Pixel Scroll 4/10/21 Scrollier Than Thou

(1) LEND A HAND? Another Titan Comics blog tour will be rolling through on Monday. Would one of you volunteer to write a review of a comic by tomorrow night? I’d be thrilled, and so would Titan Comics. (Email me at mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com and I will send you a link to the PDF.)

(2) WISCON SAYS SUPPORT THEIR HOTEL. [Item by Jeffrey Smith.] This is different. The convention hotel saying: No convention this year? Come and hang out anyway! The SF3/WisCon Newsletter encourages readers to  “Spend Memorial Day weekend at the Concourse Hotel”.

As you know, we’re not able to hold a WisCon in Madison this spring. However! The Concourse Hotel, the longtime home of WisCon, is running a special promotion for members and friends of the WisCon community over Memorial Day weekend, May 27-31, 2021

… The Concourse hosted its first WisCon in 1984 and has been our full-time hotel partner since 1995. They are an independently owned and operated hotel and as such have been hit especially hard by the loss of business during the pandemic. This is a fantastic chance to support them, get away from home for the weekend and see some friends in a clean, well-ventilated, socially distant environment….

(3) BOTH SIDES NOW. Lincoln Michel is writing an interesting series about the different genre and literary ecosystems for his Counter Craft newsletter. Here are links to the first three posts.

… I’m NOT going to try and delineate the (various and conflicting) definitions of “genre” and “literary” here. I do plan to get into that in some future newsletter but for now when I refer to the “literary world” I’m speaking of what you’d expect: MFA programs, magazines like The Paris Review or Ploughshares, imprints like Riverhead or FSG, agents who list “literary fiction” on their websites, etc.

When I say “genre world” I’m focusing mostly on science fiction, fantasy, and horror fiction (plus the one hundred billion subgenres of those). Those are the genres I write in and am most familiar with. Obviously, there are other genre ecosystems: crime fiction, romance fiction, etc. Those tend to overlap a fair amount with SFF world, and also tend to function similarly in terms of how professional organizations operate, how awards are structured, and so on. But when I speak of something like “genre jargon” I’m pulling primarily from SFF. I don’t think I need to define SFF, beyond saying that acronym means “science fiction and fantasy.” You know it. Magazines like Lightspeed and Uncanny. Imprints like Orbit, Del Rey, and Tor.

Because genre vs. literary fiction is so often treated like a team sport where you pick a side and scream insults at the other one, I want to state up front that I root for both. Or perhaps play for both, in this metaphor. I’ve published in both “literary” magazines like The Paris Review and Granta as well as “genre” magazines like Lightspeed (forthcoming) and Strange Horizons. My story collection was published by the literary Coffee House Press and my science fiction novel is coming out this year from Orbit. I really love both “teams” here….

…Popular authors also tend to contend over and over. This can easily be seen by the list of multiple winners. Many SFF writers have won the Hugo for Best Novel multiple times. You have 6/12 (wins/nominations) for Heinlein and 4/10 for Bujold. Five different authors have won three times and nine have won twice. There is nothing like that in the Pulitzer. No author has won three, four, or six Pulitzers. Only four have won twice: Booth Tarkington, William Faulkner, John Updike, and Colson Whitehead. This is despite the fact that the Pulitzers have been around since 1918 and the Hugos only since 1953. (This pattern is a little less prominent in other, newer awards, but still there.)

It’s fair to note that SFF perhaps has a smaller pool of books to choose from, since at least theoretically the literary awards are drawn from all of literature. But if the literary world is as narrow and parochial as many SFF fans contend then you’d expect to see that in the rewards.

As with almost everything I discuss here, there are arguments for both ways of doing things. In the genre side, the titans of the genre can be adequately reflected in the awards. A monumental work like N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy—truly one of the best fantasy series of modern times, which I’ve written about a bit here before—can even win three times in a row . That would simply never happen in the literary world, no matter how deserving. And one could certainly argue that the awards more accurately reflect the tastes of readership.

This can be a downside too, since biases and prejudices are also reflected. Before N.K. Jemisin won in 2016, no black author had ever won the Hugo for best novel. If you had died before 2015, when Cixin Liu won, you would have never witnessed a POC win the Hugo. It was hardly perfect in the lit world, but you did have Ralph Ellison, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Ha Jin, Jesmyn Ward, Junot Díaz, Jhumpa Lahiri, and others winning NBAs and Pulitzers. It’s about the same for gender. Ursula K. Le Guin was the first woman to win a Hugo for Best Novel in 1970. (Ditto the Nebula, although that had only started in 1966.) By that time, dozens of women had won the Pulitzer and/or National Book Award.

All of that said, both the lit world and SFF world have been far better on the diversity front in the last five to ten years than they have been historically. Hopefully that will continue.

… Publishing runs on novels. At least when it comes to fiction, novels are what agents want to hear about, what editors want to look at, and—with a few exceptions—what readers want to buy. Perhaps because of this, short stories hold a special place in fiction writers’ hearts. The short story is our form. Our weird mysterious little monster that no one else can love.

Strangely, the opposite was true 100 years ago. For the first few decades of the 20th-century, the short story was the popular form of literature. It was a magazine world back then. Short stories were what paid the bills. Authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald felt forced to write short stories that they could afford to write “decent books” (novels) on the side! In the genre world, the short story was so dominant that even the “novels” were often a bunch of existing short stories stitched quickly together in what was known as a “fix-up.” I’m not talking obscure books here, but some of the pillars of SFF from that era: Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, Asimov’s I, Robot, and Simak’s City. Also several of Raymond Chandler’s best hardboiled novels over in crime fiction. (Here’s a good post by Charlie Jane Anders arguing the fix-up is the ideal form for SFF.)…

(4) INSIDE BASEBALL. Kevin Standlee views with alarm: “DisCon III Moves to December — and Ignores the WSFS Constitution”.

…You may be asking, “So what? All the bids we knew about have already filed, so what difference does it make?”

I contend that there are two reasons for being concerned about this. The first is that frankly, there are groups that are unhappy about both the bids on the ballot, for various reasons. A “sprint” bid might enter the field. Now even though I have agreed to run Memphis’ WSFS division should they win, I’m trying to be as fair as I can about the known deficiencies of all currently filed bids. In 1990, I was a member of the San Francisco in ’93 Worldcon bid committee, facing filed bids from Phoenix and Zagreb. Due to unimpressive performances from all three filed bids at the 1989 SMOFCon (the filing deadline at that time was the close of the previous Worldcon, and sites were selected three years in advance at that time), a heretofore hoax bid for Hawaii was pressed into service by a large number of SMOFs and a write-in bid for Hawaii in ’93 filed. The write-in bid placed second ahead of the Zagreb and Phoenix bids, and I rather expect that had they been on the ballot, they might have beaten San Francisco. In 1991-92, I wrote and was a co-sponsor of a change to WSFS rules that changed the filing deadline to 180 days before the convention, a rule that, had it been in effect for the 1990 election for the 1993 Worldcon, would have allowed Hawaii to be on the ballot. So even though it would have been used against me back then, I recognize the value in keeping the door open for “sprint” bids. If there are groups that still want to take a shot at the 2023 Worldcon, I think they should have a chance to file until the T-180 deadline that is written into the Constitution.

The second reason I think DisCon III should reopen filing, even if nobody else files, is philosophical. WSFS rules are not self-enforcing. We trust Worldcon committees to follow WSFS rules as much as they can, subject to local laws and other contingencies. There is no higher authority that can force a Worldcon committee to obey WSFS rules. There’s no WSFS Inc. that can step in and give orders. There is no appeal from a Worldcon committee’s decisions. A Worldcon committee that refuses to follow a clearly-written and unambiguous rule that would not be difficult to follow is telling us that no rule is safeWSFS governance is based on trust. If we can’t trust a committee to follow the rules, then the unwritten contract between the members of WSFS and the Worldcon committee that manages the members’ annual convention breaks down….

… I think DisCon III should change their initial decision and reopen site selection filing until June 18, even if no other bid surfaces, to confirm that insofar as they are able to do so, even under the difficulties of a worldwide pandemic, they will continue to obey the rules of the organization whose membership is the World Science Fiction Society. To do otherwise is to do a disservice to the members of WSFS….

(5) READ ALL ABOUT IT. The New York Times takes readers “Inside the Fight for the Future of The Wall Street Journal”, in the process showing what journalists believe is the way to attract today’s audience.

… Now a special innovation team and a group of nearly 300 newsroom employees are pushing for drastic changes at the paper, which has been part of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire since 2007….

… As the team was completing a report on its findings last summer, Mr. [Matt] Murray [WSJ Editor] found himself staring down a newsroom revolt. Soon after the killing of George Floyd, staff members created a private Slack channel called “Newsroomies,” where they discussed how The Journal, in their view, was behind on major stories of the day, including the social justice movement growing in the aftermath of Mr. Floyd’s death. Participants also complained that The Journal’s digital presence was not robust enough, and that its conservative opinion department had published essays that did not meet standards applied to the reporting staff. The tensions and challenges are similar to what leaders of other news organizations, including The Times, have heard from their staffs.

In July, Mr. Murray received a draft from Ms. [Louise] Story’s team, a 209-page blueprint on how The Journal should remake itself called The Content Review. It noted that “in the past five years, we have had six quarters where we lost more subscribers than we gained,” and said addressing its slow-growing audience called for significant changes in everything from the paper’s social media strategy to the subjects it deemed newsworthy.

The report argued that the paper should attract new readers — specifically, women, people of color and younger professionals — by focusing more on topics such as climate change and income inequality. Among its suggestions: “We also strongly recommend putting muscle behind efforts to feature more women and people of color in all of our stories.”

The Content Review has not been formally shared with the newsroom and its recommendations have not been put into effect, but it is influencing how people work: An impasse over the report has led to a divided newsroom, according to interviews with 25 current and former staff members. The company, they say, has avoided making the proposed changes because a brewing power struggle between Mr. Murray and the new publisher, Almar Latour, has contributed to a stalemate that threatens the future of The Journal.

…About a month after the report was submitted, Ms. Story’s strategy team was concerned that its work might never see the light of day, three people with knowledge of the matter said, and a draft was leaked to one of The Journal’s own media reporters, Jeffrey Trachtenberg. He filed a detailed article on it late last summer.

But the first glimpse that outside readers, and most of the staff, got of the document wasn’t in The Journal. In October, a pared-down version of The Content Review was leaked to BuzzFeed News, which included a link to the document as a sideways scan. (Staffers, eager to read the report, had to turn their heads 90 degrees.)…

(6) THE POWER OF ANTHOLOGIES. Featuring Linda D. Addison (Sycorax’s Daughters), Maurice Broaddus (POC Destroy Horror & Dark Faith), and Sheree Renée Thomas (Dark Matter), and moderated by author and editor Nisi Shawl (New SunsEverfairStories for Chip: A Tribute to Samuel R. Delany), “Ancestors and Anthologies: New Worlds in Chorus” is a free livestream panel hosted by Clarion West and the Seattle Public Library on Monday, April 12 at 6:30 p.m. Register at the link. It’s part of the “Beyond Afrofuturism: Black Editors and Publishers in Speculative Fiction” Panel Series.

From the groundbreaking Dark Matter to Sycorax’s Daughters to POC Destroy!, anthologies are one way marginalized voices gather in chorus on a particular subject, subgenre, or genre. Our anthologies panel will delve into the world of bespoke collections with luminaries in the field.

(7) AUTHOR’S LIBRARY GOING UNDER THE HAMMER. “L’Engle Library up for auction to benefit three organizations” announces the Madeleine L’Engle website. The books will be sold in lots on April 8, 13, 20, 22, and 27, but bidding opens early.

… What took so long? 1) It is a daunting thing when a loved one dies to be responsible for the accumulations of a lifetime. 2) We’re book people! Letting go of books is painful. A bookcase is a record of time spent and history and books are harder to find good homes for than one might think. 3) Her particular status as beloved author made every decision weighted.

(8) STANISLAW LEM CENTENNIAL DEBATE. On April 18, Polish Society for Futures Studies (PSFS) will present a live online debate “The expansion of future consciousness through the practice of science fiction and futures studies,” celebrating the Stanis?aw Lem centenary. Lem was a celebrated science-fiction writer and futurologist from Poland. The Centennial Debate will feature international participants: Thomas Lombardo, professor emeritus of Rio Salado College and author of books on science-fiction and future consciousness; Karlheinz Steinmüller, PhD, science fiction author, publisher and eminent German futurist; Kacper Nosarzewski, futurist from Poland and a literary critic.

The event will be streamed live on Zoom and YouTube, April 18th 12:00 am Pacific Standard Time, 3:00 pm Eastern Standard Time, 20:00 Central European Time, and the admittance is free. More information including links to the event will be posted at https://centennialdebate.ptsp.pl/.

The event is being supported by the World Futures Studies Federation, Association of Professional Futurists and Lem Estate, among many others.

Stanis?aw Lem wrote, in Solaris: “We don’t want to conquer the cosmos, we simply want to extend the boundaries of Earth to the frontiers of the cosmos.” The Centennial Debate will explore the practice of science-fiction and futures studies as different ways of “using the future” and increasing our understanding of humanity’s hopes, fears, prospects and predicaments.

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • On a day in 1986 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home premiered.  It was directed by Leonard Nimoy who wrote it with Harve Bennett. It was produced by Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Nicholas Meyer and Harve Bennett. It starred the entire original original Trek cast. It would lose out to Aliens at Conspiracy ’87. The film’s less-than-serious attitude and rather unconventional story were well liked by critics and  fans of the original series along with the general public. It was also a box office success. And it has an exemplary eighty-one percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born April 10, 1936 – David Hardy, age 85.  Astronomical and SF artist.  European Vice President of the Int’l Ass’n of Astronomical Artists.  Artbooks e.g. Visions of SpaceHardyware50 Years in Space: what we thought then, what we know now.  Two hundred fifty covers, a hundred interiors.  Here is the Jun 74 Amazing.  Here is King David’s Spaceship.  Here is Understanding Space and Time (note that the piano is a Bösendorfer).  Here is the Apr 2010 Analog.  [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1940 Raul Julia. If we count Sesame Street as genre which it should, his appearance as Rafael there was his first genre role. Yeah, I’m stretching it somewhat. OK, how about as Aram Fingal In Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, a RSL production off the John Varley short story? That better?  He later starred in Frankenstein Unbound as Victor Frankenstein as well. His last role released while he was still living was in the superb Addams Family Values as Gomez Addams reprising the role he’d had in The Addams Family. (Died 1994.) (CE) 
  • Born April 10, 1948 – Jim Burns, age 73 (not James H. Burns 1962-2016).  Four hundred twenty covers, two hundred interiors.  Three Hugos.  Twelve BSFA (British SF Ass’n) Awards.  Artist Guest of Honour at Conspiracy ’87 the 45th Worldcon, several other more local cons in the U.K. and U.S., see here.  Artbooks e.g. LightshipTransluminalThe Art of Jim Burns.  Each in The Durdane Trilogy used a segment of this, e.g. The Asutra.  Here is Interzone 11.  Here is the Jul 94 Asimov’s.  Here is The Wanderer.  Here is Dozois’ 34th Year’s Best Science Fiction.  Here is Dark Angels Rising.  [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1951 – Ross Pavlac.  Co-chaired Marcon XIII-XIV, Windycon VIII, Chicon IV the 40th Worldcon.  Fan Guest of Honor at Torque 2.  Sometimes appeared in a blue aardvark costume; RP’s fanzine for the apa Myriad was The Avenging Aardvark’s Aerie; RP was one of the first fans to extrude a Website, also so called.  Chaired Windycon XXIV from his deathbed.  See these appreciations.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1953 David Langford, 68. And how long have you been reading Ansible? If he’s not noted for that singular enterprise, he should be noted for assisting in producing the second edition of the EoSF, not to mention some 629,000 words as a principal editor of the third (online) edition of the Encyclopedia of SF, and contributed some eighty thousand words of articles to the most excellent EoF as well. And let’s not forget his genre writing as well that earned him a Short Story Hugo at the Millennium Philcon for “Different Kinds of Darkness”.  And yes, he has won other Hugos, too numerous to recount here. (CE) 
  • Born April 10, 1955 Pat Murphy, 66. I think that her most brilliant work is The City, Not Long After which I’ve read myriad times. If you’ve not read this novel, do so now. The Max Merriwell series is excellent and Murphy’s ‘explanation’ of the authorial attributions is fascinating. And The Falling Woman by her is an amazing read as well. She’s reasonably well stocked at the usual suspects. (CE)
  • Born April 10, 1957 John M. Ford. Popular at Minicon and other cons where he would be Dr. Mike and give silly answers to questions posed to him while wearing a lab coat before a whiteboard. His most interesting novel I think is The Last Hot Time, an urban fantasy set in Chicago that might have been part of Terri Windling’s Bordertown series but wasn’t. Possibly. The Dragon Waiting is also excellent and his Trek novels are among the best in that area of writing.  I’d be lying to say he’s deeply stocked at the usual suspects. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born April 10, 1959 – Ruth Lichtwardt, age 62.  Hugo Adm’r for Anticipation the 67th Worldcon.  Chaired MidAmeriCon II the 74th; her reflections as Chair here.  Long active with the Gunn Center for the Study of SF; Adm’r for the 2021 Conference.  Co-chaired ConQuest 49.  Drinks Guinness.  [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1975 – Merrie Haskell, age 46.  Three novels, a score of shorter stories, recently in Beneath Ceaseless Skies 313.  Interviewed in Lightspeed.  Schneider Book Award.  “I don’t think I’m unique in finding stories where female agency is non-existent, or is punished, as really troublesome….  I’m not even talking about the waiting-for-rescue parts; I don’t love that, mind you, but where are the choices?”  [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1978 Hannu Rajaniemi, 43. Author of the Jean le Flambeur series which consists of The Quantum ThiefThe Fractal Prince and The Causal Angel. Damn if I can summarize them. They remind me a bit of Alastair Reynolds’ Prefect novels, somewhat of Ian Mcdonald’s Mars novels as well. Layers of weirdness upon weirdness. Quite fascinating.  (CE) 
  • Born April 10, 1984 – Rachel Carter, age 37.  Three novels for us.  Nonfiction in e.g. The New Republic.  Teaches fiction-writing, also a freelance editor.  [JH]
  • Born April 10, 1992 Daisy Ridley, 29. Obviously she played the role of Rey in The Force AwakensThe Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. She was also in Scrawl, a horror film as well as voicing Cotton Rabbit in Peter Rabbit. Though stretching to even call it genre adjacent even, she was Mary Debenham in Murder on the Orient Express which was rather well done. (CE)

(11) THE GREAT (PRICE) LEAP FORWARD. “Comics are only getting more expensive. How high is too high?” asks Mike Avila at SYFY Wire.

…I won’t lie, though: I sure do miss the time when a buck got you two comics and change. But I get how inflation works and how rising paper costs can’t be ignored. I’m also quite aware that the higher cover prices of today’s market have led to creators being able to make a decent living while entertaining us. That benefits the fans, who get to enjoy the great stories that spring from their imaginations.

However, there does come a point where comic books can simply become too expensive for many fans, forcing readers to drop titles not because they don’t like reading them, but because they simply can’t afford to anymore.

We may be approaching that point.

One of the Big Two publishers, DC Comics, is bumping the price up on some of its monthly titles to $5.99 for a 40-page issue. In its solicitations for June releases, several ongoing series, The Joker #4, Superman Red & Blue #3, Wonder Woman: Black White and Gold #1, and one of the company’s flagship books, Batman #109, are all listed with $5.99 cover prices. Think about that for a moment. If someone wanted to read all four of those titles, it would cost about $24 (before tax) to do so. Four comics, $24. That’s a big financial hit….

(12) JONESING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “Phoebe Waller-Bridge to star in new Indiana Jones” reports CNN. Let’s hope the 35-year-old Waller-Bridge is not the love interest for the 78-year-old Harrison Ford. She wouldn’t pass the “half+7” rule for another 22 years.

(13) TRADECRAFT. Francis Hamit was a guest on the Spies Like Us podcast to discuss “Pine Gap (2018) Part One”. (The trailer for the Netflix series is at the link: Pine Gap: Season 1).

2018 Australian 6-episode series which we HIGHLY recommend both for spy geeks and people that don’t care much about tradecraft but enjoy a solid human drama.  Watching these characters unwind and reveal their true characters under the duress of multiple intertwining espionage threats was a real treat for both of us.  ALSO!!!!  It is our first episode featuring a guest with actual expertise in the field, author and ex-intelligence officer Francis Hamit.  Really excited about this one.

Hamit says: “This was a very positive experience for me.  Tod and Dave are really nice guys and very ‘Otaku’ for any spy film or television show.  Some of those (James Bond, etc) fall into the SF&F genre and they’ve done about fifty so far.  Each is an hour long and they usually do two part, one hour each, in depth discussions.  I was on as a topic expert on SIGINT.”

(14) AMONG THE NEVERS. The New York Times’ Mark Hale tells why he found it hard to get into the show: “Review: ‘The Nevers,’ From HBO and (Formerly) Joss Whedon”.

One of the puzzlements of “The Nevers,” the new alt-superhero show beginning Sunday on HBO, is the title. The peculiarly gifted late-Victorian Londoners, mostly women, who serve as the show’s heroes (and some of its villains) are never called “nevers”; they’re most often referred to as the Touched. In the first four of the series’s 12 episodes, nothing is called the Nevers. You can understand not calling a show “The Touched,” but it’s still a little confusing.

And the confusion doesn’t end there. “The Nevers,” while handsomely produced and, from moment to moment, reasonably diverting, doesn’t catch fire in those early episodes in part because we — along with the characters — are still trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

Before this goes any further, it’s time to mention that “The Nevers” — a rare case these days of a genre series not based on an existing property — was created for the screen by Joss Whedon. There are things to be explained about Whedon’s involvement with the show, but for now let’s stick to the synergism between the new series and his great creation, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”…

(15) WHAT’S UP, DOCK. AP News is there when “American, Russians dock at International Space Station”.

A trio of Russian and American space travelers launched successfully and reached the International Space Station on Friday [April 9].

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov blasted off as scheduled at 12:42 p.m. (0742 GMT, 3:42 a.m. EDT) aboard the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft from the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan.

They docked at the station after a two-orbit journey that lasted just over three hours.

It is the second space mission for Vande Hei and the third for Novitskiy, while Dubrov is on his first mission.

(16) KING PONG. SYFY Wire tells how “Elon Musk’s Neuralink gets monkey to play Pong with its mind”. (The video is here.) “The darn monkey probably gets higher scores than I ever did,” says John King Tarpinian.

By today’s standards, Pong doesn’t appear to exactly offer the latest, greatest gaming experience around, but just try and tell that to Pager, a macaque monkey who works for Elon Musk at Neuralink, who is currently playing the game with just his mind…

The gameplay is all part of Musk’s master plan of creating a “fully-implanted, wireless, high-channel count brain-machine interface (BMI),” aka a Neuralink, according to the company’s latest blog post highlighting Pager’s gameplay. While the end goal of the implanted device is to give people dealing with paralysis a direct, neural connection to easily and seamlessly operate their computers and mobile devices, the technology is currently giving this monkey some solid entertainment (as well as some tasty banana smoothies)

In the best video you’ll see of a monkey playing video games all day, we get to hang out for a few minutes with Pager, a 9-year-old macaque who, about six weeks ago, had a Neuralink device implanted into each side of his brain. By appearance, he doesn’t seem to be ill-affected by the procedure, save for some missing head fur. Although, it’s hard to say we’re really having a good hang, as Pager is intently focused on playing mind games with a joystick, and on the sweet, sweet smoothies he gets for interacting with the computer. (Hey, at least he’s getting paid.)

(17) BEACH BLANKET BIG BROTHER. Mr. Sci-Fi – Marc Scott Zicree – is running a multi-part series about radio and on-screen adaptations of Orwell’s novel. The latest is “1984 Marathon Part 5 — 1984 Meets Dr. Phibes!” However, the cute title is deceptive — it’s really an audio copy of Vincent Price’s 1955 radio performance in the role of Winston Smith.

[Thanks to Danny Sichel, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Jeffrey Smith, Michael J. Walsh, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 4/11/20 And The Auld Scrollangle Went Pixel Jangle All Along The Files Of The Royal Canal

(1) ONE WORD: PLASTIC! Cora Buhlert’s latest Galactic Journey contribution is: “[APRIL 10, 1965] FURNISHING THE HOME OF THE FUTURE: INTERIOR DESIGN FOR THE SPACE AGE”.

…But while the International Style may excel at furnishing office buildings, its minimalist purism does feel a little too cold and bland for the home. Thankfully, our Northern neighbours are on the case with furnishings that manage to be both modernist and cosy.

In the past three decades, Scandinavia has emerged as a source of beautiful and functional design to the point that Scandinavian Modern has become a recognisable style found in many homes in Europe (including my own) and beyond.

Traditionally, Scandinavian Modern has been associated with clean lines, neutral palettes and natural materials like wood, leather and wicker. A prime example is the beautiful “Hammock” chair by Danish designer Poul Kjærholm. However in recent times, Scandinavian designers have branched out and embraced materials like plastics as well as brighter colours….

(2) PREDICTING THE PRESENT. John Scalzi was interviewed by NPR’s Weekend Edition: “Set 1,500 Years From Now, ‘The Last Emperox’ Is Still Pretty Timely”.

Now, the scientists of Scalzi’s world knew the Flow was going to collapse — but they didn’t do anything about it. Why?

“Primarily wish fulfillment and greed,” he says. “The idea that, sure, this thing is going to happen. But is it really going to happen the way that the scientists and experts say it’s going to happen? And even if it is happening in that way, isn’t there a way that we can work it to our advantage so that when it finally does happen, we’ll still be OK while everybody else is kind of in trouble?”

(3) TIME ON YOUR HANDS? WIPE IT OFF. The pandemic is no joke, despite which McSweeney’s contributors are getting a lot of laughs out of it. Consider Scott Bolohan’s declaration “I Am Using My Free Time To Not Write A Novel”.

They say the best way to not write a novel is to not write every day. When you first wake up is a particularly good time to not write. But as I join billions of others around the world in quarantine, I worry my newfound free time is going to get in the way of not writing a novel….

(4) OUT THE WINDOW. And if Charles Stross ever writes a third Scottish near-future police procedural (following Halting State and Rule 34) it won’t be the one he planned: “Yet another novel I will no longer write”. But you can see an excerpt of what might have been.

…And the whole theme of this untitled novel was going to be: this is elite panic, and this is disaster capitalism, and this is what really happens during a zombie epidemic, and these things are not the same—

And then COVID-19 came along and basically rendered the whole thing unneccessary because we are all getting a real world crash-course in how we deal with people suffering from a viral pandemic, and we do not generally deal with them using shotguns and baseball bats even if they’re so contagious that contact might kill us.

Because—fuck my life—writing plausible near-future SF in the 21st century wasn’t hard enough already.

Anyway, let me leave you with the WARNING very rough, first draft, unpolished only existing fragment of what was intended to be The Lambda Functionary before COVID-19 buried it at the crossroads with a mouthful of garlic and a stake through its heart….

(5) EXPANDING HORIZONS. Drew Hayden Taylor is “Imagining an Indigenous science-fiction festival for the stay-home era” in the Toronto Globe and Mail. A good jumping off point for anyone interested in exploring indigenous SF.

This may come as a surprise, but self-isolating on a Central Ontario First Nation can be quite boring. Especially when you consider that B.C. (Before COVID-19), I would’ve been returning from the sun-drenched hills of Albuquerque, N.M., at this very moment, fresh from IndigiPop X, essentially an Indigenous Comicon. There, amidst as many as 2,000 other IndigiNerds, I would have been wallowing ecstatically in a pop culture smorgasbord of film, music, gaming and panels discussing topics as diverse as how to develop a superhero, developing storylines throughout a comic book series, exploring the implications of the effects archetypes in pop culture have on communities and individuals, and the crafting of costumes for cosplay and film … all with Indigenous themes. Like most other things, it was cancelled. And I wept.

But I don’t need an Indigenous science-fiction convention to explore all that. Sitting in my living room, bored silly, I have decided to celebrate my own sci-fi festival. It will have practically everything the one in Albuquerque would, except our sci-fi will be locally sourced.

(6) BUFFY VIDEO BUFFET. SYFY Wire reports “Buffy cast set for virtual Q&A”. There’s a free segment (see below). They’re also selling 2-minute live video chats with the celebrities.

…As entertainment conventions and film/TV productions around the world remain shut down under the coronavirus lockdown, some events are taking creative approaches to the situation. Some, like SXSW, are screening films with partners like Amazon. Others, like convention company Wizard World, are taking things 100 percent virtual.

One of these Wizard World Virtual Experiences is the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel event (not really a panel, since everyone’s going to be online) featuring a free 45-minute live video Q&A with castmembers James Marsters, Amber Benson, Clare Kramer, Elisabeth Röhm, Emma Caulfield, and Camden Toy. The moderated Q&A will stream on Twitch, Facebook Live, and YouTube.

Where otherwise fans may have lined up to get an autograph, they’ll now be able to pay for a few minutes of exclusive facetime with their actor of choice or get a recorded video message. They can also still get autographs (just shipped to their homes). As cons continue to adapt to the new normal of the pandemic, an all-online comic con doesn’t seem too far-fetched.

The Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel Q&A takes place on April 11 at 12:00 PM PDT.

From the Wizardworld site:

FREE Live Q&A: Take part in this free, interactive and moderated 45-minute live video Q&A with the cast of Buffy/Angel!  Livestream will be viewable on the Wizard World Virtual Twitch channel, Facebook Live, and YouTube.

(7) TALBOT MUNDY REMEMBERED. Michael Dirda whets readers’ appetite for a book newly in the public domain: “For fans of Indiana Jones and Dan Brown, an adventure story for the ages” in the Washington Post.

First published as a book in 1924 and thus out of copyright this year, Talbot Mundy’s “The Nine Unknown” is an occult thriller for fans of the Indiana Jones movies, Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code,” Rudyard Kipling’s “Kim” and, of course, Mundy’s other supernaturally inflected adventure classics, “King — of the Khyber Rifles” and “Om: The Secret of Ahbor Valley.” Set in India, the novel focuses on a secret society — the Nine Unknown — that has existed for centuries, accumulated immense wealth and used its esoteric powers to shape the course of history. As one character says, “Viceroys, kings, and all their pomp are side-shows.”

….Mundy’s “The Nine Unknown” is just one of several highly entertaining novels published in the United States in 1924 and now in the public domain. Let me also recommend Lord Dunsany’s beautifully written romantic fantasy “The King of Elfland’s Daughter,” P.C. Wren’s Foreign Legion swashbuckler, “Beau Geste,” Edgar Rice Burroughs’s “The Land That Time Forgot,” Francis Brett Young’s spooky “Cold Harbour,” and such golden-age mysteries as Edgar Wallace’s nostalgically kitschy “The Green Archer” and A.E.W. Mason’s “The House of the Arrow.” Any of these books will provide at least temporary respite from the nightmare in which we now live.

(8) HELP FOR SFWA MEMBERS. “SFWA Announces Resources for Writers Affected by COVID-19” at the SFWA Blog. Grants, medical assistance and dues relief are available to SFWA Members.

Mary Robinette Kowal, president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) today announced relief efforts to help members of the science-fiction and fantasy (SF/F) community affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including a combination of dues relief, grants, and other programs.

“These are unprecedented times,” Kowal said. “Many of our members are facing painful and difficult circumstances. For creative artists, in particular, the pandemic has brought the cancellation and suspension of much of our usual access to revenue. Uncertainty about the future is in the air, and bills continue to come due.”

Many SFWA members have seen their income sharply reduced, as publishers delay anthologies and novels, advertising vanishes in the flood of news, and public events like conventions and tours are canceled or postponed. Many bookstores and other distributors have shuttered, and readers have less money for buying books.

To respond to these challenges, SFWA today announced a series of measures to support its members….

(9) LADY DUNSANY DIES. Ireland’s Meath Chronicle has a familiar name in the obituaries: “Lady Dunsany dies from Covid-19 as son pays tribute to frontline workers”.

Lady Dunsany, Maria-Alice De Marsillac Plunkett, has died from Covid-19, her son, Randal Plunkett, announced tonight.

She was wife of the late Edward Plunkett, 20th Lord Dunsany, who died in 2011, and mother of the present Lord, the filmmaker and conservationalist, Randall.
The Brazilian-born architect is also survived by two children from her first marriage, and Randal’s younger brother, Oliver….

(10) HEATH OBIT. SYFY Wire reports:

Hilary Heath, the actress who co-starred with Vincent Price in the 1968 British-American cult horror hit Witchfinder General and also appeared on TV in The Avengers and Space:1999, has died of complications due to the coronavirus. She was 74.

The Hollywood Reporter obit includes this quote –

Following a turn in The Body Stealers (1969), she reunited with Price in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oblong Box (1969) and Cry of the Banshee (1970).

“I adored Vincent,” she said during a 2010 panel discussion. “I played his mistress, his daughter and his wife. And he said, ‘If you ever play my mother, I’ll marry you.’ ” 

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 11, 1986 The Toxic Avenger was released nationally two years after it premiered in New York City. It directed by Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman (who is credited here as Samuel Weil) as written by Kaufman and Joe Ritter. It was the first installment of The Toxic Avenger franchise which would encompass three more films, a Marvel Comics series and a short lived children’s animated series. Mitch Kessler was the Toxic Avenger with his voice  provided by Kenneth Kessler. Critics at the time ranged in their opinions from disgusted to delighted with the mainstream ones decidedly not liking it; it currently holds an approval rating of 70% among  audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.  Kaufman and Herz are currently attached to a reboot.  

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 11, 1867 William Wallace Cook. Newspaper reporter and pulp writer who wrote four novels (The Fiction FactoryA Round Trip to the Year 2000, or A Flight Through Time, Cast Away at the Pole and Adrift in the Unknown, or Adventures in a Queer Realm) which were serialized in Argosy in the early part of the last century. Clute at EoSF says he was “was a crude writer, but is of interest for his attempts to combine adventure plots and Satire.” (Died 1933.)
  • Born April 11, 1920 Peter O’Donnell. Best remembered as the creator of Modesty Blaise who  of which EoSF says that her “agility and supple strength are sufficiently exceptional for her to be understood as a Superhero”.  He also wrote the screenplay of The Vengeance of She based on H. Rider Haggard’s Ayesha: The Return of She novel. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 11, 1941 Gene Szafran. He did the cover art for genre  books published by Bantam and Ballantine during the Sixties to the Eighties, including a series of Signet paperbacks of Robert A. Heinlein’s work including Farnham’s Freehold, The Green Hills of Earth, and Methusaleh’s Children. His art would garner him four Locus Awards. (Died 2011.)
  • Born April 11, 1949 Melanie Tem. She was the wife of genre author Steve Rasnic Tem. A prolific writer of both novels and short stories, she considered herself a dark fantasy writer, not a horror writer. Bryant, King and Simmonds all praised her writing. If I had to make recommends, I’d say start with Blood MoonWitch-Light (co-written with Nancy Holder) and Daughters done with her husband. ”The Man on the Ceiling” won her a World Fantasy Award.  She died of cancer which recurred after she’d been in remission. (Died 2015.)
  • Born April 11, 1952 James Patrick Kelly, 68. One of his best stories, “Solstice” is in Sterling’s Mirrorshades anthology. Of course, he’d win the Hugo Award for “Think Like a Dinosaur” and “1016 to 1”, both amazing pieces of writing! The Mariska Volochkova series is the one I would definitely recommend if you’ve not read it yet.
  • Born April 11, 1955 Julie Czerneda, 65. She won the Prix Aurora Award for her Company of Others novel. She’d also receive one for Short Form in English for her “Left Foot on A Blind Man” Story, both of these early in her career.  She has a long running series, The Clan Chronicles which is as sprawling as anything Martin conceived.
  • Born April 11, 1963 Gregory Keyes, 57. Best known for The Age of Unreason tetralogy, a steampunk and magical affair featuring Benjamin Franklin and Isaac Newton. He also wrote The Psi Corps Trilogy and has done a lot of other media tie-in fiction including Pacific RimStar WarsPlanet of The ApesIndependence Day and Pacific Rim
  • Born April 11, 1981 Matt Ryan, 39. He’s John Constantine in Constantine and the Arrowverse along with being regular cast now on Legends of Tomorrow starting with fourth season, as well as voicing him on Justice League Dark and the superb  Constantine: City of Demons.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Grant Snider’s advice —

(14) ON THE MARGINS. The New York Times asks “Can Comic Books Survive the Coronavirus Era?”

….The dollars at stake are substantial: in recent years, sales of comics and graphic novels in the United States and Canada have topped $1 billion annually, with printed comic books accounting for more than a third of that figure, according to an analysis by Comichron and ICv2, sites that track the comic business. Digital sales contribute about $100 million to that total.

But now, neither the people who make comic books nor the veteran observers of this industry see a quick solution; they cannot predict whether the current calamity will eradicate only some stores and publishers or an entire, decades-old model of doing business.

“I do think this is an extinction-level event,” said Heidi MacDonald, editor of The Beat, a comics culture website. “It’s life-changing for everyone. This is a whole industry that lived on very thin margins. There’s no port in this storm.”

Publishers of every size recognize that they are at risk. Dan Buckley, the president of Marvel Entertainment, which is home to Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Avengers, said in a statement, “This crisis is having an unprecedented impact on every aspect of our lives and requires patience and perseverance,” adding that he remained optimistic that comics “are here to stay.”

(15) DRUCKER APPRECIATION. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has an appreciation of Mort Drucker, including interviews with cartoonists Sergio Aragones and Tom Richmond and The Simpsons producer David Silverman.  Cavna recalls interviewing Drucker at a Reuben Awards ceremony in 2015 and asking him if “there was anyone he could not caricature.”  “My wife,” said Drucker.  “She’s too perfect to draw.” “Mort Drucker’s legendary Mad magazine caricatures spoofed Hollywood — and Hollywood loved them”.

(16) YOU ARE, NUMBER SIX. Paleymatters.org interviewed Alan Moore about The Prisoner TV series in 2018.

DB: What appealed to you about the show then, and what appeals to you about it now? How much of it did you understand initially as ergodic storytelling?

AM: First and foremost, it was the show’s experimentalism and radicalism that made the impact. Some of its sensibilities were already in the televisual air around then, with the wackier Avengers episodes and Anthony Newley’s Strange World of Gurney Slade (which I hadn’t then seen), but it was The Prisoner which seemed to most perfectly synthesise these exciting new elements and approaches into a coherent vehicle, a vehicle apparently aimed at affecting the mind of the viewer in ways that, outside of avant garde theatre and cinema, the general public hadn’t previously encountered.

I certainly didn’t understand it as ergodic storytelling at that point, and in fact have just had to look up the word “ergodic.” If I’m interpreting the term correctly, ergodic storytelling would be narratives that go through their permutations but always return to an underlying state of ongoing stability, an example being most serials and soap operas: disruptions to the underlying situation will provide the excitement and motivations for a given number of episodes, but once the disruption has been resolved the ongoing narrative will settle back to its basic state, ready for the next thrilling or amusing disruption. While The Prisoner seemed to hammer home its ergodic nature — with the bars slamming across McGoohan’s face at the end of each episode after another thwarted escape — it never really seemed to me to be playing to the comforting endless stasis of a show like, say, The Fugitive. It always seemed as if this was a narrative that was heading towards a fixed point and a conclusion.

David Bushman: Apparently many, many people in the U.K. were incensed by the ending — the reveal of Number 1, the Delphian nature, etc. Do you remember your initial reaction to the series finale?

Alan Moore: I imagine you’re almost certainly right about the scale of public anger aroused by the Gnostic extravagance of that final episode, but that wasn’t at all my experience as a thirteen-year-old in Northampton’s Boroughs neighborhood, a district not widely regarded for its intellectual acumen. Down in the Boroughs, everybody that I spoke to, children and adults both, seemed far more stimulated and intrigued by that final episode than they were infuriated….

(17) PURPOSE OF SFF. Recently it was Chandra K. Clarke’s turn to come up with “The Big Idea” at Whatever. The author says, “For my money, science fiction’s highest and best use is to inspire people to think about the future they want.” 

…When tech bros weren’t burning tens of millions of dollars on dubious inventions, such as Wi-Fi-enabled juicers, they were launching massive, disruptive “platforms” that had the capacity to be positive socioeconomic forces, with little thought (or care) for how they might be abused. Where it once it felt as if we were on the verge of some big breakthroughs and substantial progress, we now feel as if we’re scrambling to avoid disaster while fighting a rearguard action.

My response to this was to write Echoes of Another. In it, a well-meaning scientist invents a technology that can record and play back the neurological and physiological states associated with “flow”—that rare but lovely state of total focus and peak performance. She wants to be able to invoke flow on demand so that humanity can bring peak states to bear on our biggest problems. But before she’s able to do much with her prototype, it is stolen, copied, and put to a range of uses, both good and . . . well, really rather bad….

(18) SPACE CHOW. In WIRED, Nicola Twilley, interviews Ariel Ekblaw, head of the Space Exploration Initiative at the MIT Media Lab.  One section of the initiative is about what sort of hobbies will keep astronauts’ minds stimulated on long space voyages,  But she spends most of her article profiling Maggie Coblentz, head of the initiative’s gastronomic research division, about how reasonably tasty food can withstand space instead of “space gorp” astronauts usually eat. “Algae Caviar, Anyone? What We’ll Eat on the Journey to Mars”.

… The focus group gathered in a fluorescent-lit conference room decorated with large-format photos of lollipops and Buffalo wings and coiled spirals of salami. On the table, Coblentz had laid out small plastic cups of M&Ms, freeze-dried cheese bites, and Tang; these would serve as both snacks and design inspiration. Nespoli showed up with props of his own—some silvery foil packets from NASA’s current menu rotation; some cans filched from the Russian supplies and the European Space Agency, including one simply labeled SPACE FOOD; and a translucent plastic package filled with what looked like yellowish plugs of ear wax but were apparently dehydrated mashed potatoes. “Nobody goes to space for the food,” Coleman said.

(19) HARRY POTTER CRAFTS. These knitting kits will be the first in Hero Collector’s new handicrafts range. The collection is scheduled to launch Q3 2020, and starts with five kits:

  • Hogwarts Express Door Insulator: This kit contains everything you need to make a Hogwarts Express inspired door insulator. Finished item measures approx. 61cm long.
  • House Scarves: Show your house pride by knitting your own Hogwarts house scarf. Do you belong to Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin? Finished item measures at least 160 cm.
  • House Slouch Socks and Mittens: Need something more to keep you warm this winter? These house pride socks and mittens will do the trick! Or perhaps you have a house-elf that would be all too happy to receive them…
  • House Reversible Backpacks: Complete your house pride collection by creating a “magical” reversible backpack, perfect for carrying all your items to school (cauldrons excluded).
  • Teapot and Egg Cosies: For all the Mrs Weasley’s out there, you can now show your love for the Wizarding World by knitting these teapot and egg cosies.

(20) LIGHTS OUT. Space.com says mark your calendar: “We’re T-minus 4 years to the next Great American Solar Eclipse in 2024”.

The next Great North American Solar Eclipse is coming.

Four years from now, on Monday, April 8, 2024, a total eclipse of the sun will sweep across our continent. The dark shadow cone of the moon — known as the umbra — will trace out a path like a black crayon across parts of 15 states. An estimated 130 million people will either be positioned inside or within less than a day’s drive of the zone of the total eclipse. Almost all of North America, as well as Central America and a sliver of northwestern South America will see a partial eclipse. 

(21) OF RARE DEVICE. “Rube Goldberg Bar of Soap Challenge” on YouTube is a contest from Rube Goldberg, Inc. (run by Goldberg’s granddaughter, Jennifer George, in which contestants have to come up with Goldberg like- contraptions that place a bar of soap in someone’ hand in either 10 or 20 steps. Contest details here.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/10/18 A Tick In The Box Might Be Quite Pixellental But Comments Are A Scroll’s Best File

(1) SEUSS STRIKES OUT. The Seuss estate just lost its lawsuit against another parody, a play called “Who’s Holiday!” which sounds a lot darker than The Places You’ll Boldly Go. Kevin Underhill of Lowering the Bar has the story: “Second Circuit: Lewd “Grinch” Parody Doesn’t Infringe”.

The Second Circuit held on Friday that what Reuters called a “lewd and profane” stage version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” did not infringe on the original, affirming the district court’s decision in favor of playwright Matthew Lombardo and against Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

I was not previously aware of this work, but Reuters’ summary makes it clear that it departs in some significant ways from the Dr. Seuss classic:

The dispute began when Lombardo in 2016 was preparing to stage “Who’s Holiday!” a one-woman play featuring an adult version of Cindy Lou Who, the endearing girl who in Seuss’ story stops the Grinch from ending Christmas.

In contrast, the Cindy Lou Who in “Who’s Holiday!” has become a 45-year-old woman who spends her days in a trailer home while battling alcohol and substance abuse, following a stint in prison for murdering her husband, the Grinch.

(2) @%!$$!! SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, cybercaffing from the borough library, found he was unable to access his second- (third? one hundred fiftieth?) favorite blog, File 770. He told me via email —

Your site has just been blocked by all London libraries and schools for access apparently due to profanity.

Attached screenshot.

(Other screen filters elsewhere may similarly act????)

Thought you’d want to know.

I used to be blocked by the Great Firewall of China, but not anymore. How is it they can read me in China and not in a London library?

P.S. As you may know there is a workaround but you need to know you’re blocked to implement, hence my tipping you the nod.  — Hope this makes sense.

Absolutely. Rest assured, I never slip a rozzer the dropsy in snide.

(3) LEE DROPS SUIT. The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed: “Stan Lee Drops $1B Lawsuit Against POW! Entertainment for “Stealing” His Name and Likeness”.

Stan Lee has dismissed his $1 billion lawsuit against POW! Entertainment for fraud and conversion, less than two months after the suit was filed in his name.

“The whole thing has been confusing to everyone, including myself and the fans, but I am now happy to be surrounded by those who want the best for me,” Lee said in a statement. “I am thrilled to put the lawsuit behind me, get back to business with my friends and colleagues at POW! and launch the next wave of amazing characters and stories!”

POW! CEO Shane Duffy added, “We are ecstatic that this ill-founded lawsuit has been dismissed and we look forward to working with Stan again to develop and produce the great projects that were put on hold when the lawsuit was filed. We recently got together with Stan to discuss our path forward and we and [parent company] Camsing are pleased with his overwhelmingly enthusiastic reaction.”

Lee filed the complaint in May in Los Angeles County Superior Court, claiming the company and two of its officers conspired to steal his identity, name and likeness in a “nefarious scheme” involving a “sham” sale to a Chinese company….

Variety adds:

…The move comes as turmoil continues in Lee’s personal life. The lawsuit was filed in May, when the 95-year-old Lee was allegedly under the sway of memorabilia collector Keya Morgan. Morgan is now barred from contacting Lee or coming within 100 yards of him, under a restraining order granted on Friday.

A joint statement was issued Monday by Lee and by POW! Entertainment, now owned by Hong Kong’s Camsing International, announcing that the suit had been dismissed….

(4) IMPULSE. The first 3 episodes of YouTube series Impulse are free.  You have to be a premium user to watch the whole series. (Note warning about depiction of sexual violence.)

(5) WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS. Zack Morrissette tweeted this mashup:

(6) STEADMAN ON AMERICA. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna has an interview with Ralph Steadman, who has an exhibition of his work (originally prepared and curated by Britain’s Cartoon Museum) now on exhibit at American University through August 1: “Ralph Steadman’s D.C. retrospective often shines a ‘gonzo’ light on America”.

SOMETIMES IT takes a prominent visiting writer or artist — from de Tocqueville to, say, Bono — to serve up a storyteller’s view of the United States that is one shot of awed wonder and two shots of bracing honesty. Along that continuum of colorful outsider perspectives sits Ralph Steadman, that savage ink-slinging satirist from Kent who depicts the land of the free as a minefield of bullies and blowhards and presidents, not necessarily in that order and not without some redundancy.

Steadman is the British/Welsh illustrator best known to the American masses as the journalistic “gonzo” accomplice of Hunter S. Thompson….

(7) DREAMTIME. “Thandie Newton Wants to See More Diversity in Sci-Fi” – a New York Times Magazine interview.

Your character Maeve in HBO’s “Westworld” is an android or “host” in a theme park. What do you think it means to have characters of color in genre work? A lot of what’s in the mainstream doesn’t have people of color. What irritates me is that science fiction is the place where you could have us. Science fiction is a projection of a time that hasn’t even happened, so if you don’t populate that place with people of different skin tones, shame on you. What it actually is is the reflection of what those makers do in their daily lives, how little they hang out with people of different skin tones. These are the key people and it’s like, “Oops-a-daisy, I don’t have a lot of black friends,” and that’s a reality.

Some of the stars in the new “Star Wars” films who are black and brown have found themselves being harassed on social media. Kelly Marie Tran, who was in last year’s “Star Wars” movie, just quit social media altogether because of harassment. Where there’s greatest progress, there’s greatest resistance. It’s a sign of getting somewhere if people get pissed about it….

(8) JAR (NOT JAR JAR). Chuck Wendig immediately complies with a fan’s request.

(9) EPISODE NINE EPISODE NINE EPISODE NINE. Not the Beatles — A.V. News found out the original Lando is making a comeback: “Billy Dee Williams to finally class up the Star Wars sequels in Episode IX”.

Now that Snoke is dead and the mystery of Rey’s parentage has been definitively addressed in a way that was clever and interesting (even if it didn’t live up to the internet’s boring fan theories), there’s only one lingering question that has plagued Star Wars fans: Where the hell has Lando Calrissian been since Return Of The Jedi? Well, it looks like we’re finally going to find out in J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode IX, as The Hollywood Reporter’s sources have confirmed that Billy Dee Williams will be reprising his role as the galaxy’s smoothest gambler/smuggler/gas planet mayor in the next movie.

(10) NATIONAL MOURNING. Today’s Bristol Herald-Courier’s “News Quiz” features this question:

  1. U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes’ office confirmed that the White House initially declined to act on a request to lower the U.S. flag to half-staff after which event?
    1. The Fourth of July
    2. The deadly mass shooting at the Capital-Gazette office in Annapolis, Md.
    3. The death of science fiction writer Harlan Ellison
    4. The separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border

(11) FAREWELL, GARDNER. Michael Swanwick posted “Eight Pictures from the Gardner Dozois Memorial”: Christopher Casper, George R.R. Martin, Joe Haldeman, Samuel Delany, and others.

…All in all, a very sad event, laced with laughter.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 10, 1962 — Telstar satellite launched.

Trans-Atlantic television and other communications became a reality as the Telstar communications satellite was launched. A product of AT&T Bell Laboratories, the satellite was the first orbiting international communications satellite that sent information to tracking stations on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Initial enthusiasm for making phone calls via the satellite waned after users realized there was a half-second delay as a result of the 25,000-mile transmission path.

  • July 10, 1981 Escape From New York premiered
  • July 10, 1981 Time Bandits debuted in the UK.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 10, 1926 – Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster). (1926-1993)
  • Born July 10, 1929 – George Clayton Johnson (1929-2015)
  • Born July 10 – Chiwetel Ejiofor, 42. Roles in Serenity, Doctor Strange, the animated Sherlock Gnomes and The Martian. Yes Sherlock Gnomes voicing Watson.
  • Born July 10 — Peter Serafinowicz, 47. Lead role in The Tick and in the alien abduction series People of Earth, the voice of The Fisher King in Doctor Who, and a role in The Guardians Of The Galaxy 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

“Peter Pan” author J.M. Barrie played on a cricket team with Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the “Sherlock Holmes” series; “Winnie-the-Pooh” author A.A. Milne; novelist H.G Wells; and P.G. Wodehouse, author of the Jeeves and Wooster series; among other writers. They called themselves the Allahakbarries, a play on the Arabic “Allahu akbar,” which the men misinterpreted to mean “Heaven help us” but actually means “God is great.” The team was reportedly terrible.

(16) MAN OF BRONZE. MeTV invites you to “Check out the new James T. Kirk statue in the Iowa town sanctioned as the captain’s birthplace”.

During Trekfest XXXIV in Riverside, Iowa, a new statue was unveiled that pays tribute to Captain James T. Kirk. The statue is a life-sized bronze model of the Star Trek icon, and its the product of artist Jurek Jakowicz of Sioux Falls, S.D., and a slew of Trek fans in the Iowa community and beyond.

The idea for the statue, though, was sparked by a former Riverside councilman Steve Miller, who had a bigger vision for his town: to make it the properly sanctioned future birthplace of Captain Kirk. His efforts began in 1985 when he got in touch with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, to ask if he would sign off on Riverside as Kirk’s official hometown. Roddenberry called the idea “enterprising” and gave Miller the OK.

KCII radio covered the dedication on July 4.

Thirty-four years later Miller helped unveil the lifesize bronze statue of Kirk at this year’s Trekfest. At the unveiling Miller shared about his journey making Riverside the future birthplace of Kirk and getting a statue made, “The statue, like I said, has been a goal for years. I had two goals, get a statue of William Shatner’s Captain Kirk and to keep Paramount Studios from suing me, and so far we’ve succeeded in both of those!”

(17) SPINNING SILVER. The Book Smugglers’ Thea James and Ana Grilo do a “Joint Review: SPINNING SILVER by Naomi Novik”.

Thea says:

…This is a nuanced, intricate narrative that plays with the most powerful fairy tale tropes, written in a grace that Naomi Novik alone can achieve. There are patterns throughout the story, three daughters, three wives, three lives intertwined by fate and determination to rise above the “destiny” carved out for each of them by men in their lives. I love that our perception of these characters–and the men around them–also changes over the course of the story. There are monsters, to be sure–Wanda’s father for one, and the fire demon within Tsar Mirnatius, for another–but what I love so much about this story is how everyone is more than what they initially seem. Even the cruelest winter king is given depth and humility, if not humanity, as the novel unfolds….

Ana says:

…For us as readers, we can only see what they see, and I was flabbergasted at how the author was able to twists their stories, the stories of the men around them, and myself around her little finger. The journey was excellent – in the way that the real story slowly unveiled itself in minutia, in gestures, in the things hidden in silence….

(18) THE LARD BE WITH YOU. Lissa Townsend Rodgers of Extra Crispy confesses: “I Made the Strangest Recipe in Vincent Price’s Cookbook”.

Published in 1971, Cooking Price-Wise contains wisdom like, “In the thirteenth century cheese was used as a substitute for cement in England, when the cheese got stale, that is. I don’t advocate keeping your cheese that long just to find out if it works.” Chapters on bacon, potatoes, and fish contain recipes that seemed exotic at the time. “People always seem afraid of food from other countries,” Price writes. He attempts to shake them out of their comfort zone with Fish Fillets Nord Zee, Moroccan Tajine [sic], and Biffes de Lomo Rellenos.

As I was scanning Cooking Price-Wise for a recipe to make, I saw two magic words—words that have been in many of my favorite dishes, but have never been put together before. I’m talking about bacon and mousse. Here is Vincent price’s recipe for bacon mousse….

(19) CRIMES AGAINST THE OZONE. The mystery release of ozone-layer-depleting chemicals reported on in File 770 earlier (see the 2nd half of item 11 here) has apparently been tracked down. The NGO Environmental Investigations Agency (EIA) is reporting that the banned chemical CFC-11 is being used as a “blowing agent” in the production of cheap insulation in China’s home construction industry. Quoting the BBC article “Ozone hole mystery: China insulating chemical said to be source of rise”

Researchers from the EIA, a green campaign group, contacted foam manufacturing factories in 10 different provinces across China. From their detailed discussions with executives in 18 companies, the investigators concluded that the chemical is used in the majority of the polyurethane insulation the firms produce.

One seller of CFC-11 estimated that 70% of China’s domestic sales used the illegal gas. The reason is quite simple – CFC-11 is better quality and much cheaper than the alternatives.

“We were absolutely gobsmacked to find that companies very openly confirmed using CFC-11 while acknowledging it was illegal,” Avipsa Mahapatra from EIA told BBC News.

“The fact that they were so blasé about it, the fact that they told us very openly how pervasive it is in the market, these were shocking findings for us.”

(20) ASK THE MAN WHO OWNS ONE. Adrian Tchaikovsky, 2016 Clarke Award winner, gives his rundown of this year’s finalists: “At the Eleventh Hour: The Arthur C Clarke Award shortlist 2018”. For example:

Dreams Before the Start of Time – Anne Charnock, 47North

Anne Charnock is having a good year, frankly, having already picked up a BSFA Award at Easter (and a good career, having been shortlisted for a Kitchie and a Phillip K Dick award previously). She’s a thought-provoking and insightful writer and Dreams is a very different sort of book to the others on the list. It’s a gentle look at three generations of several interlinked families over the next hundred years or so, and its focus is very much speculation about the family structure and child-bearing, how these things may change (entirely believably) in the near future, and what knock-on effects those changes could have….

(21) DITKO. NPR’s Glen Weldon pays tribute to the late comics genius in “Remembering Steve Ditko: Forget Kirby Dots, Let’s Talk Ditko Sparkles”.

First, let’s tick off those facets of his work that left such an impression on people.

First, his faces.

Or, technically, his fondness for their absence, in whole or in part.

Consider: Here was a guy who put his hero — and not just any hero, but freaking Spider-Man, whose whole deal is just how achingly, embarrassingly relatable, and friendly, and (not to put too fine a point on it) downright neighborhoody he is, in a full-face mask.

Let’s agree: That was a gutsy move. Sure, Batman had been around for decades, and his cowl covered something like 5/6ths of his big ol’ melon’s surface area, but Bruce’s chin and mouth were exposed, so at least you could see him grimace, or gasp, or smile (it was 1962, Batman still smiled back then). Comics are a visual medium — readers need to see the characters’ facial expressions to stay emotionally engaged.

But Ditko loved drawing inscrutable faces — masked, half-masked, or sunk in shadows….

(22) BREAKTHROUGH DELAYED. Yin Yijun analyzes “The Three-Book Problem: Why Chinese Sci-Fi Still Struggles” at Sixth Tone.

Liu Cixin’s epic trilogy was expected to take Chinese science fiction into a new era, but the genre is still far from its lofty ambitions.

…The editors and Liu opted to serialize “The Three-Body Problem” in Science Fiction World, which at the time had a 200,000 nationwide circulation. They were worried that Chinese readers wouldn’t be especially interested in sci-fi compared to other literature genres, but hoped that “The Three-Body Problem” could open up a new chapter for Chinese sci-fi.

And it did — for a time.

In 2015, the first installment of “The Three-Body Problem” trilogy won the prestigious Hugo Award for best novel, triggering media coverage and large-scale public attention — including, famously, an endorsement by former U.S. President Barack Obama. It increased the profile of Chinese sci-fi both domestically and internationally, and raised the possibility that sci-fi could finally extend beyond the pages of novels. In 2014, after the English-language translation was published, Chinese movie production house Yoozoo Pictures announced that it would adapt the series into a six-part motion picture.

But the much-hyped movie never happened. Filming took place in the first half of 2015, and the first movie was scheduled to premiere in July 2016. Over the past three years, the schedule has been continuously pushed back, in part due to sky-high expectations for visual effects and an unexpected company restructure.

There’s been no news recent news about “The Three-Body Problem” movie, but after a report in March that Amazon’s on-demand service planned to create a television show of the series, Yoozoo reiterated that it was the franchise’s legal copyright holder for all types of adaption. At a group interview with Sixth Tone and other media outlets during the anniversary meeting, Liu — who is serving as the project’s chief consultant — directed all questions about the movies to Yoozoo. For now, “The Three-Body Problem” remains hamstrung by its lack of visual depictions; it can hardly monetize certain aspects of the stories like international franchise “Star Wars” has been able to do with lightsabers if there are no movie or game representations.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/18/17 You Can Get Anything You Want From Alice’s Restaurant At The End Of The Universe (Excepting Neutrinos)

(1) JAILHOUSE ROCK. Brian Lee Durfee says “The First Ever in the History of the World Prison Comic Con Is in the Books!”:

James Dashner (Maze Runner) and I put on a fun event at the Utah State Prison last night. If two writers can make an auditorium full of felons laugh non-stop for one hour we know we did our job right. Mr. Dashner’s sense of humor and story-telling gifts were spot-on perfect. My favorite line of the night from Dashner, “My next book is about a serial killer…oh…um…are there any serial killers here tonight?” It brought down the house. He received a standing ovation.

And today, walking around the prison, I’ve received nothing but huge smiles and mega thanks from all the Inmates who attended. Gotta give a huge shout out to all who helped make it happen. Many publishers donated books and comics. Many writer friends donated signed books. Plus all the staff at the prison who got behind the project and helped out. I will post a link to the Dept of Corrections official event page w/photos when our public relations team makes it available.

PS I’ll try and make this an annual event bigger and better each year including the women’s unit, drug rehab, mental health, etc. One day I will have all the guards in Harley Quinn cosplay…

(2) THE VAST WASTELAND. Will no one rid him of this troublesome editor? The Traveler from Galactic Journey is stuck in 1962 with an editor of F&SF who’s driving him mad: “[Oct. 17, 1962] It’s Always Darkest… (The November 1962 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”.

Ah F&SF.  What happened to one of my very favorite mags?  That’s a rhetorical question; Avram Davidson happened.  The new editor has doubled down on the magazine’s predilection for whimsical fantasy with disastrous (to me) results.  Not only that, but it’s even featuring fewer woman authors now than Amazing, of all mags.  I am shaking my head, wishing this was all some Halloween-inspired nightmare.  But no.  Here it is in black and white with a forty cent price tag.  Come check out this month’s issue…but don’t say I didn’t warn you:…

(3) BURDEN LIFTED FROM CALIFORNIA BOOKSELLERS. Publishers Weekly carries more coverage about the legislative change: “California Rescinds Autograph Mandate for Booksellers”.

California’s controversial law that requires booksellers to obtain a certificate of authenticity before they could sell books autographed by authors has been rescinded.

The move follows a lawsuit filed in May by Book Passage owner Bill Petrocelli and backed by the Pacific Legal Foundation that argued that common bookstore practices like guest author lectures and book signings “are fundamental to First Amendment freedoms.” The original law was enacted to require that store owners certify that any autographed item over $5 carry an authentic signature. The law was passed to fight against the sale of fake memorabilia, but included books.

Petrocelli, as well as other California booksellers, argued that the paperwork involved to meet the new law would make selling copies of autographed books too expensive. Book signings are an important part of booksellers’ business model, with Book Passage, for example, hosting more than 800 signings a year.

Faced with the lawsuit and opposition from booksellers, California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that exempted books from the law, after which the PLF dropped its lawsuit.

(4) THE CURSE. Don Steinberg in the Wall Street Journal (in an article behind a paywall), notes that nearly all of the companies that paid for product placements in the original Blade Runner either no longer exist or are in severe financial trouble.

Atari began its downward spiral a year after the film’s 1982 release; Koss went bankrupt in 1984, and RCA and Bell Telephone received substantial screen  time and disappeared by the late 1980s. The last company Blade Runner promoted that failed was Pan Am, which folded in 1991.

(5) YOUR PERSONAL POP CULTURE SF RADAR. Daniel Dern sent these selected YA sci-fi references from contemporary TV shows:

This week’s episode of The Flash: Barry Allen is speed-binging all the shows he missed over the previous six months… “…wait, Jon Snow is dead [two seconds later] … wait, Jon Snow is alive?”

Unexpected music: In last week’s episode of Gotham, one scene opens to the sound of Jefferson Airplane’s “Go Ask Alice.” No obvious direct plot or character reference, but it sonically made sense. (Vs the use of Led Zepp’s “Foreigner” for the upcoming Thor/Ragnarok trailer and theme, which also makes topical sense, along with being great.)

 

Ditto vs a mountainside of characters singing or otherwise mutilating Nirvana’s “Sounds Like Teen Spirit” in the 2015 movie Peter Pan.

 

(6) FAUX PHARMA. The Guardian lists “Top 10 imaginary drugs in fiction”, most of them from sf.

Fictional drugs are miniature rocket ships: they take characters to places unknown and strange. The practice of drug invention goes back to the ancient Greeks (Moly, Lethe) and Shakespeare (Oberon’s love potion). Here are some modern examples from the pharmacopoeia of dangerous delights.

The first two are:

  1. Soma (Brave New World by Aldous Huxley) Soma is used to calm and pacify, suspending people in a state of permanent bliss. The World State of Huxley’s dystopian novel issues the drug as a means of control, to quell rebellious feelings. This is a drug used as a political metaphor, a form of mass entertainment taken to its ultimate level, a replacement for religion. In contrast, Huxley’s own mescaline-induced journey through the “doors of perception” gave him a glimpse of the mystery of pure being. From which we can only conclude that he kept the best drugs for himself.
  2. Melange (Dune by Frank Herbert) The most famous drug in science fiction – and one of the most powerful – melange or “spice” is found on the desert planet of Arrakis, produced and guarded by giant sandworms. In small doses it brings on a perfect high and increases sensual awareness of the world around you. In large amounts it enables the user to travel through the folds of space. Wow. This property makes it highly desirable, and entire empires rise and fall in the struggle to control its procurement and distribution. This is drug as merchandise, and as a gateway to the stars.

I was wondering why Thiotimoline wasn’t in the list ‘til I refreshed my memory – it’s a chemical compound, not a drug.

(7) LEAVE ROOM ON YOUR HUGO BALLOT. Lois McMaster Bujold announced on Goodreads that a new Penric novella is upcoming – maybe in November.

I am pleased to report I have finished the first draft of a new Penric & Desdemona novella, sequel to “Mira’s Last Dance”. Title is decided all but one vowel — I’ll add it when my aesthetic waffling concludes. About 44,980 words.

Later: Having spent the whole last day wrestling with one. dratted. vowel., title has finalized as: “The Prisoner of Limnos”

I plan to have cover art by Ron Miller again, of which I will post a sneak peek in due course.

…This e-publication thing is getting frighteningly fast, in part because a lot of little things which were baffling decisions or upward learning curves first round are now set templates which only need replicated.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Vincent Price’s grandfather invented baking powder.  (Source: Cooking Price-Wise)

(9) A CABELL CABAL. A link to a Crooked Timber of academic interest: “Robert A. Heinlein and James Branch Cabell” by John Holbo.

…I’m not going to quote pre-print stuff [from Farah Mendlesohn’s Heinlein book] but I’ll pass along one detail I never would have guessed. Heinlein was, apparently, a huge James Branch Cabell fan. He loved Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice. I have just started rereading Jurgen myself, since I’m done with Dunsany. (I’m not making any systematic early 20th century fantasy circuit, mind you. We just shifted houses and, somehow, an old, long-unregarded 60’s paperback copy of Jurgen floated to the top. Perhaps this universe’s God is a Richard Thaler-type, giving me a nudge. Also, Mendlesohn is apparently not the first to note that Heinlein liked Cabell. Wikipedia knows. I am, apparently, last to know. But perhaps you have been in that sorry boat with me.)

This isn’t a major theme of her monograph, but Mendlesohn suggests Heinlein wanted to be a satirist in a Cabell-ish (and/or Swiftian, Twainian, Sinclairian, Kiplingesque) vein, in some of his works. But he didn’t really have it in him. He’s too earnest and convicted, albeit eccentrically so. He doesn’t do ironic equivocation. (I imagine if Cabell had tried to write Jurgen as a boy’s adventure book – Have Fine, Snug, Well-Fitting Garment With Curious Figures On It, Will Travel – he might have encountered equal and opposite stylistic incapacities in his soul.)

(10) HMMM. Does Luke do that?

(11) CLASS IS IN SESSION. “Pitches and Synopses Workshop with Jennifer Brozek” has been Storified for your edification from notes taken by Cat Rambo.

(12) KYELL GOLD IN STORYBUNDLE. Daniel Potter interviews Kyell Gold about his book in the SFWA Fantasy Storybundle. (This is a video in a public Facebook post.)

(13) A MORAL AUTHOR. Ann Leckie told this story in a Twitter thread that starts here.

It includes a moral:

(14) FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE. Here are the links to all three four parts of the SFWA and indie series, in case you missed any:

(15) ARTS AND SCIENCES. Shades of Hedy Lamar — artist/model designs a better health monitor for ISS: “Meet the model changing the future of space medicine”.

Alex Sorina Moss is an artist and a model, but that’s just a side hustle for her main ambition – to design an ear piece that could transform medicine and space travel forever.

Moss’s idea has already shot her team to stardom, winning a 2016 Nasa prize for the Best Use of Hardware.  But what’s more, it signals an uplifting new direction for wearable tech.

Canaria is a small cuff worn on the ear which measures vital bodily statistics, as well as other metrics such as levels of certain gases in the air around the wearer. Where other well-known biometric wearables target consumers looking to keep fit, Canaria is being prepped as a medical grade instrument.

(16) DECONTAMINATION. Cleaning up after the Fukushima disaster — “The robots going where no human can”. (Video at the link.)

Robots have become central to the cleaning-up operation at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, six years after the tsunami that triggered the nuclear meltdown.

It is estimated that around 600 tonnes of toxic fuel may have leaked out of the reactor during the incident.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company is using a variety of robots to explore areas too dangerous for people to go near.

BBC Click was given rare access to the site to see how the decontamination work was progressing.

(17) IN TIMES TO COME. EPCOT for real? “‘Future city’ to be built in Canada by Alphabet company”.

Sidewalk Labs, owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is to build a digital city in Toronto.

It aims to turn a waterfront area into a working laboratory for a range of “smart” technology.

It is likely to feature fast wi-fi availability, millions of sensors, sustainable energy and autonomous cars.

Technology companies are touting their hardware and software to cities, as urban planners tackle issues such as congestion, pollution and overcrowding.

(18) FANHISTORY HELP WANTED. Do you recognize the artist?

(19) REMEMBERING THE AEROSPACE RACE. The BBC looks back on “The Soviet Union’s flawed rival to Concorde”.

It is December 1968, and a truly ground-breaking airliner is about to take its first flight.

It resembles a giant white dart, as futuristic an object as anything humanity has made in the 1960s. The aircraft is super streamlined to be able to fly at the speed of a rifle bullet – once thought too fast for a passenger-carrying aircraft.

The distinctive, needle-nosed front of the aircraft looks like the business end of something rocket-powered from a Flash Gordon serial; when the aircraft approaches the runway, the whole nose is designed to slide down, giving the pilots a better view of the ground. The effect makes the aircraft look like a giant bird about to land.

It sounds like a description of the Anglo-French Concorde, the plane that will cross the Atlantic in little more than three hours – but it’s not. The spaceship-styled jet sports the hammer and sickle of the Soviet Union on its giant tailfin. It is the Tupolev Tu-144, the communist Concorde, and the first passenger aircraft to fly more than twice the speed of sound….

(20) HEARTBREAKER. Steven Soderbergh tweeted what he says is “a rejection from Lucasfilm” from 1984 — but which is actually a standard Hollywood release saying that they won’t consider unsolicited material.

(21) COMING TO NETFLIX, Bright Official Trailer #3.

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Sputnik-2, or Laika, Our Hero” is a video from Popular Science about the 50th anniversary of Laika’s journey into space aboard Sputnik 2.

When the international press reported that the Soviets sent a dog into orbit, the public freaked. Not because communism was beating democracy in the space race, but because how could anyone send a dog—alone—into space. If there’s one global commonality, it’s this: everyone loves dogs. So, the Soviets spun the story. Laika, the space dog, became a national hero. Yes, she died on her one way mission. But, she gloriously orbited Earth for over a week until her eventual, peaceful death. And, because of Laika’s sacrifice, the Soviet space program was now years ahead of the Americans…

But, none of that was true.

Based on declassified Soviet space program documents as well as primary source archive from back in the day, this is a revised version of Laika’s one way trip. In her words. That is, approximately her words. She was a dog, after all.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 10/15/17 Like Pixels Through A Monitor, These Are The Scrolls Of Our Hive

(1) A FANTASY MAP THAT WORKS. Literature Map, The Tourist Map of Literature is a lot of fun. Seems accurate, too. Plug in a name and give it a whirl.

The Literature-Map is part of Gnod, the Global Network of Discovery. It is based on Gnooks, Gnod’s literature recommendation system. The more people like an author and another author, the closer together these two authors will move on the Literature-Map.

(2) NEW HELMSMAN FOR STARLINE. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association announced a change in editorship for its official poetry publication — “Introducing StarLine’s new editor, Vince Gotera”

With the upcoming 40.4 issue of Star*Line we welcome its new editor Vince Gotera, and thank F.J. Bergmann for her exemplary service and vision in what a journal of speculative poetry can be. We look forward to the approach Vince Gotera will take in the years ahead, especially with the arrival of the 40th anniversary of the SFPA in 2018.

Vince Gotera is an award-winning member of the international Science Fiction  and Fantasy Poetry Association, and he has been nominated for Rhysling Awards.

Vince was born and raised in San Francisco and lived in the Philippines for part of his childhood. He completed undergraduate studies at City College of San Francisco and Stanford University, where he earned a BA. He earned an MA at San Francisco University and both an MFA and a PhD at Indiana University.  He is the author of the poetry collections Dragonfly (1994) , Ghost Wars (2003) and Fighting Kite (2007) and the critical volume Radical Visions: Poetry by Vietnam Veterans (1994).  His upcoming volume of poetry is Pacific Crossings. 

He is also a former editor of North American Review and was the poetry editor of the journal Asian America.

(3) ELECTRIC SHEEP DREAMER. The argument continues: NPR’s Adam Frank asks, “Is Harrison Ford An Android In ‘Blade Runner’?”

But it has gotta be the last director’s cut.

That is where you get to see exactly why director Ridley Scott’s movie is considered so important and so influential. His vision of a future Los Angeles that is all torrential rain, steam and blue searchlights piercing through ruin is nothing short of jaw-dropping.

But it’s also in this final cut that Scott reinserts two scenes the studio removed. They hold the key to Deckard’s status. Near the end of the film, Deckard has a dream about a unicorn. Later, he is escaping with Rachael — the beautiful next-generation replicant whom he has fallen for. Just as they walk out the door of his apartment, he finds an origami figure in the shape of a unicorn that was left by his former police partner Gaff. This signals that Gaff (who has a major origami habit) knows about Deckard’s dream because it’s not really Deckard’s. It’s an implant. Every replicant’s memories and dreams are fake. They are implanted to give a “back story” needed to stabilize the replicant’s artificial personality.

So the unicorn dream is central to the “Deckard as replicant” argument….

(4) AMBISCAREDSTROUS. The Los Angeles Times interviews “Horror master Guillermo del Toro on how scaring people is different on TV and in the movies”.

“There is a big difference when the mediums are different,” Del Toro says during a recent interview on the phone from Toronto, where he lives part time and also where “At Home With Monsters,” the traveling museum exhibition of his memorabilia, artwork and ephemera, recently opened.

In explaining the distinctions between the different methods of storytelling, be it movies, television, books or graphic novels, Del Toro also points out the ways in which they interrelate.

“TV now you have to plan it, you structure it for binge watching,” he says. “Meaning, you structure the whole season like a three-act play. You have a first act, the first third of the season, second act is the middle third and you structure it like that. Whereas a movie you’re dealing with a continuous experience that’s going to last around two hours, so it’s more traditional.

“The other mediums, like video games or books, may follow different sets of rules,” he continues. “But what I find really interesting as a storyteller is that each of those mediums informs the other. You find yourself applying tricks that you learned developing a video game in telling a movie. Little tricks that you learn structurally working in TV, you apply them to a movie and so forth.”

(5) PUMPKINSTEIN. Here’s what was scaring people in 2014 — this price for a pumpkin: “Pumpkinstein Is The Only Halloween Pumpkin You’ll Ever Need”.

People never believe it’s real the first time they see it; they all want to touch it to make sure,” Tony Dighera of Cinagro Farms in Fillmore, Calif., told The New York Times.

Dighera told the Tri-Valley Dispatch that it took four years and $500,000 to develop the technique and find the perfect pumpkin for the job.

“When you try something for four years of your life, people really start to think you’re wacko,” he told the Times.

What some people may find “wacko,” however, is the price. Dighera is selling Pumpkinsteins for about $75 wholesale, with retailers marking them up to $100 and even $125.

For a pumpkin. A very cool pumpkin that looks like Frankenstein, but still a pumpkin.

(6) THE BEST. Now available, The Best of Richard Matheson, edited by Victor LaValle from Penguin.

Where Matheson shines is in his depictions of ordinary horror, the way strange goings-on affect everyday people, and his ambiguous endings leave plenty of room for further thought. As a bonus, editor LaValle offers an enlightening introduction that discusses Matheson’s influence on his own work and even offers up the story behind what he calls his “Matheson moment,” giving more heft to the stories that follow.

(7) DON’T BE KNOCKIN’. Victor LaValle pays homage to the horror master with a real-life story from his own past — “My Favorite Richard Matheson Story Is the One I Lived Through” at Electric Lit.

Anyway, I’m standing there and Tasha and Lianne are coming through the doorway and then I heard it, a sound in the kitchen. Knocking. Not all that loud, but I was close to the kitchen and getting closer. By that I mean that Tasha and Lianne were taking off their coats and I ran away. Later I told Cedric I went to “get them water,” but there’s no other way to say it: I fled.

As soon as I entered the kitchen the knocking stopped. I figured it might be their boiler kicking in. It was winter after all. I knew I’d run away though so I came up with the water idea and went scrounging for cups. This led me on a chase through the cupboards as, in the other room, Cedric called for me. And then I reached their pantry door. This style of one-family home had a separate little pantry, about the size of a small walk-in closet. I found the door there and, still hunting for glasses, I tried the handle and found it locked. Then Cedric walked into the kitchen.

“Cheese,” he said. “You making me look bad.”

(8) TAINT BY NUMBERS. Junot Diaz’ introduction to Global Dystopias, “To Map, to Warn, to Hope”, from the Boston Review.

William Gibson has famously declared, “The future is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed.” Gibson’s words have been much on my mind of late. How could they not be? The president is a white nationalist sympathizer who casually threatens countries with genocide and who can’t wait to build a great wall across the neck of the continent to keep out all the “bad hombres.” After a hurricane nearly took out Houston, the country’s most visible scientist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, stated that the effects of climate change may have grown so severe that he doubts the nation will be able to withstand the consequences.

For me, literature, and those formations that sustain it, have ever been a eutopic enclave against a darkening dystopian world.

Then, as if on cue, Puerto Rico, a U.S. colony almost completely bankrupt by neoliberal malfeasance, was struck by Hurricane Maria with such apocalyptic force that it more or less knocked the island into pre-modernity. Earlier today a former student informed me that more skin bleaching is consumed in India than Coca-Cola, and on the edge of my computer a new site is announcing that the Chinese government has made it nearly impossible for its 730 million Internet users to express opinions online anonymously. Plus this little cheery gem from the Federal Reserve: the top 1 percent of the U.S. population controls 38.6 percent of the nation’s wealth, an inequality chasm that makes the Middle Ages look egalitarian. Whether we’re talking about our cannibal economics or the rising tide of xenophobia or the perennial threat of nuclear annihilation, it seems that the future has already arrived.

(9) GONE VIRAL. These hitchhikers are along for the evolutionary ride: “Ancient Viruses Are Buried in Your DNA”, in the New York Times.

In July, scientists reported that a strange protein courses through the veins of pregnant women. No one is sure what it’s there for.

What makes this protein, called Hemo, so unusual is that it’s not made by the mother. Instead, it is made in her fetus and in the placenta, by a gene that originally came from a virus that infected our mammalian ancestors more than 100 million years ago.

Hemo is not the only protein with such an alien origin: Our DNA contains roughly 100,000 pieces of viral DNA. Altogether, they make up about 8 percent of the human genome. And scientists are only starting to figure out what this viral DNA is doing to us.

(10) HISTORY IS BUNK. Once again, an appealing theory is murdered by a few lousy facts: “Sinister ‘Secrets’ of Easter Island’s Doomed Civilization Begin to Unravel With Rapa Nui Genetic Discovery”.

Recently, Rapa Nui has become the ultimate parable for humankind’s selfishness; a moral tale of the dangers of environmental destruction. In the “ecocide” hypothesis popularised by the geographer Jared Diamond, Rapa Nui is used as a demonstration of how society is doomed to collapse if we do not sit up and take note. But more than 60 years of archaeological research actually paints a very different picture—and now new genetic data sheds further light on the island’s fate. It is time to demystify Rapa Nui.

The ‘ecocide’ narrative doesn’t stand up

The ecocide hypothesis centres on two major claims. First, that the island’s population was reduced from several tens of thousands in its heyday, to a diminutive 1,500-3,000 when Europeans first arrived in the early 18th century.

Second, that the palm trees that once covered the island were callously cut down by the Rapa Nui population to move statues. With no trees to anchor the soil, fertile land eroded away resulting in poor crop yields, while a lack of wood meant islanders couldn’t build canoes to access fish or move statues. This led to internecine warfare and, ultimately, cannibalism….

…Perhaps, then, the takeaway from Rapa Nui should not be a story of ecocide and a Malthusian population collapse. Instead, it should be a lesson in how sparse evidence, a fixation with “mysteries,” and a collective amnesia for historic atrocities caused a sustainable and surprisingly well-adapted population to be falsely blamed for their own demise.

(11) WE HATES IT. How much does the New York Times’ Jeannette Catsoulis dislike Goodbye Christopher Robin? This much:

As predictable as mermaid frocks at the Oscars, Hollywood greets the end of the year by suddenly noticing that roughly a third of moviegoers (and three-quarters of art-house audiences) are over 50, most of them women. This annual phenomenon can lead to theaters clogged with old-lady bait, which usually means something British and upper-crusty, preferably with literary roots. A dollop of war, a death or two, and it’s off to the awards races. “Goodbye Christopher Robin” checks all the boxes. Drenched in dappled light and Carter Burwell’s honeyed score, Simon Curtis’s glowing picture dangles the story of how the author A. A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) created the Winnie-the-Pooh tales using the stuffed animals of his son, Christopher Robin (beautifully played by little Will Tilston). What we’re really watching, though, is no less than a stiffly depressing portrait of toffee-nosed child abuse….

(12) WEIN’S LAST SWAMP THING. Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly we know “New Swamp Thing Winter Special #1 to feature posthumous story from co-creator Len Wein”.

Wolverine co-creator Len Wein, who died in September at the age of 69, was one of the most influential comic book writers and editors ever, leaving his mark on the DC and Marvel Universes. At the time of his death, he was hard at work on a new story about the iconic DC Comics character he co-created with Bernie Wrightson: Swamp Thing, the avatar of the Green.

Before he died, Wein had completed the script for the first issue of a new series about the vegetation-covered monstrosity formerly known as Alec Holland, which would be illustrated by his 2016 Swamp Thing  miniseries partner Kelley Jones. While we won’t ever see this series come to fruition, EW can exclusively reveal that fans will get a chance to read the first issue of the planned series in 2018 when DC Comics releases Swamp Thing Winter Special #1 (on sale Jan. 31), which will present the story in both its original script form with art by Jones.

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 15, 2003 — China launched its first manned space mission becoming the third country in history to send a person into orbit.

(14) SEXUAL COURSE CORRECTION. Trae Dorn, at Nerd & Tie, reports “On ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ TV’s Constantine Will Finally Be Allowed to Smoke, Be Into Dudes”.

When Matt Ryan first played the title role on NBC’s Constantine, the peacock network was a little nervous about acknowledging two things about the character: his bisexuality and his chain smoking. And while they let John Constantine occasionally hold a cigarette, his being into guys was kind of a sore spot steadfastly avoided by the show. Ryan has since reprised the part on The CW’s Arrow, which merged the continuities. With the addition of a forthcoming CW Seed animated series, many fans of the comics’ version of the character have hoped his sexuality would be finally addressed.

And we’re happy to say, it will be.

It’s been announced that Matt Ryan’s Constantine will guest star on a Legends of Tomorrow two parter this season, and when he does his bisexuality will be directly acknowledged….

(15) BRANCH OFFICES. If the government did this for employees, it would be a scandal. A private company did it, so it’s a nice feature article, “Microsoft built tree houses for its employees”. The Verge has the story.

The tree houses are a part of Microsoft’s “outdoor districts” which are connected to buildings around its Redmond campus. They feature weatherproof benches, hatches that hide electricity sockets, rustproof rocking chairs, a fireplace, wood canopies, and an outdoor Wi-Fi network. There are ramps built in for those who need them. If you get hungry, there’s also an indoor cafeteria that’s extended outside and a barbecue restaurant built into a shipping container.

Microsoft said it had been planning renovations and surveyed employees to see what they cared about the most. Employees said if they were given the opportunity, they would work outside more.

(16) SHORTCHANGED. SF Bluestocking says — “Star Trek: Discovery – A long, poetic episode title is no substitute for real depth”:

After a strong two-part premiere and a decent transitional episode last week, “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry” is a bit of a disappointment. After cramming a ton of set-up and plot into its first three episodes, what the show needs now is to establish a new normal and give the characters a reprieve from the constant barrage of Events! Happening! so the audience can get to know these people we’re supposed to care about. This is a needle that was successfully threaded in “The Vulcan Hello” and “Battle at the Binary Stars,” where we were given a nice prologue and several flashbacks to establish Burnham’s character and her friendship with Captain Georgiou, and this gave weight to the events at the end of the second episode, setting up Burnham for a redemption arc over the rest of the series. Last week’s episode contrived to get Burnham onto the Discovery and introduced a new cast of characters, so the next logical step would be to show us more of how these characters interact with each other, what makes them tick, or even just how Burnham settles in to the normal rhythm of life on the ship. Instead, this episode features another crisis, but it struggles throughout to convey why any of these events should matter to the viewer….

Warning: SPOILERS FOLLOW.

(17) IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU IF YOU’RE YOUNG AT HEART. Now Creation Entertainment is running a cycle of Once Upon A Time conventions. The next is in Burbank, CA in November.

Every once in a blue moon a television series captures the hearts of viewers who become passionate about their love of the storyline, the look and feel of the show, and the actors that breathe life into the characters we come to cherish. ABC’s Once Upon A Time certainly fills that rare bill as fans worldwide have made this show one that is the talk of the Internet and eagerly followed by viewers, much in the tradition of other series that Creation Entertainment has been involved with in its 45-year history.

 

(18) WENDIG BOOK IN DEVELOPMENT FOR TV. Yesterday, Chuck Wendig called the internet to attention:

*ahem*

I have an announcement to make.

*opens mouth*

*ants pour out*

*ants collectively spell a message*

FBI Drama From Jerry Bruckheimer TV & ‘MacGyver’ EP David Slack Set At CBS

*ants return to mouth*

*maw snaps shut*

So, if you click that link, you’ll see a couple notable paragraphs:

CBS has put in development Unthinkable, an FBI crime drama from Jerry Bruckheimer Television and MacGyver executive producer David Slack. CBS Television Studios, where both JBTV and Slack are based, is the studio.

Written and executive produced by Slack, Unthinkable, based on Chuck Wendig’s 2016 novel Invasive, is about a brilliant futurist, trained to see danger around every corner, who’s recruited by an uncharacteristically optimistic FBI Agent to identify the threats only she can see coming – and stop them before it’s too late.

(19) NOT JUST A COMIC CON. Japanese pop culture will be celebrated at Youmacon2017 in Detroit from November 2-5.

Downtown Detroit is filled with people in costumes, and it has nothing to do with Halloween. Thousands of Japanese pop culture fans have come from all over the country to Youmacon…

Youmacon is a popular culture event similar to most “Comic Cons”, however instead of focusing on comic books, Youmacon is a celebration of Japanese popular culture and its influence on our own culture over the past few decades. Common themes throughout the event are Anime (Japanese animation), Video Games, Japanese style artwork and comics, and the rising internet culture influenced by all of the above.

Youmacon brings a unique all-ages mix of interactive events, celebrity guest panels, and live musical performances to Downtown Detroit. One of its most popular events, “Live Action Mario Party”, emulates the video game experience – often filling the room to fire code capacity. Players participate in gameshow-like mini-games to help their teams advance and win.

Wearing costumes, or “Cosplay” as it’s known at conventions, is very popular with attendees of Youmacon.

(20) FRIGHTFULLY TASTY. He was a terror on the screen but a sweetheart in the kitchen, and his recipes are making a comeback: “Dish up some scary-good eats with new expanded Vincent Price cookbook”.

Vincent Price might have been the Merchant of Menace in classic fright films like House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler, and House of Wax, but he was also quite the Renaissance man. Besides being a familiar face in horror films, Price was renowned for his impressive collection of fine art (even selling tasteful paintings for Sears!) and his wizardry in the kitchen as a master chef.

One of Price’s best-selling cookbooks is getting an expanded makeover by Dover’s Calla Editions and being re-released in a deluxe volume, which includes additional material, memories, and comments by his daughter, Victoria, and son, V.B.

(21) IF YOU WANT IT DONE RIGHT. Here’s s link to Archive.org’s recording of Patrick Magee reading Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman originally aired by the BBC in 1997. One reviewer said:

This is a unique work by Flann O’Brien – funny, oblique,odd, beguiling, and horrific by turns. It’s got a peculiar, pastoral, otherworldly quality, yet at the same time you can believe that it really is taking place in some deranged Irish backwater town. To give you an example something that made me howl with laughter, the central character falls foul of the law, and is sentenced to be hanged, on a trumped up charge, so they build a gallows in the police station yard, but the chippie is scarcely competent, so he prevails on the narrator to give him a hand….

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

Pixel Scroll 8/13/17 The Filers On The Hill See The Scroll Going Down, And The Eyes In Their Heads See The Pixels Spinning Round

(1) MUNSTER REVIVAL. “Who will play Marilyn?” John King Tarpinian wants to know. Variety reports “‘Munsters’ Reboot in Development at NBC With Seth Meyers Producing”.

The planned reboot is inspired by the original series and will follow an offbeat family determined to stay true to themselves struggles to fit in in hipster Brooklyn. Jill Kargman will executive produce and write the script, with Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker also executive producing. Universal Television (UTV) will produce along with Meyers’ and Shoemaker’s Sethmaker Shoemeyers Productions, which is set up with a first-look deal at UTV.

The development “The Munsters” reboot keeps Meyers in business with NBC, where he currently hosts the late-night series “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” In addition, the network recently ordered the Meyers-produced comedy “A.P. Bio” to series.

(2) KGB READINGS. Fantastic Fiction at KGB hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Gregory Frost and Rajan Khanna on August 16. The evening begins at 7 p.m. in the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs), New York.

Gregory Frost is the author of Shadowbridge, Lord Tophet, Fitcher’s Brides, and The Pure Cold Light and a whole mess of short stories of the fantastic. His collaboration with Michael Swanwick, “Lock Up Your Chickens and Daughters, H’ard and Andy Are Come to Town” won an Asimov’s Readers’ Award for 2015. That worked out so well that he and M. Swanwick are currently engaged in writing another collaboration. Greg is the Fiction Workshop Director at Swarthmore College, and with Jonathan Maberry founded the Philadelphia branch of The Liars Club, a collective of semi-deranged and often inebriated authors. Greg is working on a collaborative series with Jonathan Maberry based upon their novella “Rhymer,” published in the anthology Dark Duets.

Rajan Khanna is an author, blogger, reviewer, and narrator. His post-apocalyptic airship adventure series starting with Falling Sky and Rising Tide concluded in July 2017 with Raining Fire. His short fiction has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and several anthologies. His articles and reviews have appeared Tor.com and LitReactor.com and his podcast narrations can be heard at Podcastle, Escape Pod, PseudoPod, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Lightspeed Magazine. Rajan lives in Brooklyn where he’s a member of the Altered Fluid writing group.

(3) ABOUT THE CANCELLED ALZHEIMER’S LARP. Worldcon 75 published a “Statement on the Cancellation of LARP ‘A Home for the Old’”, a planned item that had drawn a lot of criticism in social media after people at the con saw the description in the schedule.

On Friday 11 August Wordcon 75 cancelled one of our programme items. A Nordic Freeform Event entitled “A Home for the Old” by Frederik Berg. The statement that we released in relation to this cancellation was neither a fair nor a full report of the facts and we would like to correct this.

Worldcon 75 believes that the event facilitator, Massi Hannula Thorhauge, would have guided the players with due regard for a subject as serious as Alzheimer’s. The convention asked her to run this event and we know she would have made sure those who signed up did not make light of the disease. She is a valued member of Worldcon 75 staff and we thank her for her time and enthusiasm throughout the con.

The description of the event published in the Worldcon 75 Programme was not a fair representation of the game. It was written for a specific audience and as presented to Worldcon lacks vital context and frameworks.

Both the convention and the event facilitators acknowledge more care should have been given to this, in light of the very sensitive subject and the cultural differences between many Worldcon members.

These cultural and contextual differences were at the root of the decision to cancel the item. While this freeform event has been extremely successful elsewhere we felt that it was not acceptable to the Worldcon members as presented. We were also concerned that some possible players may not have appropriately engaged with the material, given how different Worldcon is from Nordic gaming events.

We would also like to highlight how important gaming is as part of the genres we all love. Games such as “A Home for the Old” have helped those who have lost friends and relatives to Alzheimer’s and given them a greater understanding of the pressures put on those who care for people with the disease.

While playing games purely for fun is vital, they can also be used to teach, to explore even difficult subjects and themes, and to inspire. They are a hugely important part of a Worldcon programme and we are thrilled we have had so many people playing games in Helsinki this August.

(4) TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. Dorothy Grant shares a warning about click farms at Mad Genius Club.

  1. Speaking of click farms, several indies have recently reported their accounts being locked / books taken off sale after buying “advertising” with a “guaranteed number of readers.” You know that picture of Batman slapping Robin? Yeah, picture that. Here’s how NOT to get your account locked and books delisted:

A.) You cannot guarantee buyers ethically. If buyers or readers are guaranteed, that means you’re paying a click farm to run a program on a laptop slaved to a bunch of stolen iphones, each loaded to an Amazon account, “borrowing” and “reading” them. Unless you’re paying a click farm in North Korea, in which case it’s a poor schmuck pacing down a table, manually finger-swiping every iphone.

B.) If you can’t sign up for their mailing list, it’s a click farm. Real promoters want everybody to sign up for their lists, so they can grow. Click farms say they have a list, but if it’s not obvious and easy to find, then it’s a lie.

C.) If they don’t have a website, it’s a click farm. ESPECIALLY if their only presence is a “closed facebook group.” Again, if they’re not soliciting more people to join them, they’re not right.

D.) If it’s too good to be true, it ain’t true. It’s more likely to be this: https://kotaku.com/inside-chinese-click-farms-1795287821

(5) NEBRASKA. Have a twofer: Carhenge is in the totality path: “As Eclipse Madness Sweeps U.S., A Stonehenge Made Of Cars Prepares”.

The ancients who built Carhenge back in 1987 didn’t know about this eclipse. Carhenge was the brainchild of a local named Jim Reinders, a petroleum engineer who spent years working in England. While there, he became acquainted with the prehistoric site of Stonehenge. It was built of giant rocks that people dragged for miles from the quarries. Archaeologists think the original Stonehenge was built to mark celestial events, such as the solstice.

Reinders wanted to build a version of Stonehenge as a memorial to his dad, who had passed away a few years earlier. But stones seemed heavy and cumbersome.

“So he decided if we build it out of cars, the wheels on it would greatly simplify the logistics,” says Howard. “And besides that, there’s not a stone in Nebraska that would work.”

(6) BR0K3N. “Password guru regrets past advice” – BBC has the story.

Bill Burr had advised users to change their password every 90 days and to muddle up words by adding capital letters, numbers and symbols – so, for example, “protected” might become “pr0t3cT3d4!”.

The problem, he believes, is that the theory came unstuck in practice.

Mr Burr now acknowledges that his 2003 manual was “barking up the wrong tree”.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born August 13, 1899 — Alfred Hitchcock

(8) KEEP HORROR OUT OF THE KITCHEN. Get your own copy of Mary and Vincent Price’s A Treasury of Great Recipes 1965 – 2015.

A Treasury of Great Recipes has come to be regarded as “one of the most important culinary events of the 20th century” (Saveur Magazine) and was recently named the eighth most popular out-of-print book of any kind by Booklist. It has inspired countless chefs, garnered fans from around the world, and recently spawned many supper clubs who have been “cooking and eating Vincent” around the world.

(9) BY JOVE, I THINK HE’S GOT IT. Camestros Felapton offers a good, precise description of the phenomenon: “Parallels between minor SF kerfuffles & real world politics are both trite & true”.

My interest here was not the Brian Niemeiers of the groups but others, less inclined to create an SJW conspiracy out of nothing. In several cases, you could see them correctly reasoning that if they want the Dragon Awards to have any status then they would need authors like John Scalzi and N.K.Jemisin involved. However, they would always return to the idea that it was up to people like John Scalzi to, therefore, fix the problem by participating. Commenting here, author David Van Dyke took a similar tack – the Dragons need broad based participation, therefore can authors that the SF right calls “SJWs” (whether they are or not) please participate. This despite the fact that the reasons WHY authors didn’t want to participate were clear and unambiguous – they didn’t want to get caught up in the culture war that other on the SF right want the Dragons to be.

What is particularly interesting is this. When the right that is adjacent to the more belligerent alt-right NEED somebody to be reasonable, to compromise in WHICH direction do they turn? Note how it is the LEFT? This is more than just the modern conservative dictum of not-shooting-right/no-enemies-on-the-right but a tacit acknowledgement that they themselves have no capacity to control their allies.

The alt-right want the Dragons Awards to be a culture-war shitstorm because culture-war shitstorms help them recruit small numbers of extremists via radicalization and the comradery of a conflict. It’s a tactic anybody on the left will recognise from many micro-Trotskyist groups in the past, whose expectation of a conflict (e.g. a labour dispute) was that making hyper-strong demands (not necessarily EXTREME demands but essentially shitty negotiating positions) would not lead to a successful outcome but would lead to a better struggle and new recruits.

(10) THE YEAR IN RABIDITY. Jason Sanford leafs through the Hugo voting stats and concludes he is “Measuring the slow Hugo Award death of the rabid puppies”.

These numbers back up previous estimates of the weakness of the rabid puppies and give more evidence that 80 to 90 Hugo voters at most support Vox Day’s ballot stuffing. These are extremely small numbers compared to the more the 2,000 people who cast nominating ballots, or the 3,319 people who voted in the final Hugo ballot.

The reason the rabid puppies were able to cause so much trouble with the Hugo Awards in recent years is because the awards were easily gamed by a small group of slate voters. Only cultural constraints within fandom prevented this from happening previous to the rabid puppies.

The results of this year’s Hugo voting shows that making an award resistant to slate voting is a must in today’s genre.

Perhaps the Dragon Awards, a new SF/F award which is now being ravaged by slate voting from the pups, will learn from the Hugo experience. Or perhaps not.

(11) THE POINTS. Camestros Felapton also looks at the Rabid numbers in “Hugo Stats Time Some More”.

So a mean in the low 70s and a median of 83 votes. Which looks to be irrelevant because those votes are probably all from 2016 members. The Rabid vote drops precipitously in the final numbers.

(12) HELP WANTED. There’s a lot of money to be made looking for aliens, if you’re the right person — “The Reason China Can’t Find Anyone to Operate Its Alien-Hunting Telescope”.

China continues to up its game in space sciences, including one particularly ambitious project, the world’s largest radio telescope. There’s just one problem: they can’t find anyone to operate it.

The country’s government is looking to hire a foreigner as chief scientist to oversee the telescope’s daily operation, reports the South China Morning News, and it’s even offering free housing and a $1.2 million salary to boot. But no one has been hired, presumably because of challenges associated with the job and the high level of requirements needed to even apply.

The “Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope”, or FAST, is a $180 million, 1,600 foot-long radio telescope that’s capable of receiving radio signals from as far as 1,000 light years away; making it a leading instrument in the search for alien life. To give you an idea of its scale, FAST is roughly the size of 30 soccer fields.

(13) THE SUMMER OF HUH? Hippy disinformation? The BBC explains the accidental invention of the Illuminati conspiracy.

The Illuminati that we’ve come to hear about today is hardly influenced by the Bavarians at all, as I learned from author and broadcaster David Bramwell, a man who has dedicated himself to documenting the origins of the myth. Instead, an era of counter-culture mania, LSD and interest in Eastern philosophy is largely responsible for the group’s (totally unsubstantiated) modern incarnation. It all began somewhere amid the Summer of Love and the hippie phenomenon, when a small, printed text emerged: Principia Discordia.

The book was, in a nutshell, a parody text for a parody faith – Discordianism – conjured up by enthusiastic anarchists and thinkers to bid its readers to worship Eris, goddess of chaos. The Discordian movement was ultimately a collective that wished to cause civil disobedience, practical jokes and hoaxes

The text itself never amounted to anything more than a counter-culture curiosity, but one of the tenets of the faith – that such miscreant activities could bring about social change and force individuals to question the parameters of reality – was immortalised by one writer, Robert Anton Wilson.

According to Bramwell, Wilson and one of the authors of the Principia Discordia, Kerry Thornley, “decided that the world was becoming too authoritarian, too tight, too closed, too controlled”. They wanted to bring chaos back into society to shake things up, and “the way to do that was to spread disinformation. To disseminate misinformation through all portals – through counter culture, through the mainstream media, through whatever means. And they decided they would do that initially by telling stories about the Illuminati.”

At the time, Wilson worked for the men’s magazine Playboy. He and Thornley started sending in fake letters from readers talking about this secret, elite organisation called the Illuminati. Then they would send in more letters – to contradict the letters they had just written.

“So, the concept behind this was that if you give enough contrary points of view on a story, in theory – idealistically – the population at large start looking at these things and think, ‘hang on a minute’,” says Bramwell.  “They ask themselves, ‘Can I trust how the information is presented to me?’ It’s an idealistic means of getting people to wake up to the suggested realities that they inhabit – which of course didn’t happen quite in the way they were hoping.

… British electronic band The KLF also called themselves The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu, named after the band of Discordians that infiltrate the Illuminati in Wilson’s trilogy as they were inspired by the religion’s anarchic ideology. Then, an Illuminati role-playing card game appeared in 1975 which imprinted its mystical world of secret societies onto a whole generation.

Chip Hitchcock, who found the link, assures everyone, “Yes, I’ve sent in a complaint about the incorrect date for the card game.”

(13) WHEN DEATH IS ON THE LINE. I was surprised to learn he’s still alive.

(14) FLICKER OF TIME. Anti Matter trailer #2.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 1/2/17 The Pixel Shines In The Darkness, And The Darkness Has Not Overcome It

(1) NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY. Today is National Science Fiction Day, the date chosen because it is Isaac Asimov’s birthday. Judging by the return on my Google search, it’s a day beloved by writers of calendar clickbait but it goes largely unnoticed by fans. Should we be doing something about it?

(2) YOU’LL GO BLIND. Self-publishing isn’t the problem – self-editing is. At least, the kind of self-editing that Diana Pharoah Francis discusses in “Writers Club: The Evils of Self Editing” at Book View Café.

I’m not saying that self-editing is bad. It’s not. It’s just we often do it while writing and that’s when it’s evil. Sometimes we do it when we aren’t aware and that’s when it’s really awful.

When I first started out writing, I wrote for me and me alone. I was trying to entertain myself and so I didn’t worry about whether this would be offensive or that would be sappy or if readers would hate my characters. None of that entered my mind because it was all about the fun of telling myself the story and getting lost in it.

Then I published. This was a dream come true. But that’s when the evil self-editor started sneaking in to my creative zone. I’d write something and then delete it because it was too something: too off-color, too disgusting, too violent, and so on. That limited me in ways that I stopped noticing. I internalized those limits and made them an unacknowledged part of my writing process. It’s like a house. You don’t pay attention to where walls are or light switches because they just exist and are necessary and you’re glad they’re there doing their job.

Only really, the self-editor at this point in the process is really a saboteur. It’s a swarm of termites eating away your writing in secret and you have no idea it’s even happening.

(3) BOUND FOR CHINA. Tomorrow Nancy Kress leaves for Beijing . “I will be teaching a week-long workshop with Sf writer Cixin Liu, SF WORLD editor Yao Haijun, and Professor Wu Yan.”

(4) CA$H CALL. Jim C. Hines is collecting data for his 2016 Writing Income Survey.

For nine years, I’ve been doing an annual blog post about my writing income. It’s not something we talk about very much, and I think the more data we put out there, the more helpful it is to other writers.

The trouble is, I’m just one data point. Better than none, of course. But this year, I decided to try something a little different, and created a 2016 Novelist Income Survey.

The process and goals are similar to the First Novel Survey I did seven years ago. (The results of that one are a little outdated at this point…) I’ll be sharing the basic data like the median, mean, and range of author incomes, as well as looking at patterns and other correlations. No personal or identifying information will be shared in any way.

(5) THEY BLINDED ME WITH (PSEUDO)SCIENCE. A site called Book Scrolling (say, are we cousins?) compiled “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2016 (Year-End List Aggregation)”.

“What are the best Science Fiction & Fantasy books of 2016? We aggregated 32 year-end lists and ranked the 254 unique titles by how many times they appeared in an attempt to answer that very question!”

It comes as no surprise that the results are blindingly arbitrary.

Even though it ranked first among sf books in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards, Pierce Brown’s Morningstar comes in #26 on this list.

And this is a list of books not just novels – the VanderMeers’ Big Book of Science Fiction is #24.

Joe Hill’s The Fireman is #4.

Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky is #1.

(6) EARLY SCRIPT DOCTORING. It’s a new month – which means I can read another five LA Times articles free, so I caught up on John Scalzi’s tribute to the late Carrie Fisher from December 27 —

Out on the Internet, along with the many heart-touching tributes to Carrie Fisher, photographs of her as Leia Organa, either as princess (the original trilogy) or general (from “The Force Awakens”) and with her beloved French bulldog Gary, there’s another picture, originally placed there by cinema documentarian Will McCrabb, showing a page of the script of “The Empire Strikes Back.” On the script are several edits, in red pen, condensing and improving the script. McCrabb said the hand that put the edits there was Carrie Fisher’s, noting on Twitter that Fisher herself confirmed it to him.

Is he correct? The edits might have been made by Irwin Kershner, “Empire’s” director, instead. At the time — 1979 — Fisher would have been 22 years old. Yet here she was, looking at a script written by Lawrence Kasdan, who would go on to several screenwriting Oscar nominations, and Leigh Brackett, Howard Hawks’ secret screenwriting weapon and one of the great science fiction writers of her time, and thinking “this needs some fixing.” And then getting out her pen and doing just that.

Whoever made the edits wasn’t wrong. At least some of the edits to the scene (in which Leia, Han and Chewbacca plot a course to visit Lando Calrissian) made it to the final cut of the film. Simpler, tighter, better — and with the rhythm of speech rather than exposition (science fiction, forever the genre of people explaining things to other people). Carrie Fisher played a galactic princess, but she had a working writer’s gift for understanding how people talk, and how language works. At 22.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 2, 1902 – Leopold Bloom takes a walk around Dublin.
  • January 2, 1902 — The first dramatization of The Wizard of Oz opens, in Chicago. Book and lyrics by Baum, music by Paul Tietjens, plot reworked to provided plenty of gags and cues for irrelevant songs (and to eliminate the Wicked Witch of the West). Described in detail in Ethan Mordden’s Anything Goes: A History of American Musical Theatre, it sounds worse than the way US cinema reworked The Dark is Rising, but it was suited the audiences of the time well enough to run on various stages for seven years.
  • January 2, 1905 — Elara, a Moon of Jupiter, discovered.
  • January 2, 2000 — Patrick O’Brian died this date. Alan Baumler notes, “He was born on Dec 12. but I forgot to send it to you) and while his Aubrey-Maturin series of sea stories is not Fantasy/SF, given that Novik’s Temeraire series is pretty explicitly O’Brian WITH DRAGONS and Weber’s Honor Harrington series is O’Brian IN SPACE I would think it was worth mentioning.” Absolutely – and besides one of the Nielsen Haydens (I wish I could find the exact quote) said the technology in Napoleonic warships was so complex they were like the starships of their time.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born January 2, 1920 – Isaac Asimov. (Hey, wouldn’t it look bad if we forgot to list him on National Science Fiction Day?)
  • Born January 2, 1929 – Charles Beaumont, known for scripting Twilight Zone episodes.

(9) WHEN IS IT TIME TO BAIL? Max Florschutz helps new writers avoid the death spiral of investing time in unproductive writing projects by a self-evaluation process, partially quoted here:

What really sets a death spiral apart, however, from a fresh project that is still in its growing stages is the amount of time that has been sunk into it. For example, when looking at your current writing project, ask yourself the following questions. If you can answer yes to even one of them, you may want to consider the possibility that you are stuck in a death spiral.

—Has forward progress stopped in lieu of going back and editing/rewriting what you’ve already written before you’ve made it very far into the story?

—Have you since spent more time editing/rewriting that first bit of the story than you did originally writing it?

—Do you get started on writing new material for said story only to realize that you need to go back and edit/add in something and gone and done that instead? Has that been your experience the last few times you sat down to work on this story? Has it kept you from adding any new material in significant amounts (say, chapters)?…

(10) OCCASIONAL ACCURACY. NASA presents “The Science of Star Trek”, but finds it difficult to marry those two concepts.

The writers of the show are not scientists, so they do sometimes get science details wrong. For instance, there was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which Dr. Crusher and Mr. LaForge were forced to let all of the air escape from the part of the ship they were in, so that a fire would be extinguished. The doctor recommended holding one’s breath to maintain consciousness as long as possible in the vacuum, until the air was restored. But as underwater scuba divers know, the lungs would rupture and very likely kill anyone who held his breath during such a large decompression. The lungs can’t take that much pressure, so people can only survive in a vacuum if they don’t try to hold their breath.

I could name other similar mistakes. I’m a physicist, and many of my colleagues watch Star Trek. A few of them imagine some hypothetical, perfectly accurate science fiction TV series, and discredit Star Trek because of some list of science errors or impossible events in particular episodes. This is unfair. They will watch Shakespeare without a complaint, and his plays wouldn’t pass the same rigorous test. Accurate science is seldom exciting and spectacular enough to base a weekly adventure TV show upon. Generally Star Trek is pretty intelligently written and more faithful to science than any other science fiction series ever shown on television. Star Trek also attracts and excites generations of viewers about advanced science and engineering, and it’s almost the only show that depicts scientists and engineers positively, as role models. So let’s forgive the show for an occasional misconception in the service of an epic adventure.

(11) SUAVE AND DEBONAIR. The Daily Beast tells everyone, “Blame Horror-Film Legend Vincent Price for the Rise of Celebrity Lifestyle Brands”.

But while Martha Stewart famously (and accurately!) said in 2013 that “I think I started this whole category of lifestyle,” the concept that Stewart began selling with her first book, 1982’s Entertaining, is a little different from what celeb lifestyle brands are peddling. Stewart—who worked as a model and in the financial industry before becoming Our Lady of the Hospital Corner—became famous due to her lifestyle of perfect taste, immaculate table settings, and painfully severe pie crust prep. In contrast, celebrity lifestyle brands—like Paltrow’s Goop, which launched in 2008 and is widely considered the OG celeb lifestyle site—hinge on the more loaded idea that celebrities have great taste because they’re rich, and if you master that taste and pick up a few celeb-approved luxury items, you might get closer to the lifestyle of an Academy Award winner (without having to do all that pesky acting training).

Despite attracting the attention of many petty haters like myself, Goop is, of course, a resounding success—according to Fast Company, in 2015 the site had one million subscribers and got more than 3.75 million page views each month. But while everyone from Real Housewives to Gossip Girls have followed in Paltrow’s (presumably Louboutin-clad) footsteps in recent years, the roots of the celebrity lifestyle brand don’t lie solely with Stewart—rather, they began in the mid-20th century, with a cookbook.

The first celebrity cookbook was penned by horror film legend and acclaimed mustache expert Vincent Price (or, at the very least, its publisher, Dover, proclaimed it as such in a 2015 press release). Called A Treasury of Great Recipes, the book—which Price wrote with his wife, Mary—drew from their world travels, collecting recipes from high-end restaurants like New York City’s Four Seasons as well as ones that the Prices whipped up while entertaining at home. And the book didn’t just feature cooking instructions; it also included shots of the Prices at play, sipping soup proffered by a waiter in black-tie dress, or simply relaxing in their gorgeously appointed, copper pot-filled kitchen.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Bartimaeus, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Alan Baumler, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg Hullender.]

Pixel Scroll 11/20/16 Your Pixels Too Small To Scroll With God

(1) FOR SOME VALUES OF CHIANG. Abigail Nussbaum gives Arrival a thorough analysis at Asking the Wrong Questions. Spoilers, naturally.

It’s been about four years since the movie adaptation of Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life” was announced, and during that period, every time I heard a piece of news about the film’s progress, there was always one question paramount in my mind: how?  How could you possibly take Chiang’s story, a trippy, challenging piece of writing whose ultimate conclusion needs to be carefully laid out for even the most attentive and game reader, and translate it into a mainstream movie, in a medium that isn’t normally permitted to spell out its themes and ideas the way written fiction is?  For me personally, there was an element of protectiveness to this wondering.  “Story of Your Life,” which I first read in my late teens, was an eye-opener for me.  In its focus on the “soft” science of linguistics, in its willingness to use relatively abstruse concepts from both linguistics and physics to build its premise, and in its foregrounding of a thoroughly unsentimental mother-daughter relationship, it expanded my ideas of what science fiction was capable of.  I couldn’t bear the thought of someone turning it into yet another alien invasion story.

And, to be fair to director Denis Villeneuve and screenwriter Eric Heisserer, that is not what Arrival is.  In fact, by the standards of Hollywood and what it tends to make of science fiction, Arrival is a remarkably thought-provoking and meditative movie, and its message of understanding and cooperation feels particularly relevant in our present moment.  But as regards to my question, how could Villeneuve and Heisserer take the implications of Chiang’s story and put them on screen, the answer is: they didn’t.  And in fact, it seems quite obvious that this was a deliberate choice.

(2) THE UR-TEXT. Ethan Mills goes back to the book in “Interrogating Ideas: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang”  at Examined Worlds.

Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others includes several excellent stories/novelettes/novellas (including “Story of Your Life,” which is the basis for the film Arrival).  In addition to the good ones, a few more are okay, and there’s one I didn’t care for.

Ted Chiang is the opposite of prolific, having only published about a dozen works of short fiction in the last 25 years, but he’s one of the best when it comes to using science fiction and fantasy to interrogate ideas.  There are nice little notes on each story in the back of the book in which Chiang tells you which ideas inspired the stories (sometimes it’s surprising).  It’s no wonder his work is a top pick for Eric Schwitzgebel’s list of philosophers’ favorite science fiction.

Here’s a bit on each work in this collection…

(3) NEBULA AWARD RECOMMENDATIONS. Lots of time to go, but who’s leading SFWA’s Nebula Award Recommendations novel category right now?

With nine recommendations each, Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky and Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Blades ae at the head of the list.

(4) B&N BEST SFF. The B&N Sci-Fi &Fantasy Blog is at work on its own list of “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2016”. The Anders book features there, too.

All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders Former io9.com editor Charlie Jane Ander’s debut speculative novel is a story of love and friendship, hope and despair, science and magic, and the end of the world. A girl who can do magic falls for a boy who only believes in science, and together, they must figure out how to save our dying planet—assuming, of course, the planet even wants our help. Childhood friends Patricia and Laurance lose touch with one another as they grow up, their differing paths sending one of them to a secret school for magicians and the other to the best engineering programs on offer. Years later, they meet again, with the fate of the world at stake, and the forces of science and magic edging toward all-out war. Read our review.

(5) EUROPEAN WRITER OBITS. Europa SF reports two European authors have died:

  • French SF Writer Andre Ruellan (7 August 1922-15 November 2016)
  • Italian SF Writer Massimo Mongai (3 November 1950-1 November 2016)

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 20, 2007 The Wizard of Oz Munchkins received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

(7) WARRIORS WHO DON’T IMPRESS. Cracked ranks “9 Supposed Action Stars Who Clearly Couldn’t Fight”.

The funniest lines are about #7 –

Fred Williamson

People started calling Fred Williamson “The Hammer” during his professional football career, and when you think about how many gigantic men were trying to get that same nickname to stick, you’ll realize that this achievement is the closest thing a person can get to a Nobel Prize in Badassery. This is a man who has crippled dozens of offensive linemen and starred in three movies that have the N-word right in their titles. And yet despite how terrifying that is to me, I’m still choosing to say that a Fred Williamson fight scene looks like two people with cerebral palsy feeding each other.

There are several reasons for these bad action sequences. First of all, he had to hold back so much to not kill his co-stars. If he wanted, Fred Williamson could kick your ass so hard that nine months after you die, your wife would give birth to his foot.

However, it is our own Captain Kirk who head the list at #1 —

William Shatner

You knew the whole time there was no other choice for the top spot. Bill Shatner invented entirely new ways to look ridiculous while punching, and he did it all at one-quarter speed. He threw judo chops so slowly against space monsters that he was already on T.J. Hooker by the time they connected. They say the Gorn still roams the Vasquez Rocks, waiting for his cue to duck….

(8) FUNNY BUZZNESS. Vincent Price’s daughter spoke on fear, love and The Fly at the  Vincent Price Art Museum at East LA College.

Victoria Price also stressed that humor is an excellent weapon against fear, and says one of the reasons her dad was popular for so long was that there was always a little humor in his horror work that “provided a release. And there is a way that laughing at fear, breaks its mesmerism. It’s hard right now to see that, but I do promise that laughter is an important part of our healing.”

And so, for fans of the original “The Fly,” she says, watch the absurd ending.

“My dad told me, that last scene they could not film. He said they all thought this is the most ridiculous thing, a fly talking, and they had to shoot it so many times. And they’re doubled over almost peeing their pants. So watch the last scene, and you will see that they are all just barely holding it together.”

(9) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN. Motherboard tells why “NASA’s New Satellite Is Going to Be a Game Changer for Weather Forecasts”.

The satellite will assist meteorologists by providing atmospheric measurements and a stream of high-definition images taken every 5 minutes over the Western Hemisphere with the ability to simultaneously zoom in on specific areas. From this data, GOES-R will help experts observe and predict severe weather events—thunderstorms, tornadoes, flash floods, fog, etc.—and detect hazards like forest fires, dust storms, and volcanic eruptions. It will also be used for search and rescue, oceanography, and climate monitoring.

GOES-R is the 17th GOES spacecraft and is part of the $11 billion system upgrade. What makes the new satellite unique is that it is far more advanced—and five times faster—than the current system. The spacecraft is equipped with a high-resolution camera designed to see in 16 wavelengths, offering images with four time better resolution. In comparison, the satellite’s predecessor can only see in five wavelengths.

(10) BEAUTY JOINS HAN AND THE BEAST. StarWars.com announced that Emilia Clarke has joined the Han Solo stand-alone film.

Emilia Clarke is heading to a galaxy far, far away — and she’s going to meet Han and Chewie.

StarWars.com is excited to announce that Clarke, known for her stirring portrayal of Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, will join the upcoming untitled Han Solo Star Wars movie. Clarke’s role will round out a dynamic cast of characters that Han and Chewie will encounter on their adventures.

Clarke joins Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover — previously cast as Han Solo and Lando Calrissian, respectively — in the highly-anticipated film, which is set prior to the original Star Wars trilogy.

(11) LATER ARRIVAL. It won’t look like the movies – which probably surprises no one. “An Astrolinguist Explains How to Talk to Aliens” at Motherboard.

“I am so envious of Louise Banks because she gets to have a face to face with ET,” Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) International president Douglas Vakoch told Motherboard. “But in the scenarios that SETI and METI folks deal with there’s no possibility of that. Our idea of a snappy exchange with extraterrestrials is a decade—and that only works if the nearest star is populated.”

(12) AND THE ROCK YOU RODE IN ON. NASA is going, but can ESA get its complementary mission funded? “Why ESA Scientists Really Want to Crash a Satellite into an Asteroid”.

NASA will be launching a probe called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which will arrive at the asteroid (called 65803 Didymos) in late 2022 and then directly proceed to crash into the asteroid’s moon at 6 km/s (or about 13,400 mph). This impact would then be monitored by ESA’s Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) spacecraft, which will have placed itself into orbit around the binary asteroid four months in advance of DART’s arrival.

The mission is designed so that NASA can go ahead with its DART portion of the mission whether or not ESA is able to get AIM funded, but for scientists around the world, not funding AIM would be a huge missed opportunity for planetary science and defense.

“If ESA doesn’t do AIM, DART can still go,” said Michel. “But it’s just half the mission. You wouldn’t get the initial conditions or outcomes in detail, but at least you are able to complete DART to test the capacity to autonomously guide a projectile to a very small target.”

[Thanks to JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 11/2/16 Soylent Green Is Pixels

(1) NAZIS, I HATE THOSE GUYS. The BBC, while reporting on somebody who wants to fly on Mars, made sure we didn’t miss out on any Nazi clickbait. Honestly….

The flying wing isn’t a new idea. The first practical design was developed by engineers in Nazi Germany in the final months of World War Two. The reason we are still whizzing around the globe in aluminum tubes with tails bolted to the back is that flying-wing aircraft have had a tendency to fall out of the sky.

Not anymore. Bowers’ team has spent the last few years developing and successfully testing models of flying wing aircraft. But, as befits the world’s foremost air and space organisation, Bowers is not only looking at terrestrial applications. He aims to become the first person to fly an aircraft across the surface of Mars.

(2) ANOTHER TEA LOVER. Elizabeth Fitzgerald of Earl Grey Editing Services reports on the most interesting parts of Australia’ Conflux 12, held at the beginning of October.

Conflux 12, Part 1

There were some great panels throughout the convention. Fanning the Sacred Flame discussed religion in SFF. Panel members came from atheist, Anglican, Buddhist and Jewish backgrounds. Despite being an atheist, K.J. Taylor said she finds it weird when religion or superstition is never mentioned in fantastical societies because it is something that exists in every real culture. She also spoke about her experiences with writing religious characters and stressed the importance of not being patronising or making the characters look like idiots by following their beliefs. Rivqa Rafael discussed ignorance as a writer’s worst enemy. Often writers don’t know what they are evoking when they borrow elements from religions they’re not a part of, with the results being beyond offensive and into hurtful. She gave the example of the Jewish golem. C.S. Lewis’ Narnia was mentioned many times, with the consensus being that the story worked best when its parable elements were subtle. Rivqa also cited Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy as an example of religion done well, pointing out that conflicts between religions rarely happen on a level playing field, historically speaking. There are often major cultural and colonial elements at play.

Conflux 12, Part 2

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. At the closing ceremony, Sean Williams demonstrated the last of his Sci Chi. There’s an excellent video of Sean and Alan Baxter, if you’re interested in learning the moves (or just being mightily entertained).

Conflux 12 took place at the beginning of the month and I reported on it in two parts. The Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild have a round-up of convention reports from other members. However, they missed a few, including one from Guest of Honour Alan Baxter. Master of Ceremonies Sean Williams was in Canberra for a month leading up to the convention and has shared some of his experiences of that time. Rivqa Rafael has also storyfied her comprehensive tweets of the convention.

However, even Conflux can be a problematic favourite. No Award offers some criticism on aspects of this year’s convention.

Regular readers will know I’m a huge fan of Juliet Marillier and loved her latest book, Den of Wolves. If you’re also a fan and live in the US, you may be interested to know she’ll be appearing at a few conventions over the next few weeks.

(3) STONY END. Yes, he may be the finest idolator idolizing today. “Why I am a Milodator” by John C. Wright.

Many of my Christian friends wonder why I have erected a nine-story tall idol made out of of radioactive protactinium atop Mount Erebus in Antarctica to my hero Milo Yiannopoulos, to which each dark of the moon I sacrifice thirteen lesbians and journalists and randy Ethiopian bisexuals, thereby violating four of the Ten Commandments and two amendments of the Bill of Rights….

(4) INVISIBLE PLANETS WORTH A LOOK. Reviewer Ardi Alspach of B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog says “Invisible Planets Is a Singular Anthology of Chinese Science Fiction”.

Ken Liu has made his name as both a translator and novelist. His translated edition of Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem (two of Cixin Liu’s stories appear here) is the first work of translated fiction to win a Hugo Award, and he’s been nominated for—and won—many awards for his own fiction. The stories he’s chosen for this anthology are representative of the expansive breadth of styles and ideas Chinese science fiction has to offer. I’ve highlighted some of my favorites below, but the bottom line is, this is a well-balanced, thoughtfully assembled collection, essential for any reader who wants to expand their understanding of the genre on a global scale.

(5) IRAQI SF. Sean McLachlan puts the anthology Iraq +100  on everyone’s radar in his Black Gate post “The Future of Iraq, According to the Country’s Science Fiction Authors”.

With all the grim news coming out of Iraq, it’s easy to think the country has no future. That’s wrong, of course, because being one of the oldest countries in the world, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

But what will that future look like? To answer that question, UK publisher Comma Press has released Iraq +100, an anthology of Iraqi writers imagining the future of their nation.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 2, 2000 — Cookie Monster (character on Sesame Street) was born.

(7) BEHIND COSPLAY. Mindy Weisberg fathoms “The psychology behind cosplay” for Huffington Post.

Certain costumes offer some people a way of working through personal difficulties, Rosenberg said. Batman, for example, can be an especially meaningful cosplay choice for someone coping with trauma. The dark superhero faced devastating trauma when he was a child — witnessing the brutal murder of his parents — which he overcame to become a hero.

“When people are dressed as Batman, many talk about having [experienced] their own traumatic experiences,” Rosenberg said. “He survived and found meaning and purpose from his experience, and that is inspiring to them.”

(8) COSPLAY IN L.A. Here is a photo gallery of the best Marvel cosplay from Stan Lee’s L.A. Comic Con 2016.

(9) PLAY FOR PAY IN L.A. Yahoo! celebrates one of the “MVPs of Horror: The Woman Behind Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, on Her 35th Year as the Bodacious Horror Hostess”.

Elvira was born, so to speak, during an era when independent TV stations like KHJ-TV kind of operated like the Wild West. Did it help being able to workshop the character in that kind of environment?

When I first appeared on local television as Elvira, I was allowed a lot more leeway than I expected. After I got the job, my friend made a sketch of what my dress should look like. I said, “There’s no way I can wear this on TV,” and they were like, “Just make the slit on the leg higher and it’ll be great.” Local TV stations didn’t really worry about standards and practices, so I made it pretty edgy. The station manager would come in just about every other week and say, “We’ve got a complaint again about your dress being so low-cut. You have to fix that.” I’d go, “OK, I’ll have them make the neckline higher.” And then I wouldn’t do anything at all, and he’d come back a couple weeks later and go, “We got a complaint.” It just kept going on like that. I never changed it!

(10) MOVIE CULTISTS. The October 28 Washington City Paper has a profile by Matt Cohen of the Washington Psychotronic Film Society, which has been screening weirdo films, many fantasy and sf, since 1989.  Cohen discusses how the group manages to keep going, even though they get bounced from bar to bar, in part for showing such fare as the “infamous 1974 Belgian art film VASE DE NOCES,” which has many scenes of happy pigs makin’ bacon. — “For Nearly 30 Years, the Washington Psychotronic Film Society Has Been Home for D.C.’s Underground Flick Fanatics”

For horror aficionados, Halloween is a 31-day celebration. It’s an excuse to spend the month of October cramming in as many spine-chilling movies as time allows. But for Carl Cephas, October is just another month. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, every single Monday evening, Cephas dons a white lab coat, carries a stately meerschaum pipe, and becomes his alter ego: The Incorrigible Dr. Schlock.

It’s a role he’s been playing for 27 years as the president of the Washington Psychotronic Film Society—a club that has been meeting almost weekly to screen weird movies since 1989. “We’ve always shown underground, B-, student, experimental, underrated, non-Academy, anime, avant-garde, guerilla filmmaking, but people kept saying, ‘Oh, you guys just sit around watching bad movies,’” Cephas says. “And I would go, ‘No, they are not bad movies! They are films of a peculiar interest!’”

(11) BEYOND PRICE. Gabriel Ricard at Culture Vultures shows his appreciation for a horror movie legend in “Make the Case: Five Essential Vincent Price Movies”.

To be honest, I don’t think Vincent Price has ever actually scared me. Yet there is something about the multifaceted, unforgettable approach he brought to villainy that will probably stay with me for the rest of my life. The great actors and actresses of the horror genre do not have to actually be scary, in order to make a connection to the audience. They simply have to bring something to the material that makes it almost impossible to imagine that material without them.

A good example of the above thought with Price would be the numerous Edgar Allan Poe movies he worked on. Yeah, there have been a ton of Poe film adaptations through the years, but I really don’t care about the vast majority of the movies that didn’t feature Price. He was the perfect actor to play characters like Roderick Usher or Nicholas Medina. While he was not overtly scary in those roles, he did set the bar for the kind of bad guy who could still capture your attention. He frequently transcended the notion of merely being scary. In the best Vincent Price films and worst Vincent Price films, he was rarely boring. The horror films of Vincent Price could establish tension and atmosphere on their own terms. Price would then bring his singular presence to the proceedings. He enhanced the tension and atmosphere through performances that were so unique, they didn’t have to be outright scary. They were an approach to evil, sympathetic or not, that were essential to the appeal of the movie.

(12) GHASTLY ACTING. Gizmodo declares its candidates for “The 30 Weirdest Horror Movies of the 1970s”. How about this one with two servings of ham, Shatner and Travolta?

9) The Devil’s Rain (1975)

Robert Fuest, director of The Abominable Dr. Phibes, returns to this list with this Satanic delight about a family cursed by a devoted servant of the Dark Lord. William Shatner plays the hero and Ernest Borgnine plays the red-robed villain, while John Travolta makes his film debut in a very small role. Other than Borgnine, the most memorable part of this cheese-fest is when the title event manifests onscreen, and everybody’s face melts. It’s spectacularly nuts.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Vincent Price Gallery at Creature Features

Vincent Price gallery at Creature Features. Photos by Robert Kerr.

Vincent Price gallery at Creature Features. Photos of exhibit taken by Robert Kerr.

By John King Tarpinian: This weekend Creature Features in Burbank, California hosted a photo gallery retrospective of the career of Vincent Price from the David Del Valle archives.  Lovely black-and-white photos of the man that gave us so much pleasure over the decades.

I have my own Vincent Price story.  While in high school and college I worked at the Los Angeles Zoo.  Mr. Price was a zoo patron and visited the zoo frequently.  When he wished to be left along he would leave his hair at home and be wearing a Hawaiian shirt, Bermuda shorts, hard black shoes with black socks and garters.  People would either look away or totally ignore the funnily dressed older gentleman.  And as long as he did not speak nobody would be the wiser.

All the photos are by Robert Kerr. The white haired gentleman is Clu Gulager, best known for his role in The Virginian TV series.

Robert Kerr and Clu Gulager.

Robert Kerr and Clu Gulager.

David Del Valle’s introduction to his exhibit begins:

Vincent Price was fond of reminding his fans that “If you limit your interests, you limit your life.” In a career that spanned nearly six decades, Vincent Price made films in nearly every genre. However, it was the horror genre that made him an icon – especially in the turbulent 60s, with the youth market ready to cross boundaries in every aspect of life and art.

In the 50s, Price was already well on his way to becoming the heir to stars such as Boris Karloff with films like House of Wax and The Fly. The showmanship of William Castle presented Vincent as the elegant host of the House on Haunted Hill, and then allowed him to reveal The Tingler — shocking teenagers senseless as they were electrified with buzzers hidden beneath their theater seats.

A young director named Roger Corman did the rest, creating eight films based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. The Poe Cycle presented the Gothic master of horror persona that would remain with Vincent Price for the rest of his life.

The Importance of Being Vincent is an exhibit of the finest Price images to be offered anywhere. It represents my favorite actor in the world, showcasing every aspect of his career in show business.

For the rest of the month, the exhibition will be available for viewing during regular hours at the Creatures Features store, 11a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and 11a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday; closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

Better crowd shotExhibit wall COMPVarious one COMPVarious two COMPVarious three COMPVarious four COMPVarious five COMP

John King Tarpinian and Clu Gulager.

John King Tarpinian and Clu Gulager.