important to the setting, then it should be considered any time combatants differ in strength, not just when one of them is female.

(14) VASTER THAN EMPIRES. Another big dino discovered: “Bones Reveal The Brontosaurus Had An Older, Massive Cousin In South Africa”.

Millions of years before the brontosaurus roamed the Earth, a massive relative was lumbering around South Africa.

Scientists think this early Jurassic dinosaur was, at the time, the largest land creature ever to have lived. And unlike the even bigger creatures that came later, they think it could pop up on its hind legs.

They’ve dubbed the newly discovered dinosaur Ledumahadi mafube, which translates in the Sesotho language to “a giant thunderclap at dawn.” And the discovery sheds light on how giants like the brontosaurus got so huge.

(15) A DISCOURAGING WORD. “Hackers expose ‘staggering’ voter machine flaws” — even counters-of-paper-ballots can be hacked.

In August, the Def Con conference in Las Vegas ran a “Voting Village”, where participants were encouraged to uncover flaws in US election infrastructure by hacking into various computer systems.

The organisers of the conference on Thursday released a 50-page report on their findings.

They describe the number and severity of flaws in voting equipment as “staggering”.

(16) HE’S BATMAN. The new Nerd & Tie Podcast — “Episode 132 – Your Favorite Cartoon (That No One Remembers)” – shows there’s someplace you can hear all you want about that topic I banished here. (And no, it’s not the one mentioned  in the episode title.)

This episode of Nerd & Tie’s big topic is childhood cartoons we loved that hardly anyone else seems to remember. Trae, Gen and Nick all had different childhoods, so the list ends up being pretty diverse.

Before that though, we hit the news — where Telltale Games is shutting down, Disney is admitting that they’ve been milking Star Wars too hard, and DC showed everyone Batman’s wing wang.

We talk about that last one for waaaaaay too long.

(17) SHARE THE VISION. Engadget delves into the VR adaptation of a PKD story: “Philip K. Dick’s ‘The Great C’ for Oculus Rift arrives this October”.

The virtual reality adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s The Great C is now making its way to VR headsets after debuting at the Venice Film Festival. It will be available for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive as soon as October 9th, but PlayStation VR owners will unfortunately have to wait until 2019. Fans can expect to be thrust into a 37-minute immersive sci-fi adventure when they put on their headsets and fire up the experience.

The Great C is a post-apocalyptic story that revolves around the remnants of humanity under the rule of an all-powerful supercomputer called “The Great C.” Every year, a human tribe living nearby has to sacrifice a young person to the machine in order to appease it. The VR adventure by Secret Location focuses on a woman named Clare whose fiancé was chosen for that particular year’s pilgrimage from which nobody ever returns.

(18) LUCASFILM GAMES. Digital Antiquarian studies the history of the gaming sideline to George Lucas’ moviemaking activities: “Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (or, Of Movies and Games and Whether the Twain Shall Meet)”

Before there was Lucasfilm Games, there was the Lucasfilm Computer Division, founded in 1979 to experiment with computer animation and digital effects, technologies with obvious applications for the making of special-effects-heavy films. Lucasfilm Games had been almost literally an afterthought, an outgrowth of the Computer Division that was formed in 1982, a time when George Lucas and Lucasfilm were flying high and throwing money about willy-nilly.

In those days, a hit computer game, one into which Lucasfilm Games had poured their hearts and souls, might be worth about as much to the parent company’s bottom line as a single Jawa action figure — such was the difference in scale between the computer-games industry of the early 1980s and the other markets where Lucasfilm was a player. George Lucas personally had absolutely no interest in or understanding of games, which didn’t do much for the games division’s profile inside his company. And, most frustrating of all for the young developers who came to work for The House That Star Wars Built, they weren’t allowed to make Star Wars games — nor, for that matter, even Indiana Jones games — thanks to Lucas having signed away those rights to others at the height of the Atari VCS fad. Noah Falstein, one of those young developers, would later characterize this situation as “the best thing that could have happened” to them, as it forced them to develop original fictions instead — leading, he believes, to better, more original games.

(19) HEROIC PILOT. Here’s the extended sneak peek of Star Wars Resistance —

A daring pilot embarks upon a secret mission against the First Order… with a lot of help from his friends in Star Wars Resistance. Premiering Sunday, October 7 at 10pm ET/PT on Disney Channel.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She dared…

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

Broadway World profiled the play in May:

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

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

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

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

Julia Rios says —

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

Now who’s birthday did I miss?

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

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

(11) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(With pressure from Ed Sheeran)

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 9/13/18 A Pixel Without A Scroll Is Like Leslie Fish Without A Bicycle Card

(1) COMING DISTRACTIONS. Space.com presents a gallery of photos of Hurricane Florence taken from space.

With Hurricane Florence dominating this view from the International Space Station, Alexander Gerst warns the East Coast to get ready, “this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you.” Click through this gallery to see the latest images of Hurricane Florence.

(2) SF CONCATENATION. The new issue of SF Concatenation is up “Science Fiction News & Recent Science Review for the Autumn 2018”. Jonathan Cowie outlines what’s in store for readers —

Most recently added (mid-September) is our autumnal edition of news and reviews.  As usual its news page has sections on film, books and publishing, TV, as well as the season’s forthcoming books listing of new titles (also fantasy and non-fiction) from the major SF/F imprints in the British Isles, many of which will soon be available elsewhere in the world.  (A great way to see what will be coming out and ideas for your Christmas shopping.)  And then there is the news page’s science consisting of short paragraphs on the season’s key, primary research papers that are cited so our scientist regulars can Google Scholar the papers for themseleves (and our non-scientist regulars can see that we don’t do fake news).  Plus there’s the news page’s science-and-SF-interface section where yesterday’s SF is becoming today’s fact.

Other content includes articles and convention reports. Here there is another in our series by scientists are also SF authors as to their science heroes born in the 20th century.

The issue delivers over 40,000 words of selected news. That selection includes not reporting most of the Hugo winners:

…We continue (from last year) to define the Hugo ‘principal categories’ as those that had over a thousand nominating in that category (down from two thousand as our definition in 2016 as the numbers involved in Hugo nominating have declined since 2016).  The 1,813 number nominating was down on last year’s number (2,464) (the second year of decline).  The 2,828, voting on the final shortlist was down on the 3,319 voting in 2017 which in turn was marginally up on the number voting in 2016 (3,130).
So not surprisingly, the principal Hugo categories (those categories with over one thousand nominating) were markedly fewer than last year. Indeed, for the first time in many years we are not counting the ‘Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form’ as principal category (it only saw 819 nominating ballots and just a paltry 87 nominating the programme that went on to win). The principal category Hugo wins this year therefore were:-

Best Novel: The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin (fantasy) which back in January (2018) we cited as one of the ‘best books’ of 2017. This is the third consecutive win for ‘best novel’ for Jemisin something that has never happened before in this category.
Best Novella: All Systems Red by Martha Wells
Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form: Wonder Woman (Trailer here) which back in January (2018) we cited as one of the best SF/F/H films of 2017.

(3) THE MILITARY USES OF VENTRILOQUISM. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Bluetooth earpieces have made people apparently talking to themselves normal—at least sort of. But at least one can spot the earpieces if you look carefully. A product in development for military use could change that, moving the mic and speaker inside the mouth (Smithsonian: “Military Invests in ‘Molar Mic’ That Can Route Calls Through Your Teeth”).

Communications devices have taken over our pockets and our wrists, but soon the gadgets may go even deeper. Patrick Tucker at Defense One reports that the Air Force has signed a $10 million deal with a California company to continue development of a communication device that is fitted to a users’ teeth.

Dubbed the “Molar Mic,” the gadget is being designed by San Mateo-based Sonitus Technologies  Officially called the ATAC system, the two-way communication system consists of a small microphone that clips to a users back teeth. This enables them to hear communications through their cranial bones which transmit the sound to the auditory nerve. Users also wear a low-profile transmitter loop around their neck that connects to the Molar Mic via near-field magnetic induction, a system similar to Bluetooth that can be encrypted and also passes through water. The loop then connects with with a phone, walkie-talkie or other communications device.

The device has seen field testing—albeit not in combat—with good results reported according to the contractor:

Tucker reports that airmen in Afghanistan tried it for 14 months while deployed, though not in active missions. Pararescuemen from the Air National Guard’s 131st Rescue Squadron based at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, also tested the device in Houston last year during Hurricane Harvey. The team faced high water, noisy helicopters and other external noises that make traditional communication difficult.

“This guy is standing in neck-deep water, trying to hoist a civilian up into a helicopter above. He says, ’There is no way I would be able to communicate with the crew chief and the pilot if I was not wearing your product,” [Sonitus CEO Peter] Hadrovic tells Tucker.

Might you ever see a civilian walking around with a “molar mic”? Gizmodo weighs in on that question (“Weird Tooth Phone Wins Millions in Pentagon Funding”):

A spokesperson for Sonitus told Gizmodo the company won’t speculate about when the technology will be available for commercial, industrial, or consumer markets—and the company won’t scale beyond military use until it completes the contract the Department of Defense just awarded them.

So, we probably have at least a few years before civilians start lodging phones into their throats.

(4) FRESH COMPETITION. Deadline is determined not to be left behind: “Former Hero Complex Columnist Geoff Boucher Joins Deadline As Genre Editor”.

Veteran journalist Geoff Boucher, best known for launching the Hero Complex column in the Los Angeles Times that built a vast following, has joined Deadline in the newly created post of Genre Editor. He will be based in Los Angeles and specialize in breaking news, features and analysis of “Comic-Con culture.” His stomping ground will encompass superhero fare, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and animation, the hottest film and television sectors in today’s Hollywood.

(5) CONSPIRASKI. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A conspiracy theory promoted by Russian media have it that a NASA astronaut deliberately damaged the docked Soyuz that was leaking air from the International Space Station. A joint NASA/Roscosmos statement reported in The Verge (“NASA is trying to squash conspiracy theories about the space station leak”) tries to quash that rumor… this despite earlier media reports that Roscosmos personnel are feeding those rumors through back channels.

Wild theories of sabotage still persist two weeks after a mysterious pressure leak occurred on the International Space Station, and the gossip has gotten so nonsensical that both NASA and Russia’s state space corporation, Roscosmos, are now trying to quell the rumors.

In a joint statement released today, NASA and Roscosmos claim that the US space agency is working closely with Russia to figure out the cause of the leak. The statement also notes that no information will be released until the Russian-led investigation is over, despite rampant speculation in the Russian press that the leak was possibly caused by one of NASA’s astronauts in space.

…the gossip over the leak seems to have only grown in the last couple of weeks. As first reported by Ars Technica, a story published in Russia’s Kommersant cited anonymous sources from Roscosmos, who claimed that investigators were looking into the possibility that the hole was caused by a NASA astronaut. The theory was that one of the three American crew members had gotten sick, so one of the astronauts caused the leak in order to force a quick evacuation to Earth.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

Setting aside his technical first appearance in 1981’s Donkey Kong, today is a fun anniversary to take note of for fans of the Super Mario video game franchise. The fat plumber who sports the iconic overalls and red cap debuted as a titular video game hero 33 years ago today, in Super Mario Bros. which was released in Japan on Sept. 13, 1985.

Not that anyone needs to be reminded, but when the game made its way over to North America and started selling here, it became one of the best-selling video games of all time. With some 40 million copies sold for the original NES.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 13, 1894 – J.B. Priestley. Who apparently wrote SF but I’ll admit that even after reading his page at the Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction that I’ll be buggered if I can figure out precisely what that means. One of y’all will need to explain what sort of genre fiction he did.
  • Born September 13, 1916 – Roald Dahl. Writer, though how much of his work I’d consider genre is a good question, Witches certainly as well as Gremlins, James and the Giant Peach and Fantastic Mr Fox but what else are genre to your thinking? He would win the 1983 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, so I may be being overly fussy tonight.
  • Born September 13 — Bernard Pearson, 72. Discworld specialist. Would I could kid you? He wrote the Compleat Discworld Atlas with Ian Mitchell and Isobel Pearson and Terry Pratchett and Bernard Pearson and Reb Voyce; Also such works (and for sake of brevity I’m skipping co-authors though you can assume Pratchett was listed as being involved though how involved he was is a good question) as the Discworld Almanak: The Year of the PrawnDiscworld Diary: A Practical Manual for the Modern Witch and Miss Felicity Beedle’s The World of Poo.
  • Born September 13 – Bob Eggleton, 58. He has won the Hugo for Best Professional Artist an amazing eight times, he also won the Hugo for Best Related Book for his art book Greetings From Earth. He has also won the Chesley Award for Artistic Achievement. He was the guest of honor at Chicon  in 2000.
  • Born September 13 – Tom Holt, 57. Humorous fantasy such as Expecting Someone Taller and Who’s Afraid of Beowulf?  One of his latest works, The Good, the Bad and the Smug is roughly a take on Rumplestiltskin based economies where Evil goes for modern, hopefully appealing appearance.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Over the Hedge strip is not what Kirk had in mind when he asked for more power:

(9) DRIVERLESS MOTORCYCLE ON THE WAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Don’t worry, this is probably not going to develop into the first Terminator. BMW has taken the wraps off a research project — said to be more than two years old — and has published video of a self-driving motorcycle (Mashable: “BMW’s riderless motorcycle can handle curves, obstacles”). In the video, the cycle is shown driving both with and without a rider along. What appears to be an early version has wide outrider wheels, but the current prototype looks pretty much lke a regular motorcycle with extra metal boxes attached that presumably contain the electronics.

This week BMW Motorrad — the motorcycle division of the German car company — showed a prototype driverless bike on a test track accelerating, navigating curves, and braking all on its own. In Munich, safety researchers have been using the autonomous motorcycle to test out features for its real motorcycles to handle dangerous situations.

(10) MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE UNCANNY SLUSHPILE. You can’t say they don’t know what they missed.

(11) ESCAPE POD OPENING FOR SUBMISSIONS. On September 16.

(12) ST. KOONTZ. Benedictine College English professor Stephen Mirarchi, reviewing Dean Koontz’s new novel The Forbidden Door, says that Koontz is an orthodox Catholic who is “a wildly successful writer who has infused his art with God’s grandeur.” National Review Online has the story: “The Transcendent Dean Koontz”.

… To take a wider view, Koontz is presenting in the series a large-scale defense of the ability to choose meaning and virtue. One of his recurring characters is an anxiety-prone latter-day Puritan, while another is an intellectually and physically domineering hulk straight out of a Max Weber tract. Koontz fairly and logically shows the necessary consequences of these characters’ thoughts and actions by creating storylines of such accessibility that the general reader can see how their ideologies contradict any coherent notion of the good life. The modern Puritan, for instance, moves nervously from scene to scene, constantly seeking perfection and never finding it, unjustly critiquing others while placating his own ego. The ideologies Koontz critiques inevitably lead to disaster — not just for the characters, but for the societies built on such chimeras.

Hawk, on the other hand, embraces the natural religion to which Koontz’s wide fan base responds with awe. She finds solace in the wonder of creation while calling out evil for its supernatural maliciousness, ever uniting reason with hope against secular hedonism. Koontz does “diversity” the right way, too: He features an autistic character in this series who is a compelling hero because he faces down his particular suffering by accepting grace. And as Flannery O’Connor and Léon Bloy before her have shockingly reminded us, the reception of grace usually hurts — badly.Speaking of the reception of grace, I am going to prognosticate: There is one mesmerizing scene in The Forbidden Door, an explicitly Catholic one, that many readers may wildly misinterpret….

(13) THOSE MISTY WATERCOLOR MEMORIES. Jason Heller intended to write an evocative, nostalgic tribute to the world of Piers Anthony – until he reread A Spell for Chameleon: “Revisiting the sad, misogynistic fantasy of Xanth” at AV Club.

I know other people who have read Anthony’s Xanth books. All of them did so in their youth—and like me, they drifted away from them long before graduating high school. There’s something inherently juvenile about the Xanth series, even though it wasn’t marketed as young adult, a distinction that didn’t exist as such back then. Even worse, as the series progressed it became increasingly reliant on really bad puns. That was more of a turnoff than any perceived lady hating, at least when I was a teenager and less attuned to such things. I do wonder how much of the books’ warped view of women trickled into my sensibility back then. Or other readers’ sensibility.

I grew up to be involved deeply in science fiction and fantasy, but it doesn’t take an insider to know that those genres have trouble with gender issues—both on the page and in real life, where sexual harassment at sci-fi conventions is an ongoing problem. Anthony’s books were huge in their day, and their influence runs deep; dozens of similarly humorous series, from Robert Lynn Asprin’s Myth Adventures to Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger, popped up in Xanth’s wake. I read and loved them, too, when I was a kid. But they don’t evoke an icky feeling the way Xanth does—a creepiness that retroactively corrodes any lingering nostalgia.

(14) LUNCH WAS SERVED. Can you guess “Who killed the largest birds that ever lived?” Bones show that humans lived beside “elephant birds” on Madagascar for millennia before wiping them out for food.

Prehistoric humans are under suspicion of wiping out the largest birds that ever lived after fossilised bones were discovered with telltale cut marks.

According to scientists, it’s evidence that the elephant birds of Madagascar were hunted and butchered for food.

The remains have been dated to about 10,000 years ago.

Until now, the first settlers were thought to have arrived on the island about 2,500 to 4,000 years ago.

“This does push back the date of human arrival by 6,000 years, at least,” says Dr James Hansford, a scientist at Zoological Society London, UK.

(15) WALLACE WINS. “Smarty pants: Robot trousers could keep the elderly mobile” — linings of legs fitted to act as supplementary muscles.

Johnathan Rossiter proudly displays his new trousers. Brightly coloured and fit for the running track, but packing more than just Lycra. They’ll be robotic.

“We are all going to get older and our mobility is going to reduce,” he says. “What we want to do is give people that extra bit of boost, to maintain their independence as long as possible.”

A team of British researchers thinks the future lies in wearable soft robotics. They’ve developed robotic muscles; air-filled bubbles of plastic that can raise a leg from a seated to a standing position.

(16) FLY ME TO THE MOON. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SpaceX is up to something… the Moon. Or, at least they want to be. They’ve announced (via a tweet) that they have signed their first customer to take a trip around the Moon (The Verge: “SpaceX says it will send someone around the Moon on its future monster rocket”):

SpaceX has signed its first customer to fly on the company’s huge new rocket, the BFR, the company says. The passenger will fly on the monster ship around the Moon, though there are no details yet regarding when the trip will happen. SpaceX says it will announce who is flying — and why — on Monday, September 17th.

The BFR, or the Big Falcon Rocket, is the giant rocket that SpaceX is currently developing to send humans to the Moon and Mars. The BFR design, [presented] by CEO Elon Musk last year, consists of a combined rocket and spaceship, called the BFS for Big Falcon Spaceship. The main rocket will have 31 main Raptor engines and be capable of sending up 150 tons to low Earth orbit, according to that presentation.

(Yeah, yeah, BFR stands for “Big Falcon Rocket.” Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Say no more, say no more.)

SpaceX had already announced (in early 2017) plans for two people to take such a trip; it’s not immediately not clear if this new announcement is one of those or yet a third person. The tweet does say that the name of the person as well as the reason for the trip will be announced Monday 17 September.

(17) MESSAGE FROM A CRYPTIC KRYPTONIAN. Erin Donnelly, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Henry Cavill Posts Complex Superman Vibe as Reports Claim He’s Leaving Superhero Role” says that Henry Cavill posted a video on Instagram wearing a “Krypton Lifting Team” and waving a Superman action figure around, leaving his 6.4 million followers wondering what this means.

View this post on Instagram

Today was exciting #Superman

A post shared by Henry Cavill (@henrycavill) on

(18) DAREDEVIL. Nextflix release the Daredevil Season 3 teaser trailer.

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

Pixel Scroll 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.]